There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Life is paradox.
-The Voice before the Void

There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Works mentioned:
Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
“The Fiddler” by Herman Melville
50 Great American Short Stories edited by Milton Crane
“I and My Chimney” by Herman Melville
Great Short Works of Herman Melville edited by Warner Berthoff
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“Arma Virumque” by Ambrose Bierce
The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Other authors mentioned:
Homer
Mark Twain
Robert Benchley
Patrick F. McManus
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Edgar Allan Poe
H.P. Lovecraft

3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse by Charles Eastman

Battle of the Little Bighorn Anniversary:
June 25 is the anniversary of the great victory. As of 2016, it’s been only 140 years.
From one of his popular books, here presented are dramatic biographies of three men by the Dakota writer Ohiyesa, more widely known as Charles Eastman.
-The Voice before the Void

3 Lakota Heroes: Red Cloud, Gall, and Crazy Horse

from Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains

Charles Eastman

“Red Cloud”

The Sioux were now entering upon the most stormy period of their history. The old things were fast giving place to new. The young men, for the first time engaging in serious and destructive warfare with the neighboring tribes, armed with the deadly weapons furnished by the white man, began to realize that they must soon enter upon a desperate struggle for their ancestral hunting grounds. The old men had been innocently cultivating the friendship of the stranger, saying among themselves, “Surely there is land enough for all!”

1865-1880 - Sioux - Red Bear, Young Man Afraid of his Horses, Good Voice, Ring Thunder, Iron Crow, White Tail, Spotted Tail, Yellow Bear, Red Cloud, Big Road, Little Wound, Black CrowRed Cloud was a modest and little-known man of about twenty-eight years when General [William S.] Harney called all the western bands of Sioux together at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for the purpose of securing an agreement and right of way through their territory. The Ogallalas held aloof from this proposal, but Bear Bull, an Ogallala chief, after having been plied with whisky, undertook to dictate submission to the rest of the clan. Enraged by failure, he fired upon a group of his own tribesmen, and Red Cloud’s father and brother fell dead. According to Indian custom, it fell to him to avenge the deed. Calmly, without uttering a word, he faced old Bear Bull and his son, who attempted to defend his father, and shot them both. Continue reading

“Battle of Fredericksburg” from Wikipedia

Battle of Fredericksburg Anniversary Special:
Why do people do this? Why is this what people do?
Why is this our history and our future?
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Battle of Fredericksburg”

Wikipedia

The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought 1862 December 11–15, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Ambrose Burnside. The Union army’s futile frontal attacks on December 13 against entrenched Confederate defenders on the heights behind the city is remembered as one of the most one-sided battles of the U.S. Civil War, with Union casualties more than twice as heavy as those suffered by the Confederates. A visitor to the battlefield described the battle to President Abraham Lincoln as a “butchery.”

Battle of Fredericksburg 1862 December 11 US Civil War Union volunteer soldiers crossing Rappahannock River

Burnside’s plan was to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in mid-November and race to the Confederate capital of Richmond before Lee’s army could stop him. Bureaucratic delays prevented Burnside from receiving the necessary pontoon bridges in time, and Lee moved his army to block the crossings. When the Union army was finally able to build its bridges and cross under fire, urban combat resulted in the city on December 11–12. Union troops prepared to assault Confederate defensive positions south of the city and on a strongly fortified ridge just west of the city known as Marye’s Heights. Continue reading

“Grass” by Carl Sandburg

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
This poem is affecting and quiet. (Grass is abiding; battle is momentary.) This poem is recognized and anthologized. (Train riders are workaday, everyday, oblivious, all of us.) This poem feels to be one of the immortal poems that should live long beyond our current civilization. I thought I had a handle on it, but it is too complex. Is it a melancholic, uplifting poem about healing? Is it a bitter, rebuking poem about forgetting? The imagery of the grass seems serene, is set in contrast to the implied uproar of battle. The imagery of train riders has been archaic and therefore exotic for already fifty years, but continues to work, and should continue to continue to work. The five battles named are and should ever remain prominent in history, even when that history is far more distant and exotic than it already is today; in two thousand years and in ten thousand years, the slaughter of the battles should still be as comprehendible. Can any work of art imbue beauty to battle? This poem achieves something great… but what is that, exactly?
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Grass”

Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

“Ashes of Soldiers” by Walt Whitman

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
Whitman’s love is unbearable.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Ashes of Soldiers”

Walt Whitman

Ashes of soldiers South or North,
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought,
The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of the armies.

Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass out of the countless graves,
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or
single ones they come,
And silently gather round me. Continue reading

Last letter to Sarah Ballou by Sullivan Ballou

St. Valentine’s Day Special:
Made famous by Ken Burns’ 1990 documentary The Civil War, Union Army Major Ballou’s final letter to his wife before he was killed at the First Battle of Bull Run is an unbearable expression of love. All of life is made more rich and more agonizing through acquaintanceship with this letter.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Last letter to Sarah Ballou

Sullivan Ballou

July the 14th, 1861

Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. Continue reading

“A Little of Chickamauga” by Ambrose Bierce

Battle of Chickamauga Anniversary Special:
There are no accounts of battle like Bierce’s accounts of battle.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“A Little of Chickamauga”

Ambrose Bierce

The history of that awful struggle is well known—I have not the intention to record it here, but only to relate some part of what I saw of it; my purpose not instruction, but entertainment.

I was an officer of the staff of a Federal brigade. Chickamauga was not my first battle by many, for although hardly more than a boy in years, I had served at the front from the beginning of the trouble, and had seen enough of war to give me a fair understanding of it. We knew well enough that there was to be a fight: the fact that we did not want one would have told us that, Continue reading

“Shiloh: A Requiem” by Herman Melville

Battle of Shiloh Anniversary Special:
So many ever dead.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Shiloh: A Requiem”

Herman Melville

Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
The swallows fly low
O’er the field in clouded days,
The forest-field of Shiloh —
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain,
Through the pauses of the night —
That followed the Sunday fight
Around the church of Shiloh —
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
And natural prayer
Of dying foemen mingled there —
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve —
Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
And all is hushed at Shiloh.

“What I Saw of Shiloh” by Ambrose Bierce, part 2

Battle of Shiloh Anniversary Special:
The sounds of war are deafening as Bierce mesmerizes to the end. Bierce fires his shocking cynicism at Americans, at Christians, at soldiers, and ultimately at all humans as he denotes his own dark place in our dark world.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“What I Saw of Shiloh”

Ambrose Bierce

part 2

VI

I suppose the country lying between Corinth and Pittsburg Landing could boast a few inhabitants other than alligators. What manner of people they were it is impossible to say, inasmuch as the fighting dispersed, or possibly exterminated them; perhaps in merely classing them as non-saurian I shall describe them with sufficient particularity Continue reading

“What I Saw of Shiloh” by Ambrose Bierce, part 1

Battle of Shiloh Anniversary Special:
The sights of war are incredible as Bierce builds the tension. Bierce describes, with artistry and clarity, an historic battle and his own fearsome marching into it, at night, in a thunderstorm.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“What I Saw of Shiloh”

Ambrose Bierce

part 1

I

This is a simple story of a battle; such a tale as may be told by a soldier who is no writer to a reader who is no soldier.

The morning of Sunday, the sixth day of April, 1862, was bright and warm. Reveille had been sounded rather late, for the troops, wearied with long marching, were to have a day of rest. The men were idling about the embers of their bivouac fires; some preparing breakfast, others looking carelessly to the condition of their arms and accoutrements, Continue reading

“O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Special:
Whitman’s wrenching tribute to his president.
⁓The Voice before the Void

O Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman 1865 with revision notes

“O Captain! My Captain!”

Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered 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. Continue reading

“Fredericksburg” by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Battle of Fredericksburg Anniversary Special:
Ever do men destroy each other.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Fredericksburg”

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

The increasing moonlight drifts across my bed,
And on the churchyard by the road, I know
It falls as white and noiselessly as snow. . . .
‘T was such a night two weary summers fled;
The stars, as now, were waning overhead.
Listen! Again the shrill-lipped bugles blow
Where the swift currents of the river flow
Past Fredericksburg; far off the heavens are red
With sudden conflagration; on yon height,
Linstock in hand, the gunners hold their breath;
A signal rocket pierces the dense night,
Flings its spent stars upon the town beneath:
Hark!–the artillery massing on the right,
Hark!–the black squadrons wheeling down to Death!

“Chickamauga” by Ambrose Bierce

Battle of Chickamauga Anniversary Special:
The apotheosis of war.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Chickamauga”

Ambrose Bierce

One sunny autumn afternoon a child strayed away from its rude home in a small field and entered a forest unobserved. It was happy in a new sense of freedom from control, happy in the opportunity of exploration and adventure; for this child’s spirit, in bodies of its ancestors, had for thousands of years been trained to memorable feats of discovery and conquest—victories in battles whose critical moments were centuries, whose victors’ camps were cities of hewn stone. From the cradle of its race it had conquered its way through two continents and passing a great sea had penetrated a third, there to be born to war and dominion as a heritage.

The child was a boy aged about six years, Continue reading

“What a Girl Saw on the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg” by Tillie Pierce Alleman

Battle of Gettysburg Anniversary Special:
Tillie was a young girl in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when war came.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“What a Girl Saw on the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg”

from At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle: A True Narrative

Tillie Pierce Alleman

The sun was high in the heavens when I awoke the next day.

The first thought that came into my mind, was my promise of the night before.

I hastened down to the little basement room, and as I entered, the soldier lay there – dead. Continue reading

“Dakota War of 1862” from Wikipedia, part 2

The aftermath: military tribunals, Abraham Lincoln’s role, the largest mass execution in United States history, and death camps.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dakota War of 1862”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

part 2

Trials

In early December, 303 Sioux prisoners were convicted of murder and rape by military tribunals and sentenced to death. Some trials lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by a defense in court. President Abraham Lincoln personally reviewed the trial records to distinguish between those who had engaged in warfare against the U.S., versus those who had committed crimes of rape and murder against civilians. Continue reading

“Dakota War of 1862” from Wikipedia, part 1

The sad history of the lead-up to, and the vicious fighting of, the frontier war between the Dakota, the European-American settlers, and the U.S. Army, including the legendary fates of despised trader Andrew Myrick and Dakota leader Little Crow.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Dakota War of 1862”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

part 1

The Dakota War of 1862, also known as the Sioux Uprising, (and the Dakota Uprising, the Sioux Outbreak of 1862, the Dakota Conflict, the U.S.–Dakota War of 1862 or Little Crow’s War) was an armed conflict between the United States and several bands of the eastern Sioux (also known as eastern Dakota). It began on August 17, 1862, along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota. It ended with a mass execution of 38 Dakota men on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. Continue reading