Battle-Pieces

Song Cycle by Paul Phillips

Word count: 915

1. A reverie [sung text checked 1 time]

One noonday, at my window in the town,
    I saw a sight -- saddest that eyes can see --
    Young soldiers marching lustily
      Unto the wars,
With fifes, and flags in mottoed pageantry;
      While all the porches, walks, and doors
Were rich with ladies cheering royally.
  
They moved like [Juny]1 morning on the wave,
  Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime
  (It was the breezy summer time),
       Life throbbed so strong,
How should they dream that Death in a rosy clime
  Would come to thin their shining throng?
Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.

Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed,
    By night I mused, of easeful sleep bereft,
    On those brave boys (Ah War! thy theft);
      Some marching feet
Found pause at last by cliffs Potomac cleft;
     Wakeful I mused, while in the street
Far footfalls died away till none were left.

Authorship

See other settings of this text.

View original text (without footnotes)
Confirmed with Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War by Hermann Melville, New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, Franklin Square, 1866, pages 28-29.

1 Eidson: "June"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. The night flight [sung text checked 1 time]

Who inhabiteth the Mountain
  That it shines in lurid light,
And is rolled about with thunders,
  And terrors, and a blight,
Like Kaf the peak of Eblis —­
  Kaf, the evil height? 
Who has gone up with a shouting
  And a trumpet in the night?

There is battle in the Mountain —­
  Might assaulteth Might;
’Tis the fastness of the Anarch,
  Torrent-torn, an ancient height;
The crags resound the clangor
  Of the war of Wrong and Right;
And the armies in the valley
  Watch and pray for dawning light.

Joy, Joy, the day is breaking,
  And the cloud is rolled from sight;
There is triumph in the Morning
  For the Anarch’s plunging flight;
God has glorified the Mountain
  Where a Banner burneth bright,
And the armies in the valley
  They are fortified in right.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. Misgivings [sung text checked 1 time]

  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.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. In the prison pen [sung text checked 1 time]

Listless he eyes the palisades
     And sentries in the glare;
’Tis barren as a pelican-beach —
     But his world is ended there.
 
Nothing to do; and vacant hands
     Bring on the idiot-pain;
He tries to think — to recollect,
     But the blur is on his brain.
 
Around him swarm the plaining ghosts
     Like those on Virgil’s shore —
A wilderness of faces dim,
     And pale ones gashed and hoar.
 
A smiting sun. No shed, no tree;
     He totters to his lair —
A den that sick hands dug in earth
     Ere famine wasted there,
 
Or, dropping in his place, he swoons,
     Walled in by throngs that press,
Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead —
      Dead in his meagerness.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. Magnanimity baffled [sung text checked 1 time]

“Sharp words we had before the fight;
  But – now the fight is done –
Look, here’s my hand,” said the Victor bold,
  “Take it – an honest one!
What, holding back? I mean you well;
  Though worsted, you strove stoutly, man;
The odds were great; I honor you:
  Man honors man."

“Still silent, friend? Can grudges be?
  Yet am I held a foe? –
Turned to the wall, on his cot he lies –
  Never I’ll leave him so!
Brave one! I here implore your hand;
  Dumb still? all fellowship fled?
Nay, then, I’ll have this stubborn hand!”
  He snatched it – it was dead.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. Nobler worlds [sung text checked 1 time]

When Israel camped by Migdol hoar,
  Down at her feet her shawm she threw,
But Moses sung and timbrels rung 
  For Pharaoh’s stranded crew.
So God appears in apt events –
  The Lord is a man of war!
So the strong wing to the muse is given 
      In victory’s roar.

Deep be the ode that hymns the fleet –
  The fight by night – the fray, 
Which bore our Flag against the powerful stream, 
  And led it up to day.
Dully through din of larger strife 
  Shall bay that warring gun;
But none the less to us who live 
  It peals – an echoing one.

The shock of ships, the jar of walls, 
  The rush through thick and thin –
The flaring fire-rafts, glare and gloom –
  Eddies, and shells that spin –
The boom-chain burst, the hulks dislodged,
  The jam of gun-boats driven,
Or fired, or sunk – made up a war 
  Like Michael’s waged with leven.

They fought through lurid dark till dawn; 
  The war-smoke rolled away
With clouds of night, and showed the fleet
  In scarred yet firm array,
Above the forts, above the drift 
  Of wrecks which strife had made;
And Farragut sailed up to the town 
  And anchored – sheathed the blade.

The moody broadsides, brooding deep, 
  Hold the lewd mob at bay,
While o’er the armed decks’ solemn aisles 
  The meek church-pennons play;
By shotted guns the sailors stand, 
  With foreheads bound or bare; 
The captains and the conquering crews 
  Humble their pride in prayer.

They pray; and after victory, prayer 
  Is meet for men who mourn their slain;
The living shall unmoor and sail, 
  But Death’s dark anchor secret deeps detain.
Yet Glory slants her shaft of rays
  Far through the undisturbed abyss;
There must be other, nobler worlds for them 
  Who nobly yield their lives in this.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]