Melville's long poem Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876) was the last full-length book he published. Until the mid-twentieth century even the most partisan of Melville's advocates hesitated to endure a four-part poem of 150 cantos of almost 18,000 lines, about a naïve American named Clarel, on pilgrimage through the Palestinian ruins with a provocative cluster of companions.
But modern critics have found Clarel a much better poem than was ever realized. Robert Penn Warren called it a precursor of The Waste Land. It abounds with revelations of Melville's inner life. Most strikingly, it is argued that the character Vine is a portrait of Melville's friend Hawthorne. Based on the only edition published during Melville's lifetime, this scholarly edition adopts thirty-nine corrections from a copy marked by Melville and incorporates 154 emendations by the present editors, an also includes a section of related documents and extensive discussions.
This scholarly edition is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).