Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

Today we honor men and women who 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 to think of them and what they have given you and your family.

Many of us grew up knowing this day as Decoration Day, but now it is best known as Memorial Day. 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.

The American composer, Charles Ives, captured much of the historic character of this day in his composition, Holiday Symphony.  Section II, "Decoration Day," has a number of familiar tunes, but you may not recognize them without a guide. Like the holiday itself, Ives gives us rich, complex, and contemplative moments in time and space. 

Here in words and images, the contemplative moments continue...

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

A Soldier's Burial
by General George S. Patton (1943)

Not midst the chanting of the Requiem Hymn,
Nor with the solemn ritual of prayer,
Neath misty shadows from the oriel glass,
And dreamy perfume of the incensed air
Was he interred;
But in the subtle stillness after fight,
And the half light between the night and the day,
We dragged his body all besmeared with mud,
And dropped it, clod-like, back into the clay.

Yet who shall say that he was not content,
Or missed the prayers, or drone of chanting choir,
He who had heard all day the Battle Hymn
Sung on all sides by a thousand throats of fire.

What painted glass can lovelier shadows cast,
Than those the evening sky shall ever shed,
While, mingled with their light, Red Battle's Sun
Completes in magic colors o'er our dead,
The flag for which they died.

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