A patriot's hymn

By Joe Rutherford

Few icons of American literature are better known than “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a poem written by the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe.
Howe, the product of a life-long intellectual nurturing and liberal outlook encouraged by her Unitarian beliefs, wrote the poem-hymn after hearing Union soldiers singing the tune with the words to “John Brown’s Body.”
Caroline Kennedy, in her book, “A Patriot’s Handbook,” describes Howe and her husband, Samuel Howe, as “philanthropists and abolitionists in pre-Civil War Boston.” The poem swept through the loyal Union states when it was published in1862 in Atlantic Monthly magazine. Among its ardent admirers was President Abraham Lincoln. Its lyrics remain a flame for righteous, patriotic causes:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
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 men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

Howe became a leading campaigner for women’s rights and equality, and ecumenical religion, living until 1910. She remained an intense patriot all her life.