66 - On a natural Monument*
On a natural Monument
in a field of Georgia. u
No trophy this—a Stone unhewn,
And stands where here the field immures
The nameless brave whose palms are won.
Outcast they sleep; yet fame is nigh—
Pure fame of deeds, not doers;
Nor deeds of men who bleeding die
In cheer of hymns that round them float:
In happy dreams such close the eye.
But withering famine slowly wore,
And slowly fell disease did gloat.
Even Nature's self did aid deny;
They choked in horrorIn his bound sheets of Battle-Pieces (Copy C), Melville used pencil to create a wavy line around and between "They choked" and "in horror" to indicate a transposition of these words to give "In horror they choked," a typical inversion in Melville's style. The editors of the NN Published Poems emend their reading text by enacting this transposition on behalf of Melville. (See also a similar emendation in "The Fortitude of the North" and two instances in "The Scout toward Aldie.") However, in keeping with our protocol of not mixing versions of a work, MEL does not emend, but notes Melville's changes through revision annotation. the pensive sigh.
Yea, off from home sad Memory bore
(Though anguished Yearning heaved that way),
Lest wreck of reason might befall.
As men in gales shun the lee shore,
Though there the homestead be, and call,
And thitherward winds and waters sway—
As such lorn mariners, so fared they.
But naught shall now their peace molest.
Their fame is this: they did endure—
Endure, when fortitude was vain
To kindle any approving strain
Which they might hear. To these who rest,
This healing sleep alone was sure.
[Melville's] Note u, page 178. Written prior to the founding of the National Cemetery at Andersonville, where 15,000 of the reinterred captives now sleep, each beneath his personal head-board, inscribed from records found in the prison-hospital. Some hundreds rest apart and without name. A glance at the published pamphlet containing the list of the buried at Andersonville conveys a feeling mournfully impressive. Seventy-four large double-columned pages in fine print. Looking through them is like getting lost among the old turbaned head-stones and cypresses in the interminable Black Forest of Scutari, over against Constantinople.