“The ribs and terrors in the whale”

By Herman Melville 1819–1891 Herman Melville
The ribs and terrors in the whale,
   Arched over me a dismal gloom,
While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
   And left me deepening down to doom.

I saw the opening maw of hell,
   With endless pains and sorrows there;
Which none but they that feel can tell—
   Oh, I was plunging to despair.

In black distress, I called my God,
   When I could scarce believe him mine,
He bowed his ear to my complaints—
   No more the whale did me confine.

With speed he flew to my relief,
   As on a radiant dolphin borne;
Awful, yet bright, as lightening shone
   The face of my Deliverer God.

My song for ever shall record
   That terrible, that joyful hour;
I give the glory to my God,
   His all the mercy and the power.

Source: American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (The Library of America, 1993)

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Poet Herman Melville 1819–1891

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Nature, Religion, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, God & the Divine

 Herman  Melville

Biography

Although chiefly known for his magisterial novel Moby-Dick and for other prose works, Herman Melville was also a fascinating poet who turned to the art after his serious fiction failed to find appreciative readers. His eccentric verse displays the complexity of thought and verbal richness of his novels, which has led some critics to rank him just below Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson among 19th-century American poets.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Nature, Religion, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, God & the Divine

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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