Friday, April 29, 2005

Baseball's Sad Lexicon

Franklin Adams was a New York newspaper columnist, translator, poet, and radio personality whose humorous syndicated column The Conning Tower earned him the reputation of godfather of the contemporary newspaper column. He wrote primarily under his initials, F.P.A. In 1938, Adams became one of the panel of experts on the radio show Information, Please. He achieved almost instant popularity for his humor and erudition, and his name became something of a household word in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s.

Baseball's Sad Lexicon first appeared in In Other Words when it was published in 1910. Entire books have been written about every aspect of baseball; however, other than Casey at the Bat, few know about some of the other great poems that have appeared honoring 'America's favorite pastime.' F.P.A. here is bemoaning with tongue-in-cheek the Chicago Cubs and their nemesis the Giants. The Cubbies were blessed in 1910 with an infield of superior skill. The shortstop was player-manager Joe Tinker. Johnny Evers played second, and Frank Chance first. Their art was turning the double play. The term gonfalon refers to a flag or pennant, and Adams uses the phrase "pricking our gonfalon bubble" to describe the repeated success of the Chicago Cubs and their celebrated infield against their National League rivals, his beloved (then) New York Giants.

The Giants finished first in National League then went on to lose the World Series (4-3-1) to the Boston Red Sox.


Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Walrus and the Carpenter

"...Expert, texpert
choking smokers
Don't you think the joker laughs at you..."
"...I am the walrus-- goo goo g'joob."
John Lennon I Am The Walrus (1967)

"I was the Walrus but now I'm John"
John Lennon, `God' (1970)

In a 1970 interview Lennon explained what inspired his song:

"We saw the movie in L.A. and the Walrus was a big capitalist that ate all the bleeping oysters. I always had the image of the Walrus in the garden and I loved it, and so I didn't ever check what the Walrus was. He's a bleeping bast**d-that's what he turns out to be. But the way it's written, everybody presumes that means something. I mean even I did. We all just presumed that because I said 'I Am The Walrus' that it means 'I Am God' or something. It's just poetry, but it became symbolic of me."

Four years later in another interview he talks about the song again:

"I Am The Walrus is also one of my favorite tracks-because I did it, of course, but also because it is one of those that has enough little bitties going to keep you interested even a hundred years later."

Paul McCartney adds how they perpetuated a growing phenomenon among their fans:

"John wrote the tune 'Glass Onion' (1968), I mean he wrote it mainly, but I helped him on it, and when we were writing it we were thinking specifically of the whole idea of all these kind of people who write in and say 'Who is the Walrus, John? Were you the Walrus?' or 'Is Paul the Walrus?' So John, I mean, he happened to have a line go 'Oh Yeah, the Walrus was Paul' and we had a great giggle to say yeah let's do that. Let's put this line in 'cause everybody's gonna read into it and go crackers cause they all thought John was the Walrus."

By 1980 Lennon describes in more details what he was thinking when he composed it:

"It's from The Walrus and the Carpenter, Alice In Wonderland. To me, it was a beautiful poem. It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist system. I never went into that bit about what it really meant, like people are doing with The Beatles' work. Later I went back and looked at it and realised that the Walrus was the bad guy in the story, and the Carpenter was the good guy, I thought, 'Oh bleep, I've picked the wrong guy.' But that wouldn't have been the same, would it? I am the Carpenter...'

I was just having a laugh because there had been so much gobblegook about 'Pepper', play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that... That was me just doing a throwaway. I threw in the line 'the Walrus was Paul'-just to confuse everybody a bit more. It could have been 'the Fox Terrier was Paul'. It's just a piece of poetry...

At that time I was still in my love cloud with Yoko. I thought, Well, I'll just say something nice to Paul, that it's all right and you did a good job over these years, holding us together. He was trying to organise the group and all that, so I wanted to say something to him. I thought, 'Well, he can have it, I've got Yoko. And thank you, you can have the credit.' The line was put in partly because I was feeling guilty because I was with Yoko and I was leaving Paul. It's a very perverse way of saying to Paul, 'Here, have this crumb, this illusion, this stroke-because I'm leaving."

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:

From backwards talking knights to backward playing records The Walrus and The Carpenter continue to weave their way through time. When they were published, Alice's adventures were considered children's literature, but now Lewis Carroll's stories are commonly viewed in a different light. Music makers have been talking among themselves across time by the likes Edmund Wilson and W.H. Auden. Virginia Woolf observed, "the two Alices are not books for children; they are the only books in which we become children". This surrealistic world attracted the hippies in the 1960s and Carroll's characters found themselves in songs like Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit' and The Beatles 'I am the Walrus'.

Lewis Carroll's characters and lyrics went on to make an appearance in Fredric Brown's novel Night of the Jabberwock (1950). In the 1990s Jeff Noon continued Alice's adventures in Automated Alice, in which she is transported to the modern world. Dogma appears on the time line and specifically spotlights the Walrus and the Carpenter as a religious allusion. Now poor Alice has vanished once again down the rabbit hole of The Matrix with its embedded symbolism from both Buddhism and the Judeo-Christian religions. Carroll's rhyme "The Walrus and the Carpenter," makes fun of one principle in the everyday world. Even if human beings recognize the damaging effects of their actions, Carroll seems to say, they will still behave the same way.

The finest part of the Alice books is Alice herself, as a daring and curious child, perceptive and candid, frightened at times but more often sensible in the face of a world which has, along with all the grown ups in it, been turned upside down. She remains well mannered while flooded with the greatest pile of nonsense and illogic ever imagined, and she wins in the end by keeping her head.

There's not even a shrug of a normal plotline, no rising and falling action, no adversary. It's simply Alice moving from one bizarre and ridiculous encounter to another. Through the Looking Glass is presumably a representation of a chess game, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, The Walrus and the Carpenter, plus the White Knight, the Red Queen are all chess-piece characters. Even so, with this concrete realization it does nothing to change the feel of the book. What trumps the story is its lack of plot. Namely to miss Alice is to miss all. T S Eliot picks up on this theme where Carroll leaves off in his A Game of Chess. While Carroll has tried to prepare Alice for her impending future Eliot presents her in the present as a woman who is still the little girl lost, reflecting on the bitter and jaded pills of her past. Alice has experienced a Shakespearean sea change; still she cries, and still the world pursues and chants the broken phrase, Hurry up please its time.

Born at Daresbury in Chesire into a wealthy family Lewis Carroll attended a Yorkshire grammar school and Rugby. At Christ Church, Oxford, he studied mathematics and lived much of his life in England. "The Walrus and the Carpenter' was written at Whitburn Sands, Sunderland.

Lewis Carroll's cousins, the Misses Wilcox, lived at Whitburn, near Sunderland. One evening, whose date is not recorded, they had a game of verse making and "Jabberwocky" was Carroll's contribution - based on the first verse that he had composed at Croft in 1855. (Green, pp.54-54.) (Myers, p.16) says "Jabberwocky" was written on a visit in 1855, that Mrs. Wilcox, the wife of the Collector of Customs at Sunderland, lived at High Croft, since burned down, that he probably composed The Walrus and the Carpenter walking on the beaches here or nearby, and that there is a statue of Carroll in Cornthwaite Park, Whitburn. Carroll also had other relatives here - the Collingwoods - whom he also visited. It is possible that from here, he visited nearby Sunderland, where there was a fine walrus in the museum, but it has decayed and only the head remains (Myers, p.16).
("Whitburn, Tyne & Wear." The British Society for the History of Mathematics)

First published in 1871, in Through The Looking-Glass, this passage is from chapter 4 in Alice Through The Looking Glass. Lewis Carroll (1832-98) was the pen name of Charles Dodgson. Shy and stammering the mathematics lecturer ifrom Oxford had the original publication rendered in italics.

The Alice books lend themselves almost too easily to interpretation, Arthur Clement Hilton parodies this poem in The Vulture and the Husbandman. It is so saturated with symbols that an argument could be made for practically any point of view that any critic may wish to take. Phrases to refer to impossibilities; a winged pig and the sun is out at night combined with tautologies of wet seas, dry sands, and clouds in a cloudless sky. Carroll manages to write good nonsense with consummate ease.

Especially interesting to all ages is the way Carroll plays with so many different kinds of nonsense. The beginning stanza reads like a piece of juvenilia straight out of a Victorian children's book. Indeed, that final couplet sets the tone for the rest of the poem with snippets like:

'The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:'


'Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat --
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.'

and of course the famous:

''The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings.''

Verses dazzle in their effortlessness and sheer nonsense. The whole poem is written in the same element - simple, down-to-earth, and outright bizarre until the brilliantly deadpan final couplet catches reader completely off-balance with its reversal of all that is 'normal'.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter.
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none--
And that was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Comic verse thrives on the melodic union of incongruities, such as the "cabbages and kings." Ha! What could be moister than tears of an oyster?

Through the Looking Glass picks up the previous story, Alice in Wonderland, at an unspecified amount of time later, as Alice steps through a mirror. The first thing that she does in the Looking Glass world is read a backwards book, and what she reads is no less than the famous poem "Jabberwocky." Alice leaves the house and stumbles upon the Garden of Live Flowers and a Red Queen, takes a train ride and inspects some strange insects just before she encounters Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who tell her the story of The Walrus and the Carpenter:

The other two dancers were fat, and very soon out of breath. "Four times round is enough for one dance," Tweedledum panted out, and they left off dancing as suddenly as they had begun: the music stopped at the same moment.

Then they let go of Alice's hands, and stood looking at her for a minute: there was a rather awkward pause, as Alice didn't know how to begin a conversation with people she had just been dancing with. "It would never do to say 'How d'ye do?' now," she said' to herself: we seem to have got beyond that, somehow!"

"I hope you're not much tired?" she said at last.

"No-how. And thank you very much for asking," said Tweedledum.

"So much obliged!" added Tweedledee. "You like poetry?"

"Ye-es, pretty well -- some poetry," Alice said doubtfully. "Would you tell me which road leads out of the wood?"

"What shall I repeat to her?" said Tweedledee, looking round at Tweedledum with great solemn eyes, and not noticing Alice's questions.

"'The Walrus and the Carpenter' is the longest," Tweedledum replied, giving his brother an affectionate hug.

Tweedledee began instantly:

"The sun was shining -- "

Here Alice ventured to interrupt him. "If it's very' long," she said, as politely as she could, "would you please tell me first which road -- "

Tweedledee smiled gently, and began again:

"The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright --
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

With a twist of dark irony Carroll imposes a paradox of moral satire upon the adult reader. By the end of Tweedledee's poem Alice becomes a casualty in a, no-win game of logic with Tweedledum.

"I like the Walrus best," said Alice: "because you see he was a little sorry for the poor oysters."

"He ate more than the Carpenter, though," said Tweedledee. "You see he held his handkerchief in front, so that the Carpenter couldn't count how many he took: contrariwise."

"That was mean!" Alice said indignantly. "Then I like the Carpenter best -- if he didn't eat so many as the Walrus."

"But he ate as many as he could get," said Tweedledum.

This was a puzzler. After a pause, Alice began, "Well! They were both very unpleasant characters -- " Here she checked herself in some alarm, at hearing something that sounded to her like the puffing of a large steam-engine in the wood near them, thought she feared it was more likely to be a wild beast. "Are there any lions or tigers about here?" she asked timidly.

Whether she sides with the Carpenter, who ate as many oysters as he could get, or the Walrus, who ate even more but felt guilty about it, she inescapably beaten by Tweedledum's arguments. The witty verse flourishes among the union of incongruities, such as the "cabbages and kings" posing the rather perplexing problems about oysters who have no need for shoes, ships, and sealing wax. This totally out of the ordinary and improbable scene begins with a sense of cheerfulness, until the humor becomes rather bitter. After all, it's the Walrus that feels the human emotion, not the Carpenter. With this inversion of character, Carroll makes an implication that humanity operates on the same level as the beast. The plot is simple. Several little, unsuspecting oysters go for a walk and end up devoured by a Walrus and a Carpenter. The question is, why?

To get an idea of what was behind Carroll's watery epic; remember his audience was a small band of girls, the daughters of Dean Liddell of Christ College, Oxford. The author knew that by including fantastical elements in his stories and poems, they would appeal to the senses of children. Only a few children would wonder about the innate meaning of a story if it tells an interesting tale. The reader comes upon identical somethings, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, endeavor to stall Alice who is trying to leave their house. Having had a mock battle over a rattle they chose to recite the longest poem they knew in order to stop Alice the purpose of the poem in the story is simply to kill time.

Carroll uses several techniques in the poem while gently poking fun at what is called catalogue verse, "poems with lists that perform an encyclopedic purpose, lending high seriousness to a topic. "The form is fixed and definite sing song voice: "The sea was wet as wet could be, the sands were dry as dry"

Carroll varied his meter, alternating tetrameter and trimeter every line, which makes an interesting pattern. He chose to use sestets, and the whole poem contains 18 stanzas (108 lines). Martin Gardener states that this meter is an imitation of Thomas Hood's Dream of Eugene Aram. (Gardener 233).

The rhyme scheme follows an ABCBDB pattern and Carroll seemed to favor strong, masculine rhymes like "things," "kings," and "wings." He also favored end-stops, preferring them to caesuras, which occur rather infrequently. In The Walrus and the Carpenter he averaged about four end-stops a stanza. Some are in the form of commas, periods, and semi-colons, but Carroll also seemed to have a fondness for dashes at the end of the fourth line of a stanza. This occurs eight times in the poem. The result of all this end-stopping is to make his rhymes almost painfully obvious, but if you think about it, there is no major plot to stand out, so the structure takes its place as the subject of emphasis.

By employing a paradox, a little consonance, and some personification perhaps the single most important thing to convey is that there is a great deal more in than what meets the eye. That neither is there harm, yet often even greater good, in apparent nonsense that turns out to have a wonderfully clever sense to it after all.

Most of the ingenuity of the Alice books is now indistinguishable, owing to a few reasons. The "in" jokes are one example. For a great deal of the references the readers needs to be English. For many of them the reader, in particular, needs to be from Oxford, and to understand most of them the reader would have to had been in Carroll's immediate circle of friends. Words and phrases and even political affairs have been obscured by the passage of time. So much has changed since Carroll's day that what were once obvious, commonplace references are now simply meaningless. Outside of all this, which Carroll deliberately put into this poem, there is what he may have put in unwittingly. There seems to be an unscratchable itch in some minds where they can't seem to leave well enough alone, but demand some kind psychoanalytic explanation of the meaning or meanings of all the unusual things--which is virtually everything--that Alice finds in the strange worlds she travels through. It's the middle of the night yet the sun is shining. Who is more selfish and devious - the Walrus or the Carpenter? What lesson do the Oysters forget about what to do when approached by strangers? What exactly is the moral dilemma betwixt and between the oysters, the Walrus and the Carpenter?

"Of that passage which," as one scholar Martin Gardner points out, "parallels the famous, or notorious, position of Bishop Berkeley on reality and Sam'l Johnson's equally famous or notorious rejoinder Bertrand Russell remarked "A very instructive discussion from a philosophical point of view, but if it were not put so humorously, we should find it too painful."

One key to Carroll's particular brand of lunacy is the compilation of non-sequiturs invented words and strange constructions all tied up in verbal incongruities. On one level it can be perceived as a rhyme, which serves as a "warning" to children that there are mean, manipulative authority figures out there in the real world that are not quite what they appear to be. Adult explanations over time have taken it to the next logical level. All these essences add up to make Carroll's Alice books the stuff of real literature.

The delightfully gruesome line," The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things" is one that many adults and almost no children remember. Adults can read the poem with a great deal of pleasure and smile at the grisly ending every time. Not many children would have the patience to wade through 108 lines for the punch line. Nor is it the kind of thing a grown up can envision them wanting to hear over and over," Daddy, daddy, tell the part again where they trick the oysters!"

On the other hand, what is the big idea when discussing this collection of imaginings within dreams out of the mind of one Lewis Carroll, the reverie of a kind-hearted but slightly stuffy mathematician.


BSHM Gazetteer

Playboy Interview With John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1980

minstrels The Walrus and the Carpenter -- Lewis Carroll

Public domain text taken from CHAPTER 4: TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE



Your Daily Poetry Break

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The War Prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement.
The country was up in
arms, the war was on, in every breast
burned the holy fire of patriotism; the
drums were beating, the bands
playing, the toy pistols popping, the
bunched firecrackers hissing and
spluttering; on every hand and far
down the receding and fading spread
of roofs and balconies a fluttering
wilderness of flags flashed in the sun;
daily the young volunteers marched
down the wide avenue gay and fine
in their new uniforms, the proud fathers
and mothers and sisters and
sweethearts cheering them with voices
choked with happy emotion as they
swung by; nightly the packed mass
meetings listened, panting, to patriot
oratory which stirred the deepest
deeps of their hearts, and which they
interrupted at briefest intervals with
cyclone of applause, the tears running
down their cheeks the while; in the
churches the pastors preached
devotion to flag and country, and
invoked God of Battles, beseeching
His aid in our good cause in
outpouring of fervid eloquence which
moved every listener. It was indeed a
glad and gracious time, and the half
dozen rash spirits that ventured to
disapprove of the war and cast a
doubt upon its righteousness
straightway got such a stern and angry
warning that for their personal safety's
sake they quickly shrank out of sight
and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came - next day the
battalions would leave for the front; the
church was filled; the volunteers were
there, their young faces alight with
martial dreams - visions of the stern
advance, the gathering momentum, the
rushing charge, the flashing sabers,
the flight of the foe, the tumult, the
enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit,
and surrender! - then home from the
war, bronzed heroes, welcomed,
adored, submerged in golden seas of
glory! With the volunteers sat their dear
ones, proud, happy, and envied by the
neighbors and friends who had no
sons and brothers to send forth to the
field of honor, there to win for the flag,
or failing, die the noblest of noble
deaths. The service proceeded; a war
chapter from the Old Testament was
read; the first prayer was said; it was
followed by an organ burst that shook
the building, and with one impulse the
house rose, with glowing eyes and
beating hearts, and poured out that
tremendous invocation -

"God the all-terrible! Thou who

Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy
Then came the "long" prayer. None
could remember the like of it for
passionate pleading and moving and
beautiful language. The burden of its
supplication was that an ever-merciful
and benignant Father of us all would
watch over our noble young soldiers,
and aid, comfort, and encourage them
in their patriotic work; bless them,
shield them in the day of battle and
the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty
hand, make them strong and confident,
invincible in the bloody onset; help
them to crush the foe, grant to them
and to their flag and country
imperishable honor and glory-

An aged stranger entered and moved
with slow and noiseless step up the
main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the
minister, his long body clothed in a
robe that reached to his feet, his head
bare, his white hair descending in a
frothy cataract to his shoulders, his
seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even
to ghastliness, With all eyes following
him and wondering, he made his silent
way; without pausing, he ascended to
the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.
With shut lids the preacher,
unconscious of his presence,
continued his moving prayer, and at
last finished it with the words, uttered
in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms,
grant us victory, O Lord our God,
Father and Protector of our land and

The stranger touched his arm,
motioned him to step aside - which the
startled minister did - and took his
place. During some moments he
surveyed the spellbound audience with
solemn eyes, in which burned an
uncanny light; then in a deep voice he

"I come from the Throne-bearing a
message from Almighty God!"
words smote the house with a shock; if
the stranger perceived it he gave no
attention. "He has heard the prayer of
His servant your shepherd, and will
grant it if such shall be your desire
after I, His messenger, shall have
explained to you its import - that is to
say, its full import. For it is like unto
many of the prayers of men, in that it
asks for more than he who utters it is
aware of - except he pause and think."

"God's servant and yours has prayed
his prayer. Has he paused and taken
thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -
one uttered, the other not. Both have
reached the ear of Him Who heareth
all supplications, the spoken and the
unspoken. Ponder this - keep it in
mind. If you would beseech a blessing
upon yourself, beware! Lest without
intent you invoke a curse upon a
neighbor at the same time. If you pray
from the blessing of rain upon your
crop which needs it, by that act you are
possibly praying for a curse upon
some neighbor's crop which may not
need rain and can be injured by it'

"You have heard your servants prayer -
the uttered part of it.I am
commissioned of God to put into
words the other part of it - that part
which the pastor - and also you in your
hearts- fervently prayed silently. And
ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant
that it was so! You heard these words:
'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!'
That is sufficient. The whole of the
uttered prayer is compact into those
pregnant words. Elaborations were not
necessary. When you have prayed for
victory you have prayed for many
unmentioned results which follow
victory - must follow it, cannot help but
follow it. Upon the listening spirit of
God the Father fell also the unspoken
part of the prayer. He commandeth me
to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots,
idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -
be Thou near them! With them - in
spirit - we also go forth from the sweet
peace of our beloved firesides to
smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us
to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds
with our shells; help us to cover their
smiling fields with the pale forms of
their patriot dead; help us to drown the
thunder of the guns with the shrieks of
their wounded, writhing in pain; help us
to lay waste their humble homes with a
hurricane of fire; help us to wring
the hearts of their unoffending widows with
unavailing grief; help us to turn them
out roofless with their little children to
wander unfriended the wastes of their
desolated land in rags and hunger and
thirst, sports of the sun flames of
summer and the icy winds of winter,
broken in spirit, worn with travail
imploring Thee for the refuge of the
grave and denied it -for our sakes
who adore Thee, Lord, blast
their hopes, blight their lives, protract their
bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their
steps, water their way with their tears,
stain the white snow with the blood of
their wounded feet! We ask it, in the
spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source
of Love, and Who is the ever- faithful
refuge and friend of all that are sore
beset and seek His aid with humble
and contrite hearts. Amen."

(After a pause) "Ye have prayed it; if
ye still desire it,speak! The
messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man
was a lunatic, because there was no
sense in what he said.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

For more than ten years, Mark Twain opposed the war and imperialism as a vice president and outspoken publicist of the Anti-Imperialist League. From his return to the United States from Europe in 1900 until shortly before his death in 1910, he expressed his opposition to imperialism in numerous essays, stories, and sketches, public and private letters, and interviews and speeches. Mark Twain's involvement with the anti-imperialist movement was one of the longest and most significant political affiliations of his life, and it was widely recognized during his lifetime, inspiring editorials and political cartoons from California to London, Bermuda to Canada, and probably further a field. But like the Philippine-American War itself, and turn-of-the-century imperialism more generally, this part of Mark Twain's career is rarely recognized today.

Sometimes published as an essay or in poem form, Twain places the reader in a church where a clerical figure is blessing the troops as they go off to do battle. The sermon uses powerful language and summons pictures of righteousness.

A full text was collected in Europe and Elsewhere (1923). Twain apparently dictated The War Prayer around 1904-05; it was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts. He wrote a friend saying, "I don't think the prayer will be published in my time."

Written in response to the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 Mark Twain wrote the satirical story The War Prayer in 1905 followed by a scathing indictment of the U.S. troops and in March of 1906. They had massacred 900 Muslim Filipinos -- men, women and children -- at Bud Dajo. The Filipinos were trapped in the volcanic crater and fired upon for four days from the heights above until all were reported killed only one young girl survived the horror. Twain continued to comment on the war and U.S. imperialism until at least 1908.

Albert Bigelow Paine had, during his time as trustee of the Mark Twain Papers, originally published extracts from The War Prayer in his 1912 biography of Mark Twain with the comment that the author said he had been urged not to publish it. According to Paine, Mark Twain acceded to its suppression by stating, to colleague Dan Beard, who had dropped in to see him. While he was there Clemens read The War Prayer, telling Beard that he had read it to his daughter Jean, and others, who had told him he must not print it, for it would be regarded as sacrilege.

    "Still, you are going to publish it, are you not?"

    Clemens, pacing up and down the room in his dressing gown and slippers, shook his head.

    "No", he said, "I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world.

    "It can only be published after I am dead."

Outraged by American military intervention in the Philippines, Mark Twain initially tried submitting it to Harper's Bazaar. The women's magazine rejected it for being too radical. As he had predicted the piece wasn't published until after his death, in the November 1916 issue of Harper's Monthly, when World War I made it even more timely.

This poem is in the public domain.


Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain, A Biography (Harper & Brothers, 1912).

identity theory | the war prayer by mark twain

Zwick, Jim. Duration of Philippine-American War: 1899-1913, February 1999.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Dying Words of Stonewall Jackson

      "Order A. P. Hill to prepare for battle."
      "Tell Major Hawks to advance the Commissary train."
      "Let us cross the river and rest in the shade."

    THE stars of Night contain the glittering Day
    And rain his glory down with sweeter grace
    Upon the dark World's grand, enchanted face --
    All loth to turn away.

    And so the Day, about to yield his breath,
    Utters the stars unto the listening Night,
    To stand for burning fare-thee-wells of light
    Said on the verge of death.

    O hero-life that lit us like the sun!
    O hero-words that glittered like the stars
    And stood and shone above the gloomy wars
    When the hero-life was done!

    The phantoms of a battle came to dwell
    I' the fitful vision of his dying eyes --
    Yet even in battle-dreams, he sends supplies
    To those he loved so well.

    His army stands in battle-line arrayed:
    His couriers fly: all's done: now God decide!
    -- And not till then saw he the Other Side
    Or would accept the shade.

    Thou Land whose sun is gone, thy stars remain!
    Still shine the words that miniature his deeds.
    O thrice-beloved, where'er thy great heart bleeds,
    Solace hast thou for pain!
    Sidney Lanier (1842-1881)

Most if not all of Sidney Lanier's work reflects his love of music, poetry, nature, and the Old South of his boyhood. Born in Macon, Georgia his education at Oglethorpe College was interrupted when the war between the states broke out. Enlisted in the Second Georgia Battalion of the Macon Volunteers, he saw action during the Seven Days' Battle. Captured for running blockades between Wilmington, North Carolina, and Bermuda, Lanier was freed after a year in a prisoner of war camp both impoverished and in poor health. Contracting tuberculosis during the war he died at the age of 39. He is truly one of the South's forgotten poets.

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was an exception as far as generals go. Civil War historian Shelby Foote tells this story about Jackson.

    One day, during the Valley Campaign, a courier bearing orders from Jackson didn't get through. When Jackson was informed that the man had been killed in the line of duty, the general hesitated a moment as if at a loss for words. Then a solemn look came over his long, bearded face. "Very commendable," he said gravely. "Very commendable."
Born on January 21, 1824, Jackson came to be Robert E. Lee's most trusted lieutenant and he felt himself obliged to none other than himself and God. Surely he understood the horrific business of war as well as any man of his time and the strengths behind his accomplishments were his sense of duty and deep religious belief. Jackson is also well remembered because he fell before he could fail. In the wake of the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, his own men accidentally fired him upon and his left arm had to be amputated. He died 9 days later; Lee never did get over the shock.
    The death of Stonewall Jackson by a tragic mistake -- a volley from his own men, who thought him too far in advance of their line to be anything but a member of a Union patrol -- was one of the fatalities that decided the war. If Jackson had been present at Gettysburg, I think Lee would have won. Lee himself said to Professor White, years later, "If I had had Stonewall Jackson with me, so far as man can see, I should have won the battle of Gettysburg." Such are the fortunes of war.

Robert E. Lee: The Hero of South and North
E. Merrill Root

The poet begins by introducing the reader to two of Jackson's men. A.P. Hill refers to General A.P. Hill, a Major General in Confederate service who took command after Jackson was wounded. Oddly enough Robert E. Lee also called for Hill during his own death deliriums. Major W. J. Hawks was chief commissary in charge of the regiment's supplies. Dr. McGuire who attended Jackson's death from pneumonia as a result of his wounds noted in on Sunday, May 10, 1863, as to how he had lost all hope for Jackson's recovery. The General was notified of his condition. Even as Jackson grew physically weaker, he remained spiritually strong. "It is the Lord's Day; my wish is fulfilled," said Jackson. "I have always desired to die on Sunday." Jackson realized he was dying and as his mind began to fail and wander Dr. McGuire carefully noted, "He talked as if giving commands on the battlefield--then he was at the mess table talking to his staff--now with his wife and child--now at prayers with his military family."

    "A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, 'Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks' -- then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, 'Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.'"

The South suffered a huge blow and Rebel Jackson's immortal deathbed command has been much remembered. It's plain to see that Jackson was preparing for his death by naming a new command and getting supplies prepared for his men. As for `Let us cross the river' --nobody knows whether he meant the Jordan or a river from his beloved boyhood home at Jackson's Mill, West Virginia.

Lanier tries to comfort those mourning through the tragedy of friendly fire that, sadly, occurs in every war. He uses metaphor to get his admiring lament across. He sets the scene with Jackson's final orders to get things organized for his men before he crosses the river for a rest in the shade. The stars are his men, the night, death, and the glittering Day is Jackson himself. A poem that expresses the dedication and influence Stonewall Jackson had while he was alive and then even after his death. Lanier wasn't the only writer to use Jackson's dying words. Ernest Hemingway also drew his title for his 1950 novel about an aging soldier chasing a younger woman in post-war Venice called Across The River and Into the Trees.


Blair, Bob

Public Domain text taken from the Poet's Corner:

Stonewall Jackson: biography of a confederate general.