Clipped From The Observer
! I I f ! ! ' - j j I 3ooks of MELVILLE'S VERSE. " John Marr and Other Poems." By Herman Melville, with an Introdnctory Note by Henry Chapln. (Princeton University Press.) (By J. C. Squire.) There: is n companion volume, to this, a volume including pros pieces by Melville, hitherto imprinted. This 1 may iveglect, ns not long ago I wrote iu this placei about .Melville's prase. If inoro wero to be. said about, that proso tho desirable) tiling is that attention should bo given, not yet to Melville's Melville's scallered writings, but to sonic, of his nuijor books. When his centenary occurred critics levot.cd themst'l vos almost entirely to " Moliy llick." They luwi reason. " Moby Hick " has been, except upasmodicully neglected : it is certuinly Melville's finest book; it is the, greatest prose work that has ever cnino out of America, nnd ono of the gmntest prose fictions over written. Yet eout'LMit ration on the glories of that book tuule.d to give, tho false, iniprftKsion that the rest of Melville's books might safely be neglected. It is not trim of uny of them, and ernjilinfii-ully, ernjilinfii-ully, ernjilinfii-ully, of the, onrliur ones. ' Whito Jacket." " Onioo," and " Typeu. " might have, given him a considerable reputation reputation had n written nohhing lso. " Typeo " especially is a txxik to be road over nnl over ngtkiii. liong before, tho Oauguins and th Tiwitalas, Melvillo got into that book all tho Ix-jiuty Ix-jiuty Ix-jiuty unrt rnintince and brutnlity of tho Simth Seas, ft still remains unequalled as n picture f the islands, n bonk exquisitely nail yet rneily written, admirably sJiapexi, full of blue waters and waving tnnss, foaming ivute-falls ivute-falls ivute-falls nnd prnceftil brown bodies, sharp fight and long languors. Let ns, however, for tho moment pns over his jiroso, on which his clSm to fame, is based, and regard his verse. M.eiv'dles verse bus always been neglected. Tho historians have commonly dismissed it in a few words ; often enough, I daresay, they have been content to repeat each other's comments without reading tho verse. Nobody Nobody has greatly liked it; the Ajnerioan anthofcigists have thought only ono or two piooes worth reprinting ; for many velars tho editions! of tlio poems- poems- havo been out of print. Tho principal volumo was a siablo book " Hut tin Pieces, "' published by Putnams in INOfi; tlb i others wero privately printed late in their vititlior's life. Mr. Cliapin bus now miido a d"lectiou from them all. He prtv faces his w-leiotion w-leiotion w-leiotion with tlio statement that MelvilbCri poe.try " taken as a whole, is of an amateurish and uneven quality." Tie nevertheless Uiinks it worth while reprinting. reprinting. Ilo qualifies Uiis statement by others. Melvillo's personality, he says, is everywhere in nvidenct'. ' It. is clear that, he did not set himself to master the poet's ort. yet, through tho m.'isk of conventional verse which often falls into (lofRernl, tho voice of a true poet is heard." J think myself thnt he might have put tiflM far more strongly. Hardly one of Melvilln's poems is pet foot. lie refused to be. the b might lmve been. There is an nir of improvisation about it all. Hut there is n natural genius, n natural poetic genius, apparent behind all the. roughness and a wkvtiirdneRS . and T find it impossible to avoid thinking fchat there was a great poet buried in tho author of " Moby Diclf ," which is a EXrvit prose poem in itFelf. TTo did notbinp; in verse faultlessly. Yet hiG faulty riiymes not. only show undeveloped poetic powers, but very varied poetic, po we rs. Melville. .; completest acbiove.ment in verse is of tin narrative kind. " Bridegroom Dick." a long jKern. is doggerel, but the most magnificcnC. doggerel ever written. A "combination "combination of Captain Marryat and Mr. Mase-fiekl Mase-fiekl Mase-fiekl may ffivo the idea. An old sailor goes over hi? retninisce.mies. It opens with fine preparatory vigour : Sunning ourselves in October on a day Balmy us spring, though tho year was in decay . I lading my pipe she stirring the tea, My old woman she says to me, " Feel ye, old man, how tho season mellows ? " And why should I not, blessed hpart alive. Hero mellowing myself, past sixty-five, sixty-five, sixty-five, To think o' tho May-time May-time May-time o' pennoned younff fellows This stripped old hulk hero for years may survive. He thinks of all his old comrades, with Hcut'-'- Hcut'-'- Hcut'-'- Hcut'-'- vivid memories of each, vignettes nf .battles nnd carouses, dances and death beds. His catalogue of the dead must, surely, rhythm md language., have been the inspiration inspiration of the 'ritio end of Mr. Vnchel Lindsay's " Bryan, Bryan " : Where's Commander All-a-Tanto? All-a-Tanto? All-a-Tanto? All-a-Tanto? All-a-Tanto? Where'H Orlop Bob singing up from below? Where's Rhyming Ned ? has he spun his last, canto ? Where's Jewsharp Jim 7 Where's Rigadoon Joe ? Ah. fur the music over and done. The band all dismissed save tho droned trombone trombone ' Where's: Cifn o" the gunroom, who loved Hot-Scotch Hot-Scotch Hot-Scotch Glen, prompt and cool in a perilous watch. . . There tire other Ken-pieces, Ken-pieces, Ken-pieces, more in the " Moby Dick " manner, marked by Melville's Melville's extraordinary grip both on physical rcvtlily and on tho spiritual forces lying beneath beneath appearance. His mood shifts con-shuuly. con-shuuly. con-shuuly. He can turn from a contemplation of tho infinite to a regret for the passage of the three-docker. three-docker. three-docker. Tlus regTot appears continually continually and, a generation before Sir Henry Newbolt, he found a symbol of the process in Turner's " Tcmorairo. ' ' But Trafalgar is over now, The quarterdeck undone; The carved and castled navies fire Their evening gun. O, Titan Temerairo, Your stern-lights stern-lights stern-lights fade away ; Your bulwarks to the years must yield, And lieart-of-oak lieart-of-oak lieart-of-oak lieart-of-oak lieart-of-oak decay. A pigmy steam-tug steam-tug steam-tug towg you, Gigantic, to the shore Dismantled of your guns and spars, And sweeping wings of war. The rivets clinch tho ironclads, Men learn a deadlier lore; But Fame has nailed your battle-flags battle-flags battle-flags Your ghost it sails before : O, the navies old and oaken, O, the Temeraire no more 1 The same loment over the transformation of war into an " operatives' " occupation runs through the naval pieces written during the Civil War. But there is much more than that in those war-poems. war-poems. war-poems. America produced produced much civil war verso, but, except Whitman, no poet wrote n: series on the war which for beauty and strength can compare with Herman Melville's, fragmentary fragmentary and rough ns they arc. His compassion was as great ns Whitman's : but. the livelier moments appealed to him more than they did to Whitman. Whitman. Ho could share in tho intoxication of a charge and a cheer and a victory; yet no man was more afilietod by the tragedy of that mutual massacre, no Northerner more tl) "2)aj. greatly admired the. horoism of the South, no statesman spoke wiser or more sympathetic sympathetic words when tho period of " "Reconstruction "Reconstruction " came. " Sheridan at Cedar Creek" and "The College Colonel" are sometimes to be found in anthologies ; but ''Malvern Hill," " The Conflict of Convictions," Convictions," and " A Meditation " should go with them. His steadfast judgment is reflected in tho lines ; " The South's the sinner ! " Well, so let it be; But shall the North sin worse. Ami stand the Pharisee? High spirits like Peacock's are shown in some of tho pneitis ('roiii " Mardi," particularly particularly " Pipe Song" : Caro is all stuff : Puff ! puff ! To puff is enough : Puff i puff ! More musky than snuff And warm is a puff:-- puff:-- puff:-- Puff ! puff ! Here wo sit mid our puffs, IJko old lords in their ruffs, Snug as bears in their muffs: Puff! puffi Then puff, puff, puff. For care is all stuff. Puffed off in a puff - - Puff ! puff ' Tlio more indolent nnd sensuous songs which might hnvo been expected from the nuthor of " Typoe. " are few. " Crossing the Tropics " is a beautiful thing; tho poem which comes most nearly to tho best Polynesian Polynesian pages is " Marlona " : Fur off in the sea is Marlona, A land of Bliades and streams. . . . 'Tis aye afternoon of tho full, full moon, And ever the season of fruit, And ever tho hour of flowers, And never tho time of rains and gales. All in and about Marlona. Soft sigh the boughs in the stilly air, Soft lap tho heach tho billows there, And in the woods Or by the. streamn. You needs must nod in tho Land of Dreams. Melville, unhappily, was nver encouraged to write this or any other kind of verse. Mr. Chopin has made his selection well. There nro just a few poems which ho might havo added ; tho omissions are especially to bo regret ted, as, tho American editions (there were no English editions) of Melville's, poems nro nil extremely rare. An extract at least might have been included from " The. Armies of tho Wilderness," n powerful wide-sweeping wide-sweeping wide-sweeping wide-sweeping poem with brooding commentary : The tribes swarm up to war As in ages long ago, Ere the palm promise leaved And the lily of Christ did blow. There, is something to be said for " Buttle of Stono River, Tennessee. " : With Tewkesbury and Barnet Heath In days to come the field shall blend, The story dim and date obscure ; In legend all shall end. Even now, involved in forest shade A Druid-dream Druid-dream Druid-dream the strife appears. The fray of yesterday assumes The haziness of years. Phrase, perhaps, do not redeem the " Battle for the Missis-sippi Missis-sippi Missis-sippi " and " The Fall of Richmond," Richmond," but tlieru are good phrases in them : A city in flags for a city in flames, Richmond goes Babylon's way. The first line, is very compact; the second could only havo been written by a man who saw all life poetically. The I:'.pitaph on Sherman's Men who fell at Kejiesnw certainly ought to have been here with the other inscriptions. inscriptions. Glory, romance, chivalry are dead, men say, but : Perils the mailed ones never knew Are lightly braved by tho ragged coats of blue, And gentler hearts are bared to deadlier war. The lust lino embodies the whole irony of modern history. Above all, I miss "" A Canticle " in which Meiviile, witnessing the national exaltation at the close of tho war compared the State to the fixed waterfall whose rushing waters perpetually change. It begins tumuituously : O the precipice Titanic Of the congregated Fall, And the angle oceanic Where the deepening thunders call And the Gorge so grim. And the Firinamental rim ! Miiltitudinously thronging. The waters all convergo. Then they sweep adown iu sloping Solidity of surge. Tlio whole poem seems written in a frenzv: and patently, I think, with the majestic in-i:i"i( in-i:i"i( in-i:i"i( of Niagara in mind. In the worst of Melville's war poems ns in tho best, and as in tho tine pruso supplement he added to them, there are evident both profound wisdom and noble, generosity. Mr. Chupin's edition is very well produced. The printing, which is charming, shows the influence of Mr. Bruce Rogers, one of the soundest printers alive. THE BEDSIDE LIBRARY. " The Bedside Library." (J. M. Dent. 2s. 6d. and 3s. 6d. each volume.) What are the essential qualities of the Bedside Book? It depends a good deal on tlio sort of dreams you aspire to, but most readers will vote for something placid and neutral, not loo exciting or amusing; something something that, while it does not invite sleep, yet docs not frighten the poor thing away; something, something, loo, with a touch of the uplifting. The ultimate choice depends upon Hie tasks and temperament of tin: man about to sleep, but. on the whole 1 lie selection just issued by Messrs. .1. M. Dent under the general title of "The Bedside Library " is a sound and commendable commendable one. So far it nius to half-a-dozen half-a-dozen half-a-dozen half-a-dozen half-a-dozen volumes which hold a just balance between the light and the serious. " The Parables and Other Sayings of Je.sus " is bused on the collection made by Bishop Stubbs : it consists consists of isolated excerpts from the Gospels, " chosen for the most part for their wisdom, human consolation, or solemn beauty," with out context or comment. The parables are illustrated from woodcuts by Millais. "The Life and Death of Socrates " brings within two covers all the main sources of information about the philosopher tho salient passages from the Memorabilia of Xenophon, the account of the trial and death from the " Phajdo," the message of Socrates from the " Crito," and Aleibiades' praise from " The Banquet." The introduction by Georgo Grote completes a very desirable volume. Something of the same plan is followed in compiling " The Life and Death of Sir John Falstaff," which includes the relevant portions of "Henry IV.," " Henry V.," and " The Merry Wives of Windsor " (conscious though one is thht the latter Falstaff is only n differcntperson of the same name), along with Sir George Radford's entertaining essay from " Obiter Dicta," Mrs. Gaskell's " Cranford " is an excellent choice for another volume ; and a discreet selection from Boccaccio, " The Little Decameron," will appeal to those who find sleep most easily-wooed easily-wooed easily-wooed through thoughts of mediasval romance or the study of Shakespercan origins. In size and comeliness the Bedside Library is all that one would desire. The volumes are light and dainty, clear to read, and pleasant to handle under the constricted conditions conditions of nocturnal reading. One may wish for it all success possible compatible with the discouragement of insomnia. I con-i j ' ! asso-!