by Herman Melville (1819 - 1891)

Nobler worlds
Language: English 
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.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2014-07-12
Line count: 48
Word count: 305