Friday, May 23, 2008

Silent Tents of Green

In the foothills of the Alleghenies, about six miles from my desk, lies Boalsburg, PA. This town tells a story few outside these parts know. On a cold Sunday morning in October 1864, three women knelt in the town burial ground by the graves of two fallen Union soldiers. The three women came together in grief that morning by coincidence. They agreed to meet on that same day the next year and each year thereafter to kneel by the graves of their loved ones and the others, who may have no one to remember them. In October 1865, the whole town of Boalsburg assembled to honor the fallen with flowers and flags on every grave.

Decoration Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

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