« السابقةمتابعة »
craft to banish as many murders, and horrid accidents, and monstrous births and prodigies from their gazettes, as their readers will permit them; and, by degrees, to coax them back to contemplate life and manners; to consider common events with some common sense; and to study nature where she can be known, rather than in those of her ways where she really is, or is represented to be, inexplicable.
Strange events are facts, and as such should be mentioned, but with brevity and in a cursory manner. They afford no ground for popular reasoning or instruction; and, therefore, the horrid details that make each particular hair stiffen and stand upright in the reader's head ought not to be given. In short, they must be mentioned; but sensible printers and sensible readers will think that way of mentioning them the best that impresses them least on the public attention, and that hurries them on the most swiftly to be forgotten.
MEMORIAL DAY. From "After Dinner and Other Speeches. Copyright, 1895, by John D. Long. Reprinted with permission. By JOHN D. LONG.
GRATEFULLY acknowledge your courtesy, vet
erans and members of the Suffolk posts of the Grand Army, in inviting me, a civilian, to speak for you this day. I should shrink from the task, however, did I not know that, in this, your purpose is to honor again the Commonwealth of which I am the official representative. By recent enactment she has made the day you celebrate one of her holy days,-a day sacred to the memory of her patriot dead and to the inspiration of patriotism in her living. Henceforward, she emblazons it upon the calendar of the year with the consecrated days that have come down from the Pilgrim and the Puritan, with Christmas Day and with the birthdays of Washington and American Independence. Memorial Day will hereafter gather around it not only the love and tears and pride of the generations of the people, but more and more, in its inner circle of tenderness, the linking memories of every comrade, so long as one survives. As the dawn ushers it in, tinged already with the exquisite flush of hastening June, and sweet with the bursting fragrance of her roses, the wheels of time will each year roll back, and lo! John Andrew is at the state house, inspiring Massachusetts with the throbbing of his own great heart; Abraham Lincoln, wise and patient and honest and tender and true, is at the nation's helm; the North is one broad blaze; the boys in blue are marching to the front; the fife and drum are on every breeze; the very air is patriotism; Phil Sheridan, forty miles away, dashes back to turn defeat to victory; Farragut, lashed to the mast-head, is steaming into Mobile Harbor; Hooker is above the clouds,-ay, now indeed forever above the clouds; Sherman marches through Georgia to the sea; Grant has throttled Lee with the grip that never lets go; Richmond falls; the armies of the republic pass in that last great review at Washington; Custer's plume is there, but Kearney's saddle is empty; and, now again, our veterans come marching home to receive the welcome of a grateful people, and to stack in Doric Hall the tattered flag which Massachusetts forever hence shall wear above her heart.
In memory of the dead, in honor of the living, for inspiration to our children, we gather to-day to deck the graves of our patriots with flowers, to pledge commonwealth and town and citizen to fresh recognition of the surviving soldier, and to picture yet again the romance, the reality, the glory, the sacrifice of his service. As if it were but yesterday, you recall him. He had but turned twenty. The exquisite tint of youthful health was in his cheek. His pure heart shone from frank, outspeaking eyes. His fair hair clustered from beneath his cap. He had pulled a stout oar in the college race, or walked the most graceful athlete on the village green. He had just entered on the vocation of his life. The doorway of his home at this season of the year was brilliant in the dewy morn with the clambering vine and fragrant flower, as in and out he went, the beloved of mother and sisters, and the ideal of a New England youth:
“In face and shoulders like a god he was;
A generous gladness in his eyes: such grace
And when the drum beat, when the first martyr's blood sprinkled the stones of Baltimore, he took his place in the ranks and went forward. You remember his ingenuous and glowing letters to his mother, written as if his pen were dipped in his very heart. How novel seemed to him the routine of service, the life of camp and march! How eager the wish to meet the enemy and strike his first blow for the good cause! What pride at the promotion that came and put its chevron on his arm or its strap upon his shoulder!
They took him prisoner. He wasted in Libby and grew gaunt and haggard with the horror of his sufferings and with pity for the greater horror of the sufferings of his comrades who fainted and died at his side. He tunneled the earth and escaped. Hungry and weak, in terror of recapture, he followed by night the pathway of the railroad. He slept in thickets and sank in swamps. He saw the glitter of horsemen who pursued him.
He knew the bloodhound was on his track. He reached the line; and, with his hand grasping at freedom, they caught and took him back to his captivity. He was exchanged at last; and you remember, when he came home on a short furlough, how manly and war-worn he had grown. But he soon returned to the ranks and to the welcome of his comrades. They recall him now alike with tears and pride. In the rifle-pits around Petersburg you heard his steady voice and firm command. Some one who saw him then fancied that he seemed that day like one
who forefelt the end. But there was no flinching as he charged. He had just turned to give a cheer when the fatal ball struck him. There was a convulsion of the upward hand. His eyes, pleading and loyal, turned their last glance to the flag. His lips parted. He fell dead, and at nightfall lay with his face to the stars. Home they brought him, fairer than Adonis over whom the goddess of beauty wept. They buried him in the village churchyard under the green turf. Year by year his comrades and his kin, nearer than comrades, scatter his grave with flowers. Do you ask who he was? He was in every regiment and every company. He went out from every Massachusetts village. He sleeps in every Massachusetts burying-ground. Recall romance, recite the names of heroes of legend and song, but there is none that is his peer.