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.