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THE BATTLE-FIELD (Page 212) William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was sent to the district school in Cummington, Massachusetts, when he was four years old, and attended the school until he was twelve. He wrote a poem in his eleventh year, and recited it at the close of the winter school. In 1809 he wrote a satire attacking President Jefferson. He attended college at Williams and at Yale, but for financial reasons was unable to complete his course. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1815. In 1818, he became regular contributor to the North American Review. By 1823 his poems had won him a European reputation. In 1836 he became editor and part owner of the New York Evening Post. At first he was a Democrat, but later became a Republican. In 1873 he was made an honorary member of the Russian Academy at St. Petersburg. In his eighty-first year he wrote “The Flood of Tears. He died from the results of a fall soon after he delivered the address at the unveiling of the statue of Mazzini in Central Park, New York.
“The Battle-Field” is thought by many critics to be Bryant's most worthy poem. It appeared in the Democratic Magazine for October, 1837. It is not certain what battlefield was in the author's mind.
COLUMBIA, THE GEM OF THE OCEAN (Page 214) There is some discussion as to the authorship of this song. A theatrical performer by, the name of Thomas à Becket claimed the authorship. He declared that David T. Shaw requested him to write a song for Shaw to be sung by Shaw for his benefit night in Philadelphia. À Becket said he wrote it, and Shaw sang it. It seems to be safe to say that the name and the idea of the song originated with Shaw, but the words and music were written and composed by à Becket. It is difficult to find very much about either one of these men, both of whom were interested in the theater, and traveled as
theatrical performers. À Becket retired from the stage and lived in Philadelphia in 1879, where he was a teacher of music. This song also goes under the title of “The Red, White, and Blue," and in England is popular under that title and “Britannia the Pride of the Ocean.'
STANZAS ON FREEDOM (Page 215) The West Indies lie_between the southern part of Florida and the Gulf of Paria, Venezuela, South America. Among these islands are Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Porto Rico. Jamaica became an English possession, May, 1655, when Oliver Cromwell was head of the Protectorate. Slavery could not exist in the British Isles after 1807, for at that time England abolished the slave trade. But slavery did exist in the West Indies. The West Indian planters stoutly resented an agitation for the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. But a bill was passed in Parliament in August, 1833, decreeing that slavery should cease August 1, 1834. A gift of 20,000,000 pounds (about $100,000,000) was made to slave owners as compensation for the loss of their property.
These stanzas were sung at the anti-slavery picnic in Dedham on the anniversary of West Indian emancipation, August 1, 1843.
James Russell Lowell is considered one of our greatest men of letters. Among his works are the following: Poems (1844); The Vision of Sir Launfal (1845); Poems (1848); The Biglow Papers, First Series (1848), Second Series (1867); Poems (1849); Poetical Works (1869); Among My Books, First Series (1870), Second Series (1876); My Study Windows (1871); Democracy and Other Addresses (1887).
THE PRESENT CRISIS (Page 216) This poem was written in December, 1844, and published by Lowell in a second series of his poems in 1848.
The political situation in 1844 was as follows: The presidential campaign of that year centered about the
annexation of Texas. Mexico declared herself independent of Spain in 1821, and Texas was one of her "states" at that time. From the beginning of the nineteenth century Americans had been going over into Texas, and by 1830 their influence there was considered by the Mexican President so threatening that he forbade all further immigration from the United States into Texas. The settlers of Texas being mainly Americans now prepared for rebellion and desired to form an independent slave state. The Texans petitioned for separation from Coahuila, a Mexican province to whom they had been subjected by the Mexican President. Mexico would not grant this request. The Texans declared their independence March, 1836, and won it the following month. The Republic of Texas was set up immediately. President Jackson promptly recognized its independence. The Texans hoped and expected annexation to the United States.
In the campaign of 1844 the Abolitionists, those who wished to abolish slavery outright, appeared as the Liberty party, and were against the annexation of Texas. The Whig party would not commit itself on the subject of annexation. But the Democratic platform boldly declared for the annexation of Texas, and nominated James K. Polk for the presidency. The Democrats won the election. But the Congress and President Tyler did not wait for the new administration to take favorable action on the admission of Texas. A joint resolution passed the House by a vote of 120 to 98 and the Senate by 27 to 25. Thus Texas became a state in the Union, March 1, 1845.
In studying “The Present Crisis” and the preceding selection, "Stanzas on Freedom,” the student can easily determine Lowell's position on the question of slavery and human freedom. În them are found "strains of poet and preacher," and they constitute an “inspiring expression of moral passion.”
THE SAIP OF STATE (Page 221) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), a distinguished American poet, began his school life at the
age of three, and entered public school in Love Lane, Portland, Maine, in 1812. From here he was at once sent to a private school. He attended Bowdoin College, and then went to Europe to fit himself for the chair of modern languages at Bowdoin. He studied and traveled in England, France, Spain, and Germany, returning to America in 1829. In that year he became professor in Bowdoin, and prepared his own text-books in French, Italian, and Spanish. In 1836 he became professor of French and Spanish languages at Harvard. He wrote dozens of articles and published many books. He visited Europe several times, and while there was entertained by men of distinction, among them Charles Dickens and Tennyson. He has been termed the
American poet laureate. England thought so much of him that a bust of Longfellow was placed in the Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey in March, 1884. America never tires of his “Evangeline,” “Hiawatha,” and “The Village Blacksmith."
BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC (Page 222) Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910) was born in New York City, May 27, 1819, soon after the War of 1812. Her father was a successful banker, and gave her an education very liberal for her time. She married the noted New York philanthropist, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. Before the Civil War she conducted with her husband The Commonwealth, an anti-slavery paper. In 1861 she wrote the famous “Battle Hymn of the Republic." In 1867 she went to Greece, and in 1869 became devoted to the cause of woman suffrage. She was a delegate to the World's Prison Reform Congress in London in 1872. Mrs. Howe has written many prose and poetical works; edited Sex and Education; was associate editor of the Woman's Journal, and contributed to many newspapers and magazines.
In 1918 Dr. Henry van Dyke wrote a stanza in answer to a request of the United States Marines in the training camp at Quantico. In writing to the editor concerning this stanza, Dr. van Dyke said:
Avalon, Princeton, N. J.
June 20, 1918 J. MADISON GATHANY, A.M.
Seekonk, Mass. Dear Sir :
Your favor of June 15th is duly received. In regard to the stanza to which you refer, it was not written as an addition or emendation to Mrs. Howe's “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It was merely an impromptu, composed in answer to the request of the U. S. Marines in the training camp at Quantico, who wished for a verse to express the spirit with which they had volunteered for this war, and who wanted to sing it to the old tune of John Brown's Body, which Mrs. Howe adapted for her Hymn.
I gave strict instructions that the stanza should not be regarded as a part of that Hymn, but should be sung only after the Hymn was completed, to express the thought that the great result of the Civil War, the establishment of human freedom in our country, is the very thing for which we are fighting now on a larger scale and on behalf of mankind. My stanza should not be used or printed without this explanation.
HENRY VAN DYKE
The words of this stanza follow : We have heard the cry of anguish from the victims of the
Hun, And we know our country's peril if the war lord's will is
done We will fight for world wide freedom till the victory is won,
For God is marching on.
UNION AND LIBERTY (Page 223) Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894) attended Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard in 1829. He wrote frequently for college publications, and wrote and delivered the poem at com