LANCE CORPORAL ALAN LOUIS SHAW
5TH SEPTEMBER 1915 AGE 30
BURIED: CHOCQUES MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
This inscription comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Voluntaries, written in 1863. The relevant verse reads :
In an age of fops and toys,
Wanting wisdom, void of right.
Who shall nerve heroic boys
To hazard all in Freedom's fight, -
Break sharply off their jolly games,
Forsake their comrades gay,
And quit proud homes and youthful dames,
For famine, toil, and fray?
Yet on the nimble air benign
Speed nimbler messages,
That waft the breath of grace divine
To hearts in sloth and ease.
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.
The poem is Emerson's tribute to the young men who volunteered to fight for the Union in the American Civil War. The last four lines of the verse are among Emerson's best-known lines and regularly appear on memorials to veterans of all subsequent wars.
Alan Shaw volunteered on the outbreak of war in 1914. He was killed the following May by an unlucky ricochet from a stray bullet which pierced his spine.