The Apparition

By Herman Melville 1819–1891 Herman Melville

(A Retrospect)

Convulsions came; and, where the field
   Long slept in pastoral green,
A goblin-mountain was upheaved
(Sure the scared sense was all deceived),
Marl-glen and slag-ravine.

The unreserve of Ill was there,
   The clinkers in her last retreat;
But, ere the eye could take it in,
Or mind could comprehension win,
   It sunk!—and at our feet.

So, then, Solidity’s a crust—
   The core of fire below;
all may go well for many a year,
But who can think without a fear
   Of horrors that happen so?

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

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Herman Melville 1819–1891

Subjects Nature

 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.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.