Monday, May 25, 2015

Non-immortal verse

From my grandmother's poetry collection, the first stanza of an 1896 poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, titled "Custer":

All valor died not on the plains of Troy.
Awake, my Muse, awake! be thine the joy
To sing of deeds as dauntless and as brave
As e'er lent luster to a warrior's grave.
Sing of that noble soldier, nobler man,
Dear to the heart of each American.
Sound forth his praise sea to listening sea--
Greece her Achilles claimed, immortal Custer, we.

Of course it is right, especially on Memorial Day, to remember those who died in battle, and those who lived afterwards with the consequences of the wars. But sometimes the passage of years clarifies our view -- and improves our poetry.

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