[Playing with poems published by Herman Melville in his 1866 “Battle Pieces & Aspects of the War”]
The Portent / Herman Melville / 1859
Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war.
See bottom of page for a portrait and a snippet from Wikipedia’s entry on the famous anti-pacifistic abolitionist John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859), hanged for leading a raid on a federal armory.
Poem’s structure by verse:
5 syllables (strong, weak, .. strong)
7 syllables (same–all are like that [stressed, unstressed — aka: “trochaic”])
4 (this one ends on a weak stress, since the syllablication’s even)
4 (again ends on a weak stress)
The rhyming is abab, then aa, then abcdceec (last rhyme is slant)
A Response Poem by AMW or BW, as the case may be
Brooklyn in the light.
Stroll across the bunching crowds.
Sidewalks white, kimonos bright,
Blossoms spread out
Differently shaped and dressed,
colored, coiffed, confessed.
Many phones and T-shirts, though.
Shared too, vaguely, tales and songs.
Children crash about.
I am Saturday alone
(off my phone)
In a sacred loud respite.
From Wikipedia’s “John Brown” entry:
In 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (still Virginia at the time) to start a liberation movement among the slaves there. He seized the armory, but seven people were killed and ten or more were injured. He intended to arm slaves with weapons from the arsenal, but the attack failed. Within 36 hours, Brown’s men had fled or been killed or captured by local farmers, militiamen, and US Marines led by Robert E. Lee. He was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men, and inciting a slave insurrection, was found guilty on all counts, and was hanged.
Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid escalated tensions which led to the South’s secession a year later and the American Civil War.
The Poem response is an AMW copyright;
“John Brown” article snippet belongs to Wikipedia’s entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown_(abolitionist);
Melville’s poem & the John Brown photo are both public domain;
THe Harper’s Ferry photo is by Morgan Nuzzo (I found it living in this Wikipedia cubby: href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpers_Ferry,_West_Virginia#/media/File:HarpersFerry_panorama.jpg”>)