(Poem #775) The Maldive Shark
About the Shark, phlegmatical one, Pale sot of the Maldive sea The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim, How alert in attendence be. From his saw-pit mouth, from his charnel of maw The have nothing of harm to dread, But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank Or before his Gorgonian head; Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth In white triple tiers of glittering gates, And there find a haven when peril's abroad, An asylum in jaws of the Fates! They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey, Yet never partake of the treat-- Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull, Pale ravener of horrible meat.
Melville has none of the airiness or delicacy of, say, Keats or Flecker (whose respective ages he neatly bisects). Instead, his verse is _chunky_, with layer upon layer of densely piled phrases, murky and threatening and yet strangely vivid. The net effect is powerful, and not completely benign: the ominous cadences add to the terror of the shark, the 'pale ravener of horrible meat'... thomas. [Poetry and Prose] Herman Melville is, of course, more famous as a writer of prose - and what prose! His masterpiece 'Moby Dick' is generally considered one of the greatest novels of all time - wildly, incredibly inventive, linguistically and philosophically challenging, and a rollicking good adventure to boot. It may not be the easiest of reads to get through, but it's definitely worth the effort. http://www.melville.org/ has more on the writer and his work. Martin once ran a week of "poems written by writers of prose"; check out Poem #179, "Missed", P. G. Wodehouse Poem #181, "The Guards Came Through", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Poem #183, "Sorrows of Werther", William Makepeace Thackeray and, later: Poem #259, "Songs from an Evil Wood", Lord Dunsany Poem #261, "Recompense", Robert E. Howard Poem #664, "Conceit", Mervyn Peake Poem #701, "Teeth", Spike Milligan While the above examples may be by and large unremarkable, they do serve to highlight the achievement of writers such as Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling, who achieved equal acclaim for both forms of their art. D. H. Lawrence, Oliver Goldsmith and Edgar Allan Poe are hardly any less distinguished than the two giants named above, while J. R. R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll deserve special recognition for the way their prose is immeasurably enhanced by the inclusion of verse - so much so that the two are well nigh inseparable (in this reviewer's mind, at least). Boris Pasternak and Jorge Luis Borges round out the list; all these writers can be found on the Minstrels website, at [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet.html . For an essay on the necessary distinction between poetry and other forms of expression, see poem #349.