The Battle Hymn of the Republic

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

by Julia Ward Howe

‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
⁠He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
⁠He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword:
⁠            His truth is marching on.

‘I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
⁠They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
⁠I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
⁠            His day is marching on.

‘I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:
⁠“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
⁠Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
⁠            Since God is marching on.”

‘He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
⁠He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment-seat:
⁠O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
⁠            Our God is marching on.

‘In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
⁠With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
⁠As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
⁠            While God is marching on.

Summary of The Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • Popularity of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”: Julia Ward Howe, a renowned American poet, and author wrote, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. It is a narrative poem known for patriotism and Christian principles. It was first published in February 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly. The poem speaks about the judgment of evil at the end of time. It is based on the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. It also illustrates how the American Civil War and how they fought to abolish slavery from the land. It’s is one of the famous hymns sung in the churches worldwide and also performed at the funerals of American soldiers.
  • “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” As a Representative of Hope: The poem presents the speaker’s sentiments for the soldiers battling with the common enemy. Here the enemy is physical and spiritual. The speaker claims that she sees God in the form of fire, protecting the army camps. The song expresses one of the principles ‘Truth in Gospel’ and how it spreads everywhere. She also believes God is fighting with them as they fight against evil. Thus, in their fight, they are obeying God. She compares the soldiers with the character of Jesus.
  • Major Themes in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”: Patriotism, war, and God’s grace are the major themes of this poem. The poem presents two things: selfless fight of the soldiers for the noble cause and belief in God’s will. She talks about the sacrifices of the soldiers who do not hesitate to die for their country. She compares their sacrifices with that of Jesus.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Literary devices bring richness to the text and makes the readers understand the text in a deeper level. Julia Ward has also used figurative language to express the concept of war and courage. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Apostrophe: Apostrophe to directly address an absent person, an abstract feeling, or some relic of the past in nostalgic tone. For example, “O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him!”
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line of poetry. For example, the sound of /o/ in “Our God is marching on” and the sounds /e/, /o/ and /i/ in “I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of / s/ in “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea” and the sound of /r/ in “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored”.
  4. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in quick succession. For example, the sound of /d/ in “They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps” and the sound of /s/ in “He hath loosed the fatal lightning of his terrible swift sword”.
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. For example, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”, “I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel” and “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea.”
  6. Personification: Personification is to give human characteristics to inanimate objects. For example, “His truth is marching on” and “His day is marching on” as if the day and truth are human beings that can walk.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem. Each stanza has four lines.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is quatrain.
  3. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “seat/feat”, “steel/deal” and “damps/lamps.”
  4. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “God is marching on” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  5. Refrain: The lines repeated some distance in the poems are called refrain. The verse, “God is marching on” is repeated. Therefore, it has become a refrain.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used as a quote in a speech while narrating God’s commandments and victory over evil.

‘I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:
⁠“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
⁠Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
⁠            Since God is marching on.”