06 November 2017

Herman Melville on the Church

Few people read Melville today unless required to in a university literature class. Whilst everyone has heard of Moby Dick, the rest of his writings are generally unknown. In university I was forced to read Billy Budd, which may be the worst novel in American literature! But even fewer people know that he was also a poet. I'd no idea until the past few days, reading Liberty or Equality, by Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in which he quotes from Melville's Clareldescribed by Wikipedia as, 
(A)n epic poem by American writer Herman Melville, originally published in two volumes. Clarel is the longest poem in American literature, stretching to almost 18,000 lines (longer even than European classics such as the IliadAeneid and Paradise Lost). As well as for its great length, Clarel is notable for being the major work of Melville's later years.

In an excerpt from the poem in the book I'm reading, this passage occurs:

He [the Dominican] turned and would have gone; but no, 
New matter struck him: “Ere I go 
Yet one word more; and bear with me; 
Whatever your belief may be— If well ye wish to human kind, 
Be not so mad, unblest and blind 
As, in such days as these, to try 
To pull down Rome. If Rome could fall 
’Twould not be Rome alone, but all Religion.
All with Rome have tie 
Even the railers which deny, 
All but the downright Anarchist, 
Christ-hater, Red and Vitriolist.
Rome and the Atheist have gained: 
These two shall fight it out— these two; 
Protestantism being retained For base of operations sly
By Atheism

Melville got it, and he was a protestant!

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