5 - The March into Virginia*
The March into Virginia,
Ending in the First Manassas.
Did all the lets and bars appear
To every just or larger end,
Whence should come the trust and cheer?
Youth must its ignorant impulse lend—
Age finds place in the rear.
All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys,
The champions and enthusiasts of the state:
Turbid ardors and vain joys
Not barrenly abate—
Stimulants to the power mature,
Preparatives of fate.
Who here forecasteth the event?
What heart but spurns at precedent
And warnings of the wise,
Contemned foreclosures of surprise?
The banners play, the bugles call,
The air is blue and prodigal.
No berrying party, pleasure-wooed,
No picnic party in the May,
Ever went less loth than they
Into that leafy neighborhood.
In Bacchic glee they file toward Fate,
Moloch's uninitiateTraditionally, Moloch is a Canaanite god whose worshipers engaged in child sacrifice. In Milton's Paradise Lost, he rules in Pandemonium: "First Moloch, horrid King besmear'd with blood / Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears" (as quoted in Cohen 213).;
Expectancy, and glad surmise
Of battle's unknown mysteries.
All they feel is this: 'tis glory,
A rapture sharp, though transitory,
Yet lasting in belaureled story.
So they gayly go to fight,
Chatting left and laughing right.
But some who this blithe mood present,
As on in lightsome files they fare,
Shall die experienced ere three days areREVISION NARRATIVE: In revisions to this stanza in the bound sheets of Battle-Pieces (Copy C), Melville wrote "be for 'are'" in pencil in the right margin as a possible revision of "are spent" to "be spent"; however, he made no clearer determination by actually deleting "are." The NN edition of Battle-Pieces does not emend (NN Published Poems 627), and MEL makes note of the possible revision here and in its side-by-side display of copies A and C. To see Melville's revisions, click on the corresponding thumbnail page image from Copy C in the right margin. spent—
Perish, enlightened by the vollied glare;
Or shameREVISION NARRATIVE: In his personal copy of Battle-Pieces (Copy A), Melville made two revisions to "shame." In pencil, he seems to have inscribed "a" in the left margin presumably to give "Or a shame survive," thereby particularizing the shame of defeat, applying it to the feelings of those fresh recruits who died at the first battle of Manassas and not referring to a generalized shame for the entire army or nation. Then, without deleting "a," Melville underlined "shame" and inscribed directly under "a" the word "some," implying a revision that gives instead "Or some survive." Here, "some" reiterates "some" in the stanza's first line, which refers to those who die. On the one hand, since the revision to "some" refers to survivors who go on to meet a worse defeat in the second battle of Manassas, the word "shame" might have been a previously undetected typo that Melville is correcting to the originally intended "some." In this scenario, the revision restores an otherwise bungled parallelism in the stanza between some who die and some who survive. On the other hand, Melville may have discovered the potential for a previously unimagined parallelism, in the process of revision as he tinkered with "shame." In addition, Melville made only three revisions in Copy A—this one (on page 23), and one each in "Lyon" (p. 27) and "The March to the Sea" (p. 129)—and on the verso of the front flyleaf in Copy A, Melville had also inscribed a list of two numbers ("27 and "129"). The editors of the NN Published Poems argue that the omission of "23" indicates that Melville did not make a final acceptance of the revision on this page. However, an alternative theory is that because he inscribed two words at this revision site, yielding two or more readings, the omission might indicate that Melville had not made a final decision but was oscillating between choices.
survive, and, like to adamant,
The throe of Second Manassas share.REVISION NARRATIVE:
In the bound sheets copy of Battle-Pieces (Copy C), Melville made several revisions to the last line of "The March into Virginia," oscillating between options. The editors of the NN Published Poems offer a revision sequence that begins with Melville's underlining of the last line in pencil and inscribing a question mark in the right margin, with the author presumably indicating a problem area to be resolved. The editors go on to narrate the site's further revisions. MEL offers another revision scenario arguing that the underlining and marginal question mark may have come later, as the indication of a restoration of the original line and of Melville's indecision about which final reading he wanted. In the other revision steps at this revision site, MEL's and NN's revisions sequencings generally agree. The MEL sequencing is that Melville would have first struck through the original, printed line and inscribed beneath it a new line "Manassas' second throe and deadlier share". The line presents metrical problems because it adds a fifth beat to the original tetrameter, and even a sixth depending on how the possessive "Manassas'" is pronounced. At this time, Melville might have thought better of the possessive, struck through the entire penciled line, and underlined the original print line to indicate its restoration. Later, in darker pencil, Melville landed upon a third option: "Thy second shock, Manassas, share." Tinkering, he then struck out "second" and inscribed "after" above it to give "Thy after shock, Manassas, share." Though "after shock" (as in an earthquake) is a new and vibrant image, the deletion of "second" diminishes the irony of the troops enduring the more disastrous second battle of Manassas to come. Having to weigh the losses and gains of his revisions, Melville might have added the marginal question mark to indicate his indecision about this optional line. To see Melville's revisions, click on the corresponding thumbnail page image from Copy C in the right margin.