Herman Melville

(1 August 1819 – 28 September 1891 / New York City, New York)

Jack Roy - Poem by Herman Melville

Kept up by relays of generations young
Never dies at halyards the blithe chorus sung;
While in sands, sounds, and seas where the
storm-petrels cry,
Dropped mute around the globe, these halyard
singers lie.
Short-lived the clippers for racing-cups that
run,
And speeds in life's career many a lavish
mother's-son.

But thou, manly king o' the old _Splendid's_
crew,
The ribbons o' thy hat still a-fluttering, should
fly--
A challenge, and forever, nor the bravery
should rue.
Only in a tussle for the starry flag high,
When 'tis piety to do, and privilege to die.
Then, only then, would heaven think to lop
Such a cedar as the captain o' the _Splendid's_
main-top:
A belted sea-gentleman; a gallant, off-hand
Mercutio indifferent in life's gay command.
Magnanimous in humor; when the splintering
shot fell,
'Tooth-picks a-plenty, lads; thank 'em with a
shell!'

Sang Larry o' the _Cannakin,_ smuggler o' the
wine,
At mess between guns, lad in jovial recline:
'In Limbo our Jack he would chirrup up a
cheer,
The martinet there find a chaffing mutineer;
From a thousand fathoms down under hatches
o' your Hades,
He'd ascend in love-ditty, kissing fingers to
your ladies!'

Never relishing the knave, though allowing
for the menial,
Nor overmuch the king, Jack, nor prodigally
genial.
Ashore on liberty he flashed in escapade,
Vaulting over life in its levelness of grade,
Like the dolphin off Africa in rainbow
a-sweeping--
Arch iridescent shot from seas languid
sleeping.

Larking with thy life, if a joy but a toy,
Heroic in thy levity wert thou, Jack Roy.


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010



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