The Poetry of the American Civil War
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Michigan State University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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“It is certain that since the time of Homer the deeds and circumstances of war have not been felicitously sung.” So began an anonymous reflection on wartime poetry in the July 1862 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. The Civil War was little more than a year old, and its literary output already seemed as unimpressive as the early performances of Union...
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This anthology attempts to present, for the first time, a comprehensive view of American Civil War poetry written and published in America at the time of the conflict. There is, it seems to me, a general impression current that American poets during the 1860s were content to let the fabricators of a few marching songs enjoy a virtual monopoly in the...
Chapter One. The War Scene
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Although Civil War poets frequently used the war as a convenient sounding- board for their ideas concerning society, religion, man’s place in the universe, a considerable number strove to capture something of the immediacy of war and its impact on soldiers and their families. Very few of the poems which resulted from this effort, however, approach a vivid realism...
Chapter Two. The Holy War
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Some poets, at least in a portion of their war verse, portrayed the war in natural rather than in supernatural terms. But nineteenth century American society was not pre-eminently humanistic; it was preeminently Christian. And since religion loomed large in the life of society, poets, adapting the war to the attitudes of the time, more often than not...
Chapter Three. Social Commentary
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Most Civil War poetry inclined toward the sentimental or melodramatic. Poets, regardless of their subject, ordinarily interpreted the war as a colorful, dramatic, emotional spectacle, as a pageant designed to bring to the surface hitherto submerged heroics. But a minority voice insisted on a hearing. A handful of poets, North and South, adopting a...
Chapter Four. Slavery
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Poets North and South were convinced that the Civil War resulted from clearly defined forces over which man had, or should have had, control. From this attitude grew an intensely vitriolic verse. And, since vitriol is vitriol, wherever one finds it, it is not surprising that Northern and Southern poets employed identical epithets. A favorite label of opprobrium...
Chapter Five. Stories of the War
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The long verse narrative— sentimental, melodramatic, moralistic— constituted one of the mid- century’s most popular poetic genres. These poetic counterparts of the sentimental novel frequently conformed, as did their sisters in prose, to a rather inflexible formula. Most came equipped with spotless hero, virtuous heroine, and consummate villain...
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Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012