O, FOR HISTORY: The Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, Indianapolis

While checking up on some research on The Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument on Monument Circle in downtown, Indianapolis, Indiana, I came upon two interesting items.

James Whitcomb Riley read his poem, “The Soldier” which was specifically written for the dedication ceremonies. And, John Phillip Sousa presented his dedication piece, “The Messiah of the Nations” with lyrics by James Whitcomb Riley.

The Soldier
by James Whitcomb Riley
The dedication of the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument; Indianapolis; 15 May 1902

THE Soldier! — meek the title, yet divine:
Therefore, with reverence, as with wild acclaim,
We fain would honor in exalted line
The glorious lineage of the glorious name:
The Soldier. — Lo, he ever was and is,
Our Country’s high custodian, by right
Of patriot blood that brims that heart of his
With fiercest love, yet honor infinite.

The Soldier — within whose inviolate care
The Nation takes repose, — her inmost fane
Of Freedom ever has its guardian there,
As have her forts and fleets on land and main:
The Heavenward Banner, as its ripples stream
In happy winds, or float in languid flow,
Through silken meshes ever sifts the gleam
Of sunshine on its Sentinel below.

The Soldier! — Why, the very utterance
Is music — as of rallying bugles, blent
With blur of drums and cymbals and the chants
Of battle-hymns that shake the continent! —
The thunder-chorus of a world is stirred
To awful, universal jubilee, —
Yet ever through it, pure and sweet, are heard
The prayers of Womanhood, and Infancy.

Even as a fateful tempest sudden loosed
Upon our senses, so our thoughts are blown
Back where The Soldier battled, nor refused
A grave all nameless in a clime unknown. —
The Soldier — though, perchance, worn, old and gray;
The Soldier — though, perchance, the merest lad, —
The Soldier — though he gave his life away,
Hearing the shout of ” Victory, ” was glad;

Ay, glad and grateful, that in such a cause
His veins were drained at Freedom’s holy shrine —
Rechristening the land — as first it was, —
His blood poured thus in sacramental sign
Of new baptism of the hallowed name
” My Country ” — now on every lip once more
And blest of God with still enduring fame. —
This thought even then The Soldier gloried o’er.

The dying eyes upraised in rapture there, —
As, haply, he remembered how a breeze
Once swept his boyish brow and tossed his hair,
Under the fresh bloom of the orchard-trees —
When his heart hurried, in some wistful haste
Of ecstasy, and his quick breath was wild
And balmy-sharp and chilly-sweet to taste, —
And he towered godlike, though a trembling child!

Again, through luminous mists, he saw the skies’
Far fields white-tented; and in gray and blue
And dazzling gold, he saw vast armies rise
And fuse in fire — from which, in swiftest view,
The Old Flag soared, and friend and foe as one
Blent in an instant’s vivid mirage. . . . Then
The eyes closed smiling on the smiling sun
That changed the seer to a child again. —

And, even so, The Soldier slept. — Our own! —
The Soldier of our plaudits, flowers and tears, —
O this memorial of bronze and stone —
His love shall outlast this a thousand years!
Yet, as the towering symbol bids us do, —
With soul saluting, as salutes the hand,
We answer as The Soldier answered to
The Captain’s high command.

“The Messiah of the Nations” Music by John Philip Sousa; Lyrics by James Whitcomb Riley.

Now, for me, this recording is just plain awful. The chorus is as thrilling as a crunched cornflake and they sing “AmerEEca.” What the hell? I thought, for a minute, it was a preview of WEST SIDE STORY. All this aside, you get the idea. It’s truly an uninspiring piece of music.

About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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