The battle hymn of the republic

The Battle hymn of the republic

The battle hymn of the republic is by far one of the most patriotic anthems there is. Many of us know this as a song, but in essence: this is indeed a poem. This tells the tale of the republic of The United States of America.

Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe – Source: Wikimedia Commons.

About Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe was born on May 27 1819 in New York City. She would grow out to be an author, poet and social activist. She played an important role in the emancipation of women.

At the time Howe was born, equality for women was nothing. Not as it is today, apart from certain countries.

Howe was daughter of a Wall Street broker and banker (Samuel Ward III).  You can read more about her life in the article we published in March 2017, together with the poem “My last dance.”

About the poem

The poem dates back to the American Civil War (1861 – 1865). This work was written in 1862. It became the official song for the Unionists, who fought against the Confederates during this civil war.

1861

Howe found her inspiration while traveling with her husband Samuel to inspect one of the camps of the Unionists on November 17 1861. Her husband was a director of the Army’s Sanitary Commission. She heard the troops singing John Brown’s body (lies a-mouldering in the grave). John Brown was executed in 1859 after he tried to raid the federal armoury in Virginia. Brown was sort of a hero for the Unionists. Writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo and even the French writer Victor Hugo gave this Brown a sort-off mythical status.

Inspiration and copying are close together. The battle hymn of the republic is actually a rewritten version of John Brown’s body (lies a-mouldering in the grave). Howe rewrote the lyrics to become that poem or song as we know this today. She did so when Reverend James Freeman Clarke, asked her to. He was part of the party that travelled to inspect the military camp on that November day. Perhaps, she was able to write something that was even more great than what the soldiers sang. Poetic and less raw. This lead to the creation of something that was indeed grand, poetic and very much patriotic.

It did not take her long to come up with the new lyrics and this lead to a publication of this poem in the Atlantic Monthly of February 1862.

The poem is greatly inspired by Christian beliefs about mortality and judgement. Therefore, making the Unionists some kind of divine soldiers, who were attempting the end slavery and of course the Confederate army.

Poem or song?

Still, one question remains: is this a poem or a song? Let’s assume, that Howe wrote this to be published in a literature magazine. The Atlantic Monthly – nowadays The Atlantic – started out as a Boston based monthly magazine. In 2001 the number of issues changed, as the two months of Summer – July and August – would be formed into one issue.

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Outside the United States, this poem or song is also known under the title Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.

The Battle hymn of the republic

The battle hymn of the republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

— Julia Ward Howe
Above is the second version that Howe wrote. The first edition goes as follows:

The battle hymn of the republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
He is trampling out the wine press, where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He hath loosed the fateful lightnings of his terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watchfires of an hundred circling camps
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps,
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read a burning Gospel writ in fiery rows of steel,
As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal
Let the hero born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Our God is marching on.

He has sounded out the trumpet that shall never call retreat,
He has waked the earth’s dull sorrow with a high ecstatic beat,
Oh! be swift my soul to answer him, be jubilant my feet
Our God is marching on.

In the whiteness of the lilies he was born across the sea
With a glory in his bosom that shines out on you and me,
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
Our God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave
He is wisdom to the mighty, he is sucour to the brave
So the world shall be his footstool, and the soul of Time his slave
Our God is marching on.

— Julia Ward Howe

Artists

There are several artists who recorded this poem / song. Below there are some examples:

More impressive are those recordings (both audio and video) by choirs:

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

×
Contact us using Whatsapp.

%d bloggers like this: