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  • Published: 16 July 2019
  • ISBN: 9781598536188
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1200
  • RRP: $75.00

Herman Melville

Complete Poems (LOA #320)




An unprecedented single-volume edition of one of America's greatest poets, released to celebrate his bicentennial.

Best known today for his novels and stories, the author of Moby-Dick was a devoted and accomplished poet. Ranging from Civil War battlefields to the haunted byways of the Holy Land, from close observation of nature to deep philosophical mediation, Melville's poetry was central to his life and art and he justly ranks with Whitman and Dickinson as one of America's three greatest 19th-century poets. Complete here for the first time in the fourth and final installment in the Library of America's Herman Melville edition, are all four books of poetry he published in his lifetime plus uncollected poems and the poems from two projected volumes left unfinished at the time of his death, allowing readers to appreciate for themselves the extraordinary range of his poetic achievement.

Melville's first book of poetry, Battle-Pieces (1866), remains one of the very few great American books to have emerged from the Civil War. Dedicated to the Union dead, it is both a deeply philosophical work of mourning and a fascinating record of events, tracking campaigns and battles and the war's immediate aftermath. With a cast of characters surpassing that of Moby-Dick, the epic poem Clarel (1876), about an American divinity student's pilgrimage to the Holy Land, has been likened to Paradise Lost and The Waste Land as a profound exploration of the problem of belief. Also included in Complete Poems are the two privately issued books John Marr (1888) and Timoleon (1891), which contain some of Melville's finest lyric verse. Rounding out the volume are the extraordinary poems from his two unfinished manuscripts, Weeds and Wildings and Parthenope, along with miscellaneous uncollected poems. All of the poems are presented in the authoritative Northwestern-Newberry texts.

  • Published: 16 July 2019
  • ISBN: 9781598536188
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 1200
  • RRP: $75.00

About the author

Herman Melville

Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.

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