Melville's verse printed for the most part privately in small
editions from middle life onward after his great prose work had
been written, taken as a whole, is of an amateurish and uneven
quality. In it, however, that loveable freshness of personality,
which his philosophical dejection never quenched, is everywhere in
evidence. It is clear that he did not set himself to master the
poet's art, yet through the mask of conventional verse which often
falls into doggerel, the voice of a true poet is heard. In
selecting the pieces for this volume I have put in the vigorous
sea verses of John Marr in their entirety and added those others
from his Battle Pieces, Timoleon, etc., that best indicate the
quality of their author's personality. The prose supplement to
battle pieces has been included because it does so much to explain
the feeling of his war verse and further because it is such a
remarkably wise and clear commentary upon those confused and
troublous days of post-war reconstruction. H. C.
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