Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War: Civil War Poems

Overview

This reprint of an 1866 volume of poems by the author of Moby Dick and Billy Budd includes four essays showing why Melville's verse with its unconventional linking of literary form and political-military history remains misunderstood and neglected.

Princeton University historian James M. McPherson's preface thoughtfully discusses the import of Melville's book as a Civil War document. The introduction sketches Melville's pre-war concern with slavery in Moby Dick (1851) and Benito...

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Overview

This reprint of an 1866 volume of poems by the author of Moby Dick and Billy Budd includes four essays showing why Melville's verse with its unconventional linking of literary form and political-military history remains misunderstood and neglected.

Princeton University historian James M. McPherson's preface thoughtfully discusses the import of Melville's book as a Civil War document. The introduction sketches Melville's pre-war concern with slavery in Moby Dick (1851) and Benito Cereno (1856). The seventy-two deeply moving, austerely beautiful lyrical poems about the Civil War include works on the hanging of John Brown, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the battles at Donelson, Shiloh, and Gettysburg.

Harvard University critic Helen Vendler's essay argues that Melville's innovative manner of transforming this epic matter of history into a new kind of lyric poem makes for arresting and wholly original poetry. For Boston University poet Rosanna Warren, the irregularity of Melville's verse forces readers to participate in the process of arriving at a dark knowledge of war. According to Richard Cox, the organization of Melville's poems conveys that the passions of the war will not cease and yet they seem to continue Abraham Lincoln's task of binding the nation's wounds. Paul Dowling reveals how the poet reshaped the war, distorting history to moderate wartime passions and to imitate Shakespeare's philosophical (but unpopular) dramas.

Students and scholars of American literature and history, as well as Civil War enthusiasts, will welcome this outstanding new publication of a long-neglected volume of political poetry by one of America's classic novelists.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
After publishing five novels, some of which flourished and others that floundered, Melville turned his pen to poetry. Melville based his Civil War poems on firsthand experience, and rather than glorify battle, he depicts the horrors and the waste of it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306806551
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,485,948
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 0.83 (d)

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