Only a Few of the most Famous Memorial Day Poems

Memorial Day poems tell us a whole lot about fallen heroes that we would otherwise not have heard about.

Memorial Day on its own has become one of the occasions that mark the beginning of summer, a holiday that brings the family together.

And while enjoying picnics and barbecues, a time to reflect on the sacrifice made by men and women who died in the line of duty fighting to uphold the liberties that Americans have come to enjoy.

Memorial Day reminds us that a grand price was paid for the freedom all Americans have and some of these have been expressed in immortal words - poetry.

Here are some of the most famous Memorial Day poems ever written:

  1. In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.

Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

  1. The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

  1. Dirge For Two Veterans by Walt Whitman

The last sunbeam

Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,

On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking

Down a new-made double grave

Lo, the moon ascending,

Up from the east the silvery round moon,

Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,

Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,

And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,

All the channels of the city streets they're flooding,

As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,

And the small drums steady whirring,

And every blow of the great convulsive drums,

Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father

(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,

Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,

And the double grave awaits them).

Now nearer blow the bugles,

And the drums strike more convulsive,

And the daylight over the pavement quite has faded,

And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,

The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd

('Tis some mother's large transparent face,

In heaven brighter growing).

O strong dead-march you please me!

O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!

O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!

What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,

And the bugles and the drums give you music,

And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,

My heart gives you love.

  1. Decoration Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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.

  1. The Bivouac of the Dead by Theodore O'Hara

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat

The soldier's last tattoo;

No more on life's parade shall meet

That brave and fallen crew.

On fame's eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread,

And Glory guards with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe's advance

Now swells upon the wind;

No troubled thought at midnight haunts

Of loved ones left behind;

No vision of the morrow's strife

The warrior's dream alarms;

No braying horn or screaming fife

At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shivered swords are red with rust;

Their plumèd heads are bowed;

Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,

Is now their martial shroud;

And plenteous funeral tears have washed

The red stains from each brow;

And the proud forms, by battle gashed,

Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,

The bugle's stirring blast,

The charge, the dreadful cannonade,

The din and shout are passed.

Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal,

Shall thrill with fierce delight

Those breasts that nevermore shall feel

The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce northern hurricane

That sweeps his great plateau,

Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,

Came down the serried foe.

Who heard the thunder of the fray

Break o'er the field beneath,

Knew well the watchword of that day

Was "Victory or Death!"

Long had the doubtful conflict raged

O'er all that stricken plain,

For never fiercer fight had waged

The vengeful blood of Spain;

And still the storm of battle blew,

Still swelled the gory tide;

Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,

Such odds his strength could bide.

'T was in that hour his stern command

Called to a martyr's grave

The flower of his beloved land,

The nation's flag to save.

By rivers of their fathers' gore

His first-born laurels grew,

And well he deemed the sons would pour

Their lives for glory too.

Full many a norther's breath has swept

O'er Angostura's plain,

And long the pitying sky has wept

Above its mouldered slain.

The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,

Or shepherd's pensive lay,

Alone awakes each sullen height

That frowned o'er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground,

Ye must not slumber there,

Where stranger steps and tongues resound

Along the heedless air.

Your own proud land's heroic soil

Shall be your fitter grave:

She claims from war his richest spoil—

The ashes of her brave.

Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest

Far from the gory field,

Borne to a Spartan mother's breast

On many a bloody shield;

The sunshine of their native sky

Smiles sadly on them here,

And kindred eyes and hearts watch by

The heroes' sepulchre.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!

Dear as the blood ye gave;

No impious footsteps here shall tread

The herbage of your grave;

Nor shall your glory be forgot

While Fame her record keeps,

Or Honor points the hallowed spot

Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone

In deathless song shall tell

When many a vanquished year hath flown,

The story how ye fell.

Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,

Nor Time's remorseless doom,

Can dim one ray of holy light

That gilds your glorious tomb

Poems like these are a constant reminder of the prices that other people just like us paid and have helped many a few through difficult times. Now, the world is in yet a similar fix. Not a war, but it rages against humanity.

Thus a living record of coronavirus is being created by notable poets across Britain. These poems are intended to be a source of hope and yet tell the stories of the faceless people that have lost their lives to the virus.

So, while we stay indoors to curb the spread of the virus, we have a constant reminder that it is deadly, but there is hope for us.