Death’s open secret.—Well, we are; and here comes the jolly angel with the jar!
3 of 3: The international part.
The Lyrik-Kabinett in Munich owns a copy of
the first American edition of the collected poems of Herman Melville.
This 1947 volume at least is more complete than the recent edition by Douglas Robillard, as it contains the poetry
taken from manuscripts, of which all but three are in the Houghton Library, Harvard College.
the explanatory notes have been held to a minimum
it features some at all.
- Weeds and Wildings [from p. 257: The Loiterer: “1. She will come tho’ she loiter, believe”];
- Rip van Winkle’s Lilac [which is even prose];
- A Rose or Two; As They Fell; Amoroso;
- Marquis de Grandvin [pp. 313—370];
- Miscellaneous Poems [including Immolated; the Camoens Before and Camoens After];
- Unpublished or Uncollected Poems,
- Poems from the Novels [including Jonah’s Song and We’ll Drink To-Night from Moby-Dick; Specks, Tiny Specks from Under the Rose with a “cancelled couplet” after line 5:
And here, God bless him,
And my soul caress him,
later changed to:
Here comes the angel with the jar!
then changed again to the given version.
Come to think of it, and verifiable in this first and only edition of Melville’s poems, Moby-Dicky does not contain more than two pieces of formal poetry. Mardi from 1849 teemed with sailor songs and lyric approaches, all of them printed there and nowhere else. Even online, they are in the recent Virginia Library in a reliable rendering.
In Moby-Dick, Chapter IX: The Sermon, Father Mapple encourages to sing along:
The ribs and terrors in the whale,
Arched over me a dismal gloom,
While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
And lift me deepening down to doom.
I saw the opening maw of hell,
With endless pains and sorrows there;
Which none but they that feel can tell—
Oh, I was plunging to despair.
In black distress, I called my God,
When I could scarce believe him mine,
He bowed his ear to my complaints—
No more the whale did me confine.
With speed he flew to my relief,
As on a radiant dolphin borne;
Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone
The face of my Deliverer God.
My song for ever shall record
That terrible, that joyful hour;
I give the glory to my God,
His all the mercy and the power.
In Chapter XXXIX: First Night Watch, the whalers sing:
We’ll drink to-night with hearts as light,
To love, as gay and fleeting
As bubbles that swim, on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting.
“Specks, Tiny Specks”
“Specks, tiny specks, in this translucent amber:
Your leave, bride-roses, may one pry and see?
How odd! a dainty little skeleton-chamber;
And—odder yet—sealed walls but windows be!
Death’s open secret.—Well, we are;
And here comes the jolly angel with the jar!”
For sure, in 1947 not all things were better, many worse. Still I am impressed how much better Packard and Company did in those hard times than Robillard — omitting all uncollected poetry — and even the Library of America — omitting all poetry. Vice versa, the Munich Lyrik-Kabinett does not own the rest of Melville’s works. We only live in the best of all possible worlds.
Conclusion of the foregoing.