A discussion of the history of Taps by Jari A. Villanueva, a bugler and bugle historian, formerly the curator of the Taps Bugle Exhibit for Arlington National Cemetery from 1999-2002, and considered a foremost authority on the bugle call of Taps, can be seen at his website.
Master Sergeant Villanueva describes the Taps melody as "both eloquent and haunting and the history of its origin is interesting and somewhat clouded in controversy. In the British Army, a similar call known as Last Post has been sounded over soldiers' graves since 1885, but the use of Taps is unique with the United States military, since the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying and memorial services. . . . The earliest official reference to the mandatory use of Taps at military funeral ceremonies is found in the U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations for 1891, although it had doubtless been used unofficially long before that time, under its former designation Extinguish Lights."
To play Taps now, if your web browser can play music, click one of the following links:
Taps 1 (low bandwidth, 2 kb .mid file)
Taps 2 (medium bandwidth, 300 kb .wav file)
Taps 3 (with 21 gun salute, 530kb .mp3 file)
Taps 4 (2 trumpets, 954 kb .mp3 file)
Taps 5 (high bandwidth, 1,579 kb .mp3 file)
There are no official words to the music, but these are some of the more popular verses of Taps:
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.
Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.
Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.
'Neath the sun, 'Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.