Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Utilitarian View Of The Monitor's Fight

Plain be the phrase, yet apt the verse,
More ponderous than nimble;
For since grimed War here laid aside
His painted pomp, 'twould ill befit
Overmuch to ply
The rhyme's barbaric symbol.

Hail to victory without the gaud
Of glory; zeal that needs no fans
Of banners; plain mechanic power
Plied cogently in War now placed -
Where War belongs -
Among the trades and artisans.

Yet this was battle, and intense -
Beyond the strife of fleets heroic;
Deadlier, closer, calm 'mid storm;
No passion; all went on by crank.
Pivot, and screw,
And calculations of caloric.

Needless to dwell; the story's known.
The ringing of those plates on plates
Still ringeth round the world -
The clangor of the blacksmiths' fray.
The anvil-din
Resounds this message from the Fates:

War shall yet be, and to the end;
But war-paint shows the streaks of weather;
War yet shall be, but the warriors
Are now but operatives; War's made
Less grand than Peace,
And a singe runs through lace and feather.

Herman Melville -

1 comment:

  1. Ah . . . some Melville to lift me from this funk. How like Whitman, diminishing the pomp for the practical cause of a victory in a cause whose loss cannot be afforded. The belongs/artisans rhyme is fantastic. It strikes me how the futility of the Monitor/Virginia clash not only made wooden battleships instantly passe, but indeed closed off the desirability of metal ships engaging in this manner in the future. And all because of this one little anvil-din. Must have been quite the spectacle to witness.

    Now in order to feel properly and completely grounded again, all that I really need is to go see Lincoln again. Maybe I'll consider it.