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Clarel (poem) facts for kids

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A panorama of Jerusalem with Western Wall, the only existing part of the Temple of Solomon

Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land is an epic poem by American writer and poet Herman Melville. The work was published in New York by G. P. Putnam & Company in 1876. It was author's last big book. The poem is really huge. It is composed of four parts. It consists of 150 cantos and comprises almost 18, 000 lines. It is written in rhymed verse. All the poem is written in iambic tetrameter, only final section is written in iambic pentameter. In some places the poet uses alliteration. The poem tells about a young man, named Clarel, who went on a trip to the Holy Land. The journey became for him a pilgrimage. The main theme of the poem is the seeking for faith. The main hero had lost his faith during his studies and wanted it back. One of his companions, named Vine, is believed to be a portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne was Melville's friend and a writer, too. The poem ends with some words of hope for the hero.

Then keep thy heart, though yet but ill-resigned --
Clarel, thy heart, the issues there but mind;
That like the crocus budding through the snow --
That like a swimmer rising from the deep --
That like a burning secret which doth go
Even from the bosom that would hoard and keep;
Emerge thou mayst from the last whelming sea,
And prove that death but routs life into victory.

Melville's poem was not much appreciated in 19th century. In 20th century, however, it was called by Robert Penn Warren a precursor of The Waste Land. In fact, T.S. Eliot's poem is about seeking for faith, too.

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