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Poems

John Marr and Others Sailors

To Ned

Where is the world we roved, Ned Bunn?
Hollows thereof lay rich in shade
By voyagers old inviolate thrown
Ere Paul Pry cruised with Pelf and Trade.
To us old lads some thoughts come home
Who roamed a world young lads no more shall roam.
Nor less the satiate year impends
When, wearying of routine-resorts,
The pleasure-hunter shall break loose,
Ned, for our Pantheistic ports:—
Marquesas and glenned isles that be
Authentic Edens in a Pagan sea.
The charm of scenes untried shall lure,
And, Ned, a legend urge the flight—
The Typee-truants under stars
Unknown to Shakespere's Midsummer-Night;
And man, if lost to Saturn's Age,
Yet feeling life no Syrian pilgrimage.
But, tell, shall he, the tourist, find
Our isles the same in violet-glow
Enamoring us what years and years—
Ah, Ned, what years and years ago!
Well, Adam advances, smart in pace,
But scarce by violets that advance you trace.
But we, in anchor-watches calm,
The Indian Psyche's languor won,
And, musing, breathed primeval balm
From Edens ere yet overrun;
Marvelling mild if mortal twice,
Here and hereafter, touch a Paradise.

 

Title: The character this poem is dedicated to is based on an shipmate of Melville’s youth, Richard (Toby) Greene, with whom he deserted ship in the Marquesas, as is the character of Toby in Typee.

l. 4: Paul Pry. Title character of a play by the English dramatist John Poole (1786-1872). As his name indicates, he pried into the lives and secrets of those around him. Pelf. Money or riches. Comes from the Anglo-French term pelfre, meaning booty.

l. 15: Typee-truants. Refers to the effect of Melville’s novel Typee on many readers, inducing them to travel to the South Seas.

l. 17: Saturn’s Age: In Greek mythology, the Golden Age, ruled by Saturn, before the triumph of the gods of Olympia.