previous next

[279] in his verse. Even his National ode, delivered on a great occasion in 1876, failed to rise to the dignity and power expected of it. It seems, for all its large weight of thought and knowledge, unimportant when compared with Lowell's Commemoration ode. Still a third Pennsylvanian, Thomas Buchanan Read,1 wrote, in Sheridan's Ride, one of the most rousing of all the martial ballads called forth by the war.

Herman Melville,2 who said in the preface to his Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866) ‘I seem, in most of these verses, to have but placed a harp in a window, and noted the contrasted airs which wayward winds have played upon the strings,’ suffered in his verse as in his minor romances from a fatal formlessness, but he had moments of contagious enthusiasm. He celebrated some of the most striking incidents of the war in The Victor of Antietam, The Cumberland, Running the Batteries, Sheridan at Cedar Creek, The fall of Richmond, and The surrender at Appomattox. Most intimately associated with hostilities of all was Charles Graham Halpine,3 better known as Miles O'Reilly, who entered the Union army and became a brigadier-general. Although his verse lacks metrical skill, it is vigorous and full of feeling, generally free of animosities, and in the tone of the soldier rather than of the bitter poet who stays at home.

To get a really vivid idea of the lyric expression of the time one should look less to individual writers or groups of writers than to the subjects which were most commonly their themes. The John Brown affair found many poets: Stedman in How old Brown took Harper's Ferry, Brownell in The battle of Charlestown, fiercely ironic, Whittier in Brown of Ossawatomie, and, above all, the anonymous author (he may have been Charles Sprague Hall) of John Brown's body, which, set to the air of an old Methodist hymn, became the most popular marching song of the Union armies, and survived innumerable parodies and rival versions—to be sung not only by American but by British troops in the present war. The secession of South Carolina called forth the earnest, affectionate Brother Jonathan's lament for sister Caroline by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Stedman and Brownell were but two of the many stirred to

1 See also Book III, Chap. X.

2 See also Book II, Chap. VII.

3 See also Book II, Chap. XIX.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1876 AD (1)
1866 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: