IN the great cathedral in the city of Rouen there is a chapel, and over the altar of the chapel some flags are draped. The flag of Belgium is there, the flag of England, the flag of France, and the flag of Italy; and then another flag, a fifth flag, and the fifth flag is at the center of the group; and the flag in the center over that altar in the Cathedral of Rouen is the Stars and Stripes of our own United States! As one looks at it he instinctively exclaims: "Is it possible, is it possible, that Europe has placed our banner in such a position as that? Is it to be dreamed that such a parable as that is uttered here? Is it possible that this nation that is weary with the conflict of these years has placed that banner over the very altar before which it bows in prayer, that those that bow in prayer may lift their eyes from that prayer and see our flag at the center of the group representing the human resources for the remedying of the world’s great wrong?" So it is. So it is. The manhood and the womanhood of France are kneeling before that altar, and when they raise their eyes in their moments of supreme devotion they are looking with eyes of gratitude and with eyes of faith upon the symbol of your land and of my land. It is a marvelous thing that France has put our flag in the center of that group of flags, and we may be absolutely certain that such a thing as that does not come to pass by any mere accident. Shall we not believe that somehow or other the hand that put it there was the hand of prophecy? Shall we not believe that those who rise from prayer and look upon it are exercising the hope that America will make good, and shall we not further believe that by the good providence of God our flag there in the center of the group is significant of the part America shall surely play in the bringing this tragedy of the ages to its ultimate conclusion?
And America is doing all in her power to bring to pass that which we are all hoping and praying for. Our boys over there are ready to give their lives, if need be, for the flag they love and for the ideals it symbolizes.
The nation upon the threshold of the day of peril feels the thrill of a new unity. Those who have been born beneath the flag and those who have left the old lands for the new, will stand together in their defense of the flag and the institutions which it represents. Yesterday our eyes may have been dimmed, but to-day we see that the flag under the protection of which we were born or beneath which we have chosen our dwelling place deserves and shall have our loyal support, our love, our fortune, and, if need be, life itself. The God of the nations has spoken to us.
Jesus Christ the great Redeemer, the divine Brother of men, beckons us. It is a new age toward which we face, and in the name of God and humanity we must resolutely, loyally stand with the President of the United States in every word and act in defense of the flag and realization of the nation’s destiny. God save the nation and make America a blessing to the whole world!
Wave, flag of freedom, wave! The sun which lights thee
Long ago beheld the marching forth of honest men by worthy leaders led ‘gainst
Power and dominion; beheld their unfaltering zeal until
The insolent assertion of the crown gave way and at
Yorktown came surrender of the claim held by the patriot heart intolerable.
Wave, flag of freedom, wave! The stars which watch thee saw
The campfires of those fateful days when valorous men in blue and gray
Made battle for the faith which each confessed, and fought until
While reverberating thunders shook the earth, the prison doors swung open
And a race marched forth to sing the song of freedom
As only they can sing whose limbs have felt the galling chains of slavery,
And then the sword was sheathed and peace came, and the storm clouds fled.
The sword had written large what the pen had failed in writing legibly—
The North, the South, the East, the
West, henceforth forever one and indivisible.
Wave, flag of freedom, wave! While ever great Virginia’s
Greatest son in peace and war, still
First to us, looks down
On flag and nation unashamed, seeing valor and discretion still
With honor bound indissolubly as in the days of old.
Or while from glory’s height that other face looks down
With deep-set eyes, and lines of care upon that brow which
Never needed crown of gold to make it kingly,
While ever Lincoln can look down and see the nation grown so great in all
Material things, holding its own high place among the nations—
Wave, flag of freedom, wave!
Wave, flag of freedom, wave! While all the winds that blow—
Rude winds that ride the furious billows, or gentle winds that come from
Making love with orchards in blossom and gardens beautiful—while all the winds
Tell to thee that weary men are praying and heartsick women,
That all the homeless folk long piteously for home;
Or while the winds come freighted with
The whispered hopes of those who trembling under the cruel
Hand of unsated power yet dare to hope—
So long as weary hearts shall turn to thee with yearning, and thou shalt send to them
Thy cheer, thy gospel of the equal chance, the pledge of chivalrous power to
Weakness everywhere—so long as thou shalt claim
The redeemer’s part in the sublime adventure of succoring the needy,
Wave, flag of freedom, wave!
But if the day shall come when, with
conscienceless wealth or sullen poverty or braggart might
Or cringing cowardice, we should forget the good old days,
Or bodies satisfied should outlive the soul’s unselfish passion,
Or strength should reckon as its compelling task the guardianship
Of self, or on land the fainting should cry unheard,
Or on sea the sinking should stretch forth pitiful hand unseen,
Or if the winds which bring appeal should wait and wait
And then go back to say, "There is no flutter of its folds,
It does not see, it does not hear; We searched, but
Could not feel one heart-throb"; or if the winds that bring the
Cry from any land should carry back the message—
"Yes, the fluttering of the folds declared
the old flag heard, but still there was
No bending of the staff, no tugging at the halyards, as though it struggled to bring answer"—
Should there come an hour when the face of Washington would sadly turn away,
Or Lincoln’s great heart break again— if anguish such as that can come to the immortals—
If ever there should come a day when crimson stood for shame and not for sacrifice,
When white betokened pallied indecision rather than radiant righteousness,
Or blue seemed more the sign of fear than truth,
Or if the stars upon the field so far forgot the burden of Key’s ancient song,
So lost the flashing splendor of great-heartedness
That all the blazing stars of heaven among which the immortals dwell
Should look upon the stars for which the immortals strove,
Despising them, counting their very presence an offense—
If such a day should come—Ah, then!
But, O, it must not be. Nor wealth, nor
Pride, nor fear, nor glamour of allurement, nor shadow of discouragement,
Nor vagarious dream confusing state craft, nor the
Delusive cry, "All’s well!" Even as the lookout sights
Tumultuous breakers with the jagged rocks ahead,
Nor the bewildering message of false prophets, who smile and cannot frown,
Who never knew the majesty of sinless wrath, and
Greet with equal warmth the false and true;
False prophets who discern no scepter, who ne’er have looked upon the great white throne—
Nor one nor all must blind thee to high destiny
Nor rob thee of the glory consummate, the glory of guiding the storm-tossed home.
The glory of unmeasured wrath against foul wrong,
The glory of unceasing sacrifice for all men’s good—
Such be thy glory:—
The glory of the pure and true, who rather
Than live on and on, with cowardly endurance of dishonor,
Or with mere mumbling protest feeble and soon forgot—
Would hazard all and gladly welcome death, if so must be,
With hands unstained would beckon death,
Would laugh at death with that fine scorn which only hearts courageous know.
O, flag of freedom, with thy promise of new dwelling place for men
Vaster than the old and statelier,
Wave until the fluttering flags of all the nations signal thee
That brotherhood at last holds sway,
That love and equal laws and peace dwell everywhere
Seeking the blessing of the God of Hosts.
May all thy sons—e’en though in speech or memory
Fond trace of far off lands remain—
May all thy sons—whene’er the call shall come—
Rise to defend thee, swearing their love, their fortune and their lives for thee.
Wave for a thousand years,
O, flag of freedom, wave!
1Permission of the New York Tribune.
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© 2001, by Lynn Waterman