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Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War   By: (1819-1891)

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Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War.

By Herman Melville.


The Battle Pieces in this volume are dedicated to the memory of the THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND who in the war for the maintenance of the Union fell devotedly under the flag of their fathers.

[With few exceptions, the Pieces in this volume originated in an impulse imparted by the fall of Richmond. They were composed without reference to collective arrangement, but being brought together in review, naturally fall into the order assumed.

The events and incidents of the conflict making up a whole, in varied amplitude, corresponding with the geographical area covered by the war from these but a few themes have been taken, such as for any cause chanced to imprint themselves upon the mind.

The aspects which the strife as a memory assumes are as manifold as are the moods of involuntary meditation moods variable, and at times widely at variance. Yielding instinctively, one after another, to feelings not inspired from any one source exclusively, and unmindful, without purposing to be, of consistency, I seem, in most of these verses, to have but placed a harp in a window, and noted the contrasted airs which wayward wilds have played upon the strings.]

The Portent. (1859.)

Hanging from the beam, Slowly swaying (such the law), Gaunt the shadow on your green, Shenandoah! The cut is on the crown (Lo, John Brown), And the stabs shall heal no more.

Hidden in the cap Is the anguish none can draw; So your future veils its face, Shenandoah! But the streaming beard is shown (Weird John Brown), The meteor of the the war.

Misgivings. (1860.)

When ocean clouds over inland hills Sweep storming in late autumn brown, And horror the sodden valley fills, And the spire falls crashing in the town, I muse upon my country's ills The tempest bursting from the waste of Time On the world's fairest hope linked with man's foulest crime.

Nature's dark side is heeded now (Ah! optimist cheer disheartened flown) A child may read the moody brow Of yon black mountain lone. With shouts the torrents down the gorges go, And storms are formed behind the storm we feel: The hemlock shakes in the rafter, the oak in the driving keel.

The Conflict of Convictions.[1] (1860 1.)

On starry heights A bugle wails the long recall; Derision stirs the deep abyss, Heaven's ominous silence over all. Return, return, O eager Hope, And face man's latter fall. Events, they make the dreamers quail; Satan's old age is strong and hale, A disciplined captain, gray in skill, And Raphael a white enthusiast still; Dashed aims, at which Christ's martyrs pale, Shall Mammon's slaves fulfill?

( Dismantle the fort, Cut down the fleet Battle no more shall be! While the fields for fight in ├Žons to come Congeal beneath the sea. )

The terrors of truth and dart of death To faith alike are vain; Though comets, gone a thousand years, Return again, Patient she stands she can no more And waits, nor heeds she waxes hoar.

( At a stony gate, A statue of stone, Weed overgrown Long 'twill wait! )

But God his former mind retains, Confirms his old decree; The generations are inured to pains, And strong Necessity Surges, and heaps Time's strand with wrecks. The People spread like a weedy grass, The thing they will they bring to pass, And prosper to the apoplex. The rout it herds around the heart, The ghost is yielded in the gloom; Kings wag their heads Now save thyself Who wouldst rebuild the world in bloom.

( Tide mark And top of the ages' strike, Verge where they called the world to come, The last advance of life Ha ha, the rust on the Iron Dome! )

Nay, but revere the hid event; In the cloud a sword is girded on, I mark a twinkling in the tent Of Michael the warrior one... Continue reading book >>

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