Wednesday, August 15, 2018

To Daniel Shepherd


Come, Shepherd, come and visit me:
Come, we'll make it A[r]cady:
Come, if but for charity.
Sure, with such a pastoral name,
Thee the city should not claim.
Come, then, Shepherd, come away,
Thy sheep in bordering pastures stray.
Come, Daniel, come and visit me:
I'm lost in many a quandary:
I've dreamed, like Bab’lon’s Majesty:
Prophet, come expound for me. —
I dreamed I saw a laurel grove,
Claimed for his by the bird of love,
Who, elate with such dominion,
Oft cuffed the boughs with haughty pinion.
Indignantly the trees complain,
Accusing his afflictive reign.
Their plaints the chivalry excite
Of chanticleers, a plucky host:
They battle with the bird of light.
Beaten, he wings his northward flight,
No more his laurel realm to boast,
Where now, to crow, the cocks alight,
And — break down all the branches quite!
Such a weight of friendship pure
The grateful trees could not endure.
This dream, it still disturbeth me:
Seer, foreshows it Italy?
But other visions stir my head;
No poet-problems, fancy-fed —
Domestic prose of board and bed.
I marvel oft how guest unwined
Will to this farm-house be resigned.
Not a pint of ruby claret
     Cooleth in our cellar-bin;
And ripening in our sultry garret,
     Otard glows no flask within.
(Claret and otard here I name
Because each is your fav’rite flame:
Placed ’tween the two decanters, you,
Like Alexander, your dear charmers view,
And both so fair you find, you neither can eschew: —
That’s what they call an Alexandrine; }
Don’t you think it very damn’d fine?  }
— Brackets serve to fence this prattle,
Pound for episodic cattle. —
I said that me the Fates do cripple
In matter of a wholesome ‘tipple” —
Now, is it for oft cursing gold,
     For lucre vile,
The Hags do thus from me withhold
     Sweet Bacchus’ smile?
Smile, that like other smiles as mellow,
Not often greets Truth’s simple fellow: —
For why? Not his the magic dollar?
You should know, you Wall-Street scholar! —
Of Bourbon that is rather new
I brag a fat black bottle or two. —
Shepherd, is this such Mountain-Dew
As one might fitly offer you?
Yet if cold water will content ye
My word, of that ye shall have plenty.
Thanks to late floods, our spring, it brims, —
Will’t mind a crush * of goblet-rims?
I've told some doubts that sadly pose me:
Come then now straight resolve me.
Come, these matters sagely read,
Daniel, of the prophet breed.
Daniel Shepherd, come and rove —
     Freely rove the fairy dells;
The one the Housatonic clove,
     And that where genial friendship dwells.

Pittsfield July 6th 1859
 [--Herman Melville, as first published in Willard Thorp, Herman Melville: Representative Selections (American Book Company, 1938), pages 346-8.]
*The MS. may read “a crunch.” [Thorp's note.]
Where Thorp reads "bird of love," the 1993 Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Melville's Correspondence edited by Lynn Horth has "bird of Jove." Of old the Roman Eagle, as in Dante:
... Never fire,
With so swift motion, forth a stormy cloud
Leap'd downward from the welkin's furthest bound,
As I beheld the bird of Jove descend
Down through the tree; and, as he rush'd, the rind
Disparting crush beneath him; buds much more,
And leaflets.
--Purgatory Canto 32, trans. Henry Francis Cary (not marked in Melville's copy of The Vision, accessible via Melville's Marginalia Online).
But here in the poem "To Daniel Shepherd," Melville's "bird of Jove" signifies the Austrian Empire with its adopted symbol of the double-headed eagle, as as Dennis Berthold points out in American Risorgimento (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2009), page 190.

According to the memorial at Find A Grave, Daniel Shepherd (1820-1870) was born on July 22, 1820 and died on the same day and month fifty years later. Thorp says that Shepherd returned to Saratoga Springs, New York in 1861. Confirmed, along with the coincidence of Shepherd's death on "his fiftieth birthday," by the obituary published in The Saratogian on Thursday, July 28, 1870.

The Saratogian (Saratoga Springs, New York) - July 28, 1870

Death of Daniel Shepherd.

It is our sad duty to record the death of DANIEL SHEPHERD, Esq., of this village, which occurred on Friday morning—his fiftieth birthday. Mr. Shepherd was a native of this county, a son of Hon. William Shepherd of Clifton Park, and inherited superior ability. He was a graduate of Union College, and distinguished for his literary attainments. After his graduation he came to this village, and studied law with Hon. W. A. Beach, and subsequently became connected with him in the practice of his profession. About this time he married Miss Mary R. White, a step-daughter of Dr. John Clarke, of the Congress Spring, and soon after formed a co-partnership with Hon. Chesseldon Ellis, of Waterford, at the close of that gentleman's career in Congress, and they removed to New York to engage in the legal profession. He resided in New York, continuing his legal practice, something less than fifteen years, and returned to Saratoga in the spring of 1861, since which time he has lived among us.

Mr. Shepherd was no ordinary man. His abilities were of a high order. He was a fine scholar, and a learned and able lawyer; but his tastes and culture were more distinctly literary than professional, and his energies were largely devoted to literary work. He was a successful writer of newspaper stories, and achieved considerable distinction as the author of a work entitled "Saratoga; a tale of 1787," in which he delineated frontier life with a masterly hand. He possessed a fine personal presence, was eminently social and genial in his nature, and with his bright and polished intellect he combined advantages which few young men possess in so high degree. But unfortunately, while in New York, he embarked in business enterprises that failed to realize his expectations, and involved him in difficulties, which proved too much for his sensitive nature, exerting a depressing influence upon his mind, and he has been almost entirely withdrawn from active life since his return to Saratoga. He has left a wife and four children (three sons and a daughter,) and a large number of relatives and personal friends, to mourn his death.
--The Saratogian (Saratoga Springs, New York), July 28, 1870 via Fulton History.
The Harvard copy of Saratoga: A Story of 1787 by Allan Melville's law partner and Herman's friend Daniel Shepherd is accessible online via Google Books:
This particular volume was inscribed by the author to S. D. Tillman. Also available online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library.

Another Google-digitized volume, this one evidently from Stanford, is accessible via The Internet Archive:

1 comment:

  1. I have a copy of SARATOGA and have tried very hard to read it. Congratulations, Oh Great Scott!