May 31, 2004
Go read the poem "In Flander's Fields" today. It's a powerful piece of work that brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.
Troops die in war. That's the nature of the beast. But when I see rows upon rows of tombstones marking the final resting place of the fallen, I always wonder... how many poets, artists, writers, scientists and discoverers lay buried there? How many were cut down in their prime and never had the chance to display their talents? How many people that they loved still remember them today? How many have become nothing more than a faded, yellowed photograph in a scrapbook that no one ever looks at anymore?
Memorial Day makes me very pensive.
I also wonder how many people know how Arlington Cemetary came to be. Who once owned that land? Why did the government take it? What became of its former owner?
If you can't answer those questions, you had some shitty teachers in school.
UPDATE: The link I posted to the poem seems to be having bandwidth trouble, so here it is:
"In Flander's Fields"
By John McCrae
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.
McCrae died in World War I.
... I agree, Acidman... Memorial Day is a day of reflection... it is a very humbling holiday...
Regarding your questions about Arlington: The estate was owned by Robert E. Lee (Actually, I think it was actually owned by his wife, who was related to George Washington!), and he lost it during the Civil War because he fought for the Confederate forces. The Union burried many of their war dead there. After the war, he retired in relative obscurity as a teacher in Lexington, VA... He died not too many years after that. His tomb is in Lexington. His last words were: "Strike the tent."
Bob is correct. Arlington was Robert E. Lee's plantation. Lee freed his slaves before he went off to war, but that fact isn't mentioned in many history books.
The government seized his land after the war and locked Lee in jail for a while. He died a broken man, but he founded Washington and Lee University before he died.
In MY humble opinion, he was a true American, in every sense of the word.
Lee was not only a true American, he was something that is becoming increasingly rare these days, a gentleman.
And I remember "In Flander's Fields" quite well, that was one of my moms favorite poems. She read it to us often, when we were just getting introduced to poetry and such. Also remember the American Legion giving out real poppies vice the paper ones you see today.
another poem that always makes a lump in my throat is John McGee's great WW2 account... "High Flight", O, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth....reached out and touched the face of God
Some corrections with regards to Lee.
Arlington was turned into the cemetary by a man who hated Lee with a passion (He blamed Lee for pretty much every person killed in the war, never mind which generals actually fought.) I believe the man once commented on the desire to make Lee see the fruits of his labours every morning when he looked out the window of his plantation. But this is hearsay.
Washington and Lee was not founded by Lee. Washington University was already a well established university when Lee became the president there. The name was changed later to Washington and Lee.
Washington and Lee is one of the most beautiful universities I've ever seen BTW. If you are ever in Lexington visit it and VMI, both campuses are immaculate, and the architechure exquisite.
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