14 - A Utilitarian View of the Monitor's Fight*
A Utilitarian View of the Monitor's Fight.
Plain be the phrase, yet apt the verse,
More ponderous than nimble;
For since grimed War here laid aside
His Orient pomp, 'twould ill befitIn his bound sheets of Battle-Pieces (Copy C), Melville underlined "Orient" in pencil and inscribed "painted" in the left margin, indicating a possible revision.
Overmuch to ply
The rhyme's barbaric cymbal.
Hail to victory without the gaud
Of glory; zeal that needs no fans
Of banners; plain mechanic power
Plied cogently in War now placed—
Where War belongs—
Among the trades and artisans.
Yet this was battle, and intense—
Beyond the strife of fleets heroic;
Deadlier, closer, calm 'mid storm;
No passion; all went on by crank,
Pivot, and screw,
And calculations of caloric.
Needless to dwell; the story's known.
The ringing of those plates on plates
Still ringeth round the world—
The clangor of that blacksmiths' fray.
Resounds this message from the Fates:
War shall yet be, and to the end;
But war-paint shows the streaks of weather;
War yet shall be, but warriors
Are now but operatives; War's made
Less grand than Peace,
And a singe runs through lace and feather"Lace and feather" evoke the Cavalier tradition, recalling the "pomp" of honor in line 4. Melville may have visited West Point in the spring of 1850 and witnessed military parades during which women in lace would observe cadets marching in "tarbuckets," their formal feathered headgear. Feathers also resonate with the "war-paint" of Native American warriors figured in line 26; see also line 45 in "Apathy and Enthusiasm.".