“If you Seek a Monument, Look Around You”

Today is the observation of Memorial Day. I try to get to the ceremony in the public cemetery, and we always watch the national Memorial Day concert on Sunday night. It’s family tradition by now. My parents never lectured Sib and I about Memorial Day, but they encouraged us to honor it.

The title of this post comes from Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. it also reflects the ending of Saving Private Ryan, and Abraham Lincoln’s words about being unable to further hallow the soil at Gettysburg than it had already been sanctified by the blood of the men on both sides.

Rather than say more, I’ll leave you with some music, and Kipling’ “Recessional.”

God of our fathers, known of old,
   Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
   Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
   Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
   In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

8 thoughts on ““If you Seek a Monument, Look Around You”

  1. “Recessional” is sung to the melody of Whitehead, the Mariner’s Hymn. That poem and hymn ran through my mind about three weeks past, at the Scottish Military Memorial, and I was glad of a convenient cenotaph so almost no one saw me cry.

    Hold our honored dead in the palm of Your Hand, and let us not forget them.

  2. So my kid and I listened and kept saying “what is that piece? It’s so familiar…!” And it was awfully dusty in here by the end.

    It’s not the Marine Hymn, or Navy, or anything I can dredge up in memory but we could hum it.

    • It’s “Highland Cathedral.” John Williams borrowed the sense of it for “Hymn to the Fallen” from _Saving Private Ryan_. I suspect other composers have done similar.

      • Thanks, I hadn’t read the captions properly. I took it to be where the concert was.

  3. IMX, all bagpipe music sounds vaguely familiar. Probably because there are very few compositions that can be played on bagpipes at all and still sound like music, so the same handful of tunes have been arranged and re-arranged countless times throughout Scottish history.

    Of Kipling, on Memorial Day, I prefer the “Song of the Dead.”

    We have fed our sea for a thousand years
    And she calls us, still unfed,
    Though there’s never a wave of all her waves
    But marks our English dead:
    We have strawed our best to the weed’s unrest
    To the shark and the sheering gull.
    If blood be the price of admiralty,
    Lord God, we ha’ paid in full!

    • That’s another good one. I just look at all the “Memorial Day Sale!” banners and for some “Recessional” comes to mind.

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