Malvern Hill

By Herman Melville 1819–1891 Herman Melville

(July, 1862)

Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill
     In prime of morn and May,
Recall ye how McClellan’s men
     Here stood at bay?
While deep within yon forest dim
     Our rigid comrades lay—
Some with the cartridge in their mouth,
Others with fixed arms lifted South—
            Invoking so
The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!
The spires of Richmond, late beheld
     Through rifts in musket-haze,
Were closed from view in clouds of dust
     On leaf-walled ways,
Where streamed our wagons in caravan;
     And the Seven Nights and Days
Of march and fast, retreat and fight,
Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight—
            Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?
The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed
     We followed (it never fell!)—
In silence husbanded our strength—
          Received their yell;
Till on this slope we patient turned
     With cannon ordered well;
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet!—
               Does Malvern Wood
Bethink itself, and muse and brood?
                        We elms of Malvern Hill
                             Remember every thing;
                        But sap the twig will fill;
                        Wag the world how it will,
                             Leaves must be green in Spring.

Source: “Words for the Hour”: A New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry, edited by Faith Barrett and Cristanne Miller (University of Massachusetts Press, 2005)

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Poet Herman Melville 1819–1891

Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Herman  Melville


Although chiefly known for his magisterial novel Moby-Dick and for other prose works, Herman Melville was also a fascinating poet who turned to the art after his serious fiction failed to find appreciative readers. His eccentric verse displays the complexity of thought and verbal richness of his novels, which has led some critics to rank him just below Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson among 19th-century American poets.

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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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