Helen Leah Reid (1864-1926) was an author and teacher from Masachussetts who was best known for her children’s books. In 1917, Reid published a collection of her poems titled Memorial Day and Other Verse. The proceeds from the book, which was published in the midst of the American involvement in the First World War, went to assist those who were working to help blinded soldiers. With today being Memorial Day for 2022, I will republish the first poem from Reid’s book: Memorial Day. The poem had been first published in the Boston Transcript before being re-printed in Memorial Day and Other Verse.

2007 photograph of an American Flag against the backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge.
I took this photo with my Nikon D40 camera against the backdrop of the Brooklyn Bridge on March 26, 2007.

Memorial Day by Helen Leah Reed

No warrior, he, a village lad,
      needing nor words nor other prod
To point his duty, he was glad
      to tread the path his fathers trod.
Week days he worked in wood and field;
      with homely joys he decked his life;
The sword of hate he would not wield,
      nor take a part in cankering strife.
On Sunday in the little choir
      he sang of Peace and brotherly love,
And as his thoughts soared higher and higher,
      they reached unmeasured heights above.

A cry for Freedom rent the Land—
      "Our Country calls, come, come, 'tis War;
Together let us firmly stand;"
      he answered, though his heart beat sore
At leaving home, and kin, and one
      in whose fond eyes too late he read
That life for her had but begun
      with the farewells he sadly said.

A half a century has passed—
      and more—since all those myriads fell;
For he was one of those who cast
      sweet life into a Battle's hell.
The village has become a town,
      brick buildings the old graveyard gird;
Of him who fought not for renown,
      no one now hears a spoken word,
But on the Monument his name
      in gold is lettered with the rest.
Without a sordid thought of fame
      he to his Country gave his best.

Strew flowers, then, Memorial Day
      for him, for all who for us fought.
With speech and music honors pay;
      teach what our brave defenders taught.
And now our sons are setting out;
      the call for Right rings to the sky,
"Our Country! Freedom! hear them shout,
      re-echoing their Grandsires' cry.