Today is Memorial Day in the United States. The Holiday was originally an annual event to commemorate soldiers who died during the American Civil War, before being expanded in the early 20th Century to an event memorializing service members killed during all American wars.
I find it relevant to read and contemplate Robert Lowell’s poem “For the Union Dead” on this day, given both the original context of the Holiday, and the power of the poem. In terms of content, it’s a complex poem that among others things deals with memory in modern society and pays tribute to the Union dead of the Civil War, in particular Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first black military unit to fight for the U.S. military.
This is a link to Lowell’s poem:
Reginald Shepherd’s Blog has an insightful discussion of Lowell’s poem:
The following link connects to a recording of Lowell reading “For the Union Dead,” the poem, and a short essay on Lowell:
The following is a short history of Memorial Day:
This page is a short biography of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw:
This link contains a short history of the Massachusetts 54th: