Herman Melville on Butchers of the Bloodiest Badge

(Herman Melville, died Sept. 28, 1891)

Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honoring us whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to a butchering sort of business, and that when actively engaged therein, we are surrounded by all manner of defilements. Butchers we are, that is true. But butchers also, and butchers of the bloodiest badge have been all Martial Commanders whom the world invariably delights to honor.


At tonight’s dVerse prompt, poetess and host Anna Montgomery asks us to try a poem that blends high and low art. It sounded fun so I gave it a good try–hope you can join in.

This worrisome mosquito,
                                                         grim demon
haunting the marshes, marauding round the heath
and the desolate fens,
restlessly buzzing
and biting, will not take
a hint
for my flesh is food
indeed, and my blood
is drink indeed
and she is hungry
for blood, the very wealth
of my life, so that her
own life might be sustained.
Some god or saint
may gladly give all,
may bow the head
for the life of the world
but I’m not ok with that.
So I swat and smack,
intent to kill, but she
evades and lands
once more.
                        This time, I let
her poke her proboscis
in deep, let her eat
her fill and swell up
Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row
as ever you can; fill your dam’ bellies
‘till dey bust—and den die.
With one hit I end
her meal, and am left with
my own blood on my hand.

Not sure if I’m on the right track. The subject, biting mosquitoes, seems pretty “low art” to me. The italicized portions are quotes from what might be considered “high art” sources. The first is from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf; the next two are from the Gospel of St. John; the last is from Melville’s Moby Dick