No Comment — January 13, 2008, 12:11 am

Melville’s ‘Berg’


I saw a ship of material build
(Her standards set, her brave apparel on)
Directed as by madness mere
Against a solid iceberg steer,
Nor budge it, though the infactuate ship went down.
The impact made huge ice-cubes fall
Sullen in tons that crashed the deck;
But that one avalanche was all–
No other movement save the foundering wreck.

Along the spurs of ridges pale,
Not any slenderest shaft and frail,
A prism over glass-green gorges lone,
Toppled; or lace or traceries fine,
Nor pendant drops in grot or mine
Were jarred, when the stunned ship went down.
Nor sole the gulls in cloud that wheeled
Circling one snow-flanked peak afar,
But nearer fowl the floes that skimmed
And crystal beaches, felt no jar.
No thrill transmitted stirred the lock
Of jack-straw neddle-ice at base;
Towers undermined by waves–the block
Atilt impending– kept their place.
Seals, dozing sleek on sliddery ledges
Slipt never, when by loftier edges
Through the inertia ovrthrown,
The impetuous ship in bafflement went down.

Hard Berg (methought), so cold, so vast,
With mortal damps self-overcast;
Exhaling still thy dankish breath–
Adrift dissolving, bound for death;
Though lumpish thou, a lumbering one–
A lumbering lubbard loitering slow,
Impingers rue thee ad go slow
Sounding thy precipice below,
Nor stir the slimy slug that sprawls
Along thy dead indifference of walls.

Herman Melville, The Berg: A Dream first published in John Marr and Other Sailors (1888)

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



November 2016

Coming Apart

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Swat Team

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Escape from The Caliphate

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In This One

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In The Hollow

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration by John Ritter
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph by Alice Martins
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration by Nate Kitch
In The Hollow·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"I’m a gun owner, drive a pickup, and fish from a johnboat. I also recycle, believe in women’s reproductive rights, and own a Prius as a second car. Politically, I don’t fit in anywhere, either."
photographs by Stacy Kranitz

Amount of U.S. military aid given to the government of El Salvador each minute during the 1980s:


A team of European sexologists reported that 40 percent of Italian couples were not having sex, due in part to Italian men’s declining sex drive and growing predilection for prostitutes and cybersex.

Telecommunications company AT&T agreed to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion in a bid to find new ways to reach consumers, and hackers took control of Internet-connected cameras and baby monitors to overwhelm the routing company Dyn with traffic, causing worldwide disruption to outlets such as Netflix and Amazon.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


A nightly scene in London

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.


"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."

Subscribe Today