On Memorial Day we honor all those who died while serving in the United States military. Among them is Joyce Kilmer, a Catholic journalist, poet, and literary critic who was killed in action during the First World War. Best known for his poem, “Trees,” Kilmer was a prolific writer whose deep faith and love of the natural world inspired many of his works.
“The Peacemaker” was the last poem written by Joyce Kilmer. It was penned on a battlefield in France, six weeks before Kilmer’s death.
Upon his will he binds a radiant chain,
For Freedom’s sake he is no longer free.
It is his task, the slave of Liberty,
With his own blood to wipe away a stain.
That pain may cease, he yields his flesh to pain.
To banish war, he must a warrior be.
He dwells in Night, eternal Dawn to see,
And gladly dies, abundant life to gain.
What matters Death, if Freedom be not dead?
No flags are fair, if Freedom’s flag be furled.
Who fights for Freedom, goes with joyful tread
To meet the fires of Hell against him hurled,
And has for captain Him whose thorn-wreathed head
Smiles from the Cross upon a conquered world.