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Memorial Day Poems

Memorial Day Poem Ideas

Bravely they laid their all upon the altar,
Counting as naught the sacrifice and pain,
Theirs but to do and die without a falter—
Ours to enjoy the victory and the gain.

– Elizabeth Robbins Berry
The Unknown Dead

If you're looking for a Memorial Day poem for kids, try Garlands. For a short Memorial Day poem, you might like How Sleep the Brave by William Collins. A long Memorial Day poem to check out is Theodore O'Hara's The Bivouac of the Dead. And for a famous Memorial Day poem, there are several good ones to choose from, but perhaps the most famous and most popular of those listed below is John McCrae's In Flanders Fields. Below is a more complete, categorized list of suggestions.

Table of Contents

Memorial Day Poems for Kids

  1. May Has Decked the World by Annette Wynne
  2. Memorial Day by Annette Wynne
  3. Garlands by Amos Russel Wells

Short Memorial Day Poems

  1. After Battle by Duncan Campbell Scott
  2. For Thee They Died by John Drinkwater
  3. How Sleep the Brave by William Collins
  4. In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
  5. The Old Soldier by Katherine Tynan
  6. The Fallen by Duncan Campbell Scott
  7. III. The Dead by Rupert Brooke
  8. The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
  9. May Night by William Ellery Leonard
  10. Memorial Day by Amos Russel Wells
  11. IV. The Dead by Rupert Brooke
  12. Decoration Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  13. May Has Decked the World by Annette Wynne

Long Memorial Day Poems

  1. The Bivouac of the Dead by Theodore O'Hara
  2. Armistice by Charles Buxton Going
  3. Memorial Day, 1892 by Frederick W. Emerson
  4. The Young Dead by Maxwell Struthers Burt
  5. Dirge For Two Veterans by Walt Whitman
  6. A Monument for the Soldiers by James Whitcomb Riley

Famous Memorial Day Poems

  1. In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
  2. The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
  3. Dirge For Two Veterans by Walt Whitman
  4. Decoration Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  5. The Bivouac of the Dead by Theodore O'Hara
  6. How Sleep the Brave by William Collins
  7. Ode for Memorial Day by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Poems for Memorial Day

  1. Garlands

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Memorial Day, 1911

    What are the garlands we lay on the graves?
    Heapings of blossoms that loveliest are?
    Beauty supreme for the bravest of braves?
    Yes, and an offering holier far.

    Here are the garlands of memories clear,
    Thoughts of the partings the desperate frays,
    Marches and prisons and hospitals drear,
    Triumphs and woes of those terrible days.

    Garlands of gratitude fadeless and fair
    Lie on the graves of our glorious dead,—
    Grateful for freedom that breathes in the air,
    Grateful for union that floats overhead.

    Garlands of love from the children and wives,
    Garlands of hope for the nation to day,
    Garlands of offered and consecrate lives,
    These on the graves of our heroes we lay.

    Roses and lilies and violets blue,
    Daffodils, tulips, and all of the rest,—
    Ah, dear departed, brave patriots true,
    We know what garlands will please you the best!

  2. Memorial Day

    by Annette Wynne

    Is it enough to think to-day
    Of all our brave, then put away
    The thought until a year has sped?
    Is this full honor for our dead?

    Is it enough to sing a song
    And deck a grave; and all year long
    Forget the brave who died that we
    Might keep our great land proud and free?

    Full service needs a greater toll—
    That we who live give heart and soul
    To keep the land they died to save,
    And be ourselves, in turn, the brave!

  3. May Has Decked the World

    by Annette Wynne

    May has decked the world, that we
    May bring the brave on land or sea
    Earth's glory on Memorial Day,
    The lovely meadow gifts of May.

    Brave dead, who saved our country, we
    Come with flowers; O living brave, on land or sea,
    We wave the bright Red, White and Blue
    And bring May meadow gifts to you!

  4. How Sleep the Brave

    by William Collins

    How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
    By all their country's wishes blest!
    When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
    Returns to deck their hallow'd mould,
    She there shall dress a sweeter sod
    Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.

    By fairy hands their knell is rung;
    By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
    There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey,
    To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
    And Freedom shall awhile repair
    To dwell, a weeping hermit, there!

  5. In Flanders Fields

    Illustration for In Flanders Fields
    by Ernest Clegg
    Poem about soldiers who lost their lives in World War I by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on May 3, 1915

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead.
    Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

  6. The Soldier's Grave

    by Thomas E. Wilson

    The early grass is springing
    Above the soldier's grave;
    The merry birds are singing
    Above the true-and brave.

    My boyhood friend is sleeping
    Within this narrow bed;
    The years are softly creeping
    Above the honored dead.

    O comrade, pure and tender!
    O soldier, brave and strong!
    To thee we love to render
    The tribute of our song.

    And, in the life eternal,
    Beyond our toil and pain,
    Where all is bright and vernal,
    We hope to meet again.

  7. The Unknown Dead

    by Elizabeth Robbins Berry

    Above their rest there is no sound of weeping,
    Only the voice of song-birds thrills the air;
    Unknown their graves, yet they are in God's keeping,
    There are none "missing" from His tender care.

    He knows each hallowed mound, and at His pleasure
    Marshalls the sentinels of earth and sky;
    O'er their repose kind Nature heaps her treasure,
    Farmed by soft winds which 'round them gently sigh.

    Bravely they laid their all upon the altar,
    Counting as naught the sacrifice and pain,
    Theirs but to do and die without a falter—
    Ours to enjoy the victory and the gain.

    They are not lost; that only which was mortal
    Lies 'neath the turf o'erarched by Southern skies;
    Deathless they wait beyond the heavenly portal,
    In that fair land where valor never dies.

    In the great heart of coming generations
    Their fame shall live, their glory never cease;
    Even when comes to all earth's troubled nations
    God's perfect gift of universal peace.

  8. The Soldier

    by Rupert Brooke. Rupert Brooke, a brilliant, impassioned young Englishman, was one of the first to take arms when Great Britain went to war. He died in the Dardanelles expedition, dition April 23, 1915. A few days before, he had sent from the Aegean Sea to the English-speaking peoples the poem by which he is best known:

    If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
    A body of England’s, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

    And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

  9. Decoration Day

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
    On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
    Where foes no more molest,
    Nor sentry's shot alarms!

    Ye have slept on the ground before,
    And started to your feet
    At the cannon's sudden roar,
    Or the drum's redoubling beat.

    But in this camp of Death
    No sound your slumber breaks;
    Here is no fevered breath,
    No wound that bleeds and aches.

    All is repose and peace,
    Untrampled lies the sod;
    The shouts of battle cease,
    It is the Truce of God!

    Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
    The thoughts of men shall be
    As sentinels to keep
    Your rest from danger free.

    Your silent tents of green
    We deck with fragrant flowers;
    Yours has the suffering been,
    The memory shall be ours.

  10. Dirge For Two Veterans

    by Walt Whitman

    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 daylight over 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.

  11. Memorial Day

    by Amos Russel Wells

    The Day of Memories!—Remembering what?
    The cannon's roar, the hissing of the shot?
    The weary hospital, the prison pen?
    The widow's tears, the groans of stalwart men?
    The bitterness of fratricidal strife?
    The pangs of death, the sharper pangs of life?
    Nay, let us quite forget the whole of these
    Upon our sacred Day of Memories.

    The Day of Memories!—Remembering what?
    The honored dust in every hallowed spot;
    The honored names of all our heroes dead;
    The glorious land for which they fought and bled;
    Our nation's hopes; the kindly, common good;
    The universal bond of brotherhood;
    These we remember gladly, all of these,
    Upon our sacred Day of Memories.

  12. Memorial Day

    Wherever we gather today 'neath "The Stars,"
    Let's honor the living now wearing the scars
    Which they brought from the fields of battle and strife,
    While protecting "Our Flag," and our Nation's life.
    Let the flowers bear tribute in their simple way.
    And each one remember Memorial Day;

    – Frederick W. Emerson
    Memorial Day
    by Frederick W. Emerson

    Our Nation is reverently thinking today
    Of the loved ones sleeping beneath the cold clay;
    Of the sacrifice made, and the brave deeds done,
    To preserve our Union as a glorious one.
    We ne'er will be able to pay the great cost
    Of the noble, the true, and the brave that we've lost;
    But over their graves, with tears like the dew,
    We'll lay our sweet flowers of red, white and blue.

    Our Nation is paying its tribute today
    Upon the green mounds where its loyal men lay;
    While statesman, and orator, fondly repeat
    The story of those who knew no defeat.
    They tell of the Union united again,
    By the triumph of those who died not in vain;
    Of the forty-four states all loyal and free,
    Of the peace, and the freedom, from sea to sea.

    Our Nation is thinking, rejoicing, to day,
    While comrades are kneeling their tribute to pay;
    And hearts once sorrowing, rejoice now to see
    The "Star Spangled Banner," the flag of the free.
    For out of their loyalty and brave deeds done,
    Out of their battles and their victories won,
    Came freedom and peace, and in liberty's name
    Our banner floats freely, with glory and fame.

    Our Nation is reverently thinking today
    Of the men now living who'll soon pass away;
    Like the grass of the field and the flowers they spread
    O'er the graves of their comrades, immortal, dead,
    Tall monuments stand to their memory dear,
    But they crumble and fall, like the leaf when sere;
    Our Nation united, forever will stand,
    To those who preserved it, a monument grand.

    Wherever we gather today 'neath "The Stars,"
    Let's honor the living now wearing the scars
    Which they brought from the fields of battle and strife,
    While protecting "Our Flag," and our Nation's life.
    Let the flowers bear tribute in their simple way.
    And each one remember Memorial Day;
    Remember the dead, and the living, though few,
    Who fought 'neath "The Stars," and the red, white and blue.

  13. What Marches?

    by Anonymous

    Memorial Day, 1911

    What marches when the veterans march
    On the thirtieth day of May,
    That limping, glorious line of men
    Over a flower-strewn way?

    Why, Gettysburg is marching there.
    And frightful Malvern Hill,
    The shame and terror of Bull Run,
    The loss of Chancellorsville.

    Fort Sumter marches, Donelson,
    And Sherman's "to the sea,"
    The Monitor, the Hartford,
    Duels of Grant and Lee.

    There goes the ghost of Andersonville,
    And Libby's spectre grim;
    There marches Lookout Mountain,
    There strldes the Battle Hymn.

    There passes the Proclamation,
    End of a curse abhorred;
    And there goes Appomattox,
    The sheathing of the sword.

    All this goes by when the veterans march
    On the thirtieth day of May;
    And what can those that see it do
    But lift the hat, and pray?

  14. The Lengthening Lines

    by Anonymous

    G. A. R. Memorial Day, 1919

    In Heaven too, each blossoming May,
    I think they keep Memorial Day;
    And not in scattered, feeble groups,
    But one great host of marching troops.

    The soldier lines are shortening here,
    Swiftly, sadly, year by year;
    But yonder, in the skies of spring.
    The glorious lines are lengthening.

    Still waves Old Glory, even there,
    And Heaven itself is not more fair.
    Still rises in that peaceful land
    The music of the martial band.

    No wounds, no weariness! they know
    The springing youth of long ago.
    Their speeding miles as stoutly run
    As in the days of Sixty-one

    And how the shining columns cheer
    As mighty generals appear.
    Heroes of fortune's high degree.
    Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Lee!

    Ah, yes, and Lee; for on those plains
    No thought of ancient strife remains,
    But brotherly they march away,
    The comrade blue beside the gray.

    And thus as each recurring year
    The soldier lines grow shorter here,
    Our saddened thoughts will gladly rise
    To that review beyond the skies.

  15. A Dead Warrior

    by Laurence Housman

    Here sown to dust lies one that drave
    The furrow through his heart;
    Now, of the fields he died to save
    His own dust forms a part.

    Where went the tramp of martial feet,
    The blare of trumpets loud,
    Comes silence with her winding sheet,
    And shadow with her shroud.

    His mind no longer counsel takes,
    No sword his hand need draw,
    Across whose borders peace now makes
    Inviolable law.

    So, with distraction round him stilled,
    Now let him be content!
    And time from age to age shall build
    His standing monument.

    Not here, where strife, and greed, and lust
    Grind up the bones of men;
    But in that safe and secret dust
    Which shall not rise again.

  16. May Night

    by William Ellery Leonard

    Blue are the twilight heavens above the hill,
    A yellow half-moon 's high within the blue,
    And rosy May-night clouds are soft and still,
    And all the world beside is shut from view.
    The plum-trees, whitening buds and greening shoots,
    Close in the dusky cottage; and beyond
    The wood-thrush in the hazel-thicket flutes,
    And frogs are croaking in the unseen pond.

    It is the old, the odorous privacy
    That once had been both peace and gentle song,
    But now how such an evening troubles me
    After earth's five most awful years of wrong...
    Whilst inland, from the plains, the crags, the sea,
    With all the stars the dead men's armies throng.

  17. Armistice

    by Charles Buxton Going

    How close the white-ranked crosses stand
    Beneath the flag which seems to be
    A soaring, hovering glory-cloud
    On lily fields of Calvary!

    Ours, ours they are—
    Those dead, dead knights who won the golden star
    On far French hills, here in our churchyards lying,
    Or in war's wildest wreckage—yet unfound
    In those torn, piteous fields which they, in dying,
    Have for us all forever sanctified.
    We can not hallow more than holy ground;
    All glory we would give them, pales beside
    The eternal splendor of those men, who thought
    But of the sacred cause for which they fought.

    And now, the battles done,
    They who gave all, 'tis they alone who won.
    In their great faith there was no dark misgiving;
    They saw no base self-seekers don the mask
    Of high ideals, to batten on the living.
    Their vision was a world secure and just
    Won by their victory—their only task
    To crush one hideous foe; and in that trust
    They sped with eager feet, and paid the price
    Unstinting, of the last great sacrifice.

    That faith they hold.
    The peace for which they battled was pure gold,
    And in their splendid zeal they died unshaken.
    Knowing such sacred beauty fills their sleep,
    Shall we yet mourn, or wish they might awaken
    To find the golden peace so far debased?
    Should we not rather pray that they may keep
    Their shining vision spotless, undefaced,
    Until the world, repentant and redeemed,
    Grow to the measure of the one they dreamed?

    So let them rest.
    They gave for us their dearest and their best;
    They keep the holiest. Yet for their giving
    Our fittest tribute is not grief and tears,
    But the same ardent vision in our living
    As that which shone, compelling, in their eyes
    Uncowed by death and all his dreadful fears.
    Then, when at last these glorious dreamers rise,
    The world we keep for them might almost seem
    The living substance of their lofty dream!

    How white the crosses—white and small!
    With what proud love the Flag appears
    To mother them! And then it all
    Is blurred by the insistent tears!

  18. The Unknown

    by E.O. Laughlin

    I do not understand...
    They bring so many, many flowers to me—
    Rainbows of roses, wreaths from every land;
    And hosts of solemn strangers come to see
    My tomb here on these quiet, wooded heights.
    My tomb here seems to be
    One of the sights.

    The low-voiced men, who speak
    Of me quite fondly, call me The Unknown:
    But now and then at dusk, Madonna-meek,
    Bent, mournful mothers come to me alone
    And whisper down—the flowers and grasses through—
    Such names as "Jim" and "John"...
    I wish I knew.

    And once my sweetheart came.
    She did not—nay, of course she could not—know,
    But thought of me, and crooned to me the name
    She called me by—how many years ago?
    A very precious name. Her eyes were wet,
    Yet glowing, flaming so...
    She won't forget!

  19. All This Is Ended

    by Rupert Brooke

    These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
    Washed marvelously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
    The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
    And sunset, and the colors of the earth.
    These had seen movement, and heard music; known
    Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
    Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
    Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

    There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
    And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
    Frost with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
    And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
    Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
    A width, a shining peace, under the night.

  20. The Unknown

    by Harry Kemp

    Here, under sacred ground,
    The Unknown lies:
    Dumb be the earth around
    And dumb the skies
    Before His laureled Fame—
    Yea, let sublime
    Silence conduct His Name
    Unspelled, till Time,
    Bowed with Eternity,
    Goes back to God
    Abandoning earth to be
    At life's last exequy
    Man's final clod....

    Here, under sacred ground,
    The Unknown lies:
    Dim armies gather 'round
    His sacrifice:
    Kings, Princes, Presidents
    Attest His worth:
    The Generals bow before
    His starry earth:
    In the World's heart inscribed
    His love, his fame—
    He leads the Captains with
    His Unknown Name!

  21. The Land

    by Maxwell Struthers Burt

    Be not afraid, O Dead, be not afraid:
    We have not lost the dreams that once were flung
    Like pennons to the world: we yet are stung
    With all the starry prophecies that made
    You, in the gray dawn watchful, half afraid
    Of vision. Never a night that all men sleep unstirred:
    Never a sunset but the west is blurred
    With banners marching and a sign displayed.
    Be not afraid, O Dead, lest we forget
    A single hour your living glorified;
    Come but a drum-beat, and the sleepers fret
    To walk again the places where you died:
    Broad is the land, our loves are broadly spread,
    But now, even more widely scattered lie our dead.

    O Lord of splendid nations, let us dream
    Not of a place of barter, nor "the State,"
    But dream as lovers dream—for it is late—
    Of some small place beloved; perhaps a stream
    Running beside a house set round with flowers;
    Perhaps a garden wet with hurrying showers,
    Where bees are thick about a leaf-hid gate.
    For such as these, men die nor hesitate.
    The old gray cities, gossipy and wise,
    The candid valleys, like a woman's brow,
    The mountains treading mightily toward the skies,
    Turn dreams to visions—there's a vision now!
    Of hills panoplied, fields of waving spears,
    And a great campus shaken with flags and tears.

  22. Soldier, Rest

    by Sir Walter Scott

    Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
    Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;
    Dream of battled fields no more,
    Days of danger, nights of waking.
    In our isle's enchanted hall,
    Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
    Fairy strains of music fall,
    Every sense in slumber dewing.
    Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
    Dream of fighting fields no more:
    Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
    Morn of toil, nor night of waking.

    No rude sounds shall reach thine ear,
    Armor's clang, or war-steed champing,
    Trump nor pibroch summon here
    Mustering clan, or squadron tramping.
    Yet the lark's shrill fife may come
    At the daybreak from the fallow,
    And the bittern sound his drum,
    Booming from the sedgy shallow.
    Ruder sounds shall none be near;
    Guards nor warders challenge here;
    Here's no war-steed's neigh and champing,
    Shouting clans, or squadrons stamping.

  23. The Fallen

    by Duncan Campbell Scott

    Those we have loved the dearest,
    The bravest and the best,
    Are summoned from the battle
    To their eternal rest;

    There they endure the silence,
    Here we endure the pain—
    He that bestows the Valor
    Valor resumes again.

    O, Master of all Being,
    Donor of Day and Night,
    Of Passion and of Beauty,
    Of Sorrow and Delight,

    Thou gav'st them the full treasure
    Of that heroic blend—
    The Pride, the Faith, the Courage,
    That holdeth to the end.

    Thou gavest us the Knowledge
    Wherein their memories stir—
    Master of Life, we thank Thee
    That they were what they were.

  24. The Old Soldier

    by Katherine Tynan

    Lest the young soldiers be strange in heaven,
    God bids the old soldier they all adored
    Come to Him and wait for them, clean, new-shriven,
    A happy doorkeeper in the House of the Lord.

    Lest it abash them, the strange new splendor,
    Lest they affright them, the new robes clean;
    Here's an old face, now, long-tried and tender,
    A word and a hand-clasp as they troop in.

    "My boys!" He greets them: and heaven is homely,
    He their great captain in days gone o'er;
    Dear is the friend's face, honest and comely,
    Waiting to welcome them by the strange door.

  25. III. The Dead

    by Rupert Brooke

    Full Text:

    Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
    There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
    But dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
    These laid the world away; poured out the red
    Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
    Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
    That men call age; and those who would have been,
    Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

    Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
    Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
    Honor has come back, as a king, to earth,
    And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
    And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
    And we have come into our heritage.

  26. IV. The Dead

    by Rupert Brooke

    These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
    Washed marvelously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
    The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
    And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
    These had seen movement, and heard music; known
    Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
    Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
    Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

    There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
    And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
    Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
    And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
    Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
    A width, a shining peace, under the night.

  27. The Bivouac of the Dead

    by Theodore O'Hara

    The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
    The soldier's last tattoo;
    No more on life's parade shall meet
    That brave and fallen crew.
    On fame's eternal camping ground
    Their silent tents are spread,
    And Glory guards with solemn round
    The bivouac of the dead.

    No rumor of the foe's advance
    Now swells upon the wind;
    No troubled thought at midnight haunts
    Of loved ones left behind;
    No vision of the morrow's strife
    The warrior's dream alarms;
    No braying horn or screaming fife
    At dawn shall call to arms.

    Their shivered swords are red with rust;
    Their plumèd heads are bowed;
    Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
    Is now their martial shroud;
    And plenteous funeral tears have washed
    The red stains from each brow;
    And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
    Are free from anguish now.

    The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
    The bugle's stirring blast,
    The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
    The din and shout are passed.
    Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal,
    Shall thrill with fierce delight
    Those breasts that nevermore shall feel
    The rapture of the fight.

    Like the fierce northern hurricane
    That sweeps his great plateau,
    Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
    Came down the serried foe.
    Who heard the thunder of the fray
    Break o'er the field beneath,
    Knew well the watchword of that day
    Was "Victory or Death!"

    Long had the doubtful conflict raged
    O'er all that stricken plain,
    For never fiercer fight had waged
    The vengeful blood of Spain;
    And still the storm of battle blew,
    Still swelled the gory tide;
    Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
    Such odds his strength could bide.

    'T was in that hour his stern command
    Called to a martyr's grave
    The flower of his beloved land,
    The nation's flag to save.
    By rivers of their fathers' gore
    His first-born laurels grew,
    And well he deemed the sons would pour
    Their lives for glory too.

    Full many a norther's breath has swept
    O'er Angostura's plain,
    And long the pitying sky has wept
    Above its mouldered slain.
    The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
    Or shepherd's pensive lay,
    Alone awakes each sullen height
    That frowned o'er that dread fray.

    Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground,
    Ye must not slumber there,
    Where stranger steps and tongues resound
    Along the heedless air.
    Your own proud land's heroic soil
    Shall be your fitter grave:
    She claims from war his richest spoil—
    The ashes of her brave.

    Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest
    Far from the gory field,
    Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
    On many a bloody shield;
    The sunshine of their native sky
    Smiles sadly on them here,
    And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
    The heroes' sepulchre.

    Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
    Dear as the blood ye gave;
    No impious footsteps here shall tread
    The herbage of your grave;
    Nor shall your glory be forgot
    While Fame her record keeps,
    Or Honor points the hallowed spot
    Where Valor proudly sleeps.

    Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
    In deathless song shall tell
    When many a vanquished year hath flown,
    The story how ye fell.
    Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
    Nor Time's remorseless doom,
    Can dim one ray of holy light
    That gilds your glorious tomb.

  28. After Battle

    by Duncan Campbell Scott

    When the first larks began to soar,
    They left him wounded there;
    Pity unlatched the sun-lit door,
    And smoothed his clotted hair.

    But when the larks were still, before
    The mist began to rise,
    'Twas Love that latched the star-lit door,
    And closed his dreamless eyes.

  29. The Young Dead

    by Maxwell Struthers Burt

    Those who were born so beautifully
    Of straight-limbed men and white-browed, candid wives,
    Now have walked out beyond where we can see;
    Are full-grown men, with spent and splendid lives:
    And these that only a little while ago
    Without our help would stumble in steep places,
    Need never our hands, stride proudly on, and so
    Come to a dawn of great, unknown spaces.
    O lithe young limbs and radiant, grave young eyes,
    Now have you taught us beauty cannot fade;
    This summer finds a rounding of the skies,
    And all the summer night is overlaid
    With calm, a strength, a loveliness, a lending
    Of grace that will not go, that has no ending.

    And I had planned a future filled with bright
    Upstanding days that found and held the sun
    Even where shadows are. When these were done,
    Sleep, with a heart made curiously light....
    I dreamed so all men dream at night...
    Of tasks, and the fine heat of them, the cool
    That comes by dusk like color on a pool:
    Now this is over and new things begun.
    Now this is over, and my dreams are caught
    Up in a great cloud terrible and unsought,
    And all my hours, so straightly marked before,
    Are blown and broken by the wind of war;
    I only know there is no time for reaping;
    The trumpets care so little for my sleeping.

    After great labor comes great calm, great rest,
    The wonder of contentment, and surcease,
    And once again we feel the wind and see
    A flower stirred, or hear, amidst the peace,
    The inarticulate music of the bee:
    Taste sweetness where sweat was, and, what is best,
    Behind the veil that hangs across our sight,
    One moment know the changelessness of light.

    And so I have no pity for the dead,
    They have gone out, gone out with flame and song,
    A sudden shining glory round them spread;
    Their drooping hands raised up again and strong;
    Only I sorrow that a man must die
    To find the unending beauty of the sky.

  30. Hymn for the Victorious Dead

    by Hermann Hagedorn

    God, by the sea, by the resounding sea,
    God, in the vales, God, on the golden plain,
    God, in the dark of cities, tremblingly
    We raise our hands, we raise our hearts, to Thee.
    Our spirits, Father, see, we raise to Thee
    In longing, Lord, in pain!

    God, by the sea, more terrible than guns,
    God, on the hills, low-bending, oh, Divine,
    We offer Thee our bright, beloved ones,
    In love, in grief, in pride, we yield our sons.
    In Thy strong hands, Father, we lay our sons,
    No longer ours, but Thine!

    God, through the night, the dark, tempestuous,
    See, with clear eyes we wait the day to be.
    We do not ask that they come back to us.
    We know that, soon or late, victorious,
    Even though they die, they will come back to us,
    Because they died for Thee!

  31. A Monument for the Soldiers

    by James Whitcomb Riley

    A monument for the Soldiers!
    And what will ye build it of?
    Can ye build it of marble, or brass, or bronze,
    Outlasting the Soldiers' love?
    Can ye glorify it with legends
    As grand as their blood hath writ
    From the inmost shrine of this land of thine
    To the outermost verge of it?

    And the answer came: We would build it
    Out of our hopes made sure,
    And out of our purest prayers and tears,
    And out of our faith secure:
    We would build it out of the great white truths
    Their death hath sanctified,
    And the sculptured forms of the men in arms,
    And their faces ere they died.

    And what heroic figures
    Can the sculptor carve in stone?
    Can the marble breast be made to bleed,
    And the marble lips to moan?
    Can the marble brow be fevered?
    And the marble eyes be graved
    To look their last, as the flag floats past,
    On the country they have saved?

    And the answer came: The figures
    Shall all be fair and brave,
    And, as befitting, as pure and white
    As the stars above their grave!
    The marble lips, and breast and brow
    Whereon the laurel lies,
    Bequeath us right to guard the flight
    Of the old flag in the skies!

    A monument for the Soldiers!
    Built of a people's love,
    And blazoned and decked and panoplied
    With the hearts ye build it of!
    And see that ye build it stately,
    In pillar and niche and gate,
    And high in pose as the souls of those
    It would commemorate!

  32. The Young Dead

    by Edith Wharton

    Ah, how I pity the young dead who gave
    All that they were, and might become, that we
    With tired eyes should watch this perfect sea
    Re-weave its patterning of silver wave
    Round scented cliffs of arbutus and bay.

    No more shall any rose along the way,
    The myrtled way that wanders to the shore,
    Nor jonquil-twinkling meadow any more,
    Nor the warm lavender that takes the spray,
    Smell only of sea-salt and the sun.

    But, through recurring seasons, every one
    Shall speak to us with lips the darkness closes,
    Shall look at us with eyes that missed the roses,
    Clutch us with hands whose work was just begun,
    Laid idle now beneath the earth we tread—

    And always we shall walk with the young dead.—
    Ah, how I pity the young dead, whose eyes
    Strain through the sod to see these perfect skies,
    Who feel the new wheat springing in their stead,
    And the lark singing for them overhead!

  33. For Thee They Died

    by John Drinkwater

    For thee their pilgrim swords were tried,
    Thy flaming word was in their scrips,
    They battled, they endured, they died
    To make a new Apocalypse.
    Master and Maker, God of Right,
    The soldier dead are at thy gate,
    Who kept the spears of honor bright
    And freedom's house inviolate.

  34. Before Marching, and After

    by Thomas Hardy

    Orion swung southward aslant
    Where the starved Egdon pine-trees had thinned,
    The Pleiads aloft seemed to pant
    With the heather that twitched in the wind;
    But he looked on indifferent to sights such as these,
    Unswayed by love, friendship, home joy or home sorrow,
    And wondered to what he would march on the morrow.

    The crazed household clock with its whirr
    Rang midnight within as he stood,
    He heard the low sighing of her
    Who had striven from his birth for his good;
    But he still only asked the spring starlight, the breeze,
    What great thing or small thing his history would borrow
    From that Game with Death he would play on the morrow.

    When the heath wore the robe of late summer,
    And the fuchsia-bells, hot in the sun,
    Hung red by the door, a quick comer
    Brought tidings that marching was done
    For him who had joined in that game overseas
    Where Death stood to win; though his memory would borrow
    A brightness therefrom not to die on the morrow.

  35. A Hero of the Revolution

    by George Pope Morris

     Full Text

    Let not a tear be shed!
    Of grief give not a token,
    Although the silver thread
    And golden bowl be broken!
    A warrior lived—a Christian died!
    Sorrow's forgotten in our pride!

    Go, bring his battle-blade,
    His helmet and his plume!
    And be his trophies laid
    Beside him in the tomb,
    Where files of time-marked veterans come
    With martial tramp and muffled drum!

    Give to the earth his frame,
    To moulder and decay;
    But not his deathless name—
    That can not pass away!
    In youth, in manhood, and in age,
    He dignified his country's page!

    Green be the willow-bough
    Above the swelling mound,
    Where sleeps the hero now
    In consecrated ground:
    Thy epitaph, O Delavan!
    God's noblest work—an honest man!

  36. The Portrait of a Warrior

    by Walter De la Mare

    His brow is seamed with line and scar;
    His cheek is red and dark as wine;
    The fires as of a Northern star
    Beneath his cap of sable shine.

    His right hand, bared of leathern glove,
    Hangs open like an iron gin,
    You stoop to see his pulses move,
    To hear the blood sweep out and in.

    He looks some king, so solitary
    In earnest thought he seems to stand,
    As if across a lonely sea
    He gazed impatient of the land.

    Out of the noisy centuries
    The foolish and the fearful fade;
    Yet burn unquenched these warrior eyes,
    Time hath not dimmed, nor death dismayed.

  37. A Nameless Grave

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    “A Soldier of the Union mustered out,”
    Is the inscription on an unknown grave
    At Newport News, beside the salt-sea wave,
    Nameless and dateless; sentinel or scout
    Shot down in skirmish, or disastrous rout
    Of battle, when the loud artillery drave
    Its iron wedges through the ranks of brave
    And doomed battalions, storming the redoubt.
    Thou unknown hero sleeping by the sea
    In thy forgotten grave! with secret shame
    I feel my pulses beat, my forehead burn,
    When I remember thou hast given for me
    All that thou hadst, thy life, thy very name,
    And I can give thee nothing in return.

  38. Ode for Memorial Day

    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Done are the toils and the wearisome marches,
    Done is the summons of bugle and drum.
    Softly and sweetly the sky overarches,
    Shelt’ring a land where Rebellion is dumb.
    Dark were the days of the country’s derangement,
    Sad were the hours when the conflict was on,
    But through the gloom of fraternal estrangement
    God sent his light, and we welcome the dawn.
    O’er the expanse of our mighty dominions,
    Sweeping away to the uttermost parts,
    Peace, the wide-flying, on untiring pinions,
    Bringeth her message of joy to our hearts.

    Ah, but this joy which our minds cannot measure,
    What did it cost for our fathers to gain!
    Bought at the price of the heart’s dearest treasure,
    Born out of travail and sorrow and pain;
    Born in the battle where fleet Death was flying,
    Slaying with sabre-stroke bloody and fell;
    Born where the heroes and martyrs were dying,
    Torn by the fury of bullet and shell.
    Ah, but the day is past: silent the rattle,
    And the confusion that followed the fight.
    Peace to the heroes who died in the battle,
    Martyrs to truth and the crowning of Right!

    Out of the blood of a conflict fraternal,
    Out of the dust and the dimness of death,
    Burst into blossoms of glory eternal
    Flowers that sweeten the world with their breath.
    Flowers of charity, peace, and devotion
    Bloom in the hearts that are empty of strife;
    Love that is boundless and broad as the ocean
    Leaps into beauty and fullness of life.
    So, with the singing of paeans and chorals,
    And with the flag flashing high in the sun,
    Place on the graves of our heroes the laurels
    Which their unfaltering valor has won!

  39. Memorial Day

    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    Why deck with flow'rs these humble mounds?
    Why gather round this fast decaying mold?
    Why doth remembrance keep her solemn rounds
    And wrap these sleepers in her loving fold?
    Why kneel, ye silent mourners, here
    To drop the reverential tear?
    Flesh is but dust when parted from the breath.

    Flesh is but dust, but worth of soul is gold!
    'Tis not the dust we honor, but the brave
    And noble spirits that it once did hold.
    So kneel we weeping at the grave,
    As at the door through which have passed,
    To enter into mansions vast,
    The heroes who have gone to meet
    A dearer destiny than dirgeful death.

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