Fly a Clean Flag

by Derrick G. Jeter

This poem from Edgar A. Guest is appropriate for Flag Day. Fly your flag, but remember to fly a clean flag.

This I heard the Old Flag say
As I passed it yesterday:
“Month ago your friendly hands
Fastened me on slender strands
And with patriotic love
Placed me here to wave above
You and yours. I heard you say
On that long departed day:
‘Flag of all that’s true and fine,
Wave above this house of mine;
Be the first at break of day
And the last at night to say
To the world this word of cheer:
Loyalty abideth here.’

“Here on every wind that’s blown,
O’er your portal I have flown;
Rain and snow have battered me,
Storms at night have tattered me;
Dust of street and chimney stack
Day by day have stained me black,
And I’ve watched your passing there,
Wondering how much you care.
Have you noticed that your flag,
Is to-day a wind-blown rag?
Has your love so careless grown
By the long neglect you’ve shown
That you never raise your eye
To the symbol that you fly?”

“Flag, on which no stain has been,
’Tis my sin that you’re unclean,”
Then I answered in my shame.
“On my head must lie the blame.
Now with patriotic hands
I release you from your strands,
And a spotless flag shall fly
Here to greet each passer-by.
Nevermore shall Flag of mine
Be a sad and sorry sign
Telling all who look above
I neglect the thing I love.
But my Flag of faith shall be
Fit for every eye to see.”

Edgar A. Guest, “Fly a Clean Flag,” in Poems of Patriotism (Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1922), 102–103.

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