In placid hours well-pleased we dream
Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
But form to lend, pulsed life create,
What unlike things must meet and mate:
A flame to melt—a wind to freeze;
Sad patience—joyous energies;
Humility—yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity—reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel—Art.
If, like us, you've been going to lots of exhibitions this summer, Melville's words will make you marvel all over again at what you find there. Though not best-known for his poetry, a form which he turned to in later life, the Moby Dick author's poems are widely acclaimed by critics. His career as a poet lasted for twenty-five years – twice as long as his career as a writer of prose.
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