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Herman Melville (1819-1891)

The Portent (1859)


              1Hanging from the beam,
              2    Slowly swaying (such the law),
              3Gaunt the shadow on your green,
              4    Shenandoah!
              5The cut is on the crown
              6    (Lo, John Brown),
              7And the stabs shall heal no more.

              8Hidden in the cap
              9    Is the anguish none can draw;
            10So your future veils its face,
            11    Shenandoah!
            12But the streaming beard is shown
            13    (Weird John Brown),
            14The meteor of the war.

Notes

4] The Shenandoah River joins the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where abolitionist John Brown and 21 men attacked the Federal armory December 2, 1859, to initiate a slave rebellion. Brown was hanged December 2 that year for treason.

11] The Shenandoah valley would be the site of battles from 1862 to 1864 in the Civil War, including Kernstown, Winchester, Cross Keys, Opequon Creek, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Collected Poems of Herman Melville, ed. Howard P. Vincent (Chicago: Packard, 1947): 3. PS 2382 V5 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1866
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/6/2

Rhyme: ababccd efefggd


Other poems by Herman Melville