The Cumberland

Posted: 6/18/2012
Author: Laura June Davis
The CSS Virginia sinks the USS Cumberland - March 8, 1862

Good morning! Today we bring you an 1862 poem by Herman Melville entitled, "The Cumberland." Written in March of 1862, Melville lyrivally referenced the fateful sinking of the USS Cumberland by the CSS Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads at Newport News, Virginia on March 8, 1862.

Some names there are of telling sound,
Whose voweled syllables free
Are pledge that they shall ever live renowned;
Such seem to be
A Frigate's name (by present glory spanned)--
The Cumberland.

Sounding name as ere was sung,
Flowing, rolling on the tongue--
Cumberland! Cumberland!

She warred and sunk. There's no denying
That she was ended--quelled;
And yet her flag above her fate is flying,
As when it swelled
Unswallowed by the swallowing sea: so grand--
The Cumberland.

Goodly name as ere was sung, 
Roundly rolling on the tongue--
Cumberland! Cumberland!

What need to tell how she was fought--
The sinking flaming gun--
The gunner leaping out the port--
Washed back, undone!
Her dead unconquerably manned
The Cumberland.

Noble name as ere was sung,
Slowly roll it on the tongue--
Cumberland! Cumberland!

Long as hearts shall share the flame
Which burned in that brave crew,
Her fame shall live--outlive the victor's name;
For this is due.
Your flag and flag-staff shall in story stand--

Sounding name as ere was sung,
Long they'll roll it on the tongue--
Cumberland! Cumberland!


Source: Herman Melville, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1866).

Image Credit: Department of the Navy - Naval Historical Center - Online Library of Selected Images.


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