Provided by COL Straut of the speech given by Compatriot Eb Joseph Daniels Saturday evening:
1. “A Land without Ruins”
By Father Abraham J. Ryan
“A land without ruins is a land without memories — a land without memories is a land without history. A land that wears a laurel crown may be fair to see; but twine a few sad cypress leaves around the brow of any land, and be that land barren, beautiless and bleak, it becomes lovely in its consecrated coronet of sorrow, and it wins the sympathy of the heart and of history. Crowns of roses fade — crowns of thorns endure. Calvaries and crucifixions take deepest hold of humanity — the triumphs of might are transient — they pass and are forgotten — the sufferings of right are graven deepest on the chronicle of nations.”
Yes, give me the land where the ruins are spread,
And the living tread light on the hearts of the dead;
Yes, give me a land that is blest by the dust,
And bright with the deeds of the down-trodden just.
Yes, give me the land where the battle’s red blast
Has flashed to the future the fame of the past;
Yes, give me the land that hath legends and lays
That tell of the memories of long vanished days;
Yes, give me a land that hath story and song!
Enshrine the strife of the right with the wrong!
Yes, give me a land with a grave in each spot,
And names in the graves that shall not be forgot;
Yes, give me the land of the wreck and the tomb;
There is grandeur in graves — there is glory in gloom;
For out of the gloom future brightness is born,
As after the night comes the sunrise of morn;
And the graves of the dead with the grass overgrown
May yet form the footstool of liberty’s throne,
And each single wreck in the war-path of might
Shall yet be a rock in the temple of right.
2. From The Ordways by William Humphrey
We Southerners are accused of living in the past. What can we do? The past lives in us. And not just that single episode which of those who accuse us have in mind: the Civil War – but all of the past. If the Civil War is more alive to the Southerner than to the Northerner it is because all of the past is, and this is so because the Southerner has a sense of having been present there himself in the person of one or more of his ancestors. The War forms merely a chapter – the most vivid single chapter, it is true, but still just one chapter – in his book of books, the bible of his family – which is not to say the family Bible, but rather that collection transmitted orally from father to son of proverbs and prophecies, legends,laws, traditions of the origins and Tales of the wanderings of his own tribe. For it is this, not any fixation on the Civil War, but this feeling of identity with his dead (who are the past) which characterizes and explains the Southerner, which accounts for his inflexible conservatism, his lawlessness and love of violence, his exaggerated respect for old age, his stubborn resistance to change, his hospitality and his xenophobia, his legalism and his anarchy. It is with kin, not causes, that the Southerner is linked. Confederate Great-Grandfather lived in stirring and memorable times but he is not remembered by his descendants for his (probably undistinguished) part in the Battle of Bull Run; rather, the Battle of Bull Run is remembered because Great-Grandfather was there.
3. “To E.S. Salomon, who in a Memorial Day oration protested bitterly against decorating the graves of Confederate dead”
By Ambrose Bierce
What! Salomon! such words from you,
Who call yourself a soldier? Well,
The Southern brother where he fell
Slept all your base oration through.
Alike to him – he cannot know
Your praise or blame: as little harm
Your tongue can do him as your arm
A quarter-century ago.
The brave respect the brave. The brave
Respect the dead; but you – you draw
That ancient blade, the ass’s jaw,
And shake it o’er a hero’s grave.
Are you not he who makes to-day
A merchandise of old reknown
Which he persuades this easy town
He won in battle far away?
Nay, those the fallen who revile
Have ne’er before the living stood
And stoutly made their battle good
And greeted danger with a smile.
What if the dead whom still you hate
Were wrong? Are you so surely right?
We know the issues of the fight –
The sword is but an advocate.
Men live and die, and other men
Arise with knowledges diverse:
What seemed a blessing seems a curse,
And Now is still at odds with Then.
The years go on, the old comes back
To mock the new – beneath the sun
Is nothing new; ideas run
Recurrent in an endless track.
What most we censure, men as wise
Have reverently practiced; nor
Will future wisdom fail to war
On principles we dearly prize.
We do not know – we can but deem,
And he is loyalest and best
Who takes the light full on his breast
And follows it throughout the dream.
The broken light, the shadows wide –
Behold the battle-field displayed!
God save the vanquished from the blade,
The victor from the victor’s pride.
If, Salomon, the blessed dew
That falls upon the Blue and Gray
Is powerless to wash away
The sin of differing from you,
Remember how the flood of years
Has rolled across the erring slain;
Remember, too, the cleansing rain
Of widows’ and of orphans’ tears.
The dead are dead – let that atone:
And though with equal hand we strew
The blooms on saint and sinner too,
Yet God will know to choose his own.
The wretch, whate’er his life and lot,
Who does not love the harmless dead
With all his heart and all his head –
May God forgive him, I shall not.
When, Salomon, you come to quaff
The Darker Cup with meeker face,
I, loving you at last, shall trace
Upon your tomb this epitaph:
‘Draw near, ye generous and brave –
Kneel round this monument and weep
For one who tried in vain to keep
A flower from a soldier’s grave.’