Remembrance

Memorial Day Weekend, 2019 ~ Old City Cemetery, Galveston

 

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking
Down a new-made double grave.
Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding
As with voices and with tears.
I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums
Strikes me through and through.
For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.
Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.
In the eastern sky up-buoying
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;
(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)
O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.
                           “Dirge for Two Veterans” ~ Walt Whitman

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

23 thoughts on “Remembrance

    1. He’s recognizable, isn’t he? I can’t say he’s one of my favorites, but there are sections of Leaves of Grass that I enjoy, and I think this poem manages to avoid both a misplaced nationalism and sentimentality.

    1. Thank you, Debbie. There always are extraordinary stories retold in family circles on this holiday, and I think the story Whitman tells here — or imagines, perhaps — is a good one for the day.

  1. Oh, truly a sad thing when members of the same family are lost together in the same war. Father and son together. It binds yet is more than one family should bear. Whenever I read of a family losing more than one family member in battle, I think of Lincoln’s letter to Mrs Bixby on the loss of five sons in the Civil War…”I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.” Not sure the rules now, but I think a sole surviving son cannot serve.

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful Whitman poem and the pensive statuary…so lovely.

    1. I’ve always been touched by this statue. Somehow I’ve misplaced the information about whose grave she marks, but perhaps it’s better this way. She’s a perfect representation of all who grieve, whatever loss they’ve suffered.

      I vaguely remembered the incident that led to passage of the so-called sole survivor policy. It came after the deaths of the five Sullivan brothers in WWII. There were related, though not identical, incidents that occurred during the Civil War. A father and son who were on opposite sides in that conflict met in a naval battle at Galveston, and the son was killed. He’s also buried in Galveston. It’s a tragic story with an odd connection to our family vacations when I was a kid. One of these days, I’ll tell about that.

  2. Remembering those who lost their lives and those who spent part of their life, in the service of the country and to preserve the freedom we have is what this day is all about and your choice of Whitman’s words suits it well. Although it is “Memorial” day I think all veterans deserve recognition on each of the holidays set aside for honors. Locally, and I imagine nationally, every soldier who is lost is recognized upon their return home. I don’t think there has been an occasion for two from the same family but the Sullivan brothers, and others, are an example of a family with highest sense of duty and the sad price some pay.

    1. I didn’t realize until recently that DNA testing has allowed identification and return of many veterans who had languished as “unknowns.” In fact, on June 1, a 19-year-old sailor from my town who died in the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Navy Seaman 2nd Class Richard J. Thomson, will be reinterred here at Fairview Cemetery. He had been buried in Hawaii; the identification process has been complex, but now some of the last forty-six listed as ‘unrecoverable’ are able to come home.

    1. Not only due to military wars, but also to all those “wars by other means” that we seemed determined to inflict on one another. I don’t expect to experience an end to war in my lifetime, but if we could reduce the number of petty, retributive, and senseless conflicts in the world, we’d be doing a good thing. When I was a young child at camp, we used to sing this song.. It’s still being sung. Perhaps a new generation will take it more seriously.

    1. I’ve noticed that, around here at least, the weekend has been far more subdued than usual. There aren’t the huge, loud dock parties at the marinas, and traffic’s quite light. There are more flags than usual, too. Whatever the pollsters think is happening in the country — and despite the certainty that the beaches and such are carrying on as usual — I’d like to think that more people are considering the meaning of the day.

      1. As more get touched by the reality of the passing of those who served, the day takes on a special meaning. To honor one who gave their life is to honor one who also served but came back.

    1. It’s not Paris–or New Orleans or New England, for that matter–but we do have some beautiful statuary, and this is one of my favorites. I like more patriotic images for July 4 and Veterans’ Day, but those who grieve deserve to be remembered, too.

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