Sunday, August 31, 2014

Author of Omoo "a thorough scamp"

Papeete Bay, Tahiti
Le Magasin Pittoresque (Paris, 1843) via Shutterstock
OMOO, OR ADVENTURES IN THE SOUTH SEAS, by Hermann Melville. (Murray’s Home and Colonial Library) two parts.
This is a clever and amusing book, and if no higher qualities were demanded to entitle it to a place in Murray’s Library, it might pass muster. But the general character of the series is so high, that we confess we must regard it, like the Typee and Toby of the same author, as no better than an intruder. It is impossible to judge from internal evidence whether the book is fact or fiction, or, what is most likely, a mixture of both. One thing at least is certain, that Mr. Melville, by his own shewing, is a thorough scamp, utterly destitute of principle, and as far as we can discover in the picture he gives of himself in this his personal narrative, without one redeeming quality. It is impossible to trust to his facts, and the nature of his book forbids it to be received as fiction.

--Royal Cornwall Gazette, Friday, 28 May 1847; found at The British Newspaper Archive

Friday, August 29, 2014

Herman Melville's burned-up Seneca

UPDATE 2: Check out the later Melvilliana post on marginalia in Melville's lost Seneca, as reported by Jay Leyda in vol. 1 of The Melville Log. Leyda described this volume of Seneca's Workes from the collection of Carl Haverlin as the 1620 second edition, not the 1614 edition.

Two volumes of Seneca, old (London, 1746) and older (1614!), are listed in the catalog at Melville's Marginalia Online. One survives in the NYPL Gansevoort-Lansing collection: the 1746 London edition of Seneca's Morals (Sealts 458). That's the volume Herman inscribed to his brother Tom:
"Thomas Melville from Herman Melville"; "My Dear Tom, This is a round-of-beef where all hands may cut & come again. Jan: 26th 1854. Pittsfield. Mass:"
Yow! For more on the book that does exist still in the physical world, see the update at the end, please. Ishmael definitely knew his Seneca:
"What matters it how many masters we have, when it is but one slavery?"
Seneca's Morals: By Way of Abstract
The 1614 volume (Sealts 457) most likely burned up in a fire. Reportedly it contained Melville's annotations as well as markings:
This copy of Seneca's Works was described to Merton M. Sealts, Jr., by Carl Haverlin, whose library in California was destroyed by fire on 4 January 1954. Among the contents of this 1614 edition of Seneca's Works is "The Life of Lucius Annaeus Seneca Scribed by Iustus Lipsius." --Melville's Marginalia Online
That lost, probably incinerated 1614 volume was published in London by William Stansby. First, let's see if we can find it. No luck just yet at Google Books. How about trusty Hathi Trust? Bingo! And what a treasure! Now that we have in a way rescued Seneca (not Melville's annotated copy you understand, but the same edition he had) from oblivion, let's check and see if this precious volume has Seneca's Letters from a Stoic.


His Epistles I see listed second in the Contents. Would those include Letter 47 on masters and slaves? I want to know, being lately re-interested in Seneca as perhaps the guiding spirit behind Ishmael's interrogative challenge, "Who aint a slave? Tell me that" in the first chapter of Moby-Dick.

Yes, that letter XLVII is here.

Only in this volume Seneca's servus "slave" is translated servant. So the whole letter deals with the right treatment of and relation to "servants" which is to say, slaves:
Is hee a servant? But happily a free man in minde. Is he a servant? Shall this hurt him? Shew one that is not. One serveth his lust, another his avarice, another ambition, another feare. I will shew you a man that hath beene Consul, serving an old woman. I will let you see a rich man serving a poore maid: I will shew you the noblest yong men, the very bond-slaves of Players. There is no servitude more foule, then that which is voluntarie. For which cause, thou hast no reason that these disdainfull fellowes should deterre thee from shewing thy selfe affable to thy servants, and not proudly superiour. --The workes of Lvcius Annaevs Seneca p238
But later the more usual translation of servus is "slave," thus:
Is he a slave? His mind may yet be free: is he a slave? Why should this prejudice you against him? Shew me the man who is not a slave. One is a slave to lust; another to covetousness; another to ambition; and all to fear. I can shew you a man of consular dignity, a slave to an old woman; a very rich man a slave to his handmaid; and many a young nobleman, who are the very bond-slaves of players. No slavery is more infamous than that which is voluntary: there is no reason, therefore, that some over-nice persons should deter you from shewing yourself affable and good-humour'd to your servants; instead of carrying yourself proudly as their superior. --The epistles of Lucius Annaeus Seneca
As Ishmael's subtext, Seneca aint no stretch. In the paragraph immediately before the one where Ishmael asks "Who aint a slave?" Ishmael invokes the Roman Stoic by name, presenting his brand of moral philosophy as the most consoling one around for downwardly mobile intellectuals:
The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. --Moby-Dick, Loomings
Well, you can see why Melville liked old books. There's so much to marvel over in the 900-plus pages of this rich and rare old book, The Workes of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, both Morrall and Naturall. Translated, I almost forgot to mention, by Thomas Lodge.

More later--time to read.

UPDATE 1: Great news! that one surviving volume of Seneca from Melville's library (Sealts 458), the one he gave to his brother Tom in January 1854, also has the letter on masters and slaves. Numbered 17 for some reason--EPISTLE XVII.--, not the usual 47.

So let's cut again, now from the book Melville lovingly bestowed, Seneca's Morals: By Way of Abstract. Though not from his fifteenth edition which I don't yet see online. This passage I take to be the classical basis not only of Ishmael's "Who aint a slave?" challenge, but also Melville's critique of elitism in Francis Parkman's Oregon Trail:
When we affect to contemn savages, we should remember that by so doing we asperse our own progenitors; for they were savages also. Who can swear, that among the naked British barbarians sent to Rome to be stared at more than 1500 years ago, the ancestor of Bacon might not have been found? Why, among the very Thugs of India, or the bloody Dyaks of Borneo, exists the germ of all that is intellectually elevated and grand. We are all of us—Anglo-Saxons, Dyaks, and Indians—sprung from one head, and made in one image. --Melville's review Mr. Parkman's Tour
Here you go, Seneca on virtue as the true nobility, in this 1806 edition printed by John Prentiss under the headings, "We are all equal by blood" and "Tenderness to servants":
. . . The original of all mankind was the same, and it is only a clear conscience that makes any man noble: for that derives even from heaven itself. It is the saying of a great man, that, If we could trace our descents, we should find all slaves to come from princes, and all princes from slaves: but fortune has turned all things topsy turvy, in a long story of revolutions. It is most certain, that our beginning had nothing before it, and our ancestors were some of them splendid, others sordid, as it happened. We have lost the memorials of our extraction; and, in reality, it matters not whence we came, but whither we go. Nor is it any more to our honor the glory of our predecessors, than it is to their shame the wickedness of their posterity. We are all of us composed of the same elements; why should we then value ourselves upon our nobility of blood, as if we were not all of us equal, if we could but recover our evidence?

. . . It is worthy of observation, that the most imperious masters over their own servants are, at the same time, the most abject slaves to the servants of other masters. I will not distinguish a servant by his office, but by his manners. The one is the work of fortune, the other of virtue. But we look only to his quality, and not to his merit. Why should not a brave action rather dignify the condition of a servant, than the condition of a servant lessen a brave action? I would not value a man for his cloathes, or degree, any more than I would do a horse for his trapping. What though he be a servant! Shew me any man that is not so, to his lusts, his avarice, his ambition, his palate, to his mistress; nay, to other men's servants; and we are all of us servants to fear: insolent we are, many of us at home; servile and despised abroad; and none are more liable to be trampled upon than those that have gotten a habit of giving affronts by suffering them. What matters it how many masters we have, when it is but one slavery? and whosoever despises that is perfectly free, let his masters be never so many. --Seneca's Morals: By Way of Abstract, 1806 ed.
Related post:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dana's 1869 N-words

Photo: J. N. Bartfield Fine and Rare Books
For the first of two epigraphs to the chapter on White-Jacket in The New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, Jeannine Marie DeLombard chooses a vivid passage on flogging from Dana's Two Years Before the Mast featuring two exclamatory uses of the N-word, the second in all capital letters.

In parentheses, DeLombard gives the date as 1840, thus presenting the doubly loaded epigraph as a quotation from the first edition of Two Years Before the Mast.

This date is important for historically grounding the ensuing argument, as DeLombard makes sure to point out early on, at the start of the second paragraph:
"My epigraphs indicate antislavery rhetoric's pervasive influence on antebellum culture." 
(White-Jacket: Telling Who Is--and Aint--a Slave, New Cambridge Companion p51)
Maybe so for the second epigraph from Moby-Dick, although a case can be made for Seneca as the inspiration for Melville's philosophical question "Who aint a slave?"
   "He is a slave." His soul, however, may be that of a freeman. "He is a slave." But shall that stand in his way? Show me a man who is not a slave; one is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to ambition, and all men are slaves to fear. I will name you an ex-consul who is slave to an old hag, a millionaire who is slave to a serving-maid; I will show you youths of the noblest birth in serfdom to pantomime players! No servitude is more disgraceful than that which is self-imposed. --Seneca, EPISTLE XLVII
Plato Seneca Aristotle - medieval via Wikimedia Commons
But that first epigraph from Dana's book rather exemplifies the rhetoric of postbellum culture. At any rate, the Dana epigraph is not taken from any publication in 1840 or any year before the Civil War. It really comes from 1869 and after. Dana's 1840 edition reads as follows:
"You see your condition! You see where I've got you all, and you know what to expect!"—"You've been mistaken in me—you didn't know what I was! Now you know what I am!"—"I'll make you toe the mark, every soul of you, or I'll flog you all, fore and aft, from the boy, up!"—"You've got a driver over you! Yes, a slave-drivera negro-driver! I'll see who'll tell me he is n't a negro slave!" --1840 Two years before the mast
 This same passage with "negro-diver" and "negro" instead of the capitalized N-word was quoted in the New York Knickerbocker review.

Now perhaps Dana in 1869 was aiming to restore the sadistic captain's offensive language as he originally heard it, not as first printed in 1840. OK but even so, you would need to explain that line of reasoning. You can't give 1840 as the publication date of a text first published in 1869. Well you can, it turns out, but you shouldn't. For comparison, Hathi Trust digital library also has the 1869 revised edition with the passage that DeLombard excerpts for her epigraph.

You could say the vocabulary does not matter a bit for DeLombard's argument, that either way, in either version, Dana's sailors are explicitly compared to and treated as slaves. Yes indeed! So why bother at all with the anachronistic (in a discussion focused on Melville's 1850 White-Jacket and antebellum culture) and for us in our time gratuitously offensive 1869 version?

The crazy thing is, in her book In the Shadow of the Gallows, DeLombard did accurately quote the 1840 passage from the 1981 Penguin edition where editor Thomas Philbrick followed "the text of the original Harper edition." And as in the New Cambridge Companion, DeLombard there juxtaposed Dana with Ishmael.
What's going on?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Northeast and sequestered
Chart of the Galapagos / Surveyed in the Merchant-Ship Rattler
and Drawn by Capt. James Colnett of the Royal Navy in 1793, 1794 ; Engraved by T. Foot
Adapted from my post to the Google group Ishmailites back on 7/10/2011:

Far to the northeast of Charles's Isle, sequestered from the rest, lies Norfolk Isle, and, however insignificant to most voyagers, to me, through sympathy, that lone island has become a spot made sacred by the strangest trials of humanity.

So Melville begins (after three fine poetic epigraphs, that is) his tale of "Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow" from "The Encantadas."  Great prose, bad geography? 

John Woram in chapter 9 of his book Charles Darwin Slept Here (Rockville Press, 2005) points out that Melville's Norfolk Isle "would seem to identify the place known today as Isla Santa Cruz.  But it doesn't....The island with this name actually lies due north of Charles, not far away at all, and certainly not sequestered from the rest." 

However, Woram in these appreciative remarks is not reckoning with the geography or rather cartography of Colnett, one of Melville's principal Galapagos authorities.  Colnett's earliest maps show Norfolk Isle in the same relation to Charles that Melville gives, northeast and apart from the others.

Not the later improved version,

but the older one shown above, drawn in 1793-4 and published in A voyage to the South Atlantic (1798).

Yep, there's lonely little Norfolk Isle sitting there northeast of Charles and appearing, just like Melville says in the sketch, sequestered.

Melville probably knew at least one of the other names for Norfolk Isle, Indefatigable. When and how did Norfolk get the name Santa Cruz?   Could Melville have possibly known the name Isla Santa Cruz or Isle of the Holy Cross as an alternative for Norfolk Isle?  If so, oh my! Perfect.  If not, the current name gives us a wonderful literary coincidence to consider in light of the literal crosses in "Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow" (cross of sticks over the grave of Hunilla's husband Felipe, the crossed letter X in her brother's name Truxill, Hunilla's worn crucifix, her donkey's cross), and remembering too how Melville introduces the place as "sacred." Maria Felisa López Liquete points out in print that

"if Saint/Holy Cross were the island’s name instead of Norfolk, the tale would start and finish with the same word, 'cross' . . . ."  --When Silence Speaks: The Chola Widow, in Melville and Women p221

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hunilla's lonely pregnancy

The real-life story of Agatha Hatch that so moved Melville testified to the heroic endurance of suffering by island women abandoned by sailors.

When Agatha's sailor husband left her, she was pregnant with their daughter.

Many critics link Agatha with Hunilla, the grief-struck hero of Norfolk Isle and the Chola Widow in Melville's Galapagos sketchbook "The Encantadas." Maybe Hunilla is similarly situated by her creator Herman Melville: pregnant and abandoned (effectively, through accidental death) by her new husband.

Pregnant?! You would never guess it from most of the published commentaries on Melville's "Chola Widow" sketch. Most critics read the narrator's artificially elaborated silence regarding "two unnamed events" in the Galapagos experience of Hunilla as crafty allusions to violence and treachery at the hands of passing sailors. Those unmentionable two events would in that case have involved two different incidents of rape. Or possibly one crime of rape, followed by unspeakably cruel abandonment counting in the narrator's mind as a separate "event." Somewhere one critic has called attention to the further possibility that Hunilla became pregnant as a result of rape. Regarding that or any scenario so terrible, what is not much explored is whom the narrator wants to protect by his silence. His artificially elaborate non-revelation protects not only the dignity of a serially victimized Hunilla, but the reputation of sailors. As a class, sailors were already regarded in some circles (also prone to criticize the immorality of Melville's writings) as stereotypically licentious. Melville's narrator will not disclose evidence "for scoffing souls to quote, and call it firm proof upon their side" of damnable criminal debauchery by brother sailors. What he will disclose is the admirable, reverent treatment of Hunilla by a group of devoted sailors, her rescuers. Booze occasionally does some good.

But there is reason enough to imagine Hunilla pregnant before the chance landing of a whaleboat. Remember, Hunilla and Felipe are newlyweds. Hunilla might be naturally and unsurprisingly pregnant with the child of her loving new husband. One of Melville's probable early sources highlights the married status of a Female Crusoe and tragic (though voluntary, sort of) separation from her heartbroken husband. The relentless critical fixation on rape neglects the emphasis Melville places on the romance of married lovers, tragically severed.

One notable exception to the general neglect of Hunilla and Felipe as a couple is available online in this comment by the keen reader at SparkNotes:
After her husband dies, the narrator speaks of two terrible things, which he should not mention, that happened to Hunilla. What are those things? They are buried in the semantics of Melville's writing, but: 1.) Hunilla actually becomes pregnant and has to try and have the baby herself because her husband and brother died on the catamaran. 2.) After she gives birth, the baby dies, and she is raped by men on a ship that boards the island. They leave after they rape her, leaving her alone again. 
--Readers' Notes for Melville Stories
The sharp SparkNotes reader (self-named The Great and Powerful Ass) errs in figuring the 180 days carved into Hunilla's reed-diary as 9 months.  That's only 6 months, of course, as pointed out by a skeptic in reply. However, reading again closely, which is what the narrator's conspicuous silences demand, we can see the pains Melville takes to construct a time frame that allows for a nine-month pregnancy. To the notched six months we have to add more time:
  • First, add 7 weeks.  Nearly seven weeks have passed when Hunilla's husband Felipe and brother Truxill (See, another CROSS there in the middle of his name.) are tragically killed at sea (joyfully celebrating their success catching tortoises, not trying to escape). 
  • Then "week after week" went by.  So add at least 2, possibly 4 more weeks of absent-minded mourning, after burying by hand her husband's corpse and building "a rude cross of withered sticks" to mark his grave.
  • + "some further weeks" of vainly hoping/trying not to hope for rescue. 2 or 3, probably.
 7 weeks  + 3 (splitting the difference) weeks + 2 = 12, and there we have those supposedly missing three months. Pretty close, anyway.

Add those three to the six months of notches to get the sum of 9 months that Hunilla was on the island before she stopped marking time. (Note the emphasis on Hunilla's trouble sleeping, such a common experience of pregnant women.) 

And thus we refute the skeptic at SparkNotes in enthusiastic defense of The Ass. The inexactness of Melville's "weeks" allows for a total of something more (but not that much more) than 9 months. Adding more weeks simply increases the probability that Hunilla conceived on the island.

Melville or if you prefer his narrator (originally named Salvator R. Tarnmoor) specifies "two unnamed events" during Hunilla's three years on Norfolk Isle. The narrator's insistence on "two unnamed events" directly parallels the Captain's two main questions of Hunilla.  One set of questions concerns passing vessels, but the earlier question concerned passing days: the Captain first asked why Hunilla had stopped counting them.

Let's say Hunilla stopped counting the days when her lonely pregnancy ended in another grief. Then the ships passed by, or not. Melville does not permit us the scoffer's security of knowing every cruel fact of Hunilla's existence--but he does invite us to think about her story, with feeling.

Now I'm curious to know who has discussed or even mentioned the possibility that Hunilla might have been pregnant on Norfolk Isle. And I still wonder if Melville ever knew Norfolk Isle by its Spanish name of Santa Cruz.
Photo: AssN9 Ranch

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Melville's "friendly critic" at the Springfield Republican, as rediscovered by Jay Leyda

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1816-1881)
Biographical Encyclopedia of Massachusetts via Wikimedia Commons
Let's don't forget about Jay Leyda's 1954 survey of pro-Melville notices and reviews in the Springfield Republican. Leyda published his Springfield Republican findings in "Another Friendly Critic for Melville" in the New England Quarterly, Vol. 27 (June 1954): 243-249.

Contemporary Reviews at p80 has the favorable notice of the revised edition of Typee in the Holland-era Republican from July 7, 1849, but lacks any citation of the earlier and "perfunctory" Omoo review that Leyda found in the May 8, 1847 Republican, before the announcement of Holland's arrival.

Gary Scarnhorst's "Sheaf of Uncollected Excerpts" in Melville Society Extracts 75 includes an item from the Springfield Republican (May 28, 1853) about the birth of Melville's third child and first daughter, Elizabeth ("Bessie," born May 22, 1853). Scharnhorst incorrectly identifies the newborn as Malcolm, but Leyda had it right when he introduced the same item:
[W]hen the birth notices included a line on a new daughter for the Melvilles, a joshing but not unfriendly item appeared in the same issue:
   By reference to our natal department, it will be seen that Herman Melville, author of "Omoo and Typee," "Pierre, or the Ambiguities," &c., has just issued a new work, which will doubtless be considered more original than any of his former ones."  --Another Friendly Critic p246.
Weirdly enough, Leyda apparently missed what became the next and last item on Scharnhorst's list in Extracts 75, also from the friendly Springfield Republican (June 11, 1853):
"Herman Melville has gone to New York to superintend the issue of a new work."
That "new work" did not appear in 1853, evidently because Melville was for some reason "prevented from printing" it, according to his 24 November 1853 letter to Harper & Brothers. Hershel Parker logically identified Melville's rejected 1853 book with the "Isle of the Cross" manuscript revealed, as Parker was the first to discover, in a letter to Melville's sister Augusta from his cousin Priscilla. Pointing out room for reasonable doubt, Basem L. Ra'ad introduced textual evidence for associating the Isle of the Cross project (presumably fruits of Melville's work on the Agatha story) with the tale of Hunilla the "Chola Widow" on one of the Galapagos Islands. Melville's story of Hunilla on an island with a cross was first published as part of "The Encantadas, Or Enchanted Isles" in the April 1854 issue of Putnam's magazine. In a previous attempt to sort all this out, enchantingly preserved to this hour at Moby-Dick™ (Wolf, wo bist du?) I volunteered my non-peer-reviewed two cents which briefly re-stated is this:

We don't now know for a certainty what "new work" Melville took to New York in June 1853 but was unable to publish then. We do know Melville's November 1853 letter to Harper & Brothers offers yet another book, about tortoise hunting. What if that book, the unfinished "The Tortoise-Hunters," contained the essence of "Isle of the Cross" along with other stuff that afterwards turned up in The Encantadas? In that case the other work, the one Melville was "prevented from printing" in June 1853, could have been something else, maybe even something unknown and unrecorded in the surviving archives--possibly one of the contemplated works for which he wanted "fifty fast-writing youths" in December 1850, or one related to the "silly thoughts and wayward speculations" he confessed to being preoccupied with in September 1851.

Here I might as well direct attention to two of the more popular posts at Melvilliana, one remarking the relatively early date at which Melville began acquiring source-material for The Encantadas, and another on the real-life Hunilla.

Whew! Alright, end of digression. So as Leyda explained way back when, the friendly critic of the Springfield Republican was associate editor J. G. Holland. 

Folder 13 in the Jay Leyda Collection, Melville Society Archive apparently has one offprint at least of the New England Quarterly article--and who knows what else:
9: Folder 13
Leyda, “Another Friendly Critic for Melville” 1954   (9 items)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Melville's Politics

Today's lesson in Political History comes from on high, delivered via this eerily familiar Voice from the Gods in Mardi; and a voyage thither (1849):
Rambling on, we espied a clamorous crowd gathered about a conspicuous palm, against which, a scroll was fixed.

The people were violently agitated; storming out maledictions against the insolent knave, who, over night must have fixed there, that scandalous document. But whoever he may have been, certain it was, he had contrived to hood himself effectually.

After much vehement discussion, during which sundry inflammatory harangues were made from the stumps of trees near by, it was proposed, that the scroll should be read aloud, so that all might give ear.

Seizing it, a fiery youth mounted upon the bowed shoulders of an old man, his sire; and with a shrill voice, ever and anon interrupted by outcries, read as follows:—

“Sovereign-kings of Vivenza! it is fit you should hearken to wisdom. But well aware, that you give ear to little wisdom except of your own; and that as freemen, you are free to hunt down him who dissents from your majesties; I deem it proper to address you anonymously.

“And if it please you, you may ascribe this voice to the gods: for never will you trace it to man.

“It is not unknown, sovereign-kings! that in these boisterous days, the lessons of history are almost discarded, as superseded by present experiences. And that while all Mardi’s Present has grown out of its Past, it is becoming obsolete to refer to what has been. Yet, peradventure, the Past is an apostle.

“The grand error of this age, sovereign-kings! is the general supposition, that the very special Diabolus is abroad; whereas, the very special Diabolus has been abroad ever since Mardi began.

“And the grand error of your nation, sovereign-kings! seems this:— The conceit that Mardi is now in the last scene of the last act of her drama; and that all preceding events were ordained, to bring about the catastrophe you believe to be at hand — a universal and permanent Republic.

“May it please you, those who hold to these things are fools, and not wise.

“Time is made up of various ages; and each thinks its own a novelty. But imbedded in the walls of the pyramids, which outrun all chronologies, sculptured stones are found, belonging to yet older fabrics.
Image Credit: Guillaume Blanchard via Wikimedia Commons
And as in the mound-building period of yore, so every age thinks its erections will forever endure. But as your forests grow apace, sovereign-kings! overrunning the tumuli in your western vales; so, while deriving their substance from the past, succeeding generations overgrow it; but in time, themselves decay.
“Oro decrees these vicissitudes.
“In chronicles of old, you read, sovereign kings! that an eagle from the clouds presaged royalty to the fugitive Taquinoo; and a king, Taquinoo reigned; No end to my dynasty, thought he.

“But another omen descended, foreshadowing the fall of Zooperbi, his son; and Zooperbi returning from his camp, found his country a fortress against him.
Tarquinius Superbus makes himself King; Image by John Leech
from The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (c. 1850s)
No more kings would she have. And for five hundred twelve-moons the Regifugium or King’s-flight, was annually celebrated like your own jubilee day. And rampant young orators stormed out detestation of kings; and augurs swore that their birds presaged immortality to freedom.

“Then, Romara’s free eagles flew over all Mardi, and perched on the topmost diadems of the east.

“Ever thus must it be.

“For, mostly, monarchs are as gemmed bridles upon the world, checking the plungings of a steed from the Pampas. And republics are as vast reservoirs, draining down all streams to one level; and so, breeding a fullness which can not remain full, without overflowing. And thus, Romara flooded all Mardi, till scarce an Ararat was left of the lofty kingdoms which had been.

“Thus, also, did Franko, fifty twelve-moons ago.
The Battle of Abukir, 25 July 1799 by Antoine-Jean Gros (1806)
Thus may she do again. And though not yet, have you, sovereign-kings! in any large degree done likewise, it is because you overflow your redundancies within your own mighty borders; having a wild western waste, which many shepherds with their flocks could not overrun in a day. Yet overrun at last it will be; and then, the recoil must come.

“And, may it please you, that thus far your chronicles had narrated a very different story, had your population been pressed and packed, like that of your old sire-land Dominora. Then, your great experiment might have proved an explosion; like the chemist’s who, stirring his mixture, was blown by it into the air.

“For though crossed, and recrossed by many brave quarterings, and boasting the great Bull in your pedigree; yet, sovereign-kings! you are not meditative philosophers like the people of a small republic of old; nor enduring stoics, like their neighbors. Pent up, like them, may it please you, your thirteen original tribes had proved more turbulent, than so many mutinous legions.
Free horses need wide prairies; and fortunate for you, sovereign-kings! that you have room enough, wherein to be free.
“And, may it please you, you are free, partly, because you are young. Your nation is like a fine, florid youth, full of fiery impulses, and hard to restrain; his strong hand nobly championing his heart. On all sides, freely he gives, and still seeks to acquire. The breath of his nostrils is like smoke in spring air; every tendon is electric with generous resolves. The oppressor he defies to his beard; the high walls of old opinions he scales with a bound. In the future he sees all the domes of the East.

“But years elapse, and this bold boy is transformed. His eyes open not as of yore; his heart is shut up as a vice. He yields not a groat; and seeking no more acquisitions, is only bent on preserving his hoard. The maxims once trampled under foot, are now printed on his front; and he who hated oppressors, is become an oppressor himself.

“Thus, often, with men; thus, often, with nations. Then marvel not, sovereign-kings! that old states are different from yours; and think not, your own must forever remain liberal as now.

“Each age thinks its own is eternal. But though for five hundred twelve-moons, all Romara, by courtesy of history, was republican; yet, at last, her terrible king-tigers came, and spotted themselves with gore.

“And time was, when Dominora was republican, down to her sturdy back-bone. The son of an absolute monarch became the man Karolus; and his crown and head, both rolled in the dust.
Image Credit: Philadelphia Print Shop
And Dominora had her patriots by thousands; and lusty Defenses, and glorious Areopagiticas were written, not since surpassed; and no turban was doffed save in homage of Oro.

“Yet, may it please you, to the sound of pipe and tabor, the second King Karolus returned in good time; and was hailed gracious majesty by high and low.
Charles II of England
Coronation portrait by John Michael Wright, c. 1661
“Throughout all eternity, the parts of the past are but parts of the future reversed. In the old foot-prints, up and down, you mortals go, eternally traveling your Sierras. And not more infallible the ponderings of the Calculating Machine than the deductions from the decimals of history.

“In nations, sovereign-kings! there is a transmigration of souls; in you, is a marvelous destiny. The eagle of Romara revives in your own mountain bird, and once more is plumed for her flight.
Her screams are answered by the vauntful cries of a hawk; his red comb yet reeking with slaughter. And one East, one West, those bold birds may fly, till they lock pinions in the midmost beyond.

“But, soaring in the sky over the nations that shall gather their broods under their wings, that bloody hawk may hereafter be taken for the eagle.
“And though crimson republics may rise in constellations, like fiery Aldebarans, speeding to their culminations; yet, down must they sink at last, and leave the old sultan-sun in the sky; in time, again to be deposed.

“For little longer, may it please you, can republics subsist now, than in days gone by. For, assuming that Mardi is wiser than of old; nevertheless, though all men approached sages in intelligence, some would yet be more wise than others; and so, the old degrees be preserved. And no exemption would an equality of knowledge furnish, from the inbred servility of mortal to mortal; from all the organic causes, which inevitably divide mankind into brigades and battalions, with captains at their head.

“Civilization has not ever been the brother of equality. Freedom was born among the wild eyries in the mountains; and barbarous tribes have sheltered under her wings, when the enlightened people of the plain have nestled under different pinions.

“Though, thus far, for you, sovereign-kings! your republic has been fruitful of blessings; yet, in themselves, monarchies are not utterly evil. For many nations, they are better than republics; for many, they will ever so remain. And better, on all hands, that peace should rule with a scepter, than than the tribunes of the people should brandish their broadswords. Better be the subject of a king, upright and just; than a freeman in Franko, with the executioner’s ax at every corner.

“It is not the prime end, and chief blessing, to be politically free. And freedom is only good as a means; is no end in itself. Nor, did man fight it out against his masters to the haft, not then, would he uncollar his neck from the yoke. A born thrall to the last, yelping out his liberty, he still remains a slave unto Oro; and well is it for the universe, that Oro’s scepter is absolute.

“World-old the saying, that it is easier to govern others, than oneself. And that all men should govern themselves as nations, needs that all men be better, and wiser, than the wisest of one-man rulers. But in no stable democracy do all men govern themselves. Though an army be all volunteers, martial law must prevail. Delegate your power, you leagued mortals must. The hazard you must stand. And though unlike King Bello of Dominora, your great chieftain, sovereign-kings! may not declare war of himself; nevertheless, has he done a still more imperial thing:— gone to war without declaring intentions. You yourselves were precipitated upon a neighboring nation, ere you knew your spears were in your hands.
Genl. Taylor at the battle of Resaca de la Palma (Currier & Ives).jpg

“But, as in stars you have written it on the welkin, sovereign-kings! you are a great and glorious people. And verily, yours is the best and happiest land under the sun. But not wholly, because you, in your wisdom, decreed it: your origin and geography necessitated it. Nor, in their germ, are all your blessings to be ascribed to the noble sires, who of yore fought in your behalf, sovereign-kings! Your nation enjoyed no little independence before your Declaration declared it. Your ancient pilgrims fathered your liberty; and your wild woods harbored the nursling. For the state that today is made up of slaves, can not tomorrow transmute her bond into free; though lawlessness may transform them into brutes. Freedom is the name for a thing that is not freedom; this, a lesson never learned in an hour or an age. By some tribes it will never be learned.

“Yet, if it please you, there may be such a thing as being free under Caesar. Ages ago, there were as many vital freemen, as breathe vital air today.

“Names make not distinctions; some despots rule without swaying scepters. Though King Bello’s palace was not put together by yoked men; your federal temple of freedom, sovereign-kings! was the handiwork of slaves.
Slave Labor Commemorative Marker

“It is not gildings, and gold maces, and crown jewels alone, that make a people servile. There is much bowing and cringing among you yourselves, sovereign-kings! Poverty is abased before riches, all Mardi over; any where, it is hard to be a debtor; any where, the wise will lord it over fools; every where, suffering is found.

“Thus, freedom is more social than political. And its real felicity is not to be shared. That is of a man’s own individual getting and holding. It is not, who rules the state, but who rules me. Better be secure under one king, than exposed to violence from twenty millions of monarchs, though oneself be of the number.

“But superstitious notions you harbor, sovereign kings! Did you visit Dominora, you would not be marched straight into a dungeon. And though you would behold sundry sights displeasing, you would start to inhale such liberal breezes; and hear crowds boasting of their privileges; as you, of yours. Nor has the wine of Dominora, a monarchical flavor.

“Now, though far and wide, to keep equal pace with the times, great reforms, of a verity, be needed; nowhere are bloody revolutions required. Though it be the most certain of remedies, no prudent invalid opens his veins, to let out his disease with his life. And though all evils may be assuaged; all evils can not be done away. For evil is the chronic malady of the universe; and checked in one place, breaks forth in another.

“Of late, on this head, some wild dreams have departed.

“There are many, who erewhile believed that the age of pikes and javelins was passed; that after a heady and blustering youth, old Mardi was at last settling down into a serene old age; and that the Indian summer, first discovered in your land, sovereign kings! was the hazy vapor emitted from its tranquil pipe.
New Netherland - smoking the peace pipe
Image Credit:  Wikimedia Commons
But it has not so proved. Mardi’s peaces are but truces. Long absent, at last the red comets have returned. And return they must, though their periods be ages. And should Mardi endure till mountain melt into mountain, and all the isles form one table-land; yet, would it but expand the old battle-plain.

“Students of history are horror-struck at the massacres of old; but in the shambles, men are being murdered today. Could time be reversed, and the future change places with the past, the past would cry out against us, and our future, full as loudly, as we against the ages foregone. All the Ages are his children, calling each other names.

“Hark ye, sovereign-kings! cheer not on the yelping pack too furiously: Hunters have been torn by their hounds. Be advised; wash your hands. Hold aloof. Oro has poured out an ocean for an everlasting barrier between you and the worst folly which other republics have perpetrated. That barrier hold sacred. And swear never to cross over to Porpheero, by manifesto or army, unless you traverse dry land.

“And be not too grasping, nearer home. It is not freedom to filch. Expand not your area too widely, now. Seek you proselytes? Neighboring nations may be free, without coming under your banner. And if you can not lay your ambition, know this: that it is best served, by waiting events.

“Time, but Time only, may enable you to cross the equator; and give you the Arctic Circles for your boundaries.”

So read the anonymous scroll; which straightway, was torn into shreds.

“Old tory, and monarchist!” they shouted, “Preaching over his benighted sermons in these enlightened times! Fool! does he not know that all the Past and its graves are being dug over?”

They were furious; so wildly rolling their eyes after victims, that well was it for King Media, he wore not his crown; and in silence, we moved unnoted from out the crowd.

--Herman Melville, Mardi