Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

By Michael J.W. Stickings


On November 11 each year, Remembrance Day (also Veterans Day in the U.S.), I post a poem from the First World War, from a great poet of that apocalypse like Wilfred Owen or Isaac Rosenberg.

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., and so today I want to post a poem by an American poet of that war.

The writer and editor Archibald MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois in 1892. A future Librarian of Congress, recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes, as well as an expatriate in Paris during the swinging '20s (along with Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, et al.), he served as an ambulance driver and artillery captain during the Great War.

MacLeish died in 1982. There's a good piece on him at the Poetry Foundation.

Here is one of his more well-known poems, "The Silent Slain":

We too, we too, descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off -- Ah, que ce cor a longue haleine --
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
the first, the second blast, the failing third,
And with the third turned back and climbed once more
The steep road southward, and heard faint the sound
Of swords, of horses, the disastrous war,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkening plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain --

My best to our American friends and family, and readers. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day. But do try to remember what it's all about.

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