John Marr and Other Sailors

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John Marr and Other Sailors:

Publishing History

John Marr and Other Sailors, a collection of poetry, was privately published on September 7, 1888 in an edition of twenty-five copies. There was no contemporary British edition. To date only one review of the book has been located.

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Yon black man-of-war hawk that wheels in the light
O'er the black ship's white sky-s'l, sunned cloud to the sight,
Have we low-flyers wings to ascend to his height?

No arrow can reach him; no thought can attain
To the placid supreme in the sweep of his reign.


Of the young master of a wrecked California clipper

Come out of the Golden Gate,
Go round the Horn with streamers,
Carry royals early and late;
But, brother, be not over-elate --
All hands save ship! has startled dreamers.


All dripping in tangles green,
Cast up by a lonely sea,
If purer for that, O Weed,
Bitterer, too, are ye?


About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw,
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat --
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.


(A Dream)

I saw a ship of martial build
(Her standards set, her brave apparel on)
Directed as by madness mere
Against a stolid Iceberg steer,
Nor budge it, though the infatuate Ship went down.
The impact made huge ice-cubes fall
Sullen, in tons that crashed the deck;
But that one avalanche was all --
No other movement save the foundering wreck.

Along the spurs of ridges pale,
Not any slenderest shaft and frail,
A prism over glass-green gorges lone,
Toppled; nor lace of traceries fine,
Nor pendant drops in grot or mine
Were jarred, when the stunned Ship went down.

Nor sole the gulls in cloud that wheeled
Circling one snow-flanked peak afar,
But nearer fowl the floes that skimmed
And crystal beaches, felt no jar.
No thrill transmitted stirred the lock
Of jack-straw needle-ice at base;
Towers undermined by waves -- the block
Atitlt impending -- kept their place.
Seals, dozing sleek on sliddery ledges
Slipt never, when by loftier edges
Through very inertia overthrown,
The impetuous Ship in bafflement went down.

Hard Berg (methought), so cold, so vast,
With mortal damps self-overcast;
Exhaling still thy dankish breath --
Adrift dissolving, bound for death;
Though lumpish thou, a lumbering one --
A lumbering lubbard loitering slow,
Impingers rue thee and go down,
Sounding thy precipice below,
Nor stir the slimy slug that sprawls
Along thy dead indifference of walls.

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Contemporary Criticism and Reviews

The reputation of no American writer stood higher forty years ago than that of Herman Melville. Like his predecessor, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., he went to sea before the mast, starting, if we have not forgotten, from Nantucket or New Bedford on a whaler. Familiar from boyhood with such eminent writers of sea stories as Smollett and Marryat, he adventured into strange seas in Omoo and Typee, which were speedily followed by Mardi, a not very skillful allegory, and Moby Dick, which is probably his greatest work. He was the peer of Hawthorne in popular estimation, and was by many considered his superior. His later writings were not up to the same high level. With all his defects, however, Mr. Melville is a man of unquestionable talent, and of considerable genius. He is a poet also, but his verse is marked by the same untrained imagination which distinguishes his prose. He is the author of the second best cavalry poem in the English language, the first being Browning's "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." His prose is characterized by a vein of true poetical feeling, as elemental as the objects to which it is directed. Nothing finer than his unrhymed poems exists outside of the sea lyrics of Campbell. The present text of these observations is to be found in the little volume, John Marr, and Other Sailors, of which only a limited edition is published, and which contains about twenty poems of varying degrees of merit, but all with the briny flavor that should belong to songs of the sea. --Richard Henry Stoddard, in New York Mail and Express, November 20 1888

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