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Taking Fire from the Bucolic

The Pastoral Tradition in Seven American War Poems

Andrew Miller

Pages 101 - 119


This article examines the role that the pastoral mode plays in seven American war poems: Herman Melville’s “The Scout toward Aldie,” Wallace Stevens’s “The Death of a Soldier,” Robert Frost’s “Range Finding,” James Dickey’s “Firebombing,” Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Bruce Weigl’s “The Song of Napalm,” and Brain Turner’s “Eulogy.” The essay observes that, contrary to the way in which it is often presented in the European tradition, the pastoral in the American tradition is not invoked as a means of taking cover from the horrors of war, but is instead described as being in league with war. Thus, the pastoral often takes the form of the counter-pastoral and reflects the negotiation that Leo Marx observes occurring between American depictions of nature and depictions of industrial urban life.


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