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Veterans Day

November 11, 2021

Veterans Day is almost over but I don’t think it’s too late to share this section from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.

This is a long poem which is something that usually turns me off, and I admit to not being overly fond of this one. I don’t like to feel like I need a dictionary and a CliffsNotes study guide in order to understand a poem. Having said that, section #8 did make sense to me and it seemed a nice tribute to veterans.

And to you, sharp reader who is wondering how, if I don’t like poems like this, I happened upon section 8 of this unwieldy poem today, it’s because it was highlighted in Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac today.

The full poem has 52 sections and you’re on your own if you want to read the entire thing.

Here’s section 8:

With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for conquer’d and slain persons.

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.

I beat and pound for the dead,
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.

Vivas to those who have fail’d!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!

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