4 - Apathy and Enthusiasm
Apathy and Enthusiasm.In Melville's 1854 short story "The Fiddler," the central character Hautboy "seemed intuitively to hit the exact line between enthusiasm and apathy. It was plain that while Hautboy saw the world pretty much as it was, yet he did not thereotically espouse its bright side nor its dark side" (as quoted in Cohen 211). More directly, Melville may have been responding to a New York Times editorial of April 16, 1861 titled "The Resurrection of Patriotism," which stressed the unbounding enthusiasm for the war. The editorial's last line—"Whatever may be the character of the contest, we have no fears or misgivings as to the final issue"—may have also inspired Melville's less optimistic poem "Misgivings."
O the clammy cold November,
And the winter white and dead,
And the terror dumb with stupor,
And the sky a sheet of lead;
And events that came resounding
With the cry that All was lost,
Like the thunder-cracks of massy ice
In intensity of frost—
Bursting one upon another
Through the horror of the calm.
The paralysis of arm
In the anguish of the heart;
And the hollowness and dearth.
The appealings of the mother
To brother and to brother
Not in hatred so to part—
And the fissure in the hearth
Growing momently more wide.
Then the glances 'tween the Fates,
And the doubt on every side,
And the patience under gloom
In the stoniness that waits
The finality of doom.
So the winter died despairing,
And the weary weeks of Lent;
And the ice-bound rivers melted,
And the tomb of Faith was rent.
O, the rising of the People
Came with springing of the grass,
They rebounded from dejection
After Easter came to pass.
And the young were all elation
Hearing Sumter's cannon roar,
And they thought how tame the Nation
In the age that went before.
And MichaelMelville alludes to the war in heaven between St. Michael and the "Arch-fiend" Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost. seemed gigantical,
The Arch-fiend but a dwarf;
And at the towers of Erebus
Our striplings flung the scoff.
But the elders with foreboding
Mourned the days forever o'er,
And recalled the forest proverb,
The Iroquois' old saw:In "The Source of Melville's Iroquois Proverb," Peter Unseth finds no proverb tradition among the Iroquois nations and no source for this proverb in general; Melville seems to have made it up. ANQ A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles Notes and Reviews 28.3-4 (October 2015): 182-85. DOI: 10.1080/0895769X.2016.1172954.
Grief to every graybeard
When young Indians lead the war.