Tag Archives: New York History

A Dear John Letter to my Textbooks

Dear NYC Social Studies Core Curriculum Textbooks published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,

This is a difficult letter for me to write…and an even more difficult letter for you to read, so I hope that you are sitting down.

Remember when we first met? I trembled in excitement upon hearing of a textbook option for New York City’s social studies curriculum. Once I had you (or the fourth grade version of you at the time), it was as if a great weight was lifted from me—finally, a concrete guide to instruction.

I was smitten just by looking at your spine…the glow off your glossy cover…the sharp color photos that littered almost every page.

Those first few months were incredible, weren’t they? Every day was something new, something exciting. We were so wild, so adventurous…we could take on the world. To be honest, we were into some really kinky shit, but that was all in the fun.

Each year, another book would await me, and my love affair renewed. The roller-coaster ride we shared made the mundane phone order to the central office in Tweed so—dare I say—exhilarating. The maps, the optional activities, the worksheets and games: at last, I thought, I found the one.

Yet, something changed.

At first, I thought it was just me. After a while, we settled into our routine. Occasionally, you provide a surprise to spice things up—a game on the Internet, or a music selection. That, however, was the exception to the rule. To be fair, that routine suited me fine…for a while.

Then, maybe it was my weakness…but I started to feel restless. The chapters and units weren’t doing it for me anymore. I felt trapped.

It was then that I met someone else…more like some other people, plural.

There were some websites on the Internet. I was leery, at first. But then, they lured me with their siren song of primary source documents, streaming video and interactive games. Once I saw the ever-changing and ever-expanding volumes of media, lesson plans, worksheets and graphic organizers, that old excitement, that feeling of adventure exploded over me again.

I had mentioned that I was attached, that I couldn’t turn my back on my beloved. They, in turn, mentioned some shocking things about you: that you don’t fact-check your information that well, that there are numerous mistakes in historical maps, that terminology and vocabulary are often misstated.

Worst of all, they said that by watering down the content for the sake of “readability”, you were holding me back—and even worse, holding my students hostage to shoddy literature.

I wouldn’t believe it. They were just jealous, after all, I thought. How could they appreciate the passion, the connection we have…besides, if there were flaws, you would have told me, right?

Right?

Well, I did some digging myself. On page 161 of the grade 3 book, this is what you say about the Roman Empire:

“The Roman Empire lasted about 500 years, but then broke apart. It had grown too large for its rulers to control. However, ancient Rome still affects the world with its ideas about government, architecture, and more.”

Fair enough, it is only for 3rd graders, but sometimes you water down way too much. Look at page 163:

“In the mid-1900s, World War II broke out. Many countries fought in this war, including Italy. Italy was on the side that lost.”

Umm, that’s it? No mention of the nightmare of a 21-year fascist dictatorship that preceded it? No mention of the other countries that bear more responsibility for losing—the ones that had more blood on their hands. Those kids can get that…why do you treat them like morons?

If that’s not bad enough, I found outright lies—lies that you should’ve told me about. Why did you keep it a secret that the leaders of the New Netherland colony were incorrectly called “governors” instead of the correct “directors-general”?

Why does a map of North America in the 18th century use flags from another century? I see an 1801 British flag, a 1793 French flag, and a 1981 Spanish flag.

I’m not even going into the problems in the 5th grade book.

Why? Why did you hold me back so many years? Why the lies? The deceit? The lack of clarity and depth of content?

I’m sorry, but our relationship has really run its course. It’s over.

Please, no tears…it’s not entirely your fault. I was too stupid to realize how badly written you were. I didn’t see your limited vision and lack of depth.

Basically, we’ve really grown apart these past few years. I expanded my base of knowledge and resources through the internet, seminars, grants and lectures.

You just can’t grow past your binding.

You were suffocating me, and screwing my students in the process. There’s nowhere else for this to go.

Believe me, it’s better for both of us.

Goodbye, and good luck. Perhaps we’ll see each other again… that odd day that I need to waste a period with busywork in June.

Just don’t wait up for my call. Sorry, babe.

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This Day in History 8/15: The Beatles’ 1965 Concert at Shea Stadium

Who brought out Shea Stadium‘s biggest crowd in 1965, perhaps in its history?  Well, it certainly wasn’t the hapless Mets (with all due respect to Mets fans).

On August 15, 1965, Beatlemania reached on of its true zeniths, as the seminal British rock band The Beatles played in Shea Stadium, the Mets’ home field, for their second US tour.  The band would play once more there the next year, and would never play in public again after that tour.

Over 55,000 people packed into Flushing to see the Beatles play on a small stage below center field.  The noise was deafening, but not due to the music: the fans’ shouts and screams–as well as the distance of the band from the audience, meant nobody really heard much of anything.  It was only when Ed Sullivan released a documentary of the performance that anyone actually heard the setlist.

Furthermore, the Shea concert began a revolution in live music, for both good and ill.  Its massive profits proved to promoters that massive outdoor arena shows can indeed be good business.  The subsequent decade, particularly into the 1970s, saw the rise of “arena rock” as bands with giant speakers and screaming guitars blasted their way through stadiums and outdoor venues.

However, the “arena rock” phase would often be criticized as formulaic, sterile and commercial.  Ironically, it would prove to be the catalyst of a countermovement, punk, that re-captured the indoor rebellious spirit of rock.

Attached is Ed Sullivan’s introduction of the band, and their rendition of “Twist and Shout.”  Believe me, be lucky this documentary exists: you would’ve heard nothing but the white noise of screaming adolescents if you were there.

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Hollywood History: Possible Scripts to Pitch in LA

I’ve heard that everyone in Los Angeles either walks around with a headshot or a screenplay. So, when in Rome… (or West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Malibu, etc.)

Next week, I will be in the sunny confines of southern California, home of the proverbial swimming pools and movie stars. Since Mr. D is just too ravishingly handsome for the screen, he should probably have some sort of treatment with him in case he gets discovered…you never know.

In researching possible script ideas, I’ve noticed that many incredible stories from history have not gotten their proper Hollywood treatment. Some, such as Giuseppe Garibaldi and Enrico Fermi, I’ve discussed before. On this trip, however, let’s look at other stories that have been overlooked—as well as some interesting casting ideas.

1. Andrew Jackson

Why? – The guy, like so many characters in history, is custom-designed for great moviemaking. Orphaned at a young age, wounded in the Revolution as a teenager, taking revenge on the British, the Seminoles, the Creeks, the Cherokee and anyone who slandered his two-timing wife—Jackson can make up a miniseries, let alone a multi-reeler.

The Lead? – tough, but I have in mind Jon Hamm and Nick Nolte: Hamm as the younger Jackson through 1815, and Nolte as the presidential figure. Either of them could take a pistol shot and whip a man into oblivion, a necessary trait for the role.

2. DeWitt Clinton

Why? – Clinton is the complicated hero-politician that has been so overlooked by Hollywood, largely because of location. Clinton is a New York guy, doing New York things that affected the whole country. He also had an outsized reputation: any man called “Magnus Apollo” in his lifetime deserves a treatment.

The Lead? – Colin Firth, no question. Firth has the gravitas to build the Erie Canal, the height that matched Clinton’s stature, and he already did a splendid turn in Regency attire in Pride and Prejudice. He almost matches the paintings.

3. William Johnson

Why?Dances with Wolves meets Last of the Mohicans. There’s something about Europeans going native that drives moviegoers into theaters. Furthermore, Johnson’s exploits with his Iroquois army are legendary, including Crown Point, Fort Niagara and the siege of Montreal. The subplot of his Irishness helping him win friends with the natives can also guarantee an Oscar nod.

The Lead? – At first, I thought Liam Neeson, but in retrospect it doesn’t really work with the historical Johnson. A better choice would be the crazy Irishman from Braveheart, David O’Hara. I’ve seen him in other roles, and he has a toughness and a stature that could make this a breakout role for him. Being Irish also helps.

4. James Michael Curley

Why? – Curley is the kind of outsized, megalomaniacal, controversial political kingpin that audiences love. As mayor of Boston, Congressman, governor of Massachusetts, and convicted felon, Curley was the father of modern ethnic politics. Taking cues from New York’s Tammany Hall, he created a similar apparatus in Massachusetts, mobilizing the Irish—much to the disdain of the Boston Brahmins that dominated the state until that point.

The Lead? – I really wish he got his shit together, because Tom Sizemore would be perfect to play Curley. The guy just oozes Boston tough guy, but with just enough polish that could make him give respectable speeches to demure New England citizens.

5. Victoria Woodhull

Why? – Many forget that Woodhull was the first American woman to run for President in 1872. On top of that, she was incredibly controversial, even among women suffragists—free love, labor reform (of the quasi-Marxist kind), eugenics and spiritualism were also on Woodhull’s agenda. That was enough to make Susan B. Anthony soil her bloomers.

The Lead? – Not really sure, could use some help from the Neighborhood on this one. Most of the actresses in mind are pretty long in the tooth for this role, but any ideas are welcome.

6. Al Smith

Why? – Smith was a run-of-the-mill Tammany hack until March 25, 1911. After the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he became a driving force for workplace and social reform in New York—the true father of the New Deal. The climax could be his 1928 presidential run, where he faced anti-Catholic and anti-Irish prejudice in a humiliating defeat.

The Lead?J. K. Simmons. I first saw him in the HBO series Oz, as the neo-Nazi Vernon Schillinger. Yet even then I saw a command of the screen, coupled with a human touch, that would be just right for the role of the Happy Warrior.

7. The Healys (Patrick, Michael, and James)

Why? – The subplot alone is compelling: an Irish planter takes a mulatto enslaved woman as his common law wife. They have three sons illegally, as interracial marriage is forbidden in antebellum Georgia. To educate them, the three are sent to Catholic schools in the north, as education for blacks is forbidden. Each of the Healys is light enough to pass as white: another conflict as their exploits are shown.

The Lead? – I’m really confused here. Because the Healy boys were so light-skinned, I’m not sure whether to use white talent or Black. I’m not even sure which actors would really fit well. Again, some help from the Neighborhood would help.

8. The Culper Spy Ring

Why? – looking for a great espionage thriller, full of sex, intrigue, double-crossing, violence and plot twists? Look no further than the Culper Ring, a ring of spies in New York and Long Island that spied on the British for George Washington—even as many posed as loyal Tories. They are the ancestors of the modern CIA, and their exploits probably make them more successful, on average.

The Lead? – We have little, if any, information on the true identities, let alone the appearances, of the members of the ring: their identities were not divulged until the 1930s. Casting, then, is wide open to traditional leading men, leading ladies, action heroes, you name it.

9. Robert Moses

Why? – The Power Broker himself: for a half a century, Moses was the most powerful man in New York State without holding a single elected office. He rammed highways, bridges, tunnels, parks, beaches and housing projects all over the state—and didn’t care who got in the way. That is, until Jane Jacobs, Nelson Rockefeller, Joseph Papp and a slew of New Yorkers finally turned their pitchforks on the Master Builder.

The Lead? – If I could find an actor that’s a composite of Michael Gambon’s size and Paul Giamatti’s grit, that would be perfect. Headshots, anyone?

10. H. L. Mencken

Why? – apart from being one of my all-time favorite authors, the Sage of Baltimore’s whit and biting cynicism covered most of the first half of the 20th century. He was cosmopolitan and provincial at the same time: a thinker who fancied himself above the “booboisie” while still able to mix in the dives and gin joints of the Baltimore waterfront. Why Barry Levinson isn’t all over this I have no idea.

The Lead? – It has to be someone intelligent who can play a real asshole. Sam Neill might work, or maybe even Eddie Izzard—I’m leaning more towards the latter.

As always, these ideas are not nearly exhaustive—nor do I really have scripts ready. If anyone has any other ideas, or if they have treatments ready that I can pitch, please let me know.

Don’t worry, you’ll receive due credit—minus my percentage, which we can negotiate later.

This is Hollywood, after all 😉

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DEADLINE EXTENDED! – History’s Worst Dad Contest

Maybe it was the rush to get things ready for summer vacation. Or perhaps it was the painful memories of your own good-for-nothing sperm donors.

Either way, I won’t chalk up our paltry total of entries (ZERO, to be exact) to lack of interest…so HERE WE GO AGAIN!

The deadline for entering your candidate for History’s worst Dad will be extended to Friday, July 8. Here is the original post with rules and submission guidelines.

Please pass this on to anyone who wants to submit. I can’t wait to see them!

Please! Anybody?!

PS: If you don’t, Mr. D will drown his sorrows in strong spirits that will make him verbose, boastful and violent. No one wants that.

 

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Mr. D’s History Bookshelf # 8: The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal

For educators like me, history books for the classroom come in two varieties.

The first, one all too many of us recollect, is the somber collection of names, dates, events and explanations followed by even more somber illustrations of very upright white men and stately occasions featuring white men doing what white men were thought to do: stand around, prance in short pants, sign documents, and slay indigenous populations without a hair out of place.

The second was a movement to rectify the stuffy white man by using songs, poems, happy pictures and narrative tools to convey historical events.  Many early childhood books fall into this category: the smiling Pilgrim, the smiling Wampanoag (at least before the smallpox), the happy colonists dumping tea while redcoats pout and look cross.  Its cute, but some events just can’t be washed over with sappy narrative: Indian wars, insurrections and tarring and feathering a tax collector just don’t warrant smiling cherubs set to rhyme.

Luckily, today’s book selection finds a unique balance between these two views.  The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal, by Cheryl Harness, highlights the history, construction and opening of the Erie Canal from 1817 to 1825.  Most readers know my penchant for New York history.  But I have a real soft spot for the Erie Canal, and Harness’ work helps bridge that love to the classroom.

There’s no exaggerating the importance of this 363-mile long ditch.  The Erie Canal was among the most important public works projects in American history.  It revolutionized transportation to the Great Lakes and the Middle West of the United States.  It established New York City as a center of commerce, business and immigration.  Thousands of settlers had a way into the interior of the United States.  It was an incredible example of public and private enterprise working together.

Nonetheless, all this impact would fall as flat as your old high school textbook.  This is where Cheryl Harness’ magic comes in.

We’ve seen Harness’ work before, in regards to women’s history and biographies.  She has a real knack for packing lots of important information, while at the same time weaving a compelling narrative that rarely distracts the reader.  Her books are, in a way, like busy local highways: lots of roadside attractions if you need them, but the traffic’s always moving so you can get to your destination.

Erie Canal is no different.  Harness’ highway is the 1825 celebrations that opened the canal.  As the reader follows Governor DeWitt Clinton (The Neighborhood’s patron saint) on the canal from Buffalo to New York City, page after page is peppered with maps, graphs, pictures, and explanatory text about the building, technology and impact of the canal.

One scene is particularly poignant.  As Clinton’s barge, the Seneca Chief, goes from town to town, the townspeople all gather to welcome her.  The old veterans of the Revolutionary War, in fact, put on their old uniforms and medals in salute to this great achievement.  Its a great example to show how Americans of all generations got together to celebrate, even 180 years ago.

A history book on the Erie Canal could have easily turned into a snoozer with portraits and dry writing.  It could’ve also turned into another crappy kids’ pap about that damn song with a mule named Sal.  Harness skillfully managed to avoid both. In The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal, she provided that rare breed of picture history that is both fun to read and rich in detailed information.

As for those old “white man” books, save them for college, so that your professors can rip them to shreds.

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What Osama Bin Laden Teaches Us

Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden for Dai...

Osama bin Laden in 1997. Image via Wikipedia

For once, my students united behind a common enemy. It was just too bad that it was an enemy that was already dead.

With a student body that already has violent tendencies, Monday morning brought the murderous rage of my class into full froth. Even if I could start spouting about Verdun, the Lusitania or the killing fields in the Somme, it wouldn’t make a dent in kids that had nothing but Osama bin Laden on their mind.

World War I would have to wait as class after class wanted to simply share their thoughts—or dispense their dubious knowledge—about the action that killed the elusive Al-Qaeda founder. Many had doubts as to his killing. Some were spreading neighborhood gossip that it was all an act. Others were quick to continue the path of destruction to Pakistan: after all, he was under their very noses.

Still others felt it was all just a distraction from their state tests in reading this week. It took some convincing to assure them that President Obama did want them to graduate and would not consciously disrupt their studies (at least I think so).

Yet now that we’re a few days removed from bin Laden’s demise, the rage and celebration can finally settle down to the more unpleasant task of figuring out what this all means.

In analyzing the situation, and the better answers of my students (which weren’t that many) I found some useful lessons from the death of the world’s most notorious terrorist:

Everyone eventually gets what they deserve.

It’s pretty cut and dry: the bombing of innocents in New York, the Pentagon, embassies and installations abroad. The inspiration of weak-minded ideologues to do likewise. The determination to bring down our way of life at any cost—while offering a rather crappy alternative. This balloonhead was just begging for an ass-whupping, even if it was a decade too late. Let’s just hope those 72 virgins have faces like rabid camels and raging cases of the clap (although Osama may not mind the camel-faces).

Plan twice, Cut once.

You really have to hand it to Obama here. He could’ve just sent some drones in August and smashed the place to bits. Yet he knew the world wouldn’t be convinced with a crater: he needed to produce a furry, smelly body. The operation was meticulously planned and rehearsed, with the President on hand to observe the entire process. The whole business was quick, even with a snafu with a downed chopper, with no US casualties—a feat so precise it would’ve caused a NASA mission controller to tear open his pocket protector in frustration.

Never let them see you coming.

Obama’s code of silence on this would’ve made Lucky Luciano grin. The whole operation only worked if everyone kept their mouth shut: especially in two places that always seem to blab—the CIA and the Pentagon. Few people were in the loop, and even less countries knew until the very last minute. Furthermore, Obama finally caught on to the shady dealings of a certain so-called ally, which leads to:

Don’t try to be all things to all people.

The one big loser in all this is the government of Pakistan, which wound up with serious egg on its face as Bin Laden was found within an hour’s drive of the capital. Pakistan is like the new kid in school who tries to be everyone’s friend on the first day, but usually ends up as the smelly kid on the bus who farts and blames someone else.

For twenty years now, Pakistan has cozied up to whoever was in their best interest at that particular moment, be it a Taliban who terrorized its people using Pakistani weapons and intelligence, or China in finding a new ally in the next war over Kashmir, or the United States in offering support for the Afghan conflict while whistling away the home-grown Islamic extremism and terrorist breeding happening at their doorstep.

In the end, Pakistan is left with no real friends: just a neighbor who wants to take over (Afghanistan), two bully-boys who use it in their petty schoolyard fights with other countries (China, Russia), and a snarling neighbor who just wants to obliterate Pakistan off the map (India, be it with nukes or cricket bats). Even the United States, who will tough it out with anyone no matter how useless, is re-assessing its situation. It might be better for Obama to leave Pakistan to the angry Pashtuns, ravenous Asiatic hordes and software-engineering batsmen. Then we can actually make sense of a massive clusterfuck of a region.

Just because you cut out the cancer does not mean you’re cured.

Remember guys like Black September, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, even Hezbollah and Hamas? They’ve been at the Islamic terrorism racket for a heck of a lot longer than Al-Qaeda. Even with a demoralized, rudderless Al-Qaeda, radical Islam will not go away. The terror it often breeds, likewise, will not go away. Furthermore, expect attacks from those seeking revenge for bin Laden’s death—although hopefully without his generous credit line.

By the way, you don’t have to be a radical Muslim or even a plain old everyday Muslim to engage in terror: just ask the Khmer Rouge, the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof group, the IRA, the UVF, the Ku Klux Klan and various guerrilla groups around the world that on a daily basis have engaged (and continue to engage, in some respects) in acts so brutal it would make the Ayatollah soil his robes—which could be an improvement.

Make sure you’re covered on the back end.

Something very important happened while we spent billions chasing bin Laden: China became a superpower. It already produced most of our consumer goods, bought a huge hunk of our debt and is even attempting to phase out the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Other countries, like Russia, Brazil and India, look to create a new bloc with this newly aggressive dragon.

Many Americans see no harm in this. I am not one of them.

US businesses love China, because it’s a source of cheap labor and high profits. European businesses love China as a counterbalance to the United States. Same with Russia, India and the like.

However, to truly get a sense of what it will be like under a Chinese superpower, just ask Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia: places that know all too well the ugly face of Chinese power.

Say what you will about American hegemony, it is comparatively soft compared to what potentially awaits those countries in Asia that fall under China’s orbit. The United States conquered the world with cheap cigarettes, bad movies and hydrogenated fast food.

Yet those simple pleasures were also balanced by the power of ideas, of beliefs and ethics that shape what it is to be American—even if we rarely practice what we preach. See how long conversations about democracy, human rights, the rule of law, individual opportunity and political discourse last in a Chinese satellite state that values profit and forced consensus over anything else.

What makes China terrifying is not its ideology, but its lack of ideology.

In the push to progress China to superpower status, the Chinese government has embraced capitalism better than us capitalists ever have. They will do business with anyone, no matter how loathsome, as long as they’re in the black. It’s an avarice that would make even J. P. Morgan cringe. When a money relationship is not backed by ideas or ethics, friends can become enemies in the blink of an eye.

In reconnoitering our military positions overseas, the United States should look at China for what it is: a rival that must be dealt with, not an idol that should be fawned over.

The death of bin Laden has left more questions than answers. Yet the United States has a unique opportunity to reshape itself into the superpower we all hoped it should be.

Our financial house must be put in order, and significant cuts should be shared equally, not just in the 20% of the budget deemed politically expedient.

Our commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan should be re-evaluated and, when needed, troops should be re-deployed to where they can do the most good.

Most importantly, we must realize the world that arose while the War on Terror waged. The real enemy of the United States is not in Tora Bora, nor in some madrassa in Kandahar or a mosque in Tehran. It is an ascendant rival that for all its perceived economic benefits stands in direct opposition to everything we stand for.

The United States cannot be sucked into another game as an ordinary superpower. We have to stand for something—or possibly lose everything.

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The Civil War Poems of Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman. Library of Congress description:...

Walt Whitman, circa 1860. Photo by Mathew Brady. Image via Wikipedia

As an adolescent, America‘s most original poet was best known as the local mall.

I grew up just a few miles from Walt Whitman‘s birthplace on Long Island, but his name was best known for gracing the shopping center across the street.  If that wasn’t grotesque enough, the Walt Whitman Mall has the words of his famous “Song of Myself” painted across the outer walls, as if shoppers would grace their day with fine poetry while they splurge with their Macy’s coupons.

It really was more as an adult that I could really appreciate the power and uniqueness of Whitman’s words, especially apart from the walls of a suburban mall.  Thus, the Neighborhood is celebrating our greatest poet at the anniversary of a pivotal conflict in Whitman’s life.

By 1861, three editions were published of Whitman’s seminal masterpiece Leaves of Grass.  Like the first two editions, the third did not sell well.  American readers were shocked at his unique meter and cadence, his raw, unflinching verse and his often overtly sexual emotions.

When his brother was wounded in 1863, Whitman went to Washington to help in the overcrowded Union military hospitals.  Though he had no military or medical training, the wounded troops were comforted by Whitman’s poems, stories, songs and chores he would dutifully fulfill well past his appointed shift.

Whitman’s experiences in the hospital stayed with him for the rest of his life.  Towards the end of the war, in 1865, Drum-Taps, a collection of wartime poems, was published.  When his “O’ Captain, My Captain!” appeared after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, it made Whitman a celebrity almost overnight.  Ironically, “O’ Captain” is a more traditional poem than Whitman’s other work–which probably helped readers ease into his more fiery verses.

Here is a link to Whitman’s Civil War poems, but attached below are a few of my favorites.

Beat! Beat! Drums!  ~ from Drum-Taps

BEAT! beat! drums!-blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows-through doors-burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet-no happiness must he have now with
his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering
his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums-so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!-blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities-over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers
must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers’ bargains by day-no brokers or speculators-would
they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the
judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums-you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!-blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley-stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid-mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the
hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums-so loud you bugles blow.

The Wound Dresser ~ from Drum-Taps
1.
AN old man bending I come among new faces,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love me,
(Arous’d and angry, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and urge
relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d and I resign’d
myself,
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead;)
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these
chances,
Of unsurpass’d heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was equally
brave;)
Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth,
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest
remains?

2.

O maidens and young men I love and that love me,
What you ask of my days those the strangest and sudden your talking
recalls,
Soldier alert I arrive after a long march cover’d with sweat and
dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the
rush of successful charge,
Enter the captur’d works-yet lo, like a swift-running river they
fade,
Pass and are gone they fade-I dwell not on soldiers’ perils or
soldiers’ joys,
(Both I remember well-many the hardships, few the joys, yet I was
content.)

But in silence, in dreams’ projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on,
So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the
sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up
there,
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.)

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d
again.

I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,

One turns to me his appealing eyes- poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that
would save you.

3.

On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush’d head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage
away,)
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through
examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life
struggles hard,
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and
blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck and side
falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the
bloody stump,
And has not yet look’d on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so
offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and
pail.

I am faithful, I do not give out,
The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my breast
a fire, a burning flame.)

4.

Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,

Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and
rested,
Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)

Ethiopia Saluting the Colours ~ from Drum-Taps 

WHO are you dusky woman, so ancient hardly human,
With your woolly-white and turban’d head, and bare bony feet?
Why rising by the roadside here, do you the colors greet?

(‘Tis while our army lines Carolina’s sands and pines,
Forth from thy hovel door thou Ethiopia comist to me,
As under doughty Sherman I march toward the sea.)

Me master years a hundred since from my parents sunder’d,
A little child, they caught me as the savage beast is caught,
Then hither me across the sea the cruel slaver brought.

No further does she say, but lingering all the day,
Her high-borne turban’d head she wags, and rolls her darkling eye,
And courtesies to the regiments, the guidons moving by.

What is it fateful woman, so blear, hardly human?
Why wag your head with turban bound, yellow, red and green?
Are the things so strange and marvelous you see or have seen?

Of course, we must include the poem that made Whitman an international icon, the poem written in tribute to Abraham Lincoln:

Oh Captain! My Captain!

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths- for you the shores
a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

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