Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Southern man, better hang your head; don't forget what your Good Book said." -- Neil Young

Today, Father "Don Jim" Tucker gives a scathing commentary on the use of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" for Catholic worship, citing its terrorist overtones, and the misguided notion that the Northern incursion into the South was the hand of justice -- or something like that.

He also gives us a link to the lyrics. Now, I'm the first to maintain that the Civil War was not so much about slavery, as it was the rights of the sovereign States in relation to the central Federal government, and/or the cultural-political conflicts amongst said States left unresolved by the Founding Fathers. And the good Father might have a point regarding its use for Catholic worship, and not just in the South. He also raises another excellent point, about how this makes America look a little too righteous to the rest of the world (which is probably one reason for some of the bad press out there lately).

On the other hand...

If I had never heard of the American Civil War (or The War Between the States, or That Unpleasantness With The North, or whatever you wanna call it), I would never have identified such a hymn with any particular cause. For all I would have known -- just by looking at the words alone, and completely free of context -- it might have been some apocalyptic tribute alluding to the book of Daniel.

But we know it wasn't. It was inspired by a man who employed extreme tactics (terrorism, if you will) to challenge a system of involuntary servitude against a race of people. Jeb Stuart was right: "War is hell." Slavery isn't much better. Not then. Not now.

(ADDENDA: And while we're being nostalgic, this would be a good time to link to the official song of the good Father's home state, My Old Kentucky Home. The words were revised by the state legislature in 1986. As I recall, the second line originally read: "'Tis summer, the darkies are gay." Some things in this world are hard to endure, such that they can drive men to extremes. They did then. They do now.)


Tom said...

Father Tucker might be happier with the words to "Maryland, My Maryland," the state song of, yes, Maryland. It's a poem, sung to the tune of "O Christmas Tree," composed by an expat in New Orleans urging Maryland to join the Confederacy. The final verse runs,

"I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!"

David L Alexander said...

This song is unique, in that it is the only state song that calls for the overthrow of the Federal government. Attempts in their state legislature to replace or supress it have met with stiff resistance.

Both Maryland and Kentucky were obstensibly Union states, along with Missouri. In the case of all three, they were definitely pro-Southern, and "Kain-tuck" has always considered itself part of the South.

Sometime about 1980, I heard a set of alternative lyrics to the Maryland song on National Public Radio. Quite amusing. Can't find them on the internet though. Anybody out there got any ideas?

David L Alexander said...

Wait a minute.

Seems there are a few alternatives out there, though not the one I remember. They range from the ridiculous to the sublime.