Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Mother, with unbowed head
Hear thou across the sea
The farewell of the dead,
The dead who died for thee.
Greet them again with tender words and grave,
For, saving thee, themselves they could not save.

To keep the house unharmed
Their fathers built so fair,
Deeming endurance armed
Better than brute despair,
They found the secret of the word that saith,
"Service is sweet, for all true life is death."

So greet thou well thy dead
Across the homeless sea,
And be thou comforted
Because they died for thee.
Far off they served, but now their deed is done.
Forevermore, their life and thine are one.

From Songs of the Fleet, by Sir Henry Newbolt (c. 1910), hauntingly set to music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Very popular during World War I, before the cancerous cynicism of the exhausted, postwar 1920's took hold. You may disagree with the sentiment and the style, but at least the people of those days took unmistakable, unalloyed pride in the young men who went off to war and did not come back.