Thursday, March 18, 2010

"On A Memorial Stone" by Archibald MacLeish

Now we are names that once were young
And had our will of living weather,
Loved dark pines and the thin moon's feather,
Fought and endured our souls and flung
Our laughter to the ends of earth,
And challenged heaven with our spacious mirth.

Now we are names and men shall come
To drone their memorable words;
How we went out with shouting swords
And high, devoted hearts; the drum
Shall trouble us with stuttered roll,
And stony Latin laud the hero soul.

And generations unfulfilled,
The heirs of all we struggled for,
Shall here recall the mythic war,
And marvel how we stabbed and killed,
And name us savage, brave, austere,-
And none shall think how very young we were.

When Kenneth MacLeish was killed in World War I, his mother, Martha Hillard MacLeish, arranged a private printing of his letters.  Seven libraries in Illinois now have copies of this small book:  Kenneth: A Collection of Letters, published in 1919. The Lincoln Library in Springfield has the copy that I read.  There are two books of his letters, the one mentioned above and The Price of Honor by Geoffrey L. Rossano.  This is a collection of his letters to Priscilla Murdock.

The poem "On a Memorial Stone" written by his brother Archibald MacLeish, is in the small book arranged by his mother.  I could not find a copy of the same poem on the Internet.  

Kenneth MacLeish was a naval aviator and died in action just 3 weeks before the war ended.

His life and the planes he flew will be the subject of our May 1, History Club meeting.

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