Publication details [#570]

Ford, Sean. 2012. Authors, Speakers, Readers in a Trio of Sea-Pieces in Herman Melville's John Marr and Other Sailors. Nineteenth-Century Literature 67 (2) : 234–258. 25 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Oakland: University of California Press


Ford's essay contributes to the recent renewal of interest in Herman Melville's poetry by focusing on the volume John Marr and Other Sailors With Some Sea-Pieces (privately published in 1888), with a view to re-assessing Melville's commitment to a public audience and his connections with established traditions. Through the analysis of a sequence of poems taken from the volume (“The Æolian Harp,” “To the Master of the ‘Meteor,’” and “Far Off-Shore”), Ford shows the techniques deployed by the author to encourage readers' interaction, engaging them in a study of recurrences and variations upon a conventional subject (i.e. ships sailing far at sea). The topic of the ships lost at sea, for instance, recurs across the three poems through the use of metonym. His examination of topics, stances, intertextual references, and rhetorical figures in the poems points to the urge to tell things that cannot be told as a central theme of the volume, thus revealing affinities with authors like Shakespeare, Coleridge, Tennyson and Whitman. At the same time, Melville's interest in the poetic tradition, and in the rhetorical practices that may foster reader interaction, confutes the arguments of those critics who describe his poetry as isolated from both its predecessors and its audience.