Armistice Day/The Unknown Soldier and His Brothers
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER AND HIS BROTHERS
A DEAD WARRIOR
Here sown to dust lies one that drave
The furrow through his heart;
Now, of the fields he died to save
His own dust forms a part.
Where went the tramp of martial feet,
The blare of trumpets loud,
Comes silence with her winding sheet,
And shadow with her shroud.
His mind no longer counsel takes,
No sword his hand need draw,
Across whose borders peace now makes
So, with distraction round him stilled,
Now let him be content!
And time from age to age shall build
His standing monument.
Not here, where strife, and greed, and lust
Grind up the bones of men;
But in that safe and secret dust
Which shall not rise again.
From the grave of the Unknown Soldier the crowds melted away. The great men of the nations, who had stood there bareheaded, stepped into their cars and were whirled back to town. The music of the bands grew faint and ceased.
All afternoon little parties of curious, reverent folk came and stopped, and went on again until finally only the guard remained. The day ended. Night came silently and threw over the grave the healing mantle of darkness.
Then a strange thing happened!
Three dim figures from nowhere gathered and stood uncovered beside the tomb. No word of greeting passed between them; they seemed to know each other well. Slowly, one after another, they stooped and read the freshly carved inscription. Then the oldest spoke.
"Things are improving a bit for us Unknown," he said. "I fought with Leonidas at Thermopylæ. We fell side by side, we and the other two hundred and ninety-nine. Our bones are mingled with the dust and rocks. No one marked our resting place. Our names have perished, but we held the pass.
"My mother wept when I failed to return," he continued. "Night after night she waited at the window until it was foolish to hope any longer. Then she, too, wanted to die. But the neighbors came in and cheered her. 'You have given a son to save your country,' they cried. 'The Persians are driven back and Greece is freed. He died, but he left us a better world.'"
The Unknown paused for a moment, his voice grew dull and hard.
"The Romans swept over the Greece that I died for," he said. "The barbarians swept over Rome. I sometimes wonder whether it was worth while to die at twenty-eight—to sleep at Thermopylæ, unknown."
"I fought with Charles Martel at Tours," the second soldier said. "We turned back the Arab hosts; we saved Europe from Mohammedanism; we kept it a Christian continent.
"'It is splendid,' they said to my mother, 'splendid to sacrifice a son on the altar of peace and good-will.'
"That was twelve hundred years ago," the second soldier said. "And where is the peace that we died for? Where is the faith? The good-will?"
The third Unknown had stood with Wellington at Waterloo. It was a high enthusiasm that had carried him there—the vision of a world free from tyranny and wrong. He fell and was buried in a trench, under a rude cross marked "Unknown."
"We thought it was to be the world's last great battle," he said. "There would be no more wars, no more youthful lives snuffed out, no more mothers waiting and weeping at home.
"But a century went by and there came a war beside which ours seemed a little thing. Our friend over whom the bands played to-day was one of millions who gave their lives. Men have heaped honors on him such as we never had. Do the honors mean that the hearts of men have changed, I wonder? They broke faith with us; will they keep faith with him?"
The three dim figures disappeared. The moon stood guard over the silent grave. In the East the first rays of the morning crept into the sky. They reached out vaguely, hesitatingly, touching the city of Washington where men were to gather that day to speak of peace—touching an inscription which the nation had cut in the stone above the body of its unknown soldier.
A solemn inscription; a nation's promise that he who lies there dead shall not have died in vain.
The world has made that promise before; all its unknown dead have died in that faith. And the promise has died with them.
Will it die again?
We told that boy when he marched away that he was fighting a war to end all wars. He fell, believing; and we have buried him and carved an inscription over his tomb.
But the real inscription will not be written on any stone; it will stand in the dictionaries of the future. Only by writing it thus can the world keep faith with the long sad procession of its unknown heroes whom it has lied to and cheated and fooled.
This will be the inscription:
AN ARMED CONTEST BETWEEN NATIONS—
Blue are the twilight heavens above the hill,
A yellow half-moon 's high within the blue,
And rosy May-night clouds are soft and still,
And all the world beside is shut from view.
The plum-trees, whitening buds and greening shoots,
Close in the dusky cottage; and beyond
The wood-thrush in the hazel-thicket flutes,
And frogs are croaking in the unseen pond.
It is the old, the odorous privacy
That once had been both peace and gentle song,
But now how such an evening troubles me
After earth's five most awful years of wrong...
Whilst inland, from the plains, the crags, the sea,
With all the stars the dead men's armies throng.
TO THE DEAD DOUGHBOYS
Be nothing in this book construed
Against your Hope and Hardihood:
They mourn you most who're most dismayed
To see your Golden Stars betrayed.
How close the white-ranked crosses stand
Beneath the flag which seems to be
A soaring, hovering glory-cloud
On lily fields of Calvary!
Ours, ours they are—
Those dead, dead knights who won the golden star
On far French hills, here in our churchyards lying,
Or in war's wildest wreckage—yet unfound
In those torn, piteous fields which they, in dying,
Have for us all forever sanctified.
We can not hallow more than holy ground;
All glory we would give them, pales beside
The eternal splendor of those men, who thought
But of the sacred cause for which they fought.
And now, the battles done,
They who gave all, 'tis they alone who won.
In their great faith there was no dark misgiving;
They saw no base self-seekers don the mask
Of high ideals, to batten on the living.
Their vision was a world secure and just
Won by their victory—their only task
To crush one hideous foe; and in that trust
They sped with eager feet, and paid the price
Unstinting, of the last great sacrifice.
That faith they hold.
The peace for which they battled was pure gold,
And in their splendid zeal they died unshaken.
Knowing such sacred beauty fills their sleep,
Shall we yet mourn, or wish they might awaken
To find the golden peace so far debased?
Should we not rather pray that they may keep
Their shining vision spotless, undefaced,
Until the world, repentant and redeemed,
Grow to the measure of the one they dreamed?
So let them rest.
They gave for us their dearest and their best;
They keep the holiest. Yet for their giving
Our fittest tribute is not grief and tears,
But the same ardent vision in our living
As that which shone, compelling, in their eyes
Uncowed by death and all his dreadful fears.
Then, when at last these glorious dreamers rise,
The world we keep for them might almost seem
The living substance of their lofty dream!
How white the crosses—white and small!
With what proud love the Flag appears
To mother them! And then it all
Is blurred by the insistent tears!
I DO not understand...
They bring so many, many flowers to me—
Rainbows of roses, wreaths from every land;
And hosts of solemn strangers come to see
My tomb here on these quiet, wooded heights.
My tomb here seems to be
One of the sights.
The low-voiced men, who speak
Of me quite fondly, call me The Unknown:
But now and then at dusk, Madonna-meek,
Bent, mournful mothers come to me alone
And whisper down—the flowers and grasses through—
Such names as "Jim" and "John"...
I wish I knew.
And once my sweetheart came.
She did not—nay, of course she could not—know,
But thought of me, and crooned to me the name
She called me by—how many years ago?
A very precious name. Her eyes were wet,
Yet glowing, flaming so...
She won't forget!
ALL THIS IS ENDED
These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvelously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colors of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.
There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.
OUR HONORED DEAD
OH, tell me not that they are dead—that generous host, that airy army of invisible heroes! They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation. Are they dead that yet speak louder than we can speak, and a more universal language? Are they dead that yet act? Are they dead that yet move upon society, and inspire the people with nobler motives and more heroic patriotism?...
Every mountain and hill shall have its treasured name, every river shall keep some solemn title, every valley and every lake shall cherish its honored register; and till the mountains are worn out, and the rivers forget to flow—till the clouds are weary of replenishing springs, and the springs forget to gush, and the rills to sing, shall their names be kept fresh with reverent honors which are inscribed upon the book of National Remembrance!...
BY HARRY KEMP
Here, under sacred ground,
The Unknown lies:
Dumb be the earth around
And dumb the skies
Before His laureled Fame—
Yea, let sublime
Silence conduct His Name
Unspelled, till Time,
Bowed with Eternity,
Goes back to God
Abandoning earth to be
At life's last exequy
Man's final clod....
Here, under sacred ground,
The Unknown lies:
Dim armies gather 'round
Kings, Princes, Presidents
Attest His worth:
The Generals bow before
His starry earth,
In the World's heart inscribed
His love, his fame—
He leads the Captains with
His Unknown Name!
Be not afraid, O Dead, be not afraid:
We have not lost the dreams that once were flung
Like pennons to the world: we yet are stung
With all the starry prophecies that made
You, in the gray dawn watchful, half afraid
Of vision. Never a night that all men sleep unstirred:
Never a sunset but the west is blurred
With banners marching and a sign displayed.
Be not afraid, O Dead, lest we forget
A single hour your living glorified;
Come but a drum-beat, and the sleepers fret
To walk again the places where you died:
Broad is the land, our loves are broadly spread,
But now, even more widely scattered lie our dead.
O Lord of splendid nations, let us dream
Not of a place of barter, nor "the State,"
But dream as lovers dream—for it is late—
Of some small place beloved; perhaps a stream
Running beside a house set round with flowers;
Perhaps a garden wet with hurrying showers,
Where bees are thick about a leaf-hid gate.
For such as these, men die nor hesitate.
The old gray cities, gossipy and wise,
The candid valleys, like a woman's brow,
The mountains treading mightily toward the skies,
Turn dreams to visions—there's a vision now!
Of hills panoplied, fields of waving spears,
And a great campus shaken with flags and tears.
TO THE CANADIAN MOTHERS
Why mourn thy dead, that are the world's possession?
These, our Immortals—shall we give them up
To the complaint of private loss and dole?
Nay—mourn for them, if mourn thou must,—
Grief is thy private treasure;
Thy soul alone can count its weight or measure.
But we who know they saved the world
Think of them joined to that unwithering throng,
Who in the long dread strife
Have thought and fought for Liberty:
When she was but a faint pulsation in the mind,
The faintest rootlet of a growing thought,
They nourished her with tears
And gave their dreams to add depth to her foliage;
And when the enemy ravaged her bright blossoms,
Drenched her with their rich blood
To prove she lived and was the ever-living.
These are the true Immortals,
The deathless ones that saved the world.
Nay, weep, if weep thou must
And think upon thy lad, onetime in trust
To fortune; of his gallant golden head
And all the wayward sanctities of childhood;
Of how he crowned thy life with confidences;
Of the odor of his body, lulled with sleep,
Confusing thy dim prayers for some best future
With the sheer love that is the deepest:
False fortune has destroyed her hostages!
Old joys are bitter, bitter as very death!
Let break thy heart and so be comforted.
Be comforted, for we have claimed the child
And taken him to be with light and glory;
Not as we knew him in his earthly days
The lovely one, the virtuous, the dauntless,—
Or one who was a boaster, thick with faults
Perchance,—but as the index of the time,
The stay and nurture of the world's best hope,
The peerless seed of valor and victory.
Here in a realm beyond the fading world,
We garner them and hold them in abeyance
Ere we deliver them to light and silence—
The vestiges of battle fallen away—
Fragments of storm parting about the moon,—
Here in the dim rock-chambers, garlanded
With frail sea-roses perfumed by the sea
That murmurs of renown, and murmuring,
Scatters the cool light won by the ripple
From the stormless moon, cloistered with memory,
Whose dim caves front the immortal vistas
Plangent with renown, here they await
The light, the glory and the ultimate rest.
Be comforted,—nay, sob, if sob thou must,
Cover thy face and dim thy hair with dust,
And we who know they live
Gather the dead in triumph—
Exalted from the caves of memory,
Purified from the least assail of time,—
And lay them with all that is most living,
In light transcendent,
In the ageless aisles of silence,
With the Immortals that have saved the world.
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER HONORED BY ENGLAND
BY SIR PHILIP GIBBS
No Military Potentate of high rank or great achievement who died in the course of the war received such a funeral as fell to the lot of a nameless poilu who was buried under the Arc de Triomphe on Armistice Day, in token of the eternal gratitude of the whole nation to the common soldiers who sacrificed their lives for France. The unknown poilu's only rival in honor was a nameless British private who, on the same day, was borne through the streets of London, with King George of England as his chief mourner, to be buried in Westminster Abbey. Sir Philip Gibbs writes the obituary of this nameless British warrior of the ranks, in whom the Empire memorialized thousands of his comrades, known and unknown. The English correspondent, knighted for the services which his pen rendered to his country during the war, thus describes the funeral in a special dispatch to the New York Times:
It did not seem an unknown warrior whose body came on the gun-carriage down Whitehall where we were waiting for him. He was known to us all. It was one of "our boys," not warriors, as we called them in the days of darkness, lit by faith.
To some women, weeping a little in the crowd after an all-night vigil, he was their boy who went missing one day and was never found till now, though their souls went searching for him through dreadful places in the night.
To many men among those packed densely on each side of the empty street, wearing ribbons and badges on civil clothes, he was a familiar figure—one of their comrades, the one they liked best, perhaps, in the old crowd, who went into the fields of death and stayed there with the great companionship.
It was the steel helmet, the old "tin hat," lying there on the crimson of the flag which revealed him instantly, not as a mythical warrior aloof from common humanity, a shadowy type of the national pride and martial glory, but as one of those fellows, dressed in the drab of khaki, stained by mud and grease, who went into the dirty ditches with this steel hat on his head and in his heart the unspoken things, which made him one of us in courage and in fear, with some kind of faith not clear, full of perplexities, often dim in the watchwords of those years of war.
So it seemed to me, at least, as I looked down Whitehall and listened to the music which told us that the unknown was coming down the road. The band was playing the old Dead March in "Saul" with heavy drumming, but as yet the roadway was clear where it led up to that altar of sacrifice as it looked, covered by two flags, hanging in long folds of scarlet and white.
About that altar cenotaph there were little groups of strange people, all waiting for the dead soldier. Why were they there?
There were great folk to greet the dust of a simple soldier. There was the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London and other clergy in gowns and hoods. What had they to do with the body of a soldier who had gone trudging through the mud and muck like one ant in a legion of ants, unknown to fame, not more heroic, perhaps, than all his pals about him, not missed much when he fell dead between the tangled wire and shell-holes?
There were great generals and admirals, Lord Haig himself, Commander-in-Chief of our armies in France, and Admiral Beatty, who held the seas; Lord French of Ypres, with Home of the First Army and Byng of the Third, and Air-Marshal Trenchard, who commanded all the birds that flew above the lines on the mornings of enormous battles.
These were the high powers, infinitely remote, perhaps, in the imagination of the man whose dust was now being brought toward them. It was their brains that had directed his movements down the long roads which galled his feet, over ground churned up by gun-fire, up duckboards from which he slipped under his heavy pack if he were a foot-slogger, and whatever his class as a soldier, ordained at last the end of his journey, which finished in a grave marked by a metal disk—"unknown."
In life, he had looked upon these generals as terrifying in their power "for the likes of him." Sometimes, perhaps, he had saluted them as they rode past. Now they stood in Whitehall to salute him, to keep silence in his presence, to render him homage more wonderful, with deeper reverence, than any general of them all has had.
There were princes there about the cenotaph, not only of England but of the Indian Empire. These Indian rajahs, that old white-bearded, white-turbaned man with the face of an Eastern prophet—was it possible that they, too, were out to pay homage to an unknown British soldier?
There was something of the light of Flanders in Whitehall. The tattered ruins of Cloth Hall at Ypres used to shine white in a mist, suffused a little by wan sunlight, white as the walls and turrets of the War Office in this mist of London. The tower of Big Ben was dim through the mist like the tower of Albert Church until it fell into a heap under the fury of gun-fire.
Presently the sun shone brighter so that the picture of Whitehall was etched with deeper lines. On all the buildings flags were flying at halfmast. The people who kept moving about the cenotaph were there for mourning, not for mere pageantry. The Grenadier officers, who walked about with drawn swords, wore crape on their arms.
Presently they passed the word along, "Reverse arms," and all along the line of route soldiers turned over their rifles and bent their heads over the butts. It was when the music of the Dead March came louder up the street.
A number of black figures stood in a separate group apart from the admirals and generals, "people of importance, to whom the eyes of the crowd turned while men and women tiptoed to get a glimpse of them." Men foremost in the Government of the British Empire stood in that group:
The Prime Minister and Ministers and ex-Ministers of England were there—Asquith, Lord Curzon, and other statesmen who in those years of conflict were responsible for all the mighty effort of the nation, who stirred up its passion and emotions, who organized its labor and service, who won that victory and this peace. I thought the people about me stared at them as though conscious of the task that is theirs, now that peace is the test of victory.
But it was one figure who stood alone as the symbol of the nation in this tribute to the spirit of our dead. As Big Ben struck three-quarters after ten the King advanced toward the cenotaph, followed by the Prince of Wales, the Prince's two brothers, and the Duke of Connaught. And while the others stood in line looking toward the top of Whitehall the King was a few paces ahead of them alone, waiting motionless for the body of the unknown warrior who had died in his service.
It was very silent in Whitehall. Before the ordered silence the dense lines of people had kept their places without movement and only spoke little in their long time of waiting, and then, as they caught their first glimpse of the gun-carriage, were utterly quiet, all heads bared and bent.
Their emotion was as though a little cold breeze was passing. One seemed to feel the spirit of the crowd. Above all this mass of plain people something touched one with a sharp, yet softening thought.
The massed bands passed with their noble music and their drums thumping at the hearts of men and women. Guards with their reversed arms passed and then the gun-carriage with its team of horses halted in front of the cenotaph where the King stood, and every hand was raised to salute the soldier who died that we might live, chosen by fate for this honor which is in remembrance of that great army of comrades who went out with him to No Man's Land.
The King laid a wreath on this coffin and then stepped back again. Crowded behind the gun-carriage in one long vista was an immense column of men of all branches of the navy and army moving up slowly before coming to a halt, and behind again other men in civilian clothes and everywhere among them and above them flowers in the form of wreaths and crosses.
Then all was still, and the picture was complete, framing in that coffin where the steel hat and the King's sword lay upon the flag which draped it. The soul of the nation at its best, purified at this moment by this emotion, was there in silence about the dust of that unknown.
Guns were being fired somewhere in the distance. They were not loud, but like the distant thumping of guns on a misty day in Flanders when there was "nothing to report," though on such a day, perhaps, this man had died.
Presently there was a far-off wailing like the cry of a banshee. It was a siren giving the warning of silence in some place by the river.
The deep notes of Big Ben struck eleven and then the King turned quickly to a lever behind him, touched it, and let fall the great flags which had draped the altar. The cenotaph stood revealed, utterly austere except for three standards with their gilt wreaths.
It was a time of silence. What thoughts were in the minds of all the people only God knows, as they stood there for those two minutes which were very long.
There was dead stillness in Whitehall, only broken here and there by the coughing of a man or woman, quickly hushed.
The unknown warrior! Was it young Jack, perhaps, who had never been found? Was it one of those fellows in the battalion that moved up through Ypres before the height of the battle in the bogs?
Men were smoking this side of Ypres. One could see the glow of their cigarette ends as they were halted around the old mill-house at Vlamertinghe. It rained after that, beating sharply on tin hats, pouring in spouts down the waterproof capes. They went out through Menin Gate....
Fellows dropped into the shell-holes full of water. They had their packs on, all their fighting-kit. Some of them lay there in pits where the water was reddish.
There were a lot of unknown warriors in the bogs by Glencorse Wood and Inverness Copse. They lay by upturned tanks and sank in slime. Queer how fellows used to drop and never give a sound, so that their pals passed on without knowing.
In all sorts of places the unknown warrior lay down and was not quickly found. In Bourlon Wood they were lying after the battle among the riven trees. On the fields of the Somme they lay in churned-up earth, in High Wood and Delville Wood, and this side of Loupart Wood. It was queer one day how the sun shone on Loupart Wood, which was red with autumn tints. Old Boche was there then, and the wood seemed to have a thousand eyes staring at our lines newly dug. An airplane came through the fleecy sky, apparently careless of the black shrapnel bursting about it. Wonderful chaps, those airmen.
For the man afoot it wasn't good to stumble in that ground. Barbed wire tore one's hands damnably. There was a boy lying in a tangle of barbed wire. He looked as though he were asleep, but he was dead all right. An airplane passed overhead with a loud humming song.
What is this long silence, all this crowd in London streets two years after the armistice peace? Yes, those were old dreams that have passed, old ghosts passing down Whitehall among the living.
The silence ended. Some word rang out, bugles were blowing, they were sounding the "Last Post" to the unknown warrior of the Great War in which many men died without record or renown. Farther than Whitehall sounded the "Last Post" to the dead. Did the whole army of the dead hear that call to them from the living?
In the crowd below me women were weeping quietly. It was the cry from their hearts that was heard farthest, perhaps. The men's faces were hard, like masks, hiding all they thought and felt.
The King stepped forward again and took a wreath from Lord Haig and laid it at the base of the cenotaph. It was the first of a world of flowers, brought as the tribute of loving hearts to this altar of the dead. Admirals and generals and statesmen came with wreaths and battalions of police followed, bearing great trophies of flowers on behalf of the fighting men and all their comrades.
And presently, when the gun-carriage passed on toward the Abbey, with the King following behind it on foot with his sons and soldiers, there was a moving tide of men and women, advancing ceaselessly with floral tributes. They waited until the escort of the coffin had passed, blue-jackets and marines, air force and infantry, and then took their turn to file past the cenotaph and lay their flowers upon the bed of lilies and chrysanthemums, which rose above the base.
As the columns passed they turned eyes left or eyes right to that tall symbol of death if they had eyes to see. But there were blind men there who saw only by the light of the spirit, and saluted when their guides touched them and said, "Now."
It is two years after the "cease fire" on the front, but in the crowds of Whitehall there were men in hospital blue, who are still casualties, not too well remembered by those in health. Two of them were legless men, but they rode on wheels and with a fine gesture gave salute as they passed the memorial of those who fought with them and suffered less, perhaps, than they now do.
Memories of old days of the war, when all the nations were mobilized for service, came back through Whitehall with figures which belong more to yesterday. In many countries the agony of peace is worse than that of war, and even in our own dominions there is not peace, but strife between class and class and between one people and another.
For a time at least, among some of us, spiritual faith has given place to jaded cynicism, but in Whitehall all day long around the cenotaph spirituality revived again, and the emotion of multitudes was stirred by remembrance so deeply, so poignantly, that the greatest pessimist must see new hope. Surely some such faith as that, some such confession of failure which may yet be turned into victory, stirred in the hearts of those crowds who, when the soldiers and sailors had passed and all the pageant of this funeral to the unknown comrade, came from many little homes to pass in ceaseless tide before the coffin in the dim light of the Abbey.
This tide of people swirled about Westminster, through Whitehall, along Charing Cross Road, not in a disorderly torrent, but as a wonderful living channel. Every man and woman and child took his place in the column and moved slowly with its movement until access could be gained to that shrine where the unknown warrior now lies among the great heroes of the nation.
At the door leading to Parliament Square Bishop Ryle,...canons and choir, met the body. It was carried shoulder high by eight tall guardsmen and on the war-worn Union Jack that covered it lay a shrapnel helmet, a crusader's sword, and a wreath of laurel.
Through the transept lined with the statues of statesmen and past the high altar the unknown warrior was borne and then through the choir into the nave where already many famous fighting men sleep.
Just within the west door a great purple square, bordered with white, marked the site of the grave. It is in the pathway of kings, for not a monarch can ever again go up to the altar to be crowned but he must step over the resting-place of the man who died that his kingdom might endure.
Four ladies sat apart and rose to greet this great unknown—Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra of England, Queen Maud of Denmark and Queen Victoria of Spain, and behind them were grouped Princess Mary and other women of royal blood.
Waiting, too, near his grave were men of the warrior's own kind. He passed through the ranks of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians in mufti. Strangely mixed, captains stood next to seamen, colonels by enlisted men, for all wore the Victoria Cross, and that earned them the right to attend.
The mournful strains of the Croft-Purcell setting of the funeral sentences were chanted unaccompanied as the procession passed through the Abbey. And as the grave was reached, the King, as chief mourner, stepped to its head. Behind him stood the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Connaught, and other members of the royal family, and ranked in the rear were Lloyd George and Asquith, the two war Premiers, and the members of their Cabinets; three or four Princes from India, and a score or more leaders of British life.
The pallbearers, chiefs of the army and navy—Haig, French, Beatty, and Jackson among them—took their stand on either side of the coffin and the service began.
It was as simple as in any village church in the land. The twenty-third Psalm, "The Lord is My Shepherd," was sung to the familiar chant, and then came the account read by the Dean from Revelation, of the "Great multitude which no man could number out of every nation and of all tribes and all peoples and tongues standing before the Throne."
As the coffin was lowered into the grave, "Lead, Kindly Light" was sung, and then came the committal prayer as the Dean spoke solemnly the words: "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." The King as chief mourner stepped forward and from a silver bowl sprinkled the coffin with soil brought from France. A few more prayers, "Abide with Me" and Kipling's "Recessional" concluded the service.
And as the words of blessing died away, from far up among the pillared arches came a whisper of sound. It grew and grew and it seemed that regiments and then divisions and armies of men were on the march.
The whole cathedral was filled with the murmur of their footfalls until they passed and the sound grew faint in the distance.
It was a roll of drums and seemed to symbolize that host of glorious dead which has left one unknown warrior forever on guard at the entrance to England's old Abbey.
BY SIR WALTER SCOTT
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;
Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.
In our isle's enchanted hall,
Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
Fairy strains of music fall,
Every sense in slumber dewing.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more:
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking.
No rude sounds shall reach thine ear,
Armor's clang, or war-steed champing,
Trump nor pibroch summon here
Mustering clan, or squadron tramping.
Yet the lark's shrill fife may come
At the daybreak from the fallow,
And the bittern sound his drum,
Booming from the sedgy shallow.
Ruder sounds shall none be near;
Guards nor warders challenge here;
Here's no war-steed's neigh and champing,
Shouting clans, or squadrons stamping.
Those we have loved the dearest,
The bravest and the best,
Are summoned from the battle
To their eternal rest;
There they endure the silence,
Here we endure the pain—
He that bestows the Valor
Valor resumes again.
O, Master of all Being,
Donor of Day and Night,
Of Passion and of Beauty,
Of Sorrow and Delight,
Thou gav'st them the full treasure
Of that heroic blend—
The Pride, the Faith, the Courage,
That holdeth to the end.
Thou gavest us the Knowledge
Wherein their memories stir—
Master of Life, we thank Thee
That they were what they were.
THE OLD SOLDIER
Lest the young soldiers be strange in heaven,
God bids the old soldier they all adored
Come to Him and wait for them, clean, new-shriven,
A happy doorkeeper in the House of the Lord.
Lest it abash them, the strange new splendor,
Lest they affright them, the new robes clean;
Here's an old face, now, long-tried and tender,
A word and a hand-clasp as they troop in.
"My boys!" He greets them: and heaven is homely,
He their great captain in days gone o'er;
Dear is the friend's face, honest and comely,
Waiting to welcome them by the strange door.
Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.
Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honor has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.
BY IAN COLVIN
Poppies, ye flaming blushes of July,
Why do ye bloom again in dark November?
Dream-laden poppies, flowers of sleep, ah, why
Must ye now bid oblivion to remember?
Long months and months ago
You shed your careless petals in the corn,
Or fell when reeking horses to and fro
Dragged the great reaper till the fields were shorn;
And now, ah, now ye blow,
As in a dying fire a glowing ember,
To make our chilly winter more forlorn.
'Tis not of English autumns that ye tell,
Poppies of Flanders! No, your beauty brings
Memories of other golden heads that fell
In other fields to other harvestings;
When the dark horseman reaped
Sheaves not of corn, fields not with poppies red,
Soil not in your oblivious juices steeped,
When English lives like falling leaves were shed,
And youth and valor heaped
Like shocks of corn upon the harvest wain,
That from his fork the sunburnt reaper flings—
Countless as the innumerable grain.
O dread and terrible harvesting of war!
Harrow and plow and sickle all in one,
Untimely waste that husbandmen abhor,
Green crops uprooted ere they feel the sun,
Untimely scythes that tear
And rend the unripened growth of tender spring,
Fields rent asunder by the cleaving share,
And harrowed with a dreadful harrowing,
Until the rock lies bare;
A generation ended ere begun,
Corn cut before the larks have time to sing!
Poppies of Flanders, banners of the grain,
That ye are colored red I do not wonder,
Since English blood hath watered all your plain,
And layer on layer of English dust lies under—
Soldiers of English Harry,
Longbowmen of the proud Plantagenet—
But seldom did their clothyard shafts miscarry—
English in armor in close battle set,
Of clashing thrust and parry;
Soldiers of Cromwell, when we fell asunder,
And soldiers of five Georges there are met.
The endless generations of the brave,
With English jests and laughter setting out,
With fife and drum and bugle to their grave
In Flanders, England's outermost redoubt,
The field beyond her sea,
The glacis of her moat, her first defense,
The starting place of every enemy,
Her warning beacon, where her wars commence,
Her soldiers' cemetery.
Saint George for Merrie England! Hear the shout
Of many setting out but few returning thence!
They died for England; did they die in vain?
Them undefeated must herself defeat?
Tears fell!—Ah, no, a dash of wintry rain!
How those red poppies warm the shivering street!
The day is fading fast;
A bitter wind blows dead leaves here and there,
And homing passengers go hurrying past,
All wearing poppies—poppies everywhere.
The skies are overcast—
Red poppies and the ghostly shadows fleet
Of dead leaves flying in the darkening air. |}
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
BY JOHN MC CRAE
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
THE BIVOUAC OF THE DEAD
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
Their shivered swords are red with rust;
[Three stanzas omitted here.]
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
FROM AES TRIPLEX
...It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. It is better to live and be done with it than to die daily in the sick-room. By all means begin your folio;...a spirit goes out of a man who means execution, which outlives the most untimely ending.... All who have meant good work with their whole hearts, have done good work, although they may die before they have the time to sign it. Every heart that has beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind. And even if death catch people, like an open pitfall, and in mid-career, laying out vast projects, and planning monstrous foundations, flushed with hope...is there not something brave and spirited in such a termination? and does not life go down with a better grace, foaming in full body over a precipice, than miserably straggling to an end in sandy deltas? When the Greeks made their fine saying that those whom the gods love die young, I cannot help believing they had this sort of death also in their eye. For surely, at whatever age it overtake the man, this is to die young. Death has not been suffered to take so much as an illusion from his heart. In the hot-fit of life, a-tip-toe on the highest point of being, he passes at a bound on to the other side. The noise of the mallet and chisel is scarcely quenched, the trumpets are hardly done blowing, when, trailing with him clouds of glory, this happy-starred, full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual land.
When the first larks began to soar,
THE YOUNG DEAD
Those who were born so beautifully
And I had planned a future filled with bright
After great labor comes great calm, great rest,
HYMN FOR THE VICTORIOUS DEAD
God, by the sea, by the resounding sea,
A MONUMENT FOR THE SOLDIERS
A monument for the Soldiers!
If I should die, think only this of me:
FOR THEE THEY DIED
For thee their pilgrim swords were tried,
ADDRESS OF MAJOR GENERAL FOX CONNER
DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S.A.
(Delivered upon the Occasion of the Placing of a Wreath upon the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery, November 13, 1926, by the District of Columbia Council of the Boy Scouts of America.)
Those scouts who have advanced far enough in Latin will remember that it was the poet Horace who said, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"—"To die for one's native land is a sweet and honorable end." That is a sentiment cherished in every country and in all ages.
It was reserved, however, for the four unknown warriors of France, Italy, England and the United States to receive the highest honors ever paid to a private soldier. The idea of selecting the body of an unknown soldier killed in action and burying it with all solemnity and honor originated, not at all strangely, in France—that country of graceful imagination and gracious deeds. The unknown soldier of France lies at the head of the Champs Elysées under the Arc de Triomphe built by Napoleon after Austerlitz. The unknown soldier of England is buried in Westminster Abbey with all that glorious company, civil and military. In the land of the Cæsars they have placed the unknown soldier under the Altar of the Fatherland hard by the Forum where the Eternal City paid honor to her victorious generals upon their return from war. Our own hero rests in that grave overlooking the monuments to Washington and Lincoln and the Capitol of the country he died to save. In that narrow crypt—sanded with soil from France—he will sleep forever surrounded by those marbles of Arlington upon which are graven the names of men and battles which "touch memory to life."
But it is not as a memorial alone that this epic of "The Unknown Soldier" will justify itself. We should look backward, not only in gratitude for the past but also to get inspiration for the present. And here the ideal of the unknown soldier and the ideal of the scout movement are one. He died for his ideal; may you live for yours. The soldier stood for honor, loyalty, obedience and patriotism. So stands the scout. These are military virtues but they are also indispensable civic virtues. You will need them in war—may you be spared it; you will certainly need them every day in peace. And if war comes he who has been faithful to the scout oath and the scout law will be worthy of him who lies here.
THE YOUNG DEAD
Ah, how I pity the young dead who gave
And always we shall walk with the young dead.—
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
BY ANGELO PATRI
Under the flag-draped casket lies an Unknown Soldier.
A nation pays him honor.
He lies with the great dead, a medal of honor upon his breast.
Guns fire salutes, stern generals, grave governors, care-burdened leaders join in paying him homage.
An unknown soldier. Nameless. Just one of the soldiers who wore his country's uniform and died in her service.
For him the flag hangs at half mast.
For him the solemn strains of the funeral march.
For him the uncovered heads and the orations.
For him the reverence and the tears of a great people.
An unknown soldier. No, no, no!
You knew and loved him. He played with you, carried you on his shoulder, dropped sweeties on your lap as he passed you. You knew him by name and called to him familiarly. You never thought of him as great. He never thought of himself that way. He was your friendly playmate.
He passed you daily on his way to work down at the corners, or in the city or on granddad's farm. His clothes were the clothes of a worker and his hands were soiled and brown when he passed by at evening. But he still smiled at you. Remember him now?
When the call to war came he said nothing about it. He gathered up his few things—there weren't many, a few shirts and handkerchiefs and a couple of photographs—and bunched them into an old suitcase that was held together by one strap. He smiled good-by to you as he passed on his way to camp. Remember him now?
You missed him for a while. You heard that he was out at camp and as you wound the muddy brown wool that your mother was knitting into socks you hoped he would get a pair of them. He did. He wore them in the trenches and the fields. He had them on when they picked him up and tagged his poor broken body and buried it with a little flag and a white cross marking the place.
Don't you remember him now? Why, child, he's the one that didn't come back the day the boys marched home, the band playing, the flags flying and all the mothers and sisters cheering and the fathers jumping up and down and shouting madly. He's the one the gold star is for on that flag that hangs in the Hall.
That's the one. The very one you know. He's every boy who went out when he was called and laid down his life in the struggle to carry through the duty that was his. Died doing his duty, the boy of America. The boy you saw every day. The boy who whistled and sang and played with you.
Remember him now?
That's the boy. For him the flag is lowered. For him the heads are uncovered. For him America proudly mourns. Her Unknown Son.
BEFORE MARCHING, AND AFTER
(In Memoriam: F. W. G.)
BY THOMAS HARDY
Orion swung southward aslant