Shiloh: A Requiem
is a poem of very real emotion that the reader cannot help but, empathize with. Herman Melville creates a brilliant depiction of the Battle of Shiloh’s Aftermath that’s almost palpable. The visual imagery present in this composition is very detailed and conceals hidden messages through metaphors, that in general are negative and nihilistic. The speaker also utilizes personification and other forms of figurative language to display the grim reality of impermanence. In the wake of this idea of impermanence the speaker emphasizes the frivolity of human affiliations through the impermanence and insignificance of these associations. This poem possesses inherent themes of existential nihilism, impermanence and frivolity that can be paralleled to the human condition, which in turn engenders feelings of hopelessness, depression terror, and universal awareness. The title of the poem,
Shiloh: A Requiem,
is a reference to the Battle of Shiloh, waged in
1862. 23,000 men died that day at Pittsburgh Landing and it was the beginning of the shift in the civil war’s public opinion(Shiloh, Lines 36, 81). Herman Melville was one of the first poets to write about the pains, effects, and aftermath of these battles. This is one of the central reasons why he is considered one of the first modern poets. Melville’s verses are very reminiscent of modern social protest compositions. He never outright condemned the war, but wrote from personal experience and documented in vivid detail how the horrors of war had touched all facets of society. This particular poem is a requiem or a composition in memory of the recently deceased. As expected the poem has a negative connotation. The speaker exudes a depressed attitude during the poem.
Melville opens the poem,
Shiloh: A Requiem,
with quite a bit of visual imagery, that
persists for the first five lines. “
Skimming lightly, wheeling still,The swallows fly lowOver the ...
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