A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memoriam

I've been thinking about what "remembering" does for us.  Memorial day started as a way to remember both the Union and Confederate soldiers who had fallen during the civil war.  I think that's a powerful statement about remembering the cost of war for both sides - a way to find the common humanity and realize that your enemies felt the pain of losing loved ones, too.

Remembering those who have fallen in the service also honors the values that led to that sacrifice - it honors courage, bravery, and selflessness.  I think it's great when our society can recognize those values as good.  I read this poem for the first time this weekend - it's part of what inspired the holiday we know as Memorial Day.

The Blue And The Gray
Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907)

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 judgement-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 judgement-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 adn 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.

It's a common trope that "that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us."  Memorial Day is a reminder of that - that brave men and women are willing to die to protect our freedom to argue about politics, to exercise our religion, and to have our constitutional rights.  When we think back on the origins of the holiday, it reminds us that even out of a horrible and bloody civil war can come good.


  1. loved the poem. So wonderful. I didn't know that it was the civil war that started memorial day but I can sure understand why.