A Requiem

Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
The swallows fly low
Over the fields in cloudy days,
The forest-field of Shiloh –
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
Around the church of Shiloh –
The church, so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
And natural prayer
Of dying foeman mingled there –
Foeman at morn, but friends at eve –
Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
And all is hushed at Shiloh.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Herman Melville's poem Shiloh


  1. Sammi says:

    This poem is very peaceful and very descriptive.I feel like I am in Shiloh watching everything that is being described and everything that is going on.

  2. declan says:

    Amazing poem. The author uses the placid scene of the church both before and after the war to dramatise the effects of the war and to highlight its irrelevance. the echoing of the churh highlight it’s emptiness and how it and god has been abandoned during the war

  3. Beau says:

    does melville want us to think of the church as a good thing? or is melville showing us that as a battle rages, and men die, the church is just a building that stands there and does nothing.

    Take into account line 11 where he says “[the church] That echoed to many a parting groan”. he uses the word “echoed”. what does the church have to do to echo? absolutely nothing… which is the point i think melville is trying to convey…

  4. Mary says:

    This poem has such a deep meaning, and as you read it, it seems as though Melville is trying to tell you to be quiet and listen to the quietness after the battle, because of the way he uses many s-words. As I read the poem, I could almost feel the peacefulness of the place, the battle was like a great storm, and afterward comes the peace and despair.

  5. Brady Fincher says:

    this poem is very good i can see the deep meaning by reading this piece of literature. I had to do an assignment for my english class and i picked this poem. very good work

  6. Hij Juki says:

    Very interesting. I really like the compare and contrast Melville does with death and peace, an its just really interesting. The poem is really deep in meaning.

  7. Summer says:

    I thought the poem was very deep and had a strong meaning. The swallows sybolize the fallen soldiers. The poem seems very peaceful towards the end. I am having to memorize a poem for my English 4 class and I decided to memorize this one. I love Melivilles work.

  8. Jim Davis says:

    wow! this poem is inspiring to me because of the way it takes the church and the fight and intertwines them. each stanza is a little more powerful as you read on. i guess in a sense melville brought peace to the dying because of the fact that they did die near a church. melville really has a way with words.

  9. jennifer Becker says:

    This poem was really good. It made me happy as i read each stanza. Church is a happy place to be and this peopm brings that out in a way. not the most obvious way i must say though. More people should read this poem because it can touch the lives of many

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