Memorial Day 2011

Memorial tombs
Annette Marie Hyder

hold the hordes of dead
who were mother’s sons and sweetheart’s lovers
but whose last acts sang not of soft things
but rang with the horns of war
ran with the dogs of gore
struck the pipe and drum of death
a terrible percussion
that has left their restless bones
that string the memory of marching
all along their lengths
wanting to gather once again
as if in some sort of Valhalla
to fight, to hew, to break against
the enemy
in perpetuity.

A soldier’s grave seems not to be
a peaceful one to me
on this Memorial Day,
two thousand and eleven.

Image Public Domain: Three Valkyries bring the body of a slain warrior to Valhalla, they are met by Heimdallr in this frontispiece by Lorenz Frølich (1820–1908) for Teutonic Mythology


In Norse mythology, Valhalla is where the chosen heroes go after they are slain on the battlefield. Fiercely beautiful winged goddesses of war known as the Valkyrie choose who will die on the battlefield and carry the favored heroes to the all-father god Odin’s hall, Valhalla. Valhalla is a paradise of sorts — at least for warriors who look forward to proving their worth on the battleground so that they can go there. Every morning in Valhalla the heroes get up and drink mead and feast mightily and then fight each other and slay each other through the day until there are none left standing. The next day they waken/are resurrected to do it all again.

Literary quotes of interest:

The Bible

By the sword:

‘Then Jesus said to him “Return your sword to its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” ‘ — Matthew 26:52 NWT


” Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war” :

    Marcus Antonius:
    And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
    With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
    Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
    That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
    With carrion men, groaning for burial.
    Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1, 270–275

“Cry Havoc!” is derived from the Old French “crier havot” — to send out the signal to
begin pillaging. Latter-day usage of “cry havoc” follows Shakespeare in
the figurative sense of “call down destruction.” More information on the etymology of the phrase can be found here online.

Sun Tzu (Chinese military general, strategist, philosopher and author of The Art of War)

“Thus those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle …. They conquer by strategy.”  — Sun Tzu

Links of interest:

Memorial Day Comes As Troops Fight In Afghanistan
U.S. Memorial Day History
Memorial Day 2010

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