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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (May 24, 1901)
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Memorial Day Address.
Delivered by Mr. Bryan at Arlington Cem
ctary, near Washington, D. C, May 30, 1894.
It is reproduced at this time because it presents
the editor's views on the subjects considered on
decoration day and also because it contains a
recommendation that Lincoln's Gettysburg
speech be read as part of the program each year
a recommendation which has since been fol
lowed in many places
With flowers In our hands and sadncsB in our
hearts we stand amid the tombs where the na
tion's dead are sleeping. It is appropriate that
tho chief executive is liere, accompanied by his
cabinet; it is appropriate that the soldier's widow
Is here and the soldier's son; it is appropriate
that hero are assembled, in numbers growing less
each year, the .scarred, survivors, federal and con
federate, of our last great war; it is appropriate,
also, that these exercises in nonor of comrades
dead should be conducted by comrades still sur
viving. All too soon the day will come when these
graves must be decorated by hands unused to
Implements of war, and when these speeches must
bo made by lips that never answered to a roll call.
We, who are -of the aftermath, cannot look
upon the flag with the same emotions that thrill
, you who have followed it as your pillar of cloud
by day and your pillar of fire by night, nor can we
appreciate it as you can who have seen it waving
in front of reinforcements when succor meant es
cape from death; neither can we, standing by
these blossom-covered mounds, feel as you have
often felt when far away from home and on
hostile soil you have laid your companions to
rest; but from a new generation we can bring
you the welcome assurance that the commemora
tion of this day will not depart with you. We
. may neglect the places where the nation's greatest
victories have been won, "but we cannot forget the
' 'Aldingtons which the nation has consecrated with
its tears. ' '
To ourselves as well as to our dead we owe the
duty which we discharge here, for monuments and
memorial days declare the patriotism of the living
; no less than the virtues of those whom they com-
We would bo blind, indeed, to our own in
terests and to the welfare of posterity if we were
deaf to the just demands of the soldier and his
dependents. We are -grateful tor the services rend
ered by our defenders, whether illustrious or name-
.' less, and yet a nation's gratitude is not entirely
, selfish, sinoe by our regard for he dead we add to
the security of the living; by our remembrance of
those who have suffered we g"lve inspiration to
those upon whose valor we must hereafter rely,
and prove ourselves worthy of the sacrifices which
have been made and which may be again re
quired. The essence of patriotism lies in a willingness
to sacrifice for one's country, just as true greatness
finds expression, not in blessings enjoyed, but in
good bestowed. Read the words inscribed on the
monuments reared by loving hands to the heroes
of the past; they do not speak fwealth Inherited,
or honors bought or of hours in leisure spent, but
of service done. Twenty years, forty years, a life
or life's most precious blood he yielded up for tho
welfare of nis fellows this is tho simple story
which proves that it is now, and ever has been,
..more blessed to give than to Teceive.
Th? officer was a patriot when he gave Ids abil
ity to this country and risked his name and tamo
upon the fortunes of warj the private soldier was a
patriot When he took Ills place In the ranks and
offered his body as a bulwark to protect the flag;
the wife was a patriot when she hade her husband
farewell and gathered about her the little brood
over which she must exercise bcth a mother's and
a father's care1; and, If there can he degrees in pa
triotism, the mother stood first rmong tho patriots
when she gave to the nation her boys, the divinely
appointed strength of her declining years, and as
she brushed the tears away thanked God that He
had given her the strength to rear strong and
courageous sons for tho battlefield.
tfo us who were born too late to prove upon the
battlefield our courage and our loyalty it is grati
fying to know that opportunity will not be want
ing to show our love of country. In a nation like
ours, where the government is founded upon the
principle of equality and derives its just powers
from the consent of the governed; in a land like
ours, I say, where .every citizen is a sovereign and
where no one cares to wear a crown, every year,
presents a battlefield and every day brings forth
occasion for the display of patriotism.
And on this Memorial day we shall fall short
of our duty if we content ourselves with praising
the dead or complimenting the living and fail to
make preparation for those responsibilities which
present times and present conditions impose upon
us. We can find instruction in that incomparable
address delivered by Abraham Lincoln on the bat
tlefield of Gettysburg. It should be read as a part
of the exercises of this day on each returning year
as the Declaration of Independence is read on the
Fourth of July. Let me quote from it, for its
truths, like all truths, are applicable in all times
"We have come to dedicate a portion of that
field as a final resting place for those who acre
gave their lives that the nation might live. It is
'altogether fitting and proper that ire should do
this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we
cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this, ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled
here liave consecrated it tar above our power to
add or detract. The world will little note, nor
long remember, what ive nay nere, "but it cannot
forget -what they did here. It is for us, the living,
rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work
wliich they who fought here liave thus far so
"Th Unfinished Work1!" Yes, very genera
tion leaves to its successor an unfinished work.
The work of society, the work of human progress,
the work of civilization is never completed. We
build upon the foundation wliich wre find already
laid, and those who follow us take up the work
where we leave off. Those who fought and fell
30 years ago did nobly advance the work in their
day, for they led the nation up to a higher ground.
Theirs was the greatest triumph in all history.
Other armies have been inspired by love of con
quest or have fought to repel a foreign enemy, but
our aTmies neld within the union brethren who
now rejoice at their own defeat and glory in the
preservation of the nation which they once sought
to dismember. No greater victory can be won by
citizens or soldiers than to transform temporary
foes into permanent friends. But let me quoto
"It is rather for us to "be "here dedicated to tho
great task remaining before us: that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to that
cause for whicli they gave the last full measure of,
devotion; that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation,
under God, shall, have a new birth of freedom and
that government of the people, by the people, and
for the people shall not perish from the earth."
Aye, let us here dedicate ourselves anew to this
unfinished work which requires of each genera
tion constant sacrifice and unceasing care, ftricles,
in a funeral oration, explained tho loyalty of his
countrymen when ho said:
"It was for such a country, then, that these
men, nobly Tesolved not to have it taken from
, them, fell fighting and every one of their survivors
may well be willing to suffer in its behalf."
The strength of, a nation does not lie in forts,
nor in navies, nor yet in great standing armies,
hut in happy and contented citizens,-who are ever
ready to protect for themselves and to preserve
for posterity the blessings which they enjoy. It
is for us of this generation to so perform the duties
of citizenship that a "government of the people,
by the people, and for the jreople shall not perish
from the earth."
The flan With the Husket.
BT H. S. TAILOR.
They are building as Babel was built, to the sky,
With a clash and confusion of speech;
They are piling up monuments massive and high
To lift a few names out of reach
As if haughty Jove, in a whimsy of fate,
Had juggled the metal and stone
And laid all the honors of Field and of State
On a favorite few of his own!
But I I will pass' from this rage of renown,
This .ant-hill, commotion and strife,
Pass by where the marbles ana bronzes look down
With their fast frozen gestures of life,
On, out to the nameless who lie 'neath the gloom
Of the pitying cypress and pine:
Your man is the man of the sword and the plume,
But the man with the musket is mine!
I knew him! By all that is noble, I knew
This commonplace hero I name!
I've camped with him, marched with him, fought
with nim, too,
In the swirl of the fierce battle-flame!
Laughed with him, cried with him, taken a part
Of his canteen and blanket, and known
That the throb of this chivalrous prairie boy's
Was an answering -stroke of my own!
I knew him, I tell you! And, also, I knew "
When lie fell on the battle-swept ridge,
That the poor mangled body that lay there in blue
Was only a plank in the bridge
Over which some should pass to a fame
That shall shine while the higi stars shall
Yonr hero is known by an echoing name,
But the man with the musket is mine!'
I knew him! All through him the good and the
Ran together and equally free;
But I judge as I trust Christ has judged the bravo
For death made him noble to me!
In the cyclone of war, in the battle's eclipse, .
Life shook out its lingering saads,
And he died with the names that he loved on his
His musket still grasped in his hands!
Up, close to the flqg, my soldier went down,
In the salient front of the line!
You may-take for your heroes the men of renown,
But the man with the musket is mine!
There is peace in the May-laden grace of the hours
That come -when the day's work is done;
Ana peace with the nameless who, under the
Lie asleep in the slant of the sun.
Beat the taps! Put out lights! and silence, all
There Is rifle-pit strength in the grave!
They sleep well who sleep, "be they crowned or un
crowned, For death will be kind to tho hrave!
Old comrades ot mine, by the fast -waning year
That move to mortality's goal,
By my heart full of love and my eyes full. of tears,
I hold you all fast in my soul!
And I march with tho May,' and its blossomy
I tenderly lay on this sod,
And pray they may rest, there, old comrades la
Like a kiss of forgiveness from Godt,