Joseph Rodney Calek
West Point, 1966
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Ed Wright on February 19, 2009:
Joe and I were both in Company A-4 for our last two years as cadets. He was one of those special friends who combined a robust good humor and insightful intelligence that brought people together and gave them leadership and direction, even over-ebullient classmates normally immune to reasonable peer leadership. As his terse biography in the Register of Graduates bears witness, the Army recognized these highly prized qualities in Joe; he was being groomed for much greater responsibilities with the expectation of greater accomplishments. Then, fate intervened and stole him from us prematurely. Else, after a long illustrious career, some modern poet might one day have penned a "Dirge" worthy of Joe as James Shirley wrote in 1659 of the classical conflict of Ajax and Ulysses:
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things.
There is no armour against fate,
Death lays his icy hand on Kings;
Scepter and crown,
Must tumble down.
And in the dust be equal made,
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.
Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurals where they kill,
But their strong nerves at last must yield,
They tame but one another still;
Early or late,
They stoop to fate,
And must give up the murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.
The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon death's purple alter now,
See where the victor-victim's bleeds,
Your heads must come,
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in their dust.
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