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Memorial Day

If sudden statues rose for all who fell
They would not inundate the parks with stone
Where the forgotten heroes ride alone
To slow tongue of an abandoned bell.
Flaunting the remnants of their final hell
They would regain the streets their feet had known
Under the skies where their first words were sown
And stand as an alien citadel.

So rooted they would still with carven ear
The threadbare speech, the momentary tear,
With carven eye transfix the mocking flowers,
Wilt token flags above forgetful towers.
Who then would dare to go the usual way
Crowding the dead into a single day?

Luise Putcamp jr.
from Sonnets for the Survivors, Kaleidograph Press, 1952
“Memorial Day” published here with permission of the poet


Address on Decoration Day
Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911)
s.l.: s.n., 1904
E642 H53

“Without distinction of nationality, of color, of race, of religion, those men gave their lives to their country. Without distinction of religion, of color, of race, of nationality, their graves are being garlanded today….the war gave peace to the nation; it gave union, freedom, equal rights…”

Thomas Wentworth Higginson was graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1847. He accepted the appointment of ministry of a Unitarian church in Newburyport, Massachusetts. His support for women’s suffrage, labor rights, and the abolition of slavery was too radical for the conservative community. He was asked to resign two years after his appointment. As a Union colonel in the American Civil War, Higginson commanded the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, the first federally authorized regiment of African-American soldiers.

Memorial Day Address at Arlington, VA.
Reed Smoot (1862-1941)
Washington: Govt. Printing Office, 1914
E642 S66 1914

“In all we say about the soldier, let us not forget the part taken and willingly assumed by the American women in time of war. What shall we say of the wives and the mothers who gave their husbands and their sons for their country? No woman who has not passed through this terrible ordeal can describe or measure the sacrifice our women made, or the horrors and hardships and sorrows they endured. What say you of the loving sisters who gave their brothers, yes, and their lovers too?”

Reed Smoot was a Republican senator from Utah, serving from 1903 to 1933.