Lint In My Pocket – Artillery On the Ridge

27 07 2010

Lint In My Pocket – Artillery On the Ridge is a blog maintained by Scott Summers, a poet and teacher in New Jersey.  Here’s how he recently described what he’s doing:

Originally, The Lint in My Pocket was meant to represent the small things that peter from my mind; however, I now see something different. I see the lint that lined the pockets of American Civil War soldiers, generals, colonels, civilians, etc. Like me, each of them carried lint in his/her pocket as well. Each of them was normal folk, as I am. Yet, these normal folk were thrust into incredible situations, situations laced with triumph, tragedy, love, hate, blood, breath, and death; they were forced to experience, in one way or another, the artillery on the ridge.

So, I press on. Hope you enjoy.

Last week, Scott posted this poem for the anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run:

Stonewall Jackson at Manassas: July 21, 1861

That beard hangs
from his chin
like an anvil.

Ain’t no lie.
Yankee bullets
veer `round his head

so not to smack
against his face.
We should just point

him toward Washington
and shackle up behind
like a chain of geese.

I swear we’d rename
this country Virginia
before it’s cold enough

to tighten your skin
and freeze your breath.

Enjoying!





The Figure a Poem Makes

20 11 2008

In this post, I tried to explain – ineloquently – my “vision” for this site (I’ll use the word “site” to include both the blog part and the digital history (DH) part, though some might argue that the blog is DH too, and I guess it is, but by “DH part” I mean the Bull Run Resources).  This time, instead of using philosophy as a way to differentiate between DH and what I’ll call TNH (Traditional Narrative History), let me try poetry.  Prose, poetry, neither better than the other, like oysters and clams (as Crassus explained to Antoninus in that scene deleted from Spartacus).  But just as I’m not a philosopher, neither am I a poet.  So I’ll let a poet do the talking.

Robert Frost wrote the following in 1939 as an introduction to a collection of his poems (see here):

robert-frostAbstraction is an old story with the philosophers, but it has been like a new toy in the hands of the artists of our day. Why can’t we have any one quality of poetry we choose by itself? We can have in thought. Then it will go hard if we can’t in practice. Our lives for it.

Granted no one but a humanist much cares how sound a poem is if it is only a sound. The sound is the gold in the ore. Then we will have the sound out alone and dispense with the inessential. We do till we make the discovery that the object in writing poetry is to make all poems sound as different as possible from each other, and the resources for that of vowels, consonants, punctuation, syntax, words, sentences, metre are not enough. We need the help of context – meaning – subject matter. That is the greatest help towards variety. All that can be done with words is soon told. So also with metres – particularly in our language where there are virtually but two, strict iambic and loose iambic. The ancients with many were still poor if they depended on metres for all tune. It is painful to watch our sprung-rhythmists straining at the point of omitting one short from a foot for relief from monotony. The possibilities for tune from the dramatic tones of meaning struck across the rigidity of a limited metre are endless. And we are back in poetry as merely one more art of having something to say, sound or unsound. Probably better if sound, because deeper and from wider experience.

Then there is this wildness whereof it is spoken. Granted again that it has an equal claim with sound to being a poem’s better half. If it is a wild tune, it is a Poem. Our problem then is, as modern abstractionists, to have the wildness pure; to be wild with nothing to be wild about. We bring up as aberrationists, giving way to undirected associations and kicking ourselves from one chance suggestion to another in all directions as of a hot afternoon in the life of a grasshopper. Theme alone can steady us down. Just as the first mystery was how a poem could have a tune in such a straightness as metre, so the second mystery is how a poem can have wildness and at the same time a subject that shall be fulfilled.

It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life – not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood – and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad – the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may Want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere. The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick. Modern instruments of precision are being used to make things crooked as if by eye and hand in the old days.

I tell how there may be a better wildness of logic than of inconsequence. But the logic is backward, in retrospect, after the act. It must be more felt than seen ahead like prophecy. It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader. For it to be that there must have been the greatest freedom of the material to move about in it and to establish relations in it regardless of time and space, previous relation, and everything but affinity. We prate of freedom. We call our schools free because we are not free to stay away from them till we are sixteen years of age. I have given up my democratic prejudices and now willingly set the lower classes free to be completely taken care of by the upper classes. Political freedom is nothing to me. I bestow it right and left. All I would keep for myself is the freedom of my material – the condition of body and mind now and then to summons aptly from the vast chaos of all I have lived through.

Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields. No acquirement is on assignment, or even self-assignment. Knowledge of the second kind is much more available in the wild free ways of wit and art. A schoolboy may be defined as one who can tell you what he knows in the order in which he learned it. The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic. More than once I should have lost my soul to radicalism if it had been the originality it was mistaken for by its young converts. Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country. For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described: from delight to wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

Yeah – for me history, like life, is more like poetry than prose.  More like art than science.  I guess that’s why I bridle at anything more than very general boundaries for it.  And why I’m so excited about the possibilities for the presentation of history on the web.

Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout a new way of walkin’.  Do ya wanna lose your mind? Walk right in, sit right down.  Daddy let your mind roll on.

What do you think?

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine





Thomas Hardy on Battlefield Preservation

1 03 2008

 

roman-road.jpg

In the last Save Historic Antietam Foundation newsletter (which I edit) I was interviewed for a board member profile (you can read it here).  I fear I was a little ineloquent in my expression of concern about the state of Civil War Battlefield preservation.  Specifically, I’ve been bothered by the sometimes heavy handed approach some organizations take with landowners.  We, as people who understand what makes these grounds special to us, often fail to understand, and fail to even try to understand, what they mean to others.  Sometimes, they mean financial security for them and their children, and maybe their children’s children.  Perhaps Thomas Hardy’s thoughts in The Roman Road apply here:

The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;

Visioning on the vacant air
Helmeted legionnaires, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmeted legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother’s form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
The Roman Road.

When dealing with sacred ground, first we need to find common ground.

Photo of a Roman Road in Lancashire is from this site.





Christmas Bells

21 12 2007

clongfellow1.jpg clongfellow2.jpg clongfellow3.jpg clongfellow4.jpg

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this poem in 1864 while helping his son Charles recover from a serious wound received in Virginia.  Born in 1844, “Charley” (above as a child, a soldier, a samurai!, and a sailor) was a risk taker from the get-go, and lost his thumb in an accident with a gun at age 11.  As a Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, he was wounded at New Hope Church during the Mine Run Campaign on November 27, 1863 – shot through the shoulders, with the bullet “nicking” his spine.  Earlier, he had survived a bout with malaria.  After the war Charley lived a full life as a globe-trotting bachelor, but he died young in Boston in 1893.  Read more about him at the NPS Longfellow National Historic Site webpage, and at this SUV site.

Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play

    And wild and sweet

    The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

    Had rolled along

    The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day,

    A voice, a chime,

    A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

    And with the sound

    The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

    And made forlorn

    The households born

Of Peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

    “For hate is strong,

    And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;

God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

    The Wrong shall fail,

    The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!

The poem has also been adapted and recorded by various artists as a carol, my particular favorite being Frank Sinatra.  But here’s one from The Carpenters (removed) so here’s a different one from a group called Casting Crowns:

 And here is a link to some readings of the poem.

Take these as my poor gift to you.  Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!

UPDATE: I FOUND FRANK!!!





Beet Poet – Pt. II

15 02 2007

It seems there is more to the Bee poem.  You can find the details, and more wonderful drawings, here.  The site says that the poem was written in 1856, when Bee was a captain of the 10th Infantry – that is to say, not by a young Bee in Mexico.  Here is the full text (I particularly like the slam to the dragoons):

Our Army is a Motley Crew

In dress and armour, duties too,

And each and all I love to see -

But most I love the Infantry.

In tented field, in Ladies bower

Alike they shine – all feel their power.

Though other corps are dear to me

Yet most I prize the Infantry.

The engineer, with science crowned,

For action, traces out the ground.

Artillery at distance play,

Dragoons sometimes do clear the way.

The sharp advance, the pistol shot,

The quick retreat, at rapid trot!

The foe advances, light and free.

Who meets him then?  The Infantry!

And so that glorious host move on,

Their bayonets glistening in the sun.

Onward they hold their steadfast way

Tho’ deathshots round them madly play

Their comrades slain (?), their banners torn

These noble hearts, still proudly form.

And hark!  A shout – ’tis Victory!

Who would not love the Infantry?





Beet Poet

14 02 2007

My apologies for failing to wish Barnard Bee a happy 183rd birthday last Thursday, February 8.  It’s really inexcusable since I had already written two bits (here and here) about him and his monument.  Mea culpa, General, and I hope you had a grand time on your big day there in your niche.

While searching around for info last week I ran across a drawing and poem that, according to this site, is attributed to young Bee in Mexico.

 

 

bee-poem.jpg

 

Here’s the text of the poem, in case you have trouble reading it:

 

 

Our Army is a Motley Crew

In dress and armour, duties too,

And each and all I love to see –

But most I love the Infantry.

In tented field, in Ladies bower

Alike they shine – all feel their power.

Though other corps are dear to me

Yet most I prize the Infantry.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 897 other followers