Fiddler’s Green

Just noted one of the links I’ve been using is gone. Here’s a new link to the “Cavalrymen’s Poem,” better known as “Fiddler’s Green.” Originally an Irish fisherman’s shanty, the verses were adapted by some anonymous barracks poet sometime before the turn of the (19th-20th) Century. Published in the U.S. Army’s Cavalry Journal in 1923, the rhymes became associated with the 1st Cavalry Division.

The Last Man

50 years ago John Kerry launched his political career by asking: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?’ I don’t believe we ever got that man’s name after Vietnam, but we know the names and faces of (hopefully) the last U.S. casualties in our latest lost war. The list of deceased US servicemen, their ages and hometowns.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, Sacramento, California.

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, Indio, California.

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, Omaha, Nebraska.

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, St. Charles, Missouri.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, Norco, California.

Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, Berlin Heights, Ohio.

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, Corryton, Tennessee.

Kipling wrote a fitting epitaph, not for these courageous young people but for the fools that sent them into harm’s way and then turned their backs and walked away:

A DEAD STATESMAN

    I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?

“die like a hero going home.”

“Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
~ Tecumseh

That memory may their deed redeem,

Wonder why we struggle to preserve old monuments? Emerson got it:

On this green bank, by this soft stream,

    We set to-day a votive stone;

That memory may their deed redeem,

    When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare

    To die, and leave their children free,

Bid Time and Nature gently spare

    The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Today’s an anniversary little remembered or honored in history classes where the lessons focus on the sins of our forefathers instead of their virtues. But the clashes at first Lexington and then Concord and back to Boston (the British regulars carried the first but lost the second catastrophically once the Americans learned a hard lesson: the best way to confront a red coat was from behind a bush) were pivotal in the history of the world. When Washington heard the news he wrote: “The once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched in blood or inhabited by slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?”

The resolute farmer clutching his musket in one hand and resting the other on a plow was sculpted by Daniel Chester French and cast from the metal of Civil War cannons on the centenary of those first fateful skirmishes of the American Revolution.

The Revel

More verse, this poem ominously quoted in Dracula:

We meet ’neath the sounding rafter,
And the walls around are bare;
As they shout back our peals of laughter
It seems that the dead are there.
Then stand to your glasses, steady!
We drink in our comrades’ eyes:
One cup to the dead already—
Hurrah for the next that dies!