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    MsJacquiiC Poetica Magnifique

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    Herman Melville (1819 - 1891)

    Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) an American novelist, short story writer & essayist best known for his novel The Whale (aka Moby Dick) is lesser known for his considerable volumes of poetry. He was born in New York City but moved around quite a bit. In 1835 Melville attended the Albany Classical School for a year, then moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts to work at the farm of his uncle. It was not long however that Melville'd travel back to New York and secured his place as cabin boy on a ship bound for Liverpool, England. Upon return to New York he held various unsatisfying jobs until he next set sail on the whaling ship Acushnet in 1841. These first adventures at sea no doubt fueled the content that would later become one of the greatest novels in American history.

    Melville's poetry has never been as highly critically esteemed as his fiction, yet he was a fascinating poet who turned to the art after his serious fiction failed to find the appreciation he expected. In fact - after 1857 he only wrote poetry. His eccentric verse displays the complexity of thought and verbal richness of his novels, which has led some critics to rank him just below Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson among 19th-century American poets. Melville's poetry though tended to outrun the tastes of his readers. His epic length verse-narrative Clarel, for example, is about a student's pilgrimage to the Holy Land; It was quite obscure, even in his own time. At 600 pages in length, thirty-five lines to the page, Clarel may be the longest single poem in American literature. The poem, published in 1876, had an initial printing of only 350 copies. Subsequent Melville works were privately printed and distributed among a very small circle of acquintances.

    By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby Dick -- largely considered a failure during his lifetime, and most responsible for Melville's fall from favor with the reading public -- was rediscovered in the 20th century as one of the chief literary masterpieces of both American and world literature.

    Posted By MsJacquiiC | May 3, 2008

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