Monday, May 31, 2010

Decoration Day

. . . was the name originally given to Memorial Day, about whose history you may read at this post. Many other sites have poems, essays and similar offerings in honor of the day (don't forget this memorable photo). I have chosen a performance by the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas of the tone poem "Decoration Day", by Charles Ives:




Here are Ives's own notes on the work:

In the early morning the gardens and woods around the village are the meeting places of those who, with tender memories and devoted hands, gather the flowers for the Day's Memorial. During the forenoon as the people join each other on the Green there is felt, at times, a fervency and intensity--a shadow perhaps of the fanatical harshness--reflecting old Abolitionist days. It is a day as Thoreau suggests, when there is a pervading consciousness of "Nature's kinship with the lower order-man."

After the Town Hall is filled with the Spring's harvest of lilacs, daisies, and peonies, the parade is slowly formed on Main Street. First come the three Marshals on plough horses (going sideways), then the Warden and Burgesses in carriages, the Village Cornet Band, the G.A.R., two by two, the Militia (Company G), while the volunteer Fire Brigade, drawing a decorated hose-cart, with its jangling bells, brings up the rear-the inevitable swarm of small boys following. The march to Wooster Cemetery is a thing a boy never forgets. The roll of the muffled drums and "Adestes Fideles" answer for the dirge. A little girl on a fencepost waves to her father and wonders if he looked like that at Gettysburg.

After the last grave is decorated, Taps sounds out through the pines and hickories, while a last hymn is sung. The ranks are formed again, and "we all march to town" to a Yankee stimulant-Reeves inspiring Second Regiment Quickstep-though, to many a soldier, the sombre thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band. The march stops-and in the silence of the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the Town, and the sunset behind the West Mountain breathes its benediction upon the Day [Memos, 101-102].


* * * *

Meanwhile, in the news on this Memorial Day, the Turkish flotilla carrying aid to Hamas in Gaza has achieved the confrontation it wanted by trying to run the blockade established by Israel to keep Arab countries from supplying rockets and other arms to the Palestinians there. Only one of the six ships resisted being boarded by Israeli troops, and that was the ship on which all the casualties occurred. Israel claims its soldiers were met with clubs and knives, and that they opened fire in self-defense after the passengers seized two of their handguns and opened fire (more information here). Hamas claims that the troops simply slaughtered innocent civilians. According to Stratford, Al Jazeera's Arab news is now reporting that most of those killed were Turks, including a member of the Turkish parliament, and that Israel has called on all its citizens in Turkey to leave immediately.

The diplomatic protests are pouring in, the U.N. Security Council has called an emergency session, and Turkey is preparing sanctions against Israel for acting in self defense. No doubt the same nations parading their outrage at Israel's conduct in this sorry affair will, any day now, direct similar protests and sanctions against North Korea for sinking a South Korean vessel -- an unprovoked act which resulted in the loss of 46 lives.

The left once again shows its double standards -- one for Israel, but none for Kim Jong-il.

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