Mark Twain

Poetry of Mark Twain Against the Philippine-American War

There are few American writers as well-known and prolific as Mark Twain. His works effectively encapsulate the issues of the time such as the fight for workers’ rights, the fallout of the American Civil War, most relevant to this post, America’s growing imperialism. These are issues that have shaped the United State’s history throughout the 20th century and continue to shape it today. That is why his works such as Huckleberry Finn and Tom Swayer are still read to this day.

But Mark wasn’t just a story writer, he was also a poet at heart and held a high regard for the spoken word. This became his medium of rebellion against the United States government during the Philippine-American War.

Although once a vocal supporter of American imperialism such as during their takeover of Hawaii, Mark quickly changed his tune when he saw its effects in the Philippines. While he initially saw the Americans as liberators of the Filipinos who had been colonized by the Spanish Empire for three centuries, he realized that he was badly mistaken after reading over the Treaty of Paris which would turn the Philippines into a US colony.

Seeing the atrocities being committed against the Philippines, Mark picked up his pen and began writing scathing criticism of the US in his poem, titled “The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated.”

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.

-Mark Twain, Author

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