Thomas Daniel Young: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead"

In 1925 to 1926 Tate was deeply involved in writing "Ode to the Confederate Dead," which he revised for the next ten years. (During this period he wrote two biographies: Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier [1928] and Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall [1929], as well as many of the poems that appeared in his first collection, Mr. Pope and Other Poems.) Although it was far from his favorite, it remains his best-known poem. While the poem carries "Ode" in its title, Tate insisted that he wrote it to demonstrate that the form is no longer accessible to the modem poet. "Fragmentary chaos" has succeeded the "active faith" of the traditional society, the poem reiterates, and try as he may, the protagonist of the poem, standing at the gate of the Confederate cemetery, cannot imagine that the falling leaves are the "charging soldiers" of the Confederacy who lie buried in the graves before him. He is aware of the changing seasons—he can see the falling leaves of autumn—but he has lost the faculty of explaining mystery through myth. Modern man is like a blind crab who has "energy but no purposeful world in which to use it." Like the "hound bitch / Toothless and dying" in the cellar, modern man can hear the wind only. He has lost his creative imagination, the means by which he could transcend the knowledge circumscribed by reason and sensory perception.


Title Thomas Daniel Young: On "Ode to the Confederate Dead" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Criticism Target Allen Tate
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 21 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The History of Southern Literature
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