A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Occasions of Reading in Redburn

For I very well remembered staring at a man myself,          the person who had been in Stony Arabia,               all of which with my own eyes I had read in the book which he wrote,               
                  an arid-looking book in a pale yellow cover.
I wondered what a great man I would be, if by foreign travel I should ever be able to read straight along without stopping, out of that book.
I do not know how to account for this temporary madness of mine, unless it was, that I had been reading.
The name of this curious ship
was painted on her stern where any one might read it.
After breakfast, some of them went to reading.        Others sat in silent circles, speculating, no doubt, as to who each other might be.
Read somewhere that this was a good plan to follow in a case like the present.
That was only reading about them, just as you read the Arabian Nights, which no one ever believes.
I remembered reading in a magazine            with a sea-blue cover, and a ship painted 
                                                                                                                                               on the back.
How I tried to convince myself that it was indeed true, that he had stood there, though                           he perhaps was walking down Wall-street, or sitting reading the
newspaper in his counting room.
I began to think it must be a sort of second Saturday, when school-boys stay at home
            reading Robinson Crusoe.
Reading must have been very hard work for him.    He muttered to himself quite loud
as he read.
It was a dull, dubious light.                I often found myself looking up anxiously
—a kind of interruption to my studies which annoyed me very much,
when diligently occupied in reading.
The best reading was on the fly leaves.
But it is always thus                if you read of St. Peter's, they say, and then go and visit it.
And though he could not read a word,
               yet he was spontaneously an atheist and an infidel.
But where are the ----which, from all my reading, I had been in the habit of associating with England?
Chaplains in the navy read sermons to them on the gun-deck.
It produced the same effect upon me, that my first reading of Milton's Invocation to the Sun did, years afterward. I cannot recall it all; but it was something like this, drawn out in an endless groan—
Every vibrating letter burned so white, that you might read the flaming name 
in the flickering ground of blue.

(From Redburn, Melville)

1 comment:

  1. More covert diss research on the blog! It seems like Melville wishes he were an adventurous sailor but just kinda wants to be in a place (a ship-place) where he can sit around and have a lot of time to read.