Battle-pieces and Aspects of the War

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Da Capo Press, 1995 - History - 272 pages
3 Reviews
Herman Melville (1819-1891) stopped writing fiction after the publication of The Confidence Man: His Masquerade ] in 1857; as he entered his forties, he turned to poetry as his literary avocation. His first published book of poems was Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), a meditation on the Civil War in short lyric and narrative verses, and a work as ambitious and rich as any that issued from his pen. Melville was well acquainted with the war. He made many trips south to visit his cousin Henry Gansevoort, a Union officer--on one such trip, he was active in an unsuccessful pursuit of Confederate raider John Mosby. He had met Abraham Lincoln in Washington, and called upon General Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia in 1864. And his position within his family, whose members were involved in almost every aspect of the war, was close enough to allow him a rare vantage point on this country's greatest conflict. But, Battle-Pieces is anything but epic. Rather than celebratory, the tone of Melville's poem is grievous and disconsolate. "Unmindful, without purposing to be, of consistency" (as Melville puts it in his preface), the poems do not attempt to paint a broad picture of the whole of the war, but rather represent disjoint aspects, each faithful to Melville's impulsive, modern, yet realist view of the tragedy.This facsimile edition of Battle-Pieces includes 72 poems on almost every major campaign, battle, and event; Melville's own detailed historical notes and his supplementary essay on Reconstruction; and a new introduction by Lee Rust Brown, who teaches English at the University of Utah and is the author of The Emerson Museum. An American classic is thus available once again.
  

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Battle-pieces and aspects of the war

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

After publishing five novels, some of which flourished and others that floundered, Melville turned his pen to poetry. Melville based his Civil War poems on firsthand experience, and rather than glorify battle, he depicts the horrors and the waste of it. Read full review

Review: Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War: Civil War Poems

User Review  - Tiffany Blue thompson - Goodreads

unexpectedly moving from an author most now only as a novelist. Read full review

Contents

Misgivings
13
Apathy and Enthusiasm
19
Baits Bluff
28
The Cumberland
53
A utilitarian View of the Monitors Fight
61
Malvern Hill
67
Battle of Stone River
73
Stonewall Jackson
79
The Fall of Richmond
135
The Martyr
141
The Muster
146
A Grave near Petersburg Virginia
153
America r6
160
Inscription for Graves at Pea Ridge
166
On the Slain at Chickamauga
172
An uninscribed Monument on one of
173

The Housetop
86
The Armies of the Wilderness
93
On the Photograph of a Corps Commander
105
Sheridan at Cedar Creek
116
The Eagle of the Blue
122
The March to the Sea
128
Commemorative of a Naval Victory
180
The Scout toward Alois
187
Lee in the Capitol
217
A Meditation 239
243
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

Melville was born into a seemingly secure, prosperous world, a descendant of prominent Dutch and English families long established in New York State. That security vanished when first, the family business failed, and then, two years later, in young Melville's thirteenth year, his father died. Without enough money to gain the formal education that professions required, Melville was thrown on his own resources and in 1841 sailed off on a whaling ship bound for the South Seas. His experiences at sea during the next four years were to form in part the basis of his best fiction. Melville's first two books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), were partly romance and partly autobiographical travel books set in the South Seas. Both were popular successes, particularly Typee, which included a stay among cannibals and a romance with a South Sea maiden. During the next several years, Melville published three more romances that drew upon his experiences at sea: Redburn (1849) and White-Jacket (1850), both fairly realistic accounts of the sailor's life and depicting the loss of innocence of central characters; and Mardi (1849), which, like the other two books, began as a romance of adventure but turned into an allegorical critique of contemporary American civilization. Moby Dick (1851) also began as an adventure story, based on Melville's experiences aboard the whaling ship. However, in the writing of it inspired in part by conversations with his friend and neighbor Hawthorne and partly by his own irrepressible imagination and reading of Shakespeare and other Renaissance dramatists Melville turned the book into something so strange that, when it appeared in print, many of his readers and critics were dumbfounded, even outraged. Their misgivings were in no way resolved by the publication in 1852 of his next novel, Pierre; or, the Ambiguities Pierre; or, the Ambiguities, a deeply personal, desperately pessimistic work that tells of the moral ruination of an innocent young man. By the mid-1850s, Melville's literary reputation was all but destroyed, and he was obliged to live the rest of his life taking whatever jobs he could find and borrowing money from relatives, who fortunately were always in a position to help him. He continued to write, however, and published some marvelous short fiction pieces Benito Cereno" (1855) and "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1853) are the best. He also published several volumes of poetry, the most important of which was Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), poems of occasionally great power that were written in response to the moral challenge of the Civil War. His posthumously published work, Billy Budd (1924), on which he worked up until the time of his death, is Melville's last significant literary work, a brilliant short novel that movingly describes a young sailor's imprisonment and death. Melville's reputation, however, rests most solidly on his great epic romance, Moby Dick. It is a difficult as well as a brilliant book, and many critics have offered interpretations of its complicated ambiguous symbolism. Darrel Abel briefly summed up Moby Dick as "the story of an attempt to search the unsearchable ways of God," although the book has historical, political, and moral implications as well.

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