Ode: Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C., 1867 is the full title of a poem by Henry Timrod, sometimes considered the "Poet Laureate of the Confederacy." It was first sung at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday, June 16, 1866 (though many later editors have misrepresented its provenance as a year later), on the occasion of the memorial service held there in honor of the Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. The poem is often referred to simply as the Ode.
This poem, composed within two years of Timrod's death, shows enormous restraint in a venue that could hardly have been more highly charged with emotion. Many critics have considered it one of his finest works, going so far as to call it his swan song. Some note the similarity between this poem and the English poet William Collins's poem, Ode Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746, which commemorates the British soldiers who fell in the War of the Austrian Succession. Timrod's painstaking rewriting of this poem shows in the differences between the early version, which is standard in anthologies, and revisions published in The Daily South Carolinian and the Charleston Mercury in June and July 1866. One might safely reason that the poet understood not only that his work would be tapped to help bear the burden of loss among ur-Confederate literati but that it would rise to a high station in American literature.
- Leonidas Warren Payne, Jr. American Literary Readings, 1917.
- Texts on Wikisource:
- Ode: Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C., 1867
- Ode Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746