Herman Melville

(1 August 1819 – 28 September 1891 / New York City, New York)

Ball's Bluff: A Reverie - Poem by Herman Melville

One noonday, at my window in the town,
I saw a sight - saddest that eyes can see -
Young soldiers marching lustily
Unto the wars,
With fifes, and flags in mottoed pageantry;
While all the porches, walks, and doors
Were rich with ladies cheering royally.

They moved like Juny morning on the wave,
Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime
(It was the breezy summer time),
Life throbbed so strong,
How should they dream that Death in rosy clime
Would come to thin their shining throng?
Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.

Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed,
By nights I mused, of easeful sleep bereft,
On those brave boys (Ah War! thy theft);
Some marching feet
Found pause at last by cliffs Potomac cleft;
Wakeful I mused, while in the street
Far footfalls died away till none were left.

Comments about Ball's Bluff: A Reverie by Herman Melville

  • (3/6/2017 10:32:00 PM)

    youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.
    Great poem displaying war fever and it's aftermath.
    (Report) Reply

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  • Seamus O' Brian (3/6/2017 4:19:00 PM)

    The power that emanates from the contrast generated by the valiant marching with the unwitnessed footfalls in the night create a space in which the dread of war's cost can germinate in our minds, and continue to grow tendrils of doubt after the poem is passes by. A hallmark of meaningful writing. (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (3/6/2017 3:41:00 PM)

    He captured the pending grief in the scene. What a fantastic gift for writing he had- -to pen both novels and poetry. (Report) Reply

  • Tom Allport (3/6/2017 3:54:00 AM)

    a sad poem of knowing the outcomes of war? (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (3/6/2017 12:52:00 AM)

    Potomac cleft! ! Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • Geeta Radhakrishna Menon (3/6/2017 12:27:00 AM)

    A very sad poem!
    Soldiers marching into the wars is a sight so miserable with all of them falling dead.
    Wish people would terminate wars and move towards peace!
    (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010

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