Antietam Lullaby
#1
   The rockets' red glare: I felt mechanical; the fences showed in the early light. No retreat? None listened to the cries in the front rank and the man next to me lacked the upper part of his head as o'er him a bomb burst in air.
   The anthem of one leg blown off & the other shattered; shrieking with pain: what a bloody place. I took a pistol and threatened the gleam of bright stars, the full glory reflected by the flag as it waved o'er the crash of canister through our line. The same could happen to the rest, making corpses & mutilated trunks of us all. On the field dimly covered in dead and wounded, the land of the free.
   Private Charley Spencer fell dead on my right; I was not sure whether Matthews was still there; their bombs bursting in our midst, no one thought about gallantly streaming flags. Hurt continued on. See, by the dawn lying just in front of us, completely deafened, we moved forward, exposed.
   Crossing the road, in column, batteries sang us shots of canister. O say do those rifle bullets pierce deep? (They do.) Dead and wounded before us, we pushed forward. Shell in abundance fitfully blows, half conceals, the iron bullets flew over. I first mounted the fence for a perilous fight, behind a better aimed banner.
   O long may the morning's first beam, whose broad stripes and twilight's last gleaming, showed that Henry Mallow fell & his brains had splattered the woods behind with an awful cry at the same time causing us many muscular contractions.
   I tried to rally them, but we retreated in disorder. What did the grape & canister half disclose? Now it saw our Regt. broken and shining bloody. I saw confusion & men down on both sides, in dread silence reposing, and the dead and wounded were piled there in heaps. Not so proudly we hailed that which swept away every breeze, though o'er God the flag was apparently still streaming.
   I looked, saw through the mists: myself. I felt all the dodging gave proof to something I felt: then another broken fence & our commander who waved the banner. "O say can you make it to the woods?" We crossed a most galling fire with a sound like thunder. Corpse-spangled was the cornfield. My friend Piper had fallen forward on his face and was motionless. Just then musketry from the ramparts we watched, coming from that sunken road toward which we advanced with grim determination, seeking the home of the brave.
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
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#2
I like this.  Those who are unfamiliar with the US national anthem may miss some of the references/insertions (particularly from its second verse) but most will recognize the source of those from the first verse.

I read it (in basic critique) as a prose poem in the manner of a contemporary diary or stream of consciousness.  As such, my only criticism is that the language is slightly more modern than I'd expect from a *written* diary of that era (and the spelling is too accurate Wink ).  In particular, writers of that time might have tried to shield readers (especially women) from battlefield realities such as splattered brains and spontaneous voiding in extreme fear or death.  In that sense it reads more like a First World War piece, though as stream-of-consciousness this criticism would not apply.

For that matter, a contemporary (pre-WWI) reader would have likely taken this at face value, harrowing but inspiring, perhaps brought up short at times by the lese-majeste of incorporating phrases from the anthem.  An inter-war or post-Vietnam reader would, instead, likely find it deeply cynical.  "Red Badge of Courage," anyone?

Depending on what you want, those effects could be amplified or repressed.

On the whole, I think it's a very good start, and an interesting idea the effect of which depends greatly on what the reader brings to it.
feedback award Non-practicing atheist
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#3
Hey Tim-

Very interesting prose poem, and the first person narrative is an effective re-creation: who the hell really knows the savagery that took place on what is considered the bloodiest day in US history. 

After this battle McClellan was removed from command because he didn't chase Lee across the Potomac, even though the Union troops outnumbered Lee's Confederates.  22,000 + dead and wounded in one day probably drowned that thirst for blood.

Less than a week after this Union "victory" is when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. So, your piece offers a tangent to the recent declaration of Juneteenth as a Federal holiday, and I'm betting that influenced this one.

Though it not a long drive, I have visited Antietam only once, and that was more than enough.  After seeing the the Sunken Road, aka Bloody Lane, among what once were cornfileds it was easy to see what a death trap it must have been.  It was eerily peaceful... 

Thanks for sharing this one,
Mark
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#4
Thanks for both your comments.  Before I get to them, some truth in advertising:  this is a cut-up of the Star Spangled Banner and eyewitness accounts (probably as reported in newspapers).  I did cut-ups for about 3 years, with the occaisonal happy result such as this.  Certainly I spent as much time editing them as I do my poems now.

Duke, I'm post-Vietnam, so I admit to the cynicism, but I was raised to view the Civil War as somewhat sacred, so rules of cynicism never seem to take effect with that war for me.

Mark, thanks for desrciption of your visit.  I was taken on a tour of battlefields when I was 12, but was way too young to appreciate it.
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
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#5
(06-21-2021, 09:56 PM)dukealien Wrote:  For that matter, a contemporary (pre-WWI) reader would have likely taken this at face value, harrowing but inspiring, perhaps brought up short at times by the lese-majeste of incorporating phrases from the anthem.  An inter-war or post-Vietnam reader would, instead, likely find it deeply cynical.  "Red Badge of Courage," anyone?

Interestingly, Peter Jackson's 2018 film 'They shall not grow old', which contains still pictures set to motion with the voice overs of WW1 vets from 1970s BBC recordings, makes this point. Or rather, the vets themselves do: there wasn't a lot of intellectual pondering over the rights and wrongs of the 'Great war'. Nor was there, unlike in WW2 or the Spanish civil war, a definite moral compass.
The mental capacity of the average factory lad from Lancashire was perhaps rather limited in those days from limited diet and education. I wonder if it was the same in America - were the masses who went to fight for the South in the civil war just thick headed? How did they run their farms and fields with that level of sentience?

Coming to the poem - I find it too conscious of its own irony to be convincing as a first person narrative. That is to say, it doesn't work at the level of the author as well as the narrator, only the former.
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#6
Busker-
You asked," ...were the masses who went to fight for the South in the civil war just thick headed? How did they run their farms and fields with that level of sentience?

The average Joe was drafted by the Confederate military, thus had to fight. Plus a lot of them wanted the paycheck, and many probably wanted to kick some Union ass (ah, the glory of war in young minds). 

The larger farms and fields, aka plantations, were mainly owned by the more wealthy (who were sort of exempt from serving), and their slaves did the labor on the farms and fields.

Of course, there is way more to it than my simple answer...
Mark
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#7
(06-23-2021, 06:58 AM)Mark A Becker Wrote:  Busker-
You asked," ...were the masses who went to fight for the South in the civil war just thick headed? How did they run their farms and fields with that level of sentience?

Confederacy implemented conscription, within a year or sooner of the outbreak of war.

*********************************************************

Thought I should followup on this and only 12 percent of Confederate troops were conscripts.  Lots of volunteers, for whatever their reasons, if they had reasons at all.
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
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#8
Tim,

A bit Whitmanesque. Could use a little tightening up as to the grammar to make it a bit more readable (such as this dependent clause" "On the field dimly covered in dead and wounded, the land of the free.") . Although a complex topic, this is a nice internal view.

best,

dale
How long after picking up the brush, the first masterpiece?

The goal is not to obfuscate that which is clear, but make clear that which isn't.
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#9
(06-21-2021, 09:09 PM)TranquillityBase Wrote:     The rockets' red glare: I felt mechanical; the fences showed in the early light. No retreat? None listened to the cries in the front rank and the man next to me lacked the upper part of his head as o'er him a bomb burst in air.
   The anthem of one leg blown off & the other shattered; shrieking with pain: what a bloody place. I took a pistol and threatened the gleam of bright stars, the full glory reflected by the flag as it waved o'er the crash of canister through our line. The same could happen to the rest, making corpses & mutilated trunks of us all. On the field dimly covered in dead and wounded, the land of the free.
   Private Charley Spencer fell dead on my right; I was not sure whether Matthews was still there; their bombs bursting in our midst, no one thought about gallantly streaming flags. Hurt continued on. See, by the dawn lying just in front of us, completely deafened, we moved forward, exposed.
   Crossing the road, in column, batteries sang us shots of canister. O say do those rifle bullets pierce deep? (They do.) Dead and wounded before us, we pushed forward. Shell in abundance fitfully blows, half conceals, the iron bullets flew over. I first mounted the fence for a perilous fight, behind a better aimed banner.
   O long may the morning's first beam, whose broad stripes and twilight's last gleaming, showed that Henry Mallow fell & his brains had splattered the woods behind with an awful cry at the same time causing us many muscular contractions.
   I tried to rally them, but we retreated in disorder. What did the grape & canister half disclose? Now it saw our Regt. broken and shining bloody. I saw confusion & men down on both sides, in dread silence reposing, and the dead and wounded were piled there in heaps. Not so proudly we hailed that which swept away every breeze, though o'er God the flag was apparently still streaming.
   I looked, saw through the mists: myself. I felt all the dodging gave proof to something I felt: then another broken fence & our commander who waved the banner. "O say can you make it to the woods?" We crossed a most galling fire with a sound like thunder. Corpse-spangled was the cornfield. My friend Piper had fallen forward on his face and was motionless. Just then musketry from the ramparts we watched, coming from that sunken road toward which we advanced with grim determination, seeking the home of the brave.

I love the phenomenological, first-person stream-of-consciousness account of the savagery of battle. The patches of our anthem are well-rendered and poignant, "no one thought about gallantly streaming flags." I love the line: "Corpse-spangled was the cornfield." There seems to be a bit of Hemingway here in your flow. I am  not as well-versed in prose poetry as others on here......for me, the threatening of the "gleam of bright stars" is the "thesis statement," if you will.

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