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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (6 February 1864)
[Unsigned], "Bury Them" The Anglo-African (6 February 1864): [1]View Poem Image
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WAGNER, JULY 18TH, 1863.[2]

Bury the Dragon's teeth![3] Bury them deep and dark! The incisors swart and stark, The molars heavy and dark— And the one white Fang underneath!
Bury the Hope forlorn! Never shudder to fling, With its fellows dusky and worn, The strong and beautiful thing, (Pallid ivory and pearl!) Into the horrible Pit— Hurry it in, and hurl All the rest over it!
Trample them, clod by clod, Stamp them in dust amain! The cupsids, cruent and red That the Monster, Freedom, shed On the sacred, strong Slave sod— They never shall rise again!
Never?—what hideous growth Is sprouting through clod and clay? What Terror starts to the day? A crop of steel, on our oath! How the burnished stamens glance!— Spike, and anther, and blade,[4] How they burst from the bloody shade, And spindle to spear and lance!
There are tassels of blood-red maize— How the horrible harvest grows! 'Tis sabres that glint and daze— 'Tis bayonets all ablaze Uprearing in dreadful rows!
For one that we buried there, A thousand are come to air! Ever, by door-stone and hearth, They break from the angry earth— And out of the crimson sand, Where the cold white Fang was laid, Rises a terrible Shade, The wrath of a sleepless Brand!
And our hearts wax strange and chill, With an ominous shudder and thrill, Even here, on the strong Slave-Sod, Lest, haply, we be found (Ah, dread no brave hath drowned!) Fighting against Great God.
—Hartford Evening Press.


  1. Although unsigned in the Anglo-African, "Bury Them" is by Henry Howard Brownell (1820–1872), who included the poem in his Lyrics of a Day; or Newspaper-poetry (1863). This collection of war poems "by a volunteer in the U.S. Service" prompted Oliver Wendell Holmes to dub Brownell "Our Battle-Laureate" in May 1865 ("Our Battle-Laureate," Atlantic Monthly, May 1865, 589–91).
    Brownell grew up in East Hartford, Connecticut. After graduating from Washington College in 1841, he went south to work as a teacher in Mobile, Alabama. Here he formed friendships that provide one context for his arguments in the antislavery preface to Lyrics. On returning to Hartford, he trained as a lawyer and was admitted to the bar in 1844. Between 1850 and 1860, he wrote numerous histories including The People's Book of Ancient and Modern History (1851), The Pioneer Heroes of the New World (1855), and The Eastern, or Old World: Embracing Ancient and Modern History (1856). The 1860 census gives his occupation as "author."
    Newspapers published Brownell's poetry throughout the war—a fact he advertised in Lyrics of a Day. (His list of sources includes prestigious monthly magazines as well as local Hartford papers.) His rhyme version of a set of orders given by David Farragut caught the US Navy captain's eye when it appeared in the Hartford Evening Press. The accident was fortuitous; as a result of the correspondence that ensued, Brownell was sworn into the navy and appointed ensign on Farragut's flagship so that he could witness battle at sea. He saw action at Mobile Bay in August 1864. Holmes praised the literary results of Brownell's firsthand experience: "If Drayton had fought at Agincourt, if Campbell had held a sabre at Hohenlinden, if Scott had been in the saddle with Marmion, if Tennyson had charged with the Six Hundred at Balaklava, each of these poets might possibly have pictured what he said as faithfully and as fearfully as Mr. Brownell has painted the sea-fights in which he took part as a combatant" (Holmes, 589). In 1866 Brownell's war poems appeared in a Ticknor and Fields edition, War-Lyric and Other Poems.
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  2. The Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment was the first regiment of African American volunteers to be raised in the North. On July 18, 1863, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the soldiers of the Fifty-Fourth courageously led a frontal attack on Morris Island's Fort Wagner in South Carolina. Their bravery could not compensate for General Quincy Gillmore's poor planning; the assault failed, and 272 members of the regiment were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner (Russell Duncan, ed., Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Col. Robert Gould Shaw [Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999], 52). Northern newspapers reported that Wagner's Confederate garrison had buried Shaw in a mass grave with his men. Abolitionists reinterpreted the Confederate gesture of contempt as a mark of distinction.Go back
  3. According to Greek mythology, Cadmus killed a dragon guarding a spring in order to make a sacrifice to the goddess Athene; after he offered the sacrifice, Athene told him to sow the dragon's teeth like seeds. Warriors sprang up from the earth.
    Brownell uses the legend of the Sown Men as the basis for an extended racialized analogy. The soldiers of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts regiment are the "teeth" of the "Monster Freedom" ("incisors," "molars," "cuspids"); Colonel Shaw, widely reported as having been buried in a mass grave with his men, is the "white Fang." In burying the soldiers killed during the attack on Fort Wagner, Brownell's Confederate speakers unwittingly sow a new Union army: "For one that we buried there, / A thousand are come to air!" Brownell suggests that freedmen will enlist to fight against the Confederacy in their thousands. By the time "Bury Them" appeared in the Anglo-African, freedmen had already joined the Union army in large numbers.
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  4. Brownell uses botanical terminology to describe the sprouting Sown Men. "Blades" and "spikes" are also suggestive of their weaponry.Go back