[ 1 ] The
citation is to Walt Whitman's tribute to the assassinated Abraham Lincoln in
the following poem from
Leaves of Grass (1900). For Ives, this citation is meant to
point up the solidarity with all those who "fought and died" for freedom.
The modern day antiwar movement has put forward empty slogans such as "war
is not the answer," when in fact sadly war, as we saw with Lincoln, Wilson
before the election of Harding, and Roosevelt afterwards was simply
inescapable. Moreover the outcomes throughout brought the world closer
toward the ideals of "freedom for all" as the decades pass. That such
cultural icons as Charles Ives, Walt Whitman (
the States ), Ambrose Bierce ( Freedom ),
Carl Sandburg ( Government
), and so many more in our modern day such as Rummel (
tell, my brother, why
) all stress that freedom is that for which one must "fight" makes
visible the awareness that "fought and died" did so "that better things
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
[ 2 ]
From Ives' self-published
114 Songs, page 50, his note for "Nov. 2. 1920" is as
follows: "Soliloquy of an old man whose son lies in "Flanders Fields"
It is the day after election; he is sitting by the roadside, Looking down
the valley towards the station."
[ 3 ] An
anecdote: At dinner the night before I completed this setting, some German
friends asked directly where I felt most at home and most at peace. I
answered that I am most at home in that land called "freedom." Having lived
in many places throughout my career, I feel this most profoundly.
Freedom is defined best as "freedom from" many kinds of
oppression, and among them most large is an invasive government such as that
of National Socialism, Soviet Socialism and similar governments as the
history of wars for freedom in the twentieth century has so well documented.
For this I hold with Ives to honor those who "fought and died that better
things might be."
[ 4 ] The
notion of protest songs is remarkable, for there are those who would see a
protest against war being a protest against all wars, where in fact Ives saw
the distinction. In an audio recording by Charles Ives, he sings "They are
Part of this text reads: "Most wars are made by small, stupid, / selfish
bossing groups, / While the People have no say, / But there'll come a day, /
Hip, hip, hooray, / When they'll smash all dictators to the wall!" This most
assuredly is not an early version of the bumper sticker and placard slogan,
"War in not the answer," but rather a call to what has been termed through
the ages the
casus belli, the just war. Ives made a distinction in his own
words as in this recording just mentioned, that a people must fight for
freedom when it comes to that moment in time. Thus the last lines of text
for his recorded song are, "For it's rally round the flag / of the People's
New Free World, / Shouting the battle cry of freedom!" This is militant in a
way and at the same time a protest; it is a protest against those
"politicians" -- as his words testify -- who would not heed their people's
A "free world" was the phrase used decades ago to contrast the West to the
sphere of the Soviet Union and its Iron Curtain. Ives' call to us in his
words and music is to be ever ready to fight for that free world, a people's
world, in which the individualism of men such as Ives have a protected
place, protected against reigning political trends and "all dictators." For
this Ives' text affirms that "they fought and died that better
things might be!"
The words of one such man were
recently published in
Der Spiegel, 3 April 2008, in an article titled "One
Man's War On Terror, The American GI from Berlin," by Ullrich
Fichtner. This German-born, American soldier, Berlin-born
Jeffrey Jamaleldine is quoted as saying, "And what are you doing
so that we can have peace? How much longer do you think you'd be
sitting around drinking coffee in fancy Berlin cafés if people
like me didn't exist? If there was nobody to make sure you could
live in peace? If there was nobody to fight terrorism?"
This one man among many generations of men "fought" and so many
"died" for freedom. That antiwar demonstrators may demonstrate
freely in free nations testifies not to their coddled and
protected antiwar sentiments expressed in free societies, but to
such as Ives, Janameldine and literally millions like them who
provided that freedom, for in totalitarian nations such
demonstrations are crushed, and the absence of such antiwar
protesters going to risk their own lives in such places
testifies to the vapidity of their wholly risk-free argument.