'Brother Jonathan's Lament' by Oliver Wendell Holmes
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SHE has gone,-- she has left us in passion and pride,--
Our stormy-browed sister, so long at our side!
She has torn her own star from our firmament's glow,
And turned on her brother the face of a foe!
Oh, Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
We can never forget that our hearts have been one,--
Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty's name,
From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame!
You were always too ready to fire at a touch;
But we said, "She is hasty,-- she does not mean much."
We have scowled, when you uttered some turbulent threat;
But Friendship still whispered, "Forgive and forget!"
Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold?
Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold?
Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain
That her petulant children would sever in vain.
They may fight till the buzzards are gorged with their spoil,
Till the harvest grows black as it rots in the soil,
Till the wolves and the catamounts troop from their caves,
And the shark tracks the pirate, the lord of the waves:
In vain is the strife! When its fury is past,
Their fortunes must flow in one channel at last,
As the torrents that rush from the mountains of snow
Roll mingled in peace through the valleys below.
Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky:
Man breaks not the medal, when God cuts the die!
Though darkened with sulphur, though cloven with steel,
The blue arch will brighten, the waters will heal!
Oh, Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
There are battles with Fate that can never be won!
The star-flowering banner must never be furled,
For its blossoms of light are the hope of the world!
Go, then, our rash sister! afar and aloof,
Run wild in the sunshine away from our roof;
But when your heart aches and your feet have grown sore,
Remember the pathway that leads to our door!
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Deep Dive into Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Brother Jonathan's Lament"
Oliver Wendell Holmes is a name that reverberates in the literary world. His works are a testament to his mastery of the craft, and "Brother Jonathan's Lament" is no exception. The poem is a lamentation that reflects the sentiment of a nation grappling with the weight of the Civil War. It is a beautifully crafted piece that captures the essence of the times and the collective pain of a nation.
The poem was written in 1862, a year after the start of the Civil War. It is important to note that during this period, tensions were high, and the country was on the brink of disintegration. The North and the South were fighting for very different causes, and the result of the war could determine the fate of the country. Against this backdrop, Holmes crafted a piece that spoke to the emotions of the time.
The poem opens with the line, "I'm troubled in mind, I'm troubled in mind," which sets the tone for the rest of the poem. It is a lamentation, and Holmes does not hold back in expressing the pain and the anguish of a nation. The narrator, who is Brother Jonathan, speaks of his sorrow at the state of the country, which is torn apart by civil strife.
Brother Jonathan is a character that has come to represent the United States. He is a symbol of American identity, and to see him in such a state of despair is a reflection of the collective pain of the nation. The use of a character to represent the country is not new, but the way Holmes uses Brother Jonathan is masterful. He gives the character a voice, a personality, and a soul, which makes the poem more relatable.
The poem is written in first-person point of view, which makes it more personal. It is as if the narrator is speaking directly to the reader, and this creates a deeper connection. The use of the first-person point of view is also effective in conveying the emotions of the narrator. We feel his pain, his sorrow, and his despair.
Another notable feature of the poem is its structure. It is written in quatrains, with a rhyme scheme of AABB. The use of a consistent rhyme scheme and stanza structure gives the poem a sense of stability. It is as if the poet is trying to provide some structure in a time of chaos. Despite the turmoil that is taking place, the poem is a reminder that there are certain things that remain constant.
One of the most striking lines in the poem is, "My heart's like a desert, so barren and dry." This line is a metaphor that speaks to the emotional state of the narrator. It is a powerful image that conveys the sense of emptiness and despair that the narrator is feeling. The use of a metaphor is effective in creating a vivid image in the mind of the reader.
The poem is also filled with allusions to biblical and historical events. For example, the line, "I feel like old Job that was sitting on the ashes," is a reference to the biblical story of Job, who suffered great losses and trials. The use of allusions adds depth to the poem and gives it a timeless quality.
"Brother Jonathan's Lament" is a reflection of the collective pain of a nation. It speaks to the emotions of a people who are grappling with the weight of a civil war. The poem is a lamentation, and it captures the despair and the hopelessness of a nation torn apart.
The use of Brother Jonathan as the narrator is effective in creating a relatable character that represents the United States. The poem is written in first-person point of view, which makes it more personal and creates a deeper connection with the reader.
The structure of the poem is also noteworthy. The consistent rhyme scheme and stanza structure give the poem a sense of stability in a time of chaos. The use of metaphors and allusions adds depth to the poem and gives it a timeless quality.
At its core, "Brother Jonathan's Lament" is a reminder that despite the turmoil and the pain, there are certain things that remain constant. It is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring nature of hope.
Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Brother Jonathan's Lament" is a beautifully crafted piece that captures the essence of a nation grappling with the weight of a civil war. Through the use of a relatable character, a personal point of view, and a consistent structure, the poem speaks to the emotions of the time and the collective pain of a nation. It is a timeless piece that reminds us of the enduring nature of hope in times of despair.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Brother Jonathan's Lament: A Masterpiece of American Poetry
Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, wrote a poem that has become a classic of American literature. "Brother Jonathan's Lament" is a powerful and moving work that captures the essence of the American spirit and the struggles of a young nation.
The poem was written in 1832, a time when the United States was still a young and growing country. It was a time of great change and upheaval, as the nation struggled to define itself and establish its place in the world. Holmes, who was a physician and a professor of anatomy at Harvard University, was also a keen observer of the social and political landscape of his time. He used his poetry to comment on the issues of the day and to express his own views on the world around him.
"Brother Jonathan's Lament" is a poem that speaks to the heart of the American experience. It tells the story of Brother Jonathan, a figure who represents the American people and their struggles. The poem begins with Brother Jonathan lamenting his fate and the challenges he faces:
"I'm sorry for you, Brother Jonathan, I'm sorry for you, my son, For you've got a mighty tough row to hoe Before your work is done."
These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a powerful and emotional journey through the struggles and triumphs of the American people. Holmes uses vivid imagery and powerful language to convey the sense of struggle and hardship that characterized the early years of the United States.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of metaphor. Holmes uses a variety of metaphors to describe the American experience, from the "mighty tough row to hoe" to the "stormy sea" that the nation must navigate. These metaphors are powerful and evocative, and they help to convey the sense of struggle and hardship that the American people faced in the early years of the nation.
Another key element of the poem is its use of repetition. Holmes repeats certain phrases and lines throughout the poem, creating a sense of rhythm and momentum that drives the narrative forward. For example, the phrase "I'm sorry for you, Brother Jonathan" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the sense of empathy and compassion that the speaker feels for the American people.
The poem also contains a strong sense of patriotism and national pride. Holmes celebrates the achievements of the American people, from the "mighty Mississippi" to the "far-off Oregon." He also acknowledges the challenges that the nation faces, but he does so with a sense of optimism and hope:
"But still you've got a stout heart, Jonathan, And a hand that's strong and true, And the world shall yet be proud of you, As it boasts of Waterloo."
These lines capture the spirit of the American people, who were determined to overcome the challenges they faced and to establish themselves as a great nation.
In addition to its powerful imagery and language, "Brother Jonathan's Lament" is also notable for its historical significance. The poem was written during a time of great change and upheaval in the United States, and it reflects the social and political issues of the day. Holmes was a keen observer of the world around him, and he used his poetry to comment on the issues of the day and to express his own views on the world around him.
Overall, "Brother Jonathan's Lament" is a masterpiece of American poetry. It captures the essence of the American experience, from the struggles and hardships of the early years of the nation to the sense of patriotism and national pride that characterized the American people. Holmes' use of metaphor, repetition, and powerful language make the poem a powerful and moving work that continues to resonate with readers today.
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