Tom Deadlight (1810)
During a tempest encountered homeward-bound from the Mediterranean, a grizzled petty-officer, one of the two captains of the forecastle, dying at night in his hammock, swung in the sick-bay under the tiered gun-decks of the British Dreadnought, 98, wandering in his mind, though with glimpses of sanity, and starting up at whiles, sings by snatches his good-bye and last injunctions to two messmates, his watchers, one of whom fans the fevered tar with the flap of his old sou'-wester. Some names and phrases, with here and there a line, or part of one; these, in his aberration, wrested into incoherency from their original connection and import, he involuntarily derives, as he does the measure, from a famous old sea-ditty, whose cadences, long rife, and now humming in the collapsing brain, attune the last flutterings of distempered thought.
Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.
Poet Herman Melville 1819–1891
Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza
Poems by Herman Melville
- After the Pleasure Party: Lines Traced Under an Image of Amor Threatening
- “The ribs and terrors in the whale”
- Dupont’s Round Fight (November, 1861)
- Greek Architecture
- More poems by Herman Melville (21 poems)