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May 28, 2006

In Arlington

Arlington1

Arlington2

Private William Christman

was the first one

we laid down

Now there are a

quarter million

in that hallowed ground

Bugles blow

and caissons roll

two dozen times a day

At that rate

in fifteen years,

there’ll be no place to lay,

in Arlington

***

As you can imagine, there are many funerals and cemeteries in the visual press today.

I was drawn to a video feature on the nyt.com home page titled “Finite Arlington.”  The piece is narrated by Andrew C. Revkin, a Times science reporter with a love of music.  It shows scenes of the great war cemetery accompanied by a song called “Arlington.”  Written and composed by Mr. Revkin, it highlights the headstone of the first soldier buried there — Private William Christman in 1864.  It also touches on rituals of the place, and soldiers from other eras.  Mostly though, it ponders one affecting question: what will happen when Arlington is finally full?  (This “eventuality” is projected sometime around 2020.)

I am sorry for every man and woman who has died in war, and profoundly sorry for those who gave their lives in the current one.  What frames this Memorial Day so well is the video’s final impression.  It shows one gravestone so old its space is in contention with a tree.  Poetically and fittingly, the soldier’s name was Pride.

Especially now, these are fateful metaphors: Running out of room for losses — and swallowing pride.

————–

Update 5/29/06 10:05 pm PST:  By popular demand, music and lyrics to Arlington are right here.





(NY Times video.  Written/Composed by Andrew C. Revkin.  Producer: Craig Duff.  Performed by Uncle Wade.)

  • http://www.wreckingboy.com/madworld Nezahualimón Johnsettia, Jr.

    Well said. Beautiful photo.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sravana/ sravana

    Ummm. I think you mean “bugles blow”, not “bulges blow”, though the latter makes for some interesting mental imagery…
    Sravana, sorry that she’s a red-pencil Virgo!

  • The BAG

    Edit made. Thanks.

  • http://www.dock.net/fuming_mucker Darryl Pearce

    Do we have a link to the song lyrics? Google hasn’t helped much.
    For me, the song that got into my head today was Flogging Molly’s Screaming at the Wailing Wall.

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    Satellite view from Google Maps.

  • itwasntme

    Sorry to take up so much space in comments section, but here’s Pete Seeger:
    It was back in nineteen forty-two,
    I was a member of a good platoon.
    We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
    One night by the light of the moon.
    The captain told us to ford a river,
    That’s how it all begun.
    We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,
    But the big fool said to push on.
    The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
    This is the best way back to the base?”
    “Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
    ‘Bout a mile above this place.
    It’ll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
    We’ll soon be on dry ground.”
    We were — waist deep in the Big Muddy
    And the big fool said to push on.
    The Sergeant said, “Sir, with all this equipment
    No man will be able to swim.”
    “Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”
    The Captain said to him.
    “All we need is a little determination;
    Men, follow me, I’ll lead on.”
    We were — neck deep in the Big Muddy
    And the big fool said to push on.
    All at once, the moon clouded over,
    We heard a gurgling cry.
    A few seconds later, the captain’s helmet
    Was all that floated by.
    The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!
    I’m in charge from now on.”
    And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
    With the captain dead and gone.
    We stripped and dived and found his body
    Stuck in the old quicksand.
    I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper
    Than the place he’d once before been.
    Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
    ‘Bout a half mile from where we’d gone.
    We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
    When the big fool said to push on.
    Well, I’m not going to point any moral;
    I’ll leave that for yourself
    Maybe you’re still walking, you’re still talking
    You’d like to keep your health.
    But every time I read the papers
    That old feeling comes on;
    We’re — waist deep in the Big Muddy
    And the big fool says to push on.
    Waist deep in the Big Muddy
    And the big fool says to push on.
    Waist deep in the Big Muddy
    And the big fool says to push on.
    Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
    Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re
    Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
    And the big fool says to push on!
    Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)
    TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

  • http://www.andyrevkin.gather.com Andy Revkin

    lyrics to Arlington, and the song streaming, are at my band’s website, http://www.myspace.com/unclewade
    thanks for your reactions to the video story / music.
    – andy r.

  • http://www.dock.net/fuming_mucker Darryl Pearce

    Thanks!

  • Tortdog

    You know, most of the people buried in Arlington did not die as a result of a war. Anyone who is a veteran can be buried there. All of my ancestors who are buried in Arlington died long after the wars they served in. Nice point, but it’s inaccurate.

  • ummabdulla

    Tortdog: “Anyone who is a veteran can be buried there.”
    That’s not true; there are restrictions about which service members can be buried in Arlington Cemetery.

  • bluecollarscholar

    WHERE HAVE ALL THE SOLDIERS GONE…?
    …gone to flowers, every one.

  • hauksdottir

    IIRC, Arlington was a confederate lady’s rose garden which was comandeered and plowed under to make a cemetary. England’s War of the Roses was a civil war, too. However, they didn’t take it out on the plants.
    Perhaps the song ought to be “where have all the flowers gone, gone to gravesites, every one…”?
    What fool would rather see acres of solemn little white markers than roses and bees in the sunshine?

  • tortdog

    >That’s not true; there are restrictions about which service members can be buried in Arlington Cemetery.
    Like what restrictions?

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