This poem/song is the first of two selections that speak explicitly about decorating the graves of the warrior dead. It was written in 1870, just two years after, and in response to, General Logan’s order to establish an annual Decoration Day in honor of the memory of the fallen Union soldiers. Mary B. C. Slade (1826–82), poet and author of numerous Protestant hymns, wrote the words; composer and musician William Oscar Perkins (1831–1902) supplied the music. (Although we could not find a recording of the song, the sheet music is available here.)
What is the mood and tone of this song? What, according to the song, is the purpose of Decoration Day for the dead? What is the point of bringing “bright flow’r to deck our soldier’s tomb”? In what sense can flowers be the “best offering” of “our grateful land”? According to the last two verses, “changeless love” is more important than the floral gifts. Why? Can we make a duty of “changeless love”? Can we make good on a pledge of “changeless love”? Does it really matter to the dead?