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Book of Days – May 16 – Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor of England
Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 3:13 PM

On this date in 1532, Thomas More resigned at Lord Chancellor of England.  On June 14, 1532, the future saint wrote a letter to his friend, Desiderius Erasmus, in which he addressed his resignation, citing reasons of health.  The writing for today is an excerpt from that letter:

 

800px Hans Holbein the Younger   Sir Thomas More   Google Art Project 241x300 Book of Days   May 16   Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor of England

 

The thing which I have wished for from a boy, dear Desiderius, which I rejoice in your having ever enjoyed, and myself occasionally,—namely, that being free from public business, I might have some time to devote to God and myself,—that, by the grace of a great and good God, and by the favour of an indulgent prince, I have at last obtained.

I have not, however, obtained it as I wished. For I wished to reach that last stage of my life in a state, which, though suitable to my age, might yet enable me to enjoy my remaining years healthy and unbroken, free from disease and pain. But it remaineth in the hand of God, whether this wish, perhaps unreasonable, shall be accomplished. Meantime a disorder of I know not what nature hath attacked my breast, by which I suffer less in present pain than in fear of the consequence. For when it had plagued me without abatement some months, the physicians whom I consulted gave their opinion, that the long continuance of it was dangerous, and the speedy cure impossible; but that it must be cured by the gradual alterative effects of time, proper diet and medicine. Neither could they fix the period of my recovery, or ensure me a complete cure at last.

Considering this, I saw that I must either lay down my office, or discharge my duty in it incompletely. And since I could not discharge that duty without the hazard of my life, and by so doing should lose both life and office, I determined to lose one of them rather than both. Wherefore, that I might consult the public good as well as my own welfare, I entreated of the kindness of my good and great prince, that from the high office with which (as you know) he honoured me by his incredible favour, far above my pretensions, above my hopes, above my wishes, he should now release me, sinking as I was under the weight of it.

I therefore pray heaven, that God, who alone is able, may repay these favours of his majesty toward me; that the remaining time which he allotteth me may not be spent in inglorious and slothful repose, but that he may give me inclination and strength of body also, to employ it profitably. For, under bad health, I am not equal to anything; nor, my good friend, are we all like Erasmus, that that might be expected from us which God in his kindness seems to have granted exclusively to you. For who but yourself could dare to promise what you accomplish?—you, who are not hindered by the inconveniencies of growing age, and, though you be constantly afflicted with such maladies as might sicken and overcome youth and strength, yet cease you not yearly to instruct mankind by your excellent writings, as if age and ill health had robbed you of nothing.

Certain praters had begun to give it out here, that though I dissembled my sentiments, I gave-up my office unwillingly; but, having set-about my monument, I have not failed to represent the matter as it really was, in my epitaph, that, if anybody could, I might myself confute such insinuations. In appreciating this act, though they could not tax me with falsehood, they acquitted me not of some degree of arrogance. But I preferred this, to letting the other gain credit; certainly not on my own account, who think very little of what men say while God approveth, but since I had written some books in our language in the cause of the faith against certain of our advocates for the most disputed tenets, I conceived that it behoved me to defend the integrity of my character. And that you may know how arrogantly I have written, I send you my epitaph, by which you will see with what assurance I leave these men uncomplimented, that they may the less say of me what they please.

I have now waited a due time for suffrages on my official conduct, but no one hath yet stepped forward to challenge my integrity. I must thus have been very innocent or very cautious, and if my adversaries will not give me credit for the one they must for the other. The king himself hath declared his sentiments on the subject often in private, and twice in public. For when my successor, a very first-rate personage, took his seat, his majesty commanded the duke of Norfolk, high-treasurer of England, to bear most honourable testimony of me, yea more than my modesty will allow me to repeat, and to say that he dismissed me most unwillingly at my entreaty; and not content with so great a favour, he caused this to be repeated long afterward in his presence, in our assembly of peers and commons called parliament, by my successor, in his first speech, made as is customary on that occasion.



Book of Days – May 13-15 – Battle of Resaca
Monday, May 15, 2017, 7:18 AM

From May 13-15, 1864, the battle of Resaca was fought during Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, near Resaca, Georgia. While considered an inconclusive battle, it resulted in the retreat of Joseph Johnston’s Confederate army further south and the further advance of Sherman’s army toward his goal, Atlanta. While not as celebrated as many other Civil War battles, it did contribute to making one man president, Benjamin Harrison, who was then the colonel in command of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which captured a Confederate battery, which gained him considerable notoriety and which was likely a contributing factor to his promotion to brigadier general. It also became the backdrop for today’s writing, Ambrose Bierce’s short story, Killed at Resaca.  Bierce fought at Resaca as an officer in the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

 

Battle of Resaca 1864 c1889 300x209 Book of Days   May 13 15   Battle of Resaca

Battle of Resaca, Kurz & Allison (1889)

A Librivox recording of Killed at Resaca, by Ambrose Bierce

The best soldier of our staff was Lieutenant Herman Brayle, one of the two aides-de-camp. I don’t remember where the general picked him up; from some Ohio regiment, I think; none of us had previously known him, and it would have been strange if we had, for no two of us came from the same State, nor even from adjoining States. The general seemed to think that a position on his staff was a distinction that should be so judiciously conferred as not to beget any sectional jealousies and imperil the integrity of that part of the country which was still an integer. He would not even choose officers from his own command, but by some jugglery at department headquarters obtained them from other brigades. Under such circumstances, a man’s services had to be very distinguished indeed to be heard of by his family and the friends of his youth; and “the speaking trump of fame” was a trifle hoarse from loquacity, anyhow.

Lieutenant Brayle was more than six feet in height and of splendid proportions, with the light hair and gray-blue eyes which men so gifted usually find associated with a high order of courage. As he was commonly in full uniform, especially in action, when most officers are content to be less flamboyantly attired, he was a very striking and conspicuous figure. As to the rest, he had a gentleman’s manners, a scholar’s head, and a lion’s heart. His age was about thirty.

We all soon came to like Brayle as much as we admired him, and it was with sincere concern that in the engagement at Stone’s River—our first action after he joined us—we observed that he had one most objectionable and unsoldierly quality: he was vain of his courage. During all the vicissitudes and mutations of that hideous encounter, whether our troops were fighting in the open cotton fields, in the cedar thickets, or behind the railway embankment, he did not once take cover, except when sternly commanded to do so by the general, who usually had other things to think of than the lives of his staff officers—or those of his men, for that matter.

In every later engagement while Brayle was with us it was the same way. He would sit his horse like an equestrian statue, in a storm of bullets and grape, in the most exposed places—wherever, in fact, duty, requiring him to go, permitted him to remain—when, without trouble and with distinct advantage to his reputation for common sense, he might have been in such security as is possible on a battlefield in the brief intervals of personal inaction.

On foot, from necessity or in deference to his dismounted commander or associates, his conduct was the same. He would stand like a rock in the open when officers and men alike had taken to cover; while men older in service and years, higher in rank and of unquestionable intrepidity, were loyally preserving behind the crest of a hill lives infinitely precious to their country, this fellow would stand, equally idle, on the ridge, facing in the direction of the sharpest fire.

When battles are going on in open ground it frequently occurs that the opposing lines, confronting each other within a stone’s throw for hours, hug the earth as closely as if they loved it. The line officers in their proper places flatten themselves no less, and the field officers, their horses all killed or sent to the rear, crouch beneath the infernal canopy of hissing lead and screaming iron without a thought of personal dignity.

In such circumstances the life of a staff officer of a brigade is distinctly “not a happy one,” mainly because of its precarious tenure and the unnerving alternations of emotion to which he is exposed. From a position of that comparative security from which a civilian would ascribe his escape to a “miracle,” he may be despatched with an order to some commander of a prone regiment in the front line —a person for the moment inconspicuous and not always easy to find without a deal of search among men somewhat preoccupied, and in a din in which question and answer alike must be imparted in the sign language. It is customary in such cases to duck the head and scuttle away on a keen run, an object of lively interest to some thousands of admiring marksmen. In returning—well, it is not customary to return.

Brayle’s practice was different. He would consign his horse to the care of an orderly,—he loved his horse,—and walk quietly away on his perilous errand with never a stoop of the back, his splendid figure, accentuated by his uniform, holding the eye with a strange fascination. We watched him with suspended breath, our hearts in our mouths. On one occasion of this kind, indeed, one of our number, an impetuous stammerer, was so possessed by his emotion that he shouted at me:

“I’ll b-b-bet you t-two d-d-dollars they d-drop him b-b-before he g-gets to that d-d-ditch!”

I did not accept the brutal wager; I thought they would.

Let me do justice to a brave man’s memory; in all these needless exposures of life there was no visible bravado nor subsequent narration. In the few instances when some of us had ventured to remonstrate, Brayle had smiled pleasantly and made some light reply, which, however, had not encouraged a further pursuit of the subject. Once he said:

“Captain, if ever I come to grief by forgetting your advice, I hope my last moments will be cheered by the sound of your beloved voice breathing into my ear the blessed words, ‘I told you so.'”

We laughed at the captain—just why we could probably not have explained—and that afternoon when he was shot to rags from an ambuscade Brayle remained by the body for some time, adjusting the limbs with needless care—there in the middle of a road swept by gusts of grape and canister! It is easy to condemn this kind of thing, and not very difficult to refrain from imitation, but it is impossible not to respect, and Brayle was liked none the less for the weakness which had so heroic an expression. We wished he were not a fool, but he went on that way to the end, sometimes hard hit, but always returning to duty about as good as new.

Of course, it came at last; he who ignores the law of probabilities challenges an adversary that is seldom beaten. It was at Resaca, in Georgia, during the movement that resulted in the taking of Atlanta. In front of our brigade the enemy’s line of earthworks ran through open fields along a slight crest. At each end of this open ground we were close up to him in the woods, but the clear ground we could not hope to occupy until night, when darkness would enable us to burrow like moles and throw up earth. At this point our line was a quarter-mile away in the edge of a wood. Roughly, we formed a semicircle, the enemy’s fortified line being the chord of the arc.

“Lieutenant, go tell Colonel Ward to work up as close as he can get cover, and not to waste much ammunition in unnecessary firing. You may leave your horse.”

When the general gave this direction we were in the fringe of the forest, near the right extremity of the arc. Colonel Ward was at the left. The suggestion to leave the horse obviously enough meant that Brayle was to take the longer line, through the woods and among the men. Indeed, the suggestion was needless; to go by the short route meant absolutely certain failure to deliver the message. Before anybody could interpose, Brayle had cantered lightly into the field and the enemy’s works were in crackling conflagration.

“Stop that damned fool!” shouted the general.

A private of the escort, with more ambition than brains, spurred forward to obey, and within ten yards left himself and his horse dead on the field of honor.

Brayle was beyond recall, galloping easily along, parallel to the enemy and less than two hundred yards distant. He was a picture to see! His hat had been blown or shot from his head, and his long, blond hair rose and fell with the motion of his horse. He sat erect in the saddle, holding the reins lightly in his left hand, his right hanging carelessly at his side. An occasional glimpse of his handsome profile as he turned his head one way or the other proved that the interest which he took in what was going on was natural and without affectation.

The picture was intensely dramatic, but in no degree theatrical. Successive scores of rifles spat at him viciously as he came within range, and our own line in the edge of the timber broke out in visible and audible defense. No longer regardful of themselves or their orders, our fellows sprang to their feet, and swarming into the open sent broad sheets of bullets against the blazing crest of the offending works, which poured an answering fire into their unprotected groups with deadly effect. The artillery on both sides joined the battle, punctuating the rattle and roar with deep, earth-shaking explosions and tearing the air with storms of screaming grape, which from the enemy’s side splintered the trees and spattered them with blood, and from ours defiled the smoke of his arms with banks and clouds of dust from his parapet.

My attention had been for a moment drawn to the general combat, but now, glancing down the unobscured avenue between these two thunderclouds, I saw Brayle, the cause of the carnage. Invisible now from either side, and equally doomed by friend and foe, he stood in the shot-swept space, motionless, his face toward the enemy. At some little distance lay his horse. I instantly saw what had stopped him.

As topographical engineer I had, early in the day, made a hasty examination of the ground, and now remembered that at that point was a deep and sinuous gully, crossing half the field from the enemy’s line, its general course at right angles to it. From where we now were it was invisible, and Brayle had evidently not known about it. Clearly, it was impassable. Its salient angles would have afforded him absolute security if he had chosen to be satisfied with the miracle already wrought in his favor and leapt into it. He could not go forward, he would not turn back; he stood awaiting death. It did not keep him long waiting.

By some mysterious coincidence, almost instantaneously as he fell, the firing ceased, a few desultory shots at long intervals serving rather to accentuate than break the silence. It was as if both sides had suddenly repented of their profitless crime. Four stretcher-bearers of ours, following a sergeant with a white flag, soon afterward moved unmolested into the field, and made straight for Brayle’s body. Several Confederate officers and men came out to meet them, and with uncovered heads assisted them to take up their sacred burden. As it was borne toward us we heard beyond the hostile works fifes and a muffled drum—a dirge. A generous enemy honored the fallen brave.

Amongst the dead man’s effects was a soiled Russia-leather pocketbook. In the distribution of mementoes of our friend, which the general, as administrator, decreed, this fell to me.

A year after the close of the war, on my way to California, I opened and idly inspected it. Out of an overlooked compartment fell a letter without envelope or address. It was in a woman’s handwriting, and began with words of endearment, but no name.

It had the following date line: “San Francisco, Cal., July 9, 1862.” The signature was “Darling,” in marks of quotation. Incidentally, in the body of the text, the writer’s full name was given—Marian Mendenhall.

The letter showed evidence of cultivation and good breeding, but it was an ordinary love letter, if a love letter can be ordinary. There was not much in it, but there was something. It was this:

“Mr. Winters, whom I shall always hate for it, has been telling that at some battle in Virginia, where he got his hurt, you were seen crouching behind a tree. I think he wants to injure you in my regard, which he knows the story would do if I believed it. I could bear to hear of my soldier lover’s death, but not of his cowardice.”

These were the words which on that sunny afternoon, in a distant region, had slain a hundred men. Is woman weak?

One evening I called on Miss Mendenhall to return the letter to her. I intended, also, to tell her what she had done—but not that she did it. I found her in a handsome dwelling on Rincon Hill. She was beautiful, well bred—in a word, charming.

“You knew Lieutenant Herman Brayle,” I said, rather abruptly. “You know, doubtless, that he fell in battle. Among his effects was found this letter from you. My errand here is to place it in your hands.”

She mechanically took the letter, glanced through it with deepening color, and then, looking at me with a smile, said:

“It is very good of you, though I am sure it was hardly worth while.” She started suddenly and changed color. “This stain,” she said, “is it—surely it is not—”

“Madam,” I said, “pardon me, but that is the blood of the truest and bravest heart that ever beat.”

She hastily flung the letter on the blazing coals. “Uh! I cannot bear the sight of blood!” she said. “How did he die?”

I had involuntarily risen to rescue that scrap of paper, sacred even to me, and now stood partly behind her. As she asked the question she turned her face about and slightly upward. The light of the burning letter was reflected in her eyes and touched her cheek with a tinge of crimson like the stain upon its page. I had never seen anything so beautiful as this detestable creature.

“He was bitten by a snake,” I replied.



Book of Days – May 10 – Roman Assault on the Walls of Jerusalem Begins
Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 8:13 AM

The events which compose the Siege of Jerusalem began during Passover in A.D. 70.  On May 10, Titus began his assault against the walls of the city, with an attack on the Third Wall.  Today’s writing contains excerpts from Flavius Josephus’ The Jewish War, as translated by William Whiston, Book V, parts of Chapter 4 and all of Chapter 6:

 

CHAPTER 4. THE DESCRIPTION OF JERUSALEM.

1. THE city of Jerusalem was fortified with three walls, on such parts as were not encompassed with unpassable valleys; for in such places it had but one wall.

* * *

2. * * * The beginning of the third wall was at the tower Hippicus, whence it reached as far as the north quarter of the city, and the tower Psephinus, and then was so far extended till it came over against the monuments of Helena, which Helena was queen of Adiabene, the daughter of Izates; it then extended further to a great length, and passed by the sepulchral caverns of the kings, and bent again at the tower of the corner, at the monument which is called the “Monument of the Fuller,” and joined to the old wall at the valley called the “Valley of Cedron.” It was Agrippa who encompassed the parts added to the old city with this wall, which had been all naked before; for as the city grew more populous, it gradually crept beyond its old limits, and those parts of it that stood northward of the temple, and joined that hill to the city, made it considerably larger, and occasioned that hill, which is in number the fourth, and is called “Bezetha,” to be inhabited also.

* * *

CHAPTER 6. CONCERNING THE TYRANTS SIMON AND JOHN. HOW ALSO AS TITUS WAS GOING ROUND THE WALL OF THIS CITY NICANOR WAS WOUNDED BY A DART; WHICH ACCIDENT PROVOKED TITUS TO PRESS ON THE SIEGE.

1. NOW the warlike men that were in the city, and the multitude of the seditious that were with Simon, were ten thousand, besides the Idumeans. Those ten thousand had fifty commanders, over whom this Simon was supreme. The Idumeans that paid him homage were five thousand, and had eight commanders, among whom those of greatest fame were Jacob the son of Sosas, and Simon the son of Cathlas. Jotre, who had seized upon the temple, had six thousand armed men under twenty commanders; the zealots also that had come over to him, and left off their opposition, were two thousand four hundred, and had the same commander that they had formerly, Eleazar, together with Simon the son of Arinus. Now, while these factions fought one against another, the people were their prey on both sides, as we have said already; and that part of the people who would not join with them in their wicked practices were plundered by both factions. Simon held the upper city, and the great wall as far as Cedron, and as much of the old wall as bent from Siloam to the east, and which went down to the palace of Monobazus, who was king of the Adiabeni, beyond Euphrates; he also held that fountain, and the Acra, which was no other than the lower city; he also held all that reached to the palace of queen Helena, the mother of Monobazus. But John held the temple, and the parts thereto adjoining, for a great way, as also Ophla, and the valley called “the Valley of Cedron;” and when the parts that were interposed between their possessions were burnt by them, they left a space wherein they might fight with each other; for this internal sedition did not cease even when the Romans were encamped near their very wall. But although they had grown wiser at the first onset the Romans made upon them, this lasted but a while; for they returned to their former madness, and separated one from another, and fought it out, and did everything that the besiegers could desire them to do; for they never suffered any thing that was worse from the Romans than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city after these men’s actions that could be esteemed new. But it was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown, while those that took it did it a greater kindness for I venture to affirm that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition, which it was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls; so that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people, and the just vengeance taken on them to the Romans; as to which matter let every one determine by the actions on both sides.

2. Now when affairs within the city were in this posture, Titus went round the city on the outside with some chosen horsemen, and looked about for a proper place where he might make an impression upon the walls; but as he was in doubt where he could possibly make an attack on any side, (for the place was no way accessible where the valleys were, and on the other side the first wall appeared too strong to be shaken by the engines,) he thereupon thought it best to make his assault upon the monument of John the high priest; for there it was that the first fortification was lower, and the second was not joined to it, the builders neglecting to build strong where the new city was not much inhabited; here also was an easy passage to the third wall, through which he thought to take the upper city, and, through the tower of Antonia, the temple itself But at this time, as he was going round about the city, one of his friends, whose name was Nicanor, was wounded with a dart on his left shoulder, as he approached, together with Josephus, too near the wall, and attempted to discourse to those that were upon the wall, about terms of peace; for he was a person known by them. On this account it was that Caesar, as soon as he knew their vehemence, that they would not hear even such as approached them to persuade them to what tended to their own preservation, was provoked to press on the siege. He also at the same time gave his soldiers leave to set the suburbs on fire, and ordered that they should bring timber together, and raise banks against the city; and when he had parted his army into three parts, in order to set about those works, he placed those that shot darts and the archers in the midst of the banks that were then raising; before whom he placed those engines that threw javelins, and darts, and stones, that he might prevent the enemy from sallying out upon their works, and might hinder those that were upon the wall from being able to obstruct them. So the trees were now cut down immediately, and the suburbs left naked. But now while the timber was carrying to raise the banks, and the whole army was earnestly engaged in their works, the Jews were not, however, quiet; and it happened that the people of Jerusalem, who had been hitherto plundered and murdered, were now of good courage, and supposed they should have a breathing time, while the others were very busy in opposing their enemies without the city, and that they should now be avenged on those that had been the authors of their miseries, in case the Romans did but get the victory.

3. However, John staid behind, out of his fear of Simon, even while his own men were earnest in making a sally upon their enemies without. Yet did not Simon lie still, for he lay near the place of the siege; he brought his engines of war, and disposed of them at due distances upon the wall, both those which they took from Cestius formerly, and those which they got when they seized the garrison that lay in the tower Antonia. But though they had these engines in their possession, they had so little skill in using them, that they were in great measure useless to them; but a few there were who had been taught by deserters how to use them, which they did use, though after an awkward manner. So they cast stones and arrows at those that were making the banks; they also ran out upon them by companies, and fought with them. Now those that were at work covered themselves with hurdles spread over their banks, and their engines were opposed to them when they made their excursions. The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also. Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, THE STONE [or SON] COMETH so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm. But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow. Yet did not the Jews, under all this distress, permit the Romans to raise their banks in quiet; but they shrewdly and boldly exerted themselves, and repelled them both by night and by day.

4. And now, upon the finishing the Roman works, the workmen measured the distance there was from the wall, and this by lead and a line, which they threw to it from their banks; for they could not measure it any otherwise, because the Jews would shoot at them, if they came to measure it themselves; and when they found that the engines could reach the wall, they brought them thither. Then did Titus set his engines at proper distances, so much nearer to the wall, that the Jews might not be able to repel them, and gave orders they should go to work; and when thereupon a prodigious noise echoed round about from three places, and that on the sudden there was a great noise made by the citizens that were within the city, and no less a terror fell upon the seditious themselves; whereupon both sorts, seeing the common danger they were in, contrived to make a like defense. So those of different factions cried out one to another, that they acted entirely as in concert with their enemies; whereas they ought however, notwithstanding God did not grant them a lasting concord, in their present circumstances, to lay aside their enmities one against another, and to unite together against the Romans. Accordingly, Simon gave those that came from the temple leave, by proclamation, to go upon the wall; John also himself, though he could not believe Simon was in earnest, gave them the same leave. So on both sides they laid aside their hatred and their peculiar quarrels, and formed themselves into one body; they then ran round the walls, and having a vast number of torches with them, they threw them at the machines, and shot darts perpetually upon those that impelled those engines which battered the wall; nay, the bolder sort leaped out by troops upon the hurdles that covered the machines, and pulled them to pieces, and fell upon those that belonged to them, and beat them, not so much by any skill they had, as principally by the boldness of their attacks. However, Titus himself still sent assistance to those that were the hardest set, and placed both horsemen and archers on the several sides of the engines, and thereby beat off those that brought the fire to them; he also thereby repelled those that shot stones or darts from the towers, and then set the engines to work in good earnest; yet did not the wall yield to these blows, excepting where the battering ram of the fifteenth legion moved the corner of a tower, while the wall itself continued unhurt; for the wall was not presently in the same danger with the tower, which was extant far above it; nor could the fall of that part of the tower easily break down any part of the wall itself together with it.

5. And now the Jews intermitted their sallies for a while; but when they observed the Romans dispersed all abroad at their works, and in their several camps, (for they thought the Jews had retired out of weariness and fear,) they all at once made a sally at the tower Hippicus, through an obscure gate, and at the same time brought fire to burn the works, and went boldly up to the Romans, and to their very fortifications themselves, where, at the cry they made, those that were near them came presently to their assistance, and those farther off came running after them; and here the boldness of the Jews was too hard for the good order of the Romans; and as they beat those whom they first fell upon, so they pressed upon those that were now gotten together. So this fight about the machines was very hot, while the one side tried hard to set them on fire, and the other side to prevent it; on both sides there was a confused cry made, and many of those in the forefront of the battle were slain. However, the Jews were now too hard for the Romans, by the furious assaults they made like madmen; and the fire caught hold of the works, and both all those works, and the engines themselves, had been in danger of being burnt, had not many of these select soldiers that came from Alexandria opposed themselves to prevent it, and had they not behaved themselves with greater courage than they themselves supposed they could have done; for they outdid those in this fight that had greater reputation than themselves before. This was the state of things till Caesar took the stoutest of his horsemen, and attacked the enemy, while he himself slew twelve of those that were in the forefront of the Jews; which death of these men, when the rest of the multitude saw, they gave way, and he pursued them, and drove them all into the city, and saved the works from the fire. Now it happened at this fight that a certain Jew was taken alive, who, by Titus’s order, was crucified before the wall, to see whether the rest of them would be aftrighted, and abate of their obstinacy. But after the Jews were retired, John, who was commander of the Idumeans, and was talking to a certain soldier of his acquaintance before the wall, was wounded by a dart shot at him by an Arabian, and died immediately, leaving the greatest lamentation to the Jews, and sorrow to the seditious. For he was a man of great eminence, both for his actions and his conduct also.



Book of Days – May 9 – Proclamation of the End of the American Civil War
Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 10:01 AM

It is somewhat difficult to settle on a date for the end of the American Civil War (or the War of the Rebellion as it was denominated by the United States War Department or the War of Northern Aggression as denominated by many Confederates).  Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865.  Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 26.  The last recognized battle was that of Palmito Ranch, fought on May 12 and 13, 1865.  Kirby Smith surrendered on June 2 on board the U.S.S. Fort Jackson, pursuant to terms negotiated with General Edward Canby on May 26.  Cherokee Chief Stand Watie surrendered on June 23. On August 20, President Andrew Johnson executed at proclamation Declaring that Peace, Order, Tranquillity, and Civil Authority Now Exists in and Throughout the Whole of the United States of America.  The last Confederate ship to surrender was the C.S.S. Shenandoah on November 6. But many date the actual end of the war to this date in 1865, when President Andrew Johnson issued executive orders and a proclamation which declared The Belligerent Rights of the Rebels at an End. See http://www.nytimes.com/1865/05/10/news/important-proclamations-belligerent-rights-rebels-end-all-nations-warned-against.html.

For today’s writing, Walt Whitman’s poem Reconciliation:

 

WORD over all, beautiful as the sky!
Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must in time be utterly lost;
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night, incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this soil’d world:
… For my enemy is dead—a man divine as myself is dead;
I look where he lies, white-faced and still, in the coffin—I draw near;
I bend down, and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.



Book of Days – May 8 – V-E Day
Monday, May 8, 2017, 6:51 AM

On this date in 1945, the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe, as the unconditional surrender of the Germans was accepted.  It was also the 61st birthday of America’s president, Harry S Truman.  As I only post works in the public domain, I’m compelled to seek a work from an earlier war, the Great War, for this day.  In a less celebratory mood, I have chosen For the Fallen Laurence Binyon:

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Source: The London Times (1914)



Book of Days – May 7 – Birth of Robert Browning
Sunday, May 7, 2017, 7:42 AM

On this date in 1812, Robert Browning was born.  While not his best work, he is undoubtedly best remembered for his children’s poem, The Pied Piper of Hamelin:

 

I

Hamelin Town’s in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.

II

Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladle’s,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women’s chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.

III

At last the people in a body
To the town hall came flocking:
“‘Tis clear,” cried they, ‘our Mayor’s a noddy;
And as for our Corporation–shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can’t or won’t determine
What’s best to rid us of our vermin!
You hope, because you’re old and obese,
To find in the furry civic robe ease?
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we’re lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!”
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

IV

An hour they sat in council,
At length the Mayor broke silence:
“For a guilder I’d my ermine gown sell,
I wish I were a mile hence!
It’s easy to bid one rack one’s brain–
I’m sure my poor head aches again,
I’ve scratched it so, and all in vain
Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!”
Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
“Bless us,’ cried the Mayor, “what’s that?”
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle, green and glutinous)
“Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!”

V

“Come in!”–the Mayor cried, looking bigger:
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in–
There was no guessing his kith and kin!
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: “It’s as if my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom’s tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!”

VI

He advanced to the council-table:
And, “Please your honors,” said he, “I’m able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper.”
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the self-same check;
And at the scarf’s end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
“Yet,” said he, “poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarm of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampyre-bats:
And as for what your brain bewilders–
If I can rid your town of rats
Will you give me a thousand guilders?”
“One? Fifty thousand!” was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

VII

Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives–
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished!
‹Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
Which was, “At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press’s gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks:
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, ‘Oh rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast dry-saltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!’
And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said ‘Come bore me!’
— I found the Weser rolling o’er me.”

VIII

You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
Go,” cried the Mayor, “and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!”– when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market-place,
With a, “First, if you please, my thousand guilders!”

IX

A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havoc
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar’s biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy coat of red and yellow!
“Beside,” quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
“Our business was done at the river’s brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what’s dead can’t come to life, I think.
So, friend, we’re not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!

X

The Piper’s face fell, and he cried,
“No trifling! I can’t wait! Beside,
I’ve promised to visit by dinnertime
Bagdad, and accept the prime
Of the Head-Cook’s pottage, all he’s rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph’s kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor–
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don’t think I’ll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe to another fashion.”

XI

“How?” cried the Mayor, “d’ye think I brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!”

XII

Once more he stept into the street
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician’s cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

XIII

The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step or cry,
To the children merrily skipping by–
And could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper’s back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack
And the wretched Council’s bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its water’s
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However he turned from South to West
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
“He never can cross that mighty top!
He’s forced to let the piping drop
And we shall see our children stop!
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,–
“It’s dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can’t forget that I’m bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me.
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles’ wings:
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!

XIV

Alas, alas for Hamelin!
There came into many a burgher’s pate
A text which says that heaven’s gate
Opens to the rich at as easy rate
As the needle’s eye takes a camel in!
The mayor sent East, West, North and South,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth
Wherever it was men’s lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart’s content,
If he’d only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw ‘twas a lost endeavor,
And Piper and dancers were gone forever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear:
“And so long after what happened here
On the twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six;”
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children’s last retreat,
They called it the Pied Piper’s Street,
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labor.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn,
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the great church-window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That, in Transylvania there’s a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
To the outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbors lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterranean prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why they don’t understand.

XV

So, Willy, let you and me be wipers
Of scores out with all men–especially pipers!
And, whether they pipe us free, from rats or from mice,
If we’ve promised them ought, let us keep our promise.



Book of Days – May 6 – End of the Battle of Chancellorsville
Saturday, May 6, 2017, 7:59 AM

On this date in 1863, the Confederacy completed their brilliant victory over the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Though greatly outnumbered, Generals Lee and Jackson managed to deliver a resounding blow to the Union army and to Union morale, sending the Union forces into a general retreat across the Rappahannock River. Having lost despite numerical superiority, Union General Joseph Hooker was relieved of command, leaving General George Meade in command when the two armies met again in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania less than two months later. By the end of the battle, Jackson was dead, having been the victim of friendly fire.

For today’s writing, the description of the wounded arriving from the battle of Chancellorsville by an army nurse, Walt Whitman:

 

The Wounded from Chancellorsville

May, ’63.—AS I write this, the wounded have begun to arrive from Hooker’s command from bloody Chancellorsville. I was down among the first arrivals. The men in charge told me the bad cases were yet to come. If that is so I pity them, for these are bad enough. You ought to see the scene of the wounded arriving at the landing here at the foot of Sixth street, at night. Two boat loads came about half-past seven last night. A little after eight it rain’d a long and violent shower. The pale, helpless soldiers had been debark’d, and lay around on the wharf and neighborhood anywhere. The rain was, probably, grateful to them; at any rate they were exposed to it. The few torches light up the spectacle. All around—on the wharf, on the ground, out on side places—the men are lying on blankets, old quilts, &c., with bloody rags bound round heads, arms, and legs. The attendants are few, and at night few outsiders also—only a few hard-work’d transportation men and drivers. (The wounded are getting to be common, and people grow callous.) The men, whatever their condition, lie there, and patiently wait till their turn comes to be taken up. Near by, the ambulances are now arriving in clusters, and one after another is call’d to back up and take its load. Extreme cases are sent off on stretchers. The men generally make little or no ado, whatever their sufferings. A few groans that cannot be suppress’d, and occasionally a scream of pain as they lift a man into the ambulance. To-day, as I write, hundreds more are expected, and to-morrow and the next day more, and so on for many days. Quite often they arrive at the rate of 1000 a day.

Civil War Hospital 300x193 Book of Days   May 6   End of the Battle of Chancellorsville

Army Hospital during the American Civil War



Book of Days – May 5 – Kublai Khan becomes ruler of the Mongol Empire
Friday, May 5, 2017, 9:54 AM

On this date in 1260, Kublai Khan became ruler of the Mongol Empire.

For today’s writing, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, Kublai Khan:

blank Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

 



Book of Days – May 4 – Battle of Tewksbury
Thursday, May 4, 2017, 7:58 AM

On this date, in 1471, the battle of Tewksbury was fought during the War of the Roses, resulting in the death of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, the Lancaster heir apparent to the throne of his father, King Henry VI.

For today’s reading an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part III, Act 5, Scene 5:

SCENE V. Another part of the field.

Flourish. Enter KING EDWARD IV, GLOUCESTER, CLARENCE, and soldiers; with QUEEN MARGARET, OXFORD, and SOMERSET, prisoners

* * *

QUEEN MARGARET
So part we sadly in this troublous world,
To meet with joy in sweet Jerusalem.

KING EDWARD IV
Is proclamation made, that who finds Edward
Shall have a high reward, and he his life?

GLOUCESTER
It is: and lo, where youthful Edward comes!
Enter soldiers, with PRINCE EDWARD
KING EDWARD IV

Bring forth the gallant, let us hear him speak.
What! can so young a thorn begin to prick?
Edward, what satisfaction canst thou make
For bearing arms, for stirring up my subjects,
And all the trouble thou hast turn’d me to?

PRINCE EDWARD
Speak like a subject, proud ambitious York!
Suppose that I am now my father’s mouth;
Resign thy chair, and where I stand kneel thou,
Whilst I propose the selfsame words to thee,
Which traitor, thou wouldst have me answer to.

QUEEN MARGARET
Ah, that thy father had been so resolved!

GLOUCESTER
That you might still have worn the petticoat,
And ne’er have stol’n the breech from Lancaster.

PRINCE EDWARD
Let AEsop fable in a winter’s night;
His currish riddles sort not with this place.

GLOUCESTER
By heaven, brat, I’ll plague ye for that word.

QUEEN MARGARET
Ay, thou wast born to be a plague to men.

GLOUCESTER
For God’s sake, take away this captive scold.

PRINCE EDWARD
Nay, take away this scolding crookback rather.

KING EDWARD IV
Peace, wilful boy, or I will charm your tongue.

CLARENCE
Untutor’d lad, thou art too malapert.

PRINCE EDWARD
I know my duty; you are all undutiful:
Lascivious Edward, and thou perjured George,
And thou mis-shapen Dick, I tell ye all
I am your better, traitors as ye are:
And thou usurp’st my father’s right and mine.

KING EDWARD IV
Take that, thou likeness of this railer here.

Stabs him

GLOUCESTER
Sprawl’st thou? take that, to end thy agony.

Stabs him

CLARENCE
And there’s for twitting me with perjury.

Stabs him

QUEEN MARGARET
O, kill me too!

GLOUCESTER
Marry, and shall.

Offers to kill her

KING EDWARD IV
Hold, Richard, hold; for we have done too much.

GLOUCESTER
Why should she live, to fill the world with words?

KING EDWARD IV
What, doth she swoon? use means for her recovery.

GLOUCESTER
Clarence, excuse me to the king my brother;
I’ll hence to London on a serious matter:
Ere ye come there, be sure to hear some news.

CLARENCE
What? what?

GLOUCESTER
The Tower, the Tower.

Exit

QUEEN MARGARET
O Ned, sweet Ned! speak to thy mother, boy!
Canst thou not speak? O traitors! murderers!
They that stabb’d Caesar shed no blood at all,
Did not offend, nor were not worthy blame,
If this foul deed were by to equal it:
He was a man; this, in respect, a child:
And men ne’er spend their fury on a child.
What’s worse than murderer, that I may name it?
No, no, my heart will burst, and if I speak:
And I will speak, that so my heart may burst.
Butchers and villains! bloody cannibals!
How sweet a plant have you untimely cropp’d!
You have no children, butchers! if you had,
The thought of them would have stirr’d up remorse:
But if you ever chance to have a child,
Look in his youth to have him so cut off
As, deathmen, you have rid this sweet young prince!

KING EDWARD IV
Away with her; go, bear her hence perforce.



Book of Days – May 2 – Death of Lieutenant Alexis Helmer
Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 5:59 AM

On May 2, 1915, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, a Canadian artillery officer, was killed during the Second Battle of Ypres, hit by an 8-inch German shell, which caused unspeakable damage.  What remains could be found were gathered into sandbags and buried in a blanket that evening. The being no chaplain, Lt. Helmer’s friend, Major John McCrae, conducted the services, reciting from memory the “Order of Burial of the Dead” from the Book of Common Prayer. The exact location of Lt. Helmer’s grave is now unknown.

It is believed that later that evening, Maj. McCrae began writing his now famous poem, In Flanders Fields, which is today’s writing.  McCrae, a doctor, died of pneumonia before the end of the Great War, on January 28, 1918.  His collection of poems, including In Flanders Fields, was first published later that year.  It contained a handwritten facsimile of the poem, autographed by McCrae, which replaces “blow” in the first line with “grow”.  The following is the standard version as printed in the collection:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


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