In placid hours well-pleased we dream
Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
But form to lend, pulsed life create,
What unlike things must meet and mate:
A flame to melt--a wind to freeze;
Sad patience--joyous energies;
Humility--yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity--reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob's mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel--Art.

by Herman Melville

Comments (11)

I love Melville. That said, I find this to be kind of a dull list poem. Yes, he's gathered all the right material for his discourse and laid them out with a well-measured eye towards meter and rhyme, but the whole lacks depth and real emotion. The material hasn't been transformed, and isn't transformative. Not for me at least. If you've been in the maelstrom, spent time wrestling with the softly ineluctable trying to make it conform by force of will to a new compositional beauty, then this poem only scratches the surface. Which I grant you, is a sort of new mark, but does it clarify? Or obscure? It's like a list of the attributes of a behemoth, albino marine mammal. Impressive, sure, but not really the threatening shadow let alone the flesh of the monster under the waves transformed into something we cannot rid ourselves of. Cannot be free of. Not until we join with it as it takes us to the unknown depths from which we cannot return. This poem's a bit of a toss off. Good thing Melville also wrote °Moby Dick°.
i had never read a poem (that i can remember) by melville. but this one is cool! and having just wrestled in the last two days on whether to sit down and wrestle with putting an idea into a poem, i definitely relate. -gk
Art! Better with humility. Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
This is so inspiring
This is so inspiring...
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