“The Blue and the Gray”

“The Blue and the Gray”

In the recent controversy over whether or not to permit the display of the Confederate Flag, we forget, in my opinion, what the issue is really about. As a reminder to both sides in the debate, I am sharing an 1866 poem by Francis Miles Finch. A New Yorker and staunch Abolitionist, Finch was deeply moved by news that a women’s association in Mississippi was choosing to lay flowers, without distinction, on the graves of both Union and Confederate war dead. In response, he wrote the poem, “The Blue and the Grey” in honor of the dead and of the women who tended their graves. His poem, which expresses a sense of forgiveness spurned by both parties in the current debate, has much to teach us. Only when we cease to argue can the fallen of both sides truly by laid to rest…

The Blue And The Gray
By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the one, the Blue,
            Under the other, the Gray
These in the robings of glory,
    Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
    In the dusk of eternity meet:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day
        Under the laurel, the Blue,
            Under the willow, the Gray.
From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe;
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day;
        Under the roses, the Blue,
            Under the lilies, the Gray.
So with an equal splendor,
    The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Broidered with gold, the Blue,
            Mellowed with gold, the Gray.
So, when the summer calleth,
    On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment -day,
        Wet with the rain, the Blue
            Wet with the rain, the Gray.
Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
    The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
    No braver battle was won:
        Under the sod adn the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the blossoms, the Blue,
            Under the garlands, the Gray
No more shall the war cry sever,
    Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
    When they laurel the graves of our dead!
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day,
        Love and tears for the Blue,
            Tears and love for the Gray.
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image: Confederate cemetery at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park by dbking / Wikimedia Commons

Brendan King

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