Chronology:Unnamed plugging game

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1845c.26 Melville (Maybe) Describes New England Ball Game Poetically


Unnamed plugging game

Age of Players:



And now hurrah! for the speeding ball
Is flung in viewless air,
And where it will strike in its rapid fall
The boys are hastening there--
And the parted lip and the eager eye
Are following its descent,
Whilst the baffl'd stumbler's falling cry
With th'exulting shout is blent.
The leader now of either band
Picks cautiously his men,
And the quickest foot and the roughest hand
Are what he chooses then.
And see!the ball with swift rebound,
Flies from the swinging bat,
While the player spurns the beaten ground,
Nor heeds his wind-caught hat.
But the ball is stopp'd in its quick career,
And is sent with a well-aim'd fling,
And he dodges to feel it whistling near,
Or leaps at its sudden sting,
Whilst the shot is hail'd with a hearty shout,
As the wounded one stops short,
For his 'side' by the luckless blow is out--
And the others wait their sport.


This poem, published pseudonymously as the work of "William M. Christy" in 1845, is Melville's first published work, according to  Melville scholar Jeanne C. Howes, author of a monograph entitled '"Poet of a Morning: Herman Melville and the 'Redburn Poem': Redburn: Or the Schoolmaster of a Morning". From 19cbb post by John Thorn, July 6, 2004


"In the case of the Redburn poem, a strong competing interpretation concludes that HM is not its author. I can't argue either side of Howes' hypothesis since I have not read her work, and I only have a couple hundred words of notes on the topic, but I think we all readily understand that the attribution of Melville as author of this four canto poem is not universally accepted." 19cbb post by Stephen Hoy, July 6, 2004


These lines appear to be part of the poem Redburn: Or the Schoolmaster of a Morning, published under an apparent pseudonym in 1845 (or 1844).  In 2000, Jeanne C. Howes published Poet of a Morning: Herman Melville and the "Redburn" Poem.  

The online blurb for this work states:  "In a tour de force of literary detection and scholarship, Jeanne Howes has conclusively proven that shortly after Herman Melville’s return from the South Pacific in 1844 an anonymous book published in Manhattan, Redburn: or the Schoolmaster of a Morning, is his first book. Early scholars pondered whether this book might have been written by Melville but dismissed it since not enough was then known about Melville’s life and writings. Serious scholarship did not begin until the 1920s, as Herman Melville, the great dark god of American letters had fallen into an obscurity so encompassing that at the time of his death in 1891 he was entirely forgotten by the literary community."

An annotation: "Possibly written about a game played by the schoolboys attending Sykes District School in Pittsfield where Melville, as an 18 year old taught for a short while before he went to sea." He shipped out in 1841.



Further opinions about this poem's description of a baserunning game with plugging are welcome.


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