Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014: A Poem, An Illustration, And Sublime Music

On this day we honor men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in service to their country. They gave their lives that we might live out our own in an experiment of community called the United States. Take some moments today and reflect on what these heroes have given you and your family.

Although there were many veterans in my family, none of them died during their military service. The family archive reflects this outcome: only one item, a circa 1908 postcard - in a collection of 800 cards - commemorates the day. The text reads:

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


Today, we call it Memorial Day and, though both its date and scope have changed over time, its central meaning remains strong. At virtually every crossroad town from sea to sea, there will be old soldiers, flags, a speech or two, and prayers. These events will take place at memorial walls bearing the names of the honored dead. Invariably, the audiences will be small, but firmly dedicated to the idea that the nation will always remember the cost of freedom. 

Music will play a central role in the commemorations. In the American composer, Charles Ives's day (1874-1954), the holiday we celebrate today was known as Decoration Day.  The official change in name to "Memorial Day" took place in 1967. Regardless of what we call it, Ives captured much of the historic character of this day in "Section II, Decoration Day," of his composition, Holiday Symphony.  There are a number of familiar tunes in the piece, but you may not recognize them without a guide. Like the holiday itself, Ives give us rich, complex, and contemplative moments in time and space.

Music most sublime.

May you experience this day to its fullest; that is, with remembrance and celebration.

This post is an edited  compilation of earlier OTR Memorial Day commemorations.  

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