John Marr and Oilier Sailors (1888) movingly figures Melville's sense of his own situation as an aging poet alienated from his social, political, and literary milieu. By way of a close reading of the individual poems, I show that poetry for Melville is a private, self-directed, and ironic art, one whose primary activity is an ironic elicitation of subversive latent meanings. In the face of the "vague reserve of heaven" and the "apathy of nature," and working with a deep distrust of public performance and the printed page, Melville as poet at once exposes and stubbornly, if privately and obscurely, celebrates the nature of the literary as such.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Literature and Literary Theory