What I’m Reading — Billy Budd

Billy Budd

The hull deliberately recovering from the periodic roll to leeward was just regaining an even keel, when the last signal, a preconcerted dumb one, was given. At the same moment it chanced that the vapory fleece hanging low in the East, was shot thro’ with a soft glory as of the fleece of the Lamb of God seen in mystical vision, and simultaneously therewith, watched by the wedged mass of upturned faces, Billy ascended; and, ascending, took the full rose of the dawn.”

Melville is my favorite tragic author (from a personal basis) — Billy Budd — arguably his most accessible work, wasn’t published until well after his death when it was discovered in some papers and brought to the public in the mid-1920s. As a stylist, he could turn a beautiful phrase, and I am especially hit with the force of repetition in emphasizing the tragic execution of the hero with “Billy ascended; and ascending, took the full rose of the dawn.”
Verbal pearls like this put me in awe of great writers.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “What I’m Reading — Billy Budd”

  1. “Sing out and say something my hearties! Roar & pull my thunderbolts! Beach me on that black back boys!” So spoke 2nd mate Stubb, after the first “lowering away” in M. Dick. Sends chills down my spine.

  2. Billy Budd is on my list of all time great movies from “that”period in my life, along with “Paths of Glory.”

    Good post David, I wish I had your skill.


  3. David –

    Melville was amazing. Billy Budd the movie just hit DVD a couple of months ago and for a movie it is quite impressive. Peter Ustinov was quite brave to tackle converting the complex written story into film. He had a magnificent cast with Terrance Stamp as the perfect choice for Billy. Robert Ryan could be such a dispicable character on film, yet was such a kind and thoughtful person off camera. So many other great actors. It must have been torture to film on the water.


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