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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

In the Prison Pen

By Herman Melville (1819–1891)

[From Battle Pieces, and Aspects of the War. 1866.]

LISTLESS he eyes the palisades

And sentries in the glare;

’Tis barren as a pelican-beach,

But his world is ended there.

Nothing to do; and vacant hands

Bring on the idiot-pain;

He tries to think—to recollect,

But the blur is on his brain.

Around him swarm the plaining ghosts

Like those on Virgil’s shore—

A wilderness of faces dim,

And pale ones gashed and hoar.

A smiting sun. No shed, no tree;

He totters to his lair—

A den that sick hands dug in earth

Ere famine wasted there;

Or, dropping in his place, he swoons,

Walled in by throngs that press,

Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead—

Dead in his meagreness.