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Signed with their honour

Sometimes life needs a poem. When Celia Pitt Ralston’s husband died, she was eighty-two. As she was driven down to the hospital, to say goodbye to the husband who had fought with the American Army in World War I and World War II, she recited the poetry she had learned as a young woman. She was a very great reader, so she knew Stephen Spender’s poem “The Truly Great” (1933). Here is the last verse:

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.