“To Beat the Morning Drum” — A Memorial Day Reflection by Resident Skeptic, James R. Cowles
James R. Cowles is a member of the diverse Bardo Group Beguines, publishers of The BeZine, which I manage and edit. James also regularly contributes to The BeZine’s sister site, Beguine Again. James isn’t shy of controversy and while you may not always be in agreement with him, you will always be encouraged to revisit and rethink … and, the man is endlessly entertaining. / J.D.
Monday of next week, 28 May, is Memorial Day. So the following is dedicated to those who fought in the Nation’s wars, especially those who never returned home. In particular, and most personally, I dedicate this to the memory of my father, Cpl. Leonard Eugene Cowles, who served in Battery C of the 174th Field Artillery Battalion, and of whom I have written previously. The following poem by Walt Whitman was reprinted on the flyleaf of Dad’s copy of We Did, the history of the 174th which was issued to every member of the Battalion as they left the Service at the end of World War II. (The title of the history was chosen so as to finish the Battalion motto: Possumus Et Volumus — “We Can And We Will”.) How painfully nostalgic to reflect that the men who received that Battalion history went to Europe to fight fascists and fascism, so that, 70-plus years later, Americans would have the right to vote fascists into high office in our own country. Think long and hard about that.
Camps of Green
by Walt Whitman
Not alone those camps of white, O soldiers,
When, as order’d forward, after a long march,
Footsore and weary, soon as the light lessen’d, we halted for the night;
Some of us so fatigued, carrying the gun and knapsack, dropping asleep in our tracks;
Others pitching the little tents, and the fires lit up began to
Outposts of pickets posted, surrounding, alert through the dark,
And a word provided for countersign, careful for safety;
Till to the call of the drummers at daybreak loudly beating the drums,
We rose up refresh’d, the night and sleep pass’d over, and resumed our journey,
Or proceeded to battle.
Lo! the camps of the tents of green,
Which the days of peace keep filling, and the days of war keep filling,
With a mystic army, (is it too order’d forward? is it too only halting awhile,
Till night and sleep pass over?)
Now in those camps of green–in their tents dotting the world;
In the parents, children, husbands, wives, in them–in the old and young,
Sleeping under the sunlight, sleeping under the moonlight, content and silent there at last,
Behold the mighty bivouac-field, and waiting-camp of all,
Of corps and generals all, and the President over the corps and generals all,
And of each of us, O soldiers, and of each and all in the ranks we fought,
(There without hatred we shall all meet.)
For presently, O soldiers, we too camp in our place in the bivouac-camps of green;
But we need not provide for outposts, nor word for the countersign,
Nor drummer to beat the morning drum.
James R. Cowles
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