The Poems of Herman Melville

Front Cover
Kent State University Press, 2000 - Poetry - 349 pages
1 Review
Unlike his fiction, which has been popular and often reprinted, Melville's poetry remains obscure: The last "collected poems" appeared in 1947 and "selected poems" in the 1970s, and only two books dealing exclusively with Melville's poetry have appeared, both published in the 1970s. In this revised edition of his Poems of Herman Melville, Douglas Robillard updates the scholarship on the poetry through his introduction and notes and makes a case for a revised estimate of the importance of Melville as a poet.

The Poems of Herman Melville contains entire texts of "Battle-Pieces" (1866), "John Marr and Other Sailors" (1888), and "Timoleon" (1891). Selected cantos from "Clarel" are reprinted with accompanying notes and commentary. Melville scholars will appreciate the depth and scope of this addition to the critical study of this American poet.

  

What people are saying - Write a review

The poems of Herman Melville

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This collection of poetry is edited by Melville scholar Robillard, author of the book-length study Melville and the Visual Arts as well as a number of periodical articles. It presents the complete ... Read full review

Review: The Poems of Herman Melville

User Review  - Chris Webber - Goodreads

A most excellent compilation of Melville's poetry, edited by Dougas Robillard. Includes Battle Pieces, John Marr and Timoleon. Also varied pieces including one I really liked: Art In placid hours well ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction i
19
Bat tiePieces
53
Contents On the Photograph of a Corps Commander
104
Part One Jerusalem Cantos 2933
193
Part Two The Wilderness Cantos 2935
209
Part Four Bethlehem Cantos 1016
228
Editors Notes to Clarel excerpts
255
John Mar r and Other Sailors
263
Timoleon
305
Bibliography
345
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2000)

Melville was born into a seemingly secure, prosperous world, a descendant of prominent Dutch and English families long established in New York State. That security vanished when first, the family business failed, and then, two years later, in young Melville's thirteenth year, his father died. Without enough money to gain the formal education that professions required, Melville was thrown on his own resources and in 1841 sailed off on a whaling ship bound for the South Seas. His experiences at sea during the next four years were to form in part the basis of his best fiction. Melville's first two books, Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847), were partly romance and partly autobiographical travel books set in the South Seas. Both were popular successes, particularly Typee, which included a stay among cannibals and a romance with a South Sea maiden. During the next several years, Melville published three more romances that drew upon his experiences at sea: Redburn (1849) and White-Jacket (1850), both fairly realistic accounts of the sailor's life and depicting the loss of innocence of central characters; and Mardi (1849), which, like the other two books, began as a romance of adventure but turned into an allegorical critique of contemporary American civilization. Moby Dick (1851) also began as an adventure story, based on Melville's experiences aboard the whaling ship. However, in the writing of it inspired in part by conversations with his friend and neighbor Hawthorne and partly by his own irrepressible imagination and reading of Shakespeare and other Renaissance dramatists Melville turned the book into something so strange that, when it appeared in print, many of his readers and critics were dumbfounded, even outraged. Their misgivings were in no way resolved by the publication in 1852 of his next novel, Pierre; or, the Ambiguities Pierre; or, the Ambiguities, a deeply personal, desperately pessimistic work that tells of the moral ruination of an innocent young man. By the mid-1850s, Melville's literary reputation was all but destroyed, and he was obliged to live the rest of his life taking whatever jobs he could find and borrowing money from relatives, who fortunately were always in a position to help him. He continued to write, however, and published some marvelous short fiction pieces Benito Cereno" (1855) and "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1853) are the best. He also published several volumes of poetry, the most important of which was Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), poems of occasionally great power that were written in response to the moral challenge of the Civil War. His posthumously published work, Billy Budd (1924), on which he worked up until the time of his death, is Melville's last significant literary work, a brilliant short novel that movingly describes a young sailor's imprisonment and death. Melville's reputation, however, rests most solidly on his great epic romance, Moby Dick. It is a difficult as well as a brilliant book, and many critics have offered interpretations of its complicated ambiguous symbolism. Darrel Abel briefly summed up Moby Dick as "the story of an attempt to search the unsearchable ways of God," although the book has historical, political, and moral implications as well.

DOUGLAS ROBILLARD JR. is Professor of English at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff. He specializes in modern literature but as a generalist he has diverse teaching and research interests.

Bibliographic information