How we cite our quotes:
The symmetry of form attainable in pure fiction cannot so readily be achieved in a narration essentially having less to do with fable than with fact. Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial. (28.1)
Let us remind you that Billy Budd is a work of fiction. What do you make of Melville's narrator posing as one who is relating true events? In one way, the quote is an act of realism: "truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges." But what do you make of a fictitious narrator appealing to "real events" to justify the poor form of his fictitious story? Hint: there are more than a few double meanings to this passage. In other words, Billy Budd would not have understood it.