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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Battle-Pieces in Rochester

Here are two of the earliest published notices of Melville's Battle-Pieces anywhere. Both items found in the online archives of New York newspapers at Fulton History.

In the first edition of Battle-Pieces the second line of "The Portent" reads "Slowly swaying" not "Slowly swinging" as printed in the Rochester Evening Express on August 27, 1866.

Rochester Evening Express - August 27, 1866

New Books.

BATTLE PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR, by Herman Melville, author of "Typee," "Omoo," "Redburn," "Mardi," "Moby Dick," "Whitejacket," &c. New York: Harper & Bros.

But little has been heard, of late, from the author of those very attractive novels, "Typee," &c. We have here a volume of poems of the war, "Battle Pieces," dedicated to the "memory of the Three Hundred Thousand who in the war for the maintenance of the Union, fell devotedly under the flag of their fathers." The author says that "with few exceptions, the pieces in this volume originated in an impulse imparted by the fall of Richmond." The opening piece is
THE PORTENT, 1859.
Hanging from the beam,
   Slowly swinging (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green
       Shenandoah!
The cut is on the crown
       (Lo! John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap
   Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
       Shenandoah!
But the streaming beard is shown
       (Weird John Brown),
Meteor of the war.
The pieces are good, so far as we have read and of the right loyal and honest sentiment. For sale by Dewey.
Below, another early notice of Melville's Battle-Pieces in Rochester, this one published in the Daily Union and Advertiser on August 28, 1866:

Rochester Daily Union & Advertiser - August 28, 1866
BATTLE PIECES AND ASPECTS OF THE WAR.— By Herman Melville. This is a volume of nearly three hundred pages filled with poetry relating to the battles and stirring events of the late civil war. The fame of the great commanders is celebrated in song, and the noted engagements are described in verse, all done in a creditable manner. Those who participated in the great battles or marched to the command of the great Generals will find much in this to prize.

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