[F]ireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal. Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art. They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach.
To-morrow is Hell-fire Day, that English holiday which we have celebrated, every Fourth of July, for a century and a quarter in fire, blood, tears, mutilation and death, repeating and repeating and forever repeating these absurdities because neither our historians nor our politicians nor our schoolmasters have wit enough to remind the public that the Fourth of July is not an American holiday. However, I doubt if there is a historian, a politician, or a schoolmaster in the country that has ever stopped to consider what the nationality of that day really is. I detest that English holiday with all my heart; not because it is English, and not because it is not American, but merely because this nation goes insane on that day, and by the help of noise and fire turns it into an odious pandemonium. The nation calls it by all sorts of affectionate pet names, but if I had the naming of it I would throw poetry aside and call it Hell’s Delight.
[I]t behooves us as true Americans to enter the splendid new movement which is endeavoring to make the Fourth over from a day of shallow jingoism and unmeaning brutality and carnage into a day of initiation into the meaning of true citizenship and a festival of deep and genuine and beautiful patriotism.
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…. with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.