Representative Poetry Online
  Poet Index   Poem Index   Random   Search  
  Introduction   Timeline   Calendar   Glossary   Criticism   Bibliography  
  RPO   Canadian Poetry   UTEL  
by Name
by Date
by Title
by First Line
by Last Line
Short poem

Herman Melville (1819-1891)

The Maldive Shark

              1About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
              2Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
              3The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
              4How alert in attendance be.
              5From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
              6They have nothing of harm to dread,
              7But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
              8Or before his Gorgonian head;
              9Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
            10In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
            11And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
            12An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
            13They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
            14Yet never partake of the treat --
            15Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
            16Pale ravener of horrible meat.


1] phlegmatical: cold, sluggish.

2] Maldive sea: the Indian Ocean around the Maldive islands.

5] saw-pit: so-called from the shovel-nose. maw: stomach.

8] Gorgonian: like the Gorgons, monstrous women with snakes for hair who turned anyone looking on them into stone.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Collected Poems of Herman Melville, ed. Howard P. Vincent (Chicago: Packard, 1947): 200. PS 2382 V5 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1888
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/6/2

Rhyme: abcbdefe ...

Other poems by Herman Melville