Ode for Memorial Day

"The thing then to be desired above all others is confidence in one's self..." Colonel Charles Young

A square background with a man's bust on the left and an effigy face on right

The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio has the largest collection of artifacts connected to the life and times of Colonel Charles Young. The museum has given Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument access to several items in their collection and here, we are overjoyed to share a timeless and inspirational piece with you. It is a poem that Colonel Young wrote called “Ode for Memorial Day,” dated May 30th, 1907, Wilberforce, Ohio. While the actual papers are not on active display at the museum, we are providing the transcription of the poem here. Visit the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in west-central Ohio to see various pieces from Colonel Young's life and other priceless artifacts from African American history.

An oval portrait frame showing a man wearing a hat and uniform
Portrait of Charles Young, c.1903


Ode for Memorial Day


This is the hour when the nation bids her sons

Yet living leave shop, field and marts of the trade

Thru-out the land and come unto God’s Acres

To keep holy-day! - Come see the tombs

And cerdant mound, where in repose are urned

The ashes acred of her Veteran Dead!

The Union’s Saviours! Sons of Sacrifice!

Each one a hero heart who stead-fast dared

In the trial-hour of the nation’s life say “No!”

When mad rebellion raised Medusan head

And offered peace at price of principle,

Of truth and freedom’s right. Twas then that they

Quick-bridged the gulf twixt through and act and came

Flame-eyed to the high-priestess, Liberty,

Offering their tribute-dues of life and all,

Upon their country’s altar! For they deemed,

Peace-loving tho they were, that war was well

In cause so just and holy; and that death,

Thus by a foe-man’s bullet, wondrous sweet!

Not with a pang of grief

Do we lay the fl ower and leaf

Upon the patriot’s grave:

But with hearts a heave with pride

For those who fought and died

The Union’s life to save!


This is the Veteran’s hour! these worthy ones

Who with this empty sleeves and shattered frames,

Sad-eyed come tottering here with battle-scars

And bronzed medalled breasts and feeble voice,

They are the idols and the orators

To-day, be ne’er so eloquent other’s words!

They tell us true that none may force or buy

A patriot’s blood: his own to sacrifice

In heart-felt love for his dear country’s good.

This is the Veteran’s day: let Youth give care

And passage free; his soldier live doth pass,

Going to keep his yearly rendez-vouz

With comrade spirits whom he soon must join!

See, they salute and bow their hatless heads

In mute communion with the spirit-hosts.

Now opened are the vials of their souls

To receive that spirit-influence blest.

Here hate of foe and rancour are forgot:

Their hearts are fi lled with thoughts of love alone

For country, freedom, right. - The sires renew

Their ancient memories and feel the thrill

Again of the war-note wild, as their country’s call,

The while their sons do slate their burning thirst

From traditions copious spring, and rise inspired.


These, brothers, rare the days that speak and fill

A nation with new life and glory’s fire!

They’re Freedom’s resurrection morns!

Bloom, Flowers!

Flow, tears of saddened joy! Wake, Music! Sound

Oh Voice of Prais! In this Ancestral Cult

Than ye there’s naught more meet!

Ah, sad must be

That son to-day who loving visit pays

Unto a father’s tomb, where will or chance

Deprived of honors of the war - Of this

Thrice noble heritage of Sacrifi ce!

Poor is the burial-ground ungraced with tomb

Where-in reposes well a Veteran dead!

Each soldier’s low-marked mound’s a monument

Which speaks of Manhood vigorous and strong

To all America! Yea more, it speaks

Of Union and of Brotherhood for all

Who home and country find beneath the Flag!

Each soldier’s tomb an altar is, where on

Each Veteran and veteran’s Son renews

His scred vows that freedom full shall reign

In every home thru-out the land, that peace

And hope for een the lowliest shall prevail!


Shall Afric’s Sons be least in this proud land

To land the virtues of the Veteran Army Grand?

To teach their children fondly to extol

The names upon the nation’s honor roll?

Tell them how black blood mingled with the white

That right should reign and freedom’s robes be bright?

Tell them of Wagner, Pillow, Olustee, ______

The Negro’s sacrifice for all the free?

Do not forget on this Memorial Day

Their word to you of power! Nor ever stray

From this example! Pay your freedom’s price

In labor, love, service and sacrifice!

Let not oppression and no dark desires

Pale in your hearts your country’s altar-fires!

Ah not with pang of grief

So we lay the flower and leaf

Upon the patriot’s grave:

But with hearts aheave with pride

For those who bled and died

The Union’s life to save!

(Chas. Young,

Wilberforce, Ohio. May 30, 1907.)

Last updated: May 29, 2018