The Red Badge of Courage HTML version

Chapter 8
The trees began softly to sing a hymn of twilight. The sun sank until slanted bronze rays
struck the forest. There was a lull in the noises of insects as if they had bowed their beaks
and were making a devotional pause. There was silence save for the chanted chorus of the
Then, upon this stillness, there suddenly broke a tremendous clangor of sounds. A
crimson roar came from the distance.
The youth stopped. He was transfixed by this terrific medley of all noises. It was as if
worlds were being rended. There was the ripping sound of musketry and the breaking
crash of the artillery.
His mind flew in all directions. He conceived the two armies to be at each other panther
fashion. He listened for a time. Then he began to run in the direction of the battle. He saw
that it was an ironical thing for him to be running thus toward that which he had been at
such pains to avoid. But he said, in substance, to himself that if the earth and the moon
were about to clash, many persons would doubtless plan to get upon the roofs to witness
the collision.
As he ran, he became aware that the forest had stopped its music, as if at last becoming
capable of hearing the foregin sounds. The trees hushed and stood motionless. Everything
seemed to be listening to the crackle and clatter and earthshaking thunder. The chorus
peaked over the still earth.
It suddenly occurred to the youth that the fight in which he had been was, after all, but
perfunctory popping. In the hearing of this present din he was doubtful if he had seen real
battle scenes. This uproar explained a celestial battle; it was tumbling hordes a-struggle in
the air.
Reflecting, he saw a sort of a humor in the point of view of himself and his fellows
during the late encounter. They had taken themselves and the enemy very seriously and
had imagined that they were deciding the war. Individuals must have supposed that they
were cutting the letters of their names deep into everlasting tablets of brass, or enshrining
their reputations forever in the hearts of their countrymen, while, as to fact, the affair
would appear in printed reports under a meek and immaterial title. But he saw that it was
good, else, he said, in battle every one would surely run save forlorn hopes and their ilk.
He went rapidly on. He wished to come to the edge of the forest that he might peer out.
As he hastened, there passed through his mind pictures of stupendous conflicts. His
accumulated thought upon such subjects was used to form scenes. The noise was as the
voice of an eloquent being, describing.