THE COMMON CITIZEN-SOLDIER
Address delivered on Decoration Day, May 31, 1886, by John Boyle O'Reilly, before the Grand Army of the Republic of Everett, Mass.
VETERANS of the Grand Army: You are the orators of Decoration Day, no matter who may be the speakers. You and your flowers and your medals, your empty sleeves and your graves, thrill all hearts into patriotism by your silent and visible eloquence. Yours is the sorrow that makes us forget the dismal countenance of death. When you enter the graveyards they become gardens through which we walk with smiles, not with tears. You do not march to the graves of your comrades with black feathers and gloomy faces, but laden with blossoms, and smiling at the effacing fingers of death.
The war is behind you like a sunset, and we must stand and see the glory from the hill. "The sun is down, and all the west is paved with sullen fire."
Millions of Americans stand full grown who were not born when you fired your last shot. Year by year that "sullen fire" sinks into the west, and wider and wider the gaps in your ranks show against the light.
In a few more years the evening will have descended and the figures will disappear, and the night of history will have closed upon the war. For the middle-aged and the old, you still unroll the memory of the great diorama. The deep-lined pictures that are darkened in their memory for the other days of the year are unveiled by your hands to-day. But for those who have no memory of the war;