Emancipating Pragmatism: Emerson, Jazz, and Experimental Writing

By Michael Magee | Go to book overview

Epilogue

And then I thought, okay, well, I'm going to need to do something to
integrate this audience.

Harryette Mullen, on why she wrote Muse & Drudge,
“A Conversation with Harryette Mullen,” Combo 1

Emerson's dirge for the black and white soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (written in the immediate aftermath of Gettysburg; the massacre of the 54th at Fort Wagner; the New York City conscription riots in which dozens of black citizens including many children were murdered and which only subsided when troops returning from Gettysburg intervened, all during a two-week span in July; and Frederick Douglass's meeting with Lincoln on August 10, 1863) begins with an homage to black music.

Low and mournful be the strain,
Haughty thought be far from me;
Tones of penitence and pain,
Moanings of the Tropic sea;
Low and tender in the cell
Where a captive sits in chains,
Crooning ditties treasured well
From his Afric's torrid plains.
Sole estate his sire bequeathed—
Hapless sire to hapless son—

-176-

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