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

  • Kumarmani Mahakul (3/6/2018 9:31:00 PM)

    A poem on war heartfeltly and poignantly depicted. Beautiful poem. (Report)Reply

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  • (3/6/2018 8:50:00 PM)

    Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed,
    By nights I mused, of easeful sleep bereft, - - -nicely expressed- - beautiful poem- -10
    (Report)Reply

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  • Seamus O Brian (3/6/2018 11:07:00 AM)

    I return to this piece exactly one year later, and wonder in this interval, how many young men and women have fallen? How many exuberant, patriotic, confidently smiling portraits have been replaced with images of flag-draped coffins? How many fading footfalls have been followed by grieving families across manicured lawns to freshly dug graves? (Report)Reply

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  • (3/6/2018 10:09:00 AM)

    yes that what it taste (Report)Reply

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  • Glen Kappy (3/6/2018 7:39:00 AM)

    My first time reading this or any(?) Melville poem. I’m not familiar with his views on war, but without taking sides here he reminds us of part of what is inevitable in it. This poem reminds me of the song, Where have All the Flowers Gone. To the poem’s line, Youth feels immortal, how else react but too true and too sad. -GK (Report)Reply

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  • Nudershada Cabanes (3/6/2018 1:25:00 AM)

    A poem that sings the glory and infamy of war, Like the changing of season that begins in spring and ends in winter. (Report)Reply

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  • (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

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  • 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

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  • (3/6/2017 3:54:00 AM)

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

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

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

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  • 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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