Thursday, February 29, 2024

Abridged "Admiral of the White" in the St. Paul SUNDAY PIONEER PRESS

Following up on my discovery that Allen Thorndike Rice arranged for the simultaneous publication of Melville's poem "The Admiral of the White" in multiple U. S. newspapers including the Cincinnati Times-Star, I confirmed this morning that an abridged version of Melville's poem did in fact appear on May 17, 1885 in the Sunday edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Minnesota Historical Society's Gale Family Library has the relevant issue on microfilm. Parking at the Minnesota History Center in downtown St. Paul (across from our magnificent Cathedral) is still free for library users--but not for long, they tell me. With a reserved reader/printer and kind help from library staff I was able to find and view the right reel during my visit earlier today. 

Many thanks to all at the Gale Family Library, and to John Gretchko for prodding me to go. The long version of Melville's 1885 poem "The Admiral of the White" was later collected in John Marr and Other Sailors (1888), slightly revised and re-titled The Haglets. The Minnesota abridgment of Melville's poem appears on page 17 of the Sunday Pioneer Press along with two prose articles, "Letters of Marque" by Gail Hamilton (the pseudonym of Mary Abigail Dodge) and a tribute to Kingsley by Frederic William Farrar. While I expected to find some version of "The Admiral of the White," I was surprised and of course delighted by the high praise extended in the header, by way of introducing "A Striking Tale in Verse from the Pen of Herman Melville." True, the editor in his enthusiasm does not seem to know or care about Battle-Pieces (1866) and Clarel (1876) and appears to mistake "White" for the name of the doomed ship, but what of that. It's always good to find Melville highly placed in "A Galaxy of Genius," ranking first among other "Eminent Authors."

Sunday Pioneer Press - St. Paul, MN
May 17, 1885
Our shortened St. Paul version of "The Admiral of the White" omits many lines of verse including all of the first two stanzas and part of the third, lines 1-18 of "The Haglets" as printed on pages 218-225 in the 2009 Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's Published Poems, edited by Robert C. Ryan, Harrison Hayford, Alma MacDougall Reising and G. Thomas Tanselle. Who supplied the three prose transitions, highlighted in my transcription below, added to fill gaps in the story resulting from editorial deletions? Allen Thorndike Rice? Chief editor Joseph Albert Wheelock himself, or an assistant in the literary department? Probably not the poet, I suppose. None of these clever connectors appears in the differently abridged version printed on the same Sunday in the New York Daily Tribune

From the St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press of May 17, 1885, page 17:



A Striking Tale in Verse from the Pen of Herman Melville—In "Letters of Marque" Gail Hamilton Discusses in Her Own Characteristically Breezy and Independent Fashion a Number of Questions Concerning the Modern Young —Rev. Canon Farrar Contributes an Appreciative Tribute to the Memory of the Late Charles Kingsley.


[Copyright, 1885, by Thorndyke Rice. All rights reserved.]

The famous author of "Omoo," "Typee" and other widely known books has dropped into poetry, and in this domain of literature displays the same breeziness, the same dash and spirit that characterized his former works. He tells the story of the fate of the gallant crew of the White, wrecked and lost in Southern seas. The admiral has just fought the "arm'd Plate Fleet whose sinking flagship's colors fell," and is now crowding sail ahead to carry the news of his victory.

The eddying waters whirl astern,
The prow, a seedsman, sows the spray;
With bellying sails and buckling spars
The black hull leaves a Milky Way;
Her timbers thrill, her batteries roll,
She reveling speeds exulting with pennon at pole.
But ah, for standards captive trailed
For all their scutcheoned castles’ pride—
Castilian towers that dominate Spain,
Naples, and either Ind beside;
Those haughty towers, armorial ones,
Rue the salute from the admiral’s dens of guns.

* * * * * * * [omitting "Ensigns and arms...conflict sped," lines 31-42]

But out from cloistral gallery dim,
In early night his glance is thrown;
He marks the vague reserve of heaven,
He feels the touch of ocean lone;
Then turns, in frame part undermined,
Nor notes the shadowing wings that fan behind.

There, peaked and gray, three haglets fly,
And follow, follow fast in wake
Where slides the cabin-luster shy,
And sharks from man a glamour take.
Seething along the line of light,
In lane that endless rules the war-ship’s flight.

The storm increases in a terrific furry [fury] and the good ship narrowly escaped being driven on land. 

[omitting "The sea fowl here..."luminous antlers vast," lines 55-90]

In trim betimes they turn from land,
Some shivered sails and spars they stow;
One watch, dismissed, they troll the can.
While loud the billow thumps the bow—
Vies with the fist that smites the board,
Obstreperous at each reveller’s jovial word.
Of royal oak by storms confirmed,
The tested hull her lineage shows;
Vainly the plungings whelm her prow—
She rallies, rears, she sturdier grows.
Each shot-hole plugged, each storm-sail home,
With batteries housed she rams the watery dome.

* * * * * * * [omitting "Dim seen adrift...eager neighborhood," lines 103-114]

Plumed with a smoke, a confluent sea,
Heaved in a combing pyramid full,
Spent at its climax, in collapse
Down headlong thundering stuns the hull:
The trophy drops; but, reared again,
Shows Mars’ high-altar and contemns the main.

It is midnight of the Old Year. "The Old Year fades, the Old Year dies at sea." During a lull the sailors 

[keeping line 138 but omitting everything else from "Rebuilt it stands..." to "Laced Sleeves round the board," lines 121-137 and 139- 153]
Draw near in heart to keep them warm:
"Sweethearts and wives!" clink, clink, they meet,
And, quaffing, dip in wine their beards of sleet.

"Ay, let the star-light stay withdrawn,
So here her hearth-light memory fling,
So in this wine-light cheer be born,
And honor’s fellowship weld our ring—
Honor, our Admiral’s aim foretold;
A tomb or a trophy,, and lo, ’t is a trophy and gold!"
But he, a unit, sole in rank,
Apart needs keep his lonely state,
The sentry at his guarded door
Mute as by vault the sculptured Fate;
Belted he sits in drowsy light,
And hatted nods—the Admiral of the White.

He dozes on, unmindful of the present, dreaming of old victories and of rich armadas that he has captured. But the end is at hand.

 [omitting "He dozes, aged with watches...old Armadas drowned," lines 169-192] 
Ha—yonder! are they Northern Lights?
Or signals flashed to warn or ward?
Yes, signals lanced in breakers high;
But doom on warning follows hard;
While yet they veer in hope to shun,
They strike! and thumps of hull and heart are one.
 [omitting "But beating hearts ... lit the magnet's case," lines 199- 210]

Ah, what may live, who mighty swim,
Or boat-crew reach that shore forbid,
Or cable span? Must victors drown—
Perish, even as the vanquished did?
Man keeps from man the stifled moan,
They shouldering stand, yet each in heart how lone.
Some heaven invoke; but rings of reefs
Prayer and despair alike deride
In dance of breakers forked or peaked.
Pale maniacs of the maddened tide;
While, strenuous yet some end to earn,
The haglets spin; though now no more astern.
Like shuttles hurrying in the looms
Aloft through rigging frayed they ply—
Cross and recross—weave and inweave,
Then lock the web with clinching cry
Over the seas on seas that clasp
The weltering wreck where gurgling ends the gasp.

Ah, for the Plate-Fleet trophy now,
The victor’s voucher, flags and arms;
Never they’ll hang in Abbey old
And take Time’s dust with holier palms;
Nor less content, in liquid night,
Their captor sleeps—the Admiral of the White.

Imbedded deep with shells
And drifted treasure deep,
Forever he sinks deeper in
Unfathomable sleep—
His cannon round him thrown,
His sailors at his feet,
The wizard sea enchanting them
Where never haglets beat.
On nights when meteors play
And light the breakers dance,
The Oreads from the caves
With silvery elves advance;
And up from ocean stream,
And down from heaven far,
The rays that blend in dream
The abysm and the star.

Of the seven scheduled appearances of "The Admiral of the White" announced as forthcoming in the Cincinnati Times-Star for May 14, 1885, three have yet to be verified: 

  1. New York Tribune ✅
  2. Boston Herald ✅
  3. Philadelphia Press
  4. Detroit Post
  5. St. Paul Pioneer-Press ✅ 
  6. Chicago Times
  7. Cincinnati Times-Star  ✅

Still looking to confirm printings of Melville's poem in the Philadelphia Press, Detroit Post, and Chicago Times on or about May 17, 1885.

Related posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment