Herman Melville wrote quite a lot of poetry, although many people probably do not know about it. However, this Penguin Classics edition is a fine way to reach a larger population of readers.
Poems included from Melville’s Battle Pieces are historical as well as poetic and thought-provoking. They speak of adventure and patriotism. Melville’s contemporaries criticized these pieces because they did not completely rhyme, but such criticisms come usually from those afraid to think on the contents and soul of a written piece. This forces the reader to look at his own soul and its contents, and not every reader is a willing participant Indeed, Harper Magazine stated, “Among these poems are some -- among them ‘The March to the Sea’ and ‘Stonewall Jackson, ascribed to a Virginian’ -- which will stand as among the most stirring lyrics of the war.” --Harper's New Monthly Magazine, January 1867.
In criticizing Melville, The Atlantic Monthly inadvertently praised and celebrated him in February of 1867: “ Melville's work possesses the negative virtues of originality in such degree that it not only reminds you of no poetry you have read, but of no life you have known....”
Melville's battle poems from the American Civil War do take the reader to other mental planes, offering an underlying cadence of music and certain mysticism at times, along with a sense of adventure, history, and patriotism. These and his other poetry work are as good as his other literary accomplishments and should be appreciated as well. This book helps to display them in that light.