Later and Last: Time and Lyric Moment in Melville's Battle-Pieces

Article excerpt

In Battle-Pieces and Aspects of War, Melville foregrounds the journalistic sources he relies on. The title "Aspects of War" underlines the mediation of the speaker's perspective by suggesting that he will consider a variety of aspects or viewpoints, namely those of the war correspondents. The title suggests that the war could never be encompassed in a single text: the poems can offer only "pieces" or "aspects" of the conflict. Moreover, the temporal patterns of Battle-Pieces also underline the speaker's mediated perspective. Although Melville wrote most of the poems after the fall of Richmond, many use present tenses, tenses which embrace both mid-war and post-war perspectives. The speaker's position becomes a temporal paradox as he writes with both post-war hindsight and the immediacy of war-time present tenses. While many poems unfold linear narratives, these narratives are interrupted by the suspended present of the lyric voice, as the speaker introduces spatial or temporal pointers ("here" or "now"), first-person plurals, or dramatic apostrophes. …


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