Bantling Psalms


Hard upon the last entry I remembered that Waldo penned his own “psalm” to the new nation commemorating a commemoration of the Battles of Lexington & Concord (April 19, 1775). I thought it would serve to put that poem in close proximity to Melville’s.

Concord Hymn
Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps

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On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

April is perhaps the cruelest month as the “fall of Richmond” happened in early April 1865, with “Evacuation Day” being April 2nd, and with Lincoln touring the fallen capital of the Confederacy shortly thereafter.

“Misgivings (1860.)” is the first of Melville’s “Battle-Pieces.”

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.

We should recognize that we are not the fruit of 1775 but that of 1865.

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