War Poetry of the South by Various

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Page 1



Several considerations have prompted the editor of this volume in the
compilation of its pages. It constitutes a contribution to the national
literature which is assumed to be not unworthy of it, and which is
otherwise valuable as illustrating the degree of mental and art
development which has been made, in a large section of the country, under
circumstances greatly calculated to stimulate talent and provoke
expression, through the higher utterances of passion and imagination.
Though sectional in its character, and indicative of a temper and a
feeling which were in conflict with nationality, yet, now that the States
of the Union have been resolved into one nation, this collection is
essentially as much the property of the whole as are the captured cannon
which were employed against it during the progress of the late war. It
belongs to the national literature, and will hereafter be regarded as
constituting a proper part of it, just as legitimately to be recognized by
the nation as are the rival ballads of the cavaliers and roundheads, by
the English, in the great civil conflict of their country.

The emotional literature of a people is as necessary to the philosophical
historian as the mere details of events in the progress of a nation. This
is essential to the reputation of the Southern people, as illustrating
their feelings, sentiments, ideas, and opinions--the motives which
influenced their actions, and the objects which they had in contemplation,
and which seemed to them to justify the struggle in which they were
engaged. It shows with what spirit the popular mind regarded the course of
events, whether favorable or adverse; and, in this aspect, it is even of
more importance to the writer of history than any mere chronicle of facts.
The mere facts in a history do not always, or often, indicate the true
_animus_, of the action. But, in poetry and song, the emotional
nature is apt to declare itself without reserve--speaking out with a
passion which disdains subterfuge, and through media of imagination and
fancy, which are not only without reserve, but which are too coercive in
their own nature, too arbitrary in their influence, to acknowledge any
restraints upon that expression, which glows or weeps with emotions that
gush freely and freshly from the heart. With this persuasion, we can also
forgive the muse who, in her fervor, is sometimes forgetful of her art.

And yet, it is believed that the numerous pieces of this volume will be
found creditable to the genius and culture of the Southern people, and
honorable, as in accordance with their convictions. They are derived from
all the States of the late Southern Confederacy, and will be found
truthfully to exhibit the sentiment and opinion prevailing more or less
generally throughout the whole. The editor has had special advantages in
making the compilation. Having a large correspondence in most of the
Southern States, he has found no difficulty in procuring his material.
Contributions have poured in upon him from all portions of the South; the
original publications having been, in a large number of cases, subjected
to the careful revision of the several authors. It is a matter of great
regret with him that the limits of the present volume have not suffered
him to do justice to, and find a place for, many of the pieces which fully
deserve to be put on record. Some of the poems were quite too long for his
purpose; a large number, delayed by the mails and other causes, were
received too late for publication. Several collections, from Louisiana,
North Carolina, and Texas, especially, are omitted for this reason. Many
of these pieces are distinguished by fire, force, passion, and a free play
of fancy. Briefly, his material would enable him to prepare another
volume, similar to the present, which would not be unworthy of its
companionship. He is authorized by his publisher to say that, in the event
of the popular success of the present volume, he will cheerfully follow up
its publication by a second, of like style, character, and dimensions.

The editor has seen with pleasure the volume of "Rebel Rhymes" edited by
Mr. Moore, and of "South Songs," by Mr. De Leon. He has seen, besides, a
single number of a periodical pamphlet called "The Southern Monthly,"
published at Memphis, Tenn. This has been supplied him by a contributor.
He has seen no other publications of this nature, though he has heard of
others, and has sought for them in vain. There may be others still
forthcoming; for, in so large a field, with a population so greatly
scattered as that of the South, it is a physical impossibility adequately
to do justice to the whole by any one editor; and each of the sections
must make its own contributions, in its own time, and according to its
several opportunities. There will be room enough for all; and each, I
doubt not, will possess its special claims to recognition and reward.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sat 18th Jan 2020, 17:13