Memorial Day in the Poetry Corner

How did I miss this one when I did the week-long cycle of American war poetry a few years back?  Well, better late than never.  Thanks to all the veterans who have answered the call. 

The Blue and the Gray
by Frances Miles Finch

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep on the ranks of the dead;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the one, the Blue;
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat;
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the laurel, the Blue;
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours,
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers,
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the roses, the Blue;
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So, with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue;
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Wet with the rain, the Blue;
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done;
In the storm of the years that are fading,
No braver battle was won;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue;
Under the garlands, the Gray.

No more shall the war-cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever,
When they laurel the graves of our dead.
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Love and tears for the Blue;
Tears and love for the Gray.

The Blue and the Gray
by Frances Miles Finch

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
Asleep on the ranks of the dead;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the one, the Blue;
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat;
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the laurel, the Blue;
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours,
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers,
Alike for the friend and the foe;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the roses, the Blue;
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So, with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue;
Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Wet with the rain, the Blue;
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done;
In the storm of the years that are fading,
No braver battle was won;
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue;
Under the garlands, the Gray.

No more shall the war-cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever,
When they laurel the graves of our dead.
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment day;
Love and tears for the Blue;
Tears and love for the Gray.

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2 Responses to “Memorial Day in the Poetry Corner”

  1. Ken Metcalfe Says:

    Thanks, Mark for the great poem reflecting on a great black mark on our history and the beginning of the end of the Founders’ hopes and the beginning of the beginning of the great Empire we have since built and continue building…

    Lord Acton and Robert E. Lee, among many others of their time, each strongly expressed the great waste of this great U.S. war. In their eyes, it was never a war over slavery (and as Acton and many others across the Atlantic prophesied, slavery would quite destined to end on its own–as it did throughout the rest of the western hemisphere).

    Instead, it was a war ultimately over the virtually unlimited power of a central government. And in the South’s loss, they mourned the loss of the seed the Founders had tried to plant.

    The resulting strong federal government soon after, starting with the Spanish American war, became an empire and has never looked back. The Founders generally abhored a standing army. For yet another reason, they must spin well in their graves now as we are policeman to the world–with official wars in two countries and troops stationed in over 100 more. What a Memorial… : (

    Ken

  2. Mark Esswein Says:

    Apropos of nothing, my in-laws lived in Columbus MS when my wife and I were first married and for several years after. The local college puts on a nighttime cemetery walk every year in the cemetery that inspired the poem. Actors in costume tell the stories of the dead.

    When we went on the walk, we had the added bonus of Comet Hale-Bopp high in the sky.


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