My mother, Joan, wrote about the Unknown Soldier in a poem from late May 1937 when she was 14 years old. You can trace her progress from experience–visiting the statue to an unknown doughboy in World War I as described in her diary–to her creation of a poem in honor of him.
Sunday May 30, 1937 (age 14)
This is Memorial Day and it rained. Daddy and I went out for a walk and when it rained went under a tree near the statue of the Unknown Soldier. He looked so lonely there in the rain (the Soldier, I mean) and there wasn’t even a wreath to mark the day. It seemed so pitiful. So I picked a little flower from the tree and ran in the rain to lay it at his feet. And I’m sure he knew I did it and was glad that someone remembered him on this day. It was only a little flower but I’m sure it meant as much as a wreath. I’m glad I did it as I’m sure the Soldier is…
The sky is dark, it’s raining now
I cannot sleep — stare out the window
But think of the country he died to save
They call this day Memorial Day.
I think of him standing bright in the rain
Finding at last what he sought to attain
With the wonder lurking still in his eyes
He who loved life had found death his prize.
Sinking alone in the mud he died
And sure, he had a nobler pride
In loving the land he came to save
Dying alone so brightly and brave
While the rain beat down on the Earth.
I went to the statue of him today
And the rain beat down in the same old way
And in his eyes there was great surprise
And he still looked lonely and brave in the rain,
But the flower is stayed there where it shall remain
Till Memorial Day comes around again.
I went again today to see
The statue of him who had died for me.
The flower was beaten close to the ground
And the rain beat again with a steady pound.
There was no wreath laid at his feet
And the rain beat down with a steady beat.
And his face looked noble and full of pride
And bewilderment as when he died.
The drenching rain made my face all wet
And tears were mingled that all should forget,
He looked so lonely and brave in the rain
I thought he must be alive again.
Was there none to honor him once again?
It was only twenty years ago,
How could the world have forgotten him so?
And he sank down in the roaring din
While Earth gathered him in.
He should not go unhonored today
I plucked a flower from where it lay
Glistening and trembling with drops of rain
One should honour him once again.
I laid the flower down beside
The statue of him who had bravely died.
And his face looked brighter, the sun started to shine
I’m sure he was glad I remembered his shrine.
The sun burst out in bright array
That one should remember Memorial Day.
Susan, Please keep up this GOOD deed you are doing by telling us more things about Joan. I am 75 years old but her insights still sincerely touch me. I appreciate what you do to keep her memory alive. God bless you. Frank Galbraith Knoxville, Tennessee
Thanks, Frank! I’m so happy my mom Joan’s writings resonate with so many. It’s an honor to keep her memory alive!