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The Hymn in Moby-Dick: MelvilleS Adaptation oj-“Psalm 18” STEVEN OLSEN-SMITH Boise State University n “The Sermon,” Chapter 9 of Moby-Dick, the hymn sung by the congregation of Whaleman’s Chapel contributes pointedly to Herman Melville’s realistic depiction of organized worship and to the thematic coherence of both chapter and work. As David H. Battenfeld first discovered, Melville’s source for the hymn is the first part of a rhymed version of the 18th Psalm (subtitled “Deliverance from despair”),printed in The Psalms and Hymns of the Reformed Protestunt Dutch Church in North America. This is the psalter and hymnal authorized by the church of Melville’s mother, Maria Gansevoort Melville, in which he was baptized.’ Noting the book was first published “in 1789, and was expanded in 1830 and 1846,” Battenfeld took his copy-text from an 1854 printing of Psalms and Hymns, apparently assuming “Psalm 18” remained unaltered from the 1789edition up to and beyond the publication of Moby-Dick in 1851. Moreover, Battenfelds analysis addressed only the ways Melville changed the hymn “to fit the specific reference to the story of Jonah” (574); he made no effort to examine Melville’s alterations in light of ideas and images that inform Moby-Dick as a whole. But the actual setting of “Psalm 18” that Melville adopted was, in fact, not the version included in Psalms and Hymns until the book was expanded for the first time, after the synods of 1812 and 1813, and the text of this setting was altered for editions following the synods of 1831and 1846. The textual variants allow us to narrow the range of possible editions used for the hymn in Chapter 9, where Melville’s own alterations to “Psalm 18”furnish an index to some of his most profound themes and throw crosslights on the likely influence of additional texts available to Melville at the time of composition. A combined product of source-use, influence , and representative imagery, the hymn in Moby-Dick exemplifies Melville’s thematic artistry and assimilative technique. Beginning with its original publication in 1789, Psalms and Hymns derived an increasing amount of material from English rather than from Dutch 1 David H. Batienleld, “The Source for the Hymn in Mohy-Dick.” American Liieruftm 27 (November 1955): 393-96; rpt. in Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, ed. Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford, 2nd ed. (New York:W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 574-77. References to Battenfelds essay in the Norton Critical Edition are hereafter cited parenthetically For an account of the baptism of Herman Melville, see Hershel Parker, Herman Melville, A Biography: Volume I , 1819-1851 (Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996),23-23. S T E V E N O L S E N - S M I T H materials in its evolution as the authorized psalter and hymnal of the Dutch Reformed Church in America. According to the Rev. James L. H. Brumm, the British hymn-writer Isaac Watts was author of more than half of the rhymed psalms in the 1789 Psalms and Hymns (reprinted until 1810 as Thc Psalms of David, with H ~ J I S and Spiritual Songs) and more than seventy-five percent of the expanded 1814 Psalms and Hymns (reprinted until 1829).2 The 1789 edition included a rhymed setting of “Psalm 18”that Melville may have known, for a copy of the first edition survives in the Gansevoort-LansingCollection of the New York Public Library (NUC -t85:388),and the setting appears in a 1796 printing of The Psalnzs of Duvid owned by Melville’s mother (housed at the Newberry Libraryl.3 But after the synods of 1812 and 1813, that setting was supplanted by what would become Melville’s source: Watts’s “Psalm 18,” including Parts 1 through 5 along with a sixth part not authored by Watts.4 The primary compiler of both the 1789 and the 1814 editions was the Reverend John H. Livingston, who in the 1780s had become the “most influential father” of the nationalized Dutch Reformed Church, newly broken away from European control.5 After Livingston’s death in 1825, additional hymns were published separately and later appended to Psalms and Hymns...

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