Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Poem for Memorial Day

Years ago I found this poem in a book handed down from my maternal great-grandparents, John Martin and Lillian Fern (STRONG) HOEKSTRA entitled The Family Book of Best-Loved Poems, edited by David L. George and published by Hanover House/Doubleday & Company, Inc. in 1952. Some of my most precious childhood memories are of my father reading to us from this book after we were tucked in bed.

THE BLUE AND THE GRAY

(The women of Columbus, Mississippi, scattered flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and the Union Soldiers.)

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave grass quiver,
Asleep are 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.

--Francis Miles Finch


For a wonderful website on the observance of Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, go to http://www.usmemorialday.org/. Be sure to check out the "History" link.
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