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26oCIVIL WAR HISTORY The Columbia Book ofCivil War Poetry. Edited by Richard Marius, Associate editor Keith Frame. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Pp. 543. $24-95) During the early 1860s, the mayhem ofcivil war generated songs and poems by hundreds of poets and would-be poets, but this effusion did not end with Appomattox. Shortly after the war, more poetry was inspired to commemorate the dead and promote the healing of a nation that had been torn apart in the fratricidal conflict, and the decades since then have brought forth countless additional contributions. Generally, however, the poems pubUshed during the war and its immediate aftermath have been buried by time, for relatively few of them—especially those of Melville and Whitman—ascended beyond conventionaUty in form, rhetoric, and sentiment. If most of this poetry is of dubious aesthetic value, why resuscitate it so long after its burial? According to editor Richard Marius, the poems coUected in The Columbia Book ofCivil War Poetry reflect the "pecuUarities of the war and the stages of sentiment about it" (xix). His statement suggests that the purpose behind the anthology is documentary; the poems, their aesthetic value or valuelessness notwithstanding, were presumably selected chiefly toprovide acrosssection of representative social views regarding die Civil War, its prelude and aftermath. Consequently, it offers what he calls "wretched poem[s]," such as RandaU's "My Maryland" and LoweU's commemoration 'Ode," with literary jewels like Melville's "The Portent" and Whitman's "When LUacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." Of the poetry pubUshed roughly contemporary with the war, Union sentiments in this coUection outnumber those favoring the South by about seven to one. Three poems by Henry Tirnrod, "Poet Laureate of the Confederacy," are included, but not his "Edmogenesis," which probably should have been. Paul Hamilton Hayne, second in importance as a Southern poet at the time, is not represented at aU. Neither is WiUiam Gilmore Simms, then still the region's preeminent author; he edited a coUection called War Poetry ofthe South (1866), in which he inserted a few of his own poems among its more than two hundred selections. Yet the 146 poems in the Columbia Book are diversified, and it would be unjustifiable to quibble over specific titles that might better have been added or omitted, especially because this coUection is aimed for general readers, not scholars . Nevertheless, certain limitations dowarrantconsideration. Forone, itis surprising to see so Uttle attention devoted to literary concerns in a coUection of poetry. The historical introduction deals minimaUy with the poems and provides Uttle if any information about the poets. The same shortcoming carries over to the brief annotations preceding each poem; these are often vacuous or so spare as to be meaningless. This is true, for example, of the headnotes for MelviUe's "Ball's Bluff' and 'The Martyr," the latter of which impUes that die poem expresses the poet's promise of vengeance rather than the people's. The headnotes for Rogers's "In 'Fifty Congress Passed a BiU" and Whitfield's "From Year to Year the Contest BOOK REVIEWS261 Grew," among many similar ones, do not even mention die poets, about whom the reader learns nothing but their names. Another shortcoming, especially unexpected of an anthology edited by a historian and published by a university press, is that no references are provided to help interested readers locate additional CivU War poems or scholarship on the poetry and poets. The only sources listed are acknowledgments of permission to publish items still under copyright. For nineteenth-century poems, then, no textual sources are given; die poems may have been drawn from newspapers or early"collections, corrupt texts or sound ones. Furthermore, no dates are noted for either die composition or initial pubUcation of die individual poems. Although Lee Steinmetz's anthology, The Poetry of the American Civil War (i960), has its own problems, it presents the poems more satisfactorily in a literary and social context than Marius's collection, and readers interested specificaUy in war poetry ofdie i86os, to which Steinmetz limited his volume, would do well to consult it. According to a statement on die dustjacket, "77«? Columbia Book ofCivil War Poetry is a unique anthology...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 260-261
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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