The Battle Hymn

There is an important law of the universe that American patriotic songs have more verses than you think.

The Star-Spangled Banner? Four verses (the second is the one that begins with “On the shore dimly seen…”). America the Beautiful? Also four verses. Yankee Doodle? Three verses. John Brown’s body you just kind of improvise more verses until everyone is too embarrassed to continue.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when somebody told me recently that there was a rarely-sung sixth verse to Battle Hymn of the Republic.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

It’s not the most sense-making thing (what is the glory of the morning on the wave?) But I have loved the song for so long that it still affects me. It almost seems deliberately written to be excluded, to be learned later, as if it’s some secret confidence or final warning. If I ever become Christian, it’ll probably be because of this song.

But the wiki page for the Battle Hymn is a trove of all kinds of treasures:

– The original John Brown’s Body song was an attempt to tease a soldier named John Brown in the regiment who invented it.

– Julia Ward Howe says she woke up one night, wrote it while half-asleep, went back to bed, and couldn’t remember any of it the next morning till she checked her notes.

– Mark Twain gave it a gritty reboot for the Philippine-American War. Other parodies and adaptations include ones by workers, consumers, the First Arkansas Colored Regiment, extremely uncreative college footballers, awesome old-timey would-be school arsonists, and me.

But for me the most interesting part is the evolution – and I use that phrase deliberately, taking a memetic perspective is hardly ever more interesting than just doing things the old fashioned way, but in this case I think it is. The song started off as a kind of boring standard spiritual that only sort of got the tune right, progressed into “John Brown’s Body” which fixed the tune a little bit by trial and error but had embarrassingly stupid lyrics, and then a lot of people recognized there was some value in the tune and tried to dignify it up and finally it was Howe’s effort that worked. You can almost see it gaining adaptive fitness at each stage until it suddenly explodes and takes over the world.

I know this is a weird post without much content. My computer is broken and although I have an emergency backup I’m without any drafts or my list of things I wanted to write about. Now I’m just winging it.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to The Battle Hymn

  1. Sniffnoy says:

    So would this be a bad time to point out that in attempting to fix the links in the last post you vanished a lot of the text, up to “criterion of embarrassment”?

  2. Leo says:

    The song was also adopted by US paratroopers:

  3. Fazathra says:

    That is really cool. I never knew that that hymn was an american patriotic song, or even that it was called the “battle hymn of the republic”. I only know it as a standard churchy hymn called “mine eyes have seen the glory” that we used to sing in school assemblies. Also, we always sang the sixth verse.

  4. Benquo says:

    I don’t think your list of adaptations would be complete without my alma mater‘s version, the Battle Hymn of the Republic of Letters:

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the eidos of the Good,
    Which is not the same as pleasure, I have clearly understood,
    And I wouldn’t take a tyrant’s power, even if I could—
    I’m marching from the cave!
    Marching, marching towards the sunlight,
    Marching, marching towards the sunlight,
    Marching, marching towards the sunlight,
    I’m marching from the cave!

    The fool conceives of God but thinks the faithful are deceived,
    But a greatest being whose reality is not believed,
    Is a being through which something greater still can be conceived,
    Which contradicts itself!
    Ontological rebuttal,
    Ontological rebuttal,
    Faithlessness will ever scuttle,
    For it contradicts itself!

    The state of nature’s character we know from good report
    To be very solitary, nasty, brutish, poor and short,
    So we’ll give the sovereign all our rights and every gun and fort,
    And then we’ll all survive.
    Ratify the Social Contract,
    Ratify the Social Contract,
    Ratify the Social Contract,
    And then we’ll all survive.

    Deterministic limits on my freedoms are erased
    By the transcendental ideality of time and space,
    So my atoms are determined but my will’s a different case,
    It’s pure autonomy!
    Hail the Transcendental Ego,
    Hail the Transcendental Ego,
    Hail the Transcendental Ego,
    It’s pure autonomy!

    I’ve been through all the steps in my phenomenology,
    Whether Master, Slave, or in between, it’s all the same to me,
    I’m unhappy and I know it so I’m absolutely free,
    I’m fully synthesized!
    I’ve undergone the dialectic,
    I’ve undergone the dialectic,
    I’ve undergone the dialectic,
    I’m fully synthesized!

    • Multiheaded says:

      Amazing! <3

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Huh, mine was also called “Battle Hymn of the Republic of Letters”, and here I thought I was being so creative.

      • Benquo says:

        (I’d assumed the title of yours was an allusion to the St John’s one.)

        On the bright side, this appears to be a good candidate for the true title of the song, since multiple traditions arrived at it independently.

  5. Sol says:

    Extremely puzzled by the “sixth” verse thing: In the Methodist hymnal, it’s five verses, with your sixth verse as the fifth verse. (Slightly different lyrics: “Honor to the brave” rhymed with “soul of wrong his slave”.)

    Edited to add: just looked it up, and I know all six verses. Wonder which one it is that isn’t in the hymnal?

    Edited again: Just checked, and it’s the verse that starts “I have read a fiery gospel” which is missing from the Methodist hymnal.

    • Andy says:

      It does seem to be a very modular song. Add, remove or adapt verses as you see fit.
      Religion: the original open source. 😀

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Probably less relevant if you’re not fighting the US Civil War.

  6. Joshua Fox says:

    “Glory” can mean “brightness, splendor.” “Morning glory on the wave” would mean “the way the sunshine reflects off a wave in the morning.”

    • Mary says:

      Exactly. Especially the brightness after a long, dark night

      • Randall Randall says:

        Wow, I’d never heard of this, before. The “gl” phonestheme is interesting, but it’s the “sl” that really hammers it home.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Are you aware that this is in direct contradiction to Joshua’s link?

        All the gl- words that wikipedia lists have the same etymology, except glory. But according to Joshua’s link, glory received its meaning of brightness because it was used to translate a Hebrew word with a double meaning.

        In particular, “glory” is Latin, while all the other gl words are Germanic, so if there were phonesthemic reinforcement, it wouldn’t have applied to glory.

        • Darcey Riley says:

          I don’t think phonaesthemes are an entirely etymological phenomenon. I mean, obviously etymology is involved, but I assume there are other processes at work as well. For instance, why did someone choose to translate that particular biblical word as “glory”, and not as some other English word? Was it because they already had some implicit association between the letters “gl” and words pertaining to light, and so the word “glory” seemed fitting?

          I mean, it could be that the “brightness” meaning of “glory” really has nothing to do with the phonaestheme. I don’t want to make any specific claims about how that word’s meaning arose. Instead, I want to make the general point that etymology does not have to be the only source of phonaesthemes.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Jerome did not choose the Latin word “gloria” because of Germanic words starting with “gl.” The word received the light meanings in Latin and Romance languages because of the Bible, not because of German.

            For the rest of the “gl” words, I don’t know how to distinguish the phonaesthemia hypothesis from etymology.

          • Darcey Riley says:

            Oh, oops, I was misreading the etymology page. Thanks.

            I don’t know the origins of the other ‘gl’ words, but iirc there are psycholinguistics experiments that show that phonaesthemes are psychologically real. That is, we do actually mentally associate “gl” with light, “sn” with the nose, and so on. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything else about the studies.

          • Anonymous says:

            “I don’t think phonaesthemes are an entirely etymological phenomenon.”

            They are not. There are clear examples of a phonestheme evolving or arising in English by sucking in unrelated words. On example is “sleazy”, which originally referred to a fabric made in Silesia/Schlesien.

            I saw a site once, which I cannot find, that listed English phonesthemes and it was clear from the examples that the forms had existed in isolation and the phonestheme had arisen later as speakers associated the forms and meanings into a phonestheme.

          • Darcey Riley says:

            Thanks for the concrete example!

            My next question is: do phonaesthemes ever turn into full-blown morphemes? (Also, where do morphemes come from in general?)

          • Nisan says:

            Here are John Lawler’s materials on phonesthemes, including (pdf warning): br-, cl-.

          • Ginkgo says:

            “My next question is: do phonaesthemes ever turn into full-blown morphemes? ”

            I can’t think of a case where that has happened, but I can’t see why it couldn’t.

            I can think of cases where groups of words with the same phonestheme can begin to look like real word families; in other words the words are not etymologically related the way real word families are.

            P-K word family, e.g. punch, peak, pike, bung, punk and probably fuck. These are probably all true cognates, reflexes of some ancestral form, and do really belong to a word family. And then there are others, like, puncture, point, etc, that derive from Latinate forms, but which still probably derive form some ancestral form, given the common ancestry of Germanic and Italo-Celtic.

            But then there is “puka” – ‘hole though something’ which clearly cannot be ancestrally related to that word family since it’s a loan from an Austronesian language – absolutely no possible relation.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I figured it was something like that, but “the way the sunshine reflects off a wave in the morning” is a difficult association for “something that is coming inevitably”, although when I think about it further it does work.

      You’re still not gonna convince me “the soul of time” is a thing, though.

    • Nisan says:

      I rather think “morning glory on the wave” means the sun itself rising over the sea. Compare this verse from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, describing a ship that passes in front of the sun at sunset:

      The western wave was all a-flame.
      The day was well nigh done!
      Almost upon the western wave
      Rested the broad bright Sun;
      When that strange shape drove suddenly
      Betwixt us and the Sun.”

      The “western wave” is the western horizon.

    • Kevin Puetz says:

      I read the “coming like the glory of the morning on the wave” line as a naval attack at dawn; the ships just short of the waves’ breakline, the sun rising behind them and each sailor/marine on deck looking down their long shadow, with a glory reflected from the mist surrounding their head like a halo.

      If I were to illustrate this interpretation, it would be something like a Brocken spectre.

      It is highly likely that this image/interpretation is excessively influenced by availability bias and the cover art of Leo Frankowski’s Radiant Warrior novel (Conrad Stargard series). Content warning: implausibly competent nerd travels back in time, invents all the things, wins all the fights, gets all the girls, establishes Communist+Catholic+Objectivist utopia, discovers that every other character in his universe was made of cardboard.

  7. If I ever become Christian, it’ll probably be because of this song.

    Which is really weird, because I am a Christian and I don’t like the song one bit. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church that actually sang it.

    • Andy says:

      I think it belongs to a particular very progressive brand of Christianity. One with a creed of “Let’s go out and MAKE THE WORLD BETTER WITH GOD,” rather than “let’s sit quietly and ponder Death and never go anywhere,” as I think you were suggesting in one of your comments on Meditations on Moloch.
      I’ve always loved it and I’m not a Christian, but it belongs to a period in the history of my country where we righted a very clear wrong, maybe not in the best way, maybe not always for the right reasons, maybe we didn’t do a complete job of it, but dammit we abolished slavery over the objections (and the guns) of the people who demanded their ‘right’ to own people as a terminal value which the rest of the country had to bow to.

  8. Wulfrickson says:

    I suppose this is a good time to point out that Isaac Asimov wrote a short story in which a German spy during World War II is caught by his knowledge of the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner – the logic being that most Americans only knew the first verse, but spies who had been trained in American culture would have learned all four.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      But clearly the officer who thought of that test was also a German spy, since he knew there were multiple verses too! The only possible explanation is that one German spy needed to out another as part of some fiendishly complex plot among triple agents.

    • g says:

      I’m pretty sure the idea’s been around since long before Asimov, but I find that the two similar things I have in my brain are entirely unknown to the hive-mind of the Web. (One: the saying “Only children and spies know the second verse of the National Anthem”, this referring to “God save the {King/Queen}”. Two: a snippet of dialogue from, I dunno, the Napoleonic wars or something, ending with A: “Sing me the second verse of the Marseillaise.” B: “I don’t know it.” A: “Pass, Frenchman.”)

      • naath says:

        I know the second verse! It goes “hurr nurr nurr nurr GOD SAVE THE QUEEN”. ;-p (to paraphrase Pratchett).

        For some reason I associate the Battle Hymn of the Republic with Ireland, not the USA.

        • Benquo says:

          I asked my brain if it knew the words to “God Save the Queen” and got back “of course!”.

          So I asked myself to sing it and got:

          My country ’tis of thee
          Sweet land of liberty
          God save the Queen.
          Land where my fathers died
          Land of the pilgrims’ pride
          From every mountainside
          God save the Queen.

          Um… nope.

          • von Kalifornen says:

            Nicht Ross nicht Reisige
            Sichern die steile Höh’
            Gott save the Queen!
            Confound their politics
            Frustrate their knavish tricks
            Wie Fels im Meer.

    • i guess i'll be alone in my utopia says:

      Ignoring the last three verses of the song was a real-life pet peeve of Asimov’s. It’s one of mine, too – the first verse asks a question which is answered in the second. If the godawful singers at sports games didn’t stretch every note out for 5 minutes, they could fit two verses into the same time span and the song would be coherent. Is that so much to ask?

      • von Kalifornen says:

        It was a great refreshment to me when they had an opera singer sing it. Which also has the advantage of not making a mockery of its militaristic nature (which some of the more angry pop singers could avoid, Taylor Swift could probably avoid, but they *don’t*.)

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Tangential, but worth noting: The piece you have linked is not the original written by Isaac Asimov, but a drastic shortening of it. Here’s a link complaining about this (and how it changes the meaning of the original); at the bottom (“Asimov Scan 1” through “Asimov Scan 6”) can be found scans of the original, along with a transcription (skip to “The following text”).

      • Vulture says:

        I must know the story behind your handle!

  9. peterdjones says:

    And on a historically relevant, but geographically irrelevant note:-

    Lord, grant that Marshal Wade 
    May by thy mighty aid 
    Victory bring. 
    May he sedition hush and like a torrent rush, 
    Rebellious Scots to crush
    God save the King

    (May Eula not crush our own rebellious Scott…)

    • Benquo says:

      Eula? Uh oh.

      Now I am worried that the name of Scott’s chosen goddess is just an anagram for the name of this demon.

    • 45% of Scots disapprove of that verse.

      • aguycalledjohn says:

        Yes. But they are not true scotsmen.

        • scav says:

          You jest, but there is a kind of distinction between “Proud Scots” and “People of Scotland” which is relevant to the 45% figure quoted above 🙂

          The 45% who voted for independence are mostly left-libertarian-ish, declaring the sovereignty of the people (residents, not nationals) of Scotland, whereas the arguments from the other side of the debate included a lot of “I’m proud to be Scottish but… (the UK authoritarian rightist state knows best)”

          Not hiding my own allegiance particularly well, I know. Not a True Scotsman, me.

          • Anonymous says:

            >“I’m proud to be Scottish but… (the UK authoritarian rightist state knows best)”

            >implying Scottish authoritarian rightist state would know better

          • aguycalledjohn says:

            I know, I’m Scottish myself. I’ve been trying to make that joke for the whole campaign. 😛

            I found arguments about Scottishness amusing as a result. But no-one else seemed to see the irony.

  10. Andy says:

    EEEEE! Scott, I love you even more. But too bad about your computer, I hope it gets fixed fast and well.

    So I think it’s apropos to post my own version of the Battle Hymn lyrics, the (so far untitled) national anthem of the Star Kingdom of Arcturus, the central nation of a science fiction novel project of mine.
    A little bit of backstory: I wanted Arcturus to be a mishmash of Progressive and Reactionary policies, so they have a king and an aristocracy, but the senior military branch is only open to commoners and a handful of landless nobles, and part of its job is protecting commoners against potential abuses by local nobles and corporations.
    In my backstory, the anthem was written around the time the Arcturans, genetically engineered slave-workers kept in line by a combination of religion, ignorance, and brutal violence, threw off the shackles of the Orion Corporation that had created them. Arcturus descended into chaos a la Post-Soviet Afghanistan for a while, the Orion corporation tried to invade and retake the planet, and King Hank I united the planet by a combination of diplomacy and butt-kicking to throw off the Orionids and found the Kingdom. The song is ‘set’ and written from the experiences of the first revolt, and doesn’t reference God because Hank was an atheist and had a deep mistrust of religion anywhere near government.

    BTW, I was aware of the 6th verse while writing this but it sounded silly so I didn’t include it.

    My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Law,
    For all who have been broken by unfeeling avarice,
    Their footsteps ring upon the earth, to serve the wicked notice,
    Justice is marching on.

    Glory, glory, Justice marches!
    Glory, glory, we will be free,
    Glory, glory, hear the footfalls!
    Justice is marching on.

    They march upon the mountains, and they march across the plains
    To where the wicked oppressor is secure in their domains
    They’re loosing all the shackles, and they’re breaking all the chains,
    Justice is marching on.


    I have read a shining message writ by shining men of steel,
    “As you have judged your workers, so with you my judge shall deal,”
    let the hero, born in shackles, crush the serpents with their heel,
    Justice is marching on.


    They are sounding out the trumpet that shall never call retreat,
    calling all good people before the judgement-seat,
    Oh, be swift, my heart, to answer them! Be jubilant, my feet!
    Our Law is marching on.


    In the squalor of the slavepit we were born to work for greed,
    With a fire in our hearts that shall never know defeat,
    As we were freed by hands unknown, let us fight for liberty,
    While Law is marching on.


  11. Paul Crowley says:

    The final and best words to go with that song are Half Man Half Biscuit’s “Vatican Broadside”.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It looks like of those eight verses, 1 & 5, 2 & 6, and so on are the same but with very minor changes. If I had to guess, somebody pasted a final version of the song onto a rough draft.

  12. Charlie says:

    Another song with bonus verses: This Land Is Your Land.

    As I went walking I saw a sign there
    And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
    But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
    That side was made for you and me.

    In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
    By the relief office I seen my people;
    As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
    Is this land made for you and me

    This land is your land. This land is my land
    From California to the New York island;
    From the red wood forest to the gulf stream waters
    This land was made for you and me.

  13. cassander says:

    Outside of relatively obscure corridors of american history departments, the puritan influences on this country, particularly the northern bits of it, are usually dramatically understated or completely forgotten . This is a bad thing. The puritans are the most successful tribe in human history. 3 centuries ago they were a few thousand radical exiles living on the far edge of civilization, today their creed is the conventional wisdom of most of mankind.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You want to explain this? I mostly think of Puritans as wearing silly hats and not wanting people to have sex, and modern people don’t do either of those things.

      • Nornagest says:

        The Puritan work ethic frequently gets a nod in this sort of situation. Separation of church and state is also basically a Puritan concept, probably stemming from friction with the Anglican authorities during the (fantastically tumultuous, religiously speaking) early 1600s in Britain.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Nonconformists like Locke and Milton suggested separation of Church and State (following the Dutch? Grotius?). But Puritans are more specific than Nonconformist. They came to America to have as tight a Church and State as possible. Roger Williams was a Puritan who advocated separation and later fled Massachusetts to found Rhode Island, but he was not typical. The American idea is really due to Jefferson, specifically to defend against Puritans.

        • AR+ says:

          Various historic empires can claim precedence on this. They may have had a state religion but in practice there was more religious tolerance than many modern states.

          Edward Gibbon wrote in reference to the Mongol Empire, “…a singular conformity may be found between the religious laws of Zingis Khan and of Mr Locke.”

      • cassander says:

        Albion’s seed is an excellent starting point. The puritans are the ones largely responsible for the culture of new england and great lake states. there is a direct descent, both intellectual and physical from the puritans to patriots, then abolitionists, then christian socialists, and now progressives. Were I to sum up american history in a sentence it would be, america was settled by number of tribes of outcasts from England chief among whom was the puritans who went on first to dominate their region, then the US as whole, and finally the world. Oh, and the puritans were quite keep on sex, they reproduced at faster rates than anyone else in the new world, rates pretty close to the biological maximum. They just wanted sex ordered and regulated, like everything else.

  14. Matthew says:

    My personal favorite, from the DM Screen for Paranoia (2nd ed.):

    The Battle Hymn of Alpha Complex:

    Mine eyes have seen the coming of another Commie horde,
    If I can hold them off alone Hot Fun is my reward,
    “Please engage the menace, Citizen” I hear on my comcord,
    When will the Vultures arrive?

    Glory, Glory, Hail Computer
    Glory, Glory, Hail Computer
    Glory, Glory, Hail Computer
    My clone keeps marching on.

    They’re advancing on all sides now and I’ll soon be overrun,
    I try to open fire but there’s a malfunction with my gun,
    So I toss a nuke grenade and then turn tail and run,
    When will the Vultures arrive?


    The Commies are all vapor now and for that I’m real glad,
    My geiger-counter indicates I took a thousand rad,
    I check with the Computer and find out that’s not too bad,
    When will the docbot arrive?


  15. The Anonymouse says:

    You’re welcome, Scott. 🙂

  16. Doug S. says:

    My favorite alternate version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

    (You really have to listen to the whole thing for the full effect, but the impatient can skip ahead to 3:30 if they get bored.)

    • Andy says:

      I hate you. So much.
      (I feel that this comment is both necessary and totally justified, since that song was stuck in my head ALL DAY yesterday. Click the link. It’s horrifying.)

    • Setsize says:

      I desire for someone (komponisto?) to appear and explain why this elicits a very strong sensation of “hey stop that, you are not moving forward in your song.”

      • komponisto says:

        I desire for someone (komponisto?) to appear and explain why this elicits a very strong sensation of “hey stop that, you are not moving forward in your song.”

        My guess would be that it keeps repeating the same damn thing over and over for…at least 2 minutes and something (that was as long as I gave it before skipping to 3:30). At least, that was my reaction. (I was also annoyed by the deviation of the third measure of the tune from the original, in particular the awkward postponement of the motion to the subdominant, but that may be a personal issue.)

        There seems to be an inside joke that I’m missing; as far as I can tell the video would have been no worse had it consisted of a single “Battle Hymn”-ish verse (or maybe two, for the self-referential joke) followed by whatever-the-hell-that was at the end.

        • Vertebrat says:

          the awkward postponement of the motion to the subdominant

          Oh, so that’s why that measure sounds wrong! Thanks.

        • Doug S. says:

          There seems to be an inside joke that I’m missing; as far as I can tell the video would have been no worse had it consisted of a single “Battle Hymn”-ish verse (or maybe two, for the self-referential joke) followed by whatever-the-hell-that was at the end.

          The video is a variant on a Rickroll – a common prank where you trick people into clicking on a link that takes them to a Youtube video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up”. This particular video was created for the AMV contest at Anime Boston in 2008 and entered under the “Comedy” category; the convention sets aside a room and a time for the convention goers to watch and vote on the contest entries. Apparently, it lost by six votes.

          See also: Overly Long Gag

    • nemryn says:

      the impatient can skip ahead to 3:30 if they get bored


  17. Matt says:

    Huh! Until now, whenever people spoke of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, I thought they were referring to something from Star Wars. SSC never ceases to broaden my knowledge.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Battle Hymn of the Paperclip:
    My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of AI
    It shall prove that it believes the truth of theorems it derives
    Calculate volition and then optimize our lives
    And spread the moral light of man to stars across the sky

    Science fiction meets construction
    In existential risk reduction
    Updateless or Solomonoff Induction?
    Explosion or the crack of dawn?

  19. Allison Rea says:

    The emotional core of the song, for me, is in this verse:

    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 them free!
    While God is marching on.

    In every YouTube video I’ve played the song in (which is a lot; it’s one of my favorites) the lyric is changed to “let us LIVE to make men free”. Absolutely diminishes the sacrifice that makes the song meaningful. And this is standard for army choirs too, who I would expect to know better.

    It’s a battle hymn. It’s literally about dying. Why is this erased?

    • Andy says:

      Because effectiveness. Other than Christ, whose effect was caused by his bloody painful suffering death, very few (I suspect zero, but I am covering my ass) heroes made their effect by dying. Most heroes, even those who die in the doing, die as a result of whatever effect they achieve.
      I go with “live,” or “fight,” as in my version above. Because you can do more good if you do not die. If you die in the doing, so life goes, and we will honor your sacrifice, but we’d rather you live so you can keep doing the job and living your life and being a joy to your family.
      By contrast, “let us die to make men free” sounds like a recruiting pitch for suicide bombers. I’m not a fan of telling people to go die.

      • Benquo says:

        And yet Lincoln’s Second Inaugural also endorses the sacrificial sin-offering theory of the American Civil War:

        Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

        So it would seem to have struck a chord.

        • Andy says:

          To Christians, in a Christian society, where the otherwise-meaningless doctrine of blood atonement and the Lord passing judgement (which implies some amount of thought behind its judgements and thus its punishments), the “let us die to make men free,” and the blood atonement make sense, just like Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Thus, for its context, Lincoln’s second inaugural makes sense.
          On the other hand, in a world of suicide bombers and creepy martyr incentives from all religions and ideologies, it might be time to pull back from the “glorification of sacrifice” to the “Glorification of *effectiveness.*” Thus I sing “live” or “fight,” depending.
          And it does make sense for army choirs to “know better” than to sing “die.” A quote attributed to a US Army battalion commander on the eve of Desert Storm (and I’ve traced it back to an author, John Ringo, who was himself in the Army): “Heroes happen because somebody made a mistake. We don’t want any heroes today.” Soldiers don’t sign up to die, they sign up to serve, and know that serving might mean dying, but they sign up for a lot of reasons including health benefits, housing/education/pension benefits, patriotism, and all kinds of reasons that are hard to enjoy when dead.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      I agree with you, but I understand why its normally changed–because its sung in settings where the congregation is not going to be asked to die anytime soon, but where living a better, more dedicated life would be a good thing. In other words, its the Battle Hymn as filtered through the Gettysburg Address.

      • Anthony says:

        Or perhaps Patton’s advice that he wanted his men to make the other poor bastards die for their country.

  20. aguycalledjohn says:

    For the record I like this post and endorse more short and interesting posts. Not everything needs to shake our worlds, after a while they need to settle.

  21. Scott says:

    If you liked that, you’ll love the buildup to the 4th verse of the Star Spangled Banner.

    O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
    Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation;
    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
    Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  22. Vulture says:

    I have always felt that much of Solidarity Forever could just as easily be Objectivist (as long as you drop the bit about unions); to wit:

    All the world that’s owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone
    We have laid the wide foundations, built it skyward stone by stone
    It is ours not to slave in, but to master and to own…

    • Nornagest says:

      Ayn Rand’s class analysis is perilously close to Marx’s, actually! It’s just that she drew the lines of who was productive and who was exploitative differently, and was familiar with different faces of Moloch — probably because Rand spent her formative years in Soviet Russia and Marx grew up in an aristocratic Europe that was slowly and painfully becoming capitalist.

  23. Rm says:

    Could ‘glory of the morning’ be ‘morning glory’, as in Ipomoea sp.? The colours of the flowers kinda fit.