Shiloh: An Interpretation Of Death In Melville's Poem
“Skimming slightly, wheeling still,/ the swallows fly low/ over the field in clouded days,” The birds (swallows, to be exact) are mentioned twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the poem. They are the first and last powerful image we see. They are solemn and peaceful, yet are also reminders of the battle.
The swallows represent the chaotic war, still lingering over the battleground. The birds fly like the bullets once did, “Skimming lightly, wheeling still”. Swallows swoop in a chaotic manner when they fly, as the bullets once did. The chaotic way in which the birds move makes the environment seem much more solemn, disorganized, and desolate, due to the fact that the birds are flying low, swooping over the barren battleground. ”But now they lie low,/ While over them the swallows skim,”. It is clear that Herman Melville added the birds in order to show the way the battle was, without showing the battle itself.
The swallows also show that life continues to go on after the battle. After a time of terrible chaos, the birds continue to fly. They have no enemies, they continue to live their quiet lives even after a battle. Melville is trying to convey that even after war and death, peace will still live on, even if life is chaotic for a while. Additionally, swallows fly erratically in order to catch insects from the air (Barn Swallow), and because the men are lying on the ground, the swallows can fly lower to eat bugs in the air without running into standing…