"A Great Victor, In Defeat As Great"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This is a narrative of the Civil War centered around the thematic significance of John Brown's stand and consequential fate. The various personalities involved each project, a mood, personality, and an attitude which make up several major themes respectively and, the themes supporting each other like the variations of a symphonic score, which express the underlying humanity involved in the action. One of the personalities underlying the action is that of Ellyat, a Union soldier. He conveys the confusion, the hope, the frustration, and agony of spirit and body that are common to war. Lucy Weatherby is the Southern belle back home who wears her beauty like a crown, convinced that "our boys" are fighting heroically for her–and the Cause. In addition to conveying the human element involved in the war, the poem conveys a sense of historical magnitude and scope through the cataloguing of many events, personalities, and places pertinent to the action. Added to these lists is the poet's personal commentary. When the leaders of the South pass in parade, he says of Lee:

He took great burdens and he bore them well,
Believed in God but did not preach too much,
Believed and followed duty first and last
With marvellous consistency and force,
Was a great victor, in defeat as great,
No more no less, always himself in both. . . .