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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 57, July, 1862 a Magazine of Literature, Art, And Politics

By Various

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Book Id: WPLBN0000617886
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Title: Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 57, July, 1862 a Magazine of Literature, Art, And Politics  
Author: Various
Language: English
Subject: Literature & thought, Literature and history, Literature & philosophy
Collections: Project Gutenberg Consortia Center
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Publisher: Project Gutenberg Consortia Center


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Various,. (n.d.). Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 57, July, 1862 a Magazine of Literature, Art, And Politics. Retrieved from

It is certain that since the time of Homer the deeds and circumstances of war have not been felicitously sung. If any ideas have been the subject of the strife, they seldom appear to advantage in the poems which chronicle it, or in the verses devoted to the praise of heroes. Remove the ?Iliad,? the ?Nibelungenlied,? some English, Spanish, and Northern ballads, two or three Old-Bohemian, the war-songs composed by Ziska, and one or two Romaic, from the field of investigation, and one is astonished at the scanty gleaning of battle-poetry, camp-songs, and rhymes that have been scattered in the wake of great campaigns, and many of the above-mentioned are more historical or mythological than descriptive of war. The quantity of political songs and ballads, serious and satirical, which were suggested by the great critical moments of modern history, is immense. Every country has, or might have, its own peculiar collections. In France the troubles of the League gave an impulse to song-writing, and the productions of Desportes and Bertaut are relics of that time. Historical and revolutionary songs abound in all countries; but even the ?Marseillaise,? the gay, ferocious ?Carmagnole,? and the ?Ca Ira,? which somebody wrote upon a drum-head in the Champ de Mars, do not belong to fighting-poetry. The actual business of following into the field the men who represent the tendencies of any time, and of helping to get through with the unavoidable fighting-jobs which they organize, seems to inspire the same rhetoric in every age, and to reproduce the same set of conventional war-images. The range of feeling is narrow; the enthusiasm for great generals is expressed in pompous commonplaces; even the dramatic circumstances of a campaign full of the movement and suffering of great masses of men, in bivouac, upon the march, in the gloomy and perilous defile, during a retreat, and in the hours when wavering victory suddenly turns and lets her hot lips be kissed, are scarcely seen, or feebly hinted at. The horizon of the battle-field itself is limited, and it is impossible to obtain a total impression of the picturesque and terrible fact. After the smoke has rolled away, the historian finds a position whence the scenes deliberately reveal to him all their connection, and reenact their passion. He is the real poet of these solemn passages in the life of man.


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