Selected Poems of Herman Melville: A Reader's Editionby Robert Penn Warren
Whitman and Dickinson are the two greatest American poets of the nineteenth century, but who is the third? Some critics say Whittier, others say Poe, and these days an increasing number say Herman Melville. The revaluation of Melville's poetry is due in large part to the influence of this landmark volume, for Melville the poet has never found a more judicious, eloquent, or persuasive champion than Robert Penn Warren.
First published in 1970, Warren's edition remains the most comprehensive selection of Melville's poetry ever presented. It brings together the best of the Civil War poems from Battle-Pieces (1866), the portraits of sailors from John Marr (1888), and the autumnal lyrics from Timoleon (1891), as well as poems uncollected during Melville's lifetime. Central to the selection are several self-contained passages from Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1876), a book-length work that Warren calls "an important document of our modernity ... in fact, a precursor to The Waste Land, with the same central image, the same flickering contrasts of the past and the present, the same charade of belief and unbelief."
Warren introduces his selection with a valuable interpretive essay, and also provides copious textual and critical notes. It is a labor of love, this highly personal anthology: as Warren says in a preface, "I have called this book 'A Reader's Edition,' and the reader I refer to is myself. The book may be regarded as a log of my long reading of Melville's poetry -- of my preferences and prejudices, my impressions and speculations, my curiosities and investigations." But to our mind it is something more than that: it is the most important "selected" since Malcolm Cowley's Portable Faulkner, a book that showcases an American master at his most powerful and in a light that changes our perception of his work forever.
- Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.44(w) x 8.18(h) x 1.40(d)
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