In the Prison Pen

Author: Herman Melville  | Date: 1864

In the Prison Pen

LISTLESS he eyes the palisades

And sentries in the glare;

’Tis barren as a pelican-beach,

But his world is ended there.

Nothing to do; and vacant hands

Bring on the idiot-pain;

He tries to think-to recollect,

But the blur is on his brain.

Around him swarm the plaining ghosts

Like those on Virgil’s shore-

A wilderness of faces dim,

And pale ones gashed and hoar.

A smiting sun. No shed, no tree;

He totters to his lair-

A den that sick hands dug in earth

Ere famine wasted there;

Or, dropping in his place, he swoons,

Walled in by throngs that press,

Till forth from the throngs they bear him dead-

Dead in his meagreness.

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Chicago: Herman Melville, In the Prison Pen Original Sources, accessed October 28, 2021,

MLA: Melville, Herman. In the Prison Pen, Original Sources. 28 Oct. 2021.

Harvard: Melville, H, In the Prison Pen. Original Sources, retrieved 28 October 2021, from