"Let America, then, prize and cherish her writers; yea, let her glorify them."
-- A Virginian Spending July in Vermont
While we wait around for scanned images of John Chipman Hoadley's manuscript poem "Destiny," now ordered from The New York Public Library, let me explain why I expect (before seeing any of it) to find that Hoadley composed the long unpublished work he called his "national poem" in iambic pentameter. What I don't know is if Hoadley developed his patriotic theme using rhymed couplets in the manner of Joel Barlow in The Vision of Columbus and The Columbiad and Richard Emmons in The Fredoniad, Americanizing British models by Dryden and Pope. My best guess is YES. But it would be wonderful to find Melville's future brother-in-law on a more daring and ambitious course, sounding off like Milton or Marlowe in mighty MAGA lines of blank verse.
Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "Hoadley, John Chipman (1818-1886)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1851. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/d9236f50-693b-0133-a932-00505686d14e
... The morning had been warm and the afternoon was showery, clouds and shadows being the moving scenery to the permanent stagery of the hills. We went on our way rejoicing till a dragging cloud bore down upon us when we turned to the shelter of a barn. Mr M[elville] spied out the loft and we boarded the rafters, dislodging the hens and were nestled here and there in the warm dry hay, the rain pattering its musical accompaniment on the roof.
Mrs M [Sarah Morewood] had a poet in the company and his poem too a stout MSS of heroic measure, a glorification of the United States in particular with a polite slanging of all other nations in general. The English lady in the straw was not particularly complimented as to her native country in sounding lines which H M read with emphasis (interrupting the flattered author who sat thoughtful on a hay tuft--with such phrases as "great glorious" "By Jove that's tremendous" &c)--but perhaps the most noticeable incident was a gathering of the exiled fowls in a corner who cackled a series of noisy resolutions, levelled at the party. "Turn em out!" was the cry. The author impelled by the honor of his poem charged fearlessly, scattered the critics of the pit, clasping the most obstinate bodily and "rushing" her a rapid descent below." --as transcribed in Steven Olsen-Smith, Melville in His Own Time (University of Iowa Press, 2015) page 58.
- The poem was a long one, taking up "a stout MSS." The impressive size indicates a poem with hundreds of lines, maybe thousands.
- The poem was composed in iambic pentameter, as specified by Duyckinck's term "heroic measure." (More on that below.)
- The poem was extremely patriotic in theme, being "a glorification of the United States." The strong America-First argument of the poem involved "a polite slanging of all other nations in general." Despite whatever formal courtesies may be implied in Duyckinck's adjective "polite," the rhetorical "slanging" at Great Britain might well have offended one of Melville's listeners that showery afternoon in a Berkshire barn: Mrs. Pollack the "English lady in the straw" who according to Duyckinck "was not particularly complimented as to her native country."
The meter of "Onota's Graceful Shore" is iambic but does not qualify as "heroic measure" since each line contains only four feet. According to standard 19th century textbooks of English grammar, the "heroic line" was understood to mean iambic pentameter, a line of verse "composed of five Iambuses." Iambic pentameter was considered the metrical form best "suited to solemn and sublime subjects" with "far more dignity" than other kinds of meter.
§ 9. The Heroic line.
We now come to the eighth species of Iambic line. This is the heroic line composed of five Iambuses. This line is suited to solemn and sublime subjects, and it has far more dignity than any of the measures before mentioned. In long pieces it is frequently varied by the intermingling of secondary feet, but there are numerous in. stances of a succession of Iambuses through several lines.
It is employed in couplets, as in POPE's Essay on Man, PARNELL's Hermit, and GOLDSMITH's Deserted Village; it is employed in quatrains, as in GRAY's Elegy in a Country Churchyard; it is employed in the Spenserean stanza, as in the Faery Queen and Childe Harold; it is employed in blank verse, as in MILTON's Paradise Lost, THOMSON'S Seasons, ROGERS’ Italy, and COWPER's Task; lastly, it is employed in triplets, with an additional short line to complete the stanza. It is peculiarly suited to all subjects where dignity is required, and should never be employed when the subject is either trivial or gay. A specimen from GRAY's Elegy, showing the fitness of this measure for solemn subjects, will furnish the first example:The curfew tolls, the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
-- Erastus Everett, A System of English Versification (New York and Philadelphia, 1848) page 36.
Numerous editions of Lindley Murray's English Grammar uphold the definition of heroic measure as the conventional term for a line that specifically "consists of five Iambuses."
5 The fifth species of English Iambic, consists of five Iambuses.
How lov'd, how valu'd once, avails thee not,
To whom related, or by whom begot,
A heap of dust alone remains of thee;
'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be. [Alexander Pope, Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady]
Be wise to-day, 'tis madness to defer:This is called the Heroic measure. In its simplest form it consists of five Iambuses; but by the admission of other feet, as Trochees, Dactyls, Anapæsts, &c. it is capable of many varieties. Indeed, most of the English common measures may be varied in the same way, as well as by the different position of their pauses.
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life. [Edward Young on procrastination, from Night Thoughts, Night 1]
Heroic Measure (Pentameter) is made up of five iambic feet. In its rhymed form it is the measure of Chaucer and Spenser, of Dryden and Pope, of Cowper, Campbell, and Byron; as,
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance....
[Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism]
-- Charles William Bardeen, A System of Rhetoric (New York, 1884) page 639.Unlike Smith's ballad, Hoadley's "Destiny" is a genuinely "stout" production taking up 53 manuscript sheets in the bound copy now held in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection of The New York Public Library. Both the original title "The Union" and the revised one, "Destiny," are consistent with a work devoted to glorifying the United States, as is Hoadley's own reference to his "national poem." How well the actual content matches Evert Duyckinck's description, including the "polite slanging" at other nations, remains to be seen. Likewise the number of feet or beats per line. "Onota's graceful shore" has only four. The one that Melville read and loved has five, if Duyckinck got the meter right. Obviously, I'm trusting that the veteran New York editor and literary critic knew heroic measure when he heard it. Confidence! Heroic measure means pentameter. Wherever you hear it, even in the rafters.
- Hoadley's national poem, cheered by Melville
- Melville's hearty praises
- Definitely Destiny
- Destiny: a poem by John C Hoadley 648 lines plus endnotes, transcribed here