Concerning "the greatest sailor since the world began." Tennyson?Concerning "the greatest sailor since the world began." Concerning "the greatest sailor since the world began."] The line is a slight misquotation from Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington." HM alters Tennyson's "our world" to "the world." HM again quotes the same passage near the end of the chapter. Appearing in pencil at the top of the chapter's opening leaf—click thumbnail to view leaf image—the line seems intended as a chapter title, and is presented as a title in MEL and NN. Beneath the inscription, also in pencil, is the query "Tennyson?" added by HM's wife ESM.
In this matter of writing, resolve as one may to keep to the main road, some by-paths have an enticement not readily to be withstood. I am going to err into such a by-path. If the reader will keep me company I shall be glad. At the least we can promise ourselves that pleasure which is wickedly said to be in sinning, for a literary sin the divergence will be.
Very likely it is no new remark that the inventions of our time have at last brought about a change in sea-warfare in degree corresponding to the revolution in all warfare effected by the original introduction from China into Europe of gunpowder. The first European fire-arm, a clumsy contrivance, was, as is well known, scouted by no few of the knights as a base implement, good enough peradventure for weavers too craven to stand up crossing steel with steel in frank fight. But as ashore knightly valor tho'though shorn of its blazonry did not cease with the knights, neither on the seas (no comma in MS)seas,seas,] HM's opening paragraph admits to the "literary sin" of digression, and his long and divergent sentence beginning with "But as ashore" is an exemplary "sin," committed with substantial artistry but only partially aided by punctuation. Here, MEL adds a comma after "seas" to match HM's comma after "circumstances," which together assists the reader in following the digressive, nested clause. though nowadays in encounters there a certain kind of displayed gallantry be fallen out of date as hardly applicable under changed circumstances, did the nobler qualities of such naval magnates as Don John of Austria, Doria, Van Tromp, Jean Bart, the long line of British Admirals (no serial comma in MS)Admirals,Admirals,] Originally, HM concluded his list of "naval magnates" with "and the long line of British Admirals," with a serial comma preceding "and." In revision, he extended the list by deleting "and" and inserting "and the American Decaturs of 1812" at the end, but he neglected to add a serial comma before the inserted "and." MEL adds the serial comma here. and the American Decaturs of 1812 become obsolete with their wooden walls.
Nevertheless, to anybody who can hold the Present at its worth without being inappreciative of the Past, it may be forgiven, if to such an one, the solitary old hulk at Portsmouth, Nelson's Victory, seems to float there, not alone as the decaying monument of a fame incorruptible, but also as a poetic reproach, softened by its picturesqueness, to the Monitors and yet mightier hulls of the European iron-clads. And this not altogether because such craft are unsightly, unavoidably lacking the symmetry and grand lines of the old battle-ships, but equally for other reasons.
There are some, perhaps, who while not altogether inaccessible to that poetic reproach, just alluded to, may yet on behalf of the new order, be disposed to parry it; and this to the extent of iconoclasm, if need be. For example, Prompted (capitalized in MS)prompted by the sight of the star inserted in the Victory's ['s underlined in MS]Victory's quarter-deck, designating the spot where the Great Sailor fell, these martial utilitarians may suggest considerations implying that Nelson's ornate publication of his person in battle was not only unnecesaryunnecessary, but not military, nay savored of foolhardiness and vanity. They may add, too, that at Trafalgar it was in effect nothing less than a challenge to death; and death came; and that but for his bravado the victorious Admiral might possibly have survived the battle, and so, instead of having his sagacious dying injunctions overruled by his immediate successor in command he himself when the contest was decided might have brought his shattered fleet to anchor, a proceeding which might have averted the deplorable loss of life by shipwrckshipwreck in the elemental tempest that followed the martial one.
Well, should we set aside the more than disputable point whether for various reasons it was possible to anchor the fleet, then plausibly enough the BethamitesBenthamites of war may urge the above. But the might-have-been is but boggy ground to build on. And, certainly, in foresight as to the larger issue of an encounter, and anxious preparations for it—buoying the deadly way and mapping it out, as at Copenhagen—few commanders have been so painstakingly circumspect as this same reckless declarer of his person in inin fight.
Personal prudence even when dictated by quite other than selfish considerations surely is no special virtue in a military man; while an excessive love of glory, impassioning a less burning impulse [No comma in MS]impulse, the honest the honestthe honestthe honest] In revision, Melville neglected to delete a restored iteration of "the honest," resulting in a doubling of the phrase. MEL deletes the superfluous phrase. sense of duty, is the first. If the name Wellington is not so much of a trumpet to the blood as the simpler name Nelson, the reason for this may perhaps be inferred from the above. Alfred in his funeral ode on the victor of Waterloo ventures not to call him the greatest soldier of all time, tho'though in the same ode he invokes Nelson as "the greatest sailor since the worldthe world] HM alters Tennyson's original "our world" to "the world." Though Melville had access to the Ode to Wellington in which this encomium of Nelson appears, he may have been quoting from faulty memory or misquoting purposefully. Tennyson's "our world" refers to the era of British imperial dominance; HM's version is absolute, and presumably would include Noah as "the" world's first mariner. began."
At Trafalgar Nelson on the brink of ofof opening the fight sat down and wrote his last brief will and testament. If under the presentiment of the most magnificent of all victories to be crowned by his own glorious death, a sort of priestly motive led him to dress his person in the jewelled vouchers of his own shining deeds; if thus to have adorned himself for the altar and the sacrifice were indeed vainglory, then affectation and fustian is each more heroic line in the great epics and dramas, since in such lines the poet but embodies in verse those exaltations of sentiment that a nature like Nelson, the opportunity being given, vitalizes into acts.