Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/29

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23
Annual Reunion of Pegram Battalion Association.

Mr. President:

The toast suggests indeed a solemn theme, and one fitly expressed in the custom which surrounds it, upon its proposal, with solemn silence. In accordance with this immemorial usage of the banquet hall, amid the genial glow with which heart there answers heart, survivors pause, and "standing and in silence" pay the tribute of their reverence to the memory of the sacred dead.

A minstrel of the South, whose harp was late unstrung as the fingers that swept it were themselves chilled in death—a priest, not only of his own communion, but an interpreter also of the heart in its joys and its griefs—has sung with genuine fervor and profound truth—

"There's grandeur in graves."

Truly the noblest instincts of our nature must be stirred, the fountains of the great deep of man's being be broken up, when, in the mystic presence of the loved, the revered, with the sanctity of a sacramental pledge, we plight deathless fealty to the remembrance of their deathless deeds.

To the man and the family there can be no more priceless legacy than the blessed memory and the shining example of one departed, whose life is yet ever present to those linked by cords of affection, and is honored as its nobility becomes their high ideal. The thought of such an one brings "the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still."

And so to the community and the people worthy of those who have passed from life on the pinnacle of fame and are canonized in death, their presence, still a living reality, exhales an atmosphere so pure that in it is stimulated only what is high and ennobling, and aught that is base or low can breathe, but to perish.

Yes, those hearts electric, once "charged with fire from heaven," have long since beat their last mortal throb, and a generation is gone since all of them that could die was committed "dust to dust"; but so long as the noble exhibition of self-sacrificing virtue, the high embodiment of unsullied honor, and the grand example of superb courage shall not have lost the power of a divine inspiration, shall find the manhood to cherish in memory and emulate in practice men of heroic mould, so long shall the imperishable glory of the Confederate dead—"Our Dead"—while it wins homage from the finer instincts of brave men of all lands and climes, find its peculiar dwelling in our memories, its home in our hearts, its radiant reflex in our lives, to us `