previous next

Memorial ode.

[Read before the Grand Army Posts of Boston, Mass., on

Memorial Day, May 30, 1881, by Mr. George Riddle.]


Oy to the three-hilled city!--for each year
Heals something of the grief this day records;
Each year the plaintive lay
Sounds yet more far away,
And strains of triumph suit memorial words.
The old-time pang becomes a thrill of joy;
Again we turn the page
Of our heroic age,
And read anew the tale of every patriot boy.
A modest courage was their simple wont,
The dauntless youths who grew to manhood here:
Putnam and Savage, Perkins and Revere.
It needs no helmet's gleam,
No armor's glittering beam, [65]
No feudal imagery of shield or spear
To gild the gallant deeds that roused us then,--
When Cass fell dying in the battle's front,
And Shaw's fair head lay 'mid his dusky men.


All o'er the tranquil land
On this Memorial Day,
Coming from near and far,
Men gather in the mimic guise of war.
They bear no polished steel,
Yet by the elbow's touch they march, they wheel,
Or side by side they stand.
They now are peaceful men, fair Order's sons;
But as they halt in motionless array,
Or bow their heads to pray,
Into their dream intrudes
The swift sharp crack of rifle-shots in woods;
Into their memory swells
The trumpet's call, the screaming of the shells;
And ever and anon they seem to hear
The far-off thunder of besieging guns,--
All sounds of bygone war, all memories of the ear. [66]


A little while it seems
Since those were daily thoughts which now are dreams.
A little while is gone
Since, the last battle fought, the victory won,
We saw sweet Peace come back with all her charms,
And watched a million men lay down their arms.
But at this morning's call
We bridge the interval;
And yet once more, with no regretful tears,
Live back again, though now men's blood be cooled,
Through the long vista of the fading years
To days when Sumner spoke, and Andrew ruled.


Courage is first and last of what we need
To mould a nation for triumphal sway:
All else is empty air,
A promise vainly fair,
Like the bright beauty of the ocean spray [67]
Tossed up toward heaven, but never reaching there.
Not in the past, but in the future, we
Must seek the mastery
Of fate and fortune, thought and word and deed.
Gone, gone for aye, the little Puritan homes;
Gone the beleaguered town, from out whose spires
Flashed forth the warning fires
Telling the Cambridge rustics, “Percy comes!”
And gone those later days of grief and shame
When slavery changed our court-house to a jail,
And blood-drops stained its threshold. Now we hail,
After the long affray,
A time of calmer order, wider aim,
More mingled races, manhood's larger frame,
A city's broader sweep, the Boston of to-day.


They say our city's star begins to wane,
Our heroes pass away, our poets die,
Our passionate ardors mount no more so high.
'T is but an old alarm, the affright of wealth,
The cowardice of culture, wasted pain!
Freedom is hope and health! [68]
The sea on which yon ocean steamers ride
Is the same sea that rocked the shallops frail
Of the bold Pilgrims; yonder is its tide,
And here are we, their sons; it grows not pale,
Nor we who walk its borders. Never fear!
Courage and truth are all!
Trust in the great hereafter, and whene'er
In some high hour of need,
That tests the heroic breed,
The Boston of the future sounds its call,
Bartletts and Lowells yet shall answer, “Here!”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Puritan (Ohio, United States) (1)
Boston (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Sumner (1)
Shaw (1)
Savage (1)
George Riddle (1)
Revere (1)
Putnam (1)
Perkins (1)
Cass (1)
Bartletts (1)
Andrew (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 30th, 1881 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: