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[Detail] Let me kiss him for his mother

First-Person Narration

First-person narrative is often an effective way to portray an event or theme. A number of songs in this collection relating to the Civil War use the first-person perspective to dramatize on an element of the conflict. For example, the rallying cry of "I Want to be a Soldier" is tempered by songs depicting the tragedy of war such as "Battle of Spottsylvania, 'I Am Left Here to Die'" and "Soldier's Wife."

Weep not for me, my Mother dear,
When the sad tidings you shall hear,
That I am numbered with the slain,
On Spottsylvania's battle plain.
The battle's fought, the victory's won,
But oh! "I am left to die alone...."
The battle's fought, the victory's won,
But oh! "I am left to die alone."

From "Battle of Spottsylvania."

They tell me he has gone to fight
For honor of our land;
For Freedom's cause, our soldiers brave
March onward, hand in hand.
'Tis well indeed, in such a cause
Such gallant hearts to find!--
Forgive my tears! why should I weep,
Tho' I am left behind?

From "Soldier's Wife."

  • What is the plot of each song and who is the narrator?
  • What elements of the plot are described and what elements are left to the listener's imagination?
  • How does the first-person perspective dramatize the events in a way that a third-person perspective cannot?
  • What do you think is the intended effect of a line such as "Forgive my tears! why should I weep, / Tho' I am left behind?" Who is the narrator addressing? Do you think that this is a rhetorical question?
  • What do you think are the benefits of using a first-person perspective? What do you think are the limitations of this perspective?
  • Choose a scenario, such as an event in the Civil War, and write a poem describing the event from a first-person perspective. Who is your main character? How will you convey the details of that person's job or role in society through the poem?

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