Grant Memorial Poetry: “A Nation’s Sorrow”

One of the things I found most interesting about the Albany Evening Journal‘s coverage of U.S. Grant’s time at Mt. McGregor is the juxtaposition of national and local perspectives. After all, Grant’s decline was one of the biggest stories in the country, and the paper—like all papers—covered it as such. But the Albany Evening Journal also had the benefit of being a relatively local paper (The Daily Saratogian had the inside track as the most local paper). The Evening Journal‘s coverage, then, offered a more personal take on the story than the national papers did.

As I share with you the memorial poems written in honor of Grant after his death on July 23, 1885, consider this original piece that appeared in the Evening Journal on August 3. It was written specifically for the paper by a resident of Schoharie, NY—reflecting the paper’s local flavor—although it speaks to a tragedy felt across the nation. 

A Nation’s Sorrow
by Emma S. Thomas

Through the gloom of the nation’s mourning,
Through the light of a nation’s love.
A great soul has passed, in its journey
To the grand camp ground above.

With the light of his glory unfaded,
He has gone to the last roll-call;
Joining with God’s grand army
In the grandest review of all.

He has gone to the last court-martial,
To be judged by God’s great love;
He has gone to the grand reunion,
In the glorious home above.

The whole world, weighted with sorrow,
Pays loving tribute to-day
To this grandest and bravest of heroes,
Who has passed in peace away.

For through all of the world’s great story,
High on the roll of fame,
Emblazoned with honor unfading,
Will shine our hero’s name.

The beautiful bird of freedom stands,
Drooping its pinions low;
While the nation bows in sorrow,
And the flags bear a burden of woe.

Let the sword, that has won him such laurels,
Lie still on his peaceful breast;
No spot on its blade can tarnish—
A hero has gone to his rest.

Let the star-spangled banner of freedom
Enfold him with waves of light:
For the stars that were dimmed in their glory,
His deeds have made shining and bright.

Then, flags shroud your brightness with darkness;
Proud bird, let your pinions droop low;
While the drums’ muffled music is throbbing
A nation’s sorrow and woe.

2 Responses to Grant Memorial Poetry: “A Nation’s Sorrow”

  1. Victorian Memorial Poetry is an acquired taste, but I have read a ton of it dedicated to Colonel Ellsworth. I always wonder about the poets–Emily Dickensons or Walt Whitmans? Something in between?

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