Battle Hymn of the Republic (Brought down to date)

I admit that I’m not sure if this is public domain.  However, it’s available on wikipedia, so I’m going to go ahead and share it.  I’m sure Samuel would forgive me.

Mark Twain – Battle Hymn of the Republic (Brought down to date) – 1901

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger’s wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps—
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!”

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;*
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom—and for others’ goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich—
Our god is marching on.

* NOTE: In Manila the Government has placed a certain industry under the protection of our flag. (M.T.)
I don’t remember how I came across this parody, but it’s stuck with me for several years, even before I became passionate about nonviolence.  It turns out the Battle Hymn of the Republic has a number of parodies, which you can check out here.

I think this, along with the original song, capture the differing motives of those orchestrating wars and those participating on the ground.  I have no doubt that most soldiers enter into the military with the best ideals and intentions, desiring nothing more than to serve their country and defend freedom.  Sadly, I fear they are most often deceived.

Of particular interest is the line that elicited a clarifying note from M.T.  At first it may seem an artifact from the particular time, but what many people are unaware of is that US military bases around the world today serve as centers for prostitution and sex trafficking.  Read more here and here.


~ by Joe Paparone on November 16, 2010.

2 Responses to “Battle Hymn of the Republic (Brought down to date)”

  1. Hey Joe,

    I’ve been think about doing the same thing with “America the Beautiful” – except from a “First People’s” perspective! Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks also for the recommendation RE!

    It was especially cool to see it coming from you, since my son and his family live in Corinth, just to the north of you.

    I’m a Chicagoan; but working as a deployed development editor for a new publishing studio called sparkhouse. If you like THQ, I’m sure you’ll dig re:form.

    Paradoxically peaceful,


  2. Thanks, David! If you ever write the “America” parody, I’d love to read it.

    Even though I came across this parody awhile ago, I never thought to look into Mark Twain’s other writings on war. Turns out there’s a bit.

    Drop me a line if you come by the area, we can grab some coffee. I’ll check out re:form.

    Grace and peace,


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