A poetic Fourth

Independence Day in rhyme and verse

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Today many of us will fly the flag. Some will take in a parade. Others will enjoy a summer holiday with friends and family. However Americans spend the Fourth of July, we should ponder the benefits of freedom and how best to serve its cause. We offer the following vintage poems, no doubt long forgotten by most Americans, to provoke thought on the nation's blessings and to wish Post-Gazette readers a memorable Independence Day 2012.

The Flag Goes By

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,

A dash of color beneath the sky:

Hats off!

The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines,

Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.

Hats off!

The colors before us fly;

But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,

Fought to make and to save the State;

Weary marches and sinking ships;

Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace;

March of a strong land's swift

increase;

Equal justice, right and law,

Stately honor and reverend awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong

To ward her people from foreign wrong;

Pride and glory and honor, -- all

Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;

And loyal hearts are beating high:

Hats off!

The flag is passing by!

-- Henry Holcomb Bennett, 1863-1924

------------------------

The Better Way

Who serves his country best?

Not he who, for a brief and stormy space,

Leads fourth her armies to the fierce affray.

Short is the time of turmoil and

unrest,

Long years of peace succeed it and replace:

There is a better way.

Who serves his country best?

Not he who guides her senates in

debate;

And makes the laws which are her prop and stay;

Not he who wears the poet's purple vest

And sings her songs of love and grief and fate:

There is a better way.

He serves his country best,

Who joins the tide that lifts her nobly on;

For speech has myriad tongues for every day,

And song but one; and law within the breast

Is stronger than the graven law on stone;

This is a better way.

He serves his country best

Who lives pure life, and doeth

righteous deed,

And walks straight paths, however others stray,

And leaves his sons as uttermost

bequest

A stainless record which all men may read:

This is the better way.

No drop but serves the slowly lifting tide,

No dew but has an errand to some flower,

No smallest star but sheds some

helpful ray,

And man by man, each giving to all the rest,

Makes the firm bulwark of the

country's power:

There is no better way.

-- Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, 1835-1905 (pen name Susan Coolidge)

opinion_editorials


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