Julia Ward Howe, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, 1862

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Analysis of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"

At first, the song seems like a Christian worship song, which does not match with the title. Based on the title, one expects that the hymn should be about a republic, perhaps talking about its goodness or what is more, something similar to a national anthem. However, the song talks about the second coming of the Lord, which Biblically is supposed to be the judgment day. Additionally, the song is written poetically and as such, it has hidden meanings that require the audience to analyse deeply to grasp the content. One of the most exciting aspects of the work is that The Battle Hymn of the Republic is the use of a religious language to relate to the worldly happenings. For instance, in the last line of the last stanza, Howe writes, "As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free" (Showalter, 2016). This passage likens abolitionism to the reason why Christ died.

Julia Ward Howe and the Civil War

Julia Ward Howe wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was published amidst the civil war that began in 1861 and ended in 1865 and was based on the controversy over slavery. Abraham Lincoln, after being inaugurated in 1860 was determined to stop slavery and this offended the southern states where the practice was integral. Consequently, this led to the secession of a majority of the Southern slave states who formed the Confederacy and fought against the Union army (McWhirter 2012). The Northern states were the majority, and they had formed the Union, which was opposed to slavery. The Battle Hymn of the Republic was adopted by the Union army as their unofficial song to fight for the abolitionist hoping that the Lord would grant them victory.

Julia Ward Howe: Abolitionist and Social Activist

Julia Ward Howe was an American poet who became famous for writing the song The Battle Hymn of the Republic (Showalter, 2016). Most importantly, Howe was an advocate for abolitionism as well as a social activist, especially for women affairs. Howe was described as a staunch abolitionist, and she was hoping that the song would bring victory to the Union army and free slaves in the south. In the song, Howe is against slavery, and she perceives it as an evil thing. In the hymn, salvation will come to the slaves through abolitionism, which will be achieved by going to war. What is more, Julia had outspoken views about the independence of the 19th-century woman, and she was also a preacher. As such, most of her works, including The Battle Hymn of the Republic were written from a Christian point of view as well as reformist.

Salvation and Freedom in the Song

One of the major themes explored in the song The Battle Hymn of the Republic song is "salvation," which was relevant during the civil war. The anti-abolition movement, with the help of the Union army, was to free the black people who had been held as slaves for long in the Southern states of America. As such, the first line of the first stanza, "My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" is a sign of salvation (McWhirter, 2012). Christians believe that Jesus Christ would return for the second time and after that, a thousand years of peace and prosperity would be experiences. Concerning the song, the second coming of Christ means that the war was almost coming to an end and the oppressed, the slaves would be freed from the evils of humankind.

Relevance of the Song in the Current World

The song The Battle Hymn of the Republic in the current world communicates a sense of humanity. Since the song depicts slavery as evil and as such, sends a message that all human beings are equal and no one is inferior to the other (McWhirter, 2012). What is more, the song is relevant to the current generation in the sense that it encourages people to fight for what they believe in and as long as it is pleasant in the eyes of God, it will always go through. For instance, the Union soldiers won and managed to free the slaves since they were fighting against something evil. Besides, racism is a widely discussed topic and is still evident up to date. This song sends a message that racism, since it is most projected towards the blacks, is evil and should be condemned with all the strongest terms possible. The song also tells us that the judgment day is coming and all the evils will be punished.

Conclusion

From the analysis of the song The Battle Hymn of the Republic, I have gained an understanding of the hidden meanings of the song, which has informed my initial thoughts about the work. Initially, I thought that the piece was a worship song, which was also talking about the second coming of Christ. However, I have realized that the hymn is more of a patriotic than a religious song which primarily uses a biblical tone to say that God was on the side of the abolitionists and the Union soldiers in their bid to end slavery, which is evil.

References

McWhirter, C. (2012). Battle hymns: the power and popularity of music in the civil war. Univ of North Carolina Press.

Showalter, E. (2016). The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography. Simon and Schuster.

November 24, 2023
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Literature Music

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Literature Review

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