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What the Bullet sang -- Bret Harte

This week's theme - war poems with unusual perspectives
(Poem #1033) What the Bullet sang
 O Joy of creation,
     To be!
 O rapture, to fly
     And be free!
 Be the battle lost or won,
 Though its smoke shall hide the sun,
 I shall find my love -- the one
     Born for me!

 I shall know him where he stands
     All alone,
 With the power in his hands
     Not o'erthrown;
 I shall know him by his face,
 By his godlike front and grace;
 I shall hold him for a space
     All my own!

 It is he -- O my love!
     So bold!
 It is I -- all thy love
 It is I -- O love, what bliss!
 Dost thou answer to my kiss?
 O sweetheart! what is this
     Lieth there so cold?
-- Bret Harte

What first attracted me to today's poem was its striking originality - both
the first person voice from bullet's point of view, and the casting of the
narrative as a tragic love poem. Indeed, insofar as concept and content can
be separated, the former is definitely the predominant note in today's poem.
The actual execution, however, lacks the passion that the poet's theme seems
to call for, so that despite an interesting verse structure and some nice
imagery, all that I am left with at the end is the idea itself.

Even so, this is definitely a noteworthy poem, and prompts this week's theme
- a series of poems with unusual perspectives on war. I'm not going to try
and define exactly what I mean by 'unusual', but if you know a poem that you
think would fit the theme, do send it in.


  Biography of Harte:

  A nice companion piece to today's poem:

67 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

suresh said...

Martin Julian DeMello writes:


> The actual execution, however, lacks the passion that the poet's theme

Groan... dont tell me you intended to make this pun ...

> - a series of poems with unusual perspectives on war. I'm not going to try

Off the top of my head -

1. After Blenheim (the one with two kids and their grandpa playing,
discover a skull... "What was it all for?" "I don't know, but 'twas a
famous victory". Southey I think.

2. This little beauty, which Yeats wrote on being asked to come up with
"a war poem" in 1919 - part of his anthology "The Wild Swans at

On being asked for a War Poem

I THINK it better that in times like these
A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter's night.

I _really_ like it. Short, to the point, and wonderfully sarcastic.
There is no point at all to war, Yeats seems to say, and still less
point in writing long paeans to the glorious heroes of Britain,
conquerors of the Hun. Beyond this, the poem speaks for itself, I think.


The O'Boyles said...

hi, when is what the bullet sang set? do you have any background on it?

Celine said...

I think the beginning was good but, like others have said, theres impact at the end. Its a bit of an anticlimax

Celine said...

I meant theres no impact at the end, sorry for the typo

Celine said...

I meant there's no impact at the end. Sorry for the typo

anniehodson said...

I totally disagree, I think that last line has a profound impact on the reader.


Trogdor was a man,
I mean...he was a dragon-man.
Uh....maybe he was just a dragon.
Um....but he was still


Burninating the countryside
Burninating the peasants
Burninating all the people
in the thatched-roof COTTAGES!!!

And then Trogdor comes in the NIIIIIIGHT!!!!!

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