Herman Melville A Poem on John Brown – The Portent

Herman Melville

Herman Melville

Herman Melville best known for his books Moby Dick and Billy Budd was compelled to write a poem about John Brown’s hanging.

Hanging from the beam,
        Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
        Shenandoah!
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.

Hidden in the cap
        Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
        Shenandoah!
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war.