A Decoration Day

The reign of death was there,
Where swept the winter winds with pipes and moans,
And stretched in silence bare,
A colonade of gray sepulchral stones.

But then it was in May,
And all the fields were bright and gay with tune
That Decoration Day,
And blossoms wore their hues and breath of June.

A motley crowd that came —
But who more fit than they that once were slaves,
Despised, unknown to fame,
With love should decorate the soldiers' graves.

Black feet trod cheerily
From out the town in crowds or straggling bands,
And flowers waved and flaunted merrily,
From little Negro hands.

And far, far away
From home and love, deep in a silent bed,
Beneath the sky of May,
Was sleeping there in solitude, the dead.

But for the hearts that day,
Who in the distant North wept sore and sighed,
Black hands with sweets of May,
Made green the graves of those who for them died.
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