PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Peter Scupham remembers Anthony Thwaite in 'Chimes at Midnight' Sinead Morrissey spends A Week in GdaƄsk Rebecca Watts talks with Julia Copus about Charlotte Mew Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski evoke Arseny Tarkovsky and his translator Peter Oram Frederic Raphael sends a letter to William Somerset Maugham
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review New Issue

This poem is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

Melville's Letter to William Clark Russell Helen Pinkerton

victrix causa deis placuit sed victa Catoni
Lucan, Bellum Civile, I, 128

FOR G.E.L.

New York City, 1888

You ask me, Russell, why we fought and why,
These long years after Appomattox, we
Conceal, as if it were an unhealed wound,
The motives, costs, and choices from ourselves;
Why we call it the 'late unpleasantness',
Shielding from foreign eyes our damaged past.
I thought once that I knew. When in the months
That followed Lee's surrender I composed
My battle poems, praising the dead and living,
The gallant captains and their men, naming
The fields and rivers where they gave their blood
For principles that reason could not weigh
While funeral lights still flared, I did not see,
Though I saw more than most, that a just cause
May not be always visible to all,
...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image