Thoughts on an American symbol. (Form: Quatrains)
At dawn's last light, as taps are played,
the colors are retired.
Thoughts of the sacrifices made
leave me feeling inspired.
I've heard it said "It's just a flag –
no more than cloth that's sewn"
as though it's just a colored rag
forgetting where it's flown.
It saw first light at Prospect Hill
during our nation's birth;
unfurling in the morning chill
over that hallowed earth.
It flew with pride, o'er those, alone,
who never fled the fight;
their valor for this country's shown
in Francis Scott Key's write.
And even in our saddest hour,
the union ripped apart,
it symbolized a higher power
and healed a nation's heart.
In dark days of the world at war,
under a foreign sky,
it epitomized the oath we swore
that freedom would not die.
The tower twins lay side by side,
felled by hate's cruel stroke
and yet our banner flew with pride
above the dust and smoke.
At dawn's last light, I hear taps blow,
the colors are retired.
The words I learned, long years ago,
come forth as if inspired:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all."
An entry for "Poetry Treasures" [13+]
Form: Quatrains (abab)
Line Count: 37
The retreat ceremony serves a twofold purpose. It signals the end of the official duty day and serves as a ceremony for paying respect to the flag.
Some Obscure History
On January 1, 1776, General George Washington ordered that a new flag be raised on a 76-foot schooner mast placed on Prospect Hill. Representing the 13 united colonies during the Revolutionary War, this was the first true "American" flag flown in [what is now] the United States.
The American Flag seen by Francis Scott Key was huge—30 feet high by 42 feet long—specially ordered by the fort's commander, Major George Armistead, soon after the U.S. declared war on England in 1812. Knowing that the British navy was bound to attack this prime harbor and ship-building center, he wanted a flag big enough that the British couldn't miss it. On September 13, the expected attack came, but after a night of fierce bombardment (as in "the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air"), that gigantic flag signaled that the scrappy Americans had held the fort.
The "Pledge of Allegiance" quoted in the final stanza is the most recent version, approved in 1954. Since its adoption in 1892, it has been changed four times.
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