"The Martyr", written in 1866 tells the tale of a man who is killed by those he devoted his life to, and whom he attempted to save. People slaughter the man who worked much of his life for their good and attempting to better the way they live. Written in 1866 the poem is a tragic tale of a man killed during his prime by the very people he had been working so hard to save. It is a bitter end and a tragic tale with connections to the biblical telling of Jesus Christ. Melville was not a very religious man. Indeed while he resided in the city of Honolulu he was opposed to Christian missionaries attempting to convert the natives. In several of his stories however such as "The Martyr" and "The Paradise of Bachelors and The Tartarus of Maids" he shows knowledge of the Christian religion and makes several allusions or comparisons in his work.

Melville was considered to be what some would call a Dark Romantic writer. His stories shared similarities with other well known authors of the time period such as Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Melville was an instrumental figure in Dark Romanticism. His stories were tragic in nature with emphasis on sin, destruction, and the damned nature of man and it's actions. The poem "The Martyr" demonstrates his tragic nature and style of writing as it documents the downfall of a hero. This characteristics of this poem are the triumph of evil over good, the murderous and sinful nature of man, and mankind's capacity for cruelty. These characteristic firmly cement this work in the category of Dark Romanticism. As evidenced by this quote from the poem "When with yearning he was filled, To redeem the evil-willed, And, though conqueror, be kind; But they killed him in his kindness, In their madness and their blindness, And they killed him from behind" (Melville). In this excerpt from the poem the conquered murder the man who was attempting to save them in his conquest. Despite their loss at his hands he is merciful and kind to those who he as defeated, desiring nothing but the best for them. He pledges his life to improving their lives but in their rage they murder him, stabbing him in the back. This tragic end to a noble hero is yet another classic characteristic of Dark Romanticism.

This work was different from the majority of Melville's works. Melville was a sailor for much of his life, lending him inspiration for his most famous works Moby Dick and Billy Budd both maritime novels inspired by his early life as a sailor. Instead "The Martyr" was written as a dedication to the late Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was very fond of poetry in his years and Melville, a patriotic man and supporter of the Union, wrote it in remembrance of the loss of the President. The poem can be seen as a tribute to the dead president and talking about his assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. From the line "He lieth in his blood--The father in his face; They have killed him, the Forgiver--The Avenger takes his place, The Avenger wisely stern," (Melville). This line talks about the death of Lincoln, the Forgiver, and the rise to power of Andrew Johnson, his Vice President who is referred to as the Avenger in the poem.

These themes used throughout the poem such as the image of the tragic hero, and the sinful nature of man demonstrate the Dark Romantic nature of the poem (Pogreba). Given Melville's history as a Dark Romantic writer this poem, using similar characteristics of his previous works, this poem is considered a Dark Romantic work. Despite Melville's history as a maritime man this poem shows no evidence of his life as a young man and instead draws upon his sympathies for Abraham Lincoln's tragic assassination.

Works Cited

Melville, Herman. "The Martyr, by Herman Melville." Poetry Archive | Poems. Harper & Brothers. Web. 07 Dec. 2010. <http://www.poetry-archive.com/m/the_martyr.html>.

Pogreba, Don. "Dark Romanticism." Ovixotic Pedagogve. Web. 02 Jan 211. <http://www.quixoticpedagogue.org/classroom/blogs-mainmenu-123/blog-entries/149-myblog/801>.