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Quotations for Memorial Day



On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation! ~Thomas William Parsons, "Dirge for One Who Fell in Battle," 1861


With the tears a Land hath shed
Their graves should ever be green...
~Thomas Bailey Aldrich


Here rest the great and good. Here they repose
After their generous toil. A sacred band,
They take their sleep together, while the year
Comes with its early flowers to deck their graves,
And gathers them again, as Winter frowns.
Theirs is no vulgar sepulchre — green sods
Are all their monument, and yet it tells
A nobler history than pillared piles,
Or the eternal pyramids. They need
No statue nor inscription to reveal
Their greatness. It is round them; and the joy
With which their children tread the hallowed ground
That holds their venerated bones, the peace
That smiles on all they fought for, and the wealth
That clothes the land they rescued, — these, though mute
As feeling ever is when deepest, — these
Are monuments more lasting than the fanes
Reared to the kings and demigods of old...
~James Gates Percival, "The Graves of the Patriots,"


Is't death to fall for Freedom's right?
He's dead alone who lacks her light!
~Thomas Campbell


Green is the spring-time and blushing with bloom;
Bring we an offering to each soldier's tomb,—
Offering of blossoms, of song, and of tears;
Gratitude's outburst, the flower-mark of years.
      Love for the memories, bloom for the graves;
      Slumber on, slumber on, dust of the braves,
      Under the flowers, under the flowers,
      Under the flowers, dear dust of the braves...
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "Under the Flowers" (A Decoration Ode), Come for Arbutus, and Other Wild Bloom, 1882


Rich with peace-perfume our thoughts rise to-day;
God-granted tribute we thankfully pay
Unto our heroes who crossed on war's tide;
Watching they wait us on Time's golden side.
      Love for the memories, bloom for the graves;
      Slumber on, slumber on, dust of the braves,
      Under the flowers, under the flowers,
      Under the flowers, dear dust of the braves.
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "Under the Flowers" (A Decoration Ode), Come for Arbutus, and Other Wild Bloom, 1882


If silence is ever golden, it must be here, beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung... For love of country they accepted death... and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. ~James A. Garfield, remarks at Arlington Cemetery, 1868


From many thousand homes, whose light was put out when a soldier fell, there go forth to-day, to join these solemn processions, loving kindred and friends, from whose hearts the shadow of grief will never be lifted till the light of the eternal world shall dawn upon them. ~James A. Garfield, remarks at Arlington Cemetery, 1868


The brave die never, tho' they sleep in dust;
Their courage nerves a thousand living men...
~Minot J. Savage, "Decorating the Soldiers' Graves"


Here, old men's voices, low and weak
Shall raise the patriots song
Here, children's voices sweet and strong
The glorious song prolong.
~William Woodman, "Memorial Roll Call," 1892


And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
~Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the U.S.A.," 1983 ♫


They are dead; but they live in each Patriot's breast,
And their names are engraven on honor's bright crest.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Battle of Lovell's Pond," 1820


Peace to each manly soul that sleepeth;
Rest to each faithful eye that weepeth...
~Thomas Moore


But the freedom that they fought for, and the country grand they wrought for,
Is their monument to-day, and for aye.
~Thomas Dunn English, "Battle of Monmouth," American Ballads, 1879


Go ye to the graves and decorate,
Place flags for boys who have died;
Kneel down and say prayers for your loved ones,
But know they're still by your side!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "Memorial Day—1945"


With slow and reverend tread,
I bring the roses red
To deck the soldier's bed
Emblem of blood they shed,
      For this our native land.
And I, white daisies bring
A simple offering,
Emblems of holy peace.
Oh, may its reign ne'er cease
      In this our happy land...
~William Woodman, "Emblems of Decoration Day," 1892


Though hearts be torn asunder, for Freedom we will fight... ~Lucy Larcom, "The Nineteenth of April," 1861


But fame is theirs — and future days
On pillar'd brass shall tell their praise;
Shall tell — when cold neglect is dead —
"These for their country fought and bled."
~Philip Freneau, stanzas occasioned by the departure of the British from Charleston, December 14, 1782


Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Decoration Day," 1882


Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Concord Fight," 1836


Our Nation's Dead, to thee
Who died for liberty,
      Thy name we love.
We love thy deeds to sing,
We love to tribute bring,
We love to garlands fling,
      Thy graves above.
~William Woodman, "Our Patriot Dead," 1892


For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. ~William Penn (1644–1718), Fruits of Solitude, in Reflections & Maxims relating to the Conduct of Human Life


For the brave and the true
...the red, white and blue
Are united forever.
~William Woodman, "Emblems of Decoration Day," 1892


Their silent wounds have speech
More eloquent than men;
Their tones can deeper reach
Than human voice or pen.
~William Woodman, "Memorial Roll Call," 1892


Our Patriot Dead, to thee,
Our homage full and free
      This day we bring,
Homage that's doubly due
To fearless men and true
Who dared the right to do,
      Thy praise we sing.
~William Woodman, "Our Patriot Dead," 1892


The hero deed can not expire,
The dead still play their part.
~Charles Sangster, "Brock," 1859


We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. ~Francis A. Walker, "Our Dead Soldiers"


Give thanks for heroes that have stirred
Earth with the wonder of a word.
But all thanksgiving for the breed
Who have bent destiny with deed—
Souls of the high, heroic birth,
Souls sent to poise the shaken Earth,
And then called back to God again
To make Heaven possible for men.
~Edwin Markham, "Conscripts of the Dream," c.1904


How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes! ~Maya Angelou


As patriot's songs, may we
True, faithful, loyal be,
      Thy flag defend.
May Wisdom crown our land,
May Peace and Plenty stand,
And Right our land command,
      Time without end.
~William Woodman, "Our Patriot Dead," 1892


Flanders Fields Poems


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.
~John McCrae (1872–1918), "In Flanders Fields," in Punch (London), 1915 December 8th  ["This poem was literally born of fire and blood during the hottest phase of the second battle of Ypres.... I have a letter from him in which he mentions having written the poem to pass away the time between the arrival of batches of wounded, and partly as an experiment with several varieties of poetic metre." ~Edward W.B. Morrison | "John McCrae witnessed only once the raw earth of Flanders hide its shame in the warm scarlet glory of the poppy. Others have watched this resurrection of the flowers in... successive seasons, a fresh miracle every time it occurs." ~Andrew Macphail, An Essay in Character, 1918 November 11th —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


In Flanders fields the cannon boom
And fitful flashes light the gloom,
      While up above, like eagles, fly
      The fierce destroyers of the sky;
      With stains, the earth wherein you lie
Is redder than the poppy bloom,
            In Flanders fields. //
Sleep on, ye brave. The shrieking shell,
The quaking trench, the startled yell,
The fury of the battle hell
Shall wake you not; for all is well.
Sleep peacefully; for all is well. //
Your flaming torch aloft we bear,
With burning heart an oath we swear
      To keep the faith, to fight it through,
      To crush the foe or sleep with you
            In Flanders fields.
~C.B. Galbreath (1858–1934), "In Flanders Fields: An Answer," c.1917


This crimson flower shall ever tell
Of those who triumphed as they fell,
      Who sleep at peace all dreamlessly;
      This flower shall fit memento be
For those whose days were ended well...
~C.B. Galbreath (1858–1934), "This Crimson Flower: The Poppy," c.1917


The war-worn world has found release,
      And in this chaste and hallowed bed
      Serenely sleep the martyred dead,
While falls the benison of peace
            In Flanders fields. //
Sleep, victors, sleep when falls the snow,
When spring returns, when poppies blow;
      Our legions heard your mute appeal,
      They kept the faith through fire and steel,
And when the battle flags were furled
Your torch illumined all the world
            From Flanders field.
~C.B. Galbreath (1858–1934), "In Flanders Fields: Victores Requiescunt," 1918





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