Last year for Memorial Day, I pointed to the newly-opened World War II Memorial and posted a verse from Wallace Stevens. For this year, I elect to roll us backward nearly a century and a half to that still-most-deadly American war, the one we fought with ourselves.
It feels a shame to be Alive --
When Men so brave -- are dead --
One envies the Distinguished Dust --
Permitted -- such a Head --
The Stone -- that tells defending Whom
This Spartan put away
What little of Him we -- possessed
In Pawn for Liberty --
The price is great -- Sublimely paid --
Do we deserve -- a Thing --
That lives -- like Dollars -- must be piled
Before we may obtain?
Are we that wait -- sufficient worth --
That such Enormous Pearl
As life -- dissolved be -- for Us --
In Battle's -- horrid Bowl?
It may be -- a Renown to live --
I think the men who die --
Those unsustained -- Saviors --
Present Divinity --
[From Poets of the Civil War, J.D. McClatchy ed. (American Poets Project 2005). The photo is of the crowd around the platform prior to the Address at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Nov. 19, 1863, and is the only one known to depict President Lincoln on that occasion; details here.]