Mardi: And a Voyage Thither

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Allegorical romance by Melville, published in 1849.

Taji, the hero, and his Norse companion Jarl desert from a whaling ship in southern Pacific waters and meet the brigantine Parki, abandoned except for the comic Polynesian husband and wife, Samoa and Annatoo. The four pass pleasant days aboard the Parki, until it sinks during a storm and Annatoo is drowned. Adrift in a whaleboat, Taji, Jarl, and Samoa meet a native priest and his ward, the mysterious white maiden Yillah, whom he is taking to be sacrificed. They rescue the maiden and reach Mardi, the realm of transcendental beauty, where Taji and Yillah spend a blissful period in love. When she suddenly vanishes, beauty and delight are also gone, and Taji searches for her through the islands of Mardi. He is accompanied by Media, king of Odo, Mohi (Braidbeard) the historian, Babbalanja the philosopher, and Yoomy the poet; as they travel, they discourse on many topics, and their search brings them to Dominora (Great Britain), Vivenza (the U.S.), and other lands, which are the subjects of Swiftian satire. They also visit Serenia, ruled by Alma (Christ), in whose doctrine of love Babbalanja finds the ultimate in earthly wisdom, but Taji, seeing the doctrine disregarded in practice, remains dissatisfied. At last they reach Flozella-a-Nina, where Queen Hautia has transformed Yillah into one of her dusky handmaidens. Hautia nearly overwhelms Taji by her sensual blandishments, but, leaving his companions, he sets sail alone, pursued by “three fixed spectres,” to continue his search “over an endless sea.”

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Herman Melville (1819—1891) American novelist and short-story writer

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