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Moby Dick

by Herman Melville


< Chapter I LOOMINGS >

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely
--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to
interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see
the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the
spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself
growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November
in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin
warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and
especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it
requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately
stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats
off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical
flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the
ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it,
almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very
nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me. There now is your
insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian
isles by coral reefs--commerce surrounds it with her surf.

Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town
is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled
by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land.
Look at the crowds of water-gazers there. Circumambulate the city of
a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip,
and from thence, by Whitehall northward. What do you see?--Posted
like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon
thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against
the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the
bulwarks glasses! of ships from China; some high aloft in the
rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these
are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster--tied to
counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this?
Are the green fields gone? What do they here? But look! here come
more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a
dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of
the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not
suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly
can without falling in. And there they stand--miles of them--leagues.
Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues,
--north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me,
does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those
ships attract them thither? Once more. Say, you are in the country;
in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten
to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool
in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of
men be plunged in his deepest reveries--stand that man on his legs,
set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if
water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the
great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to
be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows,
meditation and water are wedded for ever.

But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest,
shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all
the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There
stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a
crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his
cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into
distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of
mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies
thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like
leaves upon this shepherd's head, yet all were vain, unless the
shepherd's eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit
the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade
knee-deep among Tiger-lilies--what is the one charm wanting? --Water
--there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of
sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the
poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of
silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed,
or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is
almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at
some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as
a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when
first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why
did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a
separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not
without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of
Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image
he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that
same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the
image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it
all. Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever
I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of
my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a
passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and
a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides,
passengers get sea-sick --grow quarrelsome --don't sleep of nights
--do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing; --no, I never go
as a passenger; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever go to
sea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and
distinction of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I
abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of
every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care
of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners,
and what not. And as for going as cook, -- though I confess there is
considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort of officer on
ship-board --yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls; --though
once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and
peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say
reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the
idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted
river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge
bake-houses the pyramids. No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple
sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft
there to the royal mast-head. True, they rather order me about some,
and make me jump from spar to spar, like a grasshopper in a May
meadow. And at first, this sort of thing is unpleasant enough. It
touches one's sense of honor, particularly if you come of an old
established family in the land, the van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or
Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your
hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country
schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The
transition is a keen one, I assure you, from the schoolmaster to a
sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to
enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in time. What
of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and
sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I
mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel
Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and
respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who
aint a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains
may order me about--however they may thump and punch me about, I have
the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else
is one way or other served in much the same way -- either in a
physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal
thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's
shoulder-blades, and be content. Again, I always go to sea as a
sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas
they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the
contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the
difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of
paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two
orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid, --what will compare
with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is
really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to
be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied
man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to
perdition! Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the
wholesome exercise and pure air of the forecastle deck. For as in
this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern
(that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most
part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second
hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it
first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their
leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little
suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt
the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go
on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates,
who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and
influences me in some unaccountable way --he can better answer than
any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed
part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long
time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between
more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill
must have run something like this: Grand Contested Election for the
Presidency of the United States. Whaling Voyage by one
Ishmael. Bloody Battle in Affghanistan. Though I cannot tell why it
was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this
shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for
magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in
genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces --though I cannot tell why
this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I
think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being
cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set
about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion
that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and
discriminating judgment. chief among these motives was the
overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and
mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant
seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless
perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a
thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my
wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been
inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch
for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on
barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a
horror, and could still be social with it--would they let me --since
it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the
place one lodges in. By reason of these things, then, the whaling
voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung
open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and
two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the
whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a
snow hill in the air.

< Chapter II 24 THE CARPET-BAG >

I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it under my
arm, and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific. Quitting the good
city of old Manhatto, I duly arrived in New Bedford. It was on a
Saturday night in December. Much was I disappointed upon learning
that the little packet for Nantucket had already sailed, and that no
way of reaching that place would offer, till the following Monday. As
most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling stop at
this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, it may as
well be related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing. For my mind
was made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there
was a fine, boisterous something about everything connected with that
famous old island, which amazingly pleased me. Besides though New
Bedford has of late been gradually monopolizing the business of
whaling, and though in this matter poor old Nantucket is now much
behind her, yet Nantucket was her great original --the Tyre of this
Carthage; --the place where the first dead American whale was
stranded. Where else but from Nantucket did those aboriginal
whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes to give chase to the
Leviathan? And where but from Nantucket, too, did that first
adventurous little sloop put forth, partly laden with imported
cobble-stones --so goes the story --to throw at the whales, in order
to discover when they were nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the
bowsprit? Now having a night, a day, and still another night
following before me in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined
port, it became a matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleep
meanwhile. It was a very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal
night, bitingly cold and cheerless. I knew no one in the place. With
anxious grapnels I had sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few
pieces of silver, --So, wherever you go, Ishmael, said I to myself, as
I stood in the middle of a dreary street shouldering my bag, and
comparing the gloom towards the north with the darkness towards the
south --wherever in your wisdom you may conclude to lodge for the
night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to inquire the price, and don't be too
particular. With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed the
sign of The Crossed Harpoons --but it looked too expensive and jolly
there. Further on, from the bright red windows of the Sword-Fish Inn,
there came such fervent rays, that it seemed to have melted the packed
snow and ice from before the house, for everywhere else the congealed
frost lay ten inches thick in a hard, asphaltic pavement, --rather
weary for me, when I struck my foot against the flinty projections,
because from hard, remorseless service the soles of my boots were in a
most miserable plight. Too expensive and jolly, again thought I,
pausing one moment to watch the broad glare in the street, and hear
the sounds of the tinkling glasses within. But go on, Ishmael, said I
at last; don't you hear? get away from before the door; your patched
boots are stopping the way. So on I went. I now by instinct followed
the streets that took me waterward, for there, doubtless, were the
cheapest, if not the cheeriest inns. Such dreary streets! Blocks of
blackness, not houses, on either hand, and here and there a candle,
like a candle moving about in a tomb. At this hour of the night, of
the last day of the week, that quarter of the town proved all but
deserted. But presently I came to a smoky light proceeding from a
low, wide building, the door of which stood invitingly open. It had a
careless look, as if it were meant for the uses of the public; so,
entering, the first thing I did was to stumble over an ash-box in the
porch. Ha! thought I, ha, as the flying particles almost choked me,
are these ashes from that destroyed city, Gomorrah? But The Crossed
Harpoons, and The Sword-Fish? --this, then, must needs be the sign of
The Trap. However, I picked myself up and hearing a loud voice
within, pushed on and opened a second, interior door. It seemed the
great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred black faces
turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond, a black Angel of Doom
was beating a book in a pulpit. It was a negro church; and the
preacher's text was about the blackness of darkness, and the weeping
and wailing and teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I,
backing out, Wretched entertainment at the sign of The Trap! Moving
on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far from the docks, and
heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking up, saw a swinging
sign over the door with a white painting upon it, faintly representing
a tall straight jet of misty spray, and these words underneath -- The
Spouter-Inn: --Peter Coffin. Coffin? --Spouter? --Rather ominous in
that particular connexion, thought I. But it is a common name in
Nantucket, they say, and I suppose this Peter here is an emigrant from
there. As the light looked so dim, and the place, for the time,
looked quiet enough, and the dilapidated little wooden house itself
looked as if it might have been carted here from the ruins of some
burnt district, and as the swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort
of creak to it, I thought that here was the very spot for cheap
lodgings, and the best of pea coffee. It was a queer sort of place
--a gable-ended old house, one side palsied as it were, and leaning
over sadly. It stood on a sharp bleak corner, where that tempestuous
wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than ever it did about poor
Paul's tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant
zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly toasting
for bed. In judging of that tempestuous wind called Euroclydon, says
an old writer --of whose works I possess the only copy extant -- it
maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou lookest out at it from a
glass window where the frost is all on the outside, or whether thou
observest it from that sashless window, where the frost is on both
sides, and of which the wight Death is the only glazier. True enough,
thought I, as this passage occurred to my mind --old black-letter,
thou reasonest well. Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of
mine is the house. What a pity they didn't stop up the chinks and the
crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it's
too late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the
copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million years
ago. Poor Lazarus there, chattering his teeth against the curbstone
for his pillow, and shaking off his tatters with his shiverings, he
might plug up both ears with rags, and put a corn-cob into his mouth,
and yet that would not keep out the tempestuous Euroclydon.
Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his red silken wrapper --(he had a
redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What a fine frosty night; how
Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them talk of their oriental
summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege of
making my own summer with my own coals. But what thinks Lazarus? Can
he warm his blue hands by holding them up to the grand northern
lights? Would not Lazarus rather be in Sumatra than here? Would he
not far rather lay him down lengthwise along the line of the equator;
yea, ye gods! go down to the fiery pit itself, in order to keep out
this frost? Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the
curbstone before the door of Dives, this is more wonderful than that
an iceberg should be moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives
himself, he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace made of frozen
sighs, and being a president of a temperance society, he only drinks
the tepid tears of orphans. But no more of this blubbering now, we
are going a-whaling, and there is plenty of that yet to come. Let us
scrape the ice from our frosted feet, and see what sort of a place
this Spouter may be.

< Chapter III 14 THE SPOUTER-INN >

Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in a wide,
low, straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots, reminding one of
the bulwarks of some condemned old craft. On one side hung a very
large oil-painting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that
in the unequal cross-lights by which you viewed it, it was only by
diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful
inquiry of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an
understanding of its purpose. such unaccountable masses of shades and
shadows, that at first you almost thought some ambitious young artist,
in the time of the New England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos
bewitched. But by dint of much and earnest contemplation, and oft
repeated ponderings, and especially by throwing open the little window
towards the back of the entry, you at last come to the conclusion that
such an idea, however wild, might not be altogether unwarranted. But
what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous,
black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over
three blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A
boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man
distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained,
unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you
involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that
marvellous painting meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas,
deceptive idea would dart you through. --It's the Black Sea in a
midnight gale. --It's the unnatural combat of the four primal
elements. --It's a blasted heath. --It's a Hyperborean winter
scene. --It's the breaking-up of the ice-bound stream of Time. But at
last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in the
picture's midst. That once found out, and all the rest were
plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic
fish? even the great leviathan himself? In fact, the artist's design
seemed this: a final theory of my own, partly based upon the
aggregated opinions of many aged persons with whom I conversed upon
the subject. The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a great
hurricane; the half-foundered ship weltering there with its three
dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated whale, purposing to
spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling
himself upon the three mast-heads. The opposite wall of this entry
was hung all over with a heathenish array of monstrous clubs and
spears. Some were thickly set with glittering teeth resembling ivory
saws; others were tufted with knots of human hair; and one was
sickle-shaped, with a vast handle sweeping round like the segment made
in the new-mown grass by a long-armed mower. You shuddered as you
gazed, and wondered what monstrous cannibal and savage could ever have
gone a death-harvesting with such a hacking, horrifying implement.
Mixed with these were rusty old whaling lances and harpoons all broken
and deformed. Some were storied weapons. With this once long lance,
now wildly elbowed, fifty years ago did Nathan Swain kill fifteen
whales between a sunrise and a sunset. And that harpoon--so like a
corkscrew now--was flung in Javan seas, and run away with by a whale,
years afterward slain off the Cape of Blanco. The original iron
entered nigh the tail, and, like a restless needle sojourning in the
body of a man, travelled full forty feet, and at last was found
imbedded in the hump. Crossing this dusky entry, and on through yon
low-arched way --cut through what in old times must have been a great
central chimney with fire-places all round --you enter the public
room. A still duskier place is this, with such low ponderous beams
above, and such old wrinkled planks beneath, that you would almost
fancy you trod some old craft's cockpits, especially of such a howling
night, when this corner-anchored old ark rocked so furiously. On one
side stood a long, low, shelf-like table covered with cracked glass
cases, filled with dusty rarities gathered from this wide world's
remotest nooks. Projecting from the further angle of the room stands a
dark-looking den --the bar-- a rude attempt at a right whale's head.
Be that how it may, there stands the vast arched bone of the whale's
jaw, so wide, a coach might almost drive beneath it. within are
shabby shelves, ranged round with old decanters, bottles, flasks; and
in those jaws of swift destruction, like another cursed Jonah (by
which name indeed they called him), bustles a little withered old man,
who, for their money, dearly sells the sailors deliriums and death.
Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his poison. Though
true cylinders without --within, the villanous green goggling glasses
deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheating bottom. Parallel
meridians rudely pecked into the glass, surround these footpads'
goblets. Fill to this mark, and your charge is but a penny; to this a
penny more; and so on to the full glass --the Cape Horn measure, which
you may gulp down for a shilling. Upon entering the place I found a
number of young seamen gathered about a table, examining by a dim
light divers specimens of skrimshander. I sought the landlord, and
telling him I desired to be accommodated with a room, received for
answer that his house was full --not a bed unoccupied. But avast, he
added, tapping his forehead, you haint no objections to sharing a
harpooneer's blanket, have ye? I s'pose you are goin' a whalin', so
you'd better get used to that sort of thing. I told him that I never
liked to sleep two in a bed; that if I should ever do so, it would
depend upon who the harpooneer might be, and that if he (the landlord)
really had no other place for me, and the harpooneer was not decidedly
objectionable, why rather than wander further about a strange town on
so bitter a night, I would put up with the half of any decent man's
blanket. I thought so. All right; take a seat. Supper? --you want
supper? Supper 'll be ready directly. I sat down on an old wooden
settle, carved all over like a bench on the Battery. At one end a
ruminating tar was still further adorning it with his jack-knife,
stooping over and diligently working away at the space between his
legs. he was trying his hand at a ship under full sail, but he didn't
make much headway, I thought. At last some four or five of us were
summoned to our meal in an adjoining room. It was cold as Iceland
--no fire at all --the landlord said he couldn't afford it. Nothing
but two dismal tallow candles, each in a winding sheet. We were fain
to button up our monkey jackets, and hold to our lips cups of scalding
tea with our half frozen fingers. But the fare was of the most
substantial kind --not only meat and potatoes, but dumplings; good
heavens! dumplings for supper! One young fellow in a green box coat,
addressed himself to these dumplings in a most direful manner. My
boy, said the landlord, you'll have the nightmare to a dead sartainty.
Landlord, I whispered, that aint the harpooneer, is it? Oh, no, said
he, looking a sort of diabolically funny, the harpooneer is a dark
complexioned chap. He never eats dumplings, he don't--he eats nothing
but steaks, and likes 'em rare. The devil he does, says I. Where is
that harpooneer? Is he here? He'll be here afore long, was the
answer. I could not help it, but I began to feel suspicious of this
dark complexioned harpooneer. At any rate, I made up my mind that if
it so turned out that we should sleep together, he must undress and
get into bed before I did. Supper over, the company went back to the
bar-room, when, knowing not what else to do with myself, I resolved to
spend the rest of the evening as a looker on. Presently a rioting
noise was heard without. Starting up, the landlord cried, That's the
Grampus's crew. I seed her reported in the offing this morning; a
three years' voyage, and a full ship. Hurrah, boys; now we'll have the
latest news from the Feegees. A tramping of sea boots was heard in
the entry; the door was flung open, and in rolled a wild set of
mariners enough. Enveloped in their shaggy watch coats, and with
their heads muffled in woollen comforters, all bedarned and ragged,
and their beards stiff with icicles, they seemed an eruption of bears
from Labrador. They had just landed from their boat, and this was the
first house they entered. No wonder, then, that they made a straight
wake for the whale's mouth --the bar --when the wrinkled little old
Jonah, there officiating, soon poured them out brimmers all round.
One complained of a bad cold in his head, upon which Jonah mixed him a
pitch-like potion of gin and molasses, which he swore was a sovereign
cure for all colds and catarrhs whatsoever, never mind of how long
standing, or whether caught off the coast of Labrador, or on the
weather side of an ice-island. The liquor soon mounted into their
heads, as it generally does even with the arrantest topers newly
landed from sea, and they began capering about most obstreperously. I
observed, however, that one of them held somewhat aloof, and though he
seemed desirous not to spoil the hilarity of his shipmates by his own
sober face, yet upon the whole he refrained from making as much noise
as the rest. This man interested me at once; and since the sea-gods
had ordained that he should soon become my shipmate (though but a
sleeping-partner one, so far as this narrative is concerned), I will
here venture upon a little description of him. He stood full six feet
in height, with noble shoulders, and a chest like a coffer-dam. I
have seldom seen such brawn in a man. His face was deeply brown and
burnt, making his white teeth dazzling by the contrast; while in the
deep shadows of his eyes floated some reminiscences that did not seem
to give him much joy. His voice at once announced that he was a
Southerner, and from his fine stature, I thought he must be one of
those tall mountaineers from the Alleganian Ridge in Virginia. When
the revelry of his companions had mounted to its height, this man
slipped away unobserved, and I saw no more of him till he became my
comrade on the sea. In a few minutes, however, he was missed by his
shipmates, and being, it seems, for some reason a huge favorite with
them, they raised a cry of Bulkington! Bulkington! where's
Bulkington? and darted out of the house in pursuit of him. It was
now about nine o'clock, and the room seeming almost supernaturally
quiet after these orgies, I began to congratulate myself upon a little
plan that had occurred to me just previous to the entrance of the
seamen. No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would a
good deal rather not sleep with your own brother. I don't know how it
is, but people like to be private when they are sleeping. And when it
comes to sleeping with an unknown stranger, in a strange inn, in a
strange town, and that stranger a harpooneer, then your objections
indefinitely multiply. Nor was there any earthly reason why I as a
sailor should sleep two in a bed, more than anybody else; for sailors
no more sleep two in a bed at sea, than bachelor Kings do ashore. To
be sure they all sleep together in one apartment, but you have your
own hammock, and cover yourself with your own blanket, and sleep in
your own skin. The more I pondered over this harpooneer, the more I
abominated the thought of sleeping with him. It was fair to presume
that being a harpooneer, his linen or woollen, as the case might be,
would not be of the tidiest, certainly none of the finest. I began to
twitch all over. Besides, it was getting late, and my decent
harpooneer ought to be home and going bedwards. Suppose now, he
should tumble in upon me at midnight --how could I tell from what vile
hole he had been coming? Landlord! I've changed my mind about that
harpooneer. -- I shan't sleep with him. I'll try the bench here. just
as you please; i'm sorry i cant spare ye a tablecloth for a mattress,
and it's a plaguy rough board here --feeling of the knots and notches.
But wait a bit, Skrimshander; I've got a carpenter's plane there in
the bar --wait, I say, and I'll make ye snug enough. So saying he
procured the plane; and with his old silk handkerchief first dusting
the bench, vigorously set to planing away at my bed, the while
grinning like an ape. The shavings flew right and left; till at last
the plane-iron came bump against an indestructible knot. The landlord
was near spraining his wrist, and I told him for heaven's sake to quit
-- the bed was soft enough to suit me, and I did not know how all the
planing in the world could make eider down of a pine plank. So
gathering up the shavings with another grin, and throwing them into
the great stove in the middle of the room, he went about his business,
and left me in a brown study. I now took the measure of the bench,
and found that it was a foot too short; but that could be mended with
a chair. But it was a foot too narrow, and the other bench in the
room was about four inches higher than the planed one --so there was
no yoking them. I then placed the first bench lengthwise along the
only clear space against the wall, leaving a little interval between,
for my back to settle down in. But I soon found that there came such
a draught of cold air over me from under the sill of the window, that
this plan would never do at all, especially as another current from
the rickety door met the one from the window, and both together formed
a series of small whirlwinds in the immediate vicinity of the spot
where I had thought to spend the night. The devil fetch that
harpooneer, thought I, but stop, couldn't I steal a march on him
--bolt his door inside, and jump into his bed, not to be wakened by
the most violent knockings? it seemed no bad idea; but upon second
thoughts I dismissed it. For who could tell but what the next
morning, so soon as I popped out of the room, the harpooneer might be
standing in the entry, all ready to knock me down! Still, looking
around me again, and seeing no possible chance of spending a
sufferable night unless in some other person's bed, I began to think
that after all I might be cherishing unwarrantable prejudices against
this unknown harpooneer. Thinks I, I'll wait awhile; he must be
dropping in before long. I'll have a good look at him then, and
perhaps we may become jolly good bedfellows after all --there's no
telling. But though the other boarders kept coming in by ones, twos,
and threes, and going to bed, yet no sign of my harpooneer. Landlord!
said I, what sort of a chap is he --does he always keep such late
hours? It was now hard upon twelve o'clock. The landlord chuckled
again with his lean chuckle, and seemed to be mightily tickled at
something beyond my comprehension. No, he answered, generally he's an
early bird -- airley to bed and airley to rise --yes, he's the bird
what catches the worm. --But to-night he went out a peddling, you see,
and I don't see what on airth keeps him so late, unless, may be, he
can't sell his head. Can't sell his head? --What sort of a
bamboozingly story is this you are telling me? getting into a
towering rage.

Do you pretend to say, landlord, that this harpooneer is actually
engaged this blessed Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, in
peddling his head around this town? That's precisely it, said the
landlord, and I told him he couldn't sell it here, the market's
overstocked. With what? shouted I.

With heads to be sure; ain't there too many heads in the world? I tell
you what it is, landlord, said I, quite calmly, you'd better stop
spinning that yarn to me --I'm not green. May be not, taking out a
stick and whittling a toothpick, but I rayther guess you'll be done
brown if that ere harpooneer hears you a slanderin' his head. I'll
break it for him, said I, now flying into a passion again at this
unaccountable farrago of the landlord's. It's broke a'ready, said
he. Broke, said I -- broke, do you mean? Sartain, and that's the very
reason he can't sell it, I guess.

Landlord, said I, going up to him as cool as Mt. Hecla in a snow
storm, -- landlord, stop whittling. You and I must understand one
another, and that too without delay. I come to your house and want a
bed; you tell me you can only give me half a one; that the other half
belongs to a certain harpooneer. And about this harpooneer, whom I
have not yet seen, you persist in telling me the most mystifying and
exasperating stories, tending to beget in me an uncomfortable feeling
towards the man whom you design for my bedfellow --a sort of
connexion, landlord, which is an intimate and confidential one in the
highest degree. I now demand of you to speak out and tell me who and
what this harpooneer is, and whether I shall be in all respects safe
to spend the night with him. And in the first place, you will be so
good as to unsay that story about selling his head, which if true I
take to be good evidence that this harpooneer is stark mad, and I've
no idea of sleeping with a madman; and you, sir, you I mean, landlord,
you, sir, by trying to induce me to do so knowingly, would thereby
render yourself liable to a criminal prosecution. Wall, said the
landlord, fetching a long breath, that's a purty long sarmon for a
chap that rips a little now and then. But be easy, be easy, this here
harpooneer I have been tellin' you of has just arrived from the south
seas, where he bought up a lot of 'balmed New Zealand heads (great
curios, you know), and he's sold all on 'em but one, and that one he's
trying to sell to-night, cause to-morrow's Sunday, and it would not do
to be sellin' human heads about the streets when folks is goin' to
churches. He wanted to, last Sunday, but I stopped him just as he was
goin' out of the door with four heads strung on a string, for all the
airth like a string of inions. This account cleared up the otherwise
unaccountable mystery, and showed that the landlord, after all, had
had no idea of fooling me --but at the same time what could I think of
a harpooneer who stayed out a Saturday night clean into the holy
Sabbath, engaged in such a cannibal business as selling the heads of
dead idolators? Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a
dangerous man. He pays reg'lar, was the rejoinder.

But come, it's getting dreadful late, you had better be turning flukes
--it's a nice bed: Sal and me slept in that ere bed the night we were
spliced. There's plenty room for two to kick about in that bed; it's
an almighty big bed that. Why, afore we give it up, Sal used to put
our Sam and little Johnny in the foot of it. But I got a dreaming and
sprawling about one night, and somehow, Sam got pitched on the floor,
and came near breaking his arm. After that, Sal said it wouldn't do.
Come along here, I'll give ye a glim in a jiffy; and so saying he
lighted a candle and held it towards me, offering to lead the way.
But I stood irresolute; when looking at a clock in the corner, he
exclaimed I vum it's Sunday --you won't see that harpooneer to-night;
he's come to anchor somewhere --come along then; do come; won't ye
come? I considered the matter a moment, and then up stairs we went,
and I was ushered into a small room, cold as a clam, and furnished,
sure enough, with a prodigious bed, almost big enough indeed for any
four harpooneers to sleep abreast. There, said the landlord, placing
the candle on a crazy old sea chest that did double duty as a
wash-stand and centre table; there, make yourself comfortable now, and
good night to ye. I turned round from eyeing the bed, but he had
disappeared. Folding back the counterpane, I stooped over the bed.
Though none of the most elegant, it yet stood the scrutiny tolerably
well. I then glanced round the room; and besides the bedstead and
centre table, could see no other furniture belonging to the place, but
a rude shelf, the four walls, and a papered fireboard representing a
man striking a whale. Of things not properly belonging to the room,
there was a hammock lashed up, and thrown upon the floor in one
corner; also a large seaman's bag, containing the harpooneer's
wardrobe, no doubt in lieu of a land trunk. Likewise, there was a
parcel of outlandish bone fish hooks on the shelf over the fire-place,
and a tall harpoon standing at the head of the bed. But what is this
on the chest? I took it up, and held it close to the light, and felt
it, and smelt it, and tried every way possible to arrive at some
satisfactory conclusion concerning it. I can compare it to nothing
but a large door mat, ornamented at the edges with little tinkling
tags something like the stained porcupine quills round an Indian
moccasin. There was a hole or slit in the middle of this mat, as you
see the same in South American ponchos. But could it be possible that
any sober harpooneer would get into a door mat, and parade the streets
of any Christian town in that sort of guise? I put it on, to try it,
and it weighed me down like a hamper, being uncommonly shaggy and
thick, and I thought a little damp, as though this mysterious
harpooneer had been wearing it of a rainy day. I went up in it to a
bit of glass stuck against the wall, and I never saw such a sight in
my life. I tore myself out of it in such a hurry that I gave myself a
kink in the neck. I sat down on the side of the bed, and commenced
thinking about this head-peddling harpooneer, and his door mat. After
thinking some time on the bed-side, I got up and took off my monkey
jacket, and then stood in the middle of the room thinking. I then
took off my coat, and thought a little more in my shirt sleeves. But
beginning to feel very cold now, half undressed as I was, and
remembering what the landlord said about the harpooneer's not coming
home at all that night, it being so very late, I made no more ado, but
jumped out of my pantaloons and boots, and then blowing out the light
tumbled into bed, and commended myself to the care of heaven. Whether
that mattress was stuffed with corn-cobs or broken crockery, there is
no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, and could not sleep for a
long time. At last I slid off into a light doze, and had pretty
nearly made a good offing towards the land of Nod, when I heard a
heavy footfall in the passage, and saw a glimmer of light come into
the room from under the door. Lord save me, thinks I, that must be
the harpooneer, the infernal head-peddler. But I lay perfectly still,
and resolved not to say a word till spoken to. Holding a light in one
hand, and that identical New Zealand head in the other, the stranger
entered the room, and without looking towards the bed, placed his
candle a good way off from me on the floor in one corner, and then
began working away at the knotted cords of the large bag I before
spoke of as being in the room. I was all eagerness to see his face,
but he kept it averted for some time while employed in unlacing the
bag's mouth. This accomplished, however, he turned round --when, good
heavens! what a sight! Such a face! It was of a dark purplish,
yellow color, here and there stuck over with large, blackish looking
squares. Yes, it's just as I thought, he's a terrible bedfellow; he's
been in a fight, got dreadfully cut, and here he is, just from the
surgeon. But at that moment he chanced to turn his face so towards
the light, that I plainly saw they could not be sticking-plasters at
all, those black squares on his cheeks. they were stains of some sort
or other. At first I knew not what to make of this; but soon an
inkling of the truth occurred to me. I remembered a story of a white
man --a whaleman too--who, falling among the cannibals, had been
tattooed by them. I concluded that this harpooneer, in the course of
his distant voyages, must have met with a similar adventure. And what
is it, thought I, after all! It's only his outside; a man can be
honest in any sort of skin. But then, what to make of his unearthly
complexion, that part of it, I mean, lying round about, and completely
independent of the squares of tattooing. To be sure, it might be
nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning; but I never heard of a
hot sun's tanning a white man into a purplish yellow one. However, I
had never been in the South Seas; and perhaps the sun there produced
these extraordinary effects upon the skin. Now, while all these ideas
were passing through me like lightning, this harpooneer never noticed
me at all. But, after some difficulty having opened his bag, he
commenced fumbling in it, and presently pulled out a sort of tomahawk,
and a seal-skin wallet with the hair on. Placing these on the old
chest in the middle of the room, he then took the New Zealand head --a
ghastly thing enough --and crammed it down into the bag. He now took
off his hat --a new beaver hat --when I came nigh singing out with
fresh surprise. There was no hair on his head --none to speak of at
least -- nothing but a small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead.
His bald purplish head now looked for all the world like a mildewed
skull. Had not the stranger stood between me and the door, I would
have bolted out of it quicker than ever I bolted a dinner. Even as it
was, I thought something of slipping out of the window, but it was the
second floor back. I am no coward, but what to make of this
head-peddling purple rascal altogether passed my comprehension.
Ignorance is the parent of fear, and being completely nonplussed and
confounded about the stranger, i confess i was now as much afraid of
him as if it was the devil himself who had thus broken into my room at
the dead of night. In fact, I was so afraid of him that I was not
game enough just then to address him, and demand a satisfactory answer
concerning what seemed inexplicable in him. Meanwhile, he continued
the business of undressing, and at last showed his chest and arms. As
I live, these covered parts of him were checkered with the same
squares as his face; his back, too, was all over the same dark
squares; he seemed to have been in a Thirty Years' War, and just
escaped from it with a sticking-plaster shirt. Still more, his very
legs were marked, as if a parcel of dark green frogs were running up
the trunks of young palms. It was now quite plain that he must be
some abominable savage or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the
South Seas, and so landed in this Christian country. I quaked to think
of it. A peddler of heads too --perhaps the heads of his own
brothers. He might take a fancy to mine --heavens! look at that
tomahawk! But there was no time for shuddering, for now the savage
went about something that completely fascinated my attention, and
convinced me that he must indeed be a heathen. Going to his heavy
grego, or wrapall, or dreadnaught, which he had previously hung on a
chair, he fumbled in the pockets, and produced at length a curious
little deformed image with a hunch on its back, and exactly the color
of a three days' old Congo baby. Remembering the embalmed head, at
first I almost thought that this black manikin was a real baby
preserved in some similar manner. But seeing that it was not at all
limber, and that it glistened a good deal like polished ebony, I
concluded that it must be nothing but a wooden idol, which indeed it
proved to be. For now the savage goes up to the empty fireplace, and
removing the papered fire-board, sets up this little hunchbacked
image, like a tenpin, between the andirons. the chimney jambs and all
the bricks inside were very sooty, so that I thought this fire-place
made a very appropriate little shrine or chapel for his Congo idol. I
now screwed my eyes hard towards the half hidden image, feeling but
ill at ease meantime --to see what was next to follow. First he takes
about a double handful of shavings out of his grego pocket, and places
them carefully before the idol; then laying a bit of ship biscuit on
top and applying the flame from the lamp, he kindled the shavings into
a sacrificial blaze. Presently, after many hasty snatches into the
fire, and still hastier withdrawals of his fingers (whereby he seemed
to be scorching them badly), he at last succeeded in drawing out the
biscuit; then blowing off the heat and ashes a little, he made a
polite offer of it to the little negro. But the little devil did not
seem to fancy such dry sort of fare at all; he never moved his
lips. All these strange antics were accompanied by still stranger
guttural noises from the devotee, who seemed to be praying in a
sing-song or else singing some pagan psalmody or other, during which
his face twitched about in the most unnatural manner. At last
extinguishing the fire, he took the idol up very unceremoniously, and
bagged it again in his grego pocket as carelessly as if he were a
sportsman bagging a dead woodcock. All these queer proceedings
increased my uncomfortableness, and seeing him now exhibiting strong
symptoms of concluding his business operations, and jumping into bed
with me, I thought it was high time, now or never, before the light
was put out, to break the spell into which I had so long been bound.
But the interval I spent in deliberating what to say, was a fatal one.
Taking up his tomahawk from the table, he examined the head of it for
an instant, and then holding it to the light, with his mouth at the
handle, he puffed out great clouds of tobacco smoke. The next moment
the light was extinguished, and this wild cannibal, tomahawk between
his teeth, sprang into bed with me. I sang out, I could not help it
now; and giving a sudden grunt of astonishment he began feeling
me. Stammering out something, I knew not what, I rolled away from him
against the wall, and then conjured him, whoever or whatever he might
be, to keep quiet, and let me get up and light the lamp again. But
his guttural responses satisfied me at once that he but ill
comprehended my meaning. Who-e debel you? --he at last said -- you no
speak-e, dam-me, I kill-e. And so saying the lighted tomahawk began
flourishing about me in the dark. Landlord, for God's sake, Peter
Coffin! shouted I. Landlord! Watch! Coffin! Angels! save me!
Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me, I kill-e! again growled
the cannibal, while his horrid flourishings of the tomahawk scattered
the hot tobacco ashes about me till I thought my linen would get on
fire. But thank heaven, at that moment the landlord came into the
room light in hand, and leaping from the bed I ran up to him.

Don't be afraid now, said he, grinning again. Queequeg here wouldn't
harm a hair of your head. Stop your grinning, shouted I, and why
didn't you tell me that that infernal harpooneer was a cannibal? I
thought ye know'd it; --didn't I tell ye, he was peddlin' heads around
town? --but turn flukes again and go to sleep. Queequeg, look here
--you sabbee me, I sabbee you --this man sleepe you --you sabbee? Me
sabbee plenty --grunted Queequeg, puffing away at his pipe and sitting
up in bed. You gettee in, he added, motioning to me with his
tomahawk, and throwing the clothes to one side. He really did this in
not only a civil but a really kind and charitable way. I stood
looking at him a moment. For all his tattooings he was on the whole a
clean, comely looking cannibal. What's all this fuss I have been
making about, thought i to myself --the man's a human being just as I
am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of
him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken
Christian. Landlord, said I, tell him to stash his tomahawk there, or
pipe, or whatever you call it; tell him to stop smoking, in short, and
I will turn in with him. But I don't fancy having a man smoking in
bed with me. It's dangerous. Besides, I aint insured. This being
told to Queequeg, he at once complied, and again politely motioned me
to get into bed --rolling over to one side as much as to say --I wont
touch a leg of ye. Good night, landlord, said I, you may go. I
turned in, and never slept better in my life.


Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg's arm thrown
over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost
thought I had been his wife. The counterpane was of patchwork, full
of odd little parti-colored squares and triangles; and this arm of his
tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure,
no two parts of which were of one precise shade --owing I suppose to
his keeping his arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt
sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times --this same arm of his,
I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork
quilt. Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke,
I could hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues
together; and it was only by the sense of weight and pressure that I
could tell that Queequeg was hugging me. My sensations were strange.
Let me try to explain them. When I was a child, I well remember a
somewhat similar circumstance that befell me; whether it was a reality
or a dream, I never could entirely settle. The circumstance was this.
I had been cutting up some caper or other --I think it was trying to
crawl up the chimney, as i had seen a little sweep do a few days
previous; and my stepmother who, somehow or other, was all the time
whipping me, or sending me to bed supperless, --my mother dragged me
by the legs out of the chimney and packed me off to bed, though it was
only two o'clock in the afternoon of the 21st June, the longest day in
the year in our hemisphere. I felt dreadfully. But there was no help
for it, so up stairs I went to my little room in the third floor,
undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to kill time, and with a
bitter sigh got between the sheets. I lay there dismally calculating
that sixteen entire hours must elapse before I could hope for a
resurrection. Sixteen hours in bed! the small of my back ached to
think of it. And it was so light too; the sun shining in at the
window, and a great rattling of coaches in the streets, and the sound
of gay voices all over the house. I felt worse and worse --at last I
got up, dressed, and softly going down in my stockinged feet, sought
out my stepmother, and suddenly threw myself at her feet, beseeching
her as a particular favor to give me a good slippering for my
misbehavior; anything indeed but condemning me to lie abed such an
unendurable length of time. But she was the best and most
conscientious of stepmothers, and back I had to go to my room. For
several hours I lay there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than
I have ever done since, even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes.
At last I must have fallen into a troubled nightmare of a doze; and
slowly waking from it --half steeped in dreams --I opened my eyes, and
the before sun-lit room was now wrapped in outer darkness. Instantly
I felt a shock running through all my frame; nothing was to be seen,
and nothing was to be heard; but a supernatural hand seemed placed in
mine. My arm hung over the counterpane, and the nameless,
unimaginable, silent form or phantom, to which the hand belonged,
seemed closely seated by my bedside. For what seemed ages piled on
ages, I lay there, frozen with the most awful fears, not daring to
drag away my hand; yet ever thinking that if I could but stir it one
single inch, the horrid spell would be broken. I knew not how this
consciousness at last glided away from me; but waking in the morning,
I shudderingly remembered it all, and for days and weeks and months
afterwards I lost myself in confounding attempts to explain the
mystery. Nay, to this very hour, I often puzzle myself with it. Now,
take away the awful fear, and my sensations at feeling the
supernatural hand in mine were very similar, in their strangeness, to
those which I experienced on waking up and seeing Queequeg's pagan arm
thrown round me. But at length all the past night's events soberly
recurred, one by one, in fixed reality, and then I lay only alive to
the comical predicament. For though I tried to move his arm --unlock
his bridegroom clasp --yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me
tightly, as though naught but death should part us twain. I now
strove to rouse him -- Queequeg! --but his only answer was a snore. I
then rolled over, my neck feeling as if it were in a horse-collar; and
suddenly felt a slight scratch. Throwing aside the counterpane, there
lay the tomahawk sleeping by the savage's side, as if it were a
hatchet-faced baby. A pretty pickle, truly, thought I; abed here in a
strange house in the broad day, with a cannibal and a tomahawk!
Queequeg! --in the name of goodness, Queequeg, wake! At length, by
dint of much wriggling, and loud and incessant expostulations upon the
unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort
of style, I succeeded in extracting a grunt; and presently, he drew
back his arm, shook himself all over like a Newfoundland dog just from
the water, and sat up in bed, stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me,
and rubbing his eyes as if he did not altogether remember how I came
to be there, though a dim consciousness of knowing something about me
seemed slowly dawning over him. Meanwhile, I lay quietly eyeing him,
having no serious misgivings now, and bent upon narrowly observing so
curious a creature. When, at last, his mind seemed made up touching
the character of his bedfellow, and he became, as it were, reconciled
to the fact; he jumped out upon the floor, and by certain signs and
sounds gave me to understand that, if it pleased me, he would dress
first and then leave me to dress afterwards, leaving the whole
apartment to myself. Thinks I, Queequeg, under the circumstances,
this is a very civilized overture; but, the truth is, these savages
have an innate sense of delicacy, say what you will; it is marvellous
how essentially polite they are. I pay this particular compliment to
Queequeg, because he treated me with so much civility and
consideration, while I was guilty of great rudeness; staring at him
from the bed, and watching all his toilette motions; for the time my
curiosity getting the better of my breeding. Nevertheless, a man like
Queequeg you don't see every day, he and his ways were well worth
unusual regarding. He commenced dressing at top by donning his beaver
hat, a very tall one, by the by, and then --still minus his trowsers
-- he hunted up his boots. What under the heavens he did it for, I
cannot tell, but his next movement was to crush himself --boots in
hand, and hat on --under the bed; when, from sundry violent gaspings
and strainings, I inferred he was hard at work booting himself; though
by no law of propriety that I ever heard of, is any man required to be
private when putting on his boots. But Queequeg, do you see, was a
creature in the transition state -- neither caterpillar nor
butterfly. He was just enough civilized to show off his outlandishness
in the strangest possible manner. his education was not yet
completed. He was an undergraduate. If he had not been a small
degree civilized, he very probably would not have troubled himself
with boots at all; but then, if he had not been still a savage, he
never would have dreamt of getting under the bed to put them on. At
last, he emerged with his hat very much dented and crushed down over
his eyes, and began creaking and limping about the room, as if, not
being much accustomed to boots, his pair of damp, wrinkled cowhide
ones -- probably not made to order either --rather pinched and
tormented him at the first go off of a bitter cold morning. Seeing,
now, that there were no curtains to the window, and that the street
being very narrow, the house opposite commanded a plain view into the
room, and observing more and more the indecorous figure that Queequeg
made, staving about with little else but his hat and boots on; I
begged him as well as I could, to accelerate his toilet somewhat, and
particularly to get into his pantaloons as soon as possible. He
complied, and then proceeded to wash himself. At that time in the
morning any Christian would have washed his face; but Queequeg, to my
amazement, contented himself with restricting his ablutions to his
chest, arms, and hands. He then donned his waistcoat, and taking up a
piece of hard soap on the wash-stand centre-table, dipped it into
water and commenced lathering his face. I was watching to see where
he kept his razor, when lo and behold, he takes the harpoon from the
bed corner, slips out the long wooden stock, unsheathes the head,
whets it a little on his boot, and striding up to the bit of mirror
against the wall, begins a vigorous scraping, or rather harpooning of
his cheeks. Thinks I, Queequeg, this is using Rogers's best cutlery
with a vengeance. Afterwards I wondered the less at this operation
when I came to know of what fine steel the head of a harpoon is made,
and how exceedingly sharp the long straight edges are always kept.
the rest of his toilet was soon achieved, and he proudly marched out
of the room, wrapped up in his great pilot monkey jacket, and sporting
his harpoon like a marshal's baton.

< Chapter V 5 BREAKFAST >

I quickly followed suit, and descending into the bar-room accosted the
grinning landlord very pleasantly. I cherished no malice towards him,
though he had been skylarking with me not a little in the matter of my
bedfellow. However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather
too scarce a good thing; the more's the pity. So, if any one man, in
his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let
him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and
be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully
laughable about him, be sure there is more in that man than you
perhaps think for. The bar-room was now full of the boarders who had
been dropping in the night previous, and whom I had not as yet had a
good look at. They were nearly all whalemen; chief mates, and second
mates, and third mates, and sea carpenters, and sea coopers, and sea
blacksmiths, and harpooneers, and ship keepers; a brown and brawny
company, with bosky beards; an unshorn, shaggy set, all wearing monkey
jackets for morning gowns. You could pretty plainly tell how long
each one had been ashore. This young fellow's healthy cheek is like a
sun-toasted pear in hue, and would seem to smell almost as musky; he
cannot have been three days landed from his Indian voyage. That man
next him looks a few shades lighter; you might say a touch of satin
wood is in him. In the complexion of a third still lingers a tropic
tawn, but slightly bleached withal; he doubtless has tarried whole
weeks ashore. But who could show a cheek like Queequeg? which,
barred with various tints, seemed like the Andes' western slope, to
show forth in one array, contrasting climates, zone by zone.

Grub, ho! now cried the landlord, flinging open a door, and in we
went to breakfast. They say that men who have seen the world, thereby
become quite at ease in manner, quite self-possessed in company. Not
always, though: Ledyard, the great New England traveller, and Mungo
Park, the Scotch one; of all men, they possessed the least assurance
in the parlor. But perhaps the mere crossing of Siberia in a sledge
drawn by dogs as Ledyard did, or the taking a long solitary walk on an
empty stomach, in the negro heart of Africa, which was the sum of poor
Mungo's performances -- this kind of travel, I say, may not be the
very best mode of attaining a high social polish. Still, for the most
part, that sort of thing is to be had anywhere. These reflections just
here are occasioned by the circumstance that after we were all seated
at the table, and I was preparing to hear some good stories about
whaling; to my no small surprise, nearly every man maintained a
profound silence. And not only that, but they looked embarrassed.
Yes, here were a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the slightest
bashfulness had boarded great whales on the high seas --entire
strangers to them --and duelled them dead without winking; and yet,
here they sat at a social breakfast table --all of the same calling,
all of kindred tastes --looking round as sheepishly at each other as
though they had never been out of sight of some sheepfold among the
Green Mountains. A curious sight; these bashful bears, these timid
warrior whalemen! But as for Queequeg --why, Queequeg sat there among
them --at the head of the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an
icicle. To be sure I cannot say much for his breeding. His greatest
admirer could not have cordially justified his bringing his harpoon
into breakfast with him, and using it there without ceremony; reaching
over the table with it, to the imminent jeopardy of many heads, and
grappling the beefsteaks towards him. But that was certainly very
coolly done by him, and every one knows that in most people's
estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly. We will not
speak of all Queequeg's peculiarities here; how he eschewed coffee and
hot rolls, and applied his undivided attention to beefsteaks, done
rare. Enough, that when breakfast was over he withdrew like the rest
into the public room, lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was sitting there
quietly digesting and smoking with his inseparable hat on, when I
sallied out for a stroll.

< Chapter VI 11 THE STREET >

If I had been astonished at first catching a glimpse of so outlandish
an individual as Queequeg circulating among the polite society of a
civilized town, that astonishment soon departed upon taking my first
daylight stroll through the streets of New Bedford. In thoroughfares
nigh the docks, any considerable seaport will frequently offer to view
the queerest looking nondescripts from foreign parts. Even in
Broadway and Chestnut streets, Mediterranean mariners will sometimes
jostle the affrighted ladies. Regent street is not unknown to Lascars
and Malays; and at Bombay, in the Apollo Green, live Yankees have
often scared the natives. But New Bedford beats all Water street and
Wapping. In these last-mentioned haunts you see only sailors; but in
New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street corners;
savages outright; many of whom yet carry on their bones unholy flesh.
It makes a stranger stare. But, besides the Feegeeans,
Tongatabooarrs, Erromanggoans, Pannangians, and Brighggians, and,
besides the wild specimens of the whaling-craft which unheeded reel
about the streets, you will see other sights still more curious,
certainly more comical. There weekly arrive in this town scores of
green Vermonters and New Hampshire men, all athirst for gain and glory
in the fishery. They are mostly young, of stalwart frames; fellows
who have felled forests, and now seek to drop the axe and snatch the
whale-lance. Many are as green as the Green Mountains whence they
came. In some things you would think them but a few hours old. Look
there! that chap strutting round the corner. He wears a beaver hat
and swallow-tailed coat, girdled with a sailor-belt and sheath-knife.
Here comes another with a sou'-wester and a bombazine cloak. No
town-bred dandy will compare with a country-bred one -- I mean a
downright bumpkin dandy --a fellow that, in the dog-days, will mow his
two acres in buckskin gloves for fear of tanning his hands. Now when a
country dandy like this takes it into his head to make a distinguished
reputation, and joins the great whale-fishery, you should see the
comical things he does upon reaching the seaport. In bespeaking his
sea-outfit, he orders bell-buttons to his waistcoats; straps to his
canvas trowsers. Ah, poor Hay-Seed! how bitterly will burst those
straps in the first howling gale, when thou art driven, straps,
buttons, and all, down the throat of the tempest. But think not that
this famous town has only harpooneers, cannibals, and bumpkins to show
her visitors. Not at all. Still New Bedford is a queer place. Had
it not been for us whalemen, that tract of land would this day perhaps
have been in as howling condition as the coast of Labrador. As it is,
parts of her back country are enough to frighten one, they look so
bony. The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to live in, in all
New England. It is a land of oil, true enough; but not like Canaan; a
land, also, of corn and wine. The streets do not run with milk; nor
in the spring-time do they pave them with fresh eggs. Yet, in spite
of this, nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like
houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford. Whence
came they? how planted upon this once scraggy scoria of a country?
Go and gaze upon the iron emblematical harpoons round yonder lofty
mansion, and your question will be answered. Yes; all these brave
houses and flowery gardens came from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian
oceans. One and all, they were harpooned and dragged up hither from
the bottom of the sea. Can Herr Alexander perform a feat like that?
In New Bedford, fathers, they say, give whales for dowers to their
daughters, and portion off their nieces with a few porpoises a-piece.
You must go to New Bedford to see a brilliant wedding; for, they say,
they have reservoirs of oil in every house, and every night recklessly
burn their lengths in spermaceti candles. In summer time, the town is
sweet to see; full of fine maples --long avenues of green and gold.
And in August, high in air, the beautiful and bountiful
horse-chestnuts, candelabra-wise, proffer the passer-by their tapering
upright cones of congregated blossoms. So omnipotent is art; which in
many a district of New Bedford has superinduced bright terraces of
flowers upon the barren refuse rocks thrown aside at creation's final
day. And the women of New Bedford, they bloom like their own red
roses. But roses only bloom in summer; whereas the fine carnation of
their cheeks is perennial as sunlight in the seventh heavens.
Elsewhere match that bloom of theirs, ye cannot, save in Salem, where
they tell me the young girls breathe such musk, their sailor
sweethearts smell them miles off shore, as though they were drawing
nigh the odorous Moluccas instead of the Puritanic sands.

< Chapter VII 26 THE CHAPEL >

In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman's Chapel, and few are
the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific,
who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot. I am sure that I did
not. Returning from my first morning stroll, I again sallied out upon
this special errand. The sky had changed from clear, sunny cold, to
driving sleet and mist. Wrapping myself in my shaggy jacket of the
cloth called bearskin, I fought my way against the stubborn storm.
Entering, I found a small scattered congregation of sailors, and
sailors' wives and widows. A muffled silence reigned, only broken at
times by the shrieks of the storm. Each silent worshipper seemed
purposely sitting apart from the other, as if each silent grief were
insular and incommunicable. The chaplain had not yet arrived; and
there these silent islands of men and women sat steadfastly eyeing
several marble tablets, with black borders, masoned into the wall on
either side the pulpit. Three of them ran something like the
following, but I do not pretend to quote: -- Sacred To the Memory of
John Talbot, Who, at the age of eighteen, was lost overboard, Near the
Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia, November 1st, . This Tablet Is
erected to his Memory By his Sister. Sacred To the Memory of Robert
Long, Willis Ellery, Nathan Coleman, Walter Canny, Seth Macy, and
Samuel Gleig, Forming one of the boats' crews of the Ship Eliza, Who
were towed out of sight by a Whale, On the Off-shore Ground in the
Pacific, December 31st, . This Marble Is here placed by their
surviving Shipmates. Sacred To the Memory of The late Captain Ezekiel
Hardy, Who in the bows of his boat was killed by a Sperm Whale on the
coast of Japan, August 3d, This Tablet Is erected to his Memory by His
Widow. Shaking off the sleet from my ice-glazed hat and jacket, I
seated myself near the door, and turning sideways was surprised to see
Queequeg near me. Affected by the solemnity of the scene, there was a
wondering gaze of incredulous curiosity in his countenance. This
savage was the only person present who seemed to notice my entrance;
because he was the only one who could not read, and, therefore, was
not reading those frigid inscriptions on the wall. Whether any of the
relatives of the seamen whose names appeared there were now among the
congregation, I knew not; but so many are the unrecorded accidents in
the fishery, and so plainly did several women present wear the
countenance if not the trappings of some unceasing grief, that I feel
sure that here before me were assembled those, in whose unhealing
hearts the sight of those bleak tablets sympathetically caused the old
wounds to bleed afresh. Oh! ye whose dead lie buried beneath the
green grass; who standing among flowers can say --here, here lies my
beloved; ye know not the desolation that broods in bosoms like
these. What bitter blanks in those black-bordered marbles which cover
no ashes! What despair in those immovable inscriptions! What deadly
voids and unbidden infidelities in the lines that seem to gnaw upon
all Faith, and refuse resurrections to the beings who have placelessly
perished without a grave. As well might those tablets stand in the
cave of Elephanta as here. In what census of living creatures, the
dead of mankind are included; why it is that a universal proverb says
of them, that they tell no tales, though containing more secrets than
the Goodwin Sands; how it is that to his name who yesterday departed
for the other world, we prefix so significant and infidel a word, and
yet do not thus entitle him, if he but embarks for the remotest Indies
of this living earth; why the Life Insurance Companies pay
death-forfeitures upon immortals; in what eternal, unstirring
paralysis, and deadly, hopeless trance, yet lies antique Adam who died
sixty round centuries ago; how it is that we still refuse to be
comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in
unspeakable bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all the dead;
wherefore but the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole
city. All these things are not without their meanings. But Faith,
like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts
she gathers her most vital hope. It needs scarcely to be told, with
what feelings, on the eve of a Nantucket voyage, I regarded those
marble tablets, and by the murky light of that darkened, doleful day
read the fate of the whalemen who had gone before me, Yes, Ishmael,
the same fate may be thine. But somehow I grew merry
again. Delightful inducements to embark, fine chance for promotion, it
seems -- aye, a stove boat will make me an immortal by brevet. Yes,
there is death in this business of whaling --a speechlessly quick
chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity. But what then? Methinks we
have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that
what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks
that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters
observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the
thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being.
In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me. And
therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove boat and stove
body when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot.

< Chapter VIII 2 THE PULPIT >

I had not been seated very long ere a man of a certain venerable
robustness entered; immediately as the storm-pelted door flew back
upon admitting him, a quick regardful eyeing of him by all the
congregation, sufficiently attested that this fine old man was the
chaplain. Yes, it was the famous Father Mapple, so called by the
whalemen, among whom he was a very great favorite. He had been a
sailor and a harpooneer in his youth, but for many years past had
dedicated his life to the ministry. At the time I now write of,
Father Mapple was in the hardy winter of a healthy old age; that sort
of old age which seems merging into a second flowering youth, for
among all the fissures of his wrinkles, there shone certain mild
gleams of a newly developing bloom --the spring verdure peeping forth
even beneath February's snow. No one having previously heard his
history, could for the first time behold Father Mapple without the
utmost interest, because there were certain engrafted clerical
peculiarities about him, imputable to that adventurous maritime life
he had led. When he entered I observed that he carried no umbrella,
and certainly had not come in his carriage, for his tarpaulin hat ran
down with melting sleet, and his great pilot cloth jacket seemed
almost to drag him to the floor with the weight of the water it had
absorbed. However, hat and coat and overshoes were one by one
removed, and hung up in a little space in an adjacent corner; when,
arrayed in a decent suit, he quietly approached the pulpit. Like most
old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a regular
stairs to such a height would, by its long angle with the floor,
seriously contract the already small area of the chapel, the
architect, it seemed, had acted upon the hint of Father Mapple, and
finished the pulpit without a stairs, substituting a perpendicular
side ladder, like those used in mounting a ship from a boat at
sea. The wife of a whaling captain had provided the chapel with a
handsome pair of red worsted man-ropes for this ladder, which, being
itself nicely headed, and stained with a mahogany color, the whole
contrivance, considering what manner of chapel it was, seemed by no
means in bad taste. Halting for an instant at the foot of the ladder,
and with both hands grasping the ornamental knobs of the man-ropes,
Father Mapple cast a look upwards, and then with a truly sailorlike
but still reverential dexterity, hand over hand, mounted the steps as
if ascending the main-top of his vessel. the perpendicular parts of
this side ladder, as is usually the case with swinging ones, were of
cloth-covered rope, only the rounds were of wood, so that at every
step there was a joint. At my first glimpse of the pulpit, it had not
escaped me that however convenient for a ship, these joints in the
present instance seemed unnecessary. For I was not prepared to see
Father Mapple after gaining the height, slowly turn round, and
stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder step by
step, till the whole was deposited within, leaving him impregnable in
his little Quebec. I pondered some time without fully comprehending
the reason for this. Father Mapple enjoyed such a wide reputation for
sincerity and sanctity, that I could not suspect him of courting
notoriety by any mere tricks of the stage. No, thought I, there must
be some sober reason for this thing; furthermore, it must symbolize
something unseen. Can it be, then, that by that act of physical
isolation, he signifies his spiritual withdrawal for the time, from
all outward worldly ties and connexions? Yes, for replenished with
the meat and wine of the word, to the faithful man of God, this
pulpit, I see, is a self-containing stronghold --a lofty
Ehrenbreitstein, with a perennial well of water within the walls. But
the side ladder was not the only strange feature of the place,
borrowed from the chaplain's former sea-farings. Between the marble
cenotaphs on either hand of the pulpit, the wall which formed its back
was adorned with a large painting representing a gallant ship beating
against a terrible storm off a lee coast of black rocks and snowy
breakers. But high above the flying scud and dark-rolling clouds,
there floated a little isle of sunlight, from which beamed forth an
angel's face; and this bright face shed a distinct spot of radiance
upon the ship's tossed deck, something like that silver plate now
inserted into the Victory's plank where Nelson fell. Ah, noble ship,
the angel seemed to say, beat on, beat on, thou noble ship, and bear a
hardy helm; for lo! the sun is breaking through; the clouds are
rolling off --serenest azure is at hand. Nor was the pulpit itself
without a trace of the same sea-taste that had achieved the ladder and
the picture. Its panelled front was in the likeness of a ship's bluff
bows, and the Holy Bible rested on the projecting piece of scroll
work, fashioned after a ship's fiddle-headed beak. What could be more
full of meaning? --for the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part;
all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From
thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is first descried, and the
bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of
breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the
world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the
pulpit is its prow.

< Chapter IX 23 THE SERMON >

Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority
ordered the scattered people to condense. Starboard gangway, there!
side away to larboard--larboard gangway to starboard! Midships!
midships! There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the
benches, and a still slighter shuffling of women's shoes, and all was
quiet again, and every eye on the preacher. He paused a little; then
kneeling in the pulpit's bows, folded his large brown hands across his
chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered a prayer so deeply devout
that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea. This
ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a bell
in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog --in such tones he
commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards
the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy
-- The ribs and terrors in the whale, Arched over me a dismal gloom,
While all God's sun-lit waves rolled by, And lift me deepening down to
doom. I saw the opening maw of hell, With endless pains and sorrows
there; Which none but they that feel can tell-- Oh, I was plunging to
despair. In black distress, I called my God, When I could scarce
believe him mine, He bowed his ear to my complaints -- No more the
whale did me confine. With speed he flew to my relief, As on a
radiant dolphin borne; Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone The face
of my Deliverer God. My song for ever shall record That terrible,
that joyful hour; I give the glory to my God, His all the mercy and
the power. Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high
above the howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher
slowly turned over the leaves of the Bible, and at last, folding his
hand down upon the proper page, said: Beloved shipmates, clinch the
last verse of the first chapter of Jonah -- And God had prepared a
great fish to swallow up Jonah. Shipmates, this book, containing only
four chapters --four yarns --is one of the smallest strands in the
mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what depths of the soul does
Jonah's deep sealine sound! what a pregnant lesson to us is this
prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the fish's belly! How
billow-like and boisterously grand! We feel the floods surging over
us; we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters; sea-weed and
all the slime of the sea is about us! But what is this lesson that
the book of Jonah teaches? Shipmates, it is a two-stranded lesson; a
lesson to us all as sinful men, and a lesson to me as a pilot of the
living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson to us all, because it is a
story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears, the swift
punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the deliverance and joy
of Jonah. As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of
Amittai was in his wilful disobedience of the command of God --never
mind now what that command was, or how conveyed --which he found a
hard command. But all the things that God would have us do are hard
for us to do --remember that --and hence, he oftener commands us than
endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves;
and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of
obeying God consists. With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah
still further flouts at God, by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks
that a ship made by men, will carry him into countries where God does
not reign, but only the Captains of this earth.

He skulks about the wharves of Joppa, and seeks a ship that's bound
for Tarshish. There lurks, perhaps, a hitherto unheeded meaning here.
By all accounts Tarshish could have been no other city than the modern
Cadiz. That's the opinion of learned men. And where is Cadiz,
shipmates? Cadiz is in Spain; as far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah
could possibly have sailed in those ancient days, when the Atlantic
was an almost unknown sea. Because Joppa, the modern Jaffa,
shipmates, is on the most easterly coast of the Mediterranean, the
Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more than two thousand miles to the
westward from that, just outside the Straits of Gibraltar. See ye not
then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee world-wide from God?
Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible and worthy of all scorn; with
slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God; prowling among the
shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas. So
disordered, self-condemning is his look, that had there been policemen
in those days, jonah, on the mere suspicion of something wrong, had
been arrested ere he touched a deck. How plainly he's a fugitive! no
baggage, not a hat-box, valise, or carpet-bag, --no friends accompany
him to the wharf with their adieux. At last, after much dodging
search, he finds the Tarshish ship receiving the last items of her
cargo; and as he steps on board to see its Captain in the cabin, all
the sailors for the moment desist from hoisting in the goods, to mark
the stranger's evil eye. Jonah sees this; but in vain he tries to
look all ease and confidence; in vain essays his wretched
smile. Strong intuitions of the man assure the mariners he can be no
innocent. In their gamesome but still serious way, one whispers to
the other --"Jack, he's robbed a widow;" or,"Joe, do you mark him;
he's a bigamist;" or,"Harry lad, I guess he's the adulterer that broke
jail in old Gomorrah, or belike, one of the missing murderers from
Sodom." Another runs to read the bill that's stuck against the spile
upon the wharf to which the ship is moored, offering five hundred gold
coins for the apprehension of a parricide, and containing a
description of his person. He reads, and looks from Jonah to the
bill; while all his sympathetic shipmates now crowd round Jonah,
prepared to lay their hands upon him. Frighted Jonah trembles, and
summoning all his boldness to his face, only looks so much the more a
coward. He will not confess himself suspected; but that itself is
strong suspicion. So he makes the best of it; and when the sailors
find him not to be the man that is advertised, they let him pass, and
he descends into the cabin. "Who's there?" cries the Captain at his
busy desk, hurriedly making out his papers for the Customs --"who's
there?" Oh! how that harmless question mangles Jonah.

For the instant he almost turns to flee again. But he rallies. "I
seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon sail ye, sir?" Thus
far the busy captain had not looked up to jonah, though the man now
stands before him; but no sooner does he hear that hollow voice, than
he darts a scrutinizing glance. "We sail with the next coming tide,"
at last he slowly answered, still intently eyeing him. "No sooner,
sir?" --"Soon enough for any honest man that goes a passenger." Ha!
Jonah, that's another stab. But he swiftly calls away the Captain
from that scent. "I'll sail with ye," --he says, --"the passage
money, how much is that, --I'll pay now." For it is particularly
written, shipmates, as if it were a thing not to be overlooked in this
history,"that he paid the fare thereof" ere the craft did sail. And
taken with the context, this is full of meaning. Now Jonah's Captain,
shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime in any, but whose
cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this world, shipmates,
sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport;
whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers. So Jonah's
Captain prepares to test the length of Jonah's purse, ere he judge him
openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum; and it's assented to.
Then the Captain knows that Jonah is a fugitive; but at the same time
resolves to help a flight that paves its rear with gold. Yet when
Jonah fairly takes out his purse, prudent suspicions still molest the

He rings every coin to find a counterfeit. Not a forger, any way, he
mutters; and Jonah is put down for his passage. "Point out my
state-room, Sir," says Jonah now. "I'm travel-weary; I need sleep."
"Thou look'st like it," says the Captain, "there's thy room." Jonah
enters, and would lock the door, but the lock contains no key.
Hearing him foolishly fumbling there, the Captain laughs lowly to
himself, and mutters something about the doors of convicts' cells
being never allowed to be locked within. All dressed and dusty as he
is, Jonah throws himself into his berth, and finds the little
state-room ceiling almost resting on his forehead. The air is close,
and jonah gasps. then, in that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the
ship's water-line, Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that
stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his
bowel's wards. Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp
slightly oscillates in Jonah's room; and the ship, heeling over
towards the wharf with the weight of the last bales received, the
lamp, flame and all, though in slight motion, still maintains a
permanent obliquity with reference to the room; though, in truth,
infallibly straight itself, it but made obvious the false, lying
levels among which it hung. The lamp alarms and frightens Jonah; as
lying in his berth his tormented eyes roll round the place, and this
thus far successful fugitive finds no refuge for his restless
glance. But that contradiction in the lamp more and more appals him.
The floor, the ceiling, and the side, are all awry. "Oh! so my
conscience hangs in me!" he groans, "straight upward, so it burns; but
the chambers of my soul are all in crookedness!" Like one who after a
night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still reeling, but with
conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the Roman race-horse
but so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as one who in
that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish, praying
God for annihilation until the fit be passed; and at last amid the
whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the man
who bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and there's naught
to staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in his berth, Jonah's prodigy
of ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep. And now the
time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and from the
deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening, glides
to sea.

That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded smugglers! the
contraband was jonah. but the sea rebels; he will not bear the wicked
burden. A dreadful storm comes on, the ship is like to break. But
now when the boatswain calls all hands to lighten her; when boxes,
bales, and jars are clattering overboard; when the wind is shrieking,
and the men are yelling, and every plank thunders with trampling feet
right over Jonah's head; in all this raging tumult, Jonah sleeps his
hideous sleep. He sees no black sky and raging sea, feels not the
reeling timbers, and little hears he or heeds he the far rush of the
mighty whale, which even now with open mouth is cleaving the seas
after him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone down into the sides of the
ship --a berth in the cabin as I have taken it, and was fast
asleep. But the frightened master comes to him, and shrieks in his
dead ear, "What meanest thou, O sleeper! arise!" Startled from his
lethargy by that direful cry, Jonah staggers to his feet, and
stumbling to the deck, grasps a shroud, to look out upon the sea. But
at that moment he is sprung upon by a panther billow leaping over the
bulwarks. Wave after wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding no
speedy vent runs roaring fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to
drowning while yet afloat. And ever, as the white moon shows her
affrighted face from the steep gullies in the blackness overhead,
aghast Jonah sees the rearing bowsprit pointing high upward, but soon
beat downward again towards the tormented deep. Terrors upon terrors
run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing attitudes, the
God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The sailors mark him; more and
more certain grow their suspicions of him, and at last, fully to test
the truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven, they fall to
casting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was upon them.
The lot is Jonah's; that discovered, then how furiously they mob him
with their questions. "What is thine occupation? whence comest thou?
thy country? what people?" but mark now, my shipmates, the behavior
of poor Jonah. The eager mariners but ask him who he is, and where
from; whereas, they not only receive an answer to those questions, but
likewise another answer to a question not put by them, but the
unsolicited answer is forced from Jonah by the hard hand of God that
is upon him. "I am a Hebrew," he cries --and then --"I fear the Lord
the God of Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!" Fear him,
O Jonah? Aye, well mightest thou fear the Lord God then! Straightway,
he now goes on to make a full confession; whereupon the mariners
became more and more appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah,
not yet supplicating God for mercy, since he but too well knew the
darkness of his deserts, --when wretched Jonah cries out to them to
take him and cast him forth into the sea, for he knew that for his
sake this great tempest was upon them; they mercifully turn from him,
and seek by other means to save the ship. But all in vain; the
indignant gale howls louder; then, with one hand raised invokingly to
God, with the other they not unreluctantly lay hold of Jonah. And now
behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea; when
instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea is
still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth water
behind. He goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless
commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into
the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to all his ivory
teeth, like the Lord out of the fish's belly. But observe his prayer,
and so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed unto
learn a weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and
wail for direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is
just. He leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with
this, that spite of all his pains and pangs, he will still look
towards His holy temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful
repentance; not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment.
And how pleasing to God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in the
eventual deliverance of him from the sea and the whale. Shipmates, I
do not place Jonah before you to be copied for his sin but I do place
him before you as a model for repentance. Sin not; but if you do,
take heed to repent of it like Jonah. While he was speaking these
words, the howling of the shrieking, slanting storm without seemed to
add new power to the preacher, who, when describing Jonah's sea-storm,
seemed tossed by a storm himself. His deep chest heaved as with a
ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed the warring elements at work; and
the thunders that rolled away from off his swarthy brow, and the light
leaping from his eye, made all his simple hearers look on him with a
quick fear that was strange to them. There now came a lull in his
look, as he silently turned over the leaves of the Book once more;
and, at last, standing motionless, with closed eyes, for the moment,
seemed communing with God and himself. But again he leaned over
towards the people, and bowing his head lowly, with an aspect of the
deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these words: Shipmates, God
has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press upon me. I have
read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson that Jonah teaches
to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to me, for I am a
greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly would I come down from
this mast-head and sit on the hatches there where you sit, and listen
as you listen, while some one of you reads me that other and more
awful lesson which Jonah teaches to me as a pilot of the living God.
How being an anointed pilot-prophet, or speaker of true things, and
bidden by the Lord to sound those unwelcome truths in the ears of a
wicked nineveh, jonah, appalled at the hostility he should raise, fled
from his mission, and sought to escape his duty and his God by taking
ship at Joppa. But God is everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As
we have seen, God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down
to living gulfs of doom, and with swift slantings tore him along"into
the midst of the seas," where the eddying depths sucked him ten
thousand fathoms down, and"the weeds were wrapped about his head," and
all the watery world of woe bowled over him. Yet even then beyond the
reach of any plummet --"out of the belly of hell" --when the whale
grounded upon the ocean's utmost bones, even then, God heard the
engulphed, repenting prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto the
fish; and from the shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale
came breeching up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the
delights of air and earth; and"vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;"
when the word of the Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and
beaten --his ears, like two sea-shells, still multitudinously
murmuring of the ocean --Jonah did the Almighty's bidding. And what
was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood!
That was it! This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to
that pilot of the living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this
world charms from Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon
the waters when God has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks
to please rather than to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to
him than goodness.

Woe to him who, in this world, courts not dishonor! Woe to him who
would not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe
to him who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others
is himself a castaway! He drooped and fell away from himself for a
moment; then lifting his face to them again, showed a deep joy in his
eyes, as he cried out with a heavenly enthusiasm, -- but oh!
shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure
delight; and higher the top of that delight, than the bottom of the
woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than the kelson is low?
Delight is to him --a far, far upward, and inward delight --who
against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth
his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong arms yet
support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone
down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the
truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out
from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight, --top-gallant
delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his
God, and is only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the
waves of the billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake
from this sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and
deliciousness will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with
his final breath --O Father! --chiefly known to me by Thy rod
--mortal or immortal, here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more
than to be this world's, or mine own. Yet this is nothing; I leave
eternity to Thee; for what is man that he should live out the lifetime
of his God? He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered
his face with his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people
had departed, and he was left alone in the place.

< Chapter X 24 A BOSOM FRIEND >

Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there
quite alone; he having left the Chapel before the benediction some
time. He was sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the
stove hearth, and in one hand was holding close up to his face that
little negro idol of his; peering hard into its face, and with a
jack-knife gently whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to
himself in his heathenish way. But being now interrupted, he put up
the image; and pretty soon, going to the table, took up a large book
there, and placing it on his lap began counting the pages with
deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth page --as I fancied
--stopping a moment, looking vacantly around him, and giving utterance
to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment. He would then begin
again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number one each time,
as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was only by such
a large number of fifties being found together, that his astonishment
at the multitude of pages was excited. With much interest I sat
watching him. Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the
face --at least to my taste -- his countenance yet had a something in
it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide the
soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces
of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and
bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand
devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about
the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He
looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a
creditor. Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved, his
forehead was drawn out in freer and brighter relief, and looked more
expansive than it otherwise would, this I will not venture to decide;
but certain it was his head was phrenologically an excellent one. It
may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me of General Washington's head,
as seen in the popular busts of him. It had the same long regularly
graded retreating slope from above the brows, which were likewise very
projecting, like two long promontories thickly wooded on top. Queequeg
was George Washington cannibalistically developed. Whilst I was thus
closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be looking out at
the storm from the casement, he never heeded my presence, never
troubled himself with so much as a single glance; but appeared wholly
occupied with counting the pages of the marvellous book. Considering
how sociably we had been sleeping together the night previous, and
especially considering the affectionate arm I had found thrown over me
upon waking in the morning, I thought this indifference of his very
strange. But savages are strange beings; at times you do not know
exactly how to take them. At first they are overawing; their calm
self-collectedness of simplicity seems a Socratic wisdom. I had
noticed also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little,
with the other seamen in the inn. He made no advances whatever;
appeared to have no desire to enlarge the circle of his
acquaintances. All this struck me as mighty singular; yet, upon second
thoughts, there was something almost sublime in it. Here was a man
some twenty thousand miles from home, by the way of Cape Horn, that is
--which was the only way he could get there --thrown among people as
strange to him as though he were in the planet Jupiter; and yet he
seemed entirely at his ease; preserving the utmost serenity; content
with his own companionship; always equal to himself. Surely this was
a touch of fine philosophy; though no doubt he had never heard there
was such a thing as that. But, perhaps, to be true philosophers, we
mortals should not be conscious of so living or so striving. So soon
as I hear that such or such a man gives himself out for a philosopher,
I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he must have broken his
digester. As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning
low, in that mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the
air, it then only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and
phantoms gathering round the casements, and peering in upon us silent,
solitary twain; the storm booming without in solemn swells; I began to
be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my
splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish
world. This soothing savage had redeemed it. There he sat, his very
indifference speaking a nature in which there lurked no civilized
hypocrisies and bland deceits. Wild he was; a very sight of sights to
see; yet I began to feel myself mysteriously drawn towards him. And
those same things that would have repelled most others, they were the
very magnets that thus drew me. I'll try a pagan friend, thought I,
since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy. I drew my
bench near him, and made some friendly signs and hints, doing my best
to talk with him meanwhile. At first he little noticed these
advances; but presently, upon my referring to his last night's
hospitalities, he made out to ask me whether we were again to be
bedfellows. I told him yes; whereat I thought he looked pleased,
perhaps a little complimented. We then turned over the book together,
and I endeavored to explain to him the purpose of the printing, and
the meaning of the few pictures that were in it. Thus I soon engaged
his interest; and from that we went to jabbering the best we could
about the various outer sights to be seen in this famous town. Soon I
proposed a social smoke; and, producing his pouch and tomahawk, he
quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat exchanging puffs from that
wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly passing between us. If
there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan's
breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and
left us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and
unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his
forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that
henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country's phrase, that we
were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In
a countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far
too premature, a thing to be much distrusted; but in this simple
savage those old rules would not apply. After supper, and another
social chat and smoke, we went to our room together. He made me a
present of his embalmed head; took out his enormous tobacco wallet,
and groping under the tobacco, drew out some thirty dollars in silver;
then spreading them on the table, and mechanically dividing them into
two equal portions, pushed one of them towards me, and said it was
mine. I was going to remonstrate; but he silenced me by pouring them
into my trowsers' pockets. I let them stay. He then went about his
evening prayers, took out his idol, and removed the paper
fireboard. By certain signs and symptoms, I thought he seemed anxious
for me to join him; but well knowing what was to follow, I deliberated
a moment whether, in case he invited me, I would comply or otherwise.
I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible
Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator
in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do
you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth
--pagans and all included --can possibly be jealous of an
insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?
--to do the will of God -- that is worship. And what is the will of
God? --to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to
me -- that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And
what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me
in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. consequently, i must
then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled
the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him
burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice;
kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace
with our own consciences and all the world. But we did not go to
sleep without some little chat. How it is I know not; but there is no
place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man
and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each
other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till
nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and
Queequeg --a cosy, loving pair.

< Chapter XI 24 NIGHTGOWN >

We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and
Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs
over mine, and then drawing them back; so entirely sociable and free
and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what
little nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt
like getting up again, though day-break was yet some way down the
future. Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent
position began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found
ourselves sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us, leaning
against the head-board with our four knees drawn up close together,
and our two noses bending over them, as if our knee-pans were
warming-pans. We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so
chilly out of doors; indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there
was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy
bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no
quality in this world that is not what it is merely by
contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you
are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you
cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and
me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be
slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you
feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm.

For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a
fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the
height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the
blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air.
Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic
crystal. We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time,
when all at once I thought I would open my eyes; for when between
sheets, whether by day or by night, and whether asleep or awake, I
have a way of always keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to
concentrate the snugness of being in bed. Because no man can ever
feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness
were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more
congenial to our clayey part. Upon opening my eyes then, and coming
out of my own pleasant and self-created darkness into the imposed and
coarse outer gloom of the unilluminated twelve-o'clock-at-night, I
experienced a disagreeable revulsion. Nor did I at all object to the
hint from Queequeg that perhaps it were best to strike a light, seeing
that we were so wide awake; and besides he felt a strong desire to
have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk. Be it said, that though I
had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the bed the night
before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love once
comes to bend them. For now I liked nothing better than to have
Queequeg smoking by me, even in bed, because he seemed to be full of
such serene household joy then. I no more felt unduly concerned for
the landlord's policy of insurance. I was only alive to the condensed
confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a
real friend. With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we
now passed the Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew
over us a blue hanging tester of smoke, illuminated by the flame of
the new-lit lamp. Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled
the savage away to far distant scenes, I know not, but he now spoke of
his native island; and, eager to hear his history, I begged him to go
on and tell it. He gladly complied. Though at the time I but ill
comprehended not a few of his words, yet subsequent disclosures, when
I had become more familiar with his broken phraseology, now enable me
to present the whole story such as it may prove in the mere skeleton I


Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and
South. It is not down in any map; true places never are. When a
new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in a grass
clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green sapling;
even then, in Queequeg's ambitious soul, lurked a strong desire to see
something more of Christendom than a specimen whaler or two. His
father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the
maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable
warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins --royal stuff;
though sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished
in his untutored youth. A Sag Harbor ship visited his father's bay,
and Queequeg sought a passage to Christian lands. But the ship,
having her full complement of seamen, spurned his suit; and not all
the King his father's influence could prevail. But Queequeg vowed a
vow. Alone in his canoe, he paddled off to a distant strait, which he
knew the ship must pass through when she quitted the island. On one
side was a coral reef; on the other a low tongue of land, covered with
mangrove thickets that grew out into the water. Hiding his canoe,
still afloat, among these thickets, with its prow seaward, he sat down
in the stern, paddle low in hand; and when the ship was gliding by,
like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash of
his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains; and
throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled a ringbolt
there, and swore not to let it go, though hacked in pieces. In vain
the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a cutlass
over his naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King, and Queequeg
budged not. Struck by his desperate dauntlessness, and his wild
desire to visit Christendom, the captain at last relented, and told
him he might make himself at home. But this fine young savage --this
sea Prince of Wales, never saw the captain's cabin. They put him down
among the sailors, and made a whaleman of him. But like Czar Peter
content to toil in the shipyards of foreign cities, Queequeg disdained
no seeming ignominy, if thereby he might happily gain the power of
enlightening his untutored countrymen. For at bottom --so he told me
--he was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians,
the arts whereby to make his people still happier than they were; and
more than that, still better than they were. But, alas! the
practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians could be
both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's
heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the
sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and seeing how they
spent their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave it up for
lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a
pagan. and thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these
Christians, wore their clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish.
Hence the queer ways about him, though now some time from home. By
hints, I asked him whether he did not propose going back, and having a
coronation; since he might now consider his father dead and gone, he
being very old and feeble at the last accounts. He answered no, not
yet; and added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians,
had unfitted him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty
pagan Kings before him. But by and by, he said, he would return, --as
soon as he felt himself baptized again. For the nonce, however, he
proposed to sail about, and sow his wild oats in all four oceans.
They had made a harpooneer of him, and that barbed iron was in lieu of
a sceptre now. I asked him what might be his immediate purpose,
touching his future movements. He answered, to go to sea again, in
his old vocation. Upon this, I told him that whaling was my own
design, and informed him of my intention to sail out of Nantucket, as
being the most promising port for an adventurous whaleman to embark
from. He at once resolved to accompany me to that island, ship aboard
the same vessel, get into the same watch, the same boat, the same mess
with me, in short to share my every hap; with both my hands in his,
boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds. To all this I joyously
assented; for besides the affection I now felt for Queequeg, he was an
experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not fail to be of great
usefulness to one, who, like me, was wholly ignorant of the mysteries
of whaling, though well acquainted with the sea, as known to merchant
seamen. His story being ended with his pipe's last dying puff,
Queequeg embraced me, pressed his forehead against mine, and blowing
out the light, we rolled over from each other, this way and that, and
very soon were sleeping.


wheelbarrow next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head
to a barber, for a block, I settled my own and comrade's bill; using,
however, my comrade's money. The grinning landlord, as well as the
boarders, seemed amazingly tickled at the sudden friendship which had
sprung up between me and Queequeg -- especially as Peter Coffin's cock
and bull stories about him had previously so much alarmed me
concerning the very person whom I now companied with. We borrowed a
wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own poor
carpet-bag, and Queequeg's canvas sack and hammock, away we went down
to the Moss, the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the
wharf. As we were going along the people stared; not at Queequeg so
much --for they were used to seeing cannibals like him in their
streets, -- but at seeing him and me upon such confidential terms.
But we heeded them not, going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and
Queequeg now and then stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon
barbs. I asked him why he carried such a troublesome thing with him
ashore, and whether all whaling ships did not find their own harpoons.
To this, in substance, he replied, that though what I hinted was true
enough, yet he had a particular affection for his own harpoon, because
it was of assured stuff, well tried in many a mortal combat, and
deeply intimate with the hearts of whales. In short, like many inland
reapers and mowers, who go into the farmers' meadows armed with their
own scythes --though in no wise obliged to furnished them -- even so,
Queequeg, for his own private reasons, preferred his own
harpoon. Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny
story about the first wheelbarrow he had ever seen. It was in Sag
Harbor. The owners of his ship, it seems, had lent him one, in which
to carry his heavy chest to his boarding house. Not to seem ignorant
about the thing --though in truth he was entirely so, concerning the
precise way in which to manage the barrow --Queequeg puts his chest
upon it; lashes it fast; and then shoulders the barrow and marches up
the wharf. Why, said I, Queequeg, you might have known better than
that, one would think. Didn't the people laugh? Upon this, he told
me another story. The people of his island of Rokovoko, it seems, at
their wedding feasts express the fragrant water of young cocoanuts
into a large stained calabash like a punchbowl; and this punchbowl
always forms the great central ornament on the braided mat where the
feast is held. Now a certain grand merchant ship once touched at
Rokovoko, and its commander --from all accounts, a very stately
punctilious gentleman, at least for a sea captain --this commander was
invited to the wedding feast of Queequeg's sister, a pretty young
princess just turned of ten. Well; when all the wedding guests were
assembled at the bride's bamboo cottage, this Captain marches in, and
being assigned the post of honor, placed himself over against the
punchbowl, and between the High Priest and his majesty the King,
Queequeg's father. Grace being said, -- for those people have their
grace as well as we --though Queequeg told me that unlike us, who at
such times look downwards to our platters, they, on the contrary,
copying the ducks, glance upwards to the great Giver of all feasts
--Grace, I say, being said, the High Priest opens the banquet by the
immemorial ceremony of the island; that is, dipping his consecrated
and consecrating fingers into the bowl before the blessed beverage
circulates. Seeing himself placed next the Priest, and noting the
ceremony, and thinking himself --being Captain of a ship --as having
plain precedence over a mere island King, especially in the King's own
house --the Captain coolly proceeds to wash his hands in the punch
bowl; --taking it i suppose for a huge finger-glass. now, said
Queequeg, what you tink now, --Didn't our people laugh? At last,
passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood on board the schooner.
Hoisting sail, it glided down the Acushnet river. On one side, New
Bedford rose in terraces of streets, their ice-covered trees all
glittering in the clear, cold air. Huge hills and mountains of casks
on casks were piled upon her wharves, and side by side the
world-wandering whale ships lay silent and safely moored at last;
while from others came a sound of carpenters and coopers, with blended
noises of fires and forges to melt the pitch, all betokening that new
cruises were on the start; that one most perilous and long voyage
ended, only begins a second; and a second ended, only begins a third,
and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the
intolerableness of all earthly effort. Gaining the more open water,
the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little Moss tossed the quick foam
from her bows, as a young colt his snortings. How I snuffed that
Tartar air! --how I spurned that turnpike earth! --that common highway
all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and hoofs; and turned
me to admire the magnanimity of the sea which will permit no records.
At the same foam-fountain, Queequeg seemed to drink and reel with me.
His dusky nostrils swelled apart; he showed his filed and pointed
teeth. On, on we flew, and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to
the blast; ducked and dived her brows as a slave before the Sultan.
Sideways leaning, we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a
wire; the two tall masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes.
So full of this reeling scene were we, as we stood by the plunging
bowsprit, that for some time we did not notice the jeering glances of
the passengers, a lubber-like assembly, who marvelled that two fellow
beings should be so companionable; as though a white man were anything
more dignified than a whitewashed negro. But there were some boobies
and bumpkins there, who, by their intense greenness, must have come
from the heart and centre of all verdure. Queequeg caught one of
these young saplings mimicking him behind his back. I thought the
bumpkin's hour of doom was come.

Dropping his harpoon, the brawny savage caught him in his arms, and by
an almost miraculous dexterity and strength, sent him high up bodily
into the air; then slightly tapping his stern in mid-somerset, the
fellow landed with bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg,
turning his back upon him, lighted his tomahawk pipe and passed it to
me for a puff. Capting! Capting! yelled the bumpkin, running
towards that officer; Capting, Capting, here's the devil.

Hallo, you sir, cried the Captain, a gaunt rib of the sea, stalking up
to Queequeg, what in thunder do you mean by that? Don't you know you
might have killed that chap? What him say? said Queequeg, as he
mildly turned to me.

He say, said I, that you came near kill-e that man there, pointing to
the still shivering greenhorn. Kill-e, cried Queequeg, twisting his
tattooed face into an unearthly expression of disdain, ah! him bevy
small-e fish-e; Queequeg no kill-e so small-e fish-e; Queequeg kill-e
big whale! Look you, roared the Captain, I'll kill-e you, you
cannibal, if you try any more of your tricks aboard here; so mind your
eye. But it so happened just then, that it was high time for the
Captain to mind his own eye. The prodigious strain upon the main-sail
had parted the weather-sheet, and the tremendous boom was now flying
from side to side, completely sweeping the entire after part of the
deck. The poor fellow whom Queequeg had handled so roughly, was swept
overboard; all hands were in a panic; and to attempt snatching at the
boom to stay it, seemed madness. It flew from right to left, and back
again, almost in one ticking of a watch, and every instant seemed on
the point of snapping into splinters. Nothing was done, and nothing
seemed capable of being done; those on deck rushed towards the bows,
and stood eyeing the boom as if it were the lower jaw of an
exasperated whale. In the midst of this consternation, Queequeg
dropped deftly to his knees, and crawling under the path of the boom,
whipped hold of a rope, secured one end to the bulwarks, and then
flinging the other like a lasso, caught it round the boom as it swept
over his head, and at the next jerk, the spar was that way trapped,
and all was safe. The schooner was run into the wind, and while the
hands were clearing away the stern boat, Queequeg, stripped to the
waist, darted from the side with a long living arc of a leap. For
three minutes or more he was seen swimming like a dog, throwing his
long arms straight out before him, and by turns revealing his brawny
shoulders through the freezing foam. I looked at the grand and
glorious fellow, but saw no one to be saved. The greenhorn had gone
down. Shooting himself perpendicularly from the water, Queequeg now
took an instant's glance around him, and seeming to see just how
matters were, dived down and disappeared. A few minutes more, and he
rose again, one arm still striking out, and with the other dragging a
lifeless form. The boat soon picked them up. The poor bumpkin was
restored. All hands voted Queequeg a noble trump; the captain begged
his pardon. From that hour I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yea,
till poor Queequeg took his last long dive. Was there ever such
unconsciousness? He did not seem to think that he at all deserved a
medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies. He only asked for
water --fresh water -- something to wipe the brine off; that done, he
put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against the
bulwarks, and mildly eyeing those around him, seemed to be saying to
himself -- It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We
cannibals must help these Christians.

< Chapter XIV 23 NANTUCKET >

Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning; so, after
a fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket. Nantucket! Take out your
map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies;
how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone
lighthouse. Look at it --a mere hillock, and elbow of sand; all
beach, without a background. There is more sand there than you would
use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper. Some gamesome
wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they don't
grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have to
send beyond seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that
pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true
cross in Rome; that people there plant toadstools before their houses,
to get under the shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes
an oasis, three blades in a day's walk a prairie; that they wear
quicksand shoes, something like Laplander snowshoes; that they are so
shut up, belted about, every way inclosed, surrounded, and made an
utter island of by the ocean, that to their very chairs and tables
small clams will sometimes be found adhering, as to the backs of sea
turtles. But these extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no
Illinois. Look now at the wondrous traditional story of how this
island was settled by the red-men. Thus goes the legend. In olden
times an eagle swooped down upon the New England coast, and carried
off an infant Indian in his talons. With loud lament the parents saw
their child borne out of sight over the wide waters. They resolved to
follow in the same direction. Setting out in their canoes, after a
perilous passage they discovered the island, and there they found an
empty ivory casket, --the poor little Indian's skeleton. What wonder,
then, that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should take to the sea
for a livelihood! They first caught crabs and quohogs in the sand;
grown bolder, they waded out with nets for mackerel; more experienced,
they pushed off in boats and captured cod; and at last, launching a
navy of great ships on the sea, explored this watery world; put an
incessant belt of circumnavigations round it; peeped in at Behring's
Straits; and in all seasons and all oceans declared everlasting war
with the mightiest animated mass that has survived the flood; most
monstrous and most mountainous! That Himmalehan, salt-sea Mastodon,
clothed with such portentousness of unconscious power, that his very
panics are more to be dreaded than his most fearless and malicious
assaults! And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits,
issuing from their ant-hill in the sea, overrun and conquered the
watery world like so many Alexanders; parcelling out among them the
Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, as the three pirate powers did
Poland. Let America add Mexico to Texas, and pile Cuba upon Canada;
let the English overswarm all India, and hang out their blazing banner
from the sun; two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the
Nantucketer's. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own
empires; other seamen having but a right of way through it. Merchant
ships are but extension bridges; armed ones but floating forts; even
pirates and privateers, though following the sea as highwaymen the
road, they but plunder other ships, other fragments of the land like
themselves, without seeking to draw their living from the bottomless
deep itself. The Nantucketer, he alone resides and riots on the sea;
he alone, in Bible language, goes down to it in ships; to and fro
ploughing it as his own special plantation. There is his home; there
lies his business, which a noah's flood would not interrupt, though it
overwhelmed all the millions in China. He lives on the sea, as
prairie cocks in the prairie; he hides among the waves, he climbs them
as chamois hunters climb the Alps. For years he knows not the land;
so that when he comes to it at last, it smells like another world,
more strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman. With the landless
gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between
billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls
his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush
herds of walruses and whales.

< Chapter XV 27 CHOWDER >

It was quite late in the evening when the little Moss came snugly to
anchor, and Queequeg and I went ashore; so we could attend to no
business that day, at least none but a supper and a bed. The landlord
of the Spouter-Inn had recommended us to his cousin Hosea Hussey of
the Try Pots, whom he asserted to be the proprietor of one of the best
kept hotels in all Nantucket, and moreover he had assured us that
cousin Hosea, as he called him, was famous for his chowders. In
short, he plainly hinted that we could not possibly do better than try
pot-luck at the Try Pots. But the directions he had given us about
keeping a yellow warehouse on our starboard hand till we opened a
white church to the larboard, and then keeping that on the larboard
hand till we made a corner three points to the starboard, and that
done, then ask the first man we met where the place was: these crooked
directions of his very much puzzled us at first, especially as, at the
outset, Queequeg insisted that the yellow warehouse --our first point
of departure --must be left on the larboard hand, whereas I had
understood Peter Coffin to say it was on the starboard. However, by
dint of beating about a little in the dark, and now and then knocking
up a peaceable inhabitant to inquire the way, we at last came to
something which there was no mistaking. Two enormous wooden pots
painted black, and suspended by asses' ears, swung from the
cross-trees of an old top-mast, planted in front of an old doorway.
The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the other side, so that
this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows. Perhaps I was
over sensitive to such impressions at the time, but I could not help
staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving. A sort of crick was
in my neck as I gazed up to the two remaining horns; yes, two of them,
one for Queequeg, and one for me. It's ominous, thinks I. A Coffin my
Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones staring at
me in the whalemen's chapel; and here a gallows! and a pair of
prodigious black pots too! Are these last throwing out oblique hints
touching tophet? I was called from these reflections by the sight of
a freckled woman with yellow hair and a yellow gown, standing in the
porch of the inn, under a dull red lamp swinging there, that looked
much like an injured eye, and carrying on a brisk scolding with a man
in a purple woollen shirt. Get along with ye, said she to the man, or
I'll be combing ye.

Come on, Queequeg, said I, all right. There's Mrs. Hussey. And so it
turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey being from home, but leaving Mrs. Hussey
entirely competent to attend to all his affairs. Upon making known
our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing further
scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and seating
us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded repast,
turned round to us and said-- Clam or Cod? What's that about Cods,
ma'am? said I, with much politeness. Clam or Cod? she repeated. A
clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?
says I; but that's a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter
time, ain't it, Mrs Hussey? But being in a great hurry to resume
scolding the man in the purple shirt, who was waiting for it in the
entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the word clam, Mrs. Hussey
hurried towards an open door leading to the kitchen, and bawling out
clam for two, disappeared. Queequeg, said I, do you think that we can
make out a supper for us both on one clam? However, a warm savory
steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless
prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the
mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to
me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel
nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into
little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully
seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the
frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing
food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we
despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and
bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey's clam and cod announcement, I thought I
would try a little experiment.

Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word cod with great
emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savory steam came
forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine
cod-chowder was placed before us. We resumed business; and while
plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to myself, I wonder now if
this here has any effect on the head? What's that stultifying saying
about chowder-headed people? But look, Queequeg, ain't that a live
eel in your bowl? Where's your harpoon? Fishiest of all fishy places
was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the pots there
were always boiling chowders. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for
dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones
coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with
clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished necklace of codfish
vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books bound in superior old
shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could
not at all account for, till one morning happening to take a stroll
along the beach among some fishermen's boats, I saw Hosea's brindled
cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each
foot in a cod's decapitated head, looking very slip-shod, I assure
ye. Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from
Mrs. Hussey concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was
about to precede me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm, and
demanded his harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers. Why
not? said I; every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon --but why

Because it's dangerous, says she. Ever since young Stiggs coming from
that unfort'nt v'y'ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half,
with only three barrels of ile, was found dead in my first floor back,
with his harpoon in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to
take sich dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg
(for she had learned his name), I will just take this here iron, and
keep it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow
for breakfast, men? Both, says I; and let's have a couple of smoked
herring by way of variety.

< Chapter XVI 2 THE SHIP >

In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise and
no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had been
diligently consulting Yojo --the name of his black little god --and
Yojo had told him two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon
it everyway, that instead of our going together among the
whaling-fleet in harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead
of this, I say, Yojo earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship
should rest wholly with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us;
and, in order to do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which, if
left to myself, I, Ishmael, should infallibly light upon, for all the
world as though it had turned out by chance; and in that vessel I must
immediately ship myself, for the present irrespective of Queequeg. I
have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great
confidence in the excellence of Yojo's judgment and surprising
forecast of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as a
rather good sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole,
but in all cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs. Now, this
plan of Queequeg's, or rather Yojo's, touching the selection of our
craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a little relied on
Queequeg's sagacity to point out the whaler best fitted to carry us
and our fortunes securely. But as all my remonstrances produced no
effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged to acquiesce; and accordingly
prepared to set about this business with a determined rushing sort of
energy and vigor, that should quickly settle that trifling little
affair. Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our
little bedroom --for it seemed that it was some sort of Lent or
Ramadan, or day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer with Queequeg and
Yojo that day; how it was I never could find out, for, though I
applied myself to it several times, I never could master his liturgies
and XXXIX Articles --leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his tomahawk
pipe, and Yojo warming himself at his sacrificial fire of shavings, I
sallied out among the shipping. After much prolonged sauntering and
many random inquiries, I learnt that there were three ships up for
three-years' voyages --The Devil-Dam the Tit-bit, and the
pequod. devil- dam, i do not know the origin of; tit-bit is obvious;
Pequod, you will no doubt remember, was the name of a celebrated tribe
of Massachusetts Indians, now extinct as the ancient Medes. I peered
and pryed about the Devil-Dam; from her, hopped over to the Tit-bit;
and, finally, going on board the Pequod, looked around her for a
moment, and then decided that this was the very ship for us. You may
have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I know;
--squared-toed luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box
galliots, and what not; but take my word for it, you never saw such a
rare old craft as this same rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old
school, rather small if anything; with an old fashioned claw-footed
look about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and
calms of all four oceans, her old hull's complexion was darkened like
a French grenadier's, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her
venerable bows looked bearded. Her masts--cut somewhere on the coast
of Japan, where her original ones were lost overboard in a gale --her
masts stood stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of
Cologne. Her ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the
pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Beckett
bled. But to all these her old antiquities, were added new and
marvellous features, pertaining to the wild business that for more
than half a century she had followed. Old Captain Peleg, many years
her chief-mate, before he commanded another vessel of his own, and now
a retired seaman, and one of the principal owners of the Pequod,
--this old Peleg, during the term of his chief-mateship, had built
upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid it, all over, with a
quaintness both of material and device, unmatched by anything except
it be Thorkill-Hake's carved buckler or bedstead. She was apparelled
like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with pendants of
polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of a craft,
tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All round,
her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw,
with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for pins,
to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not
through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of
sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she
sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously
carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe. The
helmsman who steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the
Tartar, when he holds back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw. A
noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are
touched with that. Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some
one having authority, in order to propose myself as a candidate for
the voyage, at first I saw nobody; but I could not well overlook a
strange sort of tent, or rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the
main-mast. It seemed only a temporary erection used in port. It was
of a conical shape, some ten feet high; consisting of the long, huge
slabs of limber black bone taken from the middle and highest part of
the jaws of the right-whale. Planted with their broad ends on the
deck, a circle of these slabs laced together, mutually sloped towards
each other, and at the apex united in a tufted point, where the loose
hairy fibres waved to and fro like a top-knot on some old Pottowotamie
Sachem's head. A triangular opening faced towards the bows of the
ship, so that the insider commanded a complete view forward. And half
concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who by his
aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and the
ship's work suspended, was now enjoying respite from the burden of
command. He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all
over with curious carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a
stout interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was
constructed. There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the
appearance of the elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like
most old seamen, and heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the
Quaker style; only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of
the minutest wrinkles interlacing round his eyes, which must have
arisen from his continual sailings in many hard gales, and always
looking to windward; --for this causes the muscles about the eyes to
become pursed together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a
scowl. Is this the Captain of the Pequod? said I, advancing to the
door of the tent. Supposing it be the Captain of the Pequod, what
dost thou want of him? he demanded. I was thinking of shipping. Thou
wast, wast thou? I see thou are no Nantucketer --ever been in a stove
boat? No, Sir, I never have. Dost know nothing at all about whaling,
I dare say --eh? Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon
learn. I've been several voyages in the merchant service, and I think
that-- Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me. Dost
see that leg? --I'll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou
talkest of the marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed!
I suppose now ye feel considerable proud of having served in those
marchant ships. But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a
whaling, eh? --it looks a little suspicious, don't it, eh? --Hast not
been a pirate, hast thou? --Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst
thou? --Dost not think of murdering the officers when thou gettest to
sea? I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the
mask of these half humorous inuendoes, this old seaman, as an
insulated Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices,
and rather distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod
or the Vineyard. But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that
before I think of shipping ye. Well, sir, I want to see what whaling
is. I want to see the world. Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have
ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?

Who is Captain Ahab, sir? Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is
the Captain of this ship. I am mistaken then. I thought I was
speaking to the Captain himself. Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg
--that's who ye are speaking to, young man. It belongs to me and
Captain Bildad to see the Pequod fitted out for the voyage, and
supplied with all her needs, including crew. We are part owners and
agents. But as I was going to say, if thou wantest to know what
whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way of finding it
out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out. Clap eye on
Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has only one leg.

What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale? Lost by a

Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured, chewed up, crunched by
the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat! --ah, ah! I was
a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched at the
hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly as I
could, What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could I know
there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale, though
indeed I might have inferred as much from the simple fact of the
accident. Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d'ye
see; thou dost not talk shark a bit. Sure, ye've been to sea before
now; sure of that? Sir, said I, I thought I told you that I had been
four voyages in the merchant-- Hard down out of that! Mind what I
said about the marchant service --don't aggravate me --I won't have
it. But let us understand each other. I have given thee a hint about
what whaling is; do ye yet feel inclined for it? I do, sir. Very
good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live whale's
throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick! I am, sir, if it
should be positively indispensable to do so; not to be got rid of,
that is; which I don't take to be the fact. Good again. Now then,
thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find out by experience what
whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to see the world? Was not
that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just step forward there,
and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back to me and tell me
what ye see there. For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this
curious request, not knowing exactly how to take it, whether
humorously or in earnest. But concentrating all his crow's feet into
one scowl, Captain Peleg started me on the errand. Going forward and
glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the ship swinging to
her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely pointing towards the
open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous
and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I could see. Well,
what's the report? said Peleg when I came back; what did ye see? Not
much, I replied -- nothing but water; considerable horizon though, and
there's a squall coming up, I think. Well, what dost thou think then
of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more
of it, eh? Can't ye see the world where you stand? I was a little
staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the Pequod was as
good a ship as any --I thought the best -- and all this I now repeated
to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed his willingness to
ship me. And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off, he added
-- come along with ye. And so saying, he led the way below deck into
the cabin. seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon
and surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along
with Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the
other shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports, being held by a
crowd of old annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery
wards; each owning about the value of a timber head, or a foot of
plank, or a nail or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest their
money in whaling vessels, the same way that you do yours in approved
state stocks bringing in good interest. Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and
indeed many other Nantucketers, was a Quaker, the island having been
originally settled by that sect; and to this day its inhabitants in
general retain in an uncommon measure the peculiarities of the Quaker,
only variously and anomalously modified by things altogether alien and
heterogeneous. For some of these same Quakers are the most sanguinary
of all sailors and whale-hunters. They are fighting Quakers; they are
Quakers with a vengeance. So that there are instances among them of
men, who, named with Scripture names --a singularly common fashion on
the island --and in childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic
thee and thou of the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring,
and boundless adventure of their subsequent lives, strangely blend
with these unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of
character, not unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan
Roman. And when these things unite in a man of greatly superior
natural force, with a globular brain and a ponderous heart; who has
also by the stillness and seclusion of many long night-watches in the
remotest waters, and beneath constellations never seen here at the
north, been led to think untraditionally and independently; receiving
all nature's sweet or savage impressions fresh from her own virgin
voluntary and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some
help from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty
language --that man makes one in a whole nation's census --a mighty
pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies. Nor will it at all
detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by birth or other
circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful overruling morbidness
at the bottom of his nature. For all men tragically great are made so
through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all
mortal greatness is but disease. But, as yet we have not to do with
such an one, but with quite another; and still a man, who, if indeed
peculiar, it only results again from another phase of the Quaker,
modified by individual circumstances. Like Captain Peleg, Captain
Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman. But unlike Captain Peleg
--who cared not a rush for what are called serious things, and indeed
deemed those selfsame serious things the veriest of all trifles
--Captain Bildad had not only been originally educated according to
the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all his subsequent
ocean life, and the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures,
round the Horn --all that had not moved this native born Quaker one
single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his vest. Still,
for all this immutableness, was there some lack of common consistency
about worthy Captain Bildad. Though refusing, from conscientious
scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet himself had
illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe
to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled
tuns upon tuns of leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative
evening of his days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the
reminiscence, I do not know; but it did not seem to concern him much,
and very probably he had long since come to the sage and sensible
conclusion that a man's religion is one thing, and this practical
world quite another. This world pays dividends. Rising from a little
cabin-boy in short clothes of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a
broad shad-bellied waistcoat; from that becoming boat-header,
chief-mate, and captain, and finally a ship-owner; Bildad, as I hinted
before, had concluded his adventurous career by wholly retiring from
active life at the goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining
days to the quiet receiving of his well-earned income. Now Bildad, I
am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an incorrigible old
hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard task-master. They
told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a curious story, that
when he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his crew, upon arriving home,
were mostly all carried ashore to the hospital, sore exhausted and
worn out. For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was certainly
rather hard-hearted to say the least. He never used to swear, though,
at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate quantity of
cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When Bildad was a
chief-mate, to have his drab-colored eye intently looking at you, made
you feel completely nervous, till you could clutch something --a
hammer or a marling-spike, and go to work like mad, at something or
other, never mind what. Indolence and idleness perished from before
him. His own person was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian
character. On his long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh, no
superfluous beard, his chin having a soft, economical nap to it, like
the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat. Such, then, was the person
that I saw seated on the transom when I followed Captain Peleg down
into the cabin. The space between the decks was small; and there,
bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always sat so, and never leaned, and
this to save his coat tails. His broad-brim was placed beside him;
his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was buttoned up to his
chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in reading from a
ponderous volume. Bildad, cried Captain Peleg, at it again, Bildad,
eh? Ye have been studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty
years, to my certain knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad? As if long
habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate, Bildad, without
noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up, and seeing me,
glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg. He says he's our man,
Bildad, said Peleg, he wants to ship. Dost thee? said Bildad, in a
hollow tone, and turning round to me. I dost, said I unconsciously,
he was so intense a Quaker. What do ye think of him, Bildad? said
Peleg. He'll do, said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling
away at his book in a mumbling tone quite audible. I thought him the
queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg, his friend and
old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I said nothing, only
looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a chest, and drawing
forth the ship's articles, placed pen and ink before him, and seated
himself at a little table. I began to think it was high time to
settle with myself at what terms I would be willing to engage for the
voyage. I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid no
wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain shares
of the profits called lays, and that these lays were proportioned to
the degree of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the
ship's company. I was also aware that being a green hand at whaling,
my own lay would not be very large; but considering that I was used to
the sea, could steer a ship, splice a rope, and all that, I made no
doubt that from all I had heard I should be offered at least the 275th
lay --that is, the 275th part of the clear nett proceeds of the
voyage, whatever that might eventually amount to. And though the
275th lay was what they call a rather long lay, yet it was better than
nothing; and if we had a lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the
clothing I would wear out on it, not to speak of my three years' beef
and board, for which I would not have to pay one stiver. It might be
thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely fortune
--and so it was, a very poor way indeed. But I am one of those that
never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite content if the
world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am putting up at this
grim sign of the Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole, I thought that the
275th lay would be about the fair thing, but would not have been
surprised had I been offered the 200th, considering I was of a
broad-shouldered make. But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a
little distrustful about receiving a generous share of the profits was
this: Ashore, I had heard something of both Captain Peleg and his
unaccountable old crony Bildad; how that they being the principal
proprietors of the Pequod, therefore the other and more inconsiderable
and scattered owners, left nearly the whole management of the ship's
affairs to these two. And I did not know but what the stingy old
Bildad might have a mighty deal to say about shipping hands,
especially as I now found him on board the Pequod, quite at home there
in the cabin, and reading his Bible as if at his own fireside. Now
while Peleg was vainly trying to mend a pen with his jack-knife, old
Bildad, to my no small surprise, considering that he was such an
interested party in these proceedings; Bildad never heeded us, but
went on mumbling to himself out of his book, Lay not up for yourselves
treasures upon earth, where moth-- Well, Captain Bildad, interrupted
Peleg, what d'ye say, what lay shall we give this young man?

Thou knowest best, was the sepulchral reply, the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh wouldn't be too much, would it? -- "where moth and
rust do corrupt, but lay--" Lay, indeed, thought I, and such a lay!
the seven hundred and seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are
determined that I, for one, shall not lay up many lays here below,
where moth and rust do corrupt. It was an exceedingly long lay that,
indeed; and though from the magnitude of the figure it might at first
deceive a landsman, yet the slightest consideration will show that
though seven hundred and seventy-seven is a pretty large number, yet,
when you come to make a teenth of it, you will then see, I say, that
the seven hundred and seventy-seventh part of a farthing is a good
deal less than seven hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloons; and so
I thought at the time. Why, blast your eyes, Bildad, cried Peleg,
Thou dost not want to swindle this young man! he must have more than
that. Seven hundred and seventy-seventh, again said Bildad, without
lifting his eyes; and then went on mumbling -- for where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also. I am going to put him down for the
three hundredth, said Peleg, do ye hear that, Bildad! The three
hundredth lay, I say. Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly
towards him said, Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou
must consider the duty thou owest to the other owners of this ship--
widows and orphans, many of them --and that if we too abundantly
reward the labors of this young man, we may be taking the bread from
those widows and those orphans. The seven hundred and seventy-seventh
lay, Captain Peleg. Thou Bildad! roared Peleg, starting up and
clattering about the cabin. Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had
followed thy advice in these matters, I would afore now had a
conscience to lug about that would be heavy enough to founder the
largest ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn. Captain Peleg, said
Bildad steadily, thy conscience may be drawing ten inches of water, or
ten fathoms, i can't tell; but as thou art still an impenitent man,
captain Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy conscience be but a leaky one;
and will in the end sink thee foundering down to the fiery pit,
Captain Peleg.

Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing,
ye insult me. It's an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature
that he's bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again
to me, and start my soul-bolts, but I'll--I'll--yes, I'll swallow a
live goat with all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye
canting, drab-colored son of a wooden gun --a straight wake with ye!
As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a
marvellous oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded
him. Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and
responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up all
idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and temporarily
commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad,
who, I made no doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the
awakened wrath of Peleg. But to my astonishment, he sat down again on
the transom very quietly, and seemed to have not the slightest
intention of withdrawing. He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg
and his ways. As for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had,
there seemed no more left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb,
though he twitched a little as if still nervously agitated. Whew! he
whistled at last -- the squall's gone off to leeward, I think.
Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a lance, mend that pen,
will ye. My jack-knife here needs the grindstone. That's he; thank
ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man, Ishmael's thy name, didn't ye
say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael, for the three hundredth
lay. Captain Peleg, said I, I have a friend with me who wants to ship
too --shall I bring him down to-morrow? To be sure, said peleg.
fetch him along, and we'll look at him. What lay does he want?
groaned Bildad, glancing up from the book in which he had again been
burying himself. Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad, said Peleg.
Has he ever whaled it any? turning to me. Killed more whales than I
can count, Captain Peleg. Well, bring him along then. And, after
signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that I had done a
good morning's work, and that the Pequod was the identical ship that
Yojo had provided to carry Queequeg and me round the Cape. But I had
not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the captain with
whom I was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though, indeed, in many
cases, a whale-ship will be completely fitted out, and receive all her
crew on board, ere the captain makes himself visible by arriving to
take command; for sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the
shore intervals at home so exceedingly brief, that if the captain have
a family, or any absorbing concernment of that sort, he does not
trouble himself much about his ship in port, but leaves her to the
owners till all is ready for sea. However, it is always as well to
have a look at him before irrevocably committing yourself into his
hands. Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain
Ahab was to be found. And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It's
all right enough; thou art shipped. Yes, but I should like to see
him. But I don't think thou wilt be able to at present. I don't know
exactly what's the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the
house; a sort of sick, and yet he don't look so. In fact, he ain't
sick; but no, he isn't well either. Any how, young man, he won't
always see me, so I don't suppose he will thee. He's a queer man,
Captain Ahab --so some think --but a good one. Oh, thou'lt like him
well enough; no fear, no fear. he's a grand, ungodly, god-like man,
Captain Ahab; doesn't speak much; but, when he does speak, then you
may well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab's above the common;
Ahab's been in colleges, as well as 'mong the cannibals; been used to
deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery lance in mightier
stranger foes than whales. His lance! aye, the keenest and the
surest that out of all our isle! Oh! he ain't Captain Bildad; no,
and he ain't Captain Peleg; he's Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou
knowest, was a crowned king! And a very vile one. When that wicked
king was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?

Come hither to me --hither, hither, said Peleg, with a significance in
his eye that almost startled me. Look ye, lad; never say that on
board the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name
himself. 'Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother,
who died when he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old squaw
Tistig, at Gayhead, said that the name would somehow prove prophetic.
And, perhaps, other fools like her may tell thee the same. I wish to
warn thee. It's a lie. I know Captain Ahab well; I've sailed with
him as mate years ago; I know what he is--a good man --not a pious,
good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man --something like me
--only there's a good deal more of him. Aye, aye, I know that he was
never very jolly; and I know that on the passage home, he was a little
out of his mind for a spell; but it was the sharp shooting pains in
his bleeding stump that brought that about, as any one might see. I
know, too, that ever since he lost his leg last voyage by that
accursed whale, he's been a kind of moody --desperate moody, and
savage sometimes; but that will all pass off. And once for all, let
me tell thee and assure thee, young man, it's better to sail with a
moody good captain than a laughing bad one. So good-bye to thee --and
wrong not Captain Ahab, because he happens to have a wicked name.
Besides, my boy, he has a wife --not three voyages wedded --a sweet,
resigned girl. Think of that; by that sweet girl that old man has a
child: hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless harm in Ahab?
No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his humanities!
As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been
incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain
wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the
time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don't know
what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a
strange awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all
describe, was not exactly awe; I do not know what it was. But I felt
it; and it did not disincline me towards him; though I felt impatience
at what seemed like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to
me then. However, my thoughts were at length carried in other
directions, so that for the present dark Ahab slipped my mind.

< Chapter XVII 2 THE RAMADAN >

As Queequeg's Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue all
day, I did not choose to disturb him till towards night-fall; for I
cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious
obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart
to undervalue even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool; or
those other creatures in certain parts of our earth, who with a degree
of footmanism quite unprecedented in other planets, bow down before
the torso of a deceased landed proprietor merely on account of the
inordinate possessions yet owned and rented in his name. I say, we
good Presbyterian christians should be charitable in these things, and
not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and
what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these subjects.
There was Queequeg, now, certainly entertaining the most absurd
notions about Yojo and his Ramadan; --but what of that? Queequeg
thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to be content;
and there let him rest. All our arguing with him would not avail; let
him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all --Presbyterians and
Pagans alike --for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the
head, and sadly need mending. Towards evening, when I felt assured
that all his performances and rituals must be over, I went up to his
room and knocked at the door; but no answer. I tried to open it, but
it was fastened inside. Queequeg, said I softly through the key-hole:
--all silent. I say, Queequeg! why don't you speak? It's
I--Ishmael. But all remained still as before. I began to grow
alarmed. I had allowed him such abundant time; I thought he might
have had an apoplectic fit. I looked through the key-hole; but the
door opening into an odd corner of the room, the key-hole prospect was
but a crooked and sinister one. I could only see part of the
foot-board of the bed and a line of the wall, but nothing more. I was
surprised to behold resting against the wall the wooden shaft of
Queequeg's harpoon, which the landlady the evening previous had taken
from him, before our mounting to the chamber. That's strange, thought
I; but at any rate, since the harpoon stands yonder, and he seldom or
never goes abroad without it, therefore he must be inside here, and no
possible mistake. Queequeg! --Queequeg! --all still. Something must
have happened. Apoplexy! I tried to burst open the door; but it
stubbornly resisted. Running down stairs, I quickly stated my
suspicions to the first person i met --the chambermaid. la! la! she
cried, i thought something must be the matter. I went to make the bed
after breakfast, and the door was locked; and not a mouse to be heard;
and it's been just so silent ever since. But I thought, may be, you
had both gone off and locked your baggage in for safe keeping. La!
La, ma'am! --Mistress! murder! Mrs. Hussey! apoplexy! --and with
these cries, she ran towards the kitchen, I following. Mrs. Hussey
soon appeared, with a mustard-pot in one hand and a vinegar-cruet in
the other, having just broken away from the occupation of attending to
the castors, and scolding her little black boy meantime. Wood-house!
cried I, which way to it? Run for God's sake, and fetch something to
pry open the door --the axe! --the axe! he's had a stroke; depend
upon it! --and so saying I was unmethodically rushing up stairs again
empty-handed, when Mrs. Hussey interposed the mustard-pot and
vinegar-cruet, and the entire castor of her countenance. What's the
matter with you, young man? Get the axe! For God's sake, run for the
doctor, some one, while I pry it open! Look here, said the landlady,
quickly putting down the vinegar-cruet, so as to have one hand free;
look here; are you talking about prying open any of my doors? --and
with that she seized my arm. What's the matter with you? What's the
matter with you, shipmate? In as calm, but rapid a manner as
possible, I gave her to understand the whole case. Unconsciously
clapping the vinegar-cruet to one side of her nose, she ruminated for
an instant; then exclaimed -- No! I haven't seen it since I put it
there. Running to a little closet under the landing of the stairs,
she glanced in, and returning, told me that Queequeg's harpoon was
missing. He's killed himself, she cried. It's unfort'nate stiggs
done over again --there goes another counterpane --god pity his poor
mother! --it will be the ruin of my house. Has the poor lad a sister?
Where's that girl? --there, Betty, go to Snarles the Painter, and tell
him to paint me a sign, with --"no suicides permitted here, and no
smoking in the parlor;" --might as well kill both birds at once. Kill?
The Lord be merciful to his ghost! What's that noise there? You,
young man, avast there! And running up after me, she caught me as I
was again trying to force open the door. I won't allow it; I won't
have my premises spoiled. Go for the locksmith, there's one about a
mile from here. But avast! putting her hand in her side-pocket,
here's a key that'll fit, I guess; let's see. And with that, she
turned it in the lock; but, alas! Queequeg's supplemental bolt
remained unwithdrawn within. Have to burst it open, said I, and was
running down the entry a little, for a good start, when the landlady
caught at me, again vowing I should not break down her premises; but I
tore from her, and with a sudden bodily rush dashed myself full
against the mark. With a prodigious noise the door flew open, and the
knob slamming against the wall, sent the plaster to the ceiling; and
there, good heavens! there sat Queequeg, altogether cool and
self-collected; right in the middle of the room; squatting on his
hams, and holding Yojo on top of his head. He looked neither one way
nor the other way, but sat like a carved image with scarce a sign of
active life. Queequeg, said I, going up to him, Queequeg, what's the
matter with you? He hain't been a sittin' so all day, has he? said
the landlady. But all we said, not a word could we drag out of him; I
almost felt like pushing him over, so as to change his position, for
it was almost intolerable, it seemed so painfully and unnaturally
constrained; especially, as in all probability he had been sitting so
for upwards of eight or ten hours, going too without his regular
meals. Mrs. Hussey, said I, he's alive at all events; so leave us,
if you please, and I will see to this strange affair myself. Closing
the door upon the landlady, I endeavored to prevail upon Queequeg to
take a chair; but in vain. There he sat; and all he could do --for
all my polite arts and blandishments --he would not move a peg, nor
say a single word, nor even look at me, nor notice my presence in any
the slightest way. I wonder, thought I, if this can possibly be a
part of his Ramadan; do they fast on their hams that way in his native
island. It must be so; yes, it's part of his creed, I suppose; well,
then, let him rest; he'll get up sooner or later, no doubt. It can't
last for ever, thank God, and his Ramadan only comes once a year; and
I don't believe it's very punctual then. I went down to supper.
After sitting a long time listening to the long stories of some
sailors who had just come from a plum-pudding voyage, as they called
it (that is, a short whaling-voyage in a schooner or brig, confined to
the north of the line, in the Atlantic Ocean only); after listening to
these plum-puddingers till nearly eleven o'clock, I went up stairs to
go to bed, feeling quite sure by this time Queequeg must certainly
have brought his Ramadan to a termination. But no; there he was just
where I had left him; he had not stirred an inch. I began to grow
vexed with him; it seemed so downright senseless and insane to be
sitting there all day and half the night on his hams in a cold room,
holding a piece of wood on his head. For heaven's sake, Queequeg, get
up and shake yourself; get up and have some supper. You'll starve;
you'll kill yourself, Queequeg. But not a word did he reply.
Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep;
and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me. But previous
to turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket, and threw it over him,
as it promised to be a very cold night; and he had nothing but his
ordinary round jacket on. For some time, do all I would, I could not
get into the faintest doze. I had blown out the candle; and the mere
thought of Queequeg-- not four feet off --sitting there in that uneasy
position, stark alone in the cold and dark; this made me really
wretched. Think of it; sleeping all night in the same room with a
wide awake pagan on his hams in this dreary, unaccountable Ramadan!
But somehow I dropped off at last, and knew nothing more till break of
day; when, looking over the bedside, there squatted Queequeg, as if he
had been screwed down to the floor. But as soon as the first glimpse
of sun entered the window, up he got, with stiff and grating joints,
but with a cheerful look; limped towards me where I lay; pressed his
forehead again against mine; and said his Ramadan was over. Now, as I
before hinted, I have no objection to any person's religion, be it
what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other
person, because that other person don't believe it also. But when a
man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment
to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to
lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and
argue the point with him. And just so I now did with Queequeg.
Queequeg, said I, get into bed now, and lie and listen to me. I then
went on, beginning with the rise and progress of the primitive
religions, and coming down to the various religions of the present
time, during which time I labored to show Queequeg that all these
Lents, Ramadans, and prolonged ham-squattings in cold, cheerless rooms
were stark nonsense; bad for the health; useless for the soul;
opposed, in short, to the obvious laws of Hygiene and common sense. I
told him, too, that he being in other things such an extremely
sensible and sagacious savage, it pained me, very badly pained me, to
see him now so deplorably foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan of
his. Besides, argued I, fasting makes the body cave in; hence the
spirit caves in; and all thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be
half-starved. This is the reason why most dyspeptic religionists
cherish such melancholy notions about their hereafters. In one word,
Queequeg, said I, rather digressively; hell is an idea first born on
an undigested apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the
hereditary dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans. I then asked Queequeg
whether he himself was ever troubled with dyspepsia; expressing the
idea very plainly, so that he could take it in. He said no; only upon
one memorable occasion. It was after a great feast given by his
father the king, on the gaining of a great battle wherein fifty of the
enemy had been killed by about two o'clock in the afternoon, and all
cooked and eaten that very evening. No more, Queequeg, said I,
shuddering; that will do; for I knew the inferences without his
further hinting them. I had seen a sailor who had visited that very
island, and he told me that it was the custom, when a great battle had
been gained there, to barbecue all the slain in the yard or garden of
the victor; and then, one by one, they were placed in great wooden
trenchers, and garnished round like a pilau, with breadfruit and
cocoanuts; and with some parsley in their mouths, were sent round with
the victor's compliments to all his friends, just as though these
presents were so many Christmas turkeys. After all, I do not think
that my remarks about religion made much impression upon Queequeg.
Because, in the first place, he somehow seemed dull of hearing on that
important subject, unless considered from his own point of view; and,
in the second place, he did not more than one third understand me,
couch my ideas simply as I would; and, finally, he no doubt thought he
knew a good deal more about the true religion than I did. He looked
at me with a sort of condescending concern and compassion, as though
he thought it a great pity that such a sensible young man should be so
hopelessly lost to evangelical pagan piety. At last we rose and
dressed; and Queequeg, taking a prodigiously hearty breakfast of
chowders of all sorts, so that the landlady should not make much
profit by reason of his Ramadan, we sallied out to board the Pequod,
sauntering along, and picking our teeth with halibut bones.

< Chapter XVIII 2 HIS MARK >

As we were walking down the end of the wharf towards the ship,
Queequeg carrying his harpoon, Captain Peleg in his gruff voice loudly
hailed us from his wigwam, saying he had not suspected my friend was a
cannibal, and furthermore announcing that he let no cannibals on board
that craft, unless they previously produced their papers. What do you
mean by that, Captain Peleg? said I, now jumping on the bulwarks, and
leaving my comrade standing on the wharf. I mean, he replied, he must
show his papers. Yea, said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice,
sticking his head from behind Peleg's, out of the wigwam. He must
show that he's converted. Son of darkness, he added, turning to
Queequeg, art thou at present in communion with any christian church?
Why, said I, he's a member of the first Congregational Church. Here
be it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket ships at
last come to be converted into the churches.

First Congregational Church, cried Bildad, what! that worships in
Deacon Deuteronomy Coleman's meeting-house? and so saying, taking out
his spectacles, he rubbed them with his great yellow bandana
handkerchief, and putting them on very carefully, came out of the
wigwam, and leaning stiffly over the bulwarks, took a good long look
at Queequeg. How long hath he been a member? he then said, turning
to me; not very long, I rather guess, young man. No, said Peleg, and
he hasn't been baptized right either, or it would have washed some of
that devil's blue off his face. Do tell, now, cried Bildad, is this
Philistine a regular member of Deacon Deuteronomy's meeting? I never
saw him going there, and I pass it every Lord's day.

I don't know anything about Deacon Deuteronomy or his meeeting, said
I, all I know is, that Queequeg here is a born member of the First
Congregational Church. He is a deacon himself, Queequeg is. Young
man, said Bildad sternly, thou art skylarking with me --explain
thyself, thou young Hittite. What church dost thee mean? answer
me. Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied. I mean, sir, the same
ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there,
and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother's son and soul of
us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole
worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us cherish some
queer crotchets noways touching the grand belief; in that we all join
hands. Splice, thou mean'st splice hands, cried Peleg, drawing
nearer. Young man, you'd better ship for a missionary, instead of a
fore-mast hand; I never heard a better sermon. Deacon Deuteronomy
--why Father Mapple himself couldn't beat it, and he's reckoned
something. Come aboard, come aboard; never mind about the papers. I
say, tell Quohog there --what's that you call him? tell Quohog to
step along. By the great anchor, what a harpoon he's got there!
looks like good stuff that; and he handles it about right. I say,
Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand in the head of a
whale-boat? did you ever strike a fish? Without saying a word,
Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon the bulwarks, from
thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats hanging to the side;
and then bracing his left knee, and poising his harpoon, cried out in
some such way as this: -- Cap'ain, you see him small drop tar on water
dere? You see him? well, spose him one whale eye, well, den! and
taking sharp aim at it, he darted the iron right over old Bildad's
broad brim, clean across the ship's decks, and struck the glistening
tar spot out of sight. Now, said Queequeg, quietly hauling in the
line, spos-ee him whale-e eye; why, dad whale dead. Quick, Bildad,
said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close vicinity of the
flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin gangway.

Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship's papers. We must have
Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats. Look ye, Quohog,
we'll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that's more than ever was given a
harpooneer yet out of Nantucket. So down we went into the cabin, and
to my great joy Queequeg was soon enrolled among the same ship's
company to which I myself belonged. When all preliminaries were over
and Peleg had got everything ready for signing, he turned to me and
said, I guess Quohog there don't know how to write, does he? I say,
Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign thy name or make thy mark? But at
this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken part in
similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking the offered
pen, copied upon the paper, in the proper place, an exact counterpart
of a queer round figure which was tattooed upon his arm; so that
through Captain Peleg's obstinate mistake touching his appellative, it
stood something like this: -- Quohog his mark. Meanwhile Captain
Bildad sat earnestly and steadfastly eyeing Queequeg, and at last
rising solemnly and fumbling in the huge pockets of his broad-skirted
drab coat, took out a bundle of tracts, and selecting one entitled The
Latter Day Coming; or No Time to Lose, placed it in queequeg's hands,
and then grasping them and the book with both his, looked earnestly
into his eyes, and said, Son of darkness, I must do my duty by thee; I
am part owner of this ship, and feel concerned for the souls of all
its crew; if thou still clingest to thy Pagan ways, which I sadly
fear, I beseech thee, remain not for aye a Belial bondsman. Spurn the
idol Bell, and the hideous dragon; turn from the wrath to come; mind
thine eye, I say; oh! goodness gracious! steer clear of the fiery
pit! Something of the salt sea yet lingered in old Bildad's language,
heterogeneously mixed with Scriptural and domestic phrases. Avast
there, avast there, Bildad, avast now spoiling our harpooneer, cried
Peleg. Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers --it takes the
shark out of 'em; no harpooneer is worth a straw who aint pretty
sharkish. There was young Nat Swaine, once the bravest boat-header
out of all Nantucket and the Vineyard; he joined the meeting, and
never came to good. He got so frightened about his plaguy soul, that
he shrinked and sheered away from whales, for fear of after-claps in
case he got stove and went to Davy Jones.

Peleg! Peleg! said Bildad, lifting his eyes and hands, thou thyself,
as I myself, hast seen many a perilous time; thou knowest, Peleg, what
it is to have the fear of death; how, then, can'st thou prate in this
ungodly guise. Thou beliest thine own heart, Peleg. Tell me, when
this same Pequod here had her three masts overboard in that typhoon on
Japan, that same voyage when thou went mate with Captain Ahab, did'st
thou not think of Death and the Judgment then? Hear him, hear him now,
cried Peleg, marching across the cabin, and thrusting his hands far
down into his pockets, -- hear him, all of ye. Think of that! When
every moment we thought the ship would sink! Death and the judgment
then? What? With all three masts making such an everlasting
thundering against the side; and every sea breaking over us, fore and
aft. Think of Death and the Judgment then? No! no time to think
about Death then.

Life was what Captain Ahab and I was thinking of; and how to save all
hands --how to rig jury-masts -- how to get into the nearest port;
that was what I was thinking of. Bildad said no more, but buttoning
up his coat, stalked on deck, where we followed him. There he stood,
very quietly overlooking some sail-makers who were mending a top-sail
in the waist. Now and then he stooped to pick up a patch, or save an
end of tarred twine, which otherwise might have been wasted.

< Chapter XIX 2 THE PROPHET >

Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship? Queequeg and I had just left
the Pequod, and were sauntering away from the water, for the moment
each occupied with his own thoughts, when the above words were put to
us by a stranger, who, pausing before us, levelled his massive
forefinger at the vessel in question. He was but shabbily apparelled
in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a black handkerchief
investing his neck. A confluent small-pox had in all directions
flowed over his face, and left it like the complicated ribbed bed of a
torrent, when the rushing waters have been dried up. Have ye shipped
in her? he repeated.

You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose, said I, trying to gain a little
more time for an uninterrupted look at him. Aye, the Pequod --that
ship there, he said, drawing back his whole arm, and then rapidly
shoving it straight out from him, with the fixed bayonet of his
pointed finger darted full at the object. Yes, said I, we have just
signed the articles. Anything down there about your souls? About
what? Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any, he said quickly. no matter
though, i know many chaps that hav'n't got any, --good luck to 'em;
and they are all the better off for it. A soul's a sort of a fifth
wheel to a wagon. What are you jabbering about, shipmate? said I.
He's got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that sort
in other chaps, abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous emphasis
upon the word he. Queequeg, said I, let's go; this fellow has broken
loose from somewhere; he's talking about something and somebody we
don't know.

Stop! cried the stranger. Ye said true --ye hav'n't seen Old Thunder
yet, have ye? Who's Old Thunder? said I, again riveted with the
insane earnestness of his manner. Captain Ahab. What! the captain
of our ship, the Pequod? Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he
goes by that name. Ye hav'n't seen him yet, have ye? No, we hav'n't.
He's sick they say, but is getting better, and will be all right again
before long. All right again before long! laughed the stranger, with
a solemnly derisive sort of laugh.

Look ye; when captain Ahab is all right, then this left arm of mine
will be all right; not before. What do you know about him? What did
they tell you about him? Say that! They didn't tell much of anything
about him; only I've heard that he's a good whale-hunter, and a good
captain to his crew.

That's true, that's true --yes, both true enough. But you must jump
when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and go --that's the
word with Captain Ahab. But nothing about that thing that happened to
him off Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days and
nights; nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore
the altar in Santa? -- heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing about the
silver calabash he spat into? And nothing about his losing his leg
last voyage, according to the prophecy. Didn't ye hear a word about
them matters and something more, eh? No, I don't think ye did; how
could ye? Who knows it? Not all Nantucket, I guess. But hows'ever,
mayhap, ye've heard tell about the leg, and how he lost it; aye, ye
have heard of that, I dare say. Oh yes, that every one knows a'most
--I mean they know he's only one leg; and that a parmacetti took the
other off.

My friend, said I, what all this gibberish of yours is about, I don't
know, and I don't much care; for it seems to me that you must be a
little damaged in the head. But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab,
of that ship there, the Pequod, then let me tell you, that I know all
about the loss of his leg.

All about it, eh --sure you do? --all? Pretty sure. With finger
pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like stranger stood
a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a little, turned
and said: -- Ye've shipped, have ye? Names down on the papers? Well,
well, what's signed, is signed; and what's to be, will be; and then
again, perhaps it wont be, after all. Any how, it's all fixed and
arranged a'ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I
suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em! Morning to ye,
shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I'm sorry I
stopped ye. Look here, friend, said I, if you have anything important
to tell us, out with it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle us,
you are mistaken in your game; that's all I have to say. And it's
said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way; you are
just the man for him --the likes of ye. Morning to ye, shipmates,
morning! Oh, when ye get there, tell 'em I've concluded not to make
one of 'em. Ah, my dear fellow, you can't fool us that way --you
can't fool us. It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look
as if he had a great secret in him. Morning to ye, shipmates,
morning. Morning it is, said I. Come along, Queequeg, let's leave
this crazy man. But stop, tell me your name, will you?

Elijah. Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting,
after each other's fashion, upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed
that he was nothing but a humbug, trying to be a bugbear. But we had
not gone perhaps above a hundred yards, when chancing to turn a
corner, and looking back as I did so, who should be seen but Elijah
following us, though at a distance. Somehow, the sight of him struck
me so, that I said nothing to Queequeg of his being behind, but passed
on with my comrade, anxious to see whether the stranger would turn the
same corner that we did. He did; and then it seemed to me that he was
dogging us, but with what intent I could not for the life of me
imagine. This circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous, half-hinting,
half-revealing, shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all kinds of
vague wonderments and half-apprehensions, and all connected with the
Pequod; and Captain Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn
fit; and the silver calabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of him,
when I left the ship the day previous; and the prediction of the squaw
Tistig; and the voyage we had bound ourselves to sail; and a hundred
other shadowy things. I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this
ragged Elijah was really dogging us or not, and with that intent
crossed the way with Queequeg, and on that side of it retraced our
steps. But Elijah passed on, without seeming to notice us. This
relieved me; and once more, and finally as it seemed to me, I
pronounced him in my heart, a humbug.

< Chapter XX 15 ALL ASTIR >

A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the pequod.
not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on
board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything
betokened that the ship's preparations were hurrying to a close.
Captain Peleg seldom or never went ashore, but sat in his wigwam
keeping a sharp look-out upon the hands: Bildad did all the purchasing
and providing at the stores; and the men employed in the hold and on
the rigging were working till long after night-fall. On the day
following Queequeg's signing the articles, word was given at all the
inns where the ship's company were stopping, that their chests must be
on board before night, for there was no telling how soon the vessel
might be sailing. So Queequeg and I got down our traps, resolving,
however, to sleep ashore till the last. But it seems they always give
very long notice in these cases, and the ship did not sail for several
days. But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and there is
no telling how many things to be thought of, before the Pequod was
fully equipped. Every one knows what a multitude of things --beds,
sauce-pans, knives and forks, shovels and tongs, napkins,
nut-crackers, and what not, are indispensable to the business of
housekeeping. Just so with whaling, which necessitates a three-years'
housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all grocers, costermongers,
doctors, bakers, and bankers. And though this also holds true of
merchant vessels, yet not by any means to the same extent as with
whalemen. For besides the great length of the whaling voyage, the
numerous articles peculiar to the prosecution of the fishery, and the
impossibility of replacing them at the remote harbors usually
frequented, it must be remembered, that of all ships, whaling vessels
are the most exposed to accidents of all kinds, and especially to the
destruction and loss of the very things upon which the success of the
voyage most depends. Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare
lines and harpoons, and spare everythings, almost, but a spare captain
and duplicate ship. At the period of our arrival at the Island, the
heaviest storage of the Pequod had been almost completed; comprising
her beef, bread, water, fuel, and iron hoops and staves. But, as
before hinted, for some time there was a continual fetching and
carrying on board of divers odds and ends of things, both large and
small. Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was
Captain Bildad's sister, a lean old lady of a most determined and
indefatigable spirit, but withal very kindhearted, who seemed resolved
that, if she could help it, nothing should be found wanting in the
Pequod, after once fairly getting to sea. At one time she would come
on board with a jar of pickles for the steward's pantry; another time
with a bunch of quills for the chief mate's desk, where he kept his
log; a third time with a roll of flannel for the small of some one's
rheumatic back. Never did any woman better deserve her name, which
was Charity --Aunt Charity, as everybody called her. And like a
sister of charity did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle about hither
and thither, ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that
promised to yield safety, comfort, and consolation to all on board a
ship in which her beloved brother Bildad was concerned, and in which
she herself owned a score or two of well-saved dollars. But it was
startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress coming on board, as
she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle in one hand, and a still
longer whaling lance in the other. Nor was Bildad himself nor Captain
Peleg at all backward. As for Bildad, he carried about with him a
long list of the articles needed, and at every fresh arrival, down
went his mark opposite that article upon the paper.

Every once and a while Peleg came hobbling out of his whalebone den,
roaring at the men down the hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at
the mast-head, and then concluded by roaring back into his
wigwam. During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited
the craft, and as often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was,
and when he was going to come on board his ship. To these questions
they would answer, that he was getting better and better, and was
expected aboard every day; meantime, the two Captains, Peleg and
Bildad, could attend to everything necessary to fit the vessel for the
voyage. If I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen
very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed
this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man
who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed
out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it
sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he
insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And
much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think
nothing. At last it was given out that some time next day the ship
would certainly sail. So next morning, Queequeg and I took a very
early start.

< Chapter XXI 2 GOING ABOARD >

It was nearly six o'clock, but only grey imperfect misty dawn, when we
drew nigh the wharf. There are some sailors running ahead there, if I
see right, said I to Queequeg, it can't be shadows; she's off by
sunrise, I guess; come on! Avast! cried a voice, whose owner at the
same time coming close behind us, laid a hand upon both our shoulders,
and then insinuating himself between us, stood stooping forward a
little, in the uncertain twilight, strangely peering from Queequeg to
me. It was Elijah. Going aboard? Hands off, will you, said
I. Lookee here, said Queequeg, shaking himself, go 'way! Aint going
aboard, then? Yes, we are, said I, but what business is that of
yours? Do you know, Mr. Elijah, that I consider you a little
impertinent? No, no, no; I wasn't aware of that, said elijah, slowly
and wonderingly looking from me to Queequeg, with the most
unaccountable glances. Elijah, said I, you will oblige my friend and
me by withdrawing. We are going to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and
would prefer not to be detained. Ye be, be ye? Coming back afore
breakfast? He's cracked, Queequeg, said I, come on. Holloa! cried
stationary Elijah, hailing us when we had removed a few paces. Never
mind him, said I, Queequeg, come on. But he stole up to us again, and
suddenly clapping his hand on my shoulder, said -- Did ye see anything
looking like men going towards that ship a while ago? Struck by this
plain matter-of-fact question, I answered, saying, Yes, I thought I
did see four or five men; but it was too dim to be sure.

Very dim, very dim, said Elijah. Morning to ye. Once more we quitted
him; but once more he came softly after us; and touching my shoulder
again, said, See if you can find 'em now, will ye? Find who? Morning
to ye! morning to ye! he rejoined, again moving off. Oh! I was
going to warn ye against --but never mind, never mind --it's all one,
all in the family too; --sharp frost this morning, ain't it? Good bye
to ye. Shan't see ye again very soon, I guess; unless it's before the
Grand Jury. And with these cracked words he finally departed, leaving
me, for the moment, in no small wonderment at his frantic impudence.
At last, stepping on board the Pequod, we found everything in profound
quiet, not a soul moving. The cabin entrance was locked within; the
hatches were all on, and lumbered with coils of rigging. Going
forward to the forecastle, we found the slide of the scuttle
open. Seeing a light, we went down, and found only an old rigger
there, wrapped in a tattered pea-jacket. He was thrown at whole
length upon two chests, his face downwards and inclosed in his folded
arms. The profoundest slumber slept upon him. Those sailors we saw,
Queequeg, where can they have gone to? said I, looking dubiously at
the sleeper. But it seemed that, when on the wharf, Queequeg had not
at all noticed what I now alluded to; hence I would have thought
myself to have been optically deceived in that matter, were it not for
Elijah's otherwise inexplicable question. But I beat the thing down;
and again marking the sleeper, jocularly hinted to Queequeg that
perhaps we had best sit up with the body; telling him to establish
himself accordingly. He put his hand upon the sleeper's rear, as
though feeling if it was soft enough; and then, without more ado, sat
quietly down there. Gracious! Queequeg, don't sit there, said I. Oh!
perry dood seat, said Queequeg, my country way; won't hurt him
face. Face! said I, call that his face? very benevolent countenance
then; but how hard he breathes, he's heaving himself; get off,
Queequeg, you are heavy, it's grinding the face of the poor. Get off,
Queequeg! Look, he'll twitch you off soon. I wonder he don't wake.
Queequeg removed himself to just beyond the head of the sleeper, and
lighted his tomahawk pipe. I sat at the feet. We kept the pipe
passing over the sleeper, from one to the other. Meanwhile, upon
questioning him in his broken fashion, Queequeg gave me to understand
that, in his land, owing to the absence of settees and sofas of all
sorts, the king, chiefs, and great people generally, were in the
custom of fattening some of the lower orders for ottomans; and to
furnish a house comfortably in that respect, you had only to buy up
eight or ten lazy fellows, and lay them round in the piers and
alcoves. Besides, it was very convenient on an excursion; much better
than those garden-chairs which are convertible into walking-sticks;
upon occasion, a chief calling his attendant, and desiring him to make
a settee of himself under a spreading tree, perhaps in some damp
marshy place. While narrating these things, every time Queequeg
received the tomahawk from me, he flourished the hatchet-side of it
over the sleeper's head. What's that for, Queequeg? Perry easy,
kill-e; oh! perry easy! He was going on with some wild reminiscences
about his tomahawk-pipe, which, it seemed, had in its two uses both
brained his foes and soothed his soul, when we were directly attracted
to the sleeping rigger. The strong vapor now completely filling the
contracted hole, it began to tell upon him. He breathed with a sort
of muffledness; then seemed troubled in the nose; then revolved over
once or twice; then sat up and rubbed his eyes. Holloa.

he breathed at last, who be ye smokers? Shipped men, answered I, when
does she sail? Aye, aye, ye are going in her, be ye? She sails
to-day. The Captain came aboard last night. What Captain? --Ahab?
Who but him indeed? I was going to ask him some further questions
concerning Ahab, when we heard a noise on deck. Halloa! Starbuck's
astir, said the rigger. He's a lively chief mate, that; good man, and
a pious; but all alive now, I must turn to. And so saying he went on
deck, and we followed. It was now clear sunrise. Soon the crew came
on board in twos and threes; the riggers bestirred themselves; the
mates were actively engaged; and several of the shore people were busy
in bringing various last things on board. Meanwhile Captain Ahab
remained invisibly enshrined within his cabin.


At length, towards noon, upon the final dismissal of the ship's
riggers, and after the Pequod had been hauled out from the wharf, and
after the ever-thoughtful Charity had come off in a whaleboat, with
her last gift --a night-cap for Stubb, the second mate, her
brother-in-law, and a spare bible for the steward -- after all this,
the two captains, Peleg and Bildad, issued from the cabin, and turning
to the chief mate, Peleg said: Now, Mr. Starbuck, are you sure
everything is right? Captain Ahab is all ready --just spoke to him
--nothing more to be got from shore, eh? Well, call all hands,
then. Muster 'em aft here --blast 'em! No need of profane words,
however great the hurry, Peleg, said Bildad, but away with thee,
friend Starbuck, and do our bidding. How now! Here upon the very
point of starting for the voyage, Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad
were going it with a high hand on the quarter-deck, just as if they
were to be joint-commanders at sea, as well as to all appearances in
port. And, as for Captain Ahab, no sign of him was yet to be seen;
Only, they said he was in the cabin. But then, the idea was, that his
presence was by no means necessary in getting the ship under weigh,
and steering her well out to sea. Indeed, as that was not at all his
proper business, but the pilot's; and as he was not yet completely
recovered --so they said --therefore, Captain Ahab stayed below. And
all this seemed natural enough; especially as in the merchant service
many captains never show themselves on deck for a considerable time
after heaving up the anchor, but remain over the cabin table, having a
farewell merrymaking with their shore friends, before they quit the
ship for good with the pilot. But there was not much chance to think
over the matter, for Captain Peleg was now all alive. He seemed to do
most of the talking and commanding, and not Bildad.

Aft here, ye sons of bachelors, he cried, as the sailors lingered at
the main-mast. Mr. Starbuck, drive 'em aft. Strike the tent there!
--was the next order. As I hinted before, this whalebone marquee was
never pitched except in port; and on board the Pequod, for thirty
years, the order to strike the tent was well known to be the next
thing to heaving up the anchor.

Man the capstan! Blood and thunder! --jump! --was the next command,
and the crew sprang for the handspikes. Now, in getting under weigh,
the station generally occupied by the pilot is the forward part of the
ship. And here Bildad, who, with Peleg, be it known, in addition to
his other offices, was one of the licensed pilots of the port --he
being suspected to have got himself made a pilot in order to save the
Nantucket pilot-fee to all the ships he was concerned in, for he never
piloted any other craft --Bildad, I say, might now be seen actively
engaged in looking over the bows for the approaching anchor, and at
intervals singing what seemed a dismal stave of psalmody, to cheer the
hands at the windlass, who roared forth some sort of a chorus about
the girls in Booble Alley, with hearty good will. Nevertheless, not
three days previous, Bildad had told them that no profane songs would
be allowed on board the Pequod, particularly in getting under weigh;
and Charity, his sister, had placed a small choice copy of Watts in
each seaman's berth. Meantime, overseeing the other part of the ship,
Captain Peleg ripped and swore astern in the most frightful manner. I
almost thought he would sink the ship before the anchor could be got
up; involuntarily I paused on my handspike, and told Queequeg to do
the same, thinking of the perils we both ran, in starting on the
voyage with such a devil for a pilot. I was comforting myself,
however, with the thought that in pious Bildad might be found some
salvation, spite of his seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay; when I
felt a sudden sharp poke in my rear, and turning round, was horrified
at the apparition of Captain Peleg in the act of withdrawing his leg
from my immediate vicinity. That was my first kick. Is that the way
they heave in the marchant service? he roared. Spring, thou
sheep-head; spring, and break thy backbone! why don't ye spring, i
say, all of ye--spring! Quohog! spring, thou chap with the red
whiskers; spring there, Scotchcap; spring, thou green pants. Spring,
I say, all of ye, and spring your eyes out! And so saying, he moved
along the windlass, here and there using his leg very freely, while
imperturbable Bildad kept leading off with his psalmody. Thinks I,
Captain Peleg must have been drinking something to-day. At last the
anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a short,
cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we
found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing
spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor. The long rows of teeth
on the bulwarks glistened in the moonlight; and like the white ivory
tusks of some huge elephant, vast curving icicles depended from the
bows. Lank Bildad, as pilot, headed the first watch, and ever and
anon, as the old craft deep dived into the green seas, and sent the
shivering frost all over her, and the winds howled, and the cordage
rang, his steady notes were heard, -- Sweet fields beyond the swelling
flood, Stand dressed in living green. So to the Jews old Canaan
stood, While Jordan rolled between. Never did those sweet words sound
more sweetly to me than then. They were full of hope and fruition.
Spite of this frigid winter night in the boisterous Atlantic, spite of
my wet feet and wetter jacket, there was yet, it then seemed to me,
many a pleasant haven in store; and meads and glades so eternally
vernal, that the grass shot up by the spring, untrodden, unwilted,
remains at midsummer. At last we gained such an offing, that the two
pilots were needed no longer. The stout sail-boat that had
accompanied us began ranging alongside. It was curious and not
unpleasing, how Peleg and Bildad were affected at this juncture,
especially Captain Bildad. For loath to depart, yet; very loath to
leave, for good, a ship bound on so long and perilous a voyage
--beyond both stormy Capes; a ship in which some thousands of his hard
earned dollars were invested; a ship, in which an old shipmate sailed
as captain; a man almost as old as he, once more starting to encounter
all the terrors of the pitiless jaw; loath to say good-bye to a thing
so every way brimful of every interest to him, --poor old Bildad
lingered long; paced the deck with anxious strides" ran down into the
cabin to speak another farewell word there; again came on deck, and
looked to windward; looked towards the wide and endless waters, only
bounded by the far-off unseen Eastern Continents; looked towards the
land, looked aloft; looked right and left; looked everywhere and
nowhere; and at last, mechanically coiling a rope upon its pin,
convulsively grasped stout Peleg by the hand, and holding up a
lantern, for a moment stood gazing heroically in his face, as much as
to say, Nevertheless, friend Peleg, I can stand it; yes, I can. As
for Peleg himself, he took it more like a philosopher; but for all his
philosophy, there was a tear twinkling in his eye, when the lantern
came too near. And he, too, did not a little run from cabin to deck
--now a word below, and now a word with Starbuck, the chief mate. But,
at last, he turned to his comrade, with a final sort of look about
him, -- Captain Bildad --come, old shipmate, we must go. Back the
main-yard there! Boat ahoy! Stand by to come close alongside, now!
Careful, careful! --come, Bildad, boy --say your last. Luck to ye,
Starbuck --luck to ye, Mr. Stubb --luck to ye, Mr. Flask --good-bye,
and good luck to ye all --and this day three years I'll have a hot
supper smoking for ye in old Nantucket. Hurrah and away! God bless
ye, and have ye in His holy keeping, men, murmured old Bildad, almost
incoherently. I hope ye'll have fine weather now, so that Captain
Ahab may soon be moving among ye --a pleasant sun is all he needs, and
ye'll have plenty of them in the tropic voyage ye go. Be careful in
the hunt, ye mates. Don't stave the boats needlessly, ye harpooneers;
good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent. within the
year. Don't forget your prayers, either. Mr Starbuck, mind that
cooper don't waste the spare staves. Oh! the sail-needles are in the
green locker! Don't whale it too much a' Lord's days, men; but don't
miss a fair chance either, that's rejecting Heaven's good gifts. Have
an eye to the molasses tierce, Mr. Stubb; it was a little leaky, I
thought. If ye touch at the islands, Mr. Flask, beware of
fornication. Good-bye, good-bye! Don't keep that cheese too long
down in the hold, Mr. Starbuck; it'll spoil. Be careful with the
butter --twenty cents the pound it was, and mind ye, if-- Come, come,
Captain Bildad; stop palavering, --away! and with that, Peleg hurried
him over the side, and both dropt into the boat. Ship and boat
diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between; a screaming gull
flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled; we gave three
heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate into the lone

< Chapter XXIII 28 THE LEE SHORE >

Some chapters back, one Bulkington was spoken of, a tall, new-landed
mariner, encountered in New Bedford at the inn.

When on that shivering winter's night, the Pequod thrust her
vindictive bows into the cold malicious waves, who should I see
standing at her helm but Bulkington! I looked with sympathetic awe
and fearfulness upon the man, who in mid-winter just landed from a
four years' dangerous voyage, could so unrestingly push off again for
still another tempestuous term. The land seemed scorching to his
feet. Wonderfullest things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories
yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave of
Bulkington. Let me only say that it fared with him as with the
storm-tossed ship, that miserably drives along the leeward land. The
port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is
safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all
that's kind to our mortalities. But in that gale, the port, the land,
is that ship's direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one
touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder
through and through. With all her might she crowds all sail off
shore; in so doing, fights 'gainst the very winds that fain would blow
her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea's landlessness again; for
refuge's sake forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her
bitterest foe! Know ye, now, Bulkington? Glimpses do ye seem to see
of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of
her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast
her on the treacherous, slavish shore? But as in landlessness alone
resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God --so, better
is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed
upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who
would craven crawl to land! Terrors of the terrible! is all this
agony so vain? Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee
grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing --straight
up, leaps thy apotheosis!


As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of whaling;
and as this business of whaling has somehow come to be regarded among
landsmen as a rather unpoetical and disreputable pursuit; therefore, I
am all anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby
done to us hunters of whales. In the first place, it may be deemed
almost superfluous to establish the fact, that among people at large,
the business of whaling is not accounted on a level with what are
called the liberal professions. If a stranger were introduced into
any miscellaneous metropolitan society, it would but slightly advance
the general opinion of his merits, were he presented to the company as
a harpooneer, say; and if in emulation of the naval officers he should
append the initials S. W. F. (Sperm Whale Fishery) to his visiting
card, such a procedure would be deemed pre-eminently presuming and
ridiculous. Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines
honoring us whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation
amounts to a butchering sort of business; and that when actively
engaged therein, we are surrounded by all manner of defilements.
Butchers we are, that is true. But butchers, also, and butchers of
the bloodiest badge have been all Martial Commanders whom the world
invariably delights to honor. And as for the matter of the alleged
uncleanliness of our business, ye shall soon be initiated into certain
facts hitherto pretty generally unknown, and which, upon the whole,
will triumphantly plant the sperm whale-ship at least among the
cleanliest things of this tidy earth. But even granting the charge in
question to be true; what disordered slippery decks of a whale-ship
are comparable to the unspeakable carrion of those battle-fields from
which so many soldiers return to drink in all ladies' plaudits? And
if the idea of peril so much enhances the popular conceit of the
soldier's profession; let me assure ye that many a veteran who has
freely marched up to a battery, would quickly recoil at the apparition
of the sperm whale's vast tail, fanning into eddies the air over his
head. For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with
the interlinked terrors and wonders of God! But, though the world
scouts at us whale hunters, yet does it unwittingly pay us the
profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding adoration! for almost all
the tapers, lamps, and candles that burn round the globe, burn, as
before so many shrines, to our glory! But look at this matter in
other lights; weigh it in all sorts of scales; see what we whalemen
are, and have been. Why did the Dutch in DeWitt's time have admirals
of their whaling fleets? Why did Louis XVI. of France, at his own
personal expense, fit out whaling ships from Dunkirk, and politely
invite to that town some score or two of families from our own island
of Nantucket? Why did Britain between the years and pay to her
whalemen in bounties upwards of 1,000,000 pounds? And lastly, how
comes it that we whalemen of America now outnumber all the rest of the
banded whalemen in the world; sail a navy of upwards of seven hundred
vessels; manned by eighteen thousand men; yearly consuming
00824,000,000 of dollars; the ships worth, at the time of sailing,
20,000,000 dollars; and every year importing into our harbors a well
reaped harvest of 00847,000,000 dollars. How comes all this, if there
be not something puissant in whaling? But this is not the half; look
again. I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosopher cannot, for
his life, point out one single peaceful influence, which within the
last sixty years has operated more potentially upon the whole broad
world, taken in one aggregate, than the high and mighty business of
whaling. One way and another, it has begotten events so remarkable in
themselves, and so continuously momentous in their sequential issues,
that whaling may well be regarded as that Egyptian mother, who bore
offspring themselves pregnant from her womb. It would be a hopeless,
endless task to catalogue all these things. Let a handful
suffice. For many years past the whale-ship has been the pioneer in
ferreting out the remotest and least known parts of the earth. She
has explored seas and archipelagoes which had no chart, where no Cook
or Vancouver had ever sailed. If American and european men-of-war now
peacefully ride in once savage harbors, let them fire salutes to the
honor and glory of the whale-ship, which originally showed them the
way, and first interpreted between them and the savages. They may
celebrate as they will the heroes of Exploring Expeditions, your
Cookes, Your Krusensterns; but I say that scores of anonymous Captains
have sailed out of Nantucket, that were as great, and greater than
your Cooke and your Krusenstern. For in their succorless
emptyhandedness, they, in the heathenish sharked waters, and by the
beaches of unrecorded, javelin islands, battled with virgin wonders
and terrors that Cooke with all his marines and muskets would not
willingly have dared. All that is made such a flourish of in the old
South Sea Voyages, those things were but the lifetime commonplaces of
our heroic Nantucketers. Often, adventures which Vancouver dedicates
three chapters to, these men accounted unworthy of being set down in
the ship's common log. Ah, the world! Oh, the world! Until the whale
fishery rounded Cape Horn, no commerce but colonial, scarcely any
intercourse but colonial, was carried on between Europe and the long
line of the opulent Spanish provinces on the Pacific coast. It was
the whaleman who first broke through the jealous policy of the Spanish
crown, touching those colonies; and, if space permitted, it might be
distinctly shown how from those whalemen at last eventuated the
liberation of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the yoke of Old Spain, and
the establishment of the eternal democracy in those parts. That great
America on the other side of the sphere, Australia, was given to the
enlightened world by the whaleman. After its first blunder-born
discovery by a Dutchman, all other ships long shunned those shores as
pestiferously barbarous; but the whale-ship touched there. The
whale-ship is the true mother of that now mighty colony. Moreover, in
the infancy of the first Australian settlement, the emigrants were
several times saved from starvation by the benevolent biscuit of the
whale-ship luckily dropping an anchor in their waters. The uncounted
isles of all Polynesia confess the same truth, and do commercial
homage to the whale-ship, that cleared the way for the missionary and
the merchant, and in many cases carried the primitive missionaries to
their first destinations. If that double-bolted land, Japan, is ever
to become hospitable, it is the whale-ship alone to whom the credit
will be due; for already she is on the threshold. But if, in the face
of all this, you still declare that whaling has no aesthetically noble
associations connected with it, then am I ready to shiver fifty lances
with you there, and unhorse you with a split helmet every time. The
whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler, you will
say. The whale no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler?
Who wrote the first account of our Leviathan? Who but mighty Job!
And who composed the first narrative of a whaling-voyage? Who, but no
less a prince than Alfred the Great, who, with his own royal pen, took
down the words from Other, the Norwegian whale-hunter of those times!
And who pronounced our glowing eulogy in Parliament? Who, but Edmund
Burke! True enough, but then whalemen themselves are poor devils; they
have no good blood in their veins. No good blood in their veins?
They have something better than royal blood there. The grandmother of
Benjamin Franklin was Mary Morrel" afterwards, by marriage, Mary
Folger, one of the old settlers of Nantucket, and the ancestress to a
long line of Folgers and harpooneers --all kith and kin to noble
Benjamin --this day darting the barbed iron from one side of the world
to the other. Good again; but then all confess that somehow whaling
is not respectable.

Whaling not respectable? Whaling is imperial! By old English
statutory law, the whale is declared a royal fish. Oh, that's only
nominal! The whale himself has never figured in any grand imposing
way. The whale never figured in any grand imposing way? In one of
the mighty triumphs given to a Roman general upon his entering the
world's capital, the bones of a whale, brought all the way from the
Syrian coast, were the most conspicuous object in the cymballed
procession. Grant it, since you cite it; but, say what you will,
there is no real dignity in whaling. No dignity in whaling? The
dignity of our calling the very heavens attest. Cetus is a
constellation in the South! No more! Drive down your hat in presence
of the Czar, and take it off to Queequeg! No more! I know a man
that, in his lifetime, has taken three hundred and fifty whales. I
account that man more honorable than that great captain of antiquity
who boasted of taking as many walled towns. And, as for me, if, by
any possibility, there be any as yet undiscovered prime thing in me;
if I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small but high hushed
world which I might not be unreasonably ambitious of; if hereafter I
shall do anything that, upon the whole, a man might rather have done
than to have left undone; if, at my death, my executors, or more
properly my creditors, find any precious MSS. in my desk, then here I
prospectively ascribe all the honor and the glory to whaling; for a
whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard. See subsequent
chapters for something more on this head. See subsequent chapters for
something more on this head.

< Chapter XXV 27 POSTSCRIPT >

In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught but
substantiated facts. But after embattling his facts, an advocate who
should wholly suppress a not unreasonable surmise, which might tell
eloquently upon his cause --such an advocate, would he not be
blameworthy? It is well known that at the coronation of kings and
queens, even modern ones, a certain curious process of seasoning them
for their functions is gone through. There is a saltcellar of state,
so called, and there may be a caster of state. How they use the salt,
precisely --who knows? Certain I am, however, that a king's head is
solemnly oiled at his coronation, even as a head of salad. Can it be,
though, that they anoint it with a view of making its interior run
well, as they anoint machinery? Much might be ruminated here,
concerning the essential dignity of this regal process, because in
common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow who anoints
his hair, and palpably smells of that anointing. In truth, a mature
man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally, that man has probably got a
quoggy spot in him somewhere. As a general rule, he can't amount to
much in his totality. But the only thing to be considered here, is
this --what kind of oil is used at coronations? Certainly it cannot
be olive oil, nor macassar oil, nor castor oil, nor bear's oil, nor
train oil, nor cod-liver oil. What then can it possibly be, but sperm
oil in its unmanufactured, unpolluted state, the sweetest of all oils?
Think of that, ye loyal Britons! we whalemen supply your kings and
queens with coronation stuff!


The chief mate of the Pequod was Starbuck, a native of Nantucket, and
a Quaker by descent. He was a long, earnest man, and though born on
an icy coast, seemed well adapted to endure hot latitudes, his flesh
being hard as twice-baked biscuit. Transported to the Indies, his
live blood would not spoil like bottled ale. He must have been born
in some time of general drought and famine, or upon one of those fast
days for which his state is famous. Only some thirty arid summers had
he seen; those summers had dried up all his physical superfluousness.
But this, his thinness, so to speak, seemed no more the token of
wasting anxieties and cares, than it seemed the indication of any
bodily blight. It was merely the condensation of the man. He was by
no means ill-looking; quite the contrary. His pure tight skin was an
excellent fit; and closely wrapped up in it, and embalmed with inner
health and strength, like a revivified Egyptian, this Starbuck seemed
prepared to endure for long ages to come, and to endure always, as
now; for be it Polar snow or torrid sun, like a patent chronometer,
his interior vitality was warranted to do well in all climates.
Looking into his eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering
images of those thousand-fold perils he had calmly confronted through
life. A staid, steadfast man, whose life for the most part was a
telling pantomime of action, and not a tame chapter of sounds. Yet,
for all his hardy sobriety and fortitude, there were certain qualities
in him which at times affected, and in some cases seemed well nigh to
overbalance all the rest. Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and
endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of
his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to
that sort of superstition, which in some organizations seems rather to
spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance. Outward
portents and inward presentiments were his. And if at times these
things bent the welded iron of his soul, much more did his far-away
domestic memories of his young Cape wife and child, tend to bend him
still more from the original ruggedness of his nature, and open him
still further to those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted
men, restrain the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by
others in the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. I will have
no man in my boat, said starbuck, who is not afraid of a whale. by
this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful
courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the
encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more
dangerous comrade than a coward.

Aye, aye, said Stubb, the second mate, Starbuck, there, is as careful
a man as you'll find anywhere in this fishery. But we shall ere long
see what that word careful precisely means when used by a man like
Stubb, or almost any other whale hunter. Starbuck was no crusader
after perils; in him courage was not a sentiment; but a thing simply
useful to him, and always at hand upon all mortally practical
occasions. Besides, he thought, perhaps, that in this business of
whaling, courage was one of the great staple outfits of the ship, like
her beef and her bread, and not to be foolishly wasted. Wherefore he
had no fancy for lowering for whales after sun-down; nor for
persisting in fighting a fish that too much persisted in fighting
him. For, thought Starbuck, I am here in this critical ocean to kill
whales for my living, and not to be killed by them for theirs; and
that hundreds of men had been so killed Starbuck well knew. What doom
was his own father's? Where, in the bottomless deeps, could he find
the torn limbs of his brother? With memories like these in him, and,
moreover, given to a certain superstitiousness, as has been said; the
courage of this Starbuck which could, nevertheless, still flourish,
must indeed have been extreme. But it was not in reasonable nature
that a man so organized, and with such terrible experiences and
remembrances as he had; it was not in nature that these things should
fail in latently engendering an element in him, which, under suitable
circumstances, would break out from its confinement, and burn all his
courage up. And brave as he might be, it was that sort of bravery
chiefly, visible in some intrepid men, which, while generally abiding
firm in the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the
ordinary irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those
more terrific, because more spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace
you from the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man. But
were the coming narrative to reveal, in any instance, the complete
abasement of poor Starbuck's fortitude, scarce might I have the heart
to write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to expose
the fall of valor in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint
stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may
be; men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal, is so
noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over
any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw
their costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel within
ourselves, so far within us, that it remains intact though all the
outer character seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped
spectacle of a valor-ruined man. Nor can piety itself, at such a
shameful sight, completely stifle her upbraidings against the
permitting stars. But this august dignity I treat of, is not the
dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no
robed investiture. Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields a
pick or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands,
radiates without end from God; Himself! The great God absolute! The
centre and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our
divine equality! If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and
castaways, I shall hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark;
weave round them tragic graces; if even the most mournful, perchance
the most abased, among them all, shall at times lift himself to the
exalted mounts; if I shall touch that workman's arm with some ethereal
light; if I shall spread a rainbow over his disastrous set of sun;
then against all mortal critics bear me out in it, thou just spirit of
equality, which hast spread one royal mantle of humanity over all my
kind! Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God! who didst not
refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the pale, poetic pearl; Thou who
didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped
and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst pick up Andrew
Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who
didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty,
earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the
kingly commons; bear me out in it, O God!


Stubb was the second mate. He was a native of Cape Cod; and hence,
according to local usage, was called a Cape-Cod-man. A
happy-go-lucky; neither craven nor valiant; taking perils as they came
with an indifferent air; and while engaged in the most imminent crisis
of the chase, toiling away, calm and collected as a journeyman joiner
engaged for the year. Good-humored, easy, and careless, he presided
over his whale-boat as if the most deadly encounter were but a dinner,
and his crew all invited guests. He was as particular about the
comfortable arrangement of his part of the boat, as an old
stage-driver is about the snugness of his box.

When close to the whale, in the very death-lock of the fight, he
handled his unpitying lance coolly and off-handedly, as a whistling
tinker his hammer. He would hum over his old rigadig tunes while
flank and flank with the most exasperated monster. Long usage had,
for this Stubb, converted the jaws of death into an easy chair. What
he thought of death itself, there is no telling. Whether he ever
thought of it at all, might be a question; but, if he ever did chance
to cast his mind that way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a
good sailor, he took it to be a sort of call of the watch to tumble
aloft, and bestir themselves there, about something which he would
find out when he obeyed the order, and not sooner. What, perhaps,
with other things, made Stubb such an easygoing, unfearing man, so
cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a world full of grave
peddlers, all bowed to the ground with their packs; what helped to
bring about that almost impious good-humor of his; that thing must
have been his pipe. For, like his nose, his short, black little pipe
was one of the regular features of his face. You would almost as soon
have expected him to turn out of his bunk without his nose as without
his pipe. He kept a whole row of pipes there ready loaded, stuck in a
rack, within easy reach of his hand; and, whenever he turned in, he
smoked them all out in succession, lighting one from the other to the
end of the chapter; then loading them again to be in readiness
anew. For, when Stubb dressed, instead of first putting his legs into
his trowsers, he put his pipe into his mouth. I say this continual
smoking must have been one cause, at least, of his peculiar
disposition; for every one knows that this earthly air, whether ashore
or afloat, is terribly infected with the nameless miseries of the
numberless mortals who have died exhaling it; and as in time of the
cholera, some people go about with a camphorated handkerchief to their
mouths; so, likewise, against all mortal tribulations, Stubb's tobacco
smoke might have operated as a sort of disinfecting agent. The third
mate was Flask, a native of Tisbury, in Martha's Vineyard. A short,
stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning whales, who
somehow seemed to think that the great Leviathans had personally and
hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of
honor with him, to destroy them whenever encountered. So utterly lost
was he to all sense of reverence for the many marvels of their
majestic bulk and mystic ways; and so dead to anything like an
apprehension of any possible danger from encountering them; that in
his poor opinion, the wondrous whale was but a species of magnified
mouse, or at least water-rat, requiring only a little circumvention
and some small application of time and trouble in order to kill and
boil. This ignorant, unconscious fearlessness of his made him a
little waggish in the matter of whales; he followed these fish for the
fun of it; and a three years' voyage round Cape Horn was only a jolly
joke that lasted that length of time. As a carpenter's nails are
divided into wrought nails and cut nails; so mankind may be similarly

Little Flask was one of the wrought ones; made to clinch tight and
last long. They called him King-Post on board of the Pequod; because,
in form, he could be well likened to the short, square timber known by
that name in Arctic whalers; and which by the means of many radiating
side timbers inserted in it, served to brace the ship against the icy
concussions of those battering seas. Now these three mates
--Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were momentous men. They it was who by
universal prescription commanded three of the Pequod's boats as
headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which Captain Ahab would
probably marshal his forces to descend on the whales, these three
headsmen were as captains of companies. Or, being armed with their
long keen whaling spears, they were as a picked trio of lancers; even
as the harpooneers were flingers of javelins. And since in this
famous fishery, each mate or headsman, like a Gothic Knight of old, is
always accompanied by his boat-steerer or harpooneer, who in certain
conjunctures provides him with a fresh lance, when the former one has
been badly twisted, or elbowed in the assault; and moreover, as there
generally subsists between the two, a close intimacy and friendliness;
it is therefore but meet, that in this place we set down who the
Pequod's harpooneers were, and to what headsman each of them
belonged. first of all was queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate,
had selected for his squire. But Queequeg is already known. Next was
Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly
promontory of Martha's Vineyard, where there still exists the last
remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the
neighboring island of Nantucket with many of her most daring
harpooneers. In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of
Gay-Headers. Tashtego's long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones,
and black rounding eyes --for an Indian, Oriental in their largeness,
but Antarctic in their glittering expression --all this sufficiently
proclaimed him an inheritor of the unvitiated blood of those proud
warrior hunters, who, in quest of the great New England moose, had
scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests of the main. But no
longer snuffing in the trail of the wild beasts of the woodland,
Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great whales of the sea; the
unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the infallible arrow of
the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe snaky limbs, you
would almost have credited the superstitions of some of the earlier
Puritans, and half believed this wild Indian to be a son of the Prince
of the Powers of the Air. Tashtego was Stubb the second mate's
squire. Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic,
coal-black negro-savage, with a lion-like tread --an Ahasuerus to
behold. Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that
the sailors called them ring-bolts, and would talk of securing the
top-sail halyards to them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily
shipped on board of a whaler, lying in a lonely bay on his native
coast. And never having been anywhere in the world but in Africa,
Nantucket, and the pagan harbors most frequented by whalemen; and
having now led for many years the bold life of the fishery in the
ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what manner of men they shipped;
daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues, and erect as a giraffe,
moved about the decks in all the pomp of six feet five in his
socks. There was a corporeal humility in looking up at him; and a
white man standing before him seemed a white flag come to beg truce of
a fortress. Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus Daggoo,
was the Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man beside
him. As for the residue of the Pequod's company, be it said, that at
the present day not one in two of the many thousand men before the
mast employed in the American whale fishery, are Americans born,
though pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the same with
the American whale fishery as with the American army and military and
merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in the
construction of the American Canals and Railroads. The same, I say,
because in all these cases the native American liberally provides the
brains, the rest of the world as generously supplying the muscles. No
small number of these whaling seamen belong to the Azores, where the
outward bound Nantucket whalers frequently touch to augment their
crews from the hardy peasants of those rocky shores. In like manner,
the Greenland whalers sailing out of Hull or London, put in at the
Shetland Islands, to receive the full complement of their crew. Upon
the passage homewards, they drop them there again. How it is, there
is no telling, but Islanders seem to make the best whalemen. They
were nearly all Islanders in the Pequod, Isolatoes too, I call such,
not acknowledging the common continent of men, but each Isolato living
on a separate continent of his own. Yet now, federated along one
keel, what a set these Isolatoes were! An Anacharsis Clootz
deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all the ends of the
earth, accompanying Old Ahab in the pequod to lay the world's
grievances before that bar from which not very many of them ever come
back. Black Little Pip --he never did --oh, no! he went before. Poor
Alabama boy! On the grim Pequod's forecastle, ye shall ere long see
him, beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time, when sent
for, to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid strike in with
angels, and beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here, hailed
a hero there!

< Chapter XXVIII 11 AHAB >

For several days after leaving Nantucket, nothing above hatches was
seen of Captain Ahab. The mates regularly relieved each other at the
watches, and for aught that could be seen to the contrary, they seemed
to be the only commanders of the ship; only they sometimes issued from
the cabin with orders so sudden and peremptory, that after all it was
plain they but commanded vicariously. Yes, their supreme lord and
dictator was there, though hitherto unseen by any eyes not permitted
to penetrate into the now sacred retreat of the cabin. Every time I
ascended to the deck from my watches below, I instantly gazed aft to
mark if any strange face were visible; for my first vague disquietude
touching the unknown captain, now in the seclusion of the sea, became
almost a perturbation. This was strangely heightened at times by the
ragged Elijah's diabolical incoherences uninvitedly recurring to me,
with a subtle energy I could not have before conceived of. But poorly
could I withstand them, much as in other moods I was almost ready to
smile at the solemn whimsicalities of that outlandish prophet of the
wharves. But whatever it was of apprehensiveness or uneasiness --to
call it so --which I felt, yet whenever I came to look about me in the
ship, it seemed against all warrantry to cherish such emotions. For
though the harpooneers, with the great body of the crew, were a far
more barbaric, heathenish, and motley set than any of the tame
merchant-ship companies which my previous experiences had made me
acquainted with, still I ascribed this --and rightly ascribed it --to
the fierce uniqueness of the very nature of that wild Scandinavian
vocation in which I had so abandonedly embarked. But it was
especially the aspect of the three chief officers of the ship, the
mates, which was most forcibly calculated to allay these colorless
misgivings, and induce confidence and cheerfulness in every
presentment of the voyage. Three better, more likely sea-officers and
men, each in his own different way, could not readily be found, and
they were every one of them Americans; a Nantucketer, a Vineyarder, a
Cape man. Now, it being Christmas when the ship shot from out her
harbor, for a space we had biting Polar weather, though all the time
running away from it to the southward; and by every degree and minute
of latitude which we sailed, gradually leaving that merciless winter,
and all its intolerable weather behind us. It was one of those less
lowering, but still grey and gloomy enough mornings of the transition,
when with a fair wind the ship was rushing through the water with a
vindictive sort of leaping and melancholy rapidity, that as I mounted
to the deck at the call of the forenoon watch, so soon as I levelled
my glance towards the taffrail, foreboding shivers ran over me.
Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarter-deck.
There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the
recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when
the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming
them, or taking away one particle from their compacted aged
robustness. His whole high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze,
and shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini's cast Perseus.
Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right
down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared
in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. It
resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight,
lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts
down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out
the bark from top to bottom, ere running off into the soil, leaving
the tree still greenly alive, but branded. Whether that mark was born
with him, or whether it was the scar left by some desperate wound, no
one could certainly say. By some tacit consent, throughout the voyage
little or no allusion was made to it, especially by the mates. But
once Tashtego's senior, an old Gay-Head Indian among the crew,
superstitiously asserted that not till he was full forty years old did
Ahab become that way branded, and then it came upon him, not in the
fury of any mortal fray, but in an elemental strife at sea. Yet, this
wild hint seemed inferentially negatived, by what a grey Manxman
insinuated, an old sepulchral man, who, having never before sailed out
of Nantucket, had never ere this laid eye upon wild Ahab.
Nevertheless, the old sea-traditions, the immemorial credulities,
popularly invested this old Manxman with preternatural powers of
discernment. So that no white sailor seriously contradicted him when
he said that if ever Captain Ahab should be tranquilly laid out
--which might hardly come to pass, so he muttered --then, whoever
should do that last office for the dead, would find a birth-mark on
him from crown to sole. So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of
Ahab affect me, and the livid brand which streaked it, that for the
first few moments I hardly noted that not a little of this overbearing
grimness was owing to the barbaric white leg upon which he partly
stood. It had previously come to me that this ivory leg had at sea
been fashioned from the polished bone of the sperm whale's jaw. Aye,
he was dismasted off Japan, said the old Gay-Head Indian once; but
like his dismasted craft, he shipped another mast without coming home
for it. he has a quiver of 'em. I was struck with the singular
posture he maintained. Upon each side of the Pequod's quarter deck,
and pretty close to the mizen shrouds, there was an auger hole, bored
about half an inch or so, into the plank. His bone leg steadied in
that hole; one arm elevated, and holding by a shroud; Captain Ahab
stood erect, looking straight out beyond the ship's ever-pitching
prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate
unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward
dedication of that glance. Not a word he spoke; nor did his officers
say aught to him; though by all their minutest gestures and
expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy, if not painful,
consciousness of being under a troubled master-eye. And not only
that, but moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in
his face; in all the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty
woe. Ere long, from his first visit in the air, he withdrew into his
cabin. But after that morning, he was every day visible to the crew;
either standing in his pivot-hole, or seated upon an ivory stool he
had; or heavily walking the deck. As the sky grew less gloomy;
indeed, began to grow a little genial, he became still less and less a
recluse; as if, when the ship had sailed from home, nothing but the
dead wintry bleakness of the sea had then kept him so secluded. And,
by and by, it came to pass, that he was almost continually in the air;
but, as yet, for all that he said, or perceptibly did, on the at last
sunny deck, he seemed as unnecessary there as another mast. But the
Pequod was only making a passage now; not regularly cruising; nearly
all whaling preparatives needing supervision the mates were fully
competent to, so that there was little or nothing, out of himself, to
employ or excite Ahab, now; and thus chase away, for that one
interval, the clouds that layer upon layer were piled upon his brow,
as ever all clouds choose the loftiest peaks to pile themselves
upon. Nevertheless, ere long, the warm, warbling persuasiveness of the
pleasant, holiday weather we came to, seemed gradually to charm him
from his mood. For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and
May, trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest,
ruggedest, most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some
few green sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants; so Ahab
did, in the end, a little respond to the playful allurings of that
girlish air. More than once did he put forth the faint blossom of a
look, which, in any other man, would have soon flowered out in a


Some days elapsed, and ice and icebergs all astern, the Pequod now
went rolling through the bright Quito spring, which, at sea, almost
perpetually reigns on the threshold of the eternal August of the
Tropic. The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing,
redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up
--flaked up, with rose-water snow. The starred and stately nights
seemed haughty dames in jewelled velvets, nursing at home in lonely
pride, the memory of their absent conquering Earls, the golden
helmeted suns! For sleeping man, 'twas hard to choose between such
winsome days and such seducing nights. But all the witcheries of that
unwaning weather did not merely lend new spells and potencies to the
outward world. Inward they turned upon the soul, especially when the
still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory shot her crystals as the
clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights. And all these subtle
agencies, more and more they wrought on Ahab's texture. Old age is
always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has
to do with aught that looks like death. among sea-commanders, the old
greybeards will oftenest leave their berths to visit the night-cloaked
deck. It was so with Ahab; only that now, of late, he seemed so much
to live in the open air, that truly speaking, his visits were more to
the cabin, than from, the cabin to the planks. It feels like going
down into one's tomb, --he would mutter to himself, -- for an old
captain like me to be descending this narrow scuttle, to go to my
grave-dug berth. So, almost every twenty-four hours, when the watches
of the night were set, and the band on deck sentinelled the slumbers
of the band below; and when if a rope was to be hauled upon the
forecastle, the sailors flung it not rudely down, as by day, but with
some cautiousness dropt it to its place, for fear of disturbing their
slumbering shipmates; when this sort of steady quietude would begin to
prevail, habitually, the silent steersman would watch the
cabin-scuttle; and ere long the old man would emerge, griping at the
iron banister, to help his crippled way. Some considerating touch of
humanity was in him; for at times like these, he usually abstained
from patrolling the quarter-deck; because to his wearied mates,
seeking repose within six inches of his ivory heel, such would have
been the reverberating crack and din of that bony step, that their
dreams would have been of the crunching teeth of sharks. But once,
the mood was on him too deep for common regardings; and as with heavy,
lumber-like pace he was measuring the ship from taffrail to mainmast,
Stubb, the odd second mate, came up from below, and with a certain
unassured, deprecating humorousness, hinted that if Captain Ahab was
pleased to walk the planks, then, no one could say nay; but there
might be some way of muffling the noise; hinting something
indistinctly and hesitatingly about a globe of tow, and the insertion
into it, of the ivory heel. Ah! Stubb, thou did'st not know Ahab
then. Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb, said Ahab, that thou wouldst wad me
that fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot. Below to thy nightly
grave; where such as ye sleep between shrouds, to use ye to the
filling one at last. --Down, dog, and kennel! Starting at the
unforeseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly scornful old man,
Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly, I am not used to
be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half like it,
sir. Avast! gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving
away, as if to avoid some passionate temptation.

No, sir; not yet, said Stubb, emboldened, I will not tamely be called
a dog, sir. Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an
ass, and begone, or I'll clear the world of thee! As he said this,
Ahab advanced upon him with such overbearing terrors in his aspect,
that Stubb involuntarily retreated. I was never served so before
without giving a hard blow for it, muttered Stubb, as he found himself
descending the cabin-scuttle.

It's very queer. Stop, Stubb; somehow, now, I don't well know whether
to go back and strike him, or --what's that? -- down here on my knees
and pray for him? Yes, that was the thought coming up in me; but it
would be the first time I ever did pray. It's queer; very queer; and
he's queer too; aye, take him fore and aft, he's about the queerest
old man Stubb ever sailed with. How he flashed at me! --his eyes like
powder-pans! is he mad? Anyway there's something on his mind, as
sure as there must be something on a deck when it cracks. He aint in
his bed now, either, more than three hours out of the twenty-four; and
he don't sleep then. Didn't that Dough-Boy, the steward, tell me that
of a morning he always finds the old man's hammock clothes all rumpled
and tumbled, and the sheets down at the foot, and the coverlid almost
tied into knots, and the pillow a sort of frightful hot, as though a
baked brick had been on it? A hot old man! I guess he's got what
some folks ashore call a conscience; it's a kind of Tic-Dolly-row they
say --worse nor a toothache. Well, well; I don't know what it is, but
the Lord keep me from catching it. He's full of riddles; I wonder
what he goes into the after hold for, every night, as Dough-Boy tells
me he suspects; what's that for, I should like to know? Who's made
appointments with him in the hold?

Ain't that queer, now? But there's no telling, it's the old game
--Here goes for a snooze. Damn me, it's worth a fellow's while to be
born into the world, if only to fall right asleep. And now that I
think of it, that's about the first thing babies do, and that's a sort
of queer, too. Damn me, but all things are queer, come to think of
'em. But that's against my principles. Think not, is my eleventh
commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth -- So here goes
again. But how's that? didn't he call me a dog?

blazes! he called me ten times a donkey, and piled a lot of jackasses
on top of that! He might as well have kicked me, and done with it.
Maybe he did kick me, and I didn't observe it, I was so taken all
aback with his brow, somehow. It flashed like a bleached bone. What
the devil's the matter with me? I don't stand right on my legs.
Coming afoul of that old man has a sort of turned me wrong side out.
By the Lord, I must have been dreaming, though --How? how? how?
--but the only way's to stash it; so here goes to hammock again; and
in the morning, I'll see how this plaguey juggling thinks over by

< Chapter XXX 4 THE PIPE >

When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the
bulwarks; and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a
sailor of the watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also
his pipe. lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the
stool on the weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked. In old
Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were
fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could
one look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without
bethinking him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank,
and a king of the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab. Some
moments passed, during which the thick vapor came from his mouth in
quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face. How
now, he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, this smoking no
longer soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be
gone! Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring, --aye,
and ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and
with such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets
were the strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with
this pipe? This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild
white vapors among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks
like mine. I'll smoke no more-- He tossed the still lighted pipe into
the sea. The fire hissed in the waves; the same instant the ship shot
by the bubble the sinking pipe made. With slouched hat, Ahab
lurchingly paced the planks.

< Chapter XXXI 2 QUEEN MAB >

Next morning Stubb accosted Flask. Such a queer dream, King-Post, I
never had. You know the old man's ivory leg, well I dreamed he kicked
me with it; and when I tried to kick back, upon my soul, my little
man, I kicked my leg right off! And then, presto! Ahab seemed a
pyramid, and I, like a blazing fool, kept kicking at it. But what was
still more curious, Flask--you know how curious all dreams are--
through all this rage that I was in, I somehow seemed to be thinking
to myself, that after all, it was not much of an insult, that kick
from ahab. "Why," thinks I,"what's the row? It's not a real leg,
only a false leg." And there's a mighty difference between a living
thump and a dead thump. That's what makes a blow from the hand,
Flask, fifty times more savage to bear than a blow from a cane. The
living member --that makes the living insult, my little man. And
thinks I to myself all the while, mind, while I was stubbing my silly
toes against that cursed pyramid -- so confoundedly contradictory was
it all, all the while, I say, I was thinking to myself, "what's his
leg now, but a cane --a whalebone cane. Yes," thinks I,"it was only a
playful cudgelling --in fact, only a whaleboning that he gave me --not
a base kick. Besides," thinks I,"look at it once; why, the end of it
--the foot part --what a small sort of end it is; whereas, if a broad
footed farmer kicked me, there's a devilish broad insult.

But this insult is whittled down to a point only." But now comes the
greatest joke of the dream, Flask. While I was battering away at the
pyramid, a sort of badger-haired old merman, with a hump on his back,
takes me by the shoulders, and slews me round. "What are you 'bout?"
says he. Slid! man, but I was frightened. Such a phiz! But,
somehow, next moment I was over the fright. "What am I about?" says I
at last. "And what business is that of yours, I should like to know,
Mr. Humpback? Do you want a kick?" By the lord, Flask, I had no
sooner said that, than he turned round his stern to me, bent over, and
dragging up a lot of seaweed he had for a clout --what do you think, I
saw? --why thunder alive, man, his stern was stuck full of
marlinspikes, with the points out. Says I, on second thoughts,"I
guess I won't kick you, old fellow." "Wise Stubb," said he,"wise
Stubb;" and kept muttering it all the time, a sort of eating of his
own gums like a chimney hag. seeing he wasn't going to stop saying
over his "wise Stubb, wise Stubb," I thought I might as well fall to
kicking the pyramid again. But I had only just lifted my foot for it,
when he roared out, "Stop that kicking!" "Halloa," says I,"what's the
matter now, old fellow?" "Look ye here," says he;"let's argue the
insult. Captain Ahab kicked ye, didn't he?" "Yes, he did," says I
--"right here it was." "Very good," says he --"he used his ivory leg,
didn't he?" "Yes, he did," says I. "Well then," says he, "wise Stubb,
what have you to complain of? Didn't he kick with right good will?
it wasn't a common pitch pine leg he kicked with, was it? No, you were
kicked by a great man, and with a beautiful ivory leg, Stubb. It's an
honor; I consider it an honor. Listen, wise Stubb. In old England the
greatest lords think it great glory to be slapped by a queen, and made
garter-knights of; but, be your boast, Stubb, that ye were kicked by
old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say; be kicked by
him; account his kicks honors; and on no account kick back; for you
can't help yourself, wise Stubb. Don't you see that pyramid?" With
that, he all of a sudden seemed somehow, in some queer fashion, to
swim off into the air. I snored; rolled over; and there I was in my
hammock! Now, what do you think of that dream, Flask? I don't know;
it seems a sort of foolish to me, tho'. May be, may be. But it's
made a wise man of me, Flask. D'ye see Ahab standing there, sideways
looking over the stern? Well, the best thing you can do, Flask, is to
let that old man alone; never speak to him, whatever he says. Halloa!
what's that he shouts? Hark.

Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales
hereabouts! If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him! What
d'ye think of that now, Flask? ain't there a small drop of something
queer about that, eh? a white whale--did ye mark that, man? Look
ye--there's something special in the wind. Stand by for it,
Flask. Ahab has that that's bloody on his mind. But, mum; he comes
this way.

< Chapter XXXII 6 CETOLOGY >

Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be
lost in its unshored, harborless immensities. Ere that come to pass;
ere the Pequod's weedy hull rolls side by side with the barnacled
hulls of the leviathan; at the outset it is but well to attend to a
matter almost indispensable to a thorough appreciative understanding
of the more special leviathanic revelations and allusions of all sorts
which are to follow. It is some systematized exhibition of the whale
in his broad genera, that I would now fain put before you. Yet is it
no easy task. The classification of the constituents of a chaos,
nothing less is here essayed. Listen to what the best and latest
authorities have laid down. No branch of Zoology is so much involved
as that which is entitled Cetology, says Captain Scoresby, A. D. .
It is not my intention, were it in my power, to enter into the inquiry
as to the true method of dividing the cetacea into groups and
families.... Utter confusion exists among the historians of this
animal (sperm whale), says Surgeon Beale, A. D. . Unfitness to pursue
our research in the unfathomable waters. Impenetrable veil covering
our knowledge of the cetacea. A field strewn with thorns. All these
incomplete indications but serve to torture us naturalists. Thus
speak of the whale, the great Cuvier, and John Hunter, and Lesson,
those lights of zoology and anatomy. Nevertheless, though of real
knowledge there be little, yet of books there are a plenty; and so in
some small degree, with cetology, or the science of whales. many are
the men, small and great, old and new, landsmen and seamen, who have
at large or in little, written of the whale. Run over a few: --The
Authors of the Bible; Aristotle; Pliny; Aldrovandi; Sir Thomas Browne;
Gesner; Ray; Linnaeus; Rondeletius; Willoughby; Green; Artedi;
Sibbald; Brisson; Marten; Lacepede; Bonneterre; Desmarest; Baron
Cuvier; Frederick Cuvier; John Hunter; Owen; Scoresby; Beale; Bennett;
J. Ross Browne; the Author of Miriam Coffin; Olmstead; and the Rev.
T. Cheever. But to what ultimate generalizing purpose all these have
written, the above cited extracts will show. Of the names in this
list of whale authors, only those following Owen ever saw living
whales; and but one of them was a real professional harpooneer and
whaleman. I mean Captain Scoresby. On the separate subject of the
Greenland or right-whale, he is the best existing authority. But
Scoresby knew nothing and says nothing of the great sperm whale,
compared with which the Greenland whale is almost unworthy
mentioning. And here be it said, that the Greenland whale is an
usurper upon the throne of the seas. He is not even by any means the
largest of the whales. Yet, owing to the long priority of his claims,
and the profound ignorance which, till some seventy years back,
invested the then fabulous and utterly unknown sperm-whale, and which
ignorance to this present day still reigns in all but some few
scientific retreats and whale-ports; this usurpation has been every
way complete. Reference to nearly all the leviathanic allusions in the
great poets of past days, will satisfy you that the Greenland whale,
without one rival, was to them the monarch of the seas. But the time
has at last come for a new proclamation. This is Charing Cross; hear
ye! good people all, --the Greenland whale is deposed, --the great
sperm whale now reigneth! There are only two books in being which at
all pretend to put the living sperm whale before you, and at the same
time, in the remotest degree succeed in the attempt. Those books are
Beale's and Bennett's; both in their time surgeons to English
South-Sea whale-ships, and both exact and reliable men. The original
matter touching the sperm whale to be found in their volumes is
necessarily small; but so far as it goes, it is of excellent quality,
though mostly confined to scientific description. As yet, however,
the sperm whale, scientific or poetic, lives not complete in any
literature. Far above all other hunted whales, his is an unwritten
life. Now the various species of whales need some sort of popular
comprehensive classification, if only an easy outline one for the
present, hereafter to be filled in all its departments by subsequent
laborers. As no better man advances to take this matter in hand, I
hereupon offer my own poor endeavors. I promise nothing complete;
because any human thing supposed to be complete, must for that very
reason infallibly be faulty. I shall not pretend to a minute
anatomical description of the various species, or-- in this place at
least --to much of any description. My object here is simply to
project the draught of a systematization of cetology.

I am the architect, not the builder. But it is a ponderous task; no
ordinary letter-sorter in the Post-office is equal to it. To grope
down into the bottom of the sea after them; to have one's hands among
the unspeakable foundations, ribs, and very pelvis of the world; this
is a fearful thing. What am I that I should essay to hook the nose of
this leviathan! The awful tauntings in Job might well appal me. Will
he (the leviathan) make a covenant with thee? Behold the hope of him
is vain! But I have swam through libraries and sailed through oceans;
I have had to do with whales with these visible hands; I am in
earnest; and I will try. There are some preliminaries to
settle. first: the uncertain, unsettled condition of this science of
Cetology is in the very vestibule attested by the fact, that in some
quarters it still remains a moot point whether a whale be a fish. In
his System of Nature, A. D. , Linnaeus declares, I hereby separate
the whales from the fish. But of my own knowledge, I know that down
to the year , sharks and shad, alewives and herring, against
Linnaeus's express edict, were still found dividing the possession of
the same seas with the Leviathan. The grounds upon which Linnaeus
would fain have banished the whales from the waters, he states as
follows: On account of their warm bilocular heart, their lungs, their
movable eyelids, their hollow ears, penem intrantem feminam mammis
lactantem, and finally, ex lege naturae jure meritoque. I submitted
all this to my friends Simeon Macey and Charley Coffin, of Nantucket,
both messmates of mine in a certain voyage, and they united in the
opinion that the reasons set forth were altogether insufficient.

Charley profanely hinted they were humbug. Be it known that, waiving
all argument, I take the good old fashioned ground that the whale is a
fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me. This fundamental thing
settled, the next point is, in what internal respect does the whale
differ from other fish. Above, Linnaeus has given you those items.
But in brief, they are these: lungs and warm blood; whereas, all other
fish are lungless and cold blooded. Next: how shall we define the
whale, by his obvious externals, so as conspicuously to label him for
all time to come? To be short, then, a whale is a spouting fish with
a horizontal tail. There you have him. However contracted, that
definition is the result of expanded meditation. A walrus spouts much
like a whale, but the walrus is not a fish, because he is amphibious.
but the last term of the definition is still more cogent, as coupled
with the first. Almost any one must have noticed that all the fish
familiar to landsmen have not a flat, but a vertical, or up-and-down
tail. Whereas, among spouting fish the tail, though it may be
similarly shaped, invariably assumes a horizontal position. By the
above definition of what a whale is, I do by no means exclude from the
leviathanic brotherhood any sea creature hitherto identified with the
whale by the best informed Nantucketers; nor, on the other hand, link
with it any fish hitherto authoritatively regarded as alien. Hence,
all the smaller, spouting, and horizontal tailed fish must be included
in this ground-plan of Cetology. Now, then, come the grand divisions
of the entire whale host. First: According to magnitude I divide the
whales into three primary BOOKS (subdivisible into Chapters), and
these shall comprehend them all, both small and large. I. The FOLIO
of the FOLIO I present the Sperm Whale; of the OCTAVO, the Grampus; of
the DUODECIMO, the Porpoise. FOLIOS. Among these I here include the
following chapters: -- I. The Sperm Whale; II. the Right Whale; III.
the Fin Back Whale; IV. the Hump-backed Whale; V. the Razor Back
Whale; VI. the Sulphur Bottom Whale. BOOK I. ( Folio), CHAPTER I. (
Sperm Whale). --This whale, among the English of old vaguely known as
the Trumpa whale, and the Physeter whale, and the Anvil Headed whale,
is the present Cachalot of the French, and the Pottsfich of the
Germans, and the Macrocephalus of the Long Words. He is, without
doubt, the largest inhabitant of the globe; the most formidable of all
whales to encounter; the most majestic in aspect; and lastly, by far
the most valuable in commerce; he being the only creature from which
that valuable substance, spermaceti, is obtained. All his
peculiarities will, in many other places, be enlarged upon.

It is chiefly with his name that I now have to do. Philologically
considered, it is absurd. Some centuries ago, when the Sperm whale
was almost wholly unknown in his own proper individuality, and when
his oil was only accidentally obtained from the stranded fish; in
those days spermaceti, it would seem, was popularly supposed to be
derived from a creature identical with the one then known in England
as the Greenland or Right Whale. It was the idea also, that this same
spermaceti was that quickening humor of the Greenland Whale which the
first syllable of the word literally expresses. In those times, also,
spermaceti was exceedingly scarce, not being used for light, but only
as an ointment and medicament. It was only to be had from the
druggists as you nowadays buy an ounce of rhubarb. When, as I opine,
in the course of time, the true nature of spermaceti became known, its
original name was still retained by the dealers; no doubt to enhance
its value by a notion so strangely significant of its scarcity. And
so the appellation must at last have come to be bestowed upon the
whale from which this spermaceti was really derived. BOOK I. ( Folio),
CHAPTER II. ( Right Whale).--In one respect this is the most
venerable of the leviathans, being the one first regularly hunted by
man. It yields the article commonly known as whalebone or baleen; and
the oil specially known as whale oil, an inferior article in commerce.
Among the fishermen, he is indiscriminately designated by all the
following titles: The Whale; the Greenland Whale; the Black Whale; the
Great Whale; the True Whale; the Right whale. there is a deal of
obscurity concerning the identity of the species thus multitudinously
baptized. What then is the whale, which I include in the second
species of my Folios? It is the Great Mysticetus of the English
naturalists; the Greenland Whale of the English Whalemen; the Baliene
Ordinaire of the French whalemen; the Growlands Walfish of the Swedes.
It is the whale which for more than two centuries past has been hunted
by the Dutch and English in the Arctic seas; it is the whale which the
American fishermen have long pursued in the Indian ocean, on the
Brazil Banks, on the Nor' West Coast, and various other parts of the
world, designated by them Right Whale Cruising Grounds. Some pretend
to see a difference between the Greenland whale of the English and the
right whale of the Americans. But they precisely agree in all their
grand features; nor has there yet been presented a single determinate
fact upon which to ground a radical distinction. It is by endless
subdivisions based upon the most inconclusive differences, that some
departments of natural history become so repellingly intricate. The
right whale will be elsewhere treated of at some length, with
reference to elucidating the sperm whale. BOOK I. ( Folio), CHAPTER
III. ( Fin-Back). --Under this head I reckon a monster which, by the
various names of Fin-Back, Tall-Spout, and Long-John, has been seen
almost in every sea and is commonly the whale whose distant jet is so
often descried by passengers crossing the Atlantic, in the New York
packet-tracks. In the length he attains, and in his baleen, the
Fin-back resembles the right whale, but is of a less portly girth, and
a lighter color, approaching to olive. His great lips present a
cable-like aspect, formed by the intertwisting, slanting folds of
large wrinkles. His grand distinguishing feature, the fin, from which
he derives his name, is often a conspicuous object. this fin is some
three or four feet long, growing vertically from the hinder part of
the back, of an angular shape, and with a very sharp pointed end.
Even if not the slightest other part of the creature be visible, this
isolated fin will, at times, be seen plainly projecting from the
surface. When the sea is moderately calm, and slightly marked with
spherical ripples, and this gnomon-like fin stands up and casts
shadows upon the wrinkled surface, it may well be supposed that the
watery circle surrounding it somewhat resembles a dial, with its style
and wavy hour-lines graved on it. On that Ahaz-dial the shadow often
goes back. The Fin-Back is not gregarious. He seems a whale-hater,
as some men are man-haters. Very shy; always going solitary;
unexpectedly rising to the surface in the remotest and most sullen
waters; his straight and single lofty jet rising like a tall
misanthropic spear upon a barren plain; gifted with such wondrous
power and velocity in swimming, as to defy all present pursuit from
man; this leviathan seems the banished and unconquerable Cain of his
race, bearing for his mark that style upon his back. From having the
baleen in his mouth, the Fin-Back is sometimes included with the right
whale, among a theoretic species denominated Whalebone whales, that
is, whales with baleen.

Of these so called Whalebone whales, there would seem to be several
varieties, most of which, however, are little known. Broad-nosed
whales and beaked whales; pike-headed whales; bunched whales;
under-jawed whales and rostrated whales, are the fishermen's names for
a few sorts. In connexion with this appellative of Whalebone whales ,
it is of great importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature
may be convenient in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales,
yet it is in vain to attempt a clear classification of the Leviathan,
founded upon either his baleen, or hump, or fin, or teeth;
notwithstanding that those marked parts or features very obviously
seem better adapted to afford the basis for a regular system of
Cetology than any other detached bodily distinctions, which the whale,
in his kinds, presents. How then? The baleen, hump, back-fin, and
teeth; these are things whose peculiarities are indiscriminately
dispersed among all sorts of whales, without any regard to what may be
the nature of their structure in other and more essential particulars.
Thus, the sperm whale and the humpbacked whale, each has a hump; but
there the similitude ceases. Then, this same humpbacked whale and the
Greenland whale, each of these has baleen; but there again the
similitude ceases. And it is just the same with the other parts above
mentioned. In various sorts of whales, they form such irregular
combinations; or, in the case of any one of them detached, such an
irregular isolation; as utterly to defy all general methodization
formed upon such a basis. On this rock every one of the
whale-naturalists has split. But it may possibly be conceived that,
in the internal parts of the whale, in his anatomy --there, at least,
we shall be able to hit the right classification. Nay; what thing,
for example, is there in the Greenland whale's anatomy more striking
than his baleen? Yet we have seen that by his baleen it is impossible
correctly to classify the Greenland whale. And if you descend into
the bowels of the various leviathans, why there you will not find
distinctions a fiftieth part as available to the systematizer as those
external ones already enumerated. What then remains? nothing but to
take hold of the whales bodily, in their entire liberal volume, and
boldly sort them that way. And this is the Bibliographical system
here adopted; and it is the only one that can possibly succeed, for it
alone is practicable. To proceed.

book i. ( folio), chapter iv. ( hump back). --this whale is often seen
on the northern American coast. He has been frequently captured
there, and towed into harbor. He has a great pack on him like a
peddler; or you might call him the Elephant and Castle whale. At any
rate, the popular name for him does not sufficiently distinguish him,
since the sperm whale also has a hump, though a smaller one. His oil
is not very valuable. He has baleen. He is the most gamesome and
light-hearted of all the whales, making more gay foam and white water
generally than any other of them. BOOK I. ( Folio), CHAPTER V. ( Razor
Back). --Of this whale little is known but his name. I have seen him
at a distance off Cape Horn. Of a retiring nature, he eludes both
hunters and philosophers. Though no coward, he has never yet shown
any part of him but his back, which rises in a long sharp ridge. Let
him go. I know little more of him, nor does anybody else. BOOK I. (
Folio), CHAPTER VI. ( Sulphur Bottom). -- Another retiring gentleman,
with a brimstone belly, doubtless got by scraping along the Tartarian
tiles in some of his profounder divings. He is seldom seen; at least
I have never seen him except in the remoter southern seas, and then
always at too great a distance to study his countenance. He is never
chased; he would run away with rope-walks of line. Prodigies are told
of him. Adieu, Sulphur Bottom! I can say nothing more that is true
of ye, nor can the oldest Nantucketer. Thus ends BOOK I. ( Folio),
and now begins BOOK II. ( octavo).

OCTAVOES. These embrace the whales of middling magnitude, among which
at present may be numbered: --I., the Grampus; II., the Black Fish;
III., the Narwhale; IV., the Thrasher; V., the Killer. BOOK II. (
Octavo), CHAPTER I. ( Grampus). --Though this fish, whose loud
sonorous breathing, or rather blowing, has furnished a proverb to
landsmen, is so well known a denizen of the deep, yet is he not
popularly classed among whales. But possessing all the grand
distinctive features of the leviathan, most naturalists have
recognised him for one. He is of moderate octavo size, varying from
fifteen to twenty-five feet in length, and of corresponding dimensions
round the waist. He swims in herds; he is never regularly hunted,
though his oil is considerable in quantity, and pretty good for light.
By some fishermen his approach is regarded as premonitory of the
advance of the great sperm whale. BOOK II. ( Octavo), CHAPTER II. (
Black Fish). --I give the popular fishermen's names for all these
fish, for generally they are the best. Where any name happens to be
vague or inexpressive, I shall say so, and suggest another. I do so
now, touching the Black Fish, so called, because blackness is the rule
among almost all whales. So, call him the Hyena Whale, if you please.
His voracity is well known, and from the circumstance that the inner
angles of his lips are curved upwards, he carries an everlasting
Mephistophelean grin on his face. This whale averages some sixteen or
eighteen feet in length. He is found in almost all latitudes. He has
a peculiar way of showing his dorsal hooked fin in swimming, which
looks something like a Roman nose. When not more profitably employed,
the sperm whale hunters sometimes capture the Hyena whale, to keep up
the supply of cheap oil for domestic employment --as some frugal
housekeepers, in the absence of company, and quite alone by
themselves, burn unsavory tallow instead of odorous wax. Though their
blubber is very thin, some of these whales will yield you upwards of
thirty gallons of oil. BOOK II. ( Octavo), CHAPTER III. ( Narwhale),
that is, Nostril whale. --Another instance of a curiously named
whale, so named I suppose from his peculiar horn being originally
mistaken for a peaked nose. The creature is some sixteen feet in
length, while its horn averages five feet, though some exceed ten, and
even attain to fifteen feet. Strictly speaking, this horn is but a
lengthened tusk, growing out from the jaw in a line a little depressed
from the horizontal. But it is only found on the sinister side, which
has an ill effect, giving its owner something analogous to the aspect
of a clumsy left-handed man. What precise purpose this ivory horn or
lance answers, it would be hard to say. It does not seemed to be used
like the blade of the sword-fish and bill-fish; though some sailors
tell me that the Narwhale employs it for a rake in turning over the
bottom of the sea for food. Charley Coffin said it was used for an
ice-piercer; for the Narwhale, rising to the surface of the Polar Sea,
and finding it sheeted with ice, thrusts his horn up, and so breaks
through. But you cannot prove either of these surmises to be correct.
My own opinion is, that however this one-sided horn may really be used
by the Narwhale --however that may be --it would certainly be very
convenient to him for a folder in reading pamphlets. The Narwhale I
have heard called the Tusked whale, the Horned whale, and the Unicorn
whale. He is certainly a curious example of the Unicornism to be
found in almost every kingdom of animated nature. From certain
cloistered old authors I have gathered that this same sea-unicorn's
horn was in ancient days regarded as the great antidote against
poison, and as such, preparations of it brought immense prices. It
was also distilled to a volatile salts for fainting ladies, the same
way that the horns of the male deer are manufactured into hartshorn.
Originally it was in itself accounted an object of great curiosity.
Black Letter tells me that Sir Martin Frobisher on his return from
that voyage, when Queen Bess did gallantly wave her jewelled hand to
him from a window of Greenwich Palace, as his bold ship sailed down
the Thames; when Sir Martin returned from that voyage, saith Black
Letter, on bended knees he presented to her highness a prodigious long
horn of the Narwhale, which for a long period after hung in the castle
at Windsor. An Irish author avers that the Earl of Leicester, on
bended knees, did likewise present to her highness another horn,
pertaining to a land beast of the unicorn nature. The Narwhale has a
very picturesque, leopard-like look, being of a milk-white ground
color, dotted with round and oblong spots of black. His oil is very
superior, clear and fine; but there is little of it, and he is seldom
hunted. He is mostly found in the circumpolar seas. BOOK II. (
Octavo), CHAPTER IV. ( Killer). --Of this whale little is precisely
known to the Nantucketer, and nothing at all to the professed
naturalist. From what I have seen of him at a distance, I should say
that he was about the bigness of a grampus. He is very savage --a
sort of Feegee fish. He sometimes takes the great Folio whales by the
lip, and hangs there like a leech, till the mighty brute is worried to
death. The Killer is never hunted. I never heard what sort of oil he
has. Exception might be taken to the name bestowed upon this whale,
on the ground of its indistinctness. For we are all killers, on land
and on sea; Bonapartes and Sharks included. BOOK II. ( Octavo),
CHAPTER V. ( Thrasher). --This gentleman is famous for his tail, which
he uses for a ferule in thrashing his foes. He mounts the Folio
whale's back, and as he swims, he works his passage by flogging him;
as some schoolmasters get along in the world by a similar process.
Still less is known of the Thrasher than of the Killer. Both are
outlaws, even in the lawless seas. thus ends book II. ( Octavo), and
begins BOOK III. ( Duodecimo). DUODECIMOES. --These include the
smaller whales. I.

The Huzza Porpoise. II. The Algerine Porpoise. III. The
Mealy-mouthed Porpoise. To those who have not chanced specially to
study the subject, it may possibly seem strange, that fishes not
commonly exceeding four or five feet should be marshalled among WHALES
--a word, which, in the popular sense, always conveys an idea of
hugeness. But the creatures set down above as Duodecimoes are
infallibly whales, by the terms of my definition of what a whale is
--i. e. a spouting fish, with a horizontal tail. BOOK III. (
Duodecimo), CHAPTER I ( Huzza Porpoise). -- This is the common
porpoise found almost all over the globe. The name is of my own
bestowal; for there are more than one sort of porpoises, and something
must be done to distinguish them. I call them thus, because he always
swims in hilarious shoals, which upon the broad sea keep tossing
themselves to heaven like caps in a Fourth-of-July crowd. Their
appearance is generally hailed with delight by the mariner. Full of
fine spirits, they invariably come from the breezy billows to
windward. They are the lads that always live before the wind. They
are accounted a lucky omen. If you yourself can withstand three
cheers at beholding these vivacious fish, then heaven help ye; the
spirit of godly gamesomeness is not in ye. A well-fed, plump Huzza
Porpoise will yield you one good gallon of good oil. But the fine and
delicate fluid extracted from his jaws is exceedingly valuable. It is
in request among jewellers and watchmakers. Sailors put it on their
hones. Porpoise meat is good eating, you know. It may never have
occurred to you that a porpoise spouts. Indeed, his spout is so small
that it is not very readily discernible. But the next time you have a
chance, watch him; and you will then see the great Sperm whale himself
in miniature. BOOK III. ( Duodecimo), CHAPTER II. ( Algerine
Porpoise). -- A pirate. Very savage. He is only found, I think, in
the Pacific. He is somewhat larger than the Huzza Porpoise, but much
of the same general make. Provoke him, and he will buckle to a
shark. I have lowered for him many times, but never yet saw him
captured. BOOK III. ( Duodecimo), CHAPTER III. ( Mealy-mouthed
Porpoise). The largest kind of Porpoise; and only found in the
Pacific, so far as it is known. The only English name, by which he
has hitherto been designated, is that of the fishers -- Right-Whale
Porpoise, from the circumstance that he is chiefly found in the
vicinity of that Folio. In shape, he differs in some degree from the
Huzza Porpoise, being of a less rotund and jolly girth; indeed, he is
of quite a neat and gentleman-like figure. He has no fins on his back
(most other porpoises have), he has a lovely tail, and sentimental
Indian eyes of a hazel hue. But his mealy-mouth spoils all. Though
his entire back down to his side fins is of a deep sable, yet a
boundary line, distinct as the mark in a ship's hull, called the
bright waist, that line streaks him from stem to stern, with two
separate colors, black above and white below. The white comprises
part of his head, and the whole of his mouth, which makes him look as
if he had just escaped from a felonious visit to a meal-bag. A most
mean and mealy aspect! His oil is much like that of the common
porpoise. Beyond the DUODECIMO, this system does not proceed,
inasmuch as the Porpoise is the smallest of the whales. Above, you
have all the Leviathans of note. But there are a rabble of uncertain,
fugitive, half-fabulous whales, which, as an American whaleman, I know
by reputation, but not personally. I shall enumerate them by their
forecastle appellations; for possibly such a list may be valuable to
future investigators, who may complete what I have here but begun. If
any of the following whales, shall hereafter be caught and marked,
then he can readily be incorporated into this System, according to his
Folio, Octavo, or Duodecimo magnitude: --The Bottle-Nose Whale; the
Junk Whale; the Pudding-Headed Whale; the Cape Whale; the Leading
Whale; the Cannon Whale; the Scragg Whale; the Coppered Whale; the
Elephant Whale; the Iceberg Whale; the Quog Whale; the Blue Whale;
etc. From Icelandic, Dutch, and old English authorities, there might
be quoted other lists of uncertain whales, blessed with all manner of
uncouth names. But I omit them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly
help suspecting them for mere sounds, full of Leviathanism, but
signifying nothing. Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this
system would not be here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but
plainly see that I have kept my word. But I now leave my cetological
System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of
Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the
uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first
architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to
posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole
book is but a draught --nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh Time,
Strength, Cash, and Patience! I am aware that down to the present
time, the fish styled Lamatins and Dugongs (Pig-fish and Sow-fish of
the Coffins of Nantucket) are included by many naturalists among the
whales. But as these pig-fish are a nosy, contemptible set, mostly
lurking in the mouths of rivers, and feeding on wet hay, and
especially as they do not spout, I deny their credentials as whales;
and have presented them with their passports to quit the kingdom of
Cetology. Why this book of whales is not denominated the Quarto is
very plain. Because, while the whales of this order, though smaller
than those of the former order, nevertheless retain a proportionate
likeness to them in figure, yet the bookbinder's Quarto volume in its
diminished form does not preserve the shape of the Folio volume, but
the Octavo volume does.


Concerning the officers of the whale-craft, this seems as good a place
as any to set down a little domestic peculiarity on ship-board,
arising from the existence of the harpooneer class of officers, a
class unknown of course in any other marine than the whale-fleet. The
large importance attached to the harpooneer's vocation is evinced by
the fact, that originally in the old Dutch Fishery, two centuries and
more ago, the command of a whale ship was not wholly lodged in the
person now called the captain, but was divided between him and an
officer called the Specksynder. Literally this word means Fat-Cutter;
usage, however, in time made it equivalent to Chief Harpooneer. In
those days, the captain's authority was restricted to the navigation
and general management of the vessel: while over the whale-hunting
department and all its concerns, the Specksynder or Chief Harpooneer
reigned supreme. In the British Greenland Fishery, under the
corrupted title of Specksioneer, this old Dutch official is still
retained, but his former dignity is sadly abridged. At present he
ranks simply as senior Harpooneer; and as such, is but one of the
captain's more inferior subalterns. Nevertheless, as upon the good
conduct of the harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely
depends, and since in the American Fishery he is not only an important
officer in the boat, but under certain circumstances (night watches on
a whaling ground) the command of the ship's deck is also his;
therefore the grand political maxim of the sea demands, that he should
nominally live apart from the men before the mast, and be in some way
distinguished as their professional superior; though always, by them,
familiarly regarded as their social equal. Now, the grand distinction
drawn between officer and man at sea, is this--the first lives aft,
the last forward. Hence, in whale-ships and merchantmen alike, the
mates have their quarters with the captain; and so, too, in most of
the American whalers the harpooneers are lodged in the after part of
the ship. That is to say, they take their meals in the captain's
cabin, and sleep in a place indirectly communicating with it. Though
the long period of a Southern whaling voyage (by far the longest of
all voyages now or ever made by man), the peculiar perils of it, and
the community of interest prevailing among a company, all of whom,
high or low, depend for their profits, not upon fixed wages, but upon
their common luck, together with their common vigilance, intrepidity,
and hard work; though all these things do in some cases tend to beget
a less rigorous discipline than in merchantmen generally; yet, never
mind how much like an old Mesopotamian family these whalemen may, in
some primitive instances, live together; for all that, the punctilious
externals, at least, of the quarter-deck are seldom materially
relaxed, and in no instance done away. Indeed, many are the Nantucket
ships in which you will see the skipper parading his quarter-deck with
an elated grandeur not surpassed in any military navy; nay, extorting
almost as much outward homage as if he wore the imperial purple, and
not the shabbiest of pilot-cloth. And though of all men the moody
captain of the Pequod was the least given to that sort of shallowest
assumption; and though the only homage he ever exacted, was implicit,
instantaneous obedience; though he required no man to remove the shoes
from his feet ere stepping upon the quarter-deck; and though there
were times when, owing to peculiar circumstances connected with events
hereafter to be detailed, he addressed them in unusual terms, whether
of condescension or in terrorem, or otherwise; yet even Captain Ahab
was by no means unobservant of the paramount forms and usages of the
sea. Nor, perhaps, will it fail to be eventually perceived, that
behind those forms and usages, as it were, he sometimes masked
himself; incidentally making use of them for other and more private
ends than they were legitimately intended to subserve. That certain
sultanism of his brain, which had otherwise in a good degree remained
unmanifested; through those forms that same sultanism became incarnate
in an irresistible dictatorship. For be a man's intellectual
superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available
supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external
arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and
base. This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the
Empire from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honors that
this air can give, to those men who become famous more through their
infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert,
than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level of the
mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when extreme
political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances even
to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency. But when, as in the
case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown of geographical empire
encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian herds crouch abased
before the tremendous centralization. Nor, will the tragic dramatist
who would depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest sweep and
direct swing, ever forget a hint, incidentally so important in his
art, as the one now alluded to. But Ahab, my Captain, still moves
before me in all his Nantucket grimness and shagginess; and in this
episode touching Emperors and Kings, I must not conceal that I have
only to do with a poor old whale-hunter like him; and, therefore, all
outward majestical trappings and housings are denied me. Oh, Ahab!
what shall be grand in thee, it must needs be plucked at from the
skies, and dived for in the deep, and featured in the unbodied air!


It is noon; and Dough-Boy, the steward, thrusting his pale
loaf-of-bread face from the cabin-scuttle, announces dinner to his
lord and master; who, sitting in the lee quarter-boat, has just been
taking an observation of the sun; and is now mutely reckoning the
latitude on the smooth, medallion-shaped tablet, reserved for that
daily purpose on the upper part of his ivory leg. From his complete
inattention to the tidings, you would think that moody Ahab had not
heard his menial. But presently, catching hold of the mizen shrouds,
he swings himself to the deck, and in an even, unexhilarated voice,
saying, Dinner, Mr. Starbuck, disappears into the cabin. When the
last echo of his sultan's step has died away, and Starbuck, the first
Emir, has every reason to suppose that he is seated, then Starbuck
rouses from his quietude, takes a few turns along the planks, and,
after a grave peep into the binnacle, says, with some touch of
pleasantness, Dinner, Mr. Stubb, and descends the scuttle. The second
Emir lounges about the rigging awhile, and then slightly shaking the
main brace, to see whether it be all right with that important rope,
he likewise takes up the old burden, and with a rapid Dinner,
Mr. Flask, follows after his predecessors. But the third emir, now
seeing himself all alone on the quarter-deck, seems to feel relieved
from some curious restraint; for, tipping all sorts of knowing winks
in all sorts of directions, and kicking off his shoes, he strikes into
a sharp but noiseless squall of a hornpipe right over the Grand Turk's
head; and then, by a dexterous sleight, pitching his cap up into the
mizentop for a shelf, he goes down rollicking, so far at least as he
remains visible from the deck, reversing all other processions, by
bringing up the rear with music.

But ere stepping into the cabin doorway below, he pauses, ships a new
face altogether, and, then, independent, hilarious little Flask enters
King Ahab's presence, in the character of Abjectus, or the Slave. It
is not the least among the strange things bred by the intense
artificialness of sea-usages, that while in the open air of the deck
some officers will, upon provocation, bear themselves boldly and
defyingly enough towards their commander; yet, ten to one, let those
very officers the next moment go down to their customary dinner in
that same commander's cabin, and straightway their inoffensive, not to
say deprecatory and humble air towards him, as he sits at the head of
the table; this is marvellous, sometimes most comical. Wherefore this
difference? A problem? Perhaps not. To have been Belshazzar, King
of Babylon; and to have been Belshazzar, not haughtily but
courteously, therein certainly must have been some touch of mundane
grandeur. But he who in the rightly regal and intelligent spirit
presides over his own private dinner-table of invited guests, that
man's unchallenged power and dominion of individual influence for the
time; that man's royalty of state transcends Belshazzar's, for
Belshazzar was not the greatest. Who has but once dined his friends,
has tasted what it is to be Caesar. It is a witchery of social
czarship which there is no withstanding. Now, if to this
consideration you superadd the official supremacy of a ship-master,
then, by inference, you will derive the cause of that peculiarity of
sea-life just mentioned. Over his ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided
like a mute, maned sea-lion on the white coral beach, surrounded by
his warlike but still deferential cubs. In his own proper turn, each
officer waited to be served. They were as little children before
Ahab; and yet, in Ahab, there seemed not to lurk the smallest social
arrogance. With one mind, their intent eyes all fastened upon the old
man's knife, as he carved the chief dish before him. I do not suppose
that for the world they would have profaned that moment with the
slightest observation, even upon so neutral a topic as the
weather. No! And when reaching out his knife and fork, between which
the slice of beef was locked, Ahab thereby motioned Starbuck's plate
towards him, the mate received his meat as though receiving alms; and
cut it tenderly; and a little started if, perchance, the knife grazed
against the plate; and chewed it noiselessly; and swallowed it, not
without circumspection. For, like the Coronation banquet at
Frankfort, where the German Emperor profoundly dines with the seven
Imperial Electors, so these cabin meals were somehow solemn meals,
eaten in awful silence; and yet at table old Ahab forbade not
conversation; only he himself was dumb. What a relief it was to
choking Stubb, when a rat made a sudden racket in the hold below. And
poor little Flask, he was the youngest son, and little boy of this
weary family party. His were the shinbones of the saline beef; his
would have been the drumsticks. For Flask to have presumed to help
himself, this must have seemed to him tantamount to larceny in the
first degree. Had he helped himself at that table, doubtless, never
more would he have been able to hold his head up in this honest world;
nevertheless, strange to say, Ahab never forbade him. And had Flask
helped himself, the chances were Ahab had never so much as noticed
it. Least of all, did flask presume to help himself to butter.
Whether he thought the owners of the ship denied it to him, on account
of its clotting his clear, sunny complexion; or whether he deemed
that, on so long a voyage in such marketless waters, butter was at a
premium, and therefore was not for him, a subaltern; however it was,
Flask, alas! was a butterless man! Another thing. Flask was the last
person down at the dinner, and Flask is the first man up. Consider!
For hereby Flask's dinner was badly jammed in point of time. Starbuck
and Stubb both had the start of him; and yet they also have the
privilege of lounging in the rear. If Stubb even, who is but a peg
higher than Flask, happens to have but a small appetite, and soon
shows symptoms of concluding his repast, then Flask must bestir
himself, he will not get more than three mouthfuls that day; for it is
against holy usage for Stubb to precede Flask to the deck. Therefore
it was that Flask once admitted in private, that ever since he had
arisen to the dignity of an officer, from that moment he had never
known what it was to be otherwise than hungry, more or less. For what
he ate did not so much relieve his hunger, as keep it immortal in him.
Peace and satisfaction, thought Flask, have for ever departed from my
stomach. I am an officer; but, how I wish I could fist a bit of
old-fashioned beef in the forecastle, as I used to when I was before
the mast. There's the fruits of promotion now; there's the vanity of
glory: there's the insanity of life! Besides, if it were so that any
mere sailor of the Pequod had a grudge against Flask in Flask's
official capacity, all that sailor had to do, in order to obtain ample
vengeance, was to go aft at dinner-time, and get a peep at Flask
through the cabin sky-light, sitting silly and dumfoundered before
awful Ahab. Now, Ahab and his three mates formed what may be called
the first table in the Pequod's cabin. After their departure, taking
place in inverted order to their arrival, the canvas cloth was
cleared, or rather was restored to some hurried order by the pallid
steward. And then the three harpooneers were bidden to the feast,
they being its residuary legatees. They made a sort of temporary
servants' hall of the high and mighty cabin. In strange contrast to
the hardly tolerable constraint and nameless invisible domineerings of
the captain's table, was the entire care-free license and ease, the
almost frantic democracy of those inferior fellows the
harpooneers. While their masters, the mates, seemed afraid of the
sound of the hinges of their own jaws, the harpooneers chewed their
food with such a relish that there was a report to it. They dined
like lords; they filled their bellies like Indian ships all day
loading with spices. Such portentous appetites had Queequeg and
Tashtego, that to fill out the vacancies made by the previous repast,
often the pale Dough-Boy was fain to bring on a great baron of
salt-junk, seemingly quarried out of the solid ox. And if he were not
lively about it, if he did not go with a nimble hop-skip-and-jump,
then Tashtego had an ungentlemanly way of accelerating him by darting
a fork at his back, harpoonwise. And once Daggoo, seized with a
sudden humor, assisted Dough-Boy's memory by snatching him up bodily,
and thrusting his head into a great empty wooden trencher, while
Tashtego, knife in hand, began laying out the circle preliminary to
scalping him. He was naturally a very nervous, shuddering sort of
little fellow, this bread-faced steward; the progeny of a bankrupt
baker and a hospital nurse. And what with the standing spectacle of
the black terrific Ahab, and the periodical tumultuous visitations of
these three savages, Dough-Boy's whole life was one continual
lip-quiver. Commonly, after seeing the harpooneers furnished with all
things they demanded, he would escape from their clutches into his
little pantry adjoining, and fearfully peep out at them through the
blinds of its door, till all was over. It was a sight to see Queequeg
seated over against Tashtego, opposing his filed teeth to the
Indian's: crosswise to them, Daggoo seated on the floor, for a bench
would have brought his hearse-plumed head to the low carlines; at
every motion of his colossal limbs, making the low cabin framework to
shake, as when an African elephant goes passenger in a ship. But for
all this, the great negro was wonderfully abstemious, not to say
dainty. It seemed hardly possible that by such comparatively small
mouthfuls he could keep up the vitality diffused through so broad,
baronial, and superb a person. But, doubtless, this noble savage fed
strong and drank deep of the abounding element of air; and through his
dilated nostrils snuffed in the sublime life of the worlds. Not by
beef or by bread, are giants made or nourished. But Queequeg, he had
a mortal, barbaric smack of the lip in eating --an ugly sound enough
--so much so, that the trembling Dough-Boy almost looked to see
whether any marks of teeth lurked in his own lean arms. And when he
would hear Tashtego singing out for him to produce himself, that his
bones might be picked, the simple-witted Steward all but shattered the
crockery hanging round him in the pantry, by his sudden fits of the
palsy. Nor did the whetstone which the harpooneers carried in their
pockets, for their lances and other weapons; and with which
whetstones, at dinner, they would ostentatiously sharpen their knives;
that grating sound did not at all tend to tranquillize poor Dough-Boy.
How could he forget that in his Island days, Queequeg, for one, must
certainly have been guilty of some murderous, convivial indiscretions.
Alas! Dough-Boy! hard fares the white waiter who waits upon
cannibals. Not a napkin should he carry on his arm, but a buckler.
in good time, though, to his great delight, the three salt-sea
warriors would rise and depart; to his credulous, fable-mongering
ears, all their martial bones jingling in them at every step, like
Moorish scimetars in scabbards. But, though these barbarians dined in
the cabin, and nominally lived there; still, being anything but
sedentary in their habits, they were scarcely ever in it except at
meal-times, and just before sleeping-time, when they passed through it
to their own peculiar quarters. In this one matter, Ahab seemed no
exception to most American whale captains, who, as a set, rather
incline to the opinion that by rights the ship's cabin belongs to
them; and that it is by courtesy alone that anybody else is, at any
time, permitted there. So that, in real truth, the mates and
harpooneers of the Pequod might more properly be said to have lived
out of the cabin than in it. For when they did enter it, it was
something as a street-door enters a house; turning inwards for a
moment, only to be turned out the next; and, as a permanent thing,
residing in the open air. Nor did they lose much hereby; in the cabin
was no companionship; socially, Ahab was inaccessible. Though
nominally included in the census of Christendom, he was still an alien
to it. He lived in the world, as the last of the Grisly Bears lived
in settled Missouri. And as when Spring and Summer had departed, that
wild Logan of the woods, burying himself in the hollow of a tree,
lived out the winter there, sucking his own paws; so, in his
inclement, howling old age, Ahab's soul, shut up in the caved trunk of
his body, there fed upon the sullen paws of its gloom!

< Chapter XXXV 2 THE MAST-HEAD >

It was during the more pleasant weather, that in due rotation with the
other seamen my first mast-head came round. In most American whalemen
the mast-heads are manned almost simultaneously with the vessel's
leaving her port; even though she may have fifteen thousand miles, and
more, to sail ere reaching her proper cruising ground. and if, after
a three, four, or five years' voyage she is drawing nigh home with
anything empty in her --say, an empty vial even --then, her mast-heads
are kept manned to the last; and not till her skysail-poles sail in
among the spires of the port, does she altogether relinquish the hope
of capturing one whale more. Now, as the business of standing
mast-heads, ashore or afloat, is a very ancient and interesting one,
let us in some measure expatiate here. I take it, that the earliest
standers of mast-heads were the old Egyptians; because, in all my
researches, I find none prior to them. For though their progenitors,
the builders of Babel, must doubtless, by their tower, have intended
to rear the loftiest mast-head in all Asia, or Africa either; yet (ere
the final truck was put to it) as that great stone mast of theirs may
be said to have gone by the board, in the dread gale of God's wrath;
therefore, we cannot give these Babel builders priority over the
Egyptians. And that the Egyptians were a nation of mast-head
standers, is an assertion based upon the general belief among
archaeologists, that the first pyramids were founded for astronomical
purposes: a theory singularly supported by the peculiar stair-like
formation of all four sides of those edifices; whereby, with
prodigious long upliftings of their legs, those old astronomers were
wont to mount to the apex, and sing out for new stars; even as the
look-outs of a modern ship sing out for a sail, or a whale just
bearing in sight. In Saint Stylites, the famous Christian hermit of
old times, who built him a lofty stone pillar in the desert and spent
the whole latter portion of his life on its summit, hoisting his food
from the ground with a tackle; in him we have a remarkable instance of
a dauntless stander-of-mast-heads; who was not to be driven from his
place by fogs or frosts, rain, hail, or sleet; but valiantly facing
everything out to the last, literally died at his post.

Of modern standers-of-mast-heads we have but a lifeless set; mere
stone, iron, and bronze men; who, though well capable of facing out a
stiff gale, are still entirely incompetent to the business of singing
out upon discovering any strange sight. There is Napoleon; who, upon
the top of the column of Vendome, stands with arms folded, some one
hundred and fifty feet in the air; careless, now, who rules the decks
below; whether Louis Philippe, Louis Blanc, or Louis the Devil. Great
Washington, too, stands high aloft on his towering main-mast in
Baltimore, and like one of Hercules' pillars, his column marks that
point of human grandeur beyond which few mortals will go. Admiral
Nelson, also, on a capstan of gun-metal, stands his mast-head in
Trafalgar Square; and ever when most obscured by that London smoke,
token is yet given that a hidden hero is there; for where there is
smoke, must be fire. But neither great Washington, nor Napoleon, nor
Nelson, will answer a single hail from below, however madly invoked to
befriend by their counsels the distracted decks upon which they gaze;
however it may be surmised, that their spirits penetrate through the
thick haze of the future, and descry what shoals and what rocks must
be shunned. It may seem unwarrantable to couple in any respect the
mast-head standers of the land with those of the sea; but that in
truth it is not so, is plainly evinced by an item for which Obed Macy,
the sole historian of Nantucket, stands accountable. The worthy Obed
tells us, that in the early times of the whale fishery, ere ships were
regularly launched in pursuit of the game, the people of that island
erected lofty spars along the sea-coast, to which the look-outs
ascended by means of nailed cleats, something as fowls go upstairs in
a hen-house. A few years ago this same plan was adopted by the Bay
whalemen of New Zealand, who, upon descrying the game, gave notice to
the ready-manned boats nigh the beach. But this custom has now become
obsolete; turn we then to the one proper mast-head, that of a
whale-ship at sea. The three mast-heads are kept manned from sun-rise
to sun-set; the seamen taking their regular turns (as at the helm),
and relieving each other every two hours. In the serene weather of
the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant the mast-head; nay, to a dreamy
meditative man it is delightful. There you stand, a hundred feet
above the silent decks, striding along the deep, as if the masts were
gigantic stilts, while beneath you and between your legs, as it were,
swim the hugest monsters of the sea, even as ships once sailed between
the boots of the famous Colossus at old Rhodes. There you stand, lost
in the infinite series of the sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves.
The tranced ship indolently rolls; the drowsy trade winds blow;
everything resolves you into languor. For the most part, in this
tropic whaling life, a sublime uneventfulness invests you; you hear no
news; read no gazettes; extras with startling accounts of commonplaces
never delude you into unnecessary excitements; you hear of no domestic
afflictions; bankrupt securities; fall of stocks; are never troubled
with the thought of what you shall have for dinner --for all your
meals for three years and more are snugly stowed in casks, and your
bill of fare is immutable. In one of those southern whalemen, on a
long three or four years' voyage, as often happens, the sum of the
various hours you spend at the mast-head would amount to several
entire months. And it is much to be deplored that the place to which
you devote so considerable a portion of the whole term of your natural
life, should be so sadly destitute of anything approaching to a cosy
inhabitiveness, or adapted to breed a comfortable localness of
feeling, such as pertains to a bed, a hammock, a hearse, a sentry box,
a pulpit, a coach, or any other of those small and snug contrivances
in which men temporarily isolate themselves. Your most usual point of
perch is the head of the t' gallant-mast, where you stand upon two
thin parallel sticks (almost peculiar to whalemen) called the t'
gallant cross-trees. Here, tossed about by the sea, the beginner
feels about as cosy as he would standing on a bull's horns. To be
sure, in cold weather you may carry your house aloft with you, in the
shape of a watch-coat; but properly speaking the thickest watch-coat
is no more of a house than the unclad body; for as the soul is glued
inside of its fleshly tabernacle, and cannot freely move about in it,
nor even move out of it, without running great risk of perishing (like
an ignorant pilgrim crossing the snowy Alps in winter); so a
watch-coat is not so much of a house as it is a mere envelope, or
additional skin encasing you. You cannot put a shelf or chest of
drawers in your body, and no more can you make a convenient closet of
your watch-coat. Concerning all this, it is much to be deplored that
the mast-heads of a southern whale ship are unprovided with those
enviable little tents or pulpits, called crow's-nests, in which the
lookouts of a Greenland whaler are protected from the inclement
weather of the frozen seas. In the fire-side narrative of Captain
Sleet, entitled A Voyage among the Icebergs, in quest of the Greenland
Whale, and incidentally for the re-discovery of the Lost Icelandic
Colonies of Old Greenland; in this admirable volume, all standers of
mast-heads are furnished with a charmingly circumstantial account of
the then recently invented crow's-nest of the Glacier, which was the
name of Captain Sleet's good craft. He called it the Sleet's
crow's-nest, in honor of himself; he being the original inventor and
patentee, and free from all ridiculous false delicacy, and holding
that if we call our own children after our own names (we fathers being
the original inventors and patentees), so likewise should we
denominate after ourselves any other apparatus we may beget. In
shape, the Sleet's crow's-nest is something like a large tierce or
pipe; it is open above, however, where it is furnished with a movable
side-screen to keep to windward of your head in a hard gale. Being
fixed on the summit of the mast, you ascend into it through a little
trap-hatch in the bottom. On the after side, or side next the stern
of the ship, is a comfortable seat, with a locker underneath for
umbrellas, comforters, and coats. In front is a leather rack, in
which to keep your speaking trumpet, pipe, telescope, and other
nautical conveniences. When Captain Sleet in person stood his
mast-head in this crow's nest of his, he tells us that he always had a
rifle with him (also fixed in the rack), together with a powder flask
and shot, for the purpose of popping off the stray narwhales, or
vagrant sea unicorns infesting those waters; for you cannot
successfully shoot at them from the deck owing to the resistance of
the water, but to shoot down upon them is a very different thing. Now,
it was plainly a labor of love for Captain Sleet to describe, as he
does, all the little detailed conveniences of his crow's-nest; but
though he so enlarges upon many of these, and though he treats us to a
very scientific account of his experiments in this crow's-nest, with a
small compass he kept there for the purpose of counteracting the
errors resulting from what is called the local attraction of all
binnacle magnets; an error ascribable to the horizontal vicinity of
the iron in the ship's planks, and in the Glacier's case, perhaps, to
there having been so many broken-down blacksmiths among her crew; I
say, that though the Captain is very discreet and scientific here,
yet, for all his learned binnacle deviations, azimuth compass
observations, and approximate errors, he knows very well, Captain
Sleet, that he was not so much immersed in those profound magnetic
meditations, as to fail being attracted occasionally towards that well
replenished little case-bottle, so nicely tucked in on one side of his
crow's nest, within easy reach of his hand. Though, upon the whole, I
greatly admire and even love the brave, the honest, and learned
Captain; yet I take it very ill of him that he should so utterly
ignore that case-bottle, seeing what a faithful friend and comforter
it must have been, while with mittened fingers and hooded head he was
studying the mathematics aloft there in that bird's nest within three
or four perches of the pole. But if we Southern whale-fishers are not
so snugly housed aloft as Captain Sleet and his Greenland-men were;
yet that disadvantage is greatly counterbalanced by the widely
contrasting serenity of those seductive seas in which we South fishers
mostly float. For one, I used to lounge up the rigging very
leisurely, resting in the top to have a chat with Queequeg, or any one
else off duty whom I might find there; then ascending a little way
further, and throwing a lazy leg over the top-sail yard, take a
preliminary view of the watery pastures, and so at last mount to my
ultimate destination. Let me make a clean breast of it here, and
frankly admit that I kept but sorry guard. With the problem of the
universe revolving in me, how could I--being left completely to myself
at such a thought-engendering altitude, --how could I but lightly hold
my obligations to observe all whale-ships' standing orders, Keep your
weather eye open, and sing out every time. And let me in this place
movingly admonish you, ye ship-owners of Nantucket! Beware of
enlisting in your vigilant fisheries any lad with lean brow and hollow
eye; given to unseasonable meditativeness; and who offers to ship with
the phaedon instead of Bowditch in his head. Beware of such an one, I
say; your whales must be seen before they can be killed; and this
sunken-eyed young Platonist will tow you ten wakes round the world,
and never make you one pint of sperm the richer. Nor are these
monitions at all unneeded. For nowadays, the whale-fishery furnishes
an asylum for many romantic, melancholy, and absent-minded young men,
disgusted with the carking cares of earth, and seeking sentiment in
tar and blubber. Childe Harold not unfrequently perches himself upon
the mast-head of some luckless disappointed whale-ship, and in moody
phrase ejaculates: -- Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!
Ten thousand blubber-hunters sweep over thee in vain. Very often do
the captains of such ships take those absent-minded young philosophers
to task, upbraiding them with not feeling sufficient interest in the
voyage; half-hinting that they are so hopelessly lost to all honorable
ambition, as that in their secret souls they would rather not see
whales than otherwise. But all in vain; those young Platonists have a
notion that their vision is imperfect; they are short-sighted; what
use, then, to strain the visual nerve? They have left their
opera-glasses at home. Why, thou monkey, said a harpooneer to one of
these lads, we've been cruising now hard upon three years, and thou
hast not raised a whale yet. Whales are scarce as hen's teeth
whenever thou art up here. Perhaps they were; or perhaps there might
have been shoals of them in the far horizon; but lulled into such an
opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this
absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts,
that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet
for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading
mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful
thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some
undiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive
thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through
it. In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came;
becomes diffused through time and space; like Cranmer's sprinkled
Pantheistic ashes, forming at last a part of every shore the round
globe over. There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life
imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by
the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep,
this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at
all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices
you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one
half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the
summer sea, no more to rise for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!


( enter Ahab: Then, all.) It was not a great while after the affair of
the pipe, that one morning shortly after breakfast, Ahab, as was his
wont, ascended the cabin-gangway to the deck. There most sea-captains
usually walk at that hour, as country gentlemen, after the same meal,
take a few turns in the garden. Soon his steady, ivory stride was
heard, as to and fro he paced his old rounds, upon planks so familiar
to his tread, that they were all over dented, like geological stones,
with the peculiar mark of his walk. Did you fixedly gaze, too, upon
that ribbed and dented brow; there also, you would see still stranger
foot-prints --the foot-prints of his one unsleeping, ever-pacing
thought. But on the occasion in question, those dents looked deeper,
even as his nervous step that morning left a deeper mark. And, so
full of his thought was Ahab, that at every uniform turn that he made,
now at the main-mast and now at the binnacle, you could almost see
that thought turn in him as he turned, and pace in him as he paced; so
completely possessing him, indeed, that it all but seemed the inward
mould of every outer movement. D'ye mark him, Flask? whispered
Stubb; the chick that's in him pecks the shell. T'will soon be
out. The hours wore on; --Ahab now shut up within his cabin; anon,
pacing the deck, with the same intense bigotry of purpose in his
aspect. It drew near the close of day.

Suddenly he came to a halt by the bulwarks, and inserting his bone leg
into the auger-hole there, and with one hand grasping a shroud, he
ordered Starbuck to send everybody aft. Sir! said the mate,
astonished at an order seldom or never given on ship-board except in
some extraordinary case. Send everybody aft, repeated Ahab.
Mast-heads, there! come down! When the entire ship's company were
assembled, and with curious and not wholly unapprehensive faces, were
eyeing him, for he looked not unlike the weather horizon when a storm
is coming up, Ahab, after rapidly glancing over the bulwarks, and then
darting his eyes among the crew, started from his standpoint; and as
though not a soul were nigh him resumed his heavy turns upon the deck.
With bent head and half-slouched hat he continued to pace, unmindful
of the wondering whispering among the men; till Stubb cautiously
whispered to Flask, that Ahab must have summoned them there for the
purpose of witnessing a pedestrian feat. But this did not last long.
Vehemently pausing, he cried: -- What do ye do when ye see a whale,
men? Sing out for him! was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of
clubbed voices.

Good! cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the
hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so
magnetically thrown them.

And what do ye next, men? Lower away, and after him! And what tune
is it ye pull to, men? A dead whale or a stove boat! More and more
strangely and fiercely glad and approving, grew the countenance of the
old man at every shout; while the mariners began to gaze curiously at
each other, as if marvelling how it was that they themselves became so
excited at such seemingly purposeless questions. But, they were all
eagerness again, as Ahab, now half-revolving in his pivot-hole, with
one hand reaching high up a shroud, and tightly, almost convulsively
grasping it, addressed them thus: -- All ye mast-headers have before
now heard me give orders about a white whale. Look ye! d'ye see this
Spanish ounce of gold? --holding up a broad bright coin to the sun --
it is a sixteen dollar piece, men. D'ye see it? Mr. Starbuck, hand
me yon top-maul. While the mate was getting the hammer, Ahab, without
speaking, was slowly rubbing the gold piece against the skirts of his
jacket, as if to heighten its lustre, and without using any words was
meanwhile lowly humming to himself, producing a sound so strangely
muffled and inarticulate that it seemed the mechanical humming of the
wheels of his vitality in him. Receiving the top-maul from Starbuck,
he advanced towards the main-mast with the hammer uplifted in one
hand, exhibiting the gold with the other, and with a high raised voice
exclaiming: Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale with a
wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye raises me that
white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his starboard fluke
--look ye, whosoever of ye raises me that same white whale, he shall
have this gold ounce, my boys! Huzza! huzza! cried the seamen, as
with swinging tarpaulins they hailed the act of nailing the gold to
the mast. It's a white whale, I say, resumed Ahab, as he threw down
the top-maul; a white whale. Skin your eyes for him, men; look sharp
for white water; if ye see but a bubble, sing out. All this while
Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg had looked on with even more intense
interest and surprise than the rest, and at the mention of the
wrinkled brow and crooked jaw they had started as if each was
separately touched by some specific recollection. Captain Ahab, said
Tashtego, that white whale must be the same that some call Moby
Dick. Moby Dick? shouted Ahab. Do ye know the white whale then,
Tash? Does he fan-tail a little curious, sir, before he goes down?
said the Gay-Header deliberately. And has he a curious spout, too,
said Daggoo, very bushy, even for a parmacetty, and mighty quick,
Captain Ahab? And he have one, two, tree --oh! good many iron in him
hide, too, Captain, cried Queequeg disjointedly, all twiske-tee
betwisk, like him--him-- faltering hard for a word, and screwing his
hand round and round as though uncorking a bottle -- like him--him--
Corkscrew! cried Ahab, aye, Queequeg, the harpoons lie all twisted and
wrenched in him; aye, Daggoo, his spout is a big one, like a whole
shock of wheat, and white as a pile of our Nantucket wool after the
great annual sheep-shearing; aye, Tashtego, and he fan-tails like a
split jib in a squall. Death and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye
have seen --Moby Dick-- Moby Dick! Captain Ahab, said Starbuck, who,
with Stubb and Flask, had thus far been eyeing his superior with
increasing surprise, but at last seemed struck with a thought which
somewhat explained all the wonder. Captain Ahab, I have heard of Moby
Dick--but it was not Moby Dick that took off thy leg? Who told thee
that? cried Ahab; then pausing, Aye, Starbuck; aye, my hearties all
round; it was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that brought me
to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye, he shouted with a
terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose; Aye,
aye! it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor
pegging lubber of me for ever and a day! Then tossing both arms, with
measureless imprecations he shouted out: Aye, aye! and I'll chase him
round Good Hope, and round the horn, and round the norway maelstrom,
and round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what
ye have shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of
land, and over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and
rolls fin out. What say ye, men, will ye splice hands on it, now? I
think ye do look brave. Aye, aye! shouted the harpooneers and
seamen, running closer to the excited old man: A sharp eye for the
White Whale; a sharp lance for Moby Dick! God bless ye, he seemed to
half sob and half shout. God bless ye, men. Steward! go draw the
great measure of grog. But what's this long face about, Mr. Starbuck;
wilt thou not chase the white whale? art not game for Moby Dick? I
am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain
Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I
came here to hunt whales, not my commander's vengeance. How many
barrels will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain
Ahab? it will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market. Nantucket
market! Hoot! But come closer, Starbuck; thou requirest a little
lower layer. If money's to be the measurer, man, and the accountants
have computed their great counting-house the globe, by girdling it
with guineas, one to every three parts of an inch; then, let me tell
thee, that my vengeance will fetch a great premium here! He smites
his chest, whispered Stubb, what's that for? methinks it rings most
vast, but hollow.

Vengeance on a dumb brute! cried Starbuck, that simply smote thee
from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing,
Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous. Hark ye yet again, --the little
lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks.
But in each event --in the living act, the undoubted deed --there,
some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its
features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike
through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by
thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall,
shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis
enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength,
with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is
chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white
whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of
blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the
sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of
fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my
master, man, is even that fair play. Who's over me? Truth hath no
confines. Take off thine eye! more intolerable than fiends' glarings
is a doltish stare! So, so; thou reddenest and palest; my heat has
melted thee to anger-glow. But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in
heat, that thing unsays itself. There are men from whom warm words
are small indignity. I meant not to incense thee. Let it go. Look!
see yonder Turkish cheeks of spotted tawn -- living, breathing
pictures painted by the sun. The Pagan leopards --the unrecking and
unworshipping things, that live; and seek, and give no reasons for the
torrid life they feel! The crew, man, the crew! Are they not one and
all with Ahab, in this matter of the whale? See Stubb! he laughs!
See yonder Chilian! he snorts to think of it. Stand up amid the
general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot, Starbuck! And what is
it? Reckon it. 'Tis but to help strike a fin; no wondrous feat for
Starbuck. What is it more? From this one poor hunt, then, the best
lance out of all Nantucket, surely he will not hang back, when every
foremast-hand has clutched a whetstone? Ah! constrainings seize thee;
I see! the billow lifts thee! Speak, but speak! --Aye, aye! thy
silence, then, that voices thee. ( aside) something shot from my
dilated nostrils, he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is
mine; cannot oppose me now, without rebellion. God keep me! --keep us
all! murmured Starbuck, lowly. But in his joy at the enchanted,
tacit acquiescence of the mate, Ahab did not hear his foreboding
invocation; nor yet the low laugh from the hold; nor yet the presaging
vibrations of the winds in the cordage; nor yet the hollow flap of the
sails against the masts, as for a moment their hearts sank in. For
again Starbuck's downcast eyes lighted up with the stubbornness of
life; the subterranean laugh died away; the winds blew on; the sails
filled out; the ship heaved and rolled as before. Ah, ye admonitions
and warnings! why stay ye not when ye come? But rather are ye
predictions than warnings, ye shadows! Yet not so much predictions
from without, as verifications of the foregoing things within. For
with little external to constrain us, the innermost necessities in our
being, these still drive us on. The measure! the measure! cried
Ahab. Receiving the brimming pewter, and turning to the harpooneers,
he ordered them to produce their weapons. Then ranging them before
him near the capstan, with their harpoons in their hands, while his
three mates stood at his side with their lances, and the rest of the
ship's company formed a circle round the group; he stood for an
instant searchingly eyeing every man of his crew. But those wild eyes
met his, as the bloodshot eyes of the prairie wolves meet the eye of
their leader, ere he rushes on at their head in the trail of the
bison; but, alas! only to fall into the hidden snare of the Indian.

Drink and pass! he cried, handing the heavy charged flagon to the
nearest seaman. The crew alone now drink. Round with it, round!
Short draughts --long swallows, men; 'tis hot as Satan's hoof. So,
so; it goes round excellently. It spiralizes in ye; forks out at the
serpent-snapping eye. well done; almost drained. That way it went,
this way it comes. Hand it me -- here's a hollow! Men, ye seem the
years; so brimming life is gulped and gone. Steward, refill! Attend
now, my braves. I have mustered ye all round this capstan; and ye
mates, flank me with your lances; and ye harpooneers, stand there with
your irons; and ye, stout mariners, ring me in, that I may in some
sort revive a noble custom of my fisherman fathers before me. O men,
you will yet see that-- Ha! boy, come back? bad pennies come not
sooner. Hand it me. Why, now, this pewter had run brimming again,
wer't not thou St. Vitus' imp --away, thou ague! Advance, ye mates!
Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let me touch the
axis. So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the three level,
radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing, suddenly and
nervously twitched them; meanwhile, glancing intently from Starbuck to
Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some nameless,
interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery
emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life.
The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic
aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of
Starbuck fell downright. In vain! cried Ahab; but, maybe, 'tis well.
For did ye three but once take the full-forced shock, then mine own
electric thing, that had perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too,
it would have dropped ye dead. Perchance ye need it not. Down
lances! And now, ye mates, I do appoint ye three cup-bearers to my
three pagan kinsmen there --yon three most honorable gentlemen and
noblemen, my valiant harpooneers. Disdain the task? What, when the
great Pope washes the feet of beggars, using his tiara for ewer? Oh,
my sweet cardinals! your own condescension, that shall bend ye to it.
I do not order ye; ye will it. Cut your seizings and draw the poles,
ye harpooneers.

Silently obeying the order, the three harpooneers now stood with the
detached iron part of their harpoons, some three feet long, held,
barbs up, before him.

Stab me not with that keen steel! Cant them; cant them over! know ye
not the goblet end? Turn up the socket! So, so; now, ye cup-bearers,
advance. The irons! take them; hold them while I fill! Forthwith,
slowly going from one officer to the other, he brimmed the harpoon
sockets with the fiery waters from the pewter. Now, three to three,
ye stand. Commend the murderous chalices! Bestow them, ye who are
now made parties to this indissoluble league. Ha! Starbuck! but the
deed is done! Yon ratifying sun now waits to sit upon it. Drink, ye
harpooneers! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful
whaleboat's bow -- Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not
hunt Moby Dick to his death! The long, barbed steel goblets were
lifted; and to cries and maledictions against the white whale, the
spirits were simultaneously quaffed down with a hiss. Starbuck paled,
and turned, and shivered. Once more, and finally, the replenished
pewter went the rounds among the frantic crew; when, waving his free
hand to them, they all dispersed; and Ahab retired within his cabin.

< Chapter XXXVII 7 SUNSET >

The cabin; by the stern windows; Ahab sitting alone, and gazing out.
I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where'er I
sail. The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them;
but first I pass. Yonder, by the ever-brimming goblet's rim, the warm
waves blush like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver sun
--slow dived from noon, --goes down; my soul mounts up! she wearies
with her endless hill. Is, then, the crown too heavy that I wear?
this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is it bright with many a gem; i, the
wearer, see not its far flashings; but darkly feel that i wear that,
that dazzlingly confounds. 'Tis iron --that I know--not gold. 'Tis
split, too --that I feel; the jagged edge galls me so, my brain seems
to beat against the solid metal; aye, steel skull, mine; the sort that
needs no helmet in the most brain-battering fight! Dry heat upon my
brow? Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the
sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all
loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne'er enjoy. Gifted with the
high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly
and most malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise! Good night
--good night! ( waving his hand, he moves from the window.) 'Twas not
so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my
one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they
revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all
stand before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others,
the match itself must needs be wasting! What I've dared, I've willed;
and what I've willed, I'll do! They think me mad --Starbuck does; but
I'm demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that's only
calm to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be
dismembered; and--Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will
dismember my dismemberer. Now, then, be the prophet and the fulfiller
one. That's more than ye, ye great gods, ever were. I laugh and hoot
at ye, ye cricket-players, ye pugilists, ye deaf Burkes and blinded
Bendigoes! I will not say as school-boys do to bullies, --Take some
one of your own size; don't pommel me! No, ye've knocked me down, and
I am up again; but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind
your cotton bags! I have no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab's
compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye
cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there.
Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails,
whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the
rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents' beds, unerringly I rush!
Naught's an obstacle, naught's an angle to the iron way!

< Chapter XXXVIII 26 DUSK >

By the Mainmast; Starbuck leaning against it. My soul is more than
matched; she's overmanned; and by a madman! Insufferable sting, that
sanity should ground arms on such a field! But he drilled deep down,
and blasted all my reason out of me! I think I see his impious end;
but feel that I must help him to it. Will I, nill I, the ineffable
thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut.
Horrible old man! Who's over him, he cries; --aye, he would be a
democrat to all above; look, how he lords it over all below! Oh! I
plainly see my miserable office, --to obey, rebelling; and worse yet,
to hate with touch of pity! For in his eyes I read some lurid woe
would shrivel me up, had I it. Yet is there hope. Time and tide flow
wide. The hated whale has the round watery world to swim in, as the
small gold-fish has its glassy globe. His heaven-insulting purpose,
God may wedge aside. I would up heart, were it not like lead. But my
whole clock's run down; my heart the all-controlling weight, I have no
key to lift again. [ A burst of revelry from the forecastle.] Oh,
God! to sail with such a heathen crew that have small touch of human
mothers in them! Whelped somewhere by the sharkish sea. The white
whale is their demigorgon. Hark! the infernal orgies! that revelry
is forward! mark the unfaltering silence aft! Methinks it pictures
life. Foremost through the sparkling sea shoots on the gay,
embattled, bantering bow, but only to drag dark Ahab after it, where
he broods within his sternward cabin, builded over the dead water of
the wake, and further on, hunted by its wolfish gurglings. The long
howl thrills me through! Peace! ye revellers, and set the watch!
Oh, life! 'tis in an hour like this, with soul beat down and held to
knowledge, --as wild, untutored things are forced to feed --Oh, life!
'tis now that I do feel the latent horror in thee! but 'tis not me!
that horror's out of me! and with the soft feeling of the human in
me, yet will I try to fight ye, ye grim, phantom futures! Stand by
me, hold me, bind me, O ye blessed influences!


( Stubb solus, and mending a brace.) Ha! ha! ha! ha! hem! clear
my throat! --I've been thinking over it ever since, and that ha, ha's
the final consequence. Why so? Because a laugh's the wisest, easiest
answer to all that's queer; and come what will, one comfort's always
left -- that unfailing comfort is, it's all predestinated. I heard
not all his talk with Starbuck; but to my poor eye Starbuck then
looked something as I the other evening felt. Be sure the old Mogul
has fixed him, too. I twigged it, knew it; had had the gift, might
readily have prophesied it --for when I clapped my eye upon his skull
I saw it. Well, Stubb, wise Stubb --that's my title --well, Stubb,
what of it, Stubb? Here's a carcase. I know not all that may be
coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing. Such a
waggish leering as lurks in all your horribles! I feel funny. Fa,
la! lirra, skirra! What's my juicy little pear at home doing now?
Crying its eyes out? --Giving a party to the last arrived harpooneers,
I dare say, gay as a frigate's pennant, and so am I--fa, la! lirra,
skirra! Oh-- We'll drink to-night with hearts as light, To love, as
gay and fleeting As bubbles that swim, on the beaker's brim, And break
on the lips while meeting. a brave stave that --who calls?
mr. starbuck? Aye, aye, sir -- ( Aside) he's my superior, he has his
too, if I'm not mistaken. -- Aye, aye, sir, just through with this job


( Foresail rises and discovers the watch standing, lounging, leaning,
and lying in various attitudes, all singing in chorus.) Farewell and
adieu to you, Spanish ladies! Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of
Spain! Our captain's commanded. -- 1st Nantucket Sailor Oh, boys,
don't be sentimental; it's bad for the digestion! Take a tonic,
follow me! ( Sings, and all follow.) Our captain stood upon the deck,
A spy-glass in his hand, A viewing of those gallant whales That blew
at every strand. Oh, your tubs in your boats, my boys, And by your
braces stand, And we'll have one of those fine whales, Hand, boys,
over hand! So, be cheery, my lads! may your hearts never fail!
While the bold harpooneer is striking the whale! Mate's Voice from
the Quarter-Deck Eight bells there, forward! 2nd Nantucket Sailor
Avast the chorus! Eight bells there! d'ye hear, bell-boy? Strike the
bell eight, thou Pip! thou blackling! and let me call the watch.
I've the sort of mouth for that --the hogshead mouth. So, so, (
thrusts his head down the scuttle,) Star--bo--l-e-e-n-s, a-h-o-y!
Eight bells there below! Tumble up! Dutch Sailor Grand snoozing
to-night, maty; fat night for that. I mark this in our old Mogul's
wine; it's quite as deadening to some as filliping to others. We
sing; they sleep --aye, lie down there, like ground-tier butts. At
'em again! There, take this copper-pump, and hail 'em through it.
Tell 'em to avast dreaming of their lasses. Tell 'em it's the
resurrection; they must kiss their last, and come to judgment. That's
the way -- that's it; thy throat ain't spoiled with eating Amsterdam

French Sailor Hist, boys! let's have a jig or two before we ride to
anchor in Blanket Bay. What say ye? There comes the other
watch. Stand by all legs! Pip! little Pip! hurrah with your
tambourine! Pip ( Sulky and sleepy.) Don't know where it is. French
Sailor Beat thy belly, then, and wag thy ears. Jig it, men, I say;
merry's the word; hurrah! Damn me, won't you dance? Form, now,
Indian-file, and gallop into the double-shuffle? Throw yourselves!
Legs! Legs! Iceland Sailor I don't like your floor, maty; it's too
springy to my taste. I'm used to ice-floors. I'm sorry to throw cold
water on the subject; but excuse me. Maltese Sailor Me too; where's
your girls? Who but a fool would take his left hand by his right, and
say to himself, how d'ye do? Partners! I must have partners!
Sicilian Sailor Aye; girls and a green! --then I'll hop with ye; yea,
turn grasshopper! Long-Island Sailor Well, well, ye sulkies, there's
plenty more of us. Hoe corn when you may, I say. All legs go to
harvest soon. Ah! here comes the music; now for it! Azore Sailor (
Ascending, and pitching the tambourine up the scuttle.) Here you are,
Pip; and there's the windlass-bitts; up you mount! Now, boys! ( The
half of them dance to the tambourine; some go below; some sleep or lie
among the coils of rigging. Oaths a-plenty.) Azore Sailor ( Dancing.)
Go it, Pip! Bang it, bell-boy! Rig it, dig it, stig it, quig it,
bell-boy; Make fire-flies; break the jinglers! Pip Jinglers, you say?
--there goes another, dropped off; I pound it so. China Sailor Rattle
thy teeth, then, and pound away; make a pagoda of thyself. French
Sailor Merry-mad! Hold up thy hoop, Pip, till I jump through it!
split jibs! tear yourselves! Tashtego ( Quietly smoking.) That's a
white man; he calls that fun: humph! I save my sweat. Old Manx
Sailor I wonder whether those jolly lads bethink them of what they are
dancing over. I'll dance over your grave, I will --that's the
bitterest threat of your night-women, that beat head-winds round
corners. O Christ! to think of the green navies and the
green-skulled crews! Well, well; belike the whole world's a ball, as
you scholars have it; and so 'tis right to make one ballroom of
it. Dance on, lads, you're young; I was once. 3d Nantucket Sailor
Spell oh! --whew! this is worse than pulling after whales in a calm
--give us a whiff, Tash. ( They cease dancing, and gather in clusters.

Meantime the sky darkens -- the wind rises.) Lascar Sailor By Brahma!
boys, it'll be douse sail soon. The sky-born, high-tide Ganges turned
to wind! Thou showest thy black brow, Seeva! Maltese Sailor (
Reclining and shaking his cap.) It's the waves --the snow's caps turn
to jig it now. They'll shake their tassels soon. Now would all the
waves were women, then I'd go drown, and chassee with them evermore!
There's naught so sweet on earth --heaven may not match it! --as those
swift glances of warm, wild bosoms in the dance, when the
over-arboring arms hide such ripe, bursting grapes. Sicilian Sailor (
Reclining.) Tell me not of it! Hark ye, lad --fleet interlacings of
the limbs --lithe swayings --coyings --flutterings! lip! heart! hip!
all graze: unceasing touch and go! not taste, observe ye, else come
satiety. Eh, Pagan? ( Nudging.) Tahitan Sailor ( Reclining on a mat.)
Hail, holy nakedness of our dancing girls! --the Heeva-Heeva! Ah!
low veiled, high palmed Tahiti! I still rest me on thy mat, but the
soft soil has slid! I saw thee woven in the wood, my mat! green the
first day i brought ye thence; now worn and wilted quite. Ah me!
--not thou nor I can bear the change! How then, if so be transplanted
to yon sky? Hear I the roaring streams from Pirohitee's peak of
spears, when they leap down the crags and drown the villages? --The
blast! the blast! Up, spine, and meet it! ( Leaps to his feet.)
Portuguese Sailor How the sea rolls swashing 'gainst the side! Stand
by for reefing, hearties! the winds are just crossing swords,
pell-mell they'll go lunging presently. Danish Sailor Crack, crack,
old ship! so long as thou crackest, thou holdest! Well done! The
mate there holds ye to it stiffly. He's no more afraid than the isle
fort at Cattegat, put there to fight the Baltic with storm-lashed
guns, on which the sea-salt cakes! 4th Nantucket Sailor He has his
orders, mind ye that. I heard old Ahab tell him he must always kill a
squall, something as they burst a waterspout with a pistol --fire your
ship right into it! English Sailor Blood! but that old man's a grand
old cove! We are the lads to hunt him up his whale! All Aye! aye!
Old Manx Sailor How the three pines shake! Pines are the hardest sort
of tree to live when shifted to any other soil, and here there's none
but the crew's cursed clay. Steady, helmsman! steady. This is the
sort of weather when brave hearts snap ashore, and keeled hulls split
at sea. Our captain has his birth-mark; look yonder, boys, there's
another in the sky --lurid-like, ye see, all else pitch black. Daggoo
What of that? Who's afraid of black's afraid of me! I'm quarried out
of it! Spanish Sailor ( Aside.) He wants to bully, ah! --the old
grudge makes me touchy. ( Advancing.) Aye, harpooneer, thy race is the
undeniable dark side of mankind --devilish dark at that. No
offence. Daggoo ( grimly) None. St. Jago's Sailor That Spaniard's
mad or drunk. But that can't be, or else in his one case our old
Mogul's fire-waters are somewhat long in working. 5th Nantucket Sailor
What's that I saw--lightning? Yes. Spanish Sailor No; Daggoo showing
his teeth. Daggoo ( springing) Swallow thine, mannikin! White skin,
white liver! Spanish Sailor ( meeting him) Knife thee heartily! big
frame, small spirit! All A row! a row! a row! Tashtego ( with a
whiff) A row a'low, and a row aloft --Gods and men --both brawlers!
Humph! Belfast Sailor A row! arrah a row! The Virgin be blessed, a
row! Plunge in with ye! English Sailor Fair play! Snatch the
Spaniard's knife! A ring, a ring! Old Manx Sailor Ready
formed. There! the ringed horizon. In that ring Cain struck Abel.
Sweet work, right work! No? Why then, God, mad'st thou the ring?
Mate's Voice from the Quarter Deck Hands by the halyards! in
top-gallant sails! Stand by to reef topsails! All The squall! the
squall! jump, my jollies! ( They scatter.) Pip ( shrinking under the
windlass) Jollies? Lord help such jollies! Crish, crash! there goes
the jib-stay! Blang-whang! God! Duck lower, Pip, here comes the
royal yard! It's worse than being in the whirled woods, the last day
of the year; Who'd go climbing after chestnuts now? But there they
go, all cursing, and here I don't. Fine prospects to 'em; they're on
the road to heaven. Hold on hard! Jimmini, what a squall! But those
chaps there are worse yet --they are your white squalls, they. White
squalls? white whale, shirr! shirr! Here have I heard all their chat
just now, and the white whale --shirr! shirr! --but spoken of once!
and only this evening -- it makes me jingle all over like my
tambourine --that anaconda of an old man swore 'em in to hunt him!
Oh, thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have
mercy on this small black boy down here; preserve him from all men
that have no bowels to feel fear!

< Chapter XLI 9 MOBY DICK >

I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest;
my oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more
did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A
wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless
feud seemed mine. With greedy ears I learned the history of that
murderous monster against whom I and all the others had taken our
oaths of violence and revenge. For some time past, though at
intervals only, the unaccompanied, secluded White Whale had haunted
those uncivilized seas mostly frequented by the Sperm Whale
fishermen. But not all of them knew of his existence; only a few of
them, comparatively, had knowingly seen him; while the number who as
yet had actually and knowingly given battle to him, was small indeed.
For, owing to the large number of whale-cruisers; the disorderly way
they were sprinkled over the entire watery circumference, many of them
adventurously pushing their quest along solitary latitudes, so as
seldom or never for a whole twelvemonth or more on a stretch, to
encounter a single news-telling sail of any sort; the inordinate
length of each separate voyage; the irregularity of the times of
sailing from home; all these, with other circumstances, direct and
indirect, long obstructed the spread through the whole world-wide
whaling-fleet of the special individualizing tidings concerning Moby
Dick. It was hardly to be doubted, that several vessels reported to
have encountered, at such or such a time, or on such or such a
meridian, a Sperm Whale of uncommon magnitude and malignity, which
whale, after doing great mischief to his assailants, had completely
escaped them; to some minds it was not an unfair presumption, I say,
that the whale in question must have been no other than moby Dick. Yet
as of late the Sperm Whale fishery had been marked by various and not
unfrequent instances of great ferocity, cunning, and malice in the
monster attacked; therefore it was, that those who by accident
ignorantly gave battle to Moby Dick; such hunters, perhaps, for the
most part, were content to ascribe the peculiar terror he bred, more,
as it were, to the perils of the Sperm Whale fishery at large, than to
the individual cause. In that way, mostly, the disastrous encounter
between Ahab and the whale had hitherto been popularly regarded. And
as for those who, previously hearing of the White Whale, by chance
caught sight of him; in the beginning of the thing they had every one
of them, almost, as boldly and fearlessly lowered for him, as for any
other whale of that species. But at length, such calamities did ensue
in these assaults --not restricted to sprained wrists and ancles,
broken limbs, or devouring amputations --but fatal to the last degree
of fatality; those repeated disastrous repulses, all accumulating and
piling their terrors upon Moby Dick; those things had gone far to
shake the fortitude of many brave hunters, to whom the story of the
White Whale had eventually come. Nor did wild rumors of all sorts
fail to exaggerate, and still the more horrify the true histories of
these deadly encounters. For not only do fabulous rumors naturally
grow out of the very body of all surprising terrible events, --as the
smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but, in maritime life, far more
than in that of terra firma, wild rumors abound, wherever there is any
adequate reality for them to cling to. And as the sea surpasses the
land in this matter, so the whale fishery surpasses every other sort
of maritime life, in the wonderfulness and fearfulness of the rumors
which sometimes circulate there. For not only are whalemen as a body
unexempt from that ignorance and superstitiousness hereditary to all
sailors; but of all sailors, they are by all odds the most directly
brought into contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing in the
sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest marvels, but, hand to
jaw, give battle to them. Alone, in such remotest waters, that though
you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a thousand shores, you would
not come to any chiselled hearthstone, or aught hospitable beneath
that part of the sun; in such latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too
such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by influences all
tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty birth. No
wonder, then, that ever gathering volume from the mere transit over
the widest watery spaces, the outblown rumors of the White Whale did
in the end incorporate with themselves all manner of morbid hints, and
half-formed foetal suggestions of supernatural agencies, which
eventually invested Moby Dick with new terrors unborrowed from
anything that visibly appears. So that in many cases such a panic did
he finally strike, that few who by those rumors, at least, had heard
of the White Whale, few of those hunters were willing to encounter the
perils of his jaw. But there were still other and more vital
practical influences at work. Not even at the present day has the
original prestige of the Sperm Whale, as fearfully distinguished from
all other species of the leviathan, died out of the minds of the
whalemen as a body. There are those this day among them, who, though
intelligent and courageous enough in offering battle to the Greenland
or Right whale, would perhaps --either from professional inexperience,
or incompetency, or timidity, decline a contest with the Sperm Whale;
at any rate, there are plenty of whalemen, especially among those
whaling nations not sailing under the American flag, who have never
hostilely encountered the Sperm Whale, but whose sole knowledge of the
leviathan is restricted to the ignoble monster primitively pursued in
the North; seated on their hatches, these men will hearken with a
childish fire-side interest and awe, to the wild, strange tales of
Southern whaling. Nor is the pre-eminent tremendousness of the great
Sperm Whale anywhere more feelingly comprehended, than on board of
those prows which stem him. And as if the now tested reality of his
might had in former legendary times thrown its shadow before it; we
find some book naturalists --Olassen and Povelson --declaring the
Sperm Whale not only to be a consternation to every other creature in
the sea, but also to be so incredibly ferocious as continually to be
athirst for human blood. Nor even down to so late a time as Cuvier's,
were these or almost similar impressions effaced. For in his Natural
History, the Baron himself affirms that at sight of the Sperm Whale,
all fish (sharks included) are struck with the most lively terrors,
and often in the precipitancy of their flight dash themselves against
the rocks with such violence as to cause instantaneous death. And
however the general experiences in the fishery may amend such reports
as these; yet in their full terribleness, even to the bloodthirsty
item of Povelson, the superstitious belief in them is, in some
vicissitudes of their vocation, revived in the minds of the
hunters. So that overawed by the rumors and portents concerning him,
not a few of the fishermen recalled, in reference to Moby Dick, the
earlier days of the Sperm Whale fishery, when it was oftentimes hard
to induce long practised Right whalemen to embark in the perils of
this new and daring warfare; such men protesting that although other
leviathans might be hopefully pursued, yet to chase and point lance at
such an apparition as the Sperm Whale was not for mortal man. That to
attempt it, would be inevitably to be torn into a quick eternity. on
this head, there are some remarkable documents that may be
consulted. Nevertheless, some there were, who even in the face of
these things were ready to give chase to Moby Dick; and a still
greater number who, chancing only to hear of him distantly and
vaguely, without the specific details of any certain calamity, and
without superstitious accompaniments, were sufficiently hardy not to
flee from the battle if offered. One of the wild suggestings referred
to, as at last coming to be linked with the White Whale in the minds
of the superstitiously inclined, was the unearthly conceit that Moby
Dick was ubiquitous; that he had actually been encountered in opposite
latitudes at one and the same instant of time. Nor, credulous as such
minds must have been, was this conceit altogether without some faint
show of superstitious probability. For as the secrets of the currents
in the seas have never yet been divulged, even to the most erudite
research; so the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale when beneath the
surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his pursuers; and from
time to time have originated the most curious and contradictory
speculations regarding them, especially concerning the mystic modes
whereby, after sounding to a great depth, he transports himself with
such vast swiftness to the most widely distant points. It is a thing
well known to both American and English whale-ships, and as well a
thing placed upon authoritative record years ago by Scoresby, that
some whales have been captured far north in the Pacific, in whose
bodies have been found the barbs of harpoons darted in the Greenland
seas. Nor is it to be gainsaid, that in some of these instances it
has been declared that the interval of time between the two assaults
could not have exceeded very many days. Hence, by inference, it has
been believed by some whalemen, that the nor' west passage, so long a
problem to man, was never a problem to the whale. So that here, in
the real living experience of living men, the prodigies related in old
times of the inland Strello mountain in Portugal (near whose top there
was said to be a lake in which the wrecks of ships floated up to the
surface); and that still more wonderful story of the Arethusa fountain
near Syracuse (whose waters were believed to have come from the Holy
Land by an underground passage); these fabulous narrations are almost
fully equalled by the realities of the whaleman. Forced into
familiarity, then, with such prodigies as these; and knowing that
after repeated, intrepid assaults, the White Whale had escaped alive;
it cannot be much matter of surprise that some whalemen should go
still further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only
ubiquitous, but immortal (for immortality is but ubiquity in time);
that though groves of spears should be planted in his flanks, he would
still swim away unharmed; or if indeed he should ever be made to spout
thick blood, such a sight would be but a ghastly deception; for again
in unensanguined billows hundreds of leagues away, his unsullied jet
would once more be seen. But even stripped of these supernatural
surmisings, there was enough in the earthly make and incontestable
character of the monster to strike the imagination with unwonted
power. For, it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much
distinguished him from other sperm whales, but, as was elsewhere
thrown out --a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high,
pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent features; the tokens
whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he revealed his
identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him. The rest of his
body was so streaked, and spotted, and marbled with the same shrouded
hue, that, in the end, he had gained his distinctive appellation of
the white Whale; a name, indeed, literally justified by his vivid
aspect, when seen gliding at high noon through a dark blue sea,
leaving a milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden
gleamings. Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable hue,
nor yet his deformed lower jaw, that so much invested the whale with
natural terror, as that unexampled, intelligent malignity which,
according to specific accounts, he had over and over again evinced in
his assaults. More than all, his treacherous retreats struck more of
dismay than perhaps aught else. For, when swimming before his
exulting pursuers, with every apparent symptom of alarm, he had
several times been known to turn around suddenly, and, bearing down
upon them, either stave their boats to splinters, or drive them back
in consternation to their ship. Already several fatalities had
attended his chase. But though similar disasters, however little
bruited ashore, were by no means unusual in the fishery; yet, in most
instances, such seemed the White Whale's infernal aforethought of
ferocity, that every dismembering or death that he caused, was not
wholly regarded as having been inflicted by an unintelligent agent.
Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury the minds of
his more desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chips of
chewed boats, and the sinking limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of
the white curds of the whale's direful wrath into the serene,
exasperating sunlight, that smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.
His three boats stove around him, and oars and men both whirling in
the eddies; one captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow,
had dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duellist at his foe, blindly
seeking with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the
whale. That captain was Ahab. And then it was, that suddenly
sweeping his sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby Dick had reaped
away ahab's leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field. No
turbaned Turk, no hired Venetian or Malay, could have smote him with
more seeming malice. Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever
since that almost fatal encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild
vindictiveness against the whale, all the more fell for that in his
frantic morbidness he at last came to identify with him, not only all
his bodily woes, but all his intellectual and spiritual exasperations.
The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all
those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till
they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That
intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose
dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds;
which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue
devil; -- Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but
deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he
pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and
torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice
in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle
demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly
personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled
upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate
felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had
been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it. It is not
probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at the
precise time of his bodily dismemberment. Then, in darting at the
monster, knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden,
passionate, corporal animosity; and when he received the stroke that
tore him, he probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but
nothing more. Yet, when by this collision forced to turn towards
home, and for long months of days and weeks, ahab and anguish lay
stretched together in one hammock, rounding in mid winter that dreary,
howling Patagonian Cape; then it was, that his torn body and gashed
soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made him mad. That it
was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the
final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that,
at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic; and, though
unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength yet lurked in his Egyptian
chest, and was moreover intensified by his delirium, that his mates
were forced to lace him fast, even there, as he sailed, raving in his
hammock. In a strait-jacket, he swung to the mad rockings of the
gales. And, when running into more sufferable latitudes, the ship,
with mild stun'sails spread, floated across the tranquil tropics, and,
to all appearances, the old man's delirium seemed left behind him with
the Cape Horn swells, and he came forth from his dark den into the
blessed light and air; even then, when he bore that firm, collected
front, however pale, and issued his calm orders once again; and his
mates thanked God the direful madness was now gone; even then, Ahab,
in his hidden self, raved on. Human madness is oftentimes a cunning
and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become
transfigured into some still subtler form. Ahab's full lunacy
subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like the unabated Hudson,
when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but unfathomably through the
Highland gorge. But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot
of Ahab's broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad
madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished.
That before living agent, now became the living instrument. If such a
furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general
sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentred cannon upon its
own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that
one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had
sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object. This is much;
yet Ahab's larger, darker, deeper part remains unhinted. But vain to
popularize profundities, and all truth is profound. Winding far down
from within the very heart of this spiked Hotel de Cluny where we here
stand --however grand and wonderful, now quit it; --and take your way,
ye nobler, sadder souls, to those vast Roman halls of Thermes; where
far beneath the fantastic towers of man's upper earth, his root of
grandeur, his whole awful essence sits in bearded state; an antique
buried beneath antiquities, and throned on torsoes! So with a broken
throne, the great gods mock that captive king; so like a Caryatid, he
patient sits, upholding on his frozen brow the piled entablatures of
ages. Wind ye down there, ye prouder, sadder souls! question that
proud, sad king! A family likeness! aye, he did beget ye, ye young
exiled royalties; and from your grim sire only will the old
State-secret come. Now, in his heart, Ahab had some glimpse of this,
namely: all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad. Yet
without power to kill, or change, or shun the fact; he likewise knew
that to mankind he did now long dissemble; in some sort, did still.
But that thing of his dissembling was only subject to his
perceptibility, not to his will determinate. Nevertheless, so well did
he succeed in that dissembling, that when with ivory leg he stepped
ashore at last, no Nantucketer thought him otherwise than but
naturally grieved, and that to the quick, with the terrible casualty
which had overtaken him. The report of his undeniable delirium at sea
was likewise popularly ascribed to a kindred cause. And so too, all
the added moodiness which always afterwards, to the very day of
sailing in the pequod on the present voyage, sat brooding on his brow.
Nor is it so very unlikely, that far from distrusting his fitness for
another whaling voyage, on account of such dark symptoms, the
calculating people of that prudent isle were inclined to harbor the
conceit, that for those very reasons he was all the better qualified
and set on edge, for a pursuit so full of rage and wildness as the
bloody hunt of whales. Gnawed within and scorched without, with the
infixed, unrelenting fangs of some incurable idea; such an one, could
he be found, would seem the very man to dart his iron and lift his
lance against the most appalling of all brutes. Or, if for any reason
thought to be corporeally incapacitated for that, yet such an one
would seem superlatively competent to cheer and howl on his underlings
to the attack. But be all this as it may, certain it is, that with
the mad secret of his unabated rage bolted up and keyed in him, Ahab
had purposely sailed upon the present voyage with the one only and
all-engrossing object of hunting the White Whale. Had any one of his
old acquaintances on shore but half dreamed of what was lurking in him
then, how soon would their aghast and righteous souls have wrenched
the ship from such a fiendish man! They were bent on profitable
cruises, the profit to be counted down in dollars from the mint. He
was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.
Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses
a Job's whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly
made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals --morally
enfeebled also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or
right-mindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference
and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask.
Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some
infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge. How it was
that they so aboundingly responded to the old man's ire --by what evil
magic their souls were possessed, that at times his hate seemed almost
theirs; the White Whale as much their insufferable foe as his; how all
this came to be --what the White Whale was to them, or how to their
unconscious understandings, also, in some dim, unsuspected way, he
might have seemed the gliding great demon of the seas of life, --all
this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go. The
subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither
leads his shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his pick? Who
does not feel the irresistible arm drag? What skiff in tow of a
seventy-four can stand still? For one, I gave myself up to the
abandonment of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to
encounter the whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest


What the white whale was to Ahab, has been hinted; what, at times, he
was to me, as yet remains unsaid. Aside from those more obvious
considerations touching Moby Dick, which could not but occasionally
awaken in any man's soul some alarm, there was another thought, or
rather vague, nameless horror concerning him, which at times by its
intensity completely overpowered all the rest; and yet so mystical and
well nigh ineffable was it, that I almost despair of putting it in a
comprehensible form. It was the whiteness of the whale that above all
things appalled me. But how can I hope to explain myself here; and
yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these
chapters might be naught. Though in many natural objects, whiteness
refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its
own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls; and though various nations
have in some way recognised a certain royal pre-eminence in this hue;
even the barbaric, grand old kings of Pegu placing the title Lord of
the White Elephants above all their other magniloquent ascriptions of
dominion; and the modern kings of Siam unfurling the same snow-white
quadruped in the royal standard; and the Hanoverian flag bearing the
one figure of a snow-white charger; and the great Austrian Empire,
Caesarian, heir to overlording Rome, having for the imperial color the
same imperial hue; and though this pre-eminence in it applies to the
human race itself, giving the white man ideal mastership over every
dusky tribe; and though, besides all this, whiteness has been even
made significant of gladness, for among the Romans a white stone
marked a joyful day; and though in other mortal sympathies and
symbolizings, this same hue is made the emblem of many touching, noble
things --the innocence of brides, the benignity of age; though among
the Red Men of America the giving of the white belt of wampum was the
deepest pledge of honor; though in many climes, whiteness typifies the
majesty of Justice in the ermine of the Judge, and contributes to the
daily state of kings and queens drawn by milk-white steeds; though
even in the higher mysteries of the most august religions it has been
made the symbol of the divine spotlessness and power; by the Persian
fire worshippers, the white forked flame being held the holiest on the
altar; and in the Greek mythologies, Great Jove himself made incarnate
in a snow-white bull; and though to the noble Iroquois, the midwinter
sacrifice of the sacred White Dog was by far the holiest festival of
their theology, that spotless, faithful creature being held the purest
envoy they could send to the Great Spirit with the annual tidings of
their own fidelity; and though directly from the Latin word for white,
all Christian priests derive the name of one part of their sacred
vesture, the alb or tunic, worn beneath the cassock; and though among
the holy pomps of the Romish faith, white is specially employed in the
celebration of the Passion of our Lord; though in the Vision of
St. John, white robes are given to the redeemed, and the
four-and-twenty elders stand clothed in white before the great white
throne, and the Holy One that sitteth there white like wool; yet for
all these accumulated associations, with whatever is sweet, and
honorable, and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something in the
innermost idea of this hue, which strikes more of panic to the soul
than that redness which affrights in blood.

This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness,
when divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with any
object terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest
bounds. Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of
the tropics; what but their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the
transcendent horrors they are? That ghastly whiteness it is which
imparts such an abhorrent mildness, even more loathsome than terrific,
to the dumb gloating of their aspect. So that not the fierce-fanged
tiger in his heraldic coat can so stagger courage as the
white-shrouded bear or shark. Bethink thee of the albatross, whence
come those clouds of spiritual wonderment and pale dread, in which
that white phantom sails in all imaginations? Not Coleridge first
threw that spell; but God's great, unflattering laureate, Nature. Most
famous in our Western annals and Indian traditions is that of the
White Steed of the Prairies; a magnificent milk-white charger,
large-eyed, small-headed, bluff-chested, and with the dignity of a
thousand monarchs in his lofty, overscorning carriage. He was the
elected Xerxes of vast herds of wild horses, whose pastures in those
days were only fenced by the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies. At
their flaming head he westward trooped it like that chosen star which
every evening leads on the hosts of light. The flashing cascade of
his mane, the curving comet of his tail, invested him with housings
more resplendent than gold and silver-beaters could have furnished
him. A most imperial and archangelical apparition of that unfallen,
western world, which to the eyes of the old trappers and hunters
revived the glories of those primeval times when Adam walked majestic
as a god, bluff-bowed and fearless as this mighty steed. Whether
marching amid his aides and marshals in the van of countless cohorts
that endlessly streamed it over the plains, like an Ohio; or whether
with his circumambient subjects browsing all around at the horizon,
the White Steed gallopingly reviewed them with warm nostrils reddening
through his cool milkiness; in whatever aspect he presented himself,
always to the bravest Indians he was the object of trembling reverence
and awe. Nor can it be questioned from what stands on legendary
record of this noble horse, that it was his spiritual whiteness
chiefly, which so clothed him with divineness; and that this
divineness had that in it which, though commanding worship, at the
same time enforced a certain nameless terror. But there are other
instances where this whiteness loses all that accessory and strange
glory which invests it in the White Steed and Albatross.

What is it that in the Albino man so peculiarly repels and often
shocks the eye, as that sometimes he is loathed by his own kith and
kin! It is that whiteness which invests him, a thing expressed by the
name he bears. The Albino is as well made as other men --has no
substantive deformity --and yet this mere aspect of all-pervading
whiteness makes him more strangely hideous than the ugliest
abortion. Why should this be so? Nor, in quite other aspects, does
Nature in her least palpable but not the less malicious agencies, fail
to enlist among her forces this crowning attribute of the terrible.
From its snowy aspect, the gauntleted ghost of the Southern Seas has
been denominated the White Squall. Nor, in some historic instances,
has the art of human malice omitted so potent an auxiliary. How
wildly it heightens the effect of that passage in Froissart, when,
masked in the snowy symbol of their faction, the desperate White Hoods
of Ghent murder their bailiff in the market-place! Nor, in some
things, does the common, hereditary experience of all mankind fail to
bear witness to the supernaturalism of this hue. It cannot well be
doubted, that the one visible quality in the aspect of the dead which
most appals the gazer, is the marble pallor lingering there; as if
indeed that pallor were as much like the badge of consternation in the
other world, as of mortal trepidation here. And from that pallor of
the dead, we borrow the expressive hue of the shroud in which we wrap
them. Nor even in our superstitions do we fail to throw the same snowy
mantle round our phantoms; all ghosts rising in a milk-white fog
--Yea, while these terrors seize us, let us add, that even the king of
terrors, when personified by the evangelist, rides on his pallid
horse. Therefore, in his other moods, symbolize whatever grand or
gracious thing he will by whiteness, no man can deny that in its
profoundest idealized significance it calls up a peculiar apparition
to the soul. But though without dissent this point be fixed, how is
mortal man to account for it? To analyse it, would seem
impossible. Can we, then, by the citation of some of those instances
wherein this thing of whiteness --though for the time either wholly or
in great part stripped of all direct associations calculated to impart
to it aught fearful, but, nevertheless, is found to exert over us the
same sorcery, however modified; --can we thus hope to light upon some
chance clue to conduct us to the hidden cause we seek? Let us
try. But in a matter like this, subtlety appeals to subtlety, and
without imagination no man can follow another into these halls. And
though, doubtless, some at least of the imaginative impressions about
to be presented may have been shared by most men, yet few perhaps were
entirely conscious of them at the time, and therefore may not be able
to recall them now. Why to the man of untutored ideality, who happens
to be but loosely acquainted with the peculiar character of the day,
does the bare mention of Whitsuntide marshal in the fancy such long,
dreary, speechless processions of slow-pacing pilgrims, downcast and
hooded with new-fallen snow? Or, to the unread, unsophisticated
Protestant of the Middle American States, why does the passing mention
of a White Friar or a White Nun, evoke such an eyeless statue in the
soul? Or what is there apart from the traditions of dungeoned
warriors and kings (which will not wholly account for it) that makes
the White Tower of London tell so much more strongly on the
imagination of an untravelled American, than those other storied
structures, its neighbors --the Byward Tower, or even the Bloody? And
those sublimer towers, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, whence,
in peculiar moods, comes that gigantic ghostliness over the soul at
the bare mention of that name, while the thought of Virginia's Blue
Ridge is full of a soft, dewy, distant dreaminess? Or why,
irrespective of all latitudes and longitudes, does the name of the
White Sea exert such a spectralness over the fancy, while that of the
Yellow Sea lulls us with mortal thoughts of long lacquered mild
afternoons on the waves, followed by the gaudiest and yet sleepiest of
sunsets? Or, to choose a wholly unsubstantial instance, purely
addressed to the fancy, why, in reading the old fairy tales of Central
Europe, does the tall pale man of the Hartz forests, whose changeless
pallor unrestingly glides through the green of the groves --why is
this phantom more terrible than all the whooping imps of the
Blocksburg? Nor is it, altogether, the remembrance of her
cathedral-toppling earthquakes; nor the stampedoes of her frantic
seas: nor the tearlessness of arid skies that never rain; nor the
sight of her wide field of leaning spires, wrenched cope-stones, and
crosses all adroop (like canted yards of anchored fleets); and her
suburban avenues of house-walls lying over upon each other, as a
tossed pack of cards; --it is not these things alone which make
tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can'st see. For Lima
has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this
whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins
for ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay;
spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that
fixes its own distortions. I know that, to the common apprehension,
this phenomenon of whiteness is not confessed to be the prime agent in
exaggerating the terror of objects otherwise terrible; nor to the
unimaginative mind is there aught of terror in those appearances whose
awfulness to another mind almost solely consists in this one
phenomenon, especially when exhibited under any form at all
approaching to muteness or universality. What I mean by these two
statements may perhaps be respectively elucidated by the following
examples. First: The mariner, when drawing nigh the coasts of foreign
lands, if by night he hear the roar of breakers, starts to vigilance,
and feels just enough of trepidation to sharpen all his faculties; but
under precisely similar circumstances, let him be called from his
hammock to view his ship sailing through a midnight sea of milky
whiteness --as if from encircling headlands shoals of combed white
bears were swimming round him, then he feels a silent, superstitious
dread; the shrouded phantom of the whitened waters is horrible to him
as a real ghost; in vain the lead assures him he is still off
soundings; heart and helm they both go down; he never rests till blue
water is under him again. Yet where is the mariner who will tell
thee, Sir, it was not so much the fear of striking hidden rocks, as
the fear of that hideous whiteness that so stirred me? Second: To the
native Indian of Peru, the continual sight of the snow-howdahed Andes
conveys naught of dread, except, perhaps, in the mere fancying of the
eternal frosted desolateness reigning at such vast altitudes, and the
natural conceit of what a fearfulness it would be to lose oneself in
such inhuman solitudes. Much the same is it with the backwoodsman of
the West, who with comparative indifference views an unbounded prairie
sheeted with driven snow, no shadow of tree or twig to break the fixed
trance of whiteness. Not so the sailor, beholding the scenery of the
Antarctic seas; where at times, by some infernal trick of legerdemain
in the powers of frost and air, he, shivering and half shipwrecked,
instead of rainbows speaking hope and solace to his misery, views what
seems a boundless church-yard grinning upon him with its lean ice
monuments and splintered crosses. But thou sayest, methinks this
white-lead chapter about whiteness is but a white flag hung out from a
craven soul; thou surrenderest to a hypo, Ishmael. Tell me, why this
strong young colt, foaled in some peaceful valley of Vermont, far
removed from all beasts of prey --why is it that upon the sunniest
day, if you but shake a fresh buffalo robe behind him, so that he
cannot even see it, but only smells its wild animal muskiness --why
will he start, snort, and with bursting eyes paw the ground in
phrensies of affright? There is no remembrance in him of any gorings
of wild creatures in his green northern home, so that the strange
muskiness he smells cannot recall to him anything associated with the
experience of former perils; for what knows he, this New England colt,
of the black bisons of distant oregon? no: but here thou beholdest
even in a dumb brute, the instinct of the knowledge of the demonism in
the world. Though thousands of miles from Oregon, still when he smells
that savage musk, the rending, goring bison herds are as present as to
the deserted wild foal of the prairies, which this instant they may be
trampling into dust. Thus, then, the muffled rollings of a milky sea;
the bleak rustlings of the festooned frosts of mountains; the desolate
shiftings of the windrowed snows of prairies; all these, to Ishmael,
are as the shaking of that buffalo robe to the frightened colt! Though
neither knows where lie the nameless things of which the mystic sign
gives forth such hints; yet with me, as with the colt, somewhere those
things must exist. Though in many of its aspects this visible world
seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright.
But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and
learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange
and far more portentous --why, as we have seen, it is at once the most
meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the
Christian's Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent
in things the most appalling to mankind. Is it that by its
indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of
the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of
annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is
it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible
absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is
it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of
meaning, in a wide landscape of snows --a colorless, all-color of
atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory
of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues --every
stately or lovely emblazoning --the sweet tinges of sunset skies and
woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly
cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually
inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all
deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements
cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed
further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every
one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white
or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter,
would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank
tinge --pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a
leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear
colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel
gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the
prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the
symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt? With reference to the
Polar bear, it may possibly be urged by him who would fain go still
deeper into this matter, that it is not the whiteness, separately
regarded, which heightens the intolerable hideousness of that brute;
for, analysed, that heightened hideousness, it might be said, only
arises from the circumstance, that the irresponsible ferociousness of
the creature stands invested in the fleece of celestial innocence and
love; and hence, by bringing together two such opposite emotions in
our minds, the Polar bear frightens us with so unnatural a
contrast. But even assuming all this to be true; yet, were it not for
the whiteness, you would not have that intensified terror. As for the
white shark, the white gliding ghostliness of repose in that creature,
when beheld in his ordinary moods, strangely tallies with the same
quality in the Polar quadruped. This peculiarity is most vividly hit
by the French in the name they bestow upon that fish. The Romish mass
for the dead begins with Requiem eternam (eternal rest), whence
Requiem denominating the mass itself, and any other funereal
music. Now, in allusion to the white, silent stillness of death in
this shark, and the mild deadliness of his habits, the French call him
Requin. I remember the first albatross I ever saw. It was during a
prolonged gale, in waters hard upon the Antarctic seas. From my
forenoon watch below, I ascended to the overclouded deck; and there,
dashed upon the main hatches, I saw a regal, feathery thing of
unspotted whiteness, and with a hooked, Roman bill sublime. At
intervals, it arched forth its vast archangel wings, as if to embrace
some holy ark. Wondrous flutterings and throbbings shook it. Though
bodily unharmed, it uttered cries, as some king's ghost in
supernatural distress. Through its inexpressible, strange eyes,
methought I peeped to secrets which took hold of God. As Abraham
before the angels, I bowed myself; the white thing was so white, its
wings so wide, and in those for ever exiled waters, I had lost the
miserable warping memories of traditions and of towns. Long I gazed
at that prodigy of plumage. I cannot tell, can only hint, the things
that darted through me then. But at last I awoke; and turning, asked
a sailor what bird was this.

A goney, he replied. Goney! I never had heard that name before; is
it conceivable that this glorious thing is utterly unknown to men
ashore! never! But some time after, I learned that goney was some
seaman's name for albatross. So that by no possibility could
Coleridge's wild Rhyme have had aught to do with those mystical
impressions which were mine, when I saw that bird upon our deck. For
neither had I then read the Rhyme, nor knew the bird to be an
albatross. Yet, in saying this, I do but indirectly burnish a little
brighter the noble merit of the poem and the poet. I assert, then,
that in the wondrous bodily whiteness of the bird chiefly lurks the
secret of the spell; a truth the more evinced in this, that by a
solecism of terms there are birds called grey albatrosses; and these I
have frequently seen, but never with such emotions as when I beheld
the Antarctic fowl. But how had the mystic thing been caught? Whisper
it not, and I will tell; with a treacherous hook and line, as the fowl
floated on the sea. At last the Captain made a postman of it; tying a
lettered, leathern tally round its neck, with the ship's time and
place; and then letting it escape.

But I doubt not, that leathern tally, meant for man, was taken off in
Heaven, when the white fowl flew to join the wing-folding, the
invoking, and adoring cherubim!

< Chapter XLIII 10 HARK >

! Hist! Did you hear that noise, Cabaco? It was the middle-watch; a
fair moonlight; the seamen were standing in a cordon, extending from
one of the fresh-water butts in the waist, to the scuttle-butt near
the taffrail. In this manner, they passed the buckets to fill the
scuttle-butt. Standing, for the most part, on the hallowed precincts
of the quarter-deck, they were careful not to speak or rustle their
feet. From hand to hand, the buckets went in the deepest silence,
only broken by the occasional flap of a sail, and the steady hum of
the unceasingly advancing keel. It was in the midst of this repose,
that Archy, one of the cordon, whose post was near the after-hatches,
whispered to his neighbor, a Cholo, the words above. Hist! did you
hear that noise, Cabaco? Take the bucket, will ye, Archy? what noise
d'ye mean? There it is again --under the hatches --don't you hear it
--a cough--it sounded like a cough. Cough be damned! Pass along that
return bucket. There again --there it is! --it sounds like two or
three sleepers turning over, now! Caramba! have done, shipmate, will
ye? It's the three soaked biscuits ye eat for supper turning over
inside of ye --nothing else. Look to the bucket.

Say what ye will, shipmate; I've sharp ears. Aye, you are the chap,
ain't ye, that heard the hum of the old Quakeress's knitting-needles
fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you're the chap. Grin away; we'll
see what turns up. Hark ye, Cabaco, there is somebody down in the
after-hold that has not yet been seen on deck; and I suspect our old
Mogul knows something of it too. I heard Stubb tell Flask, one
morning watch, that there was something of that sort in the wind.
Tish! the bucket!

< Chapter XLIV 12 THE CHART >

Had you followed Captain Ahab down into his cabin after the squall
that took place on the night succeeding that wild ratification of his
purpose with his crew, you would have seen him go to a locker in the
transom, and bringing out a large wrinkled roll of yellowish sea
charts, spread them before him on his screwed-down table. Then
seating himself before it, you would have seen him intently study the
various lines and shadings which there met his eye; and with slow but
steady pencil trace additional courses over spaces that before were
blank. At intervals, he would refer to piles of old log-books beside
him, wherein were set down the seasons and places in which, on various
former voyages of various ships, sperm whales had been captured or
seen. While thus employed, the heavy pewter lamp suspended in chains
over his head, continually rocked with the motion of the ship, and for
ever threw shifting gleams and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled
brow, till it almost seemed that while he himself was marking out
lines and courses on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was
also tracing lines and courses upon the deeply marked chart of his
forehead. But it was not this night in particular that, in the
solitude of his cabin, Ahab thus pondered over his charts. Almost
every night they were brought out; almost every night some pencil
marks were effaced, and others were substituted. For with the charts
of all four oceans before him, Ahab was threading a maze of currents
and eddies, with a view to the more certain accomplishment of that
monomaniac thought of his soul. Now, to any one not fully acquainted
with the ways of the leviathans, it might seem an absurdly hopeless
task thus to seek out one solitary creature in the unhooped oceans of
this planet. But not so did it seem to Ahab, who knew the sets of all
tides and currents; and thereby calculating the driftings of the sperm
whale's food; and, also, calling to mind the regular, ascertained
seasons for hunting him in particular latitudes; could arrive at
reasonable surmises, almost approaching to certainties, concerning the
timeliest day to be upon this or that ground in search of his prey. So
assured, indeed, is the fact concerning the periodicalness of the
sperm whale's resorting to given waters, that many hunters believe
that, could he be closely observed and studied throughout the world;
were the logs for one voyage of the entire whale fleet carefully
collated, then the migrations of the sperm whale would be found to
correspond in invariability to those of the herring-shoals or the
flights of swallows. On this hint, attempts have been made to
construct elaborate migratory charts of the sperm whale. Besides,
when making a passage from one feeding-ground to another, the sperm
whales, guided by some infallible instinct -- say, rather, secret
intelligence from the Deity --mostly swim in veins, as they are
called; continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such
undeviating exactitude, that no ship ever sailed her course, by any
chart, with one tithe of such marvellous precision. Though, in these
cases, the direction taken by any one whale be straight as a
surveyor's parallel, and though the line of advance be strictly
confined to its own unavoidable, straight wake, yet the arbitrary vein
in which at these times he is said to swim, generally embraces some
few miles in width (more or less, as the vein is presumed to expand or
contract); but never exceeds the visual sweep from the whale-ship's
mast-heads, when circumspectly gliding along this magic zone. The sum
is, that at particular seasons within that breadth and along that
path, migrating whales may with great confidence be looked for. And
hence not only at substantiated times, upon well known separate
feeding-grounds, could Ahab hope to encounter his prey; but in
crossing the widest expanses of water between those grounds he could,
by his art, so place and time himself on his way, as even then not to
be wholly without prospect of a meeting. There was a circumstance
which at first sight seemed to entangle his delirious but still
methodical scheme. But not so in the reality, perhaps. Though the
gregarious sperm whales have their regular seasons for particular
grounds, yet in general you cannot conclude that the herds which
hunted such and such a latitude or longitude this year, say, will turn
out to be identically the same with those that were found there the
preceding season; though there are peculiar and unquestionable
instances where the contrary of this has proved true. In general, the
same remark, only within a less wide limit, applies to the solitaries
and hermits among the matured, aged sperm whales. So that though Moby
Dick had in a former year been seen, for example, on what is called
the Seychelle ground in the Indian ocean, or Volcano Bay on the
Japanese Coast; yet it did not follow, that were the pequod to visit
either of those spots at any subsequent corresponding season, she
would infallibly encounter him there. So, too, with some other
feeding grounds, where he had at times revealed himself. But all
these seemed only his casual stopping-places and ocean-inns, so to
speak, not his places of prolonged abode. And where Ahab's chances of
accomplishing his object have hitherto been spoken of, allusion has
only been made to whatever way-side, antecedent, extra prospects were
his, ere a particular set time or place were attained, when all
possibilities would become probabilities, and, as Ahab fondly thought,
every possibility the next thing to a certainty. That particular set
time and place were conjoined in the one technical phrase --the
Season-on-the-Line. For there and then, for several consecutive
years, Moby Dick had been periodically descried, lingering in those
waters for awhile, as the sun, in its annual round, loiters for a
predicted interval in any one sign of the Zodiac. There it was, too,
that most of the deadly encounters with the white whale had taken
place; there the waves were storied with his deeds; there also was
that tragic spot where the monomaniac old man had found the awful
motive to his vengeance. But in the cautious comprehensiveness and
unloitering vigilance with which Ahab threw his brooding soul into
this unfaltering hunt, he would not permit himself to rest all his
hopes upon the one crowning fact above mentioned, however flattering
it might be to those hopes; nor in the sleeplessness of his vow could
he so tranquillize his unquiet heart as to postpone all intervening
quest. Now, the Pequod had sailed from Nantucket at the very
beginning of the Season-on-the-Line. No possible endeavor then could
enable her commander to make the great passage southwards, double Cape
Horn, and then running down sixty degrees of latitude arrive in the
equatorial Pacific in time to cruise there. Therefore, he must wait
for the next ensuing season. Yet the premature hour of the Pequod's
sailing had, perhaps, been correctly selected by Ahab, with a view to
this very complexion of things. Because, an interval of three hundred
and sixty-five days and nights was before him; an interval which,
instead of impatiently enduring ashore, he would spend in a
miscellaneous hunt; if by chance the White Whale, spending his
vacation in seas far remote from his periodical feeding-grounds,
should turn up his wrinkled brow off the Persian Gulf, or in the
Bengal Bay, or China Seas, or in any other waters haunted by his
race. So that Monsoons, Pampas, Nor-Westers, Harmattans, Trades; any
wind but the Levanter and Simoom, might blow Moby Dick into the
devious zig-zag world-circle of the Pequod's circumnavigating wake.
But granting all this; yet, regarded discreetly and coolly, seems it
not but a mad idea, this; that in the broad boundless ocean, one
solitary whale, even if encountered, should be thought capable of
individual recognition from his hunter, even as a white-bearded Mufti
in the thronged thoroughfares of Constantinople? Yes. For the
peculiar snow-white brow of Moby Dick, and his snow-white hump, could
not but be unmistakable. And have I not tallied the whale, Ahab would
mutter to himself, as after poring over his charts till long after
midnight he would throw himself back in reveries --tallied him, and
shall he escape? His broad fins are bored, and scalloped out like a
lost sheep's ear! And here, his mad mind would run on in a breathless
race; till a weariness and faintness of pondering came over him; and
in the open air of the deck he would seek to recover his strength. Ah,
God! what trances of torments does that man endure who is consumed
with one unachieved revengeful desire. He sleeps with clenched hands;
and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms. often, when forced
from his hammock by exhausting and intolerably vivid dreams of the
night, which, resuming his own intense thoughts through the day,
carried them on amid a clashing of phrensies, and whirled them round
and round in his blazing brain, till the very throbbing of his
life-spot became insufferable anguish; and when, as was sometimes the
case, these spiritual throes in him heaved his being up from its base,
and a chasm seemed opening in him, from which forked flames and
lightnings shot up, and accursed fiends beckoned him to leap down
among them; when this hell in himself yawned beneath him, a wild cry
would be heard through the ship; and with glaring eyes Ahab would
burst from his state room, as though escaping from a bed that was on
fire. Yet these, perhaps, instead of being the unsuppressable
symptoms of some latent weakness, or fright at his own resolve, were
but the plainest tokens of its intensity. For, at such times, crazy
Ahab, the scheming, unappeasedly steadfast hunter of the white whale;
this Ahab that had gone to his hammock, was not the agent that so
caused him to burst from it in horror again. The latter was the
eternal, living principle or soul in him; and in sleep, being for the
time dissociated from the characterizing mind, which at other times
employed it for its outer vehicle or agent, it spontaneously sought
escape from the scorching contiguity of the frantic thing, of which,
for the time, it was no longer an integral. But as the mind does not
exist unless leagued with the soul, therefore it must have been that,
in Ahab's case, yielding up all his thoughts and fancies to his one
supreme purpose; that purpose, by its own sheer inveteracy of will,
forced itself against gods and devils into a kind of self-assumed,
independent being of its own. Nay, could grimly live and burn, while
the common vitality to which it was conjoined, fled horror-stricken
from the unbidden and unfathered birth. Therefore, the tormented
spirit that glared out of bodily eyes, when what seemed Ahab rushed
from his room, was for the time but a vacated thing, a formless
somnambulistic being, a ray of living light, to be sure, but without
an object to color, and therefore a blankness in itself. God help
thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he
whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds
upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he
creates. Since the above was written, the statement is happily borne
out by an official circular, issued by Lieutenant Maury, of the
National Observatory, Washington, April 16th, . By that circular, it
appears that precisely such a chart is in course of completion; and
portions of it are presented in the circular. This chart divides the
ocean into districts of five degrees of latitude by five degrees of
longitude; perpendicularly through each of which districts are twelve
columns for the twelve months; and horizontally through each of which
districts are three lines; one to show the number of days that have
been spent in each month in every district, and the two others to show
the number of days in which whales, sperm or right, have been seen.

< Chapter XLV 24 THE AFFIDAVIT >

So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed,
as indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious
particulars in the habits of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter, in
its earliest part, is as important a one as will be found in this
volume; but the leading matter of it requires to be still further and
more familiarly enlarged upon, in order to be adequately understood,
and moreover to take away any incredulity which a profound ignorance
of the entire subject may induce in some minds, as to the natural
verity of the main points of this affair. I care not to perform this
part of my task methodically; but shall be content to produce the
desired impression by separate citations of items, practically or
reliably known to me as a whaleman; and from these citations, I take
it --the conclusion aimed at will naturally follow of itself. First:
I have personally known three instances where a whale, after receiving
a harpoon, has effected a complete escape; and, after an interval (in
one instance of three years), has been again struck by the same hand,
and slain; when the two irons, both marked by the same private cypher,
have been taken from the body. In the instance where three years
intervened between the flinging of the two harpoons; and I think it
may have been something more than that; the man who darted them
happening, in the interval, to go in a trading ship on a voyage to
Africa, went ashore there, joined a discovery party, and penetrated
far into the interior, where he travelled for a period of nearly two
years, often endangered by serpents, savages, tigers, poisonous
miasmas, with all the other common perils incident to wandering in the
heart of unknown regions. Meanwhile, the whale he had struck must
also have been on its travels; no doubt it had thrice circumnavigated
the globe, brushing with its flanks all the coasts of Africa; but to
no purpose. This man and this whale again came together, and the one
vanquished the other. I say I, myself, have known three instances
similar to this; that is in two of them I saw the whales struck; and,
upon the second attack, saw the two irons with the respective marks
cut in them, afterwards taken from the dead fish. In the three-year
instance, it so fell out that I was in the boat both times, first and
last, and the last time distinctly recognized a peculiar sort of huge
mole under the whale's eye, which I had observed there three years

I say three years, but I am pretty sure it was more than that. Here
are three instances, then, which I personally know the truth of; but I
have heard of many other instances from persons whose veracity in the
matter there is no good ground to impeach. secondly: It is well known
in the Sperm Whale Fishery, however ignorant the world ashore may be
of it, that there have been several memorable historical instances
where a particular whale in the ocean has been at distant times and
places popularly cognisable. Why such a whale became thus marked was
not altogether and originally owing to his bodily peculiarities as
distinguished from other whales; for however peculiar in that respect
any chance whale may be, they soon put an end to his peculiarities by
killing him, and boiling him down into a peculiarly valuable oil. No:
the reason was this: that from the fatal experiences of the fishery
there hung a terrible prestige of perilousness about such a whale as
there did about Rinaldo Rinaldini, insomuch that most fishermen were
content to recognise him by merely touching their tarpaulins when he
would be discovered lounging by them on the sea, without seeking to
cultivate a more intimate acquaintance. Like some poor devils ashore
that happen to know an irascible great man, they make distant
unobtrusive salutations to him in the street, lest if they pursued the
acquaintance further, they might receive a summary thump for their
presumption. But not only did each of these famous whales enjoy great
individual celebrity --nay, you may call it an ocean-wide renown; not
only was he famous in life and now is immortal in forecastle stories
after death, but he was admitted into all the rights, privileges, and
distinctions of a name; had as much a name indeed as Cambyses or
Caesar. Was it not so, O Timor Tom! thou famed leviathan, scarred
like an iceberg, who so long did'st lurk in the Oriental straits of
that name, whose spout was oft seen from the palmy beach of Ombay?
Was it not so, O New Zealand Jack! thou terror of all cruisers that
crossed their wakes in the vicinity of the Tattoo Land? Was it not
so, O Morquan! King of Japan, whose lofty jet they say at times
assumed the semblance of a snow-white cross against the sky?

Was it not so, O Don Miguel! thou Chilian whale, marked like an old
tortoise with mystic hieroglyphics upon the back! In plain prose,
here are four whales as well known to the students of Cetacean History
as Marius or Sylla to the classic scholar. But this is not all. New
Zealand Tom and Don Miguel, after at various times creating great
havoc among the boats of different vessels, were finally gone in quest
of, systematically hunted out, chased and killed by valiant whaling
captains, who heaved up their anchors with that express object as much
in view, as in setting out through the Narragansett Woods, Captain
Butler of old had it in his mind to capture that notorious murderous
savage Annawon, the headmost warrior of the Indian King Philip. I do
not know where I can find a better place than just here, to make
mention of one or two other things, which to me seem important, as in
printed form establishing in all respects the reasonableness of the
whole story of the White Whale, more especially the catastrophe. For
this is one of those disheartening instances where truth requires full
as much bolstering as error.

So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most
palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the
plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might
scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more
detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory. First: Though most
men have some vague flitting ideas of the general perils of the grand
fishery, yet they have nothing like a fixed, vivid conception of those
perils, and the frequency with which they recur. One reason perhaps
is, that not one in fifty of the actual disasters and deaths by
casualties in the fishery, ever finds a public record at home, however
transient and immediately forgotten that record. Do you suppose that
that poor fellow there, who this moment perhaps caught by the
whale-line off the coast of New Guinea, is being carried down to the
bottom of the sea by the sounding leviathan --do you suppose that that
poor fellow's name will appear in the newspaper obituary you will read
to-morrow at your breakfast? No: because the mails are very irregular
between here and New Guinea. In fact, did you ever hear what might be
called regular news direct or indirect from New Guinea? Yet I tell
you that upon one particular voyage which I made to the Pacific, among
many others we spoke thirty different ships, every one of which had
had a death by a whale, some of them more than one, and three that had
each lost a boat's crew. For God's sake, be economical with your
lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of
man's blood was spilled for it. Secondly: People ashore have indeed
some indefinite idea that a whale is an enormous creature of enormous
power; but I have ever found that when narrating to them some specific
example of this two-fold enormousness, they have significantly
complimented me upon my facetiousness; when, I declare upon my soul, I
had no more idea of being facetious than Moses, when he wrote the
history of the plagues of Egypt. But fortunately the special point I
here seek can be established upon testimony entirely independent of my
own. That point is this: The Sperm Whale is in some cases
sufficiently powerful, knowing, and judiciously malicious, as with
direct aforethought to stave in, utterly destroy, and sink a large
ship; and what is more, the Sperm Whale has done it. First: In the
year the ship Essex, Captain Pollard, of Nantucket, was cruising in
the Pacific Ocean. One day she saw spouts, lowered her boats, and
gave chase to a shoal of sperm whales. Ere long, several of the
whales were wounded; when, suddenly, a very large whale escaping from
the boats, issued from the shoal, and bore directly down upon the
ship. dashing his forehead against her hull, he so stove her in, that
in less than ten minutes she settled down and fell over. Not a
surviving plank of her has been seen since. After the severest
exposure, part of the crew reached the land in their boats. Being
returned home at last, Captain Pollard once more sailed for the
Pacific in command of another ship, but the gods shipwrecked him again
upon unknown rocks and breakers; for the second time his ship was
utterly lost, and forthwith forswearing the sea, he has never tempted
it since. At this day Captain Pollard is a resident of Nantucket. I
have seen Owen Chace, who was chief mate of the Essex at the time of
the tragedy; I have read his plain and faithful narrative; I have
conversed with his son; and all this within a few miles of the scene
of the catastrophe. Secondly: The ship Union, also of Nantucket, was
in the year totally lost off the Azores by a similar onset, but the
authentic particulars of this catastrophe I have never chanced to
encounter, though from the whale hunters I have now and then heard
casual allusions to it. Thirdly: Some eighteen or twenty years ago
Commodore J--- then commanding an American sloop-of-war of the first
class, happened to be dining with a party of whaling captains, on
board a Nantucket ship in the harbor of Oahu, Sandwich Islands.
Conversation turning upon whales, the Commodore was pleased to be
sceptical touching the amazing strength ascribed to them by the
professional gentlemen present. He peremptorily denied for example,
that any whale could so smite his stout sloop-of-war as to cause her
to leak so much as a thimbleful. Very good; but there is more coming.
Some weeks after, the commodore set sail in this impregnable craft for
Valparaiso. But he was stopped on the way by a portly sperm whale,
that begged a few moments' confidential business with him. that
business consisted in fetching the Commodore's craft such a thwack,
that with all his pumps going he made straight for the nearest port to
heave down and repair. I am not superstitious, but I consider the
Commodore's interview with that whale as providential. Was not Saul
of Tarsus converted from unbelief by a similar fright? I tell you,
the sperm whale will stand no nonsense. I will now refer you to
Langsdorff's Voyages for a little circumstance in point, peculiarly
interesting to the writer hereof. Langsdorff, you must know by the
way, was attached to the Russian Admiral Krusenstern's famous
Discovery Expedition in the beginning of the present century. Captain
Langsdorff thus begins his seventeenth chapter. By the thirteenth of
May our ship was ready to sail, and the next day we were out in the
open sea, on our way to Ochotsh. The weather was very clear and fine,
but so intolerably cold that we were obliged to keep on our fur
clothing. For some days we had very little wind; it was not till the
nineteenth that a brisk gale from the northwest sprang up. An
uncommon large whale, the body of which was larger than the ship
itself, lay almost at the surface of the water, but was not perceived
by any one on board till the moment when the ship, which was in full
sail, was almost upon him, so that it was impossible to prevent its
striking against him. We were thus placed in the most imminent
danger, as this gigantic creature, setting up its back, raised the
ship three feet at least out of the water. The masts reeled, and the
sails fell altogether, while we who were below all sprang instantly
upon the deck, concluding that we had struck upon some rock; instead
of this we saw the monster sailing off with the utmost gravity and
solemnity. Captain D'Wolf applied immediately to the pumps to examine
whether or not the vessel had received any damage from the shock, but
we found that very happily it had escaped entirely uninjured. now,
the captain d'wolf here alluded to as commanding the ship in question,
is a New Englander, who, after a long life of unusual adventures as a
sea-captain, this day resides in the village of Dorchester near
Boston. I have the honor of being a nephew of his. I have
particularly questioned him concerning this passage in Langsdorff. He
substantiates every word. The ship, however, was by no means a large
one: a Russian craft built on the Siberian coast, and purchased by my
uncle after bartering away the vessel in which he sailed from home.
In that up and down manly book of old-fashioned adventure, so full,
too, of honest wonders --the voyage of Lionel Wafer, one of ancient
Dampier's old chums --I found a little matter set down so like that
just quoted from Langsdorff, that I cannot forbear inserting it here
for a corroborative example, if such be needed. Lionel, it seems, was
on his way to John Ferdinando, as he calls the modern Juan Fernandes.
In our way thither, he says, about four o'clock in the morning, when
we were about one hundred and fifty leagues from the Main of America,
our ship felt a terrible shock, which put our men in such
consternation that they could hardly tell where they were or what to
think; but every one began to prepare for death. And, indeed, the
shock was so sudden and violent, that we took it for granted the ship
had struck against a rock; but when the amazement was a little over,
we cast the lead, and sounded, but found no ground. The suddenness of
the shock made the guns leap in their carriages, and several of the
men were shaken out of their hammocks. Captain Davis, who lay with his
head on a gun, was thrown out of his cabin! Lionel then goes on to
impute the shock to an earthquake, and seems to substantiate the
imputation by stating that a great earthquake, somewhere about that
time, did actually do great mischief along the spanish land. but i
should not much wonder if, in the darkness of that early hour of the
morning, the shock was after all caused by an unseen whale vertically
bumping the hull from beneath. I might proceed with several more
examples, one way or another known to me, of the great power and
malice at times of the sperm whale. In more than one instance, he has
been known, not only to chase the assailing boats back to their ships,
but to pursue the ship itself, and long withstand all the lances
hurled at him from its decks. The English ship Pusie Hall can tell a
story on that head; and, as for his strength, let me say, that there
have been examples where the lines attached to a running sperm whale
have, in a calm, been transferred to the ship, and secured there; the
whale towing her great hull through the water, as a horse walks off
with a cart. Again, it is very often observed that, if the sperm
whale, once struck, is allowed time to rally, he then acts, not so
often with blind rage, as with wilful, deliberate designs of
destruction to his pursuers; nor is it without conveying some eloquent
indication of his character, that upon being attacked he will
frequently open his mouth, and retain it in that dread expansion for
several consecutive minutes. But I must be content with only one more
and a concluding illustration; a remarkable and most significant one,
by which you will not fail to see, that not only is the most
marvellous event in this book corroborated by plain facts of the
present day, but that these marvels (like all marvels) are mere
repetitions of the ages; so that for the millionth time we say amen
with Solomon --Verily there is nothing new under the sun. In the
sixth Christian century lived Procopius, a Christian magistrate of
Constantinople, in the days when Justinian was Emperor and Belisarius
general. As many know, he wrote the history of his own times, a work
every way of uncommon value. By the best authorities, he has always
been considered a most trustworthy and unexaggerating historian,
except in some one or two particulars, not at all affecting the matter
presently to be mentioned. Now, in this history of his, Procopius
mentions that, during the term of his prefecture at Constantinople, a
great sea-monster was captured in the neighboring Propontis, or Sea of
Marmora, after having destroyed vessels at intervals in those waters
for a period of more than fifty years. A fact thus set down in
substantial history cannot easily be gainsaid. Nor is there any
reason it should be. Of what precise species this sea-monster was, is
not mentioned. But as he destroyed ships, as well as for other
reasons, he must have been a whale; and I am strongly inclined to
think a sperm whale. And I will tell you why. For a long time I
fancied that the sperm whale had been always unknown in the
Mediterranean and the deep waters connecting with it. Even now I am
certain that those seas are not, and perhaps never can be, in the
present constitution of things, a place for his habitual gregarious
resort. But further investigations have recently proved to me, that
in modern times there have been isolated instances of the presence of
the sperm whale in the Mediterranean. I am told, on good authority,
that on the Barbary coast, a Commodore Davis of the British navy found
the skeleton of a sperm whale. Now, as a vessel of war readily passes
through the Dardanelles, hence a sperm whale could, by the same route,
pass out of the Mediterranean into the Propontis. In the Propontis,
as far as I can learn, none of that peculiar substance called brit is
to be found, the aliment of the right whale. But I have every reason
to believe that the food of the sperm whale --squid or cuttle-fish
--lurks at the bottom of that sea, because large creatures, but by no
means the largest of that sort, have been found at its surface. If,
then, you properly put these statements together, and reason upon them
a bit, you will clearly perceive that, according to all human
reasoning, Procopius's sea-monster, that for half a century stove the
ships of a Roman Emperor, must in all probability have been a sperm
whale. The following are extracts from Chace's narrative: Every fact
seemed to warrant me in concluding that it was anything but chance
which directed his operations; he made two several attacks upon the
ship, at a short interval between them, both of which, according to
their direction, were calculated to do us the most injury, by being
made ahead, and thereby combining the speed of the two objects for the
shock; to effect which, the exact manoeuvres which he made were
necessary. His aspect was most horrible, and such as indicated
resentment and fury. He came directly from the shoal which we had
just before entered, and in which we had struck three of his
companions, as if fired with revenge for their sufferings. Again: At
all events, the whole circumstances taken together, all happening
before my own eyes, and producing, at the time, impressions in my mind
of decided, calculating mischief, on the part of the whale (many of
which impressions I cannot now recall), induce me to be satisfied that
I am correct in my opinion. Here are his reflections some time after
quitting the ship, during a black night in an open boat, when almost
despairing of reaching any hospitable shore. The dark ocean and
swelling waters were nothing; the fears of being swallowed up by some
dreadful tempest, or dashed upon hidden rocks, with all the other
ordinary subjects of fearful contemplation, seemed scarcely entitled
to a moment's thought; the dismal looking wreck, and the horrid aspect
and revenge of the whale, wholly engrossed my reflections, until day
again made its appearance. In another place --p. 45, --he speaks of
the mysterious and mortal attack of the animal.

< Chapter XLVI 22 SURMISES >

Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in all his
thoughts and actions ever had in view the ultimate capture of Moby
Dick; though he seemed ready to sacrifice all mortal interests to that
one passion; nevertheless it may have been that he was by nature and
long habituation far too wedded to a fiery whaleman's ways, altogether
to abandon the collateral prosecution of the voyage. Or at least if
this were otherwise, there were not wanting other motives much more
influential with him. It would be refining too much, perhaps, even
considering his monomania, to hint that his vindictiveness towards the
White Whale might have possibly extended itself in some degree to all
sperm whales, and that the more monsters he slew by so much the more
he multiplied the chances that each subsequently encountered whale
would prove to be the hated one he hunted. But if such an hypothesis
be indeed exceptionable, there were still additional considerations
which, though not so strictly according with the wildness of his
ruling passion, yet were by no means incapable of swaying him. To
accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in
the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order. He
knew, for example, that however magnetic his ascendency in some
respects was over Starbuck, yet that ascendency did not cover the
complete spiritual man any more than mere corporeal superiority
involves intellectual mastership; for to the purely spiritual, the
intellectual but stand in a sort of corporeal relation. Starbuck's
body and Starbuck's coerced will were Ahab's, so long as Ahab kept his
magnet at Starbuck's brain; still he knew that for all this the chief
mate, in his soul, abhorred his captain's quest, and could he, would
joyfully disintegrate himself from it, or even frustrate it. it might
be that a long interval would elapse ere the White Whale was
seen. During that long interval Starbuck would ever be apt to fall
into open relapses of rebellion against his captain's leadership,
unless some ordinary, prudential, circumstantial influences were
brought to bear upon him. Not only that, but the subtle insanity of
Ahab respecting Moby Dick was noways more significantly manifested
than in his superlative sense and shrewdness in foreseeing that, for
the present, the hunt should in some way be stripped of that strange
imaginative impiousness which naturally invested it; that the full
terror of the voyage must be kept withdrawn into the obscure
background (for few men's courage is proof against protracted
meditation unrelieved by action); that when they stood their long
night watches, his officers and men must have some nearer things to
think of than Moby Dick. For however eagerly and impetuously the
savage crew had hailed the announcement of his quest; yet all sailors
of all sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable --they live in
the varying outer weather, and they inhale its fickleness --and when
retained for any object remote and blank in the pursuit, however
promissory of life and passion in the end, it is above all things
requisite that temporary interests and employment should intervene and
hold them healthily suspended for the final dash. Nor was Ahab
unmindful of another thing. In times of strong emotion mankind
disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent. The
permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought
Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the White Whale fully incites the
hearts of this my savage crew, and playing round their savageness even
breeds a certain generous knight-errantism in them, still, while for
the love of it they give chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food
for their more common, daily appetites. For even the high lifted and
chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse two
thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without
committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious
perquisites by the way. Had they been strictly held to their one
final and romantic object --that final and romantic object, too many
would have turned from in disgust. I will not strip these men,
thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash --aye, cash. They may scorn cash
now; but let some months go by, and no perspective promise of it to
them, and then this same quiescent cash all at once mutinying in them,
this same cash would soon cashier Ahab. Nor was there wanting still
another precautionary motive more related to Ahab personally. Having
impulsively, it is probable, and perhaps somewhat prematurely revealed
the prime but private purpose of the Pequod's voyage, Ahab was now
entirely conscious that, in so doing, he had indirectly laid himself
open to the unanswerable charge of usurpation; and with perfect
impunity, both moral and legal, his crew if so disposed, and to that
end competent, could refuse all further obedience to him, and even
violently wrest from him the command. From even the barely hinted
imputation of usurpation, and the possible consequences of such a
suppressed impression gaining ground, Ahab must of course have been
most anxious to protect himself.

That protection could only consist in his own predominating brain and
heart and hand, backed by a heedful, closely calculating attention to
every minute atmospheric influence which it was possible for his crew
to be subjected to. For all these reasons then, and others perhaps
too analytic to be verbally developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he
must still in a good degree continue true to the natural, nominal
purpose of the Pequod's voyage; observe all customary usages; and not
only that, but force himself to evince all his well known passionate
interest in the general pursuit of his profession. be all this as it
may, his voice was now often heard hailing the three mast-heads and
admonishing them to keep a bright look-out, and not omit reporting
even a porpoise. This vigilance was not long without reward.

< Chapter XLVII 14 THE MAT-MAKER >

It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging
about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-colored waters.
Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a
sword-mat, for an additional lashing to our boat. So still and
subdued and yet somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an
incantation of revery lurked in the air, that each silent sailor
seemed resolved into his own invisible self. I was the attendant or
page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I kept passing and
repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of the
warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing
sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the
threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and
unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did
there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken
by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this
were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically
weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of
the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging
vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise
interblending of other threads with its own. This warp seemed
necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle
and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime,
Queequeg's impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof
slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might
be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a
corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric;
this savage's sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions
both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance --aye,
chance, free will, and necessity --no wise incompatible --all
interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not
to be swerved from its ultimate course --its every alternating
vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply
her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in
its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its
motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both,
chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at
events. Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a
sound so strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that
the ball of free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at
the clouds whence that voice dropped like a wing. High aloft in the
cross-trees was that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego. His body was reaching
eagerly forward, his hand stretched out like a wand, and at brief
sudden intervals he continued his cries. To be sure the same sound
was that very moment perhaps being heard all over the seas, from
hundreds of whalemen's look-outs perched as high in the air; but from
few of those lungs could that accustomed old cry have derived such a
marvellous cadence as from Tashtego the Indian's. As he stood
hovering over you half suspended in air, so wildly and eagerly peering
towards the horizon, you would have thought him some prophet or seer
beholding the shadows of Fate, and by those wild cries announcing
their coming. There she blows! there! there! there! she blows!
she blows.

Where-away? On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!
Instantly all was commotion. The Sperm Whale blows as a clock ticks,
with the same undeviating and reliable uniformity. And thereby
whalemen distinguish this fish from other tribes of his genus. There
go flukes! was now the cry from Tashtego; and the whales
disappeared. Quick, steward! cried Ahab.

Time! time! Dough-Boy hurried below, glanced at the watch, and
reported the exact minute to Ahab. The ship was now kept away from
the wind, and she went gently rolling before it. Tashtego reporting
that the whales had gone down heading to leeward, we confidently
looked to see them again directly in advance of our bows. For that
singular craft at times evinced by the Sperm Whale when, sounding with
his head in one direction, he nevertheless, while concealed beneath
the surface, mills round, and swiftly swims off in the opposite
quarter --this deceitfulness of his could not now be in action; for
there was no reason to suppose that the fish seen by Tashtego had been
in any way alarmed, or indeed knew at all of our vicinity. One of the
men selected for shipkeepers -- that is, those not appointed to the
boats, by this time relieved the Indian at the main-mast head. The
sailors at the fore and mizzen had come down; the line tubs were fixed
in their places; the cranes were thrust out; the mainyard was backed,
and the three boats swung over the sea like three samphire baskets
over high cliffs. Outside of the bulwarks their eager crews with one
hand clung to the rail, while one foot was expectantly poised on the
gunwale. So look the long line of man-of-war's men about to throw
themselves on board an enemy's ship. But at this critical instant a
sudden exclamation was heard that took every eye from the whale. With
a start all glared at dark Ahab, who was surrounded by five dusky
phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air.


The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side
of the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose the
tackles and bands of the boat which swung there. This boat had always
been deemed one of the spare boats, though technically called the
captain's, on account of its hanging from the starboard quarter. The
figure that now stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one white
tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips. A rumpled Chinese
jacket of black cotton funereally invested him, with wide black
trowsers of the same dark stuff. But strangely crowning his ebonness
was a glistening white plaited turban, the living hair braided and
coiled round and round upon his head. Less swart in aspect, the
companions of this figure were of that vivid, tiger-yellow complexion
peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of the Manillas; --a race
notorious for a certain diabolism of subtilty, and by some honest
white mariners supposed to be the paid spies and secret confidential
agents on the water of the devil, their lord, whose counting-room they
suppose to be elsewhere. While yet the wondering ship's company were
gazing upon these strangers, Ahab cried out to the white-turbaned old
man at their head, All ready there, Fedallah? Ready, was the
half-hissed reply. Lower away then; d'ye hear? shouting across the
deck. Lower away there, I say. Such was the thunder of his voice,
that spite of their amazement the men sprang over the rail; the
sheaves whirled round in the blocks; with a wallow, the three boats
dropped into the sea; while, with a dexterous, off-handed daring,
unknown in any other vocation, the sailors, goat-like, leaped down the
rolling ship's side into the tossed boats below. Hardly had they
pulled out from under the ship's lee, when a fourth keel, coming from
the windward side, pulled round under the stern, and showed the five
strangers rowing Ahab, who, standing erect in the stern, loudly hailed
Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, to spread themselves widely, so as to
cover a large expanse of water. but with all their eyes again riveted
upon the swart Fedallah and his crew, the inmates of the other boats
obeyed not the command. Captain Ahab?-- said Starbuck. Spread
yourselves, cried Ahab; give way, all four boats. Thou, Flask, pull
out more to leeward! Aye, aye, sir, cheerily cried little King-Post,
sweeping round his great steering oar. Lay back! addressing his
crew. There! --there! --there again! There she blows right ahead,
boys! -- lay back! Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy. Oh, I don't
mind 'em, sir, said Archy; I knew it all before now. Didn't I hear
'em in the hold? And didn't I tell Cabaco here of it? What say ye,
Cabaco? They are stowaways, Mr. Flask. Pull, pull, my fine
hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little ones, drawingly and
soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew, some of whom still showed signs
of uneasiness. Why don't you break your backbones, my boys? What is
it you stare at? Those chaps in yonder boat? Tut! They are only
five more hands come to help us --never mind from where --the more the
merrier. Pull, then, do pull; never mind the brimstone --devils are
good fellows enough. So, so; there you are now; that's the stroke for
a thousand pounds; that's the stroke to sweep the stakes! Hurrah for
the gold cup of sperm oil, my heroes! Three cheers, men --all hearts
alive! Easy, easy; don't be in a hurry --don't be in a hurry. Why
don't you snap your oars, you rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So,
so, so, then; --softly, softly! That's it -- that's it! long and
strong. Give way there, give way! The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin
rapscallions; ye are all asleep. Stop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull.
Pull, will ye? pull, can't ye? pull, won't ye? Why in the name of
gudgeons and ginger-cakes don't ye pull? --pull and break something!
pull, and start your eyes out! Here! whipping out the sharp knife
from his girdle; every mother's son of ye draw his knife, and pull
with the blade between his teeth.

That's it --that's it. Now ye do something; that looks like it, my
steel-bits. Start her --start her, my silver-spoons! Start her,
marling-spikes! Stubb's exordium to his crew is given here at large,
because he had rather a peculiar way of talking to them in general,
and especially in inculcating the religion of rowing. But you must
not suppose from this specimen of his sermonizings that he ever flew
into downright passions with his congregation. Not at all; and
therein consisted his chief peculiarity. He would say the most
terrific things to his crew, in a tone so strangely compounded of fun
and fury, and the fury seemed so calculated merely as a spice to the
fun, that no oarsman could hear such queer invocations without pulling
for dear life, and yet pulling for the mere joke of the thing.
Besides he all the time looked so easy and indolent himself, so
loungingly managed his steering-oar, and so broadly gaped
--open-mouthed at times --that the mere sight of such a yawning
commander, by sheer force of contrast, acted like a charm upon the
crew. Then again, Stubb was one of those odd sort of humorists, whose
jollity is sometimes so curiously ambiguous, as to put all inferiors
on their guard in the matter of obeying them. In obedience to a sign
from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling obliquely across Stubb's bow; and
when for a minute or so the two boats were pretty near to each other,
Stubb hailed the mate. Mr. Starbuck! larboard boat there, ahoy! a
word with ye, sir, if ye please! Halloa! returned Starbuck, turning
round not a single inch as he spoke; still earnestly but whisperingly
urging his crew; his face set like a flint from Stubb's. What think
ye of those yellow boys, sir.

Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed. (Strong, strong,
boys! ) in a whisper to his crew, then speaking out loud again: A sad
business, Mr. Stubb! (seethe her, seethe her, my lads!) but never
mind, Mr. Stubb, all for the best. Let all your crew pull strong,
come what will. (Spring, my men, spring!) There's hogsheads of sperm
ahead, Mr. Stubb, and that's what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!)
Sperm, sperm's the play! This at least is duty; duty and profit hand
in hand! Aye, aye, I thought as much, soliloquized Stubb, when the
boats diverged, as soon as I clapt eye on 'em, I thought so. Aye, and
that's what he went into the after hold for, so often, as Dough-Boy
long suspected. They were hidden down there. The White Whale's at
the bottom of it. Well, well, so be it! Can't be helped! All right!
Give way, men! It ain't the White Whale to-day! Give way! Now the
advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical instant as the
lowering of the boats from the deck, this had not unreasonably
awakened a sort of superstitious amazement in some of the ship's
company; but Archy's fancied discovery having some time previous got
abroad among them, though indeed not credited then, this had in some
small measure prepared them for the event. It took off the extreme
edge of their wonder; and so what with all this and Stubb's confident
way of accounting for their appearance, they were for the time freed
from superstitious surmisings; though the affair still left abundant
room for all manner of wild conjectures as to dark Ahab's precise
agency in the matter from the beginning. For me, I silently recalled
the mysterious shadows I had seen creeping on board the Pequod during
the dim Nantucket dawn, as well as the enigmatical hintings of the
unaccountable Elijah. Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers,
having sided the furthest to windward, was still ranging ahead of the
other boats; a circumstance bespeaking how potent a crew was pulling
him. those tiger yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and
whale-bone; like five trip-hammers they rose and fell with regular
strokes of strength, which periodically started the boat along the
water like a horizontal burst boiler out of a Mississippi steamer. As
for Fedallah, who was seen pulling the harpooneer oar, he had thrown
aside his black jacket, and displayed his naked chest with the whole
part of his body above the gunwale, clearly cut against the
alternating depressions of the watery horizon; while at the other end
of the boat Ahab, with one arm, like a fencer's, thrown half backward
into the air, as if to counterbalance any tendency to trip: Ahab was
seen steadily managing his steering oar as in a thousand boat
lowerings ere the White Whale had torn him.

All at once the out-stretched arm gave a peculiar motion and then
remained fixed, while the boat's five oars were seen simultaneously
peaked. Boat and crew sat motionless on the sea. Instantly the three
spread boats in the rear paused on their way. The whales had
irregularly settled bodily down into the blue, thus giving no
distantly discernible token of the movement, though from his closer
vicinity Ahab had observed it. Every man look out along his oars!
cried Starbuck. Thou, Queequeg, stand up! Nimbly springing up on the
triangular raised box in the bow, the savage stood erect there, and
with intensely eager eyes gazed off towards the spot where the chase
had last been descried. Likewise upon the extreme stern of the boat
where it was also triangularly platformed level with the gunwale,
Starbuck himself was seen coolly and adroitly balancing himself to the
jerking tossings of his chip of a craft, and silently eyeing the vast
blue eye of the sea. Not very far distant Flask's boat was also lying
breathlessly still; its commander recklessly standing upon the top of
the loggerhead, a stout sort of post rooted in the keel, and rising
some two feet above the level of the stern platform. it is used for
catching turns with the whale line. Its top is not more spacious than
the palm of a man's hand, and standing upon such a base as that, Flask
seemed perched at the mast-head of some ship which had sunk to all but
her trucks. But little King-Post was small and short, and at the same
time little King-Post was full of a large and tall ambition, so that
this loggerhead stand-point of his did by no means satisfy
King-Post. I can't see three seas off; tip us up an oar there, and let
me on to that. Upon this, Daggoo, with either hand upon the gunwale
to steady his way, swiftly slid aft, and then erecting himself
volunteered his lofty shoulders for a pedestal.

Good a mast-head as any, sir. Will you mount? That I will, and thank
ye very much, my fine fellow; only I wish you fifty feet
taller. Whereupon planting his feet firmly against two opposite planks
of the boat, the gigantic negro, stooping a little, presented his flat
palm to Flask's foot, and then putting Flask's hand on his
hearse-plumed head and bidding him spring as he himself should toss,
with one dexterous fling landed the little man high and dry on his
shoulders. And here was Flask now standing, Daggoo with one lifted arm
furnishing him with a breast-band to lean against and steady himself
by. At any time it is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what
wondrous habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an
erect posture in his boat, even when pitched about by the most
riotously perverse and cross-running seas. Still more strange to see
him giddily perched upon the loggerhead itself, under such
circumstances. But the sight of little Flask mounted upon gigantic
Daggoo was yet more curious; for sustaining himself with a cool,
indifferent, easy, unthought of, barbaric majesty, the noble negro to
every roll of the sea harmoniously rolled his fine form. On his broad
back, flaxen-haired flask seemed a snow-flake. The bearer looked
nobler than the rider. Though truly vivacious, tumultuous,
ostentatious little Flask would now and then stamp with impatience;
but not one added heave did he thereby give to the negro's lordly
chest. So have I seen Passion and Vanity stamping the living
magnanimous earth, but the earth did not alter her tides and her
seasons for that. Meanwhile Stubb, the third mate, betrayed no such
far-gazing solicitudes. The whales might have made one of their
regular soundings, not a temporary dive from mere fright; and if that
were the case, Stubb, as his wont in such cases, it seems, was
resolved to solace the languishing interval with his pipe. He
withdrew it from his hatband, where he always wore it aslant like a
feather. He loaded it, and rammed home the loading with his
thumb-end; but hardly had he ignited his match across the rough
sand-paper of his hand, when Tashtego, his harpooneer, whose eyes had
been setting to windward like two fixed stars, suddenly dropped like
light from his erect attitude to his seat, crying out in a quick
phrensy of hurry, Down, down all, and give way! --there they are! To
a landsman, no whale, nor any sign of a herring, would have been
visible at that moment; nothing but a troubled bit of greenish white
water, and thin scattered puffs of vapor hovering over it, and
suffusingly blowing off to leeward, like the confused scud from white
rolling billows. The air around suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it
were, like the air over intensely heated plates of iron. Beneath this
atmospheric waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin layer of
water, also, the whales were swimming. Seen in advance of all the
other indications, the puffs of vapor they spouted, seemed their
forerunning couriers and detached flying outriders. All four boats
were now in keen pursuit of that one spot of troubled water and air.
But it bade far to outstrip them; it flew on and on, as a mass of
interblending bubbles borne down a rapid stream from the hills. Pull,
pull, my good boys, said Starbuck, in the lowest possible but
intensest concentrated whisper to his men; while the sharp fixed
glance from his eyes darted straight ahead of the bow, almost seemed
as two visible needles in two unerring binnacle compasses. He did not
say much to his crew, though, nor did his crew say anything to him.
Only the silence of the boat was at intervals startlingly pierced by
one of his peculiar whispers, now harsh with command, now soft with
entreaty. How different the loud little King-Post.

Sing out and say something, my hearties. Roar and pull, my
thunderbolts! Beach me, beach me on their black backs, boys; only do
that for me, and I'll sign over to you my Martha's Vineyard
plantation, boys; including wife and children, boys. Lay me on --lay
me on! O Lord, Lord! but I shall go stark, staring mad: See! see
that white water! And so shouting, he pulled his hat from his head,
and stamped up and down on it; then picking it up, flirted it far off
upon the sea; and finally fell to rearing and plunging in the boat's
stern like a crazed colt from the prairie. Look at that chap now,
philosophically drawled Stubb, who, with his unlighted short pipe,
mechanically retained between his teeth, at a short distance, followed
after -- He's got fits, that Flask has. Fits? yes, give him fits
--that's the very word -- pitch fits into 'em. Merrily, merrily,
hearts-alive. Pudding for supper, you know; --merry's the word. Pull,
babes --pull, sucklings -- pull, all. But what the devil are you
hurrying about? Softly, softly, and steadily, my men. Only pull, and
keep pulling; nothing more. Crack all your backbones, and bite your
knives in two -- that's all. Take it easy --why don't ye take it
easy, I say, and burst all your livers and lungs! But what it was
that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew of his --these
were words best omitted here; for you live under the blessed light of
the evangelical land. Only the infidel sharks in the audacious seas
may give ear to such words, when, with tornado brow, and eyes of red
murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his prey. Meanwhile,
all the boats tore on. The repeated specific allusions of Flask to
that whale, as he called the fictitious monster which he declared to
be incessantly tantalizing his boat's bow with its tail --these
allusions of his were at times so vivid and life-like, that they would
cause some one or two of his men to snatch a fearful look over the
shoulder. But this was against all rule; for the oarsmen must put out
their eyes, and ram a skewer through their necks; usage pronouncing
that they must have no organs but ears, and no limbs but arms, in
these critical moments. It was a sight full of quick wonder and awe!
The vast swells of the omnipotent sea; the surging, hollow roar they
made, as they rolled along the eight gunwales, like gigantic bowls in
a boundless bowling-green; the brief suspended agony of the boat, as
it would tip for an instant on the knife-like edge of the sharper
waves, that almost seemed threatening to cut it in two; the sudden
profound dip into the watery glens and hollows; the keen spurrings and
goadings to gain the top of the opposite hill; the headlong, sled-like
slide down its other side; --all these, with the cries of the headsmen
and harpooneers, and the shuddering gasps of the oarsmen, with the
wondrous sight of the ivory Pequod bearing down upon her boats with
outstretched sails, like a wild hen after her screaming brood; --all
this was thrilling. Not the raw recruit, marching from the bosom of
his wife into the fever heat of his first battle; not the dead man's
ghost encountering the first unknown phantom in the other world;
--neither of these can feel stranger and stronger emotions than that
man does, who for the first time finds himself pulling into the
charmed, churned circle of the hunted sperm whale. The dancing white
water made by the chase was now becoming more and more visible, owing
to the increasing darkness of the dun cloud-shadows flung upon the
sea. The jets of vapor no longer blended, but tilted everywhere to
right and left; the whales seemed separating their wakes. The boats
were pulled more apart; Starbuck giving chase to three whales running
dead to leeward. Our sail was now set, and, with the still rising
wind, we rushed along; the boat going with such madness through the
water, that the lee oars could scarcely be worked rapidly enough to
escape being torn from the row-locks. Soon we were running through a
suffusing wide veil of mist; neither ship nor boat to be seen. Give
way, men, whispered Starbuck, drawing still further aft the sheet of
his sail; there is time to kill a fish yet before the squall
comes. There's white water again! --close to! Spring! Soon after,
two cries in quick succession on each side of us denoted that the
other boats had got fast; but hardly were they overheard, when with a
lightning-like hurtling whisper Starbuck said: Stand up! and
Queequeg, harpoon in hand, sprang to his feet. Though not one of the
oarsmen was then facing the life and death peril so close to them
ahead, yet with their eyes on the intense countenance of the mate in
the stern of the boat, they knew that the imminent instant had come;
they heard, too, an enormous wallowing sound as of fifty elephants
stirring in their litter. Meanwhile the boat was still booming
through the mist, the waves curling and hissing around us like the
erected crests of enraged serpents. That's his hump. There, there,
give it to him! whispered Starbuck. A short rushing sound leaped out
of the boat; it was the darted iron of Queequeg. Then all in one
welded commotion came an invisible push from astern, while forward the
boat seemed striking on a ledge; the sail collapsed and exploded; a
gush of scalding vapor shot up near by; something rolled and tumbled
like an earthquake beneath us. The whole crew were half suffocated as
they were tossed helter-skelter into the white curdling cream of the
squall. Squall, whale, and harpoon had all blended together; and the
whale, merely grazed by the iron, escaped. Though completely swamped,
the boat was nearly unharmed. Swimming round it we picked up the
floating oars, and lashing them across the gunwale, tumbled back to
our places. There we sat up to our knees in the sea, the water
covering every rib and plank, so that to our downward gazing eyes the
suspended craft seemed a coral boat grown up to us from the bottom of
the ocean. The wind increased to a howl; the waves dashed their
bucklers together; the whole squall roared, forked, and crackled
around us like a white fire upon the prairie, in which, unconsumed, we
were burning; immortal in these jaws of death! In vain we hailed the
other boats; as well roar to the live coals down the chimney of a
flaming furnace as hail those boats in that storm. Meanwhile the
driving scud, rack, and mist, grew darker with the shadows of night;
no sign of the ship could be seen. The rising sea forbade all
attempts to bale out the boat. The oars were useless as propellers,
performing now the office of life-preservers. So, cutting the lashing
of the water-proof match keg, after many failures Starbuck contrived
to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching it on a waif pole,
handed it to Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope.
There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of
that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol
of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of
despair. Wet, drenched through, and shivering cold, despairing of
ship or boat, we lifted up our eyes as the dawn came on. The mist
still spread over the sea, the empty lantern lay crushed in the bottom
of the boat. Suddenly Queequeg started to his feet, hollowing his
hand to his ear. We all heard a faint creaking, as of ropes and yards
hitherto muffled by the storm. The sound came nearer and nearer; the
thick mists were dimly parted by a huge, vague form. Affrighted, we
all sprang into the sea as the ship at last loomed into view, bearing
right down upon us within a distance of not much more than its length.
Floating on the waves we saw the abandoned boat, as for one instant it
tossed and gaped beneath the ship's bows like a chip at the base of a
cataract; and then the vast hull rolled over it, and it was seen no
more till it came up weltering astern. Again we swam for it, were
dashed against it by the seas, and were at last taken up and safely
landed on board. Ere the squall came close to, the other boats had
cut loose from their fish and returned to the ship in good time. The
ship had given us up, but was still cruising, if haply it might light
upon some token of our perishing, --an oar or a lance pole.

< Chapter XLIX 15 THE HYENA >

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed
affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast
practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more
than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing.
He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions,
all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an
ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And
as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster,
peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only
sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the
unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I
am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme
tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that
what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now
seems but a part of the general joke. There is nothing like the
perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial,
desperado philosophy; and with it I now regarded this whole voyage of
the Pequod, and the great White Whale its object. Queequeg, said I,
when they had dragged me, the last man, to the deck, and I was still
shaking myself in my jacket to fling off the water; Queequeg, my fine
friend, does this sort of thing often happen? Without much emotion,
though soaked through just like me, he gave me to understand that such
things did often happen. Mr. Stubb, said I, turning to that worthy,
who, buttoned up in his oil-jacket, was now calmly smoking his pipe in
the rain; Mr. Stubb, I think I have heard you say that of all whalemen
you ever met, our chief mate, Mr. Starbuck, is by far the most careful
and prudent. I suppose then, that going plump on a flying whale with
your sail set in a foggy squall is the height of a whaleman's
discretion? Certain. I've lowered for whales from a leaking ship in
a gale off Cape Horn. Mr. Flask, said I, turning to little King-Post,
who was standing close by; you are experienced in these things, and I
am not. Will you tell me whether it is an unalterable law in this
fishery, Mr. Flask, for an oarsman to break his own back pulling
himself back-foremost into death's jaws? Can't you twist that
smaller? said Flask.

Yes, that's the law. I should like to see a boat's crew backing water
up to a whale face foremost. Ha, ha! the whale would give them
squint for squint, mind that! here then, from three impartial
witnesses, i had a deliberate statement of the entire
case. Considering, therefore, that squalls and capsizings in the water
and consequent bivouacks on the deep, were matters of common
occurrence in this kind of life; considering that at the superlatively
critical instant of going on to the whale I must resign my life into
the hands of him who steered the boat --oftentimes a fellow who at
that very moment is in his impetuousness upon the point of scuttling
the craft with his own frantic stampings; considering that the
particular disaster to our own particular boat was chiefly to be
imputed to Starbuck's driving on to his whale almost in the teeth of a
squall, and considering that Starbuck, notwithstanding, was famous for
his great heedfulness in the fishery; considering that I belonged to
this uncommonly prudent Starbuck's boat; and finally considering in
what a devil's chase I was implicated, touching the White Whale:
taking all things together, I say, I thought I might as well go below
and make a rough draft of my will.

Queequeg, said I, come along, you shall be my lawyer, executor, and
legatee. It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be
tinkering at their last wills and testaments, but there are no people
in the world more fond of that diversion. This was the fourth time in
my nautical life that I had done the same thing. After the ceremony
was concluded upon the present occasion, I felt all the easier; a
stone was rolled away from my heart. Besides, all the days I should
now live would be as good as the days that Lazarus lived after his
resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so many months or weeks as
the case might be. I survived myself; my death and burial were locked
up in my chest. I looked round me tranquilly and contentedly, like a
quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of a snug
family vault. now then, thought i, unconsciously rolling up the
sleeves of my frock, here goes a cool, collected dive at death and
destruction, and the devil fetch the hindmost.


Who would have thought it, Flask! cried Stubb; if I had but one leg
you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole
with my timber toe. Oh! he's a wonderful old man! I don't think it
so strange, after all, on that account, said Flask. If his leg were
off at the hip, now, it would be a different thing. That would
disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of the other left, you
know. I don't know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel.
Among whale-wise people it has often been argued whether, considering
the paramount importance of his life to the success of the voyage, it
is right for a whaling captain to jeopardize that life in the active
perils of the chase. So Tamerlane's soldiers often argued with tears
in their eyes, whether that invaluable life of his ought to be carried
into the thickest of the fight. But with Ahab the question assumed a
modified aspect. Considering that with two legs man is but a hobbling
wight in all times of danger; considering that the pursuit of whales
is always under great and extraordinary difficulties; that every
individual moment, indeed, then comprises a peril; under these
circumstances is it wise for any maimed man to enter a whale-boat in
the hunt? As a general thing, the joint-owners of the Pequod must
have plainly thought not. Ahab well knew that although his friends at
home would think little of his entering a boat in certain
comparatively harmless vicissitudes of the chase, for the sake of
being near the scene of action and giving his orders in person, yet
for Captain Ahab to have a boat actually apportioned to him as a
regular headsman in the hunt --above all for Captain Ahab to be
supplied with five extra men, as that same boat's crew, he well knew
that such generous conceits never entered the heads of the owners of
the Pequod. Therefore he had not solicited a boat's crew from them,
nor had he in any way hinted his desires on that head. Nevertheless
he had taken private measures of his own touching all that
matter. Until Cabaco's published discovery, the sailors had little
foreseen it, though to be sure when, after being a little while out of
port, all hands had concluded the customary business of fitting the
whaleboats for service; when some time after this Ahab was now and
then found bestirring himself in the matter of making thole-pins with
his own hands for what was thought to be one of the spare boats, and
even solicitously cutting the small wooden skewers, which when the
line is running out are pinned over the groove in the bow: when all
this was observed in him, and particularly his solicitude in having an
extra coat of sheathing in the bottom of the boat, as if to make it
better withstand the pointed pressure of his ivory limb; and also the
anxiety he evinced in exactly shaping the thigh board, or clumsy
cleat, as it is sometimes called, the horizontal piece in the boat's
bow for bracing the knee against in darting or stabbing at the whale;
when it was observed how often he stood up in that boat with his
solitary knee fixed in the semi-circular depression in the cleat, and
with the carpenter's chisel gouged out a little here and straightened
it a little there; all these things, I say, had awakened much interest
and curiosity at the time. But almost everybody supposed that this
particular preparative heedfulness in Ahab must only be with a view to
the ultimate chase of Moby Dick; for he had already revealed his
intention to hunt that mortal monster in person. But such a
supposition did by no means involve the remotest suspicion as to any
boat's crew being assigned to that boat. now, with the subordinate
phantoms, what wonder remained soon waned away; for in a whaler
wonders soon wane. Besides, now and then such unaccountable odds and
ends of strange nations come up from the unknown nooks and ash-holes
of the earth to man these floating outlaws of whalers; and the ships
themselves often pick up such queer castaway creatures found tossing
about the open sea on planks, bits of wreck, oars, whale-boats,
canoes, blown-off Japanese junks, and what not; that Beelzebub himself
might climb up the side and step down into the cabin to chat with the
captain, and it would not create any unsubduable excitement in the
forecastle. But be all this as it may, certain it is that while the
subordinate phantoms soon found their place among the crew, though
still as it were somehow distinct from them, yet that hair-turbaned
Fedallah remained a muffled mystery to the last. Whence he came in a
mannerly world like this, by what sort of unaccountable tie he soon
evinced himself to be linked with Ahab's peculiar fortunes; nay, so
far as to have some sort of a half-hinted influence; Heaven knows, but
it might have been even authority over him; all this none knew. But
one cannot sustain an indifferent air concerning Fedallah. He was
such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone
only see in their dreams, and that but dimly; but the like of whom now
and then glide among the unchanging Asiatic communities, especially
the Oriental isles to the east of the continent --those insulated,
immemorial, unalterable countries, which even in these modern days
still preserve much of the ghostly aboriginalness of earth's primal
generations, when the memory of the first man was a distinct
recollection, and all men his descendants, unknowing whence he came,
eyed each other as real phantoms, and asked of the sun and the moon
why they were created and to what end; when though, according to
genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men, the
devils also, add the uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours.

< Chapter LI 16 THE SPIRIT-SPOUT >

Days, weeks passed, and under easy sail, the ivory Pequod had slowly
swept across four several cruising-grounds; that off the Azores; off
the Cape de Verdes; on the Plate (so called), being off the mouth of
the Rio de la Plata; and the Carrol Ground, an unstaked, watery
locality, southerly from St. Helena. It was while gliding through
these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the
waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing
seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude: on such
a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white
bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed
some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea. Fedallah first
descried this jet. For of these moonlight nights, it was his wont to
mount to the main-mast head, and stand a look-out there, with the same
precision as if it had been day. And yet, though herds of whales were
seen by night, not one whaleman in a hundred would venture a lowering
for them. You may think with what emotions, then, the seamen beheld
this old Oriental perched aloft at such unusual hours; his turban and
the moon, companions in one sky. But when, after spending his uniform
interval there for several successive nights without uttering a single
sound; when, after all this silence, his unearthly voice was heard
announcing that silvery, moon-lit jet, every reclining mariner started
to his feet as if some winged spirit had lighted in the rigging, and
hailed the mortal crew. There she blows! Had the trump of judgment
blown, they could not have quivered more; yet still they felt no
terror; rather pleasure. for though it was a most unwonted hour, yet
so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously exciting, that almost
every soul on board instinctively desired a lowering. Walking the
deck with quick, side-lunging strides, Ahab commanded the t'gallant
sails and royals to be set, and every stunsail spread. The best man
in the ship must take the helm. Then, with every mast-head manned,
the piled-up craft rolled down before the wind. The strange,
upheaving, lifting tendency of the taffrail breeze filling the hollows
of so many sails, made the buoyant, hovering deck to feel like air
beneath the feet; while still she rushed along, as if two antagonistic
influences were struggling in her --one to mount direct to heaven, the
other to drive yawingly to some horizontal goal. And had you watched
Ahab's face that night, you would have thought that in him also two
different things were warring. While his one live leg made lively
echoes along the deck, every stroke of his dead limb sounded like a
coffin-tap. On life and death this old man walked. But though the
ship so swiftly sped, and though from every eye, like arrows, the
eager glances shot, yet the silvery jet was no more seen that night.
Every sailor swore he saw it once, but not a second time. This
midnight-spout had almost grown a forgotten thing, when, some days
after, lo! at the same silent hour, it was again announced: again it
was descried by all; but upon making sail to overtake it, once more it
disappeared as if it had never been. And so it served us night after
night, till no one heeded it but to wonder at it. Mysteriously jetted
into the clear moonlight, or starlight, as the case might be;
disappearing again for one whole day, or two days, or three; and
somehow seeming at every distinct repetition to be advancing still
further and further in our van, this solitary jet seemed for ever
alluring us on. Nor with the immemorial superstition of their race,
and in accordance with the preternaturalness, as it seemed, which in
many things invested the Pequod, were there wanting some of the seamen
who swore that whenever and wherever descried; at however remote
times, or in however far apart latitudes and longitudes, that
unnearable spout was cast by one self-same whale; and that whale, Moby
Dick. For a time, there reigned, too, a sense of peculiar dread at
this flitting apparition, as if it were treacherously beckoning us on
and on, in order that the monster might turn round upon us, and rend
us at last in the remotest and most savage seas. These temporary
apprehensions, so vague but so awful, derived a wondrous potency from
the contrasting serenity of the weather, in which, beneath all its
blue blandness, some thought there lurked a devilish charm, as for
days and days we voyaged along, through seas so wearily, lonesomely
mild, that all space, in repugnance to our vengeful errand, seemed
vacating itself of life before our urn-like prow. But, at last, when
turning to the eastward, the Cape winds began howling around us, and
we rose and fell upon the long, troubled seas that are there; when the
ivory-tusked Pequod sharply bowed to the blast, and gored the dark
waves in her madness, till, like showers of silver chips, the
foam-flakes flew over her bulwarks; then all this desolate vacuity of
life went away, but gave place to sights more dismal than before.
Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and
thither before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable
sea-ravens. And every morning, perched on our stays, rows of these
birds were seen; and spite of our hootings, for a long time
obstinately clung to the hemp, as though they deemed our ship some
drifting, uninhabited craft; a thing appointed to desolation, and
therefore fit roosting-place for their homeless selves. And heaved
and heaved, still unrestingly heaved the black sea, as if its vast
tides were a conscience; and the great mundane soul were in anguish
and remorse for the long sin and suffering it had bred. Cape of Good
Hope, do they call ye? Rather Cape Tormentoto, as called of yore; for
long allured by the perfidious silences that before had attended us,
we found ourselves launched into this tormented sea, where guilty
beings transformed into those fowls and these fish, seemed condemned
to swim on everlastingly without any haven in store, or beat that
black air without any horizon. But calm, snow-white, and unvarying;
still directing its fountain of feathers to the sky; still beckoning
us on from before, the solitary jet would at times be descried.
During all this blackness of the elements, Ahab, though assuming for
the time the almost continual command of the drenched and dangerous
deck, manifested the gloomiest reserve; and more seldom than ever
addressed his mates. In tempestuous times like these, after
everything above and aloft has been secured, nothing more can be done
but passively to await the issue of the gale. Then Captain and crew
become practical fatalists. So, with his ivory leg inserted into its
accustomed hole, and with one hand firmly grasping a shroud, Ahab for
hours and hours would stand gazing dead to windward, while an
occasional squall of sleet or snow would all but congeal his very
eyelashes together. Meantime, the crew driven from the forward part
of the ship by the perilous seas that burstingly broke over its bows,
stood in a line along the bulwarks in the waist; and the better to
guard against the leaping waves, each man had slipped himself into a
sort of bowline secured to the rail, in which he swung as in a
loosened belt. Few or no words were spoken; and the silent ship, as
if manned by painted sailors in wax, day after day tore on through all
the swift madness and gladness of the demoniac waves. By night the
same muteness of humanity before the shrieks of the ocean prevailed;
still in silence the men swung in the bowlines; still wordless ahab
stood up to the blast. Even when wearied nature seemed demanding
repose he would not seek that repose in his hammock. Never could
Starbuck forget the old man's aspect, when one night going down into
the cabin to mark how the barometer stood, he saw him with closed eyes
sitting straight in his floor-screwed chair; the rain and half-melted
sleet of the storm from which he had some time before emerged, still
slowly dripping from the unremoved hat and coat. On the table beside
him lay unrolled one of those charts of tides and currents which have
previously been spoken of. His lantern swung from his tightly
clenched hand. Though the body was erect, the head was thrown back so
that the closed eyes were pointed towards the needle of the tell-tale
that swung from a beam in the ceiling. Terrible old man! thought
Starbuck with a shudder, sleeping in this gale, still thou steadfastly
eyest thy purpose.

< Chapter LII 13 THE ALBATROSS >

South-eastward from the Cape, off the distant Crozetts, a good
cruising ground for Right Whalemen, a sail loomed ahead, the Goney
(Albatross) by name. As she slowly drew nigh, from my lofty perch at
the fore-mast-head, I had a good view of that sight so remarkable to a
tyro in the far ocean fisheries --a whaler at sea, and long absent
from home. As if the waves had been fullers, this craft was bleached
like the skeleton of a stranded walrus. All down her sides, this
spectral appearance was traced with long channels of reddened rust,
while all her spars and her rigging were like the thick branches of
trees furred over with hoar-frost. Only her lower sails were set. A
wild sight it was to see her long-bearded look-outs at those three
mast-heads. They seemed clad in the skins of beasts, so torn and
bepatched the raiment that had survived nearly four years of
cruising. Standing in iron hoops nailed to the mast, they swayed and
swung over a fathomless sea; and though, when the ship slowly glided
close under our stern, we six men in the air came so nigh to each
other that we might almost have leaped from the mast-heads of one ship
to those of the other; yet, those forlorn-looking fishermen, mildly
eyeing us as they passed, said not one word to our own look-outs,
while the quarter-deck hail was being heard from below. Ship ahoy!
Have ye seen the White Whale? But as the strange captain, leaning over
the pallid bulwarks, was in the act of putting his trumpet to his
mouth, it somehow fell from his hand into the sea; and the wind now
rising amain, he in vain strove to make himself heard without it.
Meantime his ship was still increasing the distance between. While in
various silent ways the seamen of the Pequod were evincing their
observance of this ominous incident at the first mere mention of the
White Whale's name to another ship, Ahab for a moment paused; it
almost seemed as though he would have lowered a boat to board the
stranger, had not the threatening wind forbade. But taking advantage
of his windward position, he again seized his trumpet, and knowing by
her aspect that the stranger vessel was a Nantucketer and shortly
bound home, he loudly hailed -- Ahoy there! This is the Pequod, bound
round the world! Tell them to address all future letters to the
Pacific ocean! and this time three years, if I am not at home, tell
them to address them to----- At that moment the two wakes were fairly
crossed, and instantly, then, in accordance with their singular ways,
shoals of small harmless fish, that for some days before had been
placidly swimming by our side, darted away with what seemed shuddering
fins, and ranged themselves fore and aft with the stranger's flanks.
Though in the course of his continual voyagings Ahab must often before
have noticed a similar sight, yet, to any monomaniac man, the veriest
trifles capriciously carry meanings. Swim away from me, do ye?
murmured Ahab, gazing over into the water. There seemed but little in
the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep helpless sadness than
the insane old man had ever before evinced. But turning to the
steersman, who thus far had been holding the ship in the wind to
diminish her headway, he cried out in his old lion voice, -- Up helm!
Keep her off round the world! Round the world! There is much in that
sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that
circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very
point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were
all the time before us. Were this world an endless plain, and by
sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover
sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King
Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of
those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon
phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while
chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren
mazes or midway leave us whelmed. The cabin-compass is called the
tell-tale, because without going to the compass at the helm, the
Captain, while below, can inform himself of the course of the ship.

< Chapter LIII 17 THE GAM >

The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the whaler we
had spoken was this: the wind and sea betokened storms. But even had
this not been the case, he would not after all, perhaps, have boarded
her --judging by his subsequent conduct on similar occasions --if so
it had been that, by the process of hailing, he had obtained a
negative answer to the question he put. For, as it eventually turned
out, he cared not to consort, even for five minutes, with any stranger
captain, except he could contribute some of that information he so
absorbingly sought. But all this might remain inadequately estimated,
were not something said here of the peculiar usages of whaling-vessels
when meeting each other in foreign seas, and especially on a common
cruising-ground. If two strangers crossing the Pine Barrens in New
York State, or the equally desolate Salisbury Plain in England; if
casually encountering each other in such inhospitable wilds, these
twain, for the life of them, cannot well avoid a mutual salutation;
and stopping for a moment to interchange the news; and, perhaps,
sitting down for a while and resting in concert: then, how much more
natural that upon the illimitable Pine Barrens and Salisbury Plains of
the sea, two whaling vessels descrying each other at the ends of the
earth --off lone Fanning's Island, or the far away King's Mills; how
much more natural, I say, that under such circumstances these ships
should not only interchange hails, but come into still closer, more
friendly and sociable contact. And especially would this seem to be a
matter of course, in the case of vessels owned in one seaport, and
whose captains, officers, and not a few of the men are personally
known to each other; and consequently, have all sorts of dear domestic
things to talk about. For the long absent ship, the outward-bounder,
perhaps, has letters on board; at any rate, she will be sure to let
her have some papers of a date a year or two later than the last one
on her blurred and thumb-worn files. And in return for that courtesy,
the outward-bound ship would receive the latest whaling intelligence
from the cruising-ground to which she may be destined, a thing of the
utmost importance to her. And in degree, all this will hold true
concerning whaling vessels crossing each other's track on the
cruising-ground itself, even though they are equally long absent from
home. for one of them may have received a transfer of letters from
some third, and now far remote vessel; and some of those letters may
be for the people of the ship she now meets. Besides, they would
exchange the whaling news, and have an agreeable chat. For not only
would they meet with all the sympathies of sailors, but likewise with
all the peculiar congenialities arising from a common pursuit and
mutually shared privations and perils. Nor would difference of
country make any very essential difference; that is, so long as both
parties speak one language, as is the case with Americans and English.
Though, to be sure, from the small number of English whalers, such
meetings do not very often occur, and when they do occur there is too
apt to be a sort of shyness between them; for your Englishman is
rather reserved, and your Yankee, he does not fancy that sort of thing
in anybody but himself. Besides, the English whalers sometimes affect
a kind of metropolitan superiority over the American whalers;
regarding the long, lean Nantucketer, with his nondescript
provincialisms, as a sort of sea-peasant. But where this superiority
in the English whalemen does really consist, it would be hard to say,
seeing that the Yankees in one day, collectively, kill more whales
than all the English, collectively, in ten years. But this is a
harmless little foible in the English whale-hunters, which the
Nantucketer does not take much to heart; probably, because he knows
that he has a few foibles himself. So, then, we see that of all ships
separately sailing the sea, the whalers have most reason to be
sociable --and they are so. Whereas, some merchant ships crossing
each other's wake in the mid-Atlantic, will oftentimes pass on without
so much as a single word of recognition, mutually cutting each other
on the high seas, like a brace of dandies in Broadway; and all the
time indulging, perhaps, in finical criticism upon each other's rig.
As for Men-of-War, when they chance to meet at sea, they first go
through such a string of silly bowings and scrapings, such a ducking
of ensigns, that there does not seem to be much right-down hearty
good-will and brotherly love about it at all. As touching Slave-ships
meeting, why, they are in such a prodigious hurry, they run away from
each other as soon as possible.

And as for Pirates, when they chance to cross each other's
cross-bones, the first hail is -- How many skulls? --the same way that
whalers hail-- How many barrels? And that question once answered,
pirates straightway steer apart, for they are infernal villains on
both sides, and don't like to see overmuch of each other's villanous
likenesses. But look at the godly, honest, unostentatious,
hospitable, sociable, free-and-easy whaler! What does the whaler do
when she meets another whaler in any sort of decent weather? She has
a Gam, a thing so utterly unknown to all other ships that they never
heard of the name even; and if by chance they should hear of it, they
only grin at it, and repeat gamesome stuff about spouters and
blubber-boilers, and such like pretty exclamations. Why it is that
all Merchant-seamen, and also all Pirates and Man-of-War's men, and
Slave-ship sailors, cherish such a scornful feeling towards
Whale-ships; this is a question it would be hard to answer. Because,
in the case of pirates, say, I should like to know whether that
profession of theirs has any peculiar glory about it. It sometimes
ends in uncommon elevation, indeed; but only at the gallows. And
besides, when a man is elevated in that odd fashion, he has no proper
foundation for his superior altitude. Hence, I conclude, that in
boasting himself to be high lifted above a whaleman, in that assertion
the pirate has no solid basis to stand on. but what is a gam? you
might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of
dictionaries, and never find the word. Dr. Johnson never attained to
that erudition; Noah Webster's ark does not hold it.

Nevertheless, this same expressive word has now for many years been in
constant use among some fifteen thousand true born Yankees. Certainly
it needs a definition, and should be incorporated into the Lexicon.
With that view, let me learnedly define it. Gam. Noun --A social
meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground;
when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats' crews:
the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and
the two chief mates on the other. There is another little item about
Gamming which must not be forgotten here. All professions have their
own little peculiarities of detail; so has the whale fishery. In a
pirate, man-of-war, or slave ship, when the captain is rowed anywhere
in his boat, he always sits in the stern sheets on a comfortable,
sometimes cushioned seat there, and often steers himself with a pretty
little milliner's tiller decorated with gay cords and ribbons. But
the whale-boat has no seat astern, no sofa of that sort whatever, and
no tiller at all. High times indeed, if whaling captains were wheeled
about the water on castors like gouty old aldermen in patent
chairs. And as for a tiller, the whale-boat never admits of any such
effeminacy; and therefore as in gamming a complete boat's crew must
leave the ship, and hence as the boat steerer or harpooneer is of the
number, that subordinate is the steersman upon the occasion, and the
captain, having no place to sit in, is pulled off to his visit all
standing like a pine tree. And often you will notice that being
conscious of the eyes of the whole visible world resting on him from
the sides of the two ships, this standing captain is all alive to the
importance of sustaining his dignity by maintaining his legs. nor is
this any very easy matter; for in his rear is the immense projecting
steering oar hitting him now and then in the small of his back, the
after-oar reciprocating by rapping his knees in front. He is thus
completely wedged before and behind, and can only expand himself
sideways by settling down on his stretched legs; but a sudden, violent
pitch of the boat will often go far to topple him, because length of
foundation is nothing without corresponding breadth. Merely make a
spread angle of two poles, and you cannot stand them up. Then, again,
it would never do in plain sight of the world's riveted eyes, it would
never do, I say, for this straddling captain to be seen steadying
himself the slightest particle by catching hold of anything with his
hands; indeed, as token of his entire, buoyant self-command, he
generally carries his hands in his trowsers' pockets; but perhaps
being generally very large, heavy hands, he carries them there for
ballast. Nevertheless there have occurred instances, well
authenticated ones too, where the captain has been known for an
uncommonly critical moment or two, in a sudden squall say --to seize
hold of the nearest oarsman's hair, and hold on there like grim death.

< Chapter LIV 26 THE TOWN-HO'S STORY >

( As told at the Golden Inn.) The Cape of Good Hope, and all the
watery region round about there, is much like some noted four corners
of a great highway, where you meet more travellers than in any other
part. It was not very long after speaking the Goney that another
homeward-bound whaleman, the Town-Ho, was encountered. She was manned
almost wholly by Polynesians. In the short gam that ensued she gave
us strong news of Moby Dick. To some the general interest in the
White Whale was now wildly heightened by a circumstance of the
Town-Ho's story, which seemed obscurely to involve with the whale a
certain wondrous, inverted visitation of one of those so called
judgments of God which at times are said to overtake some men.

This latter circumstance, with its own particular accompaniments,
forming what may be called the secret part of the tragedy about to be
narrated, never reached the ears of Captain Ahab or his mates. For
that secret part of the story was unknown to the captain of the
Town-Ho himself. It was the private property of three confederate
white seamen of that ship, one of whom, it seems, communicated it to
Tashtego with Romish injunctions of secresy, but the following night
Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and revealed so much of it in that way,
that when he was wakened he could not well withhold the
rest. Nevertheless, so potent an influence did this thing have on
those seamen in the Pequod who came to the full knowledge of it, and
by such a strange delicacy, to call it so, were they governed in this
matter, that they kept the secret among themselves so that it never
transpired abaft the Pequod's main-mast. Interweaving in its proper
place this darker thread with the story as publicly narrated on the
ship, the whole of this strange affair I now proceed to put on lasting
record. For my humor's sake, I shall preserve the style in which I
once narrated it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends,
one saint's eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the
Golden Inn. Of those fine cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and
Sebastian, were on the closer terms with me; and hence the interluding
questions they occasionally put, and which are duly answered at the
time. Some two years prior to my first learning the events which I am
about rehearsing to you, gentlemen, the Town-Ho, Sperm Whaler of
Nantucket, was cruising in your Pacific here, not very many days' sail
westward from the eaves of this good Golden Inn. She was somewhere to
the northward of the Line. One morning upon handling the pumps,
according to daily usage, it was observed that she made more water in
her hold than common. They supposed a sword-fish had stabbed her,
gentlemen. But the captain, having some unusual reason for believing
that rare good luck awaited him in those latitudes; and therefore
being very averse to quit them, and the leak not being then considered
at all dangerous, though, indeed, they could not find it after
searching the hold as low down as was possible in rather heavy
weather, the ship still continued her cruisings, the mariners working
at the pumps at wide and easy intervals; but no good luck came; more
days went by, and not only was the leak yet undiscovered, but it
sensibly increased. So much so, that now taking some alarm, the
captain, making all sail, stood away for the nearest harbor among the
islands, there to have his hull hove out and repaired. Though no
small passage was before her, yet, if the commonest chance favored, he
did not at all fear that his ship would founder by the way, because
his pumps were of the best, and being periodically relieved at them,
those six-and-thirty men of his could easily keep the ship free; never
mind if the leak should double on her. In truth, well nigh the whole
of this passage being attended by very prosperous breezes, the Town-Ho
had all but certainly arrived in perfect safety at her port without
the occurrence of the least fatality, had it not been for the brutal
overbearing of Radney, the mate, a Vineyarder, and the bitterly
provoked vengeance of Steelkilt, a Lakeman and desperado from Buffalo.
"Lakeman! --Buffalo! Pray, what is a Lakeman, and where is Buffalo?"
said Don Sebastian, rising in his swinging mat of grass. On the
eastern shore of our Lake Erie, Don; but--I crave your courtesy--may
be, you shall soon hear further of all that. Now, gentlemen, in
square-sail brigs and three-masted ships, well-nigh as large and stout
as any that ever sailed out of your old Callao to far manilla; this
lakeman, in the land-locked heart of our America, had yet been
nurtured by all those agrarian freebooting impressions popularly
connected with the open ocean. For in their interflowing aggregate,
those grand fresh-water seas of ours --Erie, and Ontario, and Huron,
and Superior, and Michigan, --possess an ocean-like expansiveness,
with many of the ocean's noblest traits; with many of its rimmed
varieties of races and of climes. They contain round archipelagoes of
romantic isles, even as the Polynesian waters do; in large part, are
shored by two great contrasting nations, as the Atlantic is; they
furnish long maritime approaches to our numerous territorial colonies
from the East, dotted all round their banks; here and there are
frowned upon by batteries, and by the goat-like craggy guns of lofty
Mackinaw; they have heard the fleet thunderings of naval victories; at
intervals, they yield their beaches to wild barbarians, whose red
painted faces flash from out their peltry wigwams; for leagues and
leagues are flanked by ancient and unentered forests, where the gaunt
pines stand like serried lines of kings in Gothic genealogies; those
same woods harboring wild Afric beasts of prey, and silken creatures
whose exported furs give robes to Tartar Emperors; they mirror the
paved capitals of Buffalo and Cleveland, as well as Winnebago
villages; they float alike the full-rigged merchant ship, the armed
cruiser of the State, the steamer, and the beech canoe; they are swept
by Borean and dismasting blasts as direful as any that lash the salted
wave; they know what shipwrecks are, for out of sight of land, however
inland, they have drowned full many a midnight ship with all its
shrieking crew. Thus, gentlemen, though an inlander, Steelkilt was
wild-ocean born, and wild-ocean nurtured; as much of an audacious
mariner as any. And for Radney, though in his infancy he may have
laid him down on the lone Nantucket beach, to nurse at his maternal
sea; though in after life he had long followed our austere Atlantic
and your contemplative Pacific; yet was he quite as vengeful and full
of social quarrel as the backwoods seaman, fresh from the latitudes of
buck-horn handled Bowie-knives. Yet was this Nantucketer a man with
some good-hearted traits; and this Lakeman, a mariner, who though a
sort of devil indeed, might yet by inflexible firmness, only tempered
by that common decency of human recognition which is the meanest
slave's right; thus treated, this Steelkilt had long been retained
harmless and docile. At all events, he had proved so thus far; but
Radney was doomed and made mad, and Steelkilt --but, gentlemen, you
shall hear. It was not more than a day or two at the furthest after
pointing her prow for her island haven, that the Town-Ho's leak seemed
again increasing, but only so as to require an hour or more at the
pumps every day. You must know that in a settled and civilized ocean
like our Atlantic, for example, some skippers think little of pumping
their whole way across it; though of a still, sleepy night, should the
officer of the deck happen to forget his duty in that respect, the
probability would be that he and his shipmates would never again
remember it, on account of all hands gently subsiding to the
bottom. Nor in the solitary and savage seas far from you to the
westward, gentlemen, is it altogether unusual for ships to keep
clanging at their pump-handles in full chorus even for a voyage of
considerable length; that is, if it lie along a tolerably accessible
coast, or if any other reasonable retreat is afforded them. It is
only when a leaky vessel is in some very out of the way part of those
waters, some really landless latitude, that her captain begins to feel
a little anxious. Much this way had it been with the Town-Ho; so when
her leak was found gaining once more, there was in truth some small
concern manifested by several of her company; especially by radney the
mate. He commanded the upper sails to be well hoisted, sheeted home
anew, and every way expanded to the breeze. Now this Radney, I
suppose, was as little of a coward, and as little inclined to any sort
of nervous apprehensiveness touching his own person as any fearless,
unthinking creature on land or on sea that you can conveniently
imagine, gentlemen. Therefore when he betrayed this solicitude about
the safety of the ship, some of the seamen declared that it was only
on account of his being a part owner in her. So when they were
working that evening at the pumps, there was on this head no small
gamesomeness slily going on among them, as they stood with their feet
continually overflowed by the rippling clear water; clear as any
mountain spring, gentlemen --that bubbling from the pumps ran across
the deck, and poured itself out in steady spouts at the lee
scupper-holes. Now, as you well know, it is not seldom the case in
this conventional world of ours --watery or otherwise; that when a
person placed in command over his fellow-men finds one of them to be
very significantly his superior in general pride of manhood,
straightway against that man he conceives an unconquerable dislike and
bitterness; and if he have a chance he will pull down and pulverize
that subaltern's tower, and make a little heap of dust of it. Be this
conceit of mine as it may, gentlemen, at all events Steelkilt was a
tall and noble animal with a head like a Roman, and a flowing golden
beard like the tasseled housings of your last viceroy's snorting
charger; and a brain, and a heart, and a soul in him, gentlemen, which
had made Steelkilt Charlemagne, had he been born son to Charlemagne's
father. But Radney, the mate, was ugly as a mule; yet as hardy, as
stubborn, as malicious. He did not love Steelkilt, and Steelkilt knew
it. Espying the mate drawing near as he was toiling at the pump with
the rest, the Lakeman affected not to notice him, but unawed, went on
with his gay banterings. "Aye, aye, my merry lads, it's a lively leak
this; hold a cannikin, one of ye, and let's have a taste. By the
Lord, it's worth bottling! I tell ye what, men, old Rad's investment
must go for it! he had best cut away his part of the hull and tow it
home. The fact is, boys, that sword-fish only began the job; he's
come back again with a gang of ship-carpenters, saw-fish, and
file-fish, and what not; and the whole posse of 'em are now hard at
work cutting and slashing at the bottom; making improvements, I
suppose. If old Rad were here now, I'd tell him to jump overboard and
scatter 'em. They're playing the devil with his estate, I can tell
him. But he's a simple old soul, -- Rad, and a beauty too. Boys,
they say the rest of his property is invested in looking-glasses. I
wonder if he'd give a poor devil like me the model of his nose." "Damn
your eyes! what's that pump stopping for?" roared Radney, pretending
not to have heard the sailors' talk. "Thunder away at it!" "Aye,
aye, sir," said Steelkilt, merry as a cricket. "Lively, boys, lively,
now!" And with that the pump clanged like fifty fire-engines; the men
tossed their hats off to it, and ere long that peculiar gasping of the
lungs was heard which denotes the fullest tension of life's utmost
energies. Quitting the pump at last, with the rest of his band, the
Lakeman went forward all panting, and sat himself down on the
windlass; his face fiery red, his eyes bloodshot, and wiping the
profuse sweat from his brow. Now what cozening fiend it was,
gentlemen, that possessed Radney to meddle with such a man in that
corporeally exasperated state, I know not; but so it
happened. Intolerably striding along the deck, the mate commanded him
to get a broom and sweep down the planks, and also a shovel, and
remove some offensive matters consequent upon allowing a pig to run at
large. Now, gentlemen, sweeping a ship's deck at sea is a piece of
household work which in all times but raging gales is regularly
attended to every evening; it has been known to be done in the case of
ships actually foundering at the time. Such, gentlemen, is the
inflexibility of sea-usages and the instinctive love of neatness in
seamen; some of whom would not willingly drown without first washing
their faces. But in all vessels this broom business is the
prescriptive province of the boys, if boys there be aboard. Besides,
it was the stronger men in the Town-Ho that had been divided into
gangs, taking turns at the pumps; and being the most athletic seaman
of them all, Steelkilt had been regularly assigned captain of one of
the gangs; consequently he should have been freed from any trivial
business not connected with truly nautical duties, such being the case
with his comrades. I mention all these particulars so that you may
understand exactly how this affair stood between the two men. But
there was more than this: the order about the shovel was almost as
plainly meant to sting and insult Steelkilt, as though Radney had spat
in his face. Any man who has gone sailor in a whale-ship will
understand this; and all this and doubtless much more, the Lakeman
fully comprehended when the mate uttered his command. But as he sat
still for a moment, and as he steadfastly looked into the mate's
malignant eye and perceived the stacks of powder-casks heaped up in
him and the slow-match silently burning along towards them; as he
instinctively saw all this, that strange forbearance and unwillingness
to stir up the deeper passionateness in any already ireful being --a
repugnance most felt, when felt at all, by really valiant men even
when aggrieved --this nameless phantom feeling, gentlemen, stole over
Steelkilt. Therefore, in his ordinary tone, only a little broken by
the bodily exhaustion he was temporarily in, he answered him saying
that sweeping the deck was not his business, and he would not do it.
and then, without at all alluding to the shovel, he pointed to three
lads as the customary sweepers; who, not being billeted at the pumps,
had done little or nothing all day. To this, Radney replied with an
oath, in a most domineering and outrageous manner unconditionally
reiterating his command; meanwhile advancing upon the still seated
Lakeman, with an uplifted cooper's club hammer which he had snatched
from a cask near by. Heated and irritated as he was by his spasmodic
toil at the pumps, for all his first nameless feeling of forbearance
the sweating Steelkilt could but ill brook this bearing in the mate;
but somehow still smothering the conflagration within him, without
speaking he remained doggedly rooted to his seat, till at last the
incensed Radney shook the hammer within a few inches of his face,
furiously commanding him to do his bidding. Steelkilt rose, and
slowly retreating round the windlass, steadily followed by the mate
with his menacing hammer, deliberately repeated his intention not to
obey. Seeing, however, that his forbearance had not the slightest
effect, by an awful and unspeakable intimation with his twisted hand
he warned off the foolish and infatuated man; but it was to no
purpose. And in this way the two went once slowly round the windlass;
when, resolved at last no longer to retreat, bethinking him that he
had now forborne as much as comported with his humor, the Lakeman
paused on the hatches and thus spoke to the officer: "Mr. Radney, I
will not obey you. Take that hammer away, or look to yourself." But
the predestinated mate coming still closer to him, where the Lakeman
stood fixed, now shook the heavy hammer within an inch of his teeth;
meanwhile repeating a string of insufferable maledictions. Retreating
not the thousandth part of an inch; stabbing him in the eye with the
unflinching poniard of his glance, steelkilt, clenching his right hand
behind him and creepingly drawing it back, told his persecutor that if
the hammer but grazed his cheek he (Steelkilt) would murder him. But,
gentlemen, the fool had been branded for the slaughter by the gods.
Immediately the hammer touched the cheek; the next instant the lower
jaw of the mate was stove in his head; he fell on the hatch spouting
blood like a whale. Ere the cry could go aft Steelkilt was shaking
one of the backstays leading far aloft to where two of his comrades
were standing their mast-heads. They were both Canallers.
"Canallers!" cried Don Pedro, "We have seen many whale-ships in our
harbors, but never heard of your Canallers. Pardon: who and what are
they?" "Canallers, Don, are the boatmen belonging to our grand Erie
Canal. You must have heard of it." "Nay, Senor; hereabouts in this
dull, warm, most lazy, and hereditary land, we know but little of your
vigorous North." "Aye? Well then, Don, refill my cup. Your chicha's
very fine; and ere proceeding further I will tell ye what our
Canallers are; for such information may throw side-light upon my
story." For three hundred and sixty miles, gentlemen, through the
entire breadth of the state of New York; through numerous populous
cities and most thriving villages; through long, dismal, uninhabited
swamps, and affluent, cultivated fields, unrivalled for fertility; by
billiard-room and bar-room; through the holy-of-holies of great
forests; on Roman arches over Indian rivers; through sun and shade; by
happy hearts or broken; through all the wide contrasting scenery of
those noble Mohawk counties; and especially, by rows of snow-white
chapels, whose spires stand almost like milestones, flows one
continual stream of Venetianly corrupt and often lawless life. There's
your true Ashantee, gentlemen; there howl your pagans; where you ever
find them, next door to you; under the long-flung shadow, and the snug
patronizing lee of churches. For by some curious fatality, as it is
often noted of your metropolitan freebooters that they ever encamp
around the halls of justice, so sinners, gentlemen, most abound in
holiest vicinities. "Is that a friar passing?" said Don Pedro,
looking downwards into the crowded plazza, with humorous
concern. "Well for our northern friend, Dame Isabella's Inquisition
wanes in Lima," laughed Don Sebastian. "Proceed, Senor." "A moment!
Pardon!" cried another of the company. "In the name of all us
Limeese, I but desire to express to you, sir sailor, that we have by
no means overlooked your delicacy in not substituting present Lima for
distant Venice in your corrupt comparison. Oh! do not bow and look
surprised; you know the proverb all along this coast -- Corrupt as
Lima. It but bears out your saying, too; churches more plentiful than
billiard-tables, and for ever open--and Corrupt as Lima. So, too,
Venice; I have been there; the holy city of the blessed evangelist,
St. Mark! --St. Dominic, purge it! Your cup! Thanks: here I
refill; now, you pour out again." Freely depicted in his own
vocation, gentlemen, the Canaller would make a fine dramatic hero, so
abundantly and picturesquely wicked is he. Like Mark Antony, for days
and days along his green-turfed, flowery Nile, he indolently floats,
openly toying with his red-cheeked Cleopatra, ripening his apricot
thigh upon the sunny deck. But ashore, all this effeminacy is dashed.
The brigandish guise which the Canaller so proudly sports; his
slouched and gaily-ribboned hat betoken his grand features. A terror
to the smiling innocence of the villages through which he floats; his
swart visage and bold swagger are not unshunned in cities. Once a
vagabond on his own canal, I have received good turns from one of
these Canallers; I thank him heartily; would fain be not ungrateful;
but it is often one of the prime redeeming qualities of your man of
violence, that at times he has as stiff an arm to back a poor stranger
in a strait, as to plunder a wealthy one. In sum, gentlemen, what the
wildness of this canal life is, is emphatically evinced by this; that
our wild whale-fishery contains so many of its most finished
graduates, and that scarce any race of mankind, except Sydney men, are
so much distrusted by our whaling captains. Nor does it at all
diminish the curiousness of this matter, that to many thousands of our
rural boys and young men born along its line, the probationary life of
the Grand Canal furnishes the sole transition between quietly reaping
in a Christian corn-field, and recklessly ploughing the waters of the
most barbaric seas. "I see! I see! " impetuously exclaimed Don
Pedro, spilling his chicha upon his silvery ruffles. "No need to
travel! The world's one Lima. I had thought, now, that at your
temperate North the generations were cold and holy as the hills. --But
the story." I left off, gentlemen, where the Lakeman shook the
back-stay. Hardly had he done so, when he was surrounded by the three
junior mates and the four harpooneers, who all crowded him to the

But sliding down the ropes like baleful comets, the two Canallers
rushed into the uproar, and sought to drag their man out of it towards
the forecastle. Others of the sailors joined with them in this
attempt, and a twisted turmoil ensued; while standing out of harm's
way, the valiant captain danced up and down with a whale-pike, calling
upon his officers to manhandle that atrocious scoundrel, and smoke him
along to the quarter-deck. At intervals, he ran close up to the
revolving border of the confusion, and prying into the heart of it
with his pike, sought to prick out the object of his resentment. But
Steelkilt and his desperadoes were too much for them all; they
succeeded in gaining the forecastle deck, where, hastily slewing about
three or four large casks in a line with the windlass, these
sea-Parisians entrenched themselves behind the barricade. "come out
of that, ye pirates!" roared the captain, now menacing them with a
pistol in each hand, just brought to him by the steward. "Come out of
that, ye cut-throats!" Steelkilt leaped on the barricade, and
striding up and down there, defied the worst the pistols could do; but
gave the captain to understand distinctly, that his (Steelkilt's)
death would be the signal for a murderous mutiny on the part of all
hands. Fearing in his heart lest this might prove but too true, the
captain a little desisted, but still commanded the insurgents
instantly to return to their duty. "Will you promise not to touch us,
if we do?" demanded their ringleader. "Turn to! turn to! --I make no
promise; --to your duty! Do you want to sink the ship, by knocking
off at a time like this? Turn to!" and he once more raised a pistol.
"Sink the ship?" cried Steelkilt. "Aye, let her sink. Not a man of us
turns to, unless you swear not to raise a rope-yarn against us. What
say ye, men?" turning to his comrades. A fierce cheer was their
response. The Lakeman now patrolled the barricade, all the while
keeping his eye on the Captain, and jerking out such sentences as
these: --"It's not our fault; we didn't want it; I told him to take
his hammer away; it was boy's business; he might have known me before
this; I told him not to prick the buffalo; I believe I have broken a
finger here against his cursed jaw; ain't those mincing knives down in
the forecastle there, men? look to those handspikes, my hearties.
Captain, by God, look to yourself; say the word; don't be a fool;
forget it all; we are ready to turn to; treat us decently, and we're
your men; but we won't be flogged." "Turn to! I make no promises,
turn to, I say!" "Look ye, now," cried the Lakeman, flinging out his
arm towards him. "there are a few of us here (and I am one of them)
who have shipped for the cruise, d'ye see; now as you well know, sir,
we can claim our discharge as soon as the anchor is down; so we don't
want a row; it's not our interest; we want to be peaceable; we are
ready to work, but we won't be flogged." "Turn to!" roared the
Captain. Steelkilt glanced round him a moment, and then said: --"I
tell you what it is now, Captain, rather than kill ye, and be hung for
such a shabby rascal, we won't lift a hand against ye unless ye attack
us; but till you say the word about not flogging us, we won't do a
hand's turn." "Down into the forecastle then, down with ye, I'll keep
ye there till ye're sick of it. Down ye go." "Shall we?" cried the
ringleader to his men. Most of them were against it; but at length,
in obedience to Steelkilt, they preceded him down into their dark den,
growlingly disappearing, like bears into a cave. As the Lakeman's
bare head was just level with the planks, the Captain and his posse
leaped the barricade, and rapidly drawing over the slide of the
scuttle, planted their group of hands upon it, and loudly called for
the steward to bring the heavy brass padlock, belonging to the
companion-way. Then opening the slide a little, the Captain whispered
something down the crack, closed it, and turned the key upon them
--ten in number --leaving on deck some twenty or more, who thus far
had remained neutral. All night a wide-awake watch was kept by all
the officers, forward and aft, especially about the forecastle scuttle
and fore hatchway; at which last place it was feared the insurgents
might emerge, after breaking through the bulkhead below. But the hours
of darkness passed in peace; the men who still remained at their duty
toiling hard at the pumps, whose clinking and clanking at intervals
through the dreary night dismally resounded through the ship. at
sunrise the captain went forward, and knocking on the deck, summoned
the prisoners to work; but with a yell they refused. Water was then
lowered down to them, and a couple of handfuls of biscuit were tossed
after it; when again turning the key upon them and pocketing it, the
Captain returned to the quarter-deck. Twice every day for three days
this was repeated; but on the fourth morning a confused wrangling, and
then a scuffling was heard, as the customary summons was delivered;
and suddenly four men burst up from the forecastle, saying they were
ready to turn to. The fetid closeness of the air, and a famishing
diet, united perhaps to some fears of ultimate retribution, had
constrained them to surrender at discretion. Emboldened by this, the
Captain reiterated his demand to the rest, but Steelkilt shouted up to
him a terrific hint to stop his babbling and betake himself where he
belonged. On the fifth morning three others of the mutineers bolted
up into the air from the desperate arms below that sought to restrain
them. Only three were left. "Better turn to, now?" said the Captain
with a heartless jeer. "Shut us up again, will ye!" cried
Steelkilt. "Oh! certainly," said the Captain and the key clicked. It
was at this point, gentlemen, that enraged by the defection of seven
of his former associates, and stung by the mocking voice that had last
hailed him, and maddened by his long entombment in a place as black as
the bowels of despair; it was then that Steelkilt proposed to the two
Canallers, thus far apparently of one mind with him, to burst out of
their hole at the next summoning of the garrison; and armed with their
keen mincing knives (long, crescentic, heavy implements with a handle
at each end) run a muck from the bowsprit to the taffrail; and if by
any devilishness of desperation possible, seize the ship. For
himself, he would do this, he said, whether they joined him or not.
That was the last night he should spend in that den. but the scheme
met with no opposition on the part of the other two; they swore they
were ready for that, or for any other mad thing, for anything in short
but a surrender. And what was more, they each insisted upon being the
first man on deck, when the time to make the rush should come.

But to this their leader as fiercely objected, reserving that priority
for himself; particularly as his two comrades would not yield, the one
to the other, in the matter; and both of them could not be first, for
the ladder would but admit one man at a time. And here, gentlemen,
the foul play of these miscreants must come out. Upon hearing the
frantic project of their leader, each in his own separate soul had
suddenly lighted, it would seem, upon the same piece of treachery,
namely: to be foremost in breaking out, in order to be the first of
the three, though the last of the ten, to surrender; and thereby
secure whatever small chance of pardon such conduct might merit. But
when Steelkilt made known his determination still to lead them to the
last, they in some way, by some subtle chemistry of villany, mixed
their before secret treacheries together; and when their leader fell
into a doze, verbally opened their souls to each other in three
sentences; and bound the sleeper with cords, and gagged him with
cords; and shrieked out for the Captain at midnight. Thinking murder
at hand, and smelling in the dark for the blood, he and all his armed
mates and harpooneers rushed for the forecastle. In a few minutes the
scuttle was opened, and, bound hand and foot, the still struggling
ringleader was shoved up into the air by his perfidious allies, who at
once claimed the honor of securing a man who had been fully ripe for
murder. But all these were collared, and dragged along the deck like
dead cattle; and, side by side, were seized up into the mizen rigging,
like three quarters of meat, and there they hung till morning. "Damn
ye," cried the Captain, pacing to and fro before them, "the vultures
would not touch ye, ye villains!" At sunrise he summoned all hands;
and separating those who had rebelled from those who had taken no part
in the mutiny, he told the former that he had a good mind to flog them
all round --thought, upon the whole, he would do so --he ought to
--justice demanded it; but for the present, considering their timely
surrender, he would let them go with a reprimand, which he accordingly
administered in the vernacular. "But as for you, ye carrion rogues,"
turning to the three men in the rigging --"for you, I mean to mince ye
up for the try-pots;" and, seizing a rope, he applied it with all his
might to the backs of the two traitors, till they yelled no more, but
lifelessly hung their heads sideways, as the two crucified thieves are
drawn. "My wrist is sprained with ye!" he cried, at last; "but there
is still rope enough left for you, my fine bantam, that wouldn't give
up. Take that gag from his mouth, and let us hear what he can say for
himself." For a moment the exhausted mutineer made a tremulous motion
of his cramped jaws, and then painfully twisting round his head, said
in a sort of hiss, "What I say is this --and mind it well--- if you
flog me, I murder you!" "Say ye so? then see how ye frighten me"
--and the Captain drew off with the rope to strike. "Best not,"
hissed the Lakeman. "But I must," --and the rope was once more drawn
back for the stroke. Steelkilt here hissed out something, inaudible to
all but the Captain; who, to the amazement of all hands, started back,
paced the deck rapidly two or three times, and then suddenly throwing
down his rope, said,"I won't do it --let him go--cut him down: d'ye
hear?" But as the junior mates were hurrying to execute the order, a
pale man, with a bandaged head, arrested them --Radney the chief mate.
Ever since the blow, he had lain in his berth; but that morning,
hearing the tumult on the deck, he had crept out, and thus far had
watched the whole scene. Such was the state of his mouth, that he
could hardly speak; but mumbling something about his being willing and
able to do what the captain dared not attempt, he snatched the rope
and advanced to his pinioned foe. "You are a coward!" hissed the
Lakeman. "So I am, but take that." The mate was in the very act of
striking, when another hiss stayed his uplifted arm. He paused: and
then pausing no more, made good his word, spite of Steelkilt's threat,
whatever that might have been. The three men were then cut down, all
hands were turned to, and, sullenly worked by the moody seamen, the
iron pumps clanged as before. Just after dark that day, when one
watch had retired below, a clamor was heard in the forecastle; and the
two trembling traitors running up, besieged the cabin door, saying
they durst not consort with the crew. Entreaties, cuffs, and kicks
could not drive them back, so at their own instance they were put down
in the ship's run for salvation. Still, no sign of mutiny reappeared
among the rest. On the contrary, it seemed, that mainly at
Steelkilt's instigation, they had resolved to maintain the strictest
peacefulness, obey all orders to the last, and, when the ship reached
port, desert her in a body. But in order to insure the speediest end
to the voyage, they all agreed to another thing --namely, not to sing
out for whales, in case any should be discovered. For, spite of her
leak, and spite of all her other perils, the Town-Ho still maintained
her mast-heads, and her captain was just as willing to lower for a
fish that moment, as on the day his craft first struck the cruising
ground; and Radney the mate was quite as ready to change his berth for
a boat, and with his bandaged mouth seek to gag in death the vital jaw
of the whale. But though the Lakeman had induced the seamen to adopt
this sort of passiveness in their conduct, he kept his own counsel (at
least till all was over) concerning his own proper and private revenge
upon the man who had stung him in the ventricles of his heart. He was
in Radney the chief mate's watch; and as if the infatuated man sought
to run more than half way to meet his doom, after the scene at the
rigging, he insisted, against the express counsel of the captain, upon
resuming the head of his watch at night. Upon this, and one or two
other circumstances, Steelkilt systematically built the plan of his

During the night, Radney had an unseamanlike way of sitting on the
bulwarks of the quarter-deck, and leaning his arm upon the gunwale of
the boat which was hoisted up there, a little above the ship's side.
In this attitude, it was well known, he sometimes dozed. There was a
considerable vacancy between the boat and the ship, and down between
this was the sea. Steelkilt calculated his time, and found that his
next trick at the helm would come round at two o'clock, in the morning
of the third day from that in which he had been betrayed. At his
leisure, he employed the interval in braiding something very carefully
in his watches below. "What are you making there?" said a shipmate.
"What do you think? what does it look like?" "Like a lanyard for your
bag; but it's an odd one, seems to me." "Yes, rather oddish," said the
Lakeman, holding it at arm's length before him; "but I think it will
answer. Shipmate, I haven't enough twine, --have you any?" But there
was none in the forecastle. "Then I must get some from old Rad;" and
he rose to go aft. "You don't mean to go a begging to him!" said a
sailor. "Why not? Do you think he won't do me a turn, when it's to
help himself in the end, shipmate?" and going to the mate, he looked
at him quietly, and asked him for some twine to mend his hammock. It
was given him --neither twine nor lanyard were seen again; but the
next night an iron ball, closely netted, partly rolled from the pocket
of the Lakeman's monkey jacket, as he was tucking the coat into his
hammock for a pillow. Twenty-four hours after, his trick at the
silent helm --nigh to the man who was apt to doze over the grave
always ready dug to the seaman's hand --that fatal hour was then to
come; and in the fore-ordaining soul of Steelkilt, the mate was
already stark and stretched as a corpse, with his forehead crushed in.
But, gentlemen, a fool saved the would-be murderer from the bloody
deed he had planned. Yet complete revenge he had, and without being
the avenger. For by a mysterious fatality, Heaven itself seemed to
step in to take out of his hands into its own the damning thing he
would have done. It was just between daybreak and sunrise of the
morning of the second day, when they were washing down the decks, that
a stupid Teneriffe man, drawing water in the main-chains, all at once
shouted out, "There she rolls! there she rolls!" Jesu, what a whale!
It was Moby Dick. "Moby Dick!" cried Don Sebastian; "St. Dominic!
Sir sailor, but do whales have christenings? Whom call you Moby
Dick?" "A very white, and famous, and most deadly immortal monster,
Don; --but that would be too long a story." "How? how!" cried all the
young Spaniards, crowding. "Nay, Dons, Dons --nay, nay! I cannot
rehearse that now. Let me get more into the air, Sirs." "The chicha!
the chicha!" cried Don Pedro; "our vigorous friend looks faint; --fill
up his empty glass!" No need, gentlemen; one moment, and I
proceed. --Now, gentlemen, so suddenly perceiving the snowy whale
within fifty yards of the ship --forgetful of the compact among the
crew --in the excitement of the moment, the Teneriffe man had
instinctively and involuntarily lifted his voice for the monster,
though for some little time past it had been plainly beheld from the
three sullen mast-heads. All was now a phrensy. "The White Whale
--the White Whale!" was the cry from captain, mates, and harpooneers,
who, undeterred by fearful rumors, were all anxious to capture so
famous and precious a fish; while the dogged crew eyed askance, and
with curses, the appalling beauty of the vast milky mass, that lit up
by a horizontal spangling sun, shifted and glistened like a living
opal in the blue morning sea. Gentlemen, a strange fatality pervades
the whole career of these events, as if verily mapped out before the
world itself was charted. The mutineer was the bowsman of the mate,
and when fast to a fish, it was his duty to sit next him, while Radney
stood up with his lance in the prow, and haul in or slacken the line,
at the word of command. Moreover, when the four boats were lowered,
the mate's got the start; and none howled more fiercely with delight
than did Steelkilt, as he strained at his oar. After a stiff pull,
their harpooneer got fast, and, spear in hand, Radney sprang to the
bow. He was always a furious man, it seems, in a boat. And now his
bandaged cry was, to beach him on the whale's topmost back. Nothing
loath, his bowsman hauled him up and up, through a blinding foam that
blent two whitenesses together; till of a sudden the boat struck as
against a sunken ledge, and keeling over, spilled out the standing
mate. That instant, as he fell on the whale's slippery back, the boat
righted, and was dashed aside by the swell, while Radney was tossed
over into the sea, on the other flank of the whale. He struck out
through the spray, and, for an instant, was dimly seen through that
veil, wildly seeking to remove himself from the eye of Moby Dick. But
the whale rushed round in a sudden maelstrom; seized the swimmer
between his jaws; and rearing high up with him, plunged headlong
again, and went down. Meantime, at the first tap of the boat's
bottom, the Lakeman had slackened the line, so as to drop astern from
the whirlpool; calmly looking on, he thought his own thoughts. But a
sudden, terrific, downward jerking of the boat, quickly brought his
knife to the line. He cut it; and the whale was free. But, at some
distance, Moby Dick rose again, with some tatters of Radney's red
woollen shirt, caught in the teeth that had destroyed him. All four
boats gave chase again; but the whale eluded them, and finally wholly
disappeared. In good time, the Town-Ho reached her port --a savage,
solitary place --where no civilized creature resided. There, headed
by the Lakeman, all but five or six of the foremast-men deliberately
deserted among the palms; eventually, as it turned out, seizing a
large double war-canoe of the savages, and setting sail for some other
harbor. The ship's company being reduced to but a handful, the
captain called upon the Islanders to assist him in the laborious
business of heaving down the ship to stop the leak. But to such
unresting vigilance over their dangerous allies was this small band of
whites necessitated, both by night and by day, and so extreme was the
hard work they underwent, that upon the vessel being ready again for
sea, they were in such a weakened condition that the captain durst not
put off with them in so heavy a vessel. After taking counsel with his
officers, he anchored the ship as far off shore as possible; loaded
and ran out his two cannon from the bows; stacked his muskets on the
poop; and warning the Islanders not to approach the ship at their
peril, took one man with him, and setting the sail of his best
whale-boat, steered straight before the wind for Tahiti, five hundred
miles distant, to procure a reinforcement to his crew.

On the fourth day of the sail, a large canoe was descried, which
seemed to have touched at a low isle of corals. He steered away from
it; but the savage craft bore down on him; and soon the voice of
Steelkilt hailed him to heave to, or he would run him under water. the
captain presented a pistol. With one foot on each prow of the yoked
war-canoes, the Lakeman laughed him to scorn; assuring him that if the
pistol so much as clicked in the lock, he would bury him in bubbles
and foam. "What do you want of me? cried the captain. "Where are you
bound? and for what are you bound?" demanded Steelkilt; "no lies." "I
am bound to Tahiti for more men." "Very good. Let me board you a
moment --I come in peace." With that he leaped from the canoe, swam
to the boat; and climbing the gunwale, stood face to face with the
captain. "Cross your arms, sir; throw back your head. Now, repeat
after me. As soon as Steelkilt leaves me, I swear to beach this boat
on yonder island, and remain there six days. If I do not, may
lightnings strike me!" "A pretty scholar," laughed the Lakeman."Adios,
Senor!" and leaping into the sea, he swam back to his comrades.
Watching the boat till it was fairly beached, and drawn up to the
roots of the cocoa-nut trees, Steelkilt made sail again, and in due
time arrived at Tahiti, his own place of destination. There, luck
befriended him; two ships were about to sail for France, and were
providentially in want of precisely that number of men which the
sailor headed. They embarked; and so for ever got the start of their
former captain, had he been at all minded to work them legal
retribution. Some ten days after the French ships sailed, the
whale-boat arrived, and the captain was forced to enlist some of the
more civilized Tahitians, who had been somewhat used to the sea.
Chartering a small native schooner, he returned with them to his
vessel; and finding all right there, again resumed his
cruisings. Where Steelkilt now is, gentlemen, none know; but upon the
island of Nantucket, the widow of Radney still turns to the sea which
refuses to give up its dead; still in dreams sees the awful white
whale that destroyed him. "Are you through?" said Don Sebastian,
quietly. "I am, Don." "Then I entreat you, tell me if to the best of
your own convictions, this story is in substance really true? It is
so passing wonderful! Did you get it from an unquestionable source?
Bear with me if I seem to press." "Also bear with all of us, sir
sailor; for we all join in Don Sebastian's suit," cried the company,
with exceeding interest. "Is there a copy of the Holy Evangelists in
the Golden Inn, gentlemen?" "Nay," said Don Sebastian; "but I know a
worthy priest near by, who will quickly procure one for me. I go for
it; but are you well advised? this may grow too serious." "Will you
be so good as to bring the priest also, Don?" "Though there are no
Auto-da-Fes in Lima now," said one of the company to another: "I fear
our sailor friend runs risk of the archiepiscopacy. Let us withdraw
more out of the moonlight. I see no need for this." "Excuse me for
running after you, Don Sebastian; but may I also beg that you will be
particular in procuring the largest sized Evangelists you can." "This
is the priest, he brings you the Evangelists," said Don Sebastian,
gravely, returning with a tall and solemn figure. "Let me remove my
hat. Now, venerable priest, further into the light, and hold the Holy
Book before me that I may touch it." "So help me Heaven, and on my
honor the story I have told ye, gentlemen, is in substance and its
great items, true. I know it to be true; it happened on this ball; I
trod the ship; I knew the crew; I have seen and talked with Steelkilt
since the death of Radney." The ancient whale-cry upon first sighting
a whale from the mast-head, still used by whalemen in hunting the
famous Gallipagos terrapin.


I shall ere long paint to you as well as one can without canvas,
something like the true form of the whale as he actually appears to
the eye of the whaleman when in his own absolute body the whale is
moored alongside the whale-ship so that he can be fairly stepped upon
there. It may be worth while, therefore, previously to advert to
those curious imaginary portraits of him which even down to the
present day confidently challenge the faith of the landsman. It is
time to set the world right in this matter, by proving such pictures
of the whale all wrong. It may be that the primal source of all those
pictorial delusions will be found among the oldest Hindoo, Egyptian,
and Grecian sculptures. For ever since those inventive but
unscrupulous times when on the marble panellings of temples, the
pedestals of statues, and on shields, medallions, cups, and coins, the
dolphin was drawn in scales of chain-armor like Saladin's, and a
helmeted head like St. George's; ever since then has something of the
same sort of license prevailed, not only in most popular pictures of
the whale, but in many scientific presentations of him. Now, by all
odds, the most ancient extant portrait anyways purporting to be the
whale's, is to be found in the famous cavern-pagoda of Elephanta, in
India. The Brahmins maintain that in the almost endless sculptures of
that immemorial pagoda, all the trades and pursuits, every conceivable
avocation of man, were prefigured ages before any of them actually
came into being. No wonder then, that in some sort our noble
profession of whaling should have been there shadowed forth. The
Hindoo whale referred to, occurs in a separate department of the wall,
depicting the incarnation of Vishnu in the form of leviathan,
learnedly known as the Matse Avatar. But though this sculpture is
half man and half whale, so as only to give the tail of the latter,
yet that small section of him is all wrong. It looks more like the
tapering tail of an anaconda, than the broad palms of the true whale's
majestic flukes. But go to the old Galleries, and look now at a great
Christian painter's portrait of this fish; for he succeeds no better
than the antediluvian Hindoo. It is Guido's picture of Perseus
rescuing Andromeda from the sea-monster or whale. Where did Guido get
the model of such a strange creature as that? Nor does Hogarth, in
painting the same scene in his own Perseus Descending, make out one
whit better. The huge corpulence of that Hogarthian monster undulates
on the surface, scarcely drawing one inch of water. It has a sort of
howdah on its back, and its distended tusked mouth into which the
billows are rolling, might be taken for the Traitors' Gate leading
from the Thames by water into the Tower. Then, there are the
Prodromus whales of the old Scotch Sibbald, and Jonah's whale, as
depicted in the prints of old Bibles and the cuts of old primers. What
shall be said of these? As for the book-binder's whale winding like a
vine-stalk round the stock of a descending anchor --as stamped and
gilded on the backs and title-pages of many books both old and new
--that is a very picturesque but purely fabulous creature, imitated, I
take it, from the like figures on antique vases. Though universally
denominated a dolphin, I nevertheless call this book-binder's fish an
attempt at a whale; because it was so intended when the device was
first introduced. It was introduced by an old Italian publisher
somewhere about the 15th century, during the Revival of Learning; and
in those days, and even down to a comparatively late period, dolphins
were popularly supposed to be a species of the Leviathan. In the
vignettes and other embellishments of some ancient books you will at
times meet with very curious touches at the whale, where all manner of
spouts, jets d'eau, hot springs and cold, Saratoga and Baden-Baden,
come bubbling up from his unexhausted brain. In the title-page of the
original edition of the Advancement of Learning you will find some
curious whales. But quitting all these unprofessional attempts, let
us glance at those pictures of leviathan purporting to be sober,
scientific delineations, by those who know. In old Harris's
collection of voyages there are some plates of whales extracted from a
Dutch book of voyages, A. D. , entitled A Whaling Voyage to
Spitzbergen in the ship Jonas in the Whale, Peter Peterson of
Friesland, master. In one of those plates the whales, like great
rafts of logs, are represented lying among ice-isles, with white bears
running over their living backs. In another plate, the prodigious
blunder is made of representing the whale with perpendicular flukes.
Then again, there is an imposing quarto, written by one Captain
Colnett, a Post Captain in the English navy, entitled A Voyage round
Cape Horn into the South Seas, for the purpose of extending the
Spermaceti Whale Fisheries. In this book is an outline purporting to
be a Picture of a Physeter or Spermaceti whale, drawn by scale from
one killed on the coast of Mexico, August, , and hoisted on deck. I
doubt not the captain had this veracious picture taken for the benefit
of his marines. To mention but one thing about it, let me say that it
has an eye which applied, according to the accompanying scale, to a
full grown sperm whale, would make the eye of that whale a bow-window
some five feet long. Ah, my gallant captain, why did ye not give us
Jonah looking out of that eye! Nor are the most conscientious
compilations of Natural History for the benefit of the young and
tender, free from the same heinousness of mistake. Look at that
popular work Goldsmith's Animated Nature. In the abridged London
edition of , there are plates of an alleged whale and a narwhale. I
do not wish to seem inelegant, but this unsightly whale looks much
like an amputated sow; and, as for the narwhale, one glimpse at it is
enough to amaze one, that in this nineteenth century such a hippogriff
could be palmed for genuine upon any intelligent public of schoolboys.
Then, again, in , Bernard Germain, Count de Lacepede, a great
naturalist, published a scientific systemized whale book, wherein are
several pictures of the different species of the Leviathan. All these
are not only incorrect, but the picture of the Mysticetus or Greenland
whale (that is to say, the Right whale), even Scoresby, a long
experienced man as touching that species, declares not to have its
counterpart in nature. But the placing of the cap-sheaf to all this
blundering business was reserved for the scientific Frederick Cuvier,
brother to the famous Baron. In , he published a Natural History of
Whales, in which he gives what he calls a picture of the Sperm Whale.
Before showing that picture to any Nantucketer, you had best provide
for your summary retreat from Nantucket. In a word, Frederick
Cuvier's Sperm Whale is not a Sperm Whale, but a squash. Of course,
he never had the benefit of a whaling voyage (such men seldom have),
but whence he derived that picture, who can tell? Perhaps he got it
as his scientific predecessor in the same field, Desmarest, got one of
his authentic abortions; that is, from a Chinese drawing. And what
sort of lively lads with the pencil those Chinese are, many queer cups
and saucers inform us. As for the sign-painters' whales seen in the
streets hanging over the shops of oil-dealers, what shall be said of
them? They are generally Richard III. whales, with dromedary humps,
and very savage; breakfasting on three or four sailor tarts, that is
whaleboats full of mariners: their deformities floundering in seas of
blood and blue paint. but these manifold mistakes in depicting the
whale are not so very surprising after all. Consider! Most of the
scientific drawings have been taken from the stranded fish; and these
are about as correct as a drawing of a wrecked ship, with broken back,
would correctly represent the noble animal itself in all its undashed
pride of hull and spars. Though elephants have stood for their
full-lengths, the living Leviathan has never yet fairly floated
himself for his portrait. The living whale, in his full majesty and
significance, is only to be seen at sea in unfathomable waters; and
afloat the vast bulk of him is out of sight, like a launched
line-of-battle ship; and out of that element it is a thing eternally
impossible for mortal man to hoist him bodily into the air, so as to
preserve all his mighty swells and undulations. And, not to speak of
the highly presumable difference of contour between a young sucking
whale and a full-grown Platonian Leviathan; yet, even in the case of
one of those young sucking whales hoisted to a ship's deck, such is
then the outlandish, eel-like, limbered, varying shape of him, that
his precise expression the devil himself could not catch. But it may
be fancied, that from the naked skeleton of the stranded whale,
accurate hints may be derived touching his true form. Not at all.
For it is one of the more curious things about this Leviathan, that
his skeleton gives very little idea of his general shape. Though
Jeremy Bentham's skeleton, which hangs for candelabra in the library
of one of his executors, correctly conveys the idea of a burly-browed
utilitarian old gentleman, with all Jeremy's other leading personal
characteristics; yet nothing of this kind could be inferred from any
leviathan's articulated bones. In fact, as the great Hunter says, the
mere skeleton of the whale bears the same relation to the fully
invested and padded animal as the insect does to the chrysalis that so
roundingly envelopes it. This peculiarity is strikingly evinced in
the head, as in some part of this book will be incidentally shown. It
is also very curiously displayed in the side fin, the bones of which
almost exactly answer to the bones of the human hand, minus only the
thumb. This fin has four regular bone-fingers, the index, middle,
ring, and little finger. But all these are permanently lodged in
their fleshy covering, as the human fingers in an artificial
covering. However recklessly the whale may sometimes serve us, said
humorous Stubb one day, he can never be truly said to handle us
without mittens. For all these reasons, then, any way you may look at
it, you must needs conclude that the great Leviathan is that one
creature in the world which must remain unpainted to the last. True,
one portrait may hit the mark much nearer than another, but none can
hit it with any very considerable degree of exactness. So there is no
earthly way of finding out precisely what the whale really looks like.
And the only mode in which you can derive even a tolerable idea of his
living contour, is by going a whaling yourself; but by so doing, you
run no small risk of being eternally stove and sunk by him.
Wherefore, it seems to me you had best not be too fastidious in your
curiosity touching this Leviathan.


PICTURES OF WHALING SCENES In connexion with the monstrous pictures of
whales, I am strongly tempted here to enter upon those still more
monstrous stories of them which are to be found in certain books, both
ancient and modern, especially in Pliny, Purchas, Hackluyt, Harris,
Cuvier, etc. But I pass that matter by. i know of only four
published outlines of the great Sperm Whale; Colnett's, Huggins's,
Frederick Cuvier's, and Beale's. In the previous chapter Colnett and
Cuvier have been referred to. Huggins's is far better than theirs;
but, by great odds, Beale's is the best. All Beale's drawings of this
whale are good, excepting the middle figure in the picture of three
whales in various attitudes, capping his second chapter. His
frontispiece, boats attacking Sperm Whales, though no doubt calculated
to excite the civil scepticism of some parlor men, is admirably
correct and life-like in its general effect. Some of the Sperm Whale
drawings in J. Ross Browne are pretty correct in contour; but they are
wretchedly engraved. That is not his fault though. Of the Right
Whale, the best outline pictures are in Scoresby; but they are drawn
on too small a scale to convey a desirable impression. He has but one
picture of whaling scenes, and this is a sad deficiency, because it is
by such pictures only, when at all well done, that you can derive
anything like a truthful idea of the living whale as seen by his
living hunters. But, taken for all in all, by far the finest, though
in some details not the most correct, presentations of whales and
whaling scenes to be anywhere found, are two large French engravings,
well executed, and taken from paintings by one Garnery. Respectively,
they represent attacks on the Sperm and Right Whale. In the first
engraving a noble Sperm Whale is depicted in full majesty of might,
just risen beneath the boat from the profundities of the ocean, and
bearing high in the air upon his back the terrific wreck of the stoven
planks. The prow of the boat is partially unbroken, and is drawn just
balancing upon the monster's spine; and standing in that prow, for
that one single incomputable flash of time, you behold an oarsman,
half shrouded by the incensed boiling spout of the whale, and in the
act of leaping, as if from a precipice. The action of the whole thing
is wonderfully good and true. The half-emptied line-tub floats on the
whitened sea; the wooden poles of the spilled harpoons obliquely bob
in it; the heads of the swimming crew are scattered about the whale in
contrasting expressions of affright; while in the black stormy
distance the ship is bearing down upon the scene. Serious fault might
be found with the anatomical details of this whale, but let that pass;
since, for the life of me, I could not draw so good a one. In the
second engraving, the boat is in the act of drawing alongside the
barnacled flank of a large running Right Whale, that rolls his black
weedy bulk in the sea like some mossy rock-slide from the Patagonian
cliffs. His jets are erect, full, and black like soot; so that from
so abounding a smoke in the chimney, you would think there must be a
brave supper cooking in the great bowels below. Sea fowls are pecking
at the small crabs, shell-fish, and other sea candies and maccaroni,
which the Right Whale sometimes carries on his pestilent back. And
all the while the thick-lipped leviathan is rushing through the deep,
leaving tons of tumultuous white curds in his wake, and causing the
slight boat to rock in the swells like a skiff caught nigh the
paddle-wheels of an ocean steamer. Thus, the foreground is all raging
commotion; but behind, in admirable artistic contrast, is the glassy
level of a sea becalmed, the drooping unstarched sails of the
powerless ship, and the inert mass of a dead whale, a conquered
fortress, with the flag of capture lazily hanging from the whale-pole
inserted into his spout-hole. Who Garnery the painter is, or was, I
know not. But my life for it he was either practically conversant
with his subject, or else marvellously tutored by some experienced
whaleman. The French are the lads for painting action. Go and gaze
upon all the paintings in Europe, and where will you find such a
gallery of living and breathing commotion on canvas, as in that
triumphal hall at Versailles; where the beholder fights his way,
pell-mell, through the consecutive great battles of France; where
every sword seems a flash of the Northern Lights, and the successive
armed kings and Emperors dash by, like a charge of crowned centaurs?
Not wholly unworthy of a place in that gallery, are these sea
battle-pieces of Garnery. The natural aptitude of the French for
seizing the picturesqueness of things seems to be peculiarly evinced
in what paintings and engravings they have of their whaling scenes.
With not one tenth of England's experience in the fishery, and not the
thousandth part of that of the Americans, they have nevertheless
furnished both nations with the only finished sketches at all capable
of conveying the real spirit of the whale hunt. For the most part,
the English and American whale draughtsmen seem entirely content with
presenting the mechanical outline of things, such as the vacant
profile of the whale; which, so far as picturesqueness of effect is
concerned, is about tantamount to sketching the profile of a pyramid.
Even Scoresby, the justly renowned Right whaleman, after giving us a
stiff full length of the Greenland whale, and three or four delicate
miniatures of narwhales and porpoises, treats us to a series of
classical engravings of boat hooks, chopping knives, and grapnels; and
with the microscopic diligence of a Leuwenhoeck submits to the
inspection of a shivering world ninety-six fac-similes of magnified
Arctic snow crystals. I mean no disparagement to the excellent
voyager (I honor him for a veteran), but in so important a matter it
was certainly an oversight not to have procured for every crystal a
sworn affidavit taken before a Greenland Justice of the Peace. In
addition to those fine engravings from Garnery, there are two other
French engravings worthy of note, by some one who subscribes himself
h. durand. one of them, though not precisely adapted to our present
purpose, nevertheless deserves mention on other accounts. It is a
quiet noon-scene among the isles of the Pacific; a French whaler
anchored, inshore, in a calm, and lazily taking water on board; the
loosened sails of the ship, and the long leaves of the palms in the
background, both drooping together in the breezeless air. The effect
is very fine, when considered with reference to its presenting the
hardy fishermen under one of their few aspects of oriental repose.
The other engraving is quite a different affair: the ship hove-to upon
the open sea, and in the very heart of the Leviathanic life, with a
Right Whale alongside; the vessel (in the act of cutting-in) hove over
to the monster as if to a quay; and a boat, hurriedly pushing off from
this scene of activity, is about giving chase to whales in the
distance. The harpoons and lances lie levelled for use; three oarsmen
are just setting the mast in its hole; while from a sudden roll of the
sea, the little craft stands half-erect out of the water, like a
rearing horse. From the ship, the smoke of the torments of the
boiling whale is going up like the smoke over a village of smithies;
and to windward, a black cloud, rising up with earnest of squalls and
rains, seems to quicken the activity of the excited seamen.


down to the London docks, you may have seen a crippled beggar (or
kedger, as the sailors say) holding a painted board before him,
representing the tragic scene in which he lost his leg. There are
three whales and three boats; and one of the boats (presumed to
contain the missing leg in all its original integrity) is being
crunched by the jaws of the foremost whale. Any time these ten years,
they tell me, has that man held up that picture, and exhibited that
stump to an incredulous world. But the time of his justification has
now come. His three whales are as good whales as were ever published
in Wapping, at any rate; and his stump as unquestionable a stump as
any you will find in the western clearings. But, though for ever
mounted on that stump, never a stump-speech does the poor whaleman
make; but, with downcast eyes, stands ruefully contemplating his own
amputation. Throughout the Pacific, and also in Nantucket, and New
Bedford, and Sag Harbor, you will come across lively sketches of
whales and whaling-scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm
Whale-teeth, or ladies' busks wrought out of the Right Whale-bone, and
other like skrimshander articles, as the whalemen call the numerous
little ingenious contrivances they elaborately carve out of the rough
material, in their hours of ocean leisure. Some of them have little
boxes of dentistical-looking implements, specially intended for the
skrimshandering business. But, in general, they toil with their
jack-knives alone; and, with that almost omnipotent tool of the
sailor, they will turn you out anything you please, in the way of a
mariner's fancy. Long exile from Christendom and civilization
inevitably restores a man to that condition in which God placed him,
i. e. what is called savagery. Your true whale-hunter is as much a
savage as an Iroquois. I myself am a savage; owning no allegiance but
to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against
him. Now, one of the peculiar characteristics of the savage in his
domestic hours, is his wonderful patience of industry. An ancient
Hawaiian war-club or spear-paddle, in its full multiplicity and
elaboration of carving, is as great a trophy of human perseverance as
a Latin lexicon. For, with but a bit of broken sea-shell or a shark's
tooth, that miraculous intricacy of wooden net-work has been achieved;
and it has cost steady years of steady application. As with the
Hawaiian savage, so with the white sailor-savage. With the same
marvellous patience, and with the same single shark's tooth, of his
one poor jack-knife, he will carve you a bit of bone sculpture, not
quite as workmanlike, but as close packed in its maziness of design,
as the Greek savage, Achilles's shield; and full of barbaric spirit
and suggestiveness, as the prints of that fine old Dutch savage,
Albert Durer. Wooden whales, or whales cut in profile out of the
small dark slabs of the noble South Sea war-wood, are frequently met
with in the forecastles of American whalers. Some of them are done
with much accuracy. At some old gable-roofed country houses you will
see brass whales hung by the tail for knockers to the road-side
door. When the porter is sleepy, the anvil-headed whale would be best.
But these knocking whales are seldom remarkable as faithful essays.
On the spires of some old-fashioned churches you will see sheet-iron
whales placed there for weather-cocks; but they are so elevated, and
besides that are to all intents and purposes so labelled with Hands
off! you cannot examine them closely enough to decide upon their
merit. In bony, ribby regions of the earth, where at the base of high
broken cliffs masses of rock lie strewn in fantastic groupings upon
the plain, you will often discover images as of the petrified forms of
the Leviathan partly merged in grass, which of a windy day breaks
against them in a surf of green surges. Then, again, in mountainous
countries where the traveller is continually girdled by
amphitheatrical heights; here and there from some lucky point of view
you will catch passing glimpses of the profiles of whales defined
along the undulating ridges. But you must be a thorough whaleman, to
see these sights; and not only that, but if you wish to return to such
a sight again, you must be sure and take the exact intersecting
latitude and longitude of your first stand-point, else so chance-like
are such observations of the hills, that your precise, previous
stand-point would require a laborious re-discovery; like the Solomon
islands, which still remain incognita, though once high-ruffed
Mendanna trod them and old Figuera chronicled them. Nor when
expandingly lifted by your subject, can you fail to trace out great
whales in the starry heavens, and boats in pursuit of them; as when
long filled with thoughts of war the Eastern nations saw armies locked
in battle among the clouds. Thus at the North have I chased Leviathan
round and round the Pole with the revolutions of the bright points
that first defined him to me. And beneath the effulgent Antarctic
skies I have boarded the Argo-Navis, and joined the chase against the
starry Cetus far beyond the utmost stretch of Hydrus and the Flying
Fish. With a frigate's anchors for my bridle-bitts and fasces of
harpoons for spurs, would I could mount that whale and leap the
topmost skies, to see whether the fabled heavens with all their
countless tents really lie encamped beyond my mortal sight!

< Chapter LVIII 11 BRIT >

Steering north-eastward from the Crozetts, we fell in with vast
meadows of brit, the minute, yellow substance, upon which the Right
Whale largely feeds. For leagues and leagues it undulated round us,
so that we seemed to be sailing through boundless fields of ripe and
golden wheat. On the second day, numbers of Right Whales were seen,
who, secure from the attack of a Sperm Whaler like the Pequod, with
open jaws sluggishly swam through the brit, which, adhering to the
fringing fibres of that wondrous Venetian blind in their mouths, was
in that manner separated from the water that escaped at the lip. As
morning mowers, who side by side slowly and seethingly advance their
scythes through the long wet grass of marshy meads; even so these
monsters swam, making a strange, grassy, cutting sound; and leaving
behind them endless swaths of blue upon the yellow sea. But it was
only the sound they made as they parted the brit which at all reminded
one of mowers. Seen from the mast-heads, especially when they paused
and were stationary for a while, their vast black forms looked more
like lifeless masses of rock than anything else. And as in the great
hunting countries of India, the stranger at a distance will sometimes
pass on the plains recumbent elephants without knowing them to be
such, taking them for bare, blackened elevations of the soil; even so,
often, with him, who for the first time beholds this species of the
leviathans of the sea. And even when recognised at last, their
immense magnitude renders it very hard really to believe that such
bulky masses of overgrowth can possibly be instinct, in all parts,
with the same sort of life that lives in a dog or a horse. Indeed, in
other respects, you can hardly regard any creatures of the deep with
the same feelings that you do those of the shore. For though some old
naturalists have maintained that all creatures of the land are of
their kind in the sea; and though taking a broad general view of the
thing, this may very well be; yet coming to specialties, where, for
example, does the ocean furnish any fish that in disposition answers
to the sagacious kindness of the dog? The accursed shark alone can in
any generic respect be said to bear comparative analogy to him. But
though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants of the seas
have ever been regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and
repelling; though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra
incognita, so that Columbus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to
discover his one superficial western one; though, by vast odds, the
most terrific of all mortal disasters have immemorially and
indiscriminately befallen tens and hundreds of thousands of those who
have gone upon the waters; though but a moment's consideration will
teach, that however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and
however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may
augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will
insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate
he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very
impressions, man has lost that sense of the full awfulness of the sea
which aboriginally belongs to it. The first boat we read of, floated
on an ocean, that with Portuguese vengeance had whelmed a whole world
without leaving so much as a widow. That same ocean rolls now; that
same ocean destroyed the wrecked ships of last year. Yea, foolish
mortals, Noah's flood is not yet subsided; two thirds of the fair
world it yet covers. Wherein differ the sea and the land, that a
miracle upon one is not a miracle upon the other? Preternatural
terrors rested upon the Hebrews, when under the feet of Korah and his
company the live ground opened and swallowed them up for ever; yet not
a modern sun ever sets, but in precisely the same manner the live sea
swallows up ships and crews. But not only is the sea such a foe to
man who is an alien to it, but it is also a fiend to its own
offspring; worse than the Persian host who murdered his own guests;
sparing not the creatures which itself hath spawned. Like a savage
tigress that tossing in the jungle overlays her own cubs, so the sea
dashes even the mightiest whales against the rocks, and leaves them
there side by side with the split wrecks of ships. No mercy, no power
but its own controls it. Panting and snorting like a mad battle steed
that has lost its rider, the masterless ocean overruns the
globe. Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded
creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and
treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider
also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most
remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of
sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea;
all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war
since the world began. Consider all this; and then turn to this green,
gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the
land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?
For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul
of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but
encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. God keep thee!
Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return! That part of
the sea known among whalemen as the Brazil Banks does not bear that
name as the Banks of Newfoundland do, because of there being shallows
and soundings there, but because of this remarkable meadow-like
appearance, caused by the vast drifts of brit continually floating in
those latitudes, where the Right Whale is often chased.

< Chapter LIX 4 SQUID >

Slowly wading through the meadows of brit, the Pequod still held on
her way north-eastward towards the island of Java; a gentle air
impelling her keel, so that in the surrounding serenity her three tall
tapering masts mildly waved to that languid breeze, as three mild
palms on a plain. And still, at wide intervals in the silvery night,
the lonely, alluring jet would be seen. But one transparent blue
morning, when a stillness almost preternatural spread over the sea,
however unattended with any stagnant calm; when the long burnished
sun-glade on the waters seemed a golden finger laid across them,
enjoining some secresy; when the slippered waves whispered together as
they softly ran on; in this profound hush of the visible sphere a
strange spectre was seen by Daggoo from the main-mast-head. In the
distance, a great white mass lazily rose, and rising higher and
higher, and disentangling itself from the azure, at last gleamed
before our prow like a snow-slide, new slid from the hills. Thus
glistening for a moment, as slowly it subsided, and sank. Then once
more arose, and silently gleamed. It seemed not a whale; and yet is
this Moby Dick? thought Daggoo. Again the phantom went down, but on
re-appearing once more, with a stiletto-like cry that startled every
man from his nod, the negro yelled out -- There! there again! there
she breaches! right ahead! The White Whale, the White Whale! Upon
this, the seamen rushed to the yard-arms, as in swarming-time the bees
rush to the boughs. Bare-headed in the sultry sun, Ahab stood on the
bowsprit, and with one hand pushed far behind in readiness to wave his
orders to the helmsman, cast his eager glance in the direction
indicated aloft by the outstretched motionless arm of Daggoo. Whether
the flitting attendance of the one still and solitary jet had
gradually worked upon Ahab, so that he was now prepared to connect the
ideas of mildness and repose with the first sight of the particular
whale he pursued; however this was, or whether his eagerness betrayed
him; whichever way it might have been, no sooner did he distinctly
perceive the white mass, than with a quick intensity he instantly gave
orders for lowering. The four boats were soon on the water; Ahab's in
advance, and all swiftly pulling towards their prey. Soon it went
down, and while, with oars suspended, we were awaiting its
reappearance, lo! in the same spot where it sank, once more it slowly
rose. Almost forgetting for the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we
now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have
hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length
and breadth, of a glancing cream-color, lay floating on the water,
innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, and curling and
twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any
hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it
have; no conceivable token of either sensation or instinct; but
undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like
apparition of life. As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared
again, Starbuck still gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk,
with a wild voice exclaimed -- Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and
fought him, than to have seen thee, thou white ghost.

What was it, Sir? said Flask. The great live squid, which they say,
few whale-ships ever beheld, and returned to their ports to tell of
it. But Ahab said nothing; turning his boat, he sailed back to the
vessel; the rest as silently following. Whatever superstitions the
sperm whalemen in general have connected with the sight of this
object, certain it is, that a glimpse of it being so very unusual,
that circumstance has gone far to invest it with portentousness. So
rarely is it beheld, that though one and all of them declare it to be
the largest animated thing in the ocean, yet very few of them have any
but the most vague ideas concerning its true nature and form;
notwithstanding, they believe it to furnish to the sperm whale his
only food. For though other species of whales find their food above
water, and may be seen by man in the act of feeding, the spermaceti
whale obtains his whole food in unknown zones below the surface; and
only by inference is it that any one can tell of what, precisely, that
food consists. At times, when closely pursued, he will disgorge what
are supposed to be the detached arms of the squid; some of them thus
exhibited exceeding twenty and thirty feet in length. They fancy that
the monster to which these arms belonged ordinarily clings by them to
the bed of the ocean; and that the sperm whale, unlike other species,
is supplied with teeth in order to attack and tear it. There seems
some ground to imagine that the great Kraken of Bishop Pontoppodan may
ultimately resolve itself into Squid. The manner in which the Bishop
describes it, as alternately rising and sinking, with some other
particulars he narrates, in all this the two correspond. But much
abatement is necessary with respect to the incredible bulk he assigns
it. By some naturalists who have vaguely heard rumors of the
mysterious creature, here spoken of, it is included among the class of
cuttle-fish, to which, indeed, in certain external respects it would
seem to belong, but only as the Anak of the tribe.

< Chapter LX 26 THE LINE >

With reference to the whaling scene shortly to be described, as well
as for the better understanding of all similar scenes elsewhere
presented, I have here to speak of the magical, sometimes horrible
whale-line. The line originally used in the fishery was of the best
hemp, slightly vapored with tar, not impregnated with it, as in the
case of ordinary ropes; for while tar, as ordinarily used, makes the
hemp more pliable to the rope-maker, and also renders the rope itself
more convenient to the sailor for common ship use; yet, not only would
the ordinary quantity too much stiffen the whale-line for the close
coiling to which it must be subjected; but as most seamen are
beginning to learn, tar in general by no means adds to the rope's
durability or strength, however much it may give it compactness and
gloss. Of late years the Manilla rope has in the American fishery
almost entirely superseded hemp as a material for whale-lines; for,
though not so durable as hemp, it is stronger, and far more soft and
elastic; and I will add (since there is an aesthetics in all things),
is much more handsome and becoming to the boat, than hemp. Hemp is a
dusky, dark fellow, a sort of Indian; but Manilla is as a
golden-haired Circassian to behold. The whale line is only two thirds
of an inch in thickness. At first sight, you would not think it so
strong as it really is. By experiment its one and fifty yarns will
each suspend a weight of one hundred and twenty pounds; so that the
whole rope will bear a strain nearly equal to three tons. In length,
the common sperm whale-line measures something over two hundred
fathoms. Towards the stern of the boat it is spirally coiled away in
the tub, not like the worm-pipe of a still though, but so as to form
one round, cheese-shaped mass of densely bedded sheaves, or layers of
concentric spiralizations, without any hollow but the heart, or minute
vertical tube formed at the axis of the cheese. As the least tangle
or kink in the coiling would, in running out, infallibly take
somebody's arm, leg, or entire body off, the utmost precaution is used
in stowing the line in its tub. Some harpooneers will consume almost
an entire morning in this business, carrying the line high aloft and
then reeving it downwards through a block towards the tub, so as in
the act of coiling to free it from all possible wrinkles and
twists. In the English boats two tubs are used instead of one; the
same line being continuously coiled in both tubs. There is some
advantage in this; because these twin-tubs being so small they fit
more readily into the boat, and do not strain it so much; whereas, the
American tub, nearly three feet in diameter and of proportionate
depth, makes a rather bulky freight for a craft whose planks are but
one half-inch in thickness; for the bottom of the whale-boat is like
critical ice, which will bear up a considerable distributed weight,
but not very much of a concentrated one. When the painted canvas
cover is clapped on the american line-tub, the boat looks as if it
were pulling off with a prodigious great wedding-cake to present to
the whales. Both ends of the line are exposed; the lower end
terminating in an eye-splice or loop coming up from the bottom against
the side of the tub, and hanging over its edge completely disengaged
from everything. This arrangement of the lower end is necessary on two
accounts. First: In order to facilitate the fastening to it of an
additional line from a neighboring boat, in case the stricken whale
should sound so deep as to threaten to carry off the entire line
originally attached to the harpoon. In these instances, the whale of
course is shifted like a mug of ale, as it were, from the one boat to
the other; though the first boat always hovers at hand to assist its
consort. Second: This arrangement is indispensable for common safety's
sake; for were the lower end of the line in any way attached to the
boat, and were the whale then to run the line out to the end almost in
a single, smoking minute as he sometimes does, he would not stop
there, for the doomed boat would infallibly be dragged down after him
into the profundity of the sea; and in that case no town-crier would
ever find her again. Before lowering the boat for the chase, the
upper end of the line is taken aft from the tub, and passing round the
logger-head there, is again carried forward the entire length of the
boat, resting crosswise upon the loom or handle of every man's oar, so
that it jogs against his wrist in rowing; and also passing between the
men, as they alternately sit at the opposite gunwales, to the leaded
chocks or grooves in the extreme pointed prow of the boat, where a
wooden pin or skewer the size of a common quill, prevents it from
slipping out. From the chocks it hangs in a slight festoon over the
bows, and is then passed inside the boat again; and some ten or twenty
fathoms (called box-line) being coiled upon the box in the bows, it
continues its way to the gunwale still a little further aft, and is
then attached to the short-warp --the rope which is immediately
connected with the harpoon; but previous to that connexion, the
short-warp goes through sundry mystifications too tedious to
detail. Thus the whale-line folds the whole boat in its complicated
coils, twisting and writhing around it in almost every direction. All
the oarsmen are involved in its perilous contortions; so that to the
timid eye of the landsman, they seem as Indian jugglers, with the
deadliest snakes sportively festooning their limbs. Nor can any son
of mortal woman, for the first time, seat himself amid those hempen
intricacies, and while straining his utmost at the oar, bethink him
that at any unknown instant the harpoon may be darted, and all these
horrible contortions be put in play like ringed lightnings; he cannot
be thus circumstanced without a shudder that makes the very marrow in
his bones to quiver in him like a shaken jelly. Yet habit --strange
thing! what cannot habit accomplish? --Gayer sallies, more merry
mirth, better jokes, and brighter repartees, you never heard over your
mahogany, than you will hear over the half-inch white cedar of the
whale-boat, when thus hung in hangman's nooses; and, like the six
burghers of Calais before King Edward, the six men composing the crew
pull into the jaws of death, with a halter around every neck, as you
may say. Perhaps a very little thought will now enable you to account
for those repeated whaling disasters --some few of which are casually
chronicled --of this man or that man being taken out of the boat by
the line, and lost. For, when the line is darting out, to be seated
then in the boat, is like being seated in the midst of the manifold
whizzings of a steam-engine in full play, when every flying beam, and
shaft, and wheel, is grazing you. It is worse; for you cannot sit
motionless in the heart of these perils, because the boat is rocking
like a cradle, and you are pitched one way and the other, without the
slightest warning; and only by a certain self-adjusting buoyancy and
simultaneousness of volition and action, can you escape being made a
Mazeppa of, and run away with where the all-seeing sun himself could
never pierce you out. Again: as the profound calm which only
apparently precedes and prophesies of the storm, is perhaps more awful
than the storm itself; for, indeed, the calm is but the wrapper and
envelope of the storm; and contains it in itself, as the seemingly
harmless rifle holds the fatal powder, and the ball, and the
explosion; so the graceful repose of the line, as it silently
serpentines about the oarsmen before being brought into actual play --
this is a thing which carries more of true terror than any other
aspect of this dangerous affair. But why say more? All men live
enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their
necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death,
that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of
life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat,
you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though
seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by
your side.


If to Starbuck the apparition of the Squid was a thing of portents, to
Queequeg it was quite a different object. When you see him 'quid,
said the savage, honing his harpoon in the bow of his hoisted boat,
then you quick see him 'parm whale. The next day was exceedingly
still and sultry, and with nothing special to engage them, the
Pequod's crew could hardly resist the spell of sleep induced by such a
vacant sea. For this part of the Indian Ocean through which we then
were voyaging is not what whalemen call a lively ground; that is, it
affords fewer glimpses of porpoises, dolphins, flying-fish, and other
vivacious denizens of more stirring waters, than those off the Rio de
la Plata, or the in-shore ground off Peru. It was my turn to stand at
the foremast-head; and with my shoulders leaning against the slackened
royal shrouds, to and fro I idly swayed in what seemed an enchanted
air. No resolution could withstand it; in that dreamy mood losing all
consciousness, at last my soul went out of my body; though my body
still continued to sway as a pendulum will, long after the power which
first moved it is withdrawn. Ere forgetfulness altogether came over
me, I had noticed that the seamen at the main and mizen mast-heads
were already drowsy. So that at last all three of us lifelessly swung
from the spars, and for every swing that we made there was a nod from
below from the slumbering helmsman. The waves, too, nodded their
indolent crests; and across the wide trance of the sea, east nodded to
west, and the sun over all. Suddenly bubbles seemed bursting beneath
my closed eyes; like vices my hands grasped the shrouds; some
invisible, gracious agency preserved me; with a shock I came back to
life. And lo! close under our lee, not forty fathoms off, a gigantic
Sperm Whale lay rolling in the water like the capsized hull of a
frigate, his broad, glossy back, of an Ethiopian hue, glistening in
the sun's rays like a mirror. But lazily undulating in the trough of
the sea, and ever and anon tranquilly spouting his vapory jet, the
whale looked like a portly burgher smoking his pipe of a warm
afternoon. But that pipe, poor whale, was thy last. As if struck by
some enchanter's wand, the sleepy ship and every sleeper in it all at
once started into wakefulness; and more than a score of voices from
all parts of the vessel, simultaneously with the three notes from
aloft, shouted forth the accustomed cry, as the great fish slowly and
regularly spouted the sparkling brine into the air. clear away the
boats! luff! cried Ahab. And obeying his own order, he dashed the
helm down before the helmsman could handle the spokes. The sudden
exclamations of the crew must have alarmed the whale; and ere the
boats were down, majestically turning, he swam away to the leeward,
but with such a steady tranquillity, and making so few ripples as he
swam, that thinking after all he might not as yet be alarmed, Ahab
gave orders that not an oar should be used, and no man must speak but
in whispers. So seated like Ontario Indians on the gunwales of the
boats, we swiftly but silently paddled along; the calm not admitting
of the noiseless sails being set. Presently, as we thus glided in
chase, the monster perpendicularly flitted his tail forty feet into
the air, and then sank out of sight like a tower swallowed up. There
go flukes! was the cry, an announcement immediately followed by
Stubb's producing his match and igniting his pipe, for now a respite
was granted. After the full interval of his sounding had elapsed, the
whale rose again, and being now in advance of the smoker's boat, and
much nearer to it than to any of the others, Stubb counted upon the
honor of the capture. It was obvious, now, that the whale had at
length become aware of his pursuers. All silence of cautiousness was
therefore no longer of use. Paddles were dropped, and oars came
loudly into play. And still puffing at his pipe, Stubb cheered on his
crew to the assault. Yes, a mighty change had come over the fish.
All alive to his jeopardy, he was going head out; that part obliquely
projecting from the mad yeast which he brewed. Start her, start her,
my men! Don't hurry yourselves; take plenty of time --but start her;
start her like thunder-claps, that's all, cried Stubb, spluttering out
the smoke as he spoke. start her, now; give 'em the long and strong
stroke, tashtego. Start her, Tash, my boy --start her, all; but keep
cool, keep cool-- cucumbers is the word --easy, easy --only start her
like grim death and grinning devils, and raise the buried dead
perpendicular out of their graves, boys --that's all. Start her!
Woo-hoo! Wa-hee! screamed the Gay-Header in reply, raising some old
war-whoop to the skies; as every oarsman in the strained boat
involuntarily bounced forward with the one tremendous leading stroke
which the eager Indian gave. But his wild screams were answered by
others quite as wild. Kee-hee! Kee-hee! yelled Daggoo, straining
forwards and backwards on his seat, like a pacing tiger in his cage.
Ka-la! Koo-loo! howled Queequeg, as if smacking his lips over a
mouthful of Grenadier's steak. And thus with oars and yells the keels
cut the sea. Meanwhile, Stubb retaining his place in the van, still
encouraged his men to the onset, all the while puffing the smoke from
his mouth. Like desperadoes they tugged and they strained, till the
welcome cry was heard -- Stand up, Tashtego! --give it to him! The
harpoon was hurled. Stern all! The oarsmen backed water; the same
moment something went hot and hissing along every one of their wrists.
It was the magical line. An instant before, Stubb had swiftly caught
two additional turns with it round the loggerhead, whence, by reason
of its increased rapid circlings, a hempen blue smoke now jetted up
and mingled with the steady fumes from his pipe. As the line passed
round and round the loggerhead; so also, just before reaching that
point, it blisteringly passed through and through both of Stubb's
hands, from which the hand-cloths, or squares of quilted canvas
sometimes worn at these times, had accidentally dropped. It was like
holding an enemy's sharp two-edged sword by the blade, and that enemy
all the time striving to wrest it out of your clutch. Wet the line!
wet the line! cried stubb to the tub oarsman (him seated by the tub)
who, snatching off his hat, dashed the sea-water into it. More turns
were taken, so that the line began holding its place. The boat now
flew through the boiling water like a shark all fins. Stubb and
Tashtego here changed places -- stem for stern --a staggering business
truly in that rocking commotion. From the vibrating line extending
the entire length of the upper part of the boat, and from its now
being more tight than a harpstring, you would have thought the craft
had two keels -- one cleaving the water, the other the air --as the
boat churned on through both opposing elements at once. A continual
cascade played at the bows; a ceaseless whirling eddy in her wake;
and, at the slightest motion from within, even but of a little finger,
the vibrating, cracking craft canted over her spasmodic gunwale into
the sea. Thus they rushed; each man with might and main clinging to
his seat, to prevent being tossed to the foam; and the tall form of
Tashtego at the steering oar crouching almost double, in order to
bring down his centre of gravity. Whole Atlantics and Pacifics seemed
passed as they shot on their way, till at length the whale somewhat
slackened his flight. Haul in --haul in! cried Stubb to the bowsman!
and, facing round towards the whale, all hands began pulling the boat
up to him, while yet the boat was being towed on. Soon ranging up by
his flank, Stubb, firmly planting his knee in the clumsy cleat, darted
dart after dart into the flying fish; at the word of command, the boat
alternately sterning out of the way of the whale's horrible wallow,
and then ranging up for another fling. The red tide now poured from
all sides of the monster like brooks down a hill. His tormented body
rolled not in brine but in blood, which bubbled and seethed for
furlongs behind in their wake. The slanting sun playing upon this
crimson pond in the sea, sent back its reflection into every face, so
that they all glowed to each other like red men. And all the while,
jet after jet of white smoke was agonizingly shot from the spiracle of
the whale, and vehement puff after puff from the mouth of the excited
headsman; as at every dart, hauling in upon his crooked lance (by the
line attached to it), Stubb straightened it again and again, by a few
rapid blows against the gunwale, then again and again sent it into the
whale. Pull up --pull up! he now cried to the bowsman, as the waning
whale relaxed in his wrath. Pull up! --close to! and the boat ranged
along the fish's flank. When reaching far over the bow, Stubb slowly
churned his long sharp lance into the fish, and kept it there,
carefully churning and churning, as if cautiously seeking to feel
after some gold watch that the whale might have swallowed, and which
he was fearful of breaking ere he could hook it out. But that gold
watch he sought was the innermost life of the fish. And now it is
struck; for, starting from his trance into that unspeakable thing
called his flurry, the monster horribly wallowed in his blood,
over-wrapped himself in impenetrable, mad, boiling spray, so that the
imperilled craft, instantly dropping astern, had much ado blindly to
struggle out from that phrensied twilight into the clear air of the
day. And now abating in his flurry, the whale once more rolled out
into view; surging from side to side; spasmodically dilating and
contracting his spout-hole, with sharp, cracking, agonized
respirations. At last, gush after gush of clotted red gore, as if it
had been the purple lees of red wine, shot into the frighted air; and
falling back again, ran dripping down his motionless flanks into the
sea. His heart had burst! He's dead, Mr. Stubb, said Daggoo. Yes;
both pipes smoked out! and withdrawing his own from his mouth, Stubb
scattered the dead ashes over the water; and, for a moment, stood
thoughtfully eyeing the vast corpse he had made. It will be seen in
some other place of what a very light substance the entire interior of
the sperm whale's enormous head consists. Though apparently the most
massive, it is by far the most buoyant part about him. So that with
ease he elevates it in the air, and invariably does so when going at
his utmost speed. Besides, such is the breadth of the upper part of
the front of his head, and such the tapering cut-water formation of
the lower part, that by obliquely elevating his head, he thereby may
be said to transform himself from a bluff-bowed sluggish galliot into
a sharp-pointed New York pilot-boat. Partly to show the
indispensableness of this act, it may here be stated, that, in the old
Dutch fishery, a mop was used to dash the running line with water; in
many other ships, a wooden piggin, or bailer, is set apart for that
purpose. Your hat, however, is the most convenient.

< Chapter LXII 19 THE DART >

A word concerning an incident in the last chapter. According to the
invariable usage of the fishery, the whale-boat pushes off from the
ship, with the headsman or whale-killer as temporary steersman, and
the harpooneer or whale-fastener pulling the foremost oar, the one
known as the harpooneer-oar. Now it needs a strong, nervous arm to
strike the first iron into the fish; for often, in what is called a
long dart, the heavy implement has to be flung to the distance of
twenty or thirty feet. But however prolonged and exhausting the
chase, the harpooneer is expected to pull his oar meanwhile to the
uttermost; indeed, he is expected to set an example of superhuman
activity to the rest, not only by incredible rowing, but by repeated
loud and intrepid exclamations; and what it is to keep shouting at the
top of one's compass, while all the other muscles are strained and
half started --what that is none know but those who have tried it.
For one, I cannot bawl very heartily and work very recklessly at one
and the same time. In this straining, bawling state, then, with his
back to the fish, all at once the exhausted harpooneer hears the
exciting cry -- Stand up, and give it to him! He now has to drop and
secure his oar, turn round on his centre half way, seize his harpoon
from the crotch, and with what little strength may remain, he essays
to pitch it somehow into the whale. No wonder, taking the whole fleet
of whalemen in a body, that out of fifty fair chances for a dart, not
five are successful; no wonder that so many hapless harpooneers are
madly cursed and disrated; no wonder that some of them actually burst
their blood-vessels in the boat; no wonder that some sperm whalemen
are absent four years with four barrels; no wonder that to many ship
owners, whaling is but a losing concern; for it is the harpooneer that
makes the voyage, and if you take the breath out of his body how can
you expect to find it there when most wanted! Again, if the dart be
successful, then at the second critical instant, that is, when the
whale starts to run, the boat-header and harpooneer likewise start to
running fore and aft, to the imminent jeopardy of themselves and every
one else. It is then they change places; and the headsman, the chief
officer of the little craft, takes his proper station in the bows of
the boat. Now, I care not who maintains the contrary, but all this is
both foolish and unnecessary. The headsman should stay in the bows
from first to last; he should both dart the harpoon and the lance, and
no rowing whatever should be expected of him, except under
circumstances obvious to any fisherman. I know that this would
sometimes involve a slight loss of speed in the chase; but long
experience in various whalemen of more than one nation has convinced
me that in the vast majority of failures in the fishery, it has not by
any means been so much the speed of the whale as the before described
exhaustion of the harpooneer that has caused them. To insure the
greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this world must
start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.

< Chapter LXIII 2 THE CROTCH >

Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs. So, in
productive subjects, grow the chapters. The crotch alluded to on a
previous page deserves independent mention. It is a notched stick of
a peculiar form, some two feet in length, which is perpendicularly
inserted into the starboard gunwale near the bow, for the purpose of
furnishing a rest for the wooden extremity of the harpoon, whose other
naked, barbed end slopingly projects from the prow. Thereby the
weapon is instantly at hand to its hurler, who snatches it up as
readily from its rest as a backwoodsman swings his rifle from the
wall. It is customary to have two harpoons reposing in the crotch,
respectively called the first and second irons. But these two
harpoons, each by its own cord, are both connected with the line; the
object being this: to dart them both, if possible, one instantly after
the other into the same whale; so that if, in the coming drag, one
should draw out, the other may still retain a hold. It is a doubling
of the chances. But it very often happens that owing to the
instantaneous, violent, convulsive running of the whale upon receiving
the first iron, it becomes impossible for the harpooneer, however
lightning-like in his movements, to pitch the second iron into
him. Nevertheless, as the second iron is already connected with the
line, and the line is running, hence that weapon must, at all events,
be anticipatingly tossed out of the boat, somehow and somewhere; else
the most terrible jeopardy would involve all hands. Tumbled into the
water, it accordingly is in such cases; the spare coils of box line
(mentioned in a preceding chapter) making this feat, in most
instances, prudently practicable. But this critical act is not always
unattended with the saddest and most fatal casualties. Furthermore:
you must know that when the second iron is thrown overboard, it
thenceforth becomes a dangling, sharp-edged terror, skittishly
curvetting about both boat and whale, entangling the lines, or cutting
them, and making a prodigious sensation in all directions. Nor, in
general, is it possible to secure it again until the whale is fairly
captured and a corpse. Consider, now, how it must be in the case of
four boats all engaging one unusually strong, active, and knowing
whale; when owing to these qualities in him, as well as to the
thousand concurring accidents of such an audacious enterprise, eight
or ten loose second irons may be simultaneously dangling about
him. For, of course, each boat is supplied with several harpoons to
bend on to the line should the first one be ineffectually darted
without recovery. All these particulars are faithfully narrated here,
as they will not fail to elucidate several most important, however
intricate passages, in scenes hereafter to be painted.

< Chapter LXIV 16 STUBB'S SUPPER >

Stubb's whale had been killed some distance from the ship. It was a
calm; so, forming a tandem of three boats, we commenced the slow
business of towing the trophy to the Pequod. And now, as we eighteen
men with our thirty-six arms, and one hundred and eighty thumbs and
fingers, slowly toiled hour after hour upon that inert, sluggish
corpse in the sea; and it seemed hardly to budge at all, except at
long intervals; good evidence was hereby furnished of the enormousness
of the mass we moved. For, upon the great canal of Hang-Ho, or
whatever they call it, in China, four or five laborers on the
foot-path will draw a bulky freighted junk at the rate of a mile an
hour; but this grand argosy we towed heavily forged along, as if laden
with pig-lead in bulk. Darkness came on; but three lights up and down
in the Pequod's main-rigging dimly guided our way; till drawing nearer
we saw Ahab dropping one of several more lanterns over the bulwarks.
Vacantly eyeing the heaving whale for a moment, he issued the usual
orders for securing it for the night, and then handing his lantern to
a seaman, went his way into the cabin, and did not come forward again
until morning. Though, in overseeing the pursuit of this whale,
Captain Ahab had evinced his customary activity, to call it so; yet
now that the creature was dead, some vague dissatisfaction, or
impatience, or despair, seemed working in him; as if the sight of that
dead body reminded him that Moby Dick was yet to be slain; and though
a thousand other whales were brought to his ship, all that would not
one jot advance his grand, monomaniac object. Very soon you would have
thought from the sound on the Pequod's decks, that all hands were
preparing to cast anchor in the deep; for heavy chains are being
dragged along the deck, and thrust rattling out of the port-holes.
But by those clanking links, the vast corpse itself, not the ship, is
to be moored. Tied by the head to the stern, and by the tail to the
bows, the whale now lies with its black hull close to the vessel's,
and seen through the darkness of the night, which obscured the spars
and rigging aloft, the two --ship and whale, seemed yoked together
like colossal bullocks, whereof one reclines while the other remains
standing. If moody Ahab was now all quiescence, at least so far as
could be known on deck, Stubb, his second mate, flushed with conquest,
betrayed an unusual but still good-natured excitement. Such an
unwonted bustle was he in that the staid Starbuck, his official
superior, quietly resigned to him for the time the sole management of
affairs. One small, helping cause of all this liveliness in Stubb,
was soon made strangely manifest. Stubb was a high liver; he was
somewhat intemperately fond of the whale as a flavorish thing to his
palate. A steak, a steak, ere I sleep! You, Daggoo! overboard you
go, and cut me one from his small! Here be it known, that though
these wild fishermen do not, as a general thing, and according to the
great military maxim, make the enemy defray the current expenses of
the war (at least before realizing the proceeds of the voyage), yet
now and then you find some of these Nantucketers who have a genuine
relish for that particular part of the Sperm Whale designated by
Stubb; comprising the tapering extremity of the body. About midnight
that steak was cut and cooked; and lighted by two lanterns of sperm
oil, Stubb stoutly stood up to his spermaceti supper at the
capstan-head, as if that capstan were a sideboard. Nor was Stubb the
only banqueter on whale's flesh that night. Mingling their mumblings
with his own mastications, thousands on thousands of sharks, swarming
round the dead leviathan, smackingly feasted on its fatness. The few
sleepers below in their bunks were often startled by the sharp
slapping of their tails against the hull, within a few inches of the
sleepers' hearts. Peering over the side you could just see them (as
before you heard them) wallowing in the sullen, black waters, and
turning over on their backs as they scooped out huge globular pieces
of the whale of the bigness of a human head. This particular feat of
the shark seems all but miraculous. How, at such an apparently
unassailable surface, they contrive to gouge out such symmetrical
mouthfuls, remains a part of the universal problem of all things. The
mark they thus leave on the whale, may best be likened to the hollow
made by a carpenter in countersinking for a screw. Though amid all
the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks will be seen
longingly gazing up to the ship's decks, like hungry dogs round a
table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every killed
man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant butchers
over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other's live meat
with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks, also, with
their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away under the
table at the dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole affair
upside down, it would still be pretty much the same thing, that is to
say, a shocking sharkish business enough for all parties; and though
sharks also are the invariable outriders of all slave ships crossing
the Atlantic, systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in case a
parcel is to be carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently
buried; and though one or two other like instances might be set down,
touching the set terms, places, and occasions, when sharks do most
socially congregate, and most hilariously feast; yet is there no
conceivable time or occasion when you will find them in such countless
numbers, and in gayer or more jovial spirits, than around a dead sperm
whale, moored by night to a whale-ship at sea. If you have never seen
that sight, then suspend your decision about the propriety of
devil-worship, and the expediency of conciliating the devil. But, as
yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was going on
so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of his own
epicurean lips. Cook, cook! --where's that old Fleece? he cried at
length, widening his legs still further, as if to form a more secure
base for his supper; and, at the same time darting his fork into the
dish, as if stabbing with his lance; cook, you cook! --sail this way,
cook! the old black, not in any very high glee at having been
previously routed from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable hour,
came shambling along from his galley, for, like many old blacks, there
was something the matter with his knee-pans, which he did not keep
well scoured like his other pans; this old Fleece, as they called him,
came shuffling and limping along, assisting his step with his tongs,
which, after a clumsy fashion, were made of straightened iron hoops;
this old Ebony floundered along, and in obedience to the word of
command, came to a dead stop on the opposite side of Stubb's
sideboard; when, with both hands folded before him, and resting on his
two-legged cane, he bowed his arched back still further over, at the
same time sideways inclining his head, so as to bring his best ear
into play. Cook, said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel
to his mouth, don't you think this steak is rather overdone? You've
been beating this steak too much, cook; it's too tender. Don't I
always say that to be good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are
those sharks now over the side, don't you see they prefer it tough and
rare? What a shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to 'em;
tell 'em they are welcome to help themselves civilly, and in
moderation, but they must keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own
voice. Away, cook, and deliver my message. Here, take this lantern,
snatching one from his sideboard; now then, go and preach to 'em!
Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck
to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low over
the sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other
hand he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side
in a mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly
crawling behind, overheard all that was said.

Fellow-critters: I'se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam
noise dare. you hear? stop dat dam smackin' ob de lip! massa Stubb
say dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor!
you must stop dat dam racket! Cook, here interposed Stubb,
accompanying the word with a sudden slap on the shoulder, -- Cook!
why, damn your eyes, you mustn't swear that way when you're
preaching. That's no way to convert sinners, Cook.

Who dat? Den preach to him yourself, sullenly turning to go. No,
Cook; go on, go on. Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters: -- Right!
exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, coax 'em to it; try that, and Fleece
continued. Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I
zay to you, fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness --'top dat dam
slappin' ob de tail! How you tink to hear, 'spose you keep up such a
dam slappin' and bitin' dare? Cook, cried Stubb, collaring him, I
wont have that swearing.

Talk to 'em gentlemanly. Once more the sermon proceeded. Your
woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don't blame ye so much for; dat is
natur, and can't be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de
pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why
den you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well
goberned. Now, look here, bred'ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a
helping yourselbs from dat whale. Don't be tearin' de blubber out
your neighbour's mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to
dat whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat
whale belong to some one else. I know some o' you has berry brig
mout, brigger dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small
bellies; so dat de brigness ob de mout is not to swallar wid, but to
bite off de blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get into de
scrouge to help demselves. Well done, old Fleece! cried Stubb,
that's Christianity; go on. No use goin' on; de dam willains will
keep a scrougin' and slappin' each oder, Massa Stubb; dey don't hear
one word; no use a-preachin' to such dam g'uttons as you call 'em,
till dare bellies is full, and dare bellies is bottomless; and when
dey do get em full, dey wont hear you den; for den dey sink in de sea,
go fast to sleep on de coral, and can't hear not'ing at all, no more,
for eber and eber. Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so
give the benediction, Fleece, and I'll away to my supper. Upon this,
Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his shrill
voice, and cried -- Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row
as ever you can; fill your dam' bellies 'till dey bust --and den die.

Now, cook, said Stubb, resuming his supper at the capstan; Stand just
where you stood before, there, over against me, and pay particular

All dention, said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in the
desired position. Well, said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile;
I shall now go back to the subject of this steak. In the first place,
how old are you, cook? What dat do wid de 'teak, said the old black,

Silence! How old are you, cook? 'Bout ninety, dey say, he gloomily
muttered. And have you lived in this world hard upon one hundred
years, cook, and don't know yet how to cook a whale-steak? rapidly
bolting another mouthful at the last word, so that that morsel seemed
a continuation of the question. Where were you born, cook? 'Hind de
hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin' ober de Roanoke. Born in a ferry-boat!
That's queer, too. But I want to know what country you were born in,
cook? Didn't I say de Roanoke country? he cried, sharply. No, you
didn't, cook; but I'll tell you what I'm coming to, cook. You must go
home and be born over again; you don't know how to cook a whale-steak
yet. Bress my soul, if I cook noder one, he growled, angrily, turning
round to depart. Come back, cook; --here, hand me those tongs; --now
take that bit of steak there, and tell me if you think that steak
cooked as it should be? Take it, I say --holding the tongs towards
him -- take it, and taste it. Faintly smacking his withered lips over
it for a moment, the old negro muttered, Best cooked 'teak I eber
taste; joosy, berry joosy. Cook, said Stubb, squaring himself once
more; do you belong to the church? Passed one once in Cape-Down, said
the old man sullenly. And you have once in your life passed a holy
church in Cape-Town, where you doubtless overheard a holy parson
addressing his hearers as his beloved fellow-creatures, have you,
cook! And yet you come here, and tell me such a dreadful lie as you
did just now, eh? said Stubb. Where do you expect to go to, cook?

Go to bed berry soon, he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke. Avast!
heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It's an awful question. Now
what's your answer? When dis old brack man dies, said the negro
slowly, changing his whole air and demeanor, he hisself won't go
nowhere; but some bressed angel will come and fetch him. Fetch him?
How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And fetch him
where? Up dere, said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his
head, and keeping it there very solemnly. So, then, you expect to go
up into our main-top, do you, cook, when you are dead? But don't you
know the higher you climb, the colder it gets? Main-top, eh?

Didn't say dat t'all, said Fleece, again in the sulks. You said up
there, didn't you, and now look yourself, and see where your tongs are
pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven by crawling
through the lubber's hole, cook; but no, no, cook, you don't get
there, except you go the regular way, round by the rigging. It's a
ticklish business, but must be done, or else it's no go. But none of
us are in heaven yet. Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my orders. Do
ye hear? Hold your hat in one hand, and clap t'other a'top of your
heart, when I'm giving my orders, cook. What! that your heart,
there? --that's your gizzard! Aloft! aloft! --that's it --now you
have it. Hold it there now, and pay attention. All 'dention, said
the old black, with both hands placed as desired, vainly wriggling his
grizzled head, as if to get both ears in front at one and the same

Well then, cook; you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad,
that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that,
don't you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak
for my private table here, the capstan, I'll tell you what to do so as
not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a
live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it; d'ye hear? And
now to-morrow, cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure you
stand by to get the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle. As for
the ends of the flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now ye may go.
But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.
Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch.
D'ye hear? away you sail, then. --Halloa! stop! make a bow before
you go. --Avast heaving again.

Whale-balls for breakfast --don't forget. Wish, by gor! whale eat
him, 'stead of him eat whale. I'm bressed if he ain't more of shark
dan Massa Shark hisself, muttered the old man, limping away; with
which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock. A little item may as
well be related here. The strongest and most reliable hold which the
ship has upon the whale when moored alongside, is by the flukes or
tail; and as from its greater density that part is relatively heavier
than any other (excepting the side-fins), its flexibility even in
death, causes it to sink low beneath the surface; so that with the
hand you cannot get at it from the boat, in order to put the chain
round it. But this difficulty is ingeniously overcome: a small,
strong line is prepared with a wooden float at its outer end, and a
weight in its middle, while the other end is secured to the ship. By
adroit management the wooden float is to rise on the other side of the
mass, so that now having girdled the made whale, the chain is readily
made to follow suit; and being slipped along the body, is at last
locked fast round the smallest part of the tail, at the point of
junction with its broad flukes or lobes.

< Chapter LXV 12 THE WHALE AS A DISH >

That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp,
and, like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seems
so outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into the history
and philosophy of it. It is upon record, that three centuries ago the
tongue of the Right Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and
commanded large prices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth's time, a
certain cook of the court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an
admirable sauce to be eaten with barbacued porpoises, which, you
remember, are a species of whale. Porpoises, indeed, are to this day
considered fine eating. The meat is made into balls about the size of
billiard balls, and being well seasoned and spiced might be taken for
turtle-balls or veal balls.

The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of them. They had a great
porpoise grant from the crown. The fact is, that among his hunters at
least, the whale would by all hands be considered a noble dish, were
there not so much of him; but when you come to sit down before a
meat-pie nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite.
Only the most unprejudiced of men like Stubb, nowadays partake of
cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious. We all know
how they live upon whales, and have rare old vintages of prime old
train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors, recommends
strips of blubber for infants, as being exceedingly juicy and
nourishing. And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago
were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel --that these
men actually lived for several months on the mouldy scraps of whales
which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the
Dutch whalemen these scraps are called fritters; which, indeed, they
greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something like
old Amsterdam housewives' dough-nuts or oly-cooks, when fresh.

They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can
hardly keep his hands off. But what further depreciates the whale as
a civilized dish, is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox
of the sea, too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which
would be as fine eating as the buffalo's (which is esteemed a rare
dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti
itself, how bland and creamy that is; like the transparent,
half-jellied, white meat of a cocoanut in the third month of its
growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for
butter. Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into
some other substance, and then partaking of it. In the long try
watches of the night it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their
ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there
awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made. In the case of a small
Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine dish. The casket of the
skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump, whitish lobes
being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings), they are
then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess, in
flavor somewhat resembling calves' head, which is quite a dish among
some epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among the
epicures, by continually dining upon calves' brains, by and by get to
have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a calf's
head from their own heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon
discrimination. And that is the reason why a young buck with an
intelligent looking calf's head before him, is somehow one of the
saddest sights you can see. The head looks a sort of reproachfully at
him, with an Et tu Brute! expression. It is not, perhaps, entirely
because the whale is so excessively unctuous that landsmen seem to
regard the eating of him with abhorrence; that appears to result, in
some way, from the consideration before mentioned: i. e. that a man
should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its
own light. But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was
regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on
his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly
deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday
night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of
dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the
cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it
will be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean
missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more
tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment,
than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese
to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy
pate-de-foie-gras. But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light,
does he? and that is adding insult to injury, is it? Look at your
knife-handle, there, my civilized and enlightened gourmand dining off
that roast beef, what is that handle made of? --what but the bones of
the brother of the very ox you are eating? And what do you pick your
teeth with, after devouring that fat goose? With a feather of the
same fowl. And with what quill did the Secretary of the Society for
the Suppression of Cruelty to Ganders formally indite his circulars?
It is only within the last month or two that that society passed a
resolution to patronize nothing but steel pens.


When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale, after long and
weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not, as a
general thing at least, customary to proceed at once to the business
of cutting him in. For that business is an exceedingly laborious one;
is not very soon completed; and requires all hands to set about
it. Therefore, the common usage is to take in all sail; lash the helm
a'lee; and then send every one below to his hammock till daylight,
with the reservation that, until that time, anchor-watches shall be
kept; that is, two and two for an hour, each couple, the crew in
rotation shall mount the deck to see that all goes well. But
sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific, this plan will not
answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of sharks gather round
the moored carcase, that were he left so for six hours, say, on a
stretch, little more than the skeleton would be visible by morning. In
most other parts of the ocean, however, where these fish do not so
largely abound, their wondrous voracity can be at times considerably
diminished, by vigorously stirring them up with sharp whaling-spades,
a procedure notwithstanding, which, in some instances, only seems to
tickle them into still greater activity. But it was not thus in the
present case with the Pequod's sharks; though, to be sure, any man
unaccustomed to such sights, to have looked over her side that night,
would have almost thought the whole round sea was one huge cheese, and
those sharks the maggots in it. nevertheless, upon stubb setting the
anchor-watch after his supper was concluded; and when, accordingly,
Queequeg and a forecastle seaman came on deck, no small excitement was
created among the sharks; for immediately suspending the cutting
stages over the side, and lowering three lanterns, so that they cast
long gleams of light over the turbid sea, these two mariners, darting
their long whaling-spades, kept up an incessant murdering of the
sharks, by striking the keen steel deep into their skulls, seemingly
their only vital part. But in the foamy confusion of their mixed and
struggling hosts, the marksmen could not always hit their mark; and
this brought about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of the
foe. They viciously snapped, not only at each other's
disembowelments, but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit their
own; till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by the
same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was this
all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these
creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk
in their very joints and bones, after what might be called the
individual life had departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake
of his skin, one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg's hand off,
when he tried to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw. Queequeg
no care what god made him shark, said the savage, agonizingly lifting
his hand up and down; wedder Fejee god or Nantucket god; but de god
wat made shark must be one dam Ingin. The whaling-spade used for
cutting-in is made of the very best steel; is about the bigness of a
man's spread hand; and in general shape, corresponds to the garden
implement after which it is named; only its sides are perfectly flat,
and its upper end considerably narrower than the lower. This weapon
is always kept as sharp as possible; and when being used is
occasionally honed, just like a razor. In its socket, a stiff pole,
from twenty to thirty feet long, is inserted for a handle.

< Chapter LXVII 23 CUTTING IN >

It was a Saturday night, and such a Sabbath as followed! Ex officio
professors of Sabbath breaking are all whalemen. The ivory Pequod was
turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher. You would
have thought we were offering up ten thousand red oxen to the sea
gods. In the first place, the enormous cutting tackles, among other
ponderous things comprising a cluster of blocks generally painted
green, and which no single man can possibly lift --this vast bunch of
grapes was swayed up to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lower
mast-head, the strongest point anywhere above a ship's deck. The end
of the hawser-like rope winding through these intricacies, was then
conducted to the windlass, and the huge lower block of the tackles was
swung over the whale; to this block the great blubber hook, weighing
some one hundred pounds, was attached. And now suspended in stages
over the side, Starbuck and Stubb, the mates, armed with their long
spades, began cutting a hole in the body for the insertion of the hook
just above the nearest of the two side-fins. This done, a broad,
semicircular line is cut round the hole, the hook is inserted, and the
main body of the crew striking up a wild chorus, now commence heaving
in one dense crowd at the windlass. When instantly, the entire ship
careens over on her side; every bolt in her starts like the nail-heads
of an old house in frosty weather; she trembles, quivers, and nods her
frighted mast-heads to the sky. More and more she leans over to the
whale, while every gasping heave of the windlass is answered by a
helping heave from the billows; till at last, a swift, startling snap
is heard; with a great swash the ship rolls upwards and backwards from
the whale, and the triumphant tackle rises into sight dragging after
it the disengaged semicircular end of the first strip of blubber. Now
as the blubber envelopes the whale precisely as the rind does an
orange, so is it stripped off from the body precisely as an orange is
sometimes stripped by spiralizing it. For the strain constantly kept
up by the windlass continually keeps the whale rolling over and over
in the water, and as the blubber in one strip uniformly peels off
along the line called the scarf, simultaneously cut by the spades of
Starbuck and Stubb, the mates; and just as fast as it is thus peeled
off, and indeed by that very act itself, it is all the time being
hoisted higher and higher aloft till its upper end grazes the
main-top; the men at the windlass then cease heaving, and for a moment
or two the prodigious blood-dripping mass sways to and fro as if let
down from the sky, and every one present must take good heed to dodge
it when it swings, else it may box his ears and pitch him headlong
overboard. One of the attending harpooneers now advances with a long,
keen weapon called a boarding-sword, and watching his chance he
dexterously slices out a considerable hole in the lower part of the
swaying mass. Into this hole, the end of the second alternating great
tackle is then hooked so as to retain a hold upon the blubber, in
order to prepare for what follows. Whereupon, this accomplished
swordsman, warning all hands to stand off, once more makes a
scientific dash at the mass, and with a few sidelong, desperate,
lunging slicings, severs it completely in twain; so that while the
short lower part is still fast, the long upper strip, called a
blanket-piece, swings clear, and is all ready for lowering. The
heavers forward now resume their song, and while the one tackle is
peeling and hoisting a second strip from the whale, the other is
slowly slackened away, and down goes the first strip through the main
hatchway right beneath, into an unfurnished parlor called the
blubber-room. Into this twilight apartment sundry nimble hands keep
coiling away the long blanket-piece as if it were a great live mass of
plaited serpents. And thus the work proceeds; the two tackles
hoisting and lowering simultaneously; both whale and windlass heaving,
the heavers singing, the blubber-room gentlemen coiling, the mates
scarfing, the ship straining, and all hands swearing occasionally, by
way of assuaging the general friction.


I have given no small attention to that not unvexed subject, the skin
of the whale. I have had controversies about it with experienced
whalemen afloat, and learned naturalists ashore. My original opinion
remains unchanged; but it is only an opinion. The question is, what
and where is the skin of the whale? Already you know what his blubber
is. That blubber is something of the consistence of firm,
close-grained beef, but tougher, more elastic and compact, and ranges
from eight or ten to twelve and fifteen inches in thickness. Now,
however preposterous it may at first seem to talk of any creature's
skin as being of that sort of consistence and thickness, yet in point
of fact these are no arguments against such a presumption; because you
cannot raise any other dense enveloping layer from the whale's body
but that same blubber; and the outermost enveloping layer of any
animal, if reasonably dense, what can that be but the skin? True,
from the unmarred dead body of the whale, you may scrape off with your
hand an infinitely thin, transparent substance, somewhat resembling
the thinnest shreds of isinglass, only it is almost as flexible and
soft as satin; that is, previous to being dried, when it not only
contracts and thickens, but becomes rather hard and brittle. I have
several such dried bits, which I use for marks in my whale-books. It
is transparent, as I said before; and being laid upon the printed
page, I have sometimes pleased myself with fancying it exerted a
magnifying influence. At any rate, it is pleasant to read about
whales through their own spectacles, as you may say. But what I am
driving at here is this. That same infinitely thin, isinglass
substance, which, I admit, invests the entire body of the whale, is
not so much to be regarded as the skin of the creature, as the skin of
the skin, so to speak; for it were simply ridiculous to say, that the
proper skin of the tremendous whale is thinner and more tender than
the skin of a new-born child. But no more of this. Assuming the
blubber to be the skin of the whale; then, when this skin, as in the
case of a very large Sperm Whale, will yield the bulk of one hundred
barrels of oil; and, when it is considered that, in quantity, or
rather weight, that oil, in its expressed state, is only three
fourths, and not the entire substance of the coat; some idea may hence
be had of the enormousness of that animated mass, a mere part of whose
mere integument yields such a lake of liquid as that. Reckoning ten
barrels to the ton, you have ten tons for the net weight of only three
quarters of the stuff of the whale's skin. In life, the visible
surface of the Sperm Whale is not the least among the many marvels he
presents. Almost invariably it is all over obliquely crossed and
re-crossed with numberless straight marks in thick array, something
like those in the finest Italian line engravings. But these marks do
not seem to be impressed upon the isinglass substance above mentioned,
but seem to be seen through it, as if they were engraved upon the body
itself. Nor is this all. In some instances, to the quick, observant
eye, those linear marks, as in a veritable engraving, but afford the
ground for far other delineations. These are hieroglyphical; that is,
if you call those mysterious cyphers on the walls of pyramids
hieroglyphics, then that is the proper word to use in the present
connexion. By my retentive memory of the hieroglyphics upon one Sperm
Whale in particular, I was much struck with a plate representing the
old Indian characters chiselled on the famous hieroglyphic palisades
on the banks of the Upper Mississippi. Like those mystic rocks, too,
the mystic-marked whale remains undecipherable. This allusion to the
Indian rocks reminds me of another thing. Besides all the other
phenomena which the exterior of the Sperm Whale presents, he not
seldom displays the back, and more especially his flanks, effaced in
great part of the regular linear appearance, by reason of numerous
rude scratches, altogether of an irregular, random aspect. I should
say that those New England rocks on the sea-coast, which Agassiz
imagines to bear the marks of violent scraping contact with vast
floating icebergs --I should say, that those rocks must not a little
resemble the Sperm Whale in this particular. It also seems to me that
such scratches in the whale are probably made by hostile contact with
other whales; for I have most remarked them in the large, full-grown
bulls of the species. A word or two more concerning this matter of
the skin or blubber of the whale. It has already been said, that it
is stript from him in long pieces, called blanket-pieces. Like most
sea-terms, this one is very happy and significant. For the whale is
indeed wrapt up in his blubber as in a real blanket or counterpane;
or, still better, an Indian poncho slipt over his head, and skirting
his extremity. It is by reason of this cosy blanketing of his body,
that the whale is enabled to keep himself comfortable in all weathers,
in all seas, times, and tides. What would become of a Greenland
whale, say, in those shuddering, icy seas of the north, if unsupplied
with his cosy surtout? True, other fish are found exceedingly brisk
in those Hyperborean waters; but these, be it observed, are your
cold-blooded, lungless fish, whose very bellies are refrigerators;
creatures, that warm themselves under the lee of an iceberg, as a
traveller in winter would bask before an inn fire; whereas, like man,
the whale has lungs and warm blood. Freeze his blood, and he
dies. How wonderful is it then --except after explanation --that this
great monster, to whom corporeal warmth is as indispensable as it is
to man; how wonderful that he should be found at home, immersed to his
lips for life in those Arctic waters! where, when seamen fall
overboard, they are sometimes found, months afterwards,
perpendicularly frozen into the hearts of fields of ice, as a fly is
found glued in amber. But more surprising is it to know, as has been
proved by experiment, that the blood of a Polar whale is warmer than
that of a Borneo negro in summer. It does seem to me, that herein we
see the rare virtue of a strong individual vitality, and the rare
virtue of thick walls, and the rare virtue of interior spaciousness.
Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too,
remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being
of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole.
Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and like the great whale, retain,
O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own. But how easy and
how hopeless to teach these fine things! Of erections, how few are
domed like St. Peter's! of creatures, how few vast as the whale!

< Chapter LXIX 2 THE FUNERAL >

Haul in the chains! Let the carcase go astern! The vast tackles have
now done their duty. The peeled white body of the beheaded whale
flashes like a marble sepulchre; though changed in hue, it has not
perceptibly lost anything in bulk. it is still colossal. slowly it
floats more and more away, the water round it torn and splashed by the
insatiate sharks, and the air above vexed with rapacious flights of
screaming fowls, whose beaks are like so many insulting poniards in
the whale. The vast white headless phantom floats further and further
from the ship, and every rod that it so floats, what seem square roods
of sharks and cubic roods of fowls, augment the murderous din. For
hours and hours from the almost stationary ship that hideous sight is
seen. Beneath the unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair face of
the pleasant sea, wafted by the joyous breezes, that great mass of
death floats on and on, till lost in infinite perspectives. There's a
most doleful and most mocking funeral! The sea-vultures all in pious
mourning, the air-sharks all punctiliously in black or speckled. In
life but few of them would have helped the whale, I ween, if
peradventure he had needed it; but upon the banquet of his funeral
they most piously do pounce. Oh, horrible vultureism of earth! from
which not the mightiest whale is free. Nor is this the
end. Desecrated as the body is, a vengeful ghost survives and hovers
over it to scare. Espied by some timid man-of-war or blundering
discovery-vessel from afar, when the distance obscuring the swarming
fowls, nevertheless still shows the white mass floating in the sun,
and the white spray heaving high against it; straightway the whale's
unharming corpse, with trembling fingers is set down in the log --
shoals, rocks, and breakers hereabouts: beware! And for years
afterwards, perhaps, ships shun the place; leaping over it as silly
sheep leap over a vacuum, because their leader originally leaped there
when a stick was held. There's your law of precedents; there's your
utility of traditions; there's the story of your obstinate survival of
old beliefs never bottomed on the earth, and now not even hovering in
the air! There's orthodoxy! Thus, while in life the great whale's
body may have been a real terror to his foes, in his death his ghost
becomes a powerless panic to a world. Are you a believer in ghosts,
my friend? There are other ghosts than the Cock-Lane one, and far
deeper men than Doctor Johnson who believe in them.

< Chapter LXX 14 THE SPHYNX >

It should not have been omitted that previous to completely stripping
the body of the leviathan, he was beheaded. Now, the beheading of the
Sperm Whale is a scientific anatomical feat, upon which experienced
whale surgeons very much pride themselves; and not without reason.
Consider that the whale has nothing that can properly be called a
neck; on the contrary, where his head and body seem to join, there, in
that very place, is the thickest part of him. Remember, also, that the
surgeon must operate from above, some eight or ten feet intervening
between him and his subject, and that subject almost hidden in a
discolored, rolling, and oftentimes tumultuous and bursting sea. Bear
in mind, too, that under these untoward circumstances he has to cut
many feet deep in the flesh; and in that subterraneous manner, without
so much as getting one single peep into the ever-contracting gash thus
made, he must skilfully steer clear of all adjacent, interdicted
parts, and exactly divide the spine at a critical point hard by its
insertion into the skull. Do you not marvel, then, at Stubb's boast,
that he demanded but ten minutes to behead a sperm whale? When first
severed, the head is dropped astern and held there by a cable till the
body is stripped. That done, if it belong to a small whale it is
hoisted on deck to be deliberately disposed of. But, with a full
grown leviathan this is impossible; for the sperm whale's head
embraces nearly one third of his entire bulk, and completely to
suspend such a burden as that, even by the immense tackles of a
whaler, this were as vain a thing as to attempt weighing a Dutch barn
in jewellers' scales The Pequod's whale being decapitated and the body
stripped, the head was hoisted against the ship's side --about half
way out of the sea, so that it might yet in great part be buoyed up by
its native element. And there with the strained craft steeply leaning
over to it, by reason of the enormous downward drag from the lower
mast-head, and every yard-arm on that side projecting like a crane
over the waves; there, that blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod's
waist like the giant Holofernes's from the girdle of Judith. When
this last task was accomplished it was noon, and the seamen went below
to their dinner. Silence reigned over the before tumultuous but now
deserted deck. An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus,
was more and more unfolding its noiseless measureless leaves upon the
sea. A short space elapsed, and up into this noiselessness came Ahab
alone from his cabin. Taking a few turns on the quarter-deck, he
paused to gaze over the side, then slowly getting into the main-chains
he took Stubb's long spade --still remaining there after the whale's
decapitation --and striking it into the lower part of the
half-suspended mass, placed its other end crutch-wise under one arm,
and so stood leaning over with eyes attentively fixed on this head.
It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst of so
intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx's in the desert. Speak, thou
vast and venerable head, muttered Ahab, which, though ungarnished with
a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty
head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers,
thou hast dived the deepest. that head upon which the upper sun now
gleams, has moved amid this world's foundations. Where unrecorded
names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her
murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions
of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most
familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast
slept by many a sailor's side, where sleepless mothers would give
their lives to lay them down. Thou saw'st the locked lovers when
leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the
exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them.
Thou saw'st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight
deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw;
and his murderers still sailed on unharmed --while swift lightnings
shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous
husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough
to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one
syllable is thine! Sail ho! cried a triumphant voice from the
main-masthead. Aye? Well, now, that's cheering, cried Ahab, suddenly
erecting himself, while whole thunder-clouds swept aside from his

That lively cry upon this deadly calm might almost convert a better
man. --Where away? Three points on the starboard bow, sir, and
bringing down her breeze to us! Better and better, man. Would now
St. Paul would come along that way, and to my breezelessness bring
his breeze! O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all
utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest atom stirs or
lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.


Hand in hand, ship and breeze blew on; but the breeze came faster than
the ship, and soon the Pequod began to rock. By and by, through the
glass the stranger's boats and manned mast-heads proved her a
whale-ship. but as she was so far to windward, and shooting by,
apparently making a passage to some other ground, the Pequod could not
hope to reach her. So the signal was set to see what response would
be made. Here be it said, that like the vessels of military marines,
the ships of the American Whale Fleet have each a private signal; all
which signals being collected in a book with the names of the
respective vessels attached, every captain is provided with
it. Thereby, the whale commanders are enabled to recognise each other
upon the ocean, even at considerable distances, and with no small
facility. The Pequod's signal was at last responded to by the
stranger's setting her own; which proved the ship to be the Jeroboam
of Nantucket. Squaring her yards, she bore down, ranged abeam under
the Pequod's lee, and lowered a boat; it soon drew nigh; but, as the
side-ladder was being rigged by Starbuck's order to accommodate the
visiting captain, the stranger in question waved his hand from his
boat's stern in token of that proceeding being entirely unnecessary.
It turned out that the Jeroboam had a malignant epidemic on board, and
that Mayhew, her captain, was fearful of infecting the Pequod's
company. For, though himself and boat's crew remained untainted, and
though his ship was half a rifle-shot off, and an incorruptible sea
and air rolling and flowing between; yet conscientiously adhering to
the timid quarantine of the land, he peremptorily refused to come into
direct contact with the Pequod. But this did by no means prevent all
communication. Preserving an interval of some few yards between
itself and the ship, the Jeroboam's boat by the occasional use of its
oars contrived to keep parallel to the Pequod, as she heavily forged
through the sea (for by this time it blew very fresh), with her
main-topsail aback; though, indeed, at times by the sudden onset of a
large rolling wave, the boat would be pushed some way ahead; but would
be soon skilfully brought to her proper bearings again. Subject to
this, and other the like interruptions now and then, a conversation
was sustained between the two parties; but at intervals not without
still another interruption of a very different sort. Pulling an oar
in the Jeroboam's boat, was a man of a singular appearance, even in
that wild whaling life where individual notabilities make up all
totalities. He was a small, short, youngish man, sprinkled all over
his face with freckles, and wearing redundant yellow hair. A
long-skirted, cabalistically-cut coat of a faded walnut tinge
enveloped him; the overlapping sleeves of which were rolled up on his
wrists. A deep, settled, fanatic delirium was in his eyes. So soon
as this figure had been first descried, Stubb had exclaimed -- That's
he! that's he! the long-togged scaramouch the Town-Ho's company told
us of.

Stubb here alluded to a strange story told of the Jeroboam, and a
certain man among her crew, some time previous when the Pequod spoke
the Town-Ho. According to this account and what was subsequently
learned, it seemed that the scaramouch in question had gained a
wonderful ascendency over almost everybody in the Jeroboam. His story
was this: He had been originally nurtured among the crazy society of
Neskyeuna Shakers, where he had been a great prophet; in their
cracked, secret meetings having several times descended from heaven by
the way of a trap-door, announcing the speedy opening of the seventh
vial, which he carried in his vest-pocket; but, which, instead of
containing gunpowder, was supposed to be charged with laudanum. A
strange, apostolic whim having seized him, he had left Neskyeuna for
Nantucket, where, with that cunning peculiar to craziness, he assumed
a steady, common sense exterior and offered himself as a green-hand
candidate for the Jeroboam's whaling voyage. They engaged him; but
straightway upon the ship's getting out of sight of land, his insanity
broke out in a freshet. He announced himself as the archangel
Gabriel, and commanded the captain to jump overboard. He published
his manifesto, whereby he set himself forth as the deliverer of the
isles of the sea and vicar-general of all Oceanica. The unflinching
earnestness with which he declared these things; --the dark, daring
play of his sleepless, excited imagination, and all the preternatural
terrors of real delirium, united to invest this Gabriel in the minds
of the majority of the ignorant crew, with an atmosphere of
sacredness. Moreover, they were afraid of him. As such a man,
however, was not of much practical use in the ship, especially as he
refused to work except when he pleased, the incredulous captain would
fain have been rid of him; but apprised that that individual's
intention was to land him in the first convenient port, the archangel
forthwith opened all his seals and vials -- devoting the ship and all
hands to unconditional perdition, in case this intention was carried
out. So strongly did he work upon his disciples among the crew, that
at last in a body they went to the captain and told him if Gabriel was
sent from the ship, not a man of them would remain. He was therefore
forced to relinquish his plan. Nor would they permit Gabriel to be
any way maltreated, say or do what he would; so that it came to pass
that Gabriel had the complete freedom of the ship. The consequence of
all this was, that the archangel cared little or nothing for the
captain and mates; and since the epidemic had broken out, he carried a
higher hand than ever; declaring that the plague, as he called it, was
at his sole command; nor should it be stayed but according to his good
pleasure. The sailors, mostly poor devils, cringed, and some of them
fawned before him; in obedience to his instructions, sometimes
rendering him personal homage, as to a god. Such things may seem
incredible; but, however wondrous, they are true. Nor is the history
of fanatics half so striking in respect to the measureless
self-deception of the fanatic himself, as his measureless power of
deceiving and bedevilling so many others. But it is time to return to
the Pequod. I fear not thy epidemic, man, said Ahab from the bulwarks
to Captain Mayhew, who stood in the boat's stern; come on board. But
now Gabriel started to his feet. Think, think of the fevers, yellow
and bilious! Beware of the horrible plague! Gabriel, Gabriel! cried
Captain Mayhew; thou must either-- But that instant a headlong wave
shot the boat far ahead, and its seethings drowned all speech. Hast
thou seen the White Whale? demanded Ahab, when the boat drifted back.
Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk! Beware of the
horrible tail! I tell thee again, Gabriel, that-- But again the boat
tore ahead as if dragged by fiends. Nothing was said for some
moments, while a succession of riotous waves rolled by, which by one
of those occasional caprices of the seas were tumbling, not heaving

Meantime, the hoisted sperm whale's head jogged about very violently,
and Gabriel was seen eyeing it with rather more apprehensiveness than
his archangel nature seemed to warrant. When this interlude was over,
Captain Mayhew began a dark story concerning Moby Dick; not, however,
without frequent interruptions from Gabriel, whenever his name was
mentioned, and the crazy sea that seemed leagued with him. It seemed
that the Jeroboam had not long left home, when upon speaking a
whale-ship, her people were reliably apprised of the existence of Moby
Dick, and the havoc he had made. Greedily sucking in this
intelligence, Gabriel solemnly warned the captain against attacking
the white whale, in case the monster should be seen; in his gibbering
insanity, pronouncing the White Whale to be no less a being than the
Shaker God incarnated; the Shakers receiving the Bible. But when,
some year or two afterwards, Moby Dick was fairly sighted from the
mast-heads, Macey, the chief mate, burned with ardor to encounter him;
and the captain himself being not unwilling to let him have the
opportunity, despite all the archangel's denunciations and
forewarnings, Macey succeeded in persuading five men to man his
boat. With them he pushed off; and, after much weary pulling, and many
perilous, unsuccessful onsets, he at last succeeded in getting one
iron fast. Meantime, Gabriel, ascending to the main-royal mast-head,
was tossing one arm in frantic gestures, and hurling forth prophecies
of speedy doom to the sacrilegious assailants of his divinity. Now,
while Macey, the mate, was standing up in his boat's bow, and with all
the reckless energy of his tribe was venting his wild exclamations
upon the whale, and essaying to get a fair chance for his poised
lance, lo! a broad white shadow rose from the sea; by its quick,
fanning motion, temporarily taking the breath out of the bodies of the
oarsmen. Next instant, the luckless mate, so full of furious life,
was smitten bodily into the air, and making a long arc in his descent,
fell into the sea at the distance of about fifty yards. Not a chip of
the boat was harmed, nor a hair of any oarsman's head; but the mate
for ever sank. It is well to parenthesize here, that of the fatal
accidents in the Sperm-Whale Fishery, this kind is perhaps almost as
frequent as any. Sometimes, nothing is injured but the man who is
thus annihilated; oftener the boat's bow is knocked off, or the
thigh-board, in which the headsman stands, is torn from its place and
accompanies the body. But strangest of all is the circumstance, that
in more instances than one, when the body has been recovered, not a
single mark of violence is discernible; the man being stark dead. The
whole calamity, with the falling form of Macey, was plainly descried
from the ship. Raising a piercing shriek -- The vial! the vial!
Gabriel called off the terror-stricken crew from the further hunting
of the whale. This terrible event clothed the archangel with added
influence; because his credulous disciples believed that he had
specifically fore-announced it, instead of only making a general
prophecy, which any one might have done, and so have chanced to hit
one of many marks in the wide margin allowed. He became a nameless
terror to the ship. Mayhew having concluded his narration, Ahab put
such questions to him, that the stranger captain could not forbear
inquiring whether he intended to hunt the White Whale, if opportunity
should offer. To which Ahab answered -- Aye. Straightway, then,
Gabriel once more started to his feet, glaring upon the old man, and
vehemently exclaimed, with downward pointed finger -- Think, think of
the blasphemer --dead, and down there! --beware of the blasphemer's
end! Ahab stolidly turned aside; then said to Mayhew, Captain, I have
just bethought me of my letter-bag; there is a letter for one of thy
officers, if I mistake not. Starbuck, look over the bag. Every
whale-ship takes out a goodly number of letters for various ships,
whose delivery to the persons to whom they may be addressed, depends
upon the mere chance of encountering them in the four oceans. Thus,
most letters never reach their mark; and many are only received after
attaining an age of two or three years or more. Soon Starbuck returned
with a letter in his hand. It was sorely tumbled, damp, and covered
with a dull, spotted, green mould, in consequence of being kept in a
dark locker of the cabin. Of such a letter, Death himself might well
have been the post-boy. Can'st not read it? cried ahab. give it me,
man. aye, aye it's but a dim scrawl; --what's this? As he was
studying it out, Starbuck took a long cutting-spade pole, and with his
knife slightly split the end, to insert the letter there, and in that
way, hand it to the boat, without its coming any closer to the ship.
Meantime, Ahab holding the letter, muttered, Mr. Har--yes,
Mr. Harry--(a woman's pinny hand, --the man's wife, I'll wager) -- Aye
--Mr. Harry Macey, Ship Jeroboam; --why it's Macey, and he's dead!
Poor fellow! poor fellow! and from his wife, sighed Mayhew; but let
me have it. Nay, keep it thyself, cried Gabriel to Ahab; thou art
soon going that way. Curses throttle thee! yelled Ahab.

Captain Mayhew, stand by now to receive it; and taking the fatal
missive from Starbuck's hands, he caught it in the slit of the pole,
and reached it over towards the boat. But as he did so, the oarsmen
expectantly desisted from rowing; the boat drifted a little towards
the ship's stern; so that, as if by magic, the letter suddenly ranged
along with Gabriel's eager hand. He clutched it in an instant, seized
the boat-knife, and impaling the letter on it, sent it thus loaded
back into the ship. It fell at Ahab's feet. Then Gabriel shrieked
out to his comrades to give way with their oars, and in that manner
the mutinous boat rapidly shot away from the Pequod. As, after this
interlude, the seamen resumed their work upon the jacket of the whale,
many strange things were hinted in reference to this wild affair.


A TALK OVER HIM It must be borne in mind that all this time we have a
Sperm Whale's prodigious head hanging to the Pequod's side. But we
must let it continue hanging there a while till we can get a chance to
attend to it. For the present other matters press, and the best we
can do now for the head, is to pray heaven the tackles may hold. Now,
during the past night and forenoon, the Pequod had gradually drifted
into a sea, which, by its occasional patches of yellow brit, gave
unusual tokens of the vicinity of Right Whales, a species of the
Leviathan that but few supposed to be at this particular time lurking
anywhere near. And though all hands commonly disdained the capture of
those inferior creatures; and though the Pequod was not commissioned
to cruise for them at all, and though she had passed numbers of them
near the Crozetts without lowering a boat; yet now that a Sperm Whale
had been brought alongside and beheaded, to the surprise of all, the
announcement was made that a Right Whale should be captured that day,
if opportunity offered. Nor was this long wanting. Tall spouts were
seen to leeward; and two boats, Stubb's and Flask's, were detached in
pursuit. Pulling further and further away, they at last became almost
invisible to the men at the mast-head. But suddenly in the distance,
they saw a great heap of tumultuous white water, and soon after news
came from aloft that one or both the boats must be fast. An interval
passed and the boats were in plain sight, in the act of being dragged
right towards the ship by the towing whale. So close did the monster
come to the hull, that at first it seemed as if he meant it malice;
but suddenly going down in a maelstrom, within three rods of the
planks, he wholly disappeared from view, as if diving under the keel.
Cut, cut! was the cry from the ship to the boats, which, for one
instant, seemed on the point of being brought with a deadly dash
against the vessel's side. But having plenty of line yet in the tubs,
and the whale not sounding very rapidly, they paid out abundance of
rope, and at the same time pulled with all their might so as to get
ahead of the ship. For a few minutes the struggle was intensely
critical; for while they still slacked out the tightened line in one
direction, and still plied their oars in another, the contending
strain threatened to take them under. But it was only a few feet
advance they sought to gain. And they stuck to it till they did gain
it; when instantly, a swift tremor was felt running like lightning
along the keel, as the strained line, scraping beneath the ship,
suddenly rose to view under her bows, snapping and quivering; and so
flinging off its drippings, that the drops fell like bits of broken
glass on the water, while the whale beyond also rose to sight, and
once more the boats were free to fly. But the fagged whale abated his
speed, and blindly altering his course, went round the stern of the
ship towing the two boats after him, so that they performed a complete
circuit. Meantime, they hauled more and more upon their lines, till
close flanking him on both sides, Stubb answered Flask with lance for
lance; and thus round and round the Pequod the battle went, while the
multitudes of sharks that had before swum round the Sperm Whale's
body, rushed to the fresh blood that was spilled, thirstily drinking
at every new gash, as the eager Israelites did at the new bursting
fountains that poured from the smitten rock. At last his spout grew
thick, and with a frightful roll and vomit, he turned upon his back a
corpse. While the two headsmen were engaged in making fast cords to
his flukes, and in other ways getting the mass in readiness for
towing, some conversation ensued between them. I wonder what the old
man wants with this lump of foul lard, said Stubb, not without some
disgust at the thought of having to do with so ignoble a leviathan.
Wants with it? said Flask, coiling some spare line in the boat's bow,
did you never hear that the ship which but once has a Sperm Whale's
head hoisted on her starboard side, and at the same time a Right
Whale's on the larboard; did you never hear, Stubb, that that ship can
never afterwards capsize? Why not? I don't know, but I heard that
gamboge ghost of a Fedallah saying so, and he seems to know all about
ships' charms. But I sometimes think he'll charm the ship to no good
at last. I don't half like that chap, Stubb. Did you ever notice how
that tusk of his is a sort of carved into a snake's head, Stubb? Sink
him! I never look at him at all; but if ever I get a chance of a dark
night, and he standing hard by the bulwarks, and no one by; look down
there, Flask --pointing into the sea with a peculiar motion of both
hands -- Aye, will I! Flask, I take that Fedallah to be the devil in
disguise. Do you believe that cock and bull story about his having
been stowed away on board ship? He's the devil, I say. The reason
why you don't see his tail, is because he tucks it up out of sight; he
carries it coiled away in his pocket, I guess. Blast him! now that I
think of it, he's always wanting oakum to stuff into the toes of his
boots. He sleeps in his boots, don't he? He hasn't got any hammock;
but I've seen him lay of nights in a coil of rigging. No doubt, and
it's because of his cursed tail; he coils it down, do ye see, in the
eye of the rigging. What's the old man have so much to do with him
for? Striking up a swap or a bargain, I suppose. Bargain? --about
what? Why, do ye see, the old man is hard bent after that White
Whale, and the devil there is trying to come round him, and get him to
swap away his silver watch, or his soul, or something of that sort,
and then he'll surrender Moby Dick. Pooh! Stubb, you are skylarking;
how can Fedallah do that? I don't know, Flask, but the devil is a
curious chap, and a wicked one, I tell ye. Why, they say as how he
went a sauntering into the old flag-ship once, switching his tail
about devilish easy and gentlemanlike, and inquiring if the old
governor was at home. Well, he was at home, and asked the devil what
he wanted. The devil, switching his hoofs, up and says, "I want
John." "What for?" says the old governor, "What business is that of
yours," says the devil, getting mad, --"I want to use him." "Take
him," says the governor --and by the Lord, Flask, if the devil didn't
give John the Asiatic cholera before he got through with him, I'll eat
this whale in one mouthful. But look sharp-- aint you all ready
there? Well, then, pull ahead, and let's get the whale alongside. I
think I remember some such story as you were telling, said Flask, when
at last the two boats were slowly advancing with their burden towards
the ship, but I can't remember where. Three Spaniards? Adventures of
those three bloody-minded soldadoes? Did ye read it there, Flask? I
guess ye did? No; never saw such a book; heard of it, though. But
now, tell me, Stubb, do you suppose that that devil you was speaking
of just now, was the same you say is now on board the Pequod?

Am I the same man that helped kill this whale? Doesn't the devil live
for ever; who ever heard that the devil was dead? Did you ever see
any parson a wearing mourning for the devil? And if the devil has a
latch-key to get into the admiral's cabin, don't you suppose he can
crawl into a port-hole? Tell me that, Mr. Flask? How old do you
suppose Fedallah is, Stubb? Do you see that mainmast there? pointing
to the ship; well, that's the figure one; now take all the hoops in
the Pequod's hold, and string 'em along in a row with that mast, for
oughts, do you see; well, that wouldn't begin to be Fedallah's
age. Nor all the coopers in creation couldn't show hoops enough to
make oughts enough. but see here, stubb, i thought you a little
boasted just now, that you meant to give Fedallah a sea-toss, if you
got a good chance. Now, if he's so old as all those hoops of yours
come to, and if he is going to live for ever, what good will it do to
pitch him overboard --tell me that? Give him a good ducking, anyhow.
But he'd crawl back. Duck him again; and keep ducking him. Suppose
he should take it into his head to duck you, though -- yes, and drown
you --what then? I should like to see him try it; I'd give him such a
pair of black eyes that he wouldn't dare to show his face in the
admiral's cabin again for a long while, let alone down in the orlop
there, where he lives, and hereabouts on the upper decks where he
sneaks so much. Damn the devil, Flask; do you suppose I'm afraid of
the devil? Who's afraid of him, except the old governor who daresn't
catch him and put him in double-darbies, as he deserves, but lets him
go about kidnapping people; aye, and signed a bond with him, that all
the people the devil kidnapped, he'd roast for him? There's a
governor! Do you suppose Fedallah wants to kidnap Captain Ahab? Do I
suppose it? You'll know it before long, Flask. But I am going now to
keep a sharp look-out on him; and if I see anything very suspicious
going on, I'll just take him by the nape of his neck, and say --Look
here, Beelzebub, you don't do it; and if he makes any fuss, by the
Lord I'll make a grab into his pocket for his tail, take it to the
capstan, and give him such a wrenching and heaving, that his tail will
come short off at the stump --do you see; and then, I rather guess
when he finds himself docked in that queer fashion, he'll sneak off
without the poor satisfaction of feeling his tail between his legs.
And what will you do with the tail, Stubb? Do with it? Sell it for
an ox whip when we get home; -- what else? Now, do you mean what you
say, and have been saying all along, stubb? Mean or not mean, here we
are at the ship. The boats were here hailed, to tow the whale on the
larboard side, where fluke chains and other necessaries were already
prepared for securing him. Didn't I tell you so? said Flask; yes,
you'll soon see this right whale's head hoisted up opposite that
parmacetti's. In good time, Flask's saying proved true. As before,
the Pequod steeply leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by
the counterpoise of both heads, she regained her even keel; though
sorely strained, you may well believe. So, when on one side you hoist
in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side,
hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight.
Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw
all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and
right. In disposing of the body of a right whale, when brought
alongside the ship, the same preliminary proceedings commonly take
place as in the case of a sperm whale; only, in the latter instance,
the head is cut off whole, but in the former the lips and tongue are
separately removed and hoisted on deck, with all the well known black
bone attached to what is called the crown-piece. But nothing like
this, in the present case, had been done. The carcases of both whales
had dropped astern; and the head-laden ship not a little resembled a
mule carrying a pair of overburdening panniers. Meantime, Fedallah
was calmly eyeing the right whale's head, and ever and anon glancing
from the deep wrinkles there to the lines in his own hand. And Ahab
chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow; while, if
the Parsee's shadow was there at all it seemed only to blend with, and
lengthen Ahab's. As the crew toiled on, Laplandish speculations were
bandied among them, concerning all these passing things.


Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let us
join them, and lay together our own. Of the grand order of folio
leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale are by far the most
noteworthy. They are the only whales regularly hunted by man. To the
Nantucketer, they present the two extremes of all the known varieties
of the whale. As the external difference between them is mainly
observable in their heads; and as a head of each is this moment
hanging from the Pequod's side; and as we may freely go from one to
the other, by merely stepping across the deck: --where, I should like
to know, will you obtain a better chance to study practical cetology
than here? In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast
between these heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but
there is a certain mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale's which
the Right Whale's sadly lacks. There is more character in the Sperm
Whale's head. As you behold it, you involuntarily yield the immense
superiority to him, in point of pervading dignity. In the present
instance, too, this dignity is heightened by the pepper and salt color
of his head at the summit, giving token of advanced age and large
experience. In short, he is what the fishermen technically call a
grey-headed whale. Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these
heads -- namely, the two most important organs, the eye and the ear.
Far back on the side of the head, and low down, near the angle of
either whale's jaw, if you narrowly search, you will at last see a
lashless eye, which you would fancy to be a young colt's eye; so out
of all proportion is it to the magnitude of the head. Now, from this
peculiar sideway position of the whale's eyes, it is plain that he can
never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more than he can one
exactly astern. in a word, the position of the whale's eyes
corresponds to that of a man's ears; and you may fancy, for yourself,
how it would fare with you, did you sideways survey objects through
your ears. You would find that you could only command some thirty
degrees of vision in advance of the straight side-line of sight; and
about thirty more behind it. If your bitterest foe were walking
straight towards you, with dagger uplifted in broad day, you would not
be able to see him, any more than if he were stealing upon you from
behind. In a word, you would have two backs, so to speak; but, at the
same time, also, two fronts (side fronts): for what is it that makes
the front of a man --what, indeed, but his eyes? Moreover, while in
most other animals that I can now think of, the eyes are so planted as
imperceptibly to blend their visual power, so as to produce one
picture and not two to the brain; the peculiar position of the whale's
eyes, effectually divided as they are by many cubic feet of solid
head, which towers between them like a great mountain separating two
lakes in valleys; this, of course, must wholly separate the
impressions which each independent organ imparts. The whale,
therefore, must see one distinct picture on this side, and another
distinct picture on that side; while all between must be profound
darkness and nothingness to him. Man may, in effect, be said to look
out on the world from a sentry-box with two joined sashes for his
window. But with the whale, these two sashes are separately inserted,
making two distinct windows, but sadly impairing the view. This
peculiarity of the whale's eyes is a thing always to be borne in mind
in the fishery; and to be remembered by the reader in some subsequent
scenes. A curious and most puzzling question might be started
concerning this visual matter as touching the Leviathan. But I must
be content with a hint. so long as a man's eyes are open in the
light, the act of seeing is involuntary; that is, he cannot then help
mechanically seeing whatever objects are before him. Nevertheless,
any one's experience will teach him, that though he can take in an
undiscriminating sweep of things at one glance, it is quite impossible
for him, attentively, and completely, to examine any two things
--however large or however small --at one and the same instant of
time; never mind if they lie side by side and touch each other. But
if you now come to separate these two objects, and surround each by a
circle of profound darkness; then, in order to see one of them, in
such a manner as to bring your mind to bear on it, the other will be
utterly excluded from your contemporary consciousness. How is it,
then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must
simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive,
combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same moment of
time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of
him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction? If he can, then
is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if a man were able
simultaneously to go through the demonstrations of two distinct
problems in Euclid. Nor, strictly investigated, is there any
incongruity in this comparison. It may be but an idle whim, but it
has always seemed to me, that the extraordinary vacillations of
movement displayed by some whales when beset by three or four boats;
the timidity and liability to queer frights, so common to such whales;
I think that all this indirectly proceeds from the helpless perplexity
of volition, in which their divided and diametrically opposite powers
of vision must involve them. But the ear of the whale is full as
curious as the eye. If you are an entire stranger to their race, you
might hunt over these two heads for hours, and never discover that
organ. The ear has no external leaf whatever; and into the hole
itself you can hardly insert a quill, so wondrously minute is it. It
is lodged a little behind the eye. With respect to their ears, this
important difference is to be observed between the sperm whale and the
right. While the ear of the former has an external opening, that of
the latter is entirely and evenly covered over with a membrane, so as
to be quite imperceptible from without. Is it not curious, that so
vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an
eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a
hare's? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel's great
telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would
that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at
all. -- Why then do you try to enlarge your mind? Subtilize it. Let
us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand, cant
over the sperm whale's head, so that it may lie bottom up; then,
ascending by a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the mouth; and
were it not that the body is now completely separated from it, with a
lantern we might descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth Cave of his
stomach. But let us hold on here by this tooth, and look about us
where we are. What a really beautiful and chaste-looking mouth! from
floor to ceiling, lined, or rather papered with a glistening white
membrane, glossy as bridal satins. But come out now, and look at this
portentous lower jaw, which seems like the long narrow lid of an
immense snuff-box, with a hinge at one end, instead of one side. If
you pry it up, so as to get it overhead, and expose its rows of teeth,
it seems a terrific portcullis; and such, alas! it proves to many a
poor wight in the fishery, upon whom these spikes fall with impaling
force. But far more terrible is it to behold, when fathoms down in
the sea, you see some sulky whale, floating there suspended, with his
prodigious jaw, some fifteen feet long, hanging straight down at
right-angles with his body, for all the world like a ship's jib-boom.
This whale is not dead; he is only dispirited; out of sorts, perhaps;
hypochondriac; and so supine, that the hinges of his jaw have relaxed,
leaving him there in that ungainly sort of plight, a reproach to all
his tribe, who must, no doubt, imprecate lock-jaws upon him. In most
cases this lower jaw --being easily unhinged by a practised artist
--is disengaged and hoisted on deck for the purpose of extracting the
ivory teeth, and furnishing a supply of that hard white whalebone with
which the fishermen fashion all sorts of curious articles, including
canes, umbrella-stocks, and handles to riding-whips. With a long,
weary hoist the jaw is dragged on board, as if it were an anchor; and
when the proper time comes --some few days after the other work
--Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego, being all accomplished dentists, are
set to drawing teeth. With a keen cutting-spade, Queequeg lances the
gums; then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts, and a tackle being
rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as Michigan oxen drag
stumps of old oaks out of wild wood-lands. There are generally
forty-two teeth in all; in old whales, much worn down, but undecayed;
nor filled after our artificial fashion. The jaw is afterwards sawn
into slabs, and piled away like joists for building houses.


Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right
Whale's head. As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale's head may be
compared to a Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so
broadly rounded); so, at a broad view, the Right Whale's head bears a
rather inelegant resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe. Two
hundred years ago an old Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a
shoemaker's last. And in this same last or shoe, that old woman of
the nursery tale, with the swarming brood, might very comfortably be
lodged, she and all her progeny. But as you come nearer to this great
head it begins to assume different aspects, according to your point of
view. If you stand on its summit and look at these two f-shaped
spout-holes, you would take the whole head for an enormous bass-viol,
and these spiracles, the apertures in its sounding-board. Then,
again, if you fix your eye upon this strange, crested, comb-like
incrustation on the top of the mass --this green, barnacled thing,
which the Greenlanders call the crown, and the Southern fishers the
bonnet of the Right Whale; fixing your eyes solely on this, you would
take the head for the trunk of some huge oak, with a bird's nest in
its crotch. At any rate, when you watch those live crabs that nestle
here on this bonnet, such an idea will be almost sure to occur to you;
unless, indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the technical term crown
also bestowed upon it; in which case you will take great interest in
thinking how this mighty monster is actually a diademed king of the
sea, whose green crown has been put together for him in this
marvellous manner. But if this whale be a king, he is a very sulky
looking fellow to grace a diadem. Look at that hanging lower lip!
what a huge sulk and pout is there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter's
measurement, about twenty feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and
pout that will yield you some 500 gallons of oil and more. A great
pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped. The
fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during an
important interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast, when
earthquakes caused the beach to gape. Over this lip, as over a
slippery threshold, we now slide into the mouth. Upon my word were I
at Mackinaw, I should take this to be the inside of an Indian
wigwam. Good Lord! is this the road that Jonah went? The roof is
about twelve feet high, and runs to a pretty sharp angle, as if there
were a regular ridge-pole there; while these ribbed, arched, hairy
sides, present us with those wondrous, half vertical, scimetar-shaped
slats of whale-bone, say three hundred on a side, which depending from
the upper part of the head or crown bone, form those Venetian blinds
which have elsewhere been cursorily mentioned. The edges of these
bones are fringed with hairy fibres, through which the Right Whale
strains the water, and in whose intricacies he retains the small fish,
when open-mouthed he goes through the seas of brit in feeding time.
In the central blinds of bone, as they stand in their natural order,
there are certain curious marks, curves, hollows, and ridges, whereby
some whalemen calculate the creature's age, as the age of an oak by
its circular rings. Though the certainty of this criterion is far
from demonstrable, yet it has the savor of analogical probability. At
any rate, if we yield to it, we must grant a far greater age to the
Right Whale than at first glance will seem reasonable. In old times,
there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies concerning these
blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the wondrous whiskers
inside of the whale's mouth; another, hogs' bristles; a third old
gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following elegant language: There are
about two hundred and fifty fins growing on each side of his upper
chop, which arch over his tongue on each side of his mouth. As every
one knows, these same hogs' bristles, fins, whiskers, blinds, or
whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks and other
stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the demand has long
been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne's time that the bone was in
its glory, the farthingale being then all the fashion. And as those
ancient dames moved about gaily, though in the jaws of the whale, as
you may say; even so, in a shower, with the like thoughtlessness, do
we nowadays fly under the same jaws for protection; the umbrella being
a tent spread over the same bone. But now forget all about blinds and
whiskers for a moment, and, standing in the Right Whale's mouth, look
around you afresh. Seeing all these colonnades of bone so
methodically ranged about, would you not think you were inside the
great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand pipes? For a carpet
to the organ we have a rug of the softest Turkey --the tongue, which
is glued, as it were, to the floor of the mouth. It is very fat and
tender, and apt to tear in pieces in hoisting it on deck. This
particular tongue now before us; at a passing glance I should say it
was a six-barreler; that is, it will yield you about that amount of
oil. Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started
with --that the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely
different heads. To sum up, then; in the Right Whale's there is no
great well of sperm; no ivory teeth at all; no long, slender mandible
of a lower jaw, like the Sperm Whale's. Nor in the Sperm Whale are
there any of those blinds of bone; no huge lower lip; and scarcely
anything of a tongue. Again, the Right Whale has two external
spout-holes, the Sperm Whale only one. Look your last, now, on these
venerable hooded heads, while they yet lie together; for one will soon
sink, unrecorded, in the sea; the other will not be very long in
following. Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale's there?
It is the same he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the
forehead seem now faded away. I think his broad brow to be full of a
prairie-like placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to
death. But mark the other head's expression. See that amazing lower
lip, pressed by accident against the vessel's side, so as firmly to
embrace the jaw. Does not this whole head seem to speak of an
enormous practical resolution in facing death? This Right Whale I
take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might
have taken up Spinoza in his latter years. This reminds us that the
Right Whale really has a sort of whisker, or rather a moustache,
consisting of a few scattered white hairs on the upper part of the
outer end of the lower jaw. Sometimes these tufts impart a rather
brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn countenance.


Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale's head, I would have you,
as a sensible physiologist, simply --particularly remark its front
aspect, in all its compacted collectedness. I would have you
investigate it now with the sole view of forming to yourself some
unexaggerated, intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram power
may be lodged there. Here is a vital point; for you must either
satisfactorily settle this matter with yourself, or for ever remain an
infidel as to one of the most appalling, but not the less true events,
perhaps anywhere to be found in all recorded history. You observe
that in the ordinary swimming position of the Sperm Whale, the front
of his head presents an almost wholly vertical plane to the water; you
observe that the lower part of that front slopes considerably
backwards, so as to furnish more of a retreat for the long socket
which receives the boom-like lower jaw; you observe that the mouth is
entirely under the head, much in the same way, indeed, as though your
own mouth were entirely under your chin. Moreover you observe that
the whale has no external nose; and that what nose he has --his spout
hole --is on the top of his head; you observe that his eyes and ears
are at the sides of his head, nearly one third of his entire length
from the front. Wherefore, you must now have perceived that the front
of the Sperm Whale's head is a dead, blind wall, without a single
organ or tender prominence of any sort whatsoever. Furthermore, you
are now to consider that only in the extreme, lower, backward sloping
part of the front of the head, is there the slightest vestige of bone;
and not till you get near twenty feet from the forehead do you come to
the full cranial development. So that this whole enormous boneless
mass is as one wad. Finally, though, as will soon be revealed, its
contents partly comprise the most delicate oil; yet, you are now to be
apprised of the nature of the substance which so impregnably invests
all that apparent effeminacy. In some previous place I have described
to you how the blubber wraps the body of the whale, as the rind wraps
an orange. Just so with the head; but with this difference: about the
head this envelope, though not so thick, is of a boneless toughness,
inestimable by any man who has not handled it. The severest pointed
harpoon, the sharpest lance darted by the strongest human arm,
impotently rebounds from it. It is as though the forehead of the
Sperm Whale were paved with horses' hoofs. I do not think that any
sensation lurks in it. Bethink yourself also of another thing. When
two large, loaded Indiamen chance to crowd and crush towards each
other in the docks, what do the sailors do? They do not suspend
between them, at the point of coming contact, any merely hard
substance, like iron or wood. No, they hold there a large, round wad
of tow and cork, enveloped in the thickest and toughest of ox-hide.
That bravely and uninjured takes the jam which would have snapped all
their oaken handspikes and iron crowbars. By itself this sufficiently
illustrates the obvious fact I drive at. But supplementary to this,
it has hypothetically occurred to me, that as ordinary fish possess
what is called a swimming bladder in them, capable, at will, of
distension or contraction; and as the Sperm Whale, as far as I know,
has no such provision in him; considering, too, the otherwise
inexplicable manner in which he now depresses his head altogether
beneath the surface, and anon swims with it high elevated out of the
water; considering the unobstructed elasticity of its envelop;
considering the unique interior of his head; it has hypothetically
occurred to me, I say, that those mystical lung-celled honeycombs
there may possibly have some hitherto unknown and unsuspected
connexion with the outer air, so as to be susceptible to atmospheric
distension and contraction. If this be so, fancy the irresistibleness
of that might, to which the most impalpable and destructive of all
elements contributes. Now, mark. Unerringly impelling this dead,
impregnable, uninjurable wall, and this most buoyant thing within;
there swims behind it all a mass of tremendous life, only to be
adequately estimated as piled wood is --by the cord; and all obedient
to one volition, as the smallest insect. So that when I shall
hereafter detail to you all the specialities and concentrations of
potency everywhere lurking in this expansive monster; when I shall
show you some of his more inconsiderable braining feats; I trust you
will have renounced all ignorant incredulity, and be ready to abide by
this; that though the Sperm Whale stove a passage through the Isthmus
of Darien, and mixed the Atlantic with the Pacific, you would not
elevate one hair of your eye-brow. For unless you own the whale, you
are but a provincial and sentimentalist in Truth. But clear Truth is
a thing for salamander giants only to encounter; how small the chances
for the provincials then? What befel the weakling youth lifting the
dread goddess's veil at Sais?


Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you
must know something of the curious internal structure of the thing
operated upon. Regarding the Sperm whale's head as a solid oblong,
you may, on an inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,
whereof the lower is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws,
and the upper an unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad
forward end forming the expanded vertical apparent forehead of the
whale. At the middle of the forehead horizontally subdivide this
upper quoin, and then you have two almost equal parts, which before
were naturally divided by an internal wall of a thick tendinous
substance. The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense
honeycomb of oil, formed by the crossing and re-crossing, into ten
thousand infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout
its whole extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded
as the great Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous
great tierce is mystically carved in front, so the whale's vast
plaited forehead forms innumerable strange devices for the
emblematical adornment of his wondrous tun. Moreover, as that of
Heidelburgh was always replenished with the most excellent of the
wines of the Rhenish valleys, so the tun of the whale contains by far
the most precious of all his oily vintages; namely, the highly-prized
spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous state.
Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed in any other part of
the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly fluid, yet, upon
exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to concrete; sending
forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the first thin delicate
ice is just forming in water. A large whale's case generally yields
about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable
circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles
away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business of
securing what you can. I know not with what fine and costly material
the heidelburgh Tun was coated within, but in superlative richness
that coating could not possibly have compared with the silken
pearl-colored membrane, like the line of a fine pelisse, forming the
inner surface of the Sperm Whale's case. It will have been seen that
the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale embraces the entire length of
the entire top of the head; and since --as has been elsewhere set
forth --the head embraces one third of the whole length of the
creature, then setting that length down at eighty feet for a good
sized whale, you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth of the
tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship's side.
As in decapitating the whale, the operator's instrument is brought
close to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the
spermaceti magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful, lest
a careless, untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and wastingly
let out its invaluable contents. It is this decapitated end of the
head, also, which is at last elevated out of the water, and retained
in that position by the enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen
combinations, on one side, make quite a wilderness of ropes in that
quarter. Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that
marvellous and --in this particular instance --almost fatal operation
whereby the Sperm Whale's great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped. Quoin is
not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical mathematics. I
know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is a solid which
differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by the steep
inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of both sides.


Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his erect
posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging main-yard-arm, to the
part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun. He has carried
with him a light tackle called a whip, consisting of only two parts,
travelling through a single-sheaved block. Securing this block, so
that it hangs down from the yard-arm, he swings one end of the rope,
till it is caught and firmly held by a hand on deck. Then,
hand-over-hand, down the other part, the Indian drops through the air,
till dexterously he lands on the summit of the head. There --still
high elevated above the rest of the company, to whom he vivaciously
cries --he seems some Turkish Muezzin calling the good people to
prayers from the top of a tower. A short-handled sharp spade being
sent up to him, he diligently searches for the proper place to begin
breaking into the Tun. In this business he proceeds very heedfully,
like a treasure-hunter in some old house, sounding the walls to find
where the gold is masoned in. By the time this cautious search is
over, a stout iron-bound bucket, precisely like a well-bucket, has
been attached to one end of the whip; while the other end, being
stretched across the deck, is there held by two or three alert hands.
These last now hoist the bucket within grasp of the Indian, to whom
another person has reached up a very long pole. Inserting this pole
into the bucket, Tashtego downward guides the bucket into the Tun,
till it entirely disappears; then giving the word to the seamen at the
whip, up comes the bucket again, all bubbling like a dairy-maid's pail
of new milk. Carefully lowered from its height, the full-freighted
vessel is caught by an appointed hand, and quickly emptied into a
large tub. Then re-mounting aloft, it again goes through the same
round until the deep cistern will yield no more. Towards the end,
Tashtego has to ram his long pole harder and harder, and deeper and
deeper into the Tun, until some twenty feet of the pole have gone
down. Now, the people of the Pequod had been baling some time in this
way; several tubs had been filled with the fragrant sperm; when all at
once a queer accident happened. Whether it was that Tashtego, that
wild Indian, was so heedless and reckless as to let go for a moment
his one-handed hold on the great cabled tackles suspending the head;
or whether the place where he stood was so treacherous and oozy; or
whether the Evil One himself would have it to fall out so, without
stating his particular reasons; how it was exactly, there is no
telling now; but, on a sudden, as the eightieth or ninetieth bucket
came suckingly up --my God! poor Tashtego --like the twin
reciprocating bucket in a veritable well, dropped head-foremost down
into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with a horrible oily gurgling,
went clean out of sight! Man overboard! cried Daggoo, who amid the
general consternation first came to his senses. Swing the bucket this
way! and putting one foot into it, so as the better to secure his
slippery hand-hold on the whip itself, the hoisters ran him high up to
the top of the head, almost before Tashtego could have reached its
interior bottom. Meantime, there was a terrible tumult. Looking over
the side, they saw the before lifeless head throbbing and heaving just
below the surface of the sea, as if that moment seized with some
momentous idea; whereas it was only the poor Indian unconsciously
revealing by those struggles the perilous depth to which he had sunk.
At this instant, while Daggoo, on the summit of the head, was clearing
the whip --which had somehow got foul of the great cutting tackles --a
sharp cracking noise was heard; and to the unspeakable horror of all,
one of the two enormous hooks suspending the head tore out, and with a
vast vibration the enormous mass sideways swung, till the drunk ship
reeled and shook as if smitten by an iceberg. The one remaining hook,
upon which the entire strain now depended, seemed every instant to be
on the point of giving way; an event still more likely from the
violent motions of the head. Come down, come down! yelled the seamen
to Daggoo, but with one hand holding on to the heavy tackles, so that
if the head should drop, he would still remain suspended; the negro
having cleared the foul line, rammed down the bucket into the now
collapsed well, meaning that the buried harpooneer should grasp it,
and so be hoisted out. In heaven's name, man, cried Stubb, are you
ramming home a cartridge there? --Avast! How will that help him;
jamming that iron-bound bucket on top of his head? Avast, will ye!
Stand clear of the tackle! cried a voice like the bursting of a
rocket. Almost in the same instant, with a thunder-boom, the enormous
mass dropped into the sea, like Niagara's Table-Rock into the
whirlpool; the suddenly relieved hull rolled away from it, to far down
her glittering copper; and all caught their breath, as half swinging
--now over the sailors' heads, and now over the water --Daggoo,
through a thick mist of spray, was dimly beheld clinging to the
pendulous tackles, while poor, buried-alive Tashtego was sinking
utterly down to the bottom of the sea! But hardly had the blinding
vapor cleared away, when a naked figure with a boarding-sword in its
hand, was for one swift moment seen hovering over the bulwarks. The
next, a loud splash announced that my brave Queequeg had dived to the
rescue. One packed rush was made to the side, and every eye counted
every ripple, as moment followed moment, and no sign of either the
sinker or the diver could be seen. Some hands now jumped into a boat
alongside, and pushed a little off from the ship. Ha! ha! cried
Daggoo, all at once, from his now quiet, swinging perch overhead; and
looking further off from the side, we saw an arm thrust upright from
the blue waves; a sight strange to see, as an arm thrust forth from
the grass over a grave. both! both! --it is both! --cried daggoo
again with a joyful shout; and soon after, Queequeg was seen boldly
striking out with one hand, and with the other clutching the long hair
of the Indian. Drawn into the waiting boat, they were quickly brought
to the deck; but Tashtego was long in coming to, and Queequeg did not
look very brisk. Now, how had this noble rescue been accomplished?
Why, diving after the slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen
sword had made side lunges near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large
hole there; then dropping his sword, had thrust his long arm far
inwards and upwards, and so hauled out our poor Tash by the head. He
averred, that upon first thrusting in for him, a leg was presented;
but well knowing that that was not as it ought to be, and might
occasion great trouble; -- he had thrust back the leg, and by a
dexterous heave and toss, had wrought a somerset upon the Indian; so
that with the next trial, he came forth in the good old way --head
foremost. As for the great head itself, that was doing as well as
could be expected. And thus, through the courage and great skill in
obstetrics of Queequeg, the deliverance, or rather, delivery of
Tashtego, was successfully accomplished, in the teeth, too, of the
most untoward and apparently hopeless impediments; which is a lesson
by no means to be forgotten. Midwifery should be taught in the same
course with fencing and boxing, riding and rowing. I know that this
queer adventure of the Gay-Header's will be sure to seem incredible to
some landsmen, though they themselves may have either seen or heard of
some one's falling into a cistern ashore; an accident which not seldom
happens, and with much less reason too than the Indian's, considering
the exceeding slipperiness of the curb of the Sperm Whale's well.
But, peradventure, it may be sagaciously urged, how is this? We
thought the tissued, infiltrated head of the Sperm Whale, was the
lightest and most corky part about him; and yet thou makest it sink in
an element of a far greater specific gravity than itself. We have
thee there. Not at all, but I have ye; for at the time poor Tash fell
in, the case had been nearly emptied of its lighter contents, leaving
little but the dense tendinous wall of the well --a double welded,
hammered substance, as I have before said, much heavier than the sea
water, and a lump of which sinks in it like lead almost. But the
tendency to rapid sinking in this substance was in the present
instance materially counteracted by the other parts of the head
remaining undetached from it, so that it sank very slowly and
deliberately indeed, affording Queequeg a fair chance for performing
his agile obstetrics on the run, as you may say. Yes, it was a
running delivery, so it was. Now, had Tashtego perished in that head,
it had been a very precious perishing; smothered in the very whitest
and daintiest of fragrant spermaceti; coffined, hearsed, and tombed in
the secret inner chamber and sanctum sanctorum of the whale. Only one
sweeter end can readily be recalled --the delicious death of an Ohio
honey-hunter, who seeking honey in the crotch of a hollow tree, found
such exceeding store of it, that leaning too far over, it sucked him
in, so that he died embalmed. How many, think ye, have likewise
fallen into Plato's honey head, and sweetly perished there?

< Chapter LXXIX 14 THE PRAIRE >

To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of this
Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist has
as yet undertaken. Such an enterprise would seem almost as hopeful as
for Lavater to have scrutinized the wrinkles on the Rock of Gibraltar,
or for Gall to have mounted a ladder and manipulated the Dome of the
Pantheon. Still, in that famous work of his, Lavater not only treats
of the various faces of men, but also attentively studies the faces of
horses, birds, serpents, and fish; and dwells in detail upon the
modifications of expression discernible therein. Nor have Gall and
his disciple Spurzheim failed to throw out some hints touching the
phrenological characteristics of other beings than man. Therefore,
though I am but ill qualified for a pioneer, in the application of
these two semi-sciences to the whale, I will do my endeavor. I try
all things; I achieve what I can. Physiognomically regarded, the
Sperm Whale is an anomalous creature. He has no proper nose. And
since the nose is the central and most conspicuous of the features;
and since it perhaps most modifies and finally controls their combined
expression; hence it would seem that its entire absence, as an
external appendage, must very largely affect the countenance of the
whale. For as in landscape gardening, a spire, cupola, monument, or
tower of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable to the completion
of the scene; so no face can be physiognomically in keeping without
the elevated open-work belfry of the nose. Dash the nose from
Phidias's marble Jove, and what a sorry remainder! Nevertheless,
Leviathan is of so mighty a magnitude, all his proportions are so
stately, that the same deficiency which in the sculptured Jove were
hideous, in him is no blemish at all. Nay, it is an added grandeur.
A nose to the whale would have been impertinent. As on your
physiognomical voyage you sail round his vast head in your jolly-boat,
your noble conceptions of him are never insulted by the reflection
that he has a nose to be pulled. A pestilent conceit, which so often
will insist upon obtruding even when beholding the mightiest royal
beadle on his throne. In some particulars, perhaps, the most imposing
physiognomical view to be had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full
front of his head. This aspect is sublime. In thought a fine human
brow is like the east when troubled with the morning. in the repose
of the pasture, the curled brow of the bull has a touch of the grand
in it. Pushing heavy cannon up mountain defiles, the elephant's brow
is majestic. Human or animal, the mystical brow is as that great
golden seal affixed by the German emperors to their decrees. It
signifies God: done this day by my hand. But in most creatures, nay
in man himself, very often the brow is but a mere strip of alpine land
lying along the snow line. Few are the foreheads which like
Shakespeare's or Melancthon's rise so high, and descend so low, that
the eyes themselves seem clear, eternal, tideless mountain lakes; and
all above them in the forehead's wrinkles, you seem to track the
antlered thoughts descending there to drink, as the Highland hunters
track the snow prints of the deer. But in the great Sperm Whale, this
high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely
amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the
Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other
object in living nature. For you see no one point precisely; not one
distinct feature is revealed; no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face;
he has none, proper; nothing but that one broad firmament of a
forehead, pleated with riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of
boats, and ships, and men. Nor, in profile, does this wondrous brow
diminish; though that way viewed, its grandeur does not domineer upon
you so. In profile, you plainly perceive that horizontal,
semi-crescentic depression in the forehead's middle, which, in man, is
Lavater's mark of genius. But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has
the Sperm Whale ever written a book, spoken a speech? No, his great
genius is declared in his doing nothing particular to prove it. It is
moreover declared in his pyramidical silence. And this reminds me
that had the great Sperm Whale been known to the young Orient World,
he would have been deified by their child-magian thoughts. they
deified the crocodile of the nile, because the crocodile is
tongueless; and the Sperm Whale has no tongue, or as least it is so
exceedingly small, as to be incapable of protrusion. If hereafter any
highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure back to their birth-right,
the merry May-day gods of old; and livingly enthrone them again in the
now egotistical sky; in the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted
to Jove's high seat, the great Sperm Whale shall lord it. Champollion
deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics. But there is no
Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man's and every being's
face. Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a passing
fable. If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages,
could not read the simplest peasant's face, in its profounder and more
subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful
Chaldee of the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow before you.
Read if it you can.

< Chapter LXXX 2 THE NUT >

If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist
his brain seems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to
square. In the full-grown creature the skull will measure at least
twenty feet in length. Unhinge the lower jaw, and the side view of
this skull is as the side view of a moderately inclined plane resting
throughout on a level base. But in life --as we have elsewhere seen
--this inclined plane is angularly filled up, and almost squared by
the enormous superincumbent mass of the junk and sperm. At the high
end the skull forms a crater to bed that part of the mass; while under
the long floor of this crater -- in another cavity seldom exceeding
ten inches in length and as many in depth --reposes the mere handful
of this monster's brain. The brain is at least twenty feet from his
apparent forehead in life; it is hidden away behind its vast outworks,
like the innermost citadel within the amplified fortifications of
Quebec. So like a choice casket is it secreted in him, that I have
known some whalemen who peremptorily deny that the Sperm Whale has any
other brain than that palpable semblance of one formed by the
cubic-yards of his sperm magazine. Lying in strange folds, courses,
and convolutions, to their apprehensions, it seems more in keeping
with the idea of his general might to regard that mystic part of him
as the seat of his intelligence. It is plain, then, that
phrenologically the head of this Leviathan, in the creature's living
intact state, is an entire delusion. As for his true brain, you can
then see no indications of it, nor feel any. The whale, like all
things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common world. If
you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view of
its rear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its
resemblance to the human skull, beheld in the same situation, and from
the same point of view. Indeed, place this reversed skull (scaled
down to the human magnitude) among a plate of men's skulls, and you
would involuntarily confound it with them; and remarking the
depressions on one part of its summit, in phrenological phrase you
would say --This man had no self-esteem, and no veneration. And by
those negations, considered along with the affirmative fact of his
prodigious bulk and power, you can best form to yourself the truest,
though not the most exhilarating conception of what the most exalted
potency is. But if from the comparative dimensions of the whale's
proper brain, you deem it incapable of being adequately charted, then
I have another idea for you. If you attentively regard almost any
quadruped's spine, you will be struck with the resemblance of its
vertebrae to a strung necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bearing
rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It is a German conceit,
that the vertebrae are absolutely undeveloped skulls. But the curious
external resemblance, I take it the Germans were not the first men to
perceive. A foreign friend once pointed it out to me, in the skeleton
of a foe he had slain, and with the vertebrae of which he was
inlaying, in a sort of basso-relievo, the beaked prow of his
canoe. Now, I consider that the phrenologists have omitted an
important thing in not pushing their investigations from the
cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a
man's character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would
rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist
of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my
spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half
out to the world. Apply this spinal branch of phrenology to the Sperm
Whale. His cranial cavity is continuous with the first neck-vertebra;
and in that vertebra the bottom of the spinal canal will measure ten
inches across, being eight in height, and of a triangular figure with
the base downwards. As it passes through the remaining vertebrae the
canal tapers in size, but for a considerable distance remains of large
capacity. Now, of course, this canal is filled with much the same
strangely fibrous substance -- the spinal cord --as the brain; and
directly communicates with the brain. And what is still more, for
many feet after emerging from the brain's cavity, the spinal cord
remains of an undecreasing girth, almost equal to that of the
brain. Under all these circumstances, would it be unreasonable to
survey and map out the whale's spine phrenologically? For, viewed in
this light, the wonderful comparative smallness of his brain proper is
more than compensated by the wonderful comparative magnitude of his
spinal cord. But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the
phrenologists, I would merely assume the spinal theory for a moment,
in reference to the sperm whale's hump. This august hump, if I
mistake not, rises over one of the larger vertebrae, and is,
therefore, in some sort, the outer convex mould of it. From its
relative situation then, I should call this high hump the organ of
firmness or indomitableness in the Sperm Whale. And that the great
monster is indomitable, you will yet have reason to know.


The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungfrau,
Derick De Deer, master, of Bremen. At one time the greatest whaling
people in the world, the Dutch and Germans are now among the least;
but here and there at very wide intervals of latitude and longitude,
you still occasionally meet with their flag in the Pacific. For some
reason, the Jungfrau seemed quite eager to pay her respects. While
yet some distance from the Pequod, she rounded to, and dropping a
boat, her captain was impelled towards us, impatiently standing in the
bows instead of the stern.

What has he in his hand there? cried Starbuck, pointing to something
wavingly held by the German. Impossible! --a lamp-feeder! Not that,
said Stubb, no, no, it's a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck; he's coming off
to make us our coffee, is the Yarman; don't you see that big tin can
there alongside of him? --that's his boiling water. Oh! he's all
right, is the Yarman. Go along with you, cried Flask, it's a
lamp-feeder and an oil-can. He's out of oil, and has come
a-begging. However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing
oil on the whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict
the old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such
a thing really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer
did indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare. As he
mounted the deck, ahab abruptly accosted him, without at all heeding
what he had in his hand; but in his broken lingo, the German soon
evinced his complete ignorance of the White Whale; immediately turning
the conversation to his lamp-feeder and oil can, with some remarks
touching his having to turn into his hammock at night in profound
darkness --his last drop of Bremen oil being gone, and not a single
flying-fish yet captured to supply the deficiency; concluding by
hinting that his ship was indeed what in the Fishery is technically
called a clean one (that is, an empty one), well deserving the name of
Jungfrau or the Virgin. His necessities supplied, Derick departed;
but he had not gained his ship's side, when whales were almost
simultaneously raised from the mast-heads of both vessels; and so
eager for the chase was Derick, that without pausing to put his
oil-can and lamp-feeder aboard, he slewed round his boat and made
after the leviathan lamp-feeders. Now, the game having risen to
leeward, he and the other three German boats that soon followed him,
had considerably the start of the Pequod's keels. There were eight
whales, an average pod. Aware of their danger, they were going all
abreast with great speed straight before the wind, rubbing their
flanks as closely as so many spans of horses in harness. They left a
great, wide wake, as though continually unrolling a great wide
parchment upon the sea. Full in this rapid wake, and many fathoms in
the rear, swam a huge, humped old bull, which by his comparatively
slow progress, as well as by the unusual yellowish incrustations
overgrowing him, seemed afflicted with the jaundice, or some other
infirmity. Whether this whale belonged to the pod in advance, seemed
questionable; for it is not customary for such venerable leviathans to
be at all social. Nevertheless, he stuck to their wake, though indeed
their back water must have retarded him, because the white-bone or
swell at his broad muzzle was a dashed one, like the swell formed when
two hostile currents meet. His spout was short, slow, and laborious;
coming forth with a choking sort of gush, and spending itself in torn
shreds, followed by strange subterranean commotions in him, which
seemed to have egress at his other buried extremity, causing the
waters behind him to upbubble. Who's got some paregoric? said Stubb,
he has the stomach-ache, I'm afraid. Lord, think of having half an
acre of stomach-ache.

Adverse winds are holding mad Christmas in him, boys. It's the first
foul wind I ever knew to blow from astern; but look, did ever whale
yaw so before? it must be, he's lost his tiller. As an overladen
Indiaman bearing down the Hindostan coast with a deck load of
frightened horses, careens, buries, rolls, and wallows on her way; so
did this old whale heave his aged bulk, and now and then partly
turning over on his cumbrous rib-ends, expose the cause of his devious
wake in the unnatural stump of his starboard fin. Whether he had lost
that fin in battle, or had been born without it, it were hard to
say. Only wait a bit, old chap, and I'll give ye a sling for that
wounded arm, cried cruel Flask, pointing to the whale-line near him.
Mind he don't sling thee with it, cried Starbuck. Give way, or the
German will have him. With one intent all the combined rival boats
were pointed for this one fish, because not only was he the largest,
and therefore the most valuable whale, but he was nearest to them, and
the other whales were going with such great velocity, moreover, as
almost to defy pursuit for the time. At this juncture, the Pequod's
keel had shot by the three German boats last lowered; but from the
great start he had had, Derick's boat still led the chase, though
every moment neared by his foreign rivals. The only thing they
feared, was, that from being already so nigh to his mark, he would be
enabled to dart his iron before they could completely overtake and
pass him. as for derick, he seemed quite confident that this would be
the case, and occasionally with a deriding gesture shook his
lamp-feeder at the other boats. The ungracious and ungrateful dog!
cried Starbuck; he mocks and dares me with the very poor-box I filled
for him not five minutes ago! --then in his old intense whisper --
give way, greyhounds! Dog to it! I tell ye what it is, men --cried
Stubb to his crew -- It's against my religion to get mad; but I'd like
to eat that villanous Yarman --Pull--won't ye? Are ye going to let
that rascal beat ye? Do ye love brandy? A hogshead of brandy, then,
to the best man. Come, why don't some of ye burst a blood-vessel?
Who's that been dropping an anchor overboard --we don't budge an inch
--we're becalmed. Halloo, here's grass growing in the boat's bottom
--and by the Lord, the mast there's budding. This won't do,
boys. Look at that Yarman! The short and long of it is, men, will ye
spit fire or not? Oh! see the suds he makes! cried Flask, dancing
up and down -- What a hump --Oh, do pile on the beef --lays like a
log! Oh! my lads, do spring --slap-jacks and quohogs for supper, you
know, my lads --baked clams and muffins --oh, do, do spring --he's a
hundred barreler --don't lose him now --don't oh, don't! -- see that
Yarman --Oh! won't ye pull for your duff, my lads --such a sog! such
a sogger! Don't ye love sperm? There goes three thousand dollars,
men! --a bank! --a whole bank! The bank of England! --Oh, do, do, do!
--What's that Yarman about now? At this moment Derick was in the act
of pitching his lamp-feeder at the advancing boats, and also his
oil-can; perhaps with the double view of retarding his rivals' way,
and at the same time economically accelerating his own by the
momentary impetus of the backward toss. The unmannerly Dutch dogger!
cried Stubb. Pull now, men, like fifty thousand line-of-battle-ship
loads of red-haired devils. What d'ye say, Tashtego; are you the man
to snap your spine in two-and-twenty pieces for the honor of old
Gay-head? What d'ye say? I say, pull like god-dam, --cried the
Indian. Fiercely, but evenly incited by the taunts of the German, the
Pequod's three boats now began ranging almost abreast; and, so
disposed, momentarily neared him. In that fine, loose, chivalrous
attitude of the headsman when drawing near to his prey, the three
mates stood up proudly, occasionally backing the after oarsman with an
exhilarating cry of, There she slides, now! Hurrah for the white-ash
breeze! Down with the Yarman! Sail over him! But so decided an
original start had Derick had, that spite of all their gallantry, he
would have proved the victor in this race, had not a righteous
judgment descended upon him in a crab which caught the blade of his
midship oarsman. While this clumsy lubber was striving to free his
white-ash, and while, in consequence, Derick's boat was nigh to
capsizing, and he thundering away at his men in a mighty rage; --that
was a good time for Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. With a shout, they
took a mortal start forwards, and slantingly ranged up on the German's
quarter. An instant more, and all four boats were diagonically in the
whale's immediate wake, while stretching from them, on both sides, was
the foaming swell that he made.

It was a terrific, most pitiable, and maddening sight. The whale was
now going head out, and sending his spout before him in a continual
tormented jet; while his one poor fin beat his side in an agony of
fright. Now to this hand, now to that, he yawed in his faltering
flight, and still at every billow that he broke, he spasmodically sank
in the sea, or sideways rolled towards the sky his one beating fin.
So have I seen a bird with clipped wing, making affrighted broken
circles in the air, vainly striving to escape the piratical hawks.
But the bird has a voice, and with plaintive cries will make known her
fear; but the fear of this vast dumb brute of the sea, was chained up
and enchanted in him; he had no voice, save that choking respiration
through his spiracle, and this made the sight of him unspeakably
pitiable; while still, in his amazing bulk, portcullis jaw, and
omnipotent tail, there was enough to appal the stoutest man who so
pitied. Seeing now that but a very few moments more would give the
Pequod's boats the advantage, and rather than be thus foiled of his
game, Derick chose to hazard what to him must have seemed a most
unusually long dart, ere the last chance would for ever escape. But
no sooner did his harpooneer stand up for the stroke, than all three
tigers --Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo -- instinctively sprang to their
feet, and standing in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed their
barbs; and darted over the head of the German harpooneer, their three
Nantucket irons entered the whale. Blinding vapors of foam and
white-fire! The three boats, in the first fury of the whale's
headlong rush, bumped the German's aside with such force, that both
Derick and his baffled harpooneer were spilled out, and sailed over by
the three flying keels. Don't be afraid, my butter-boxes, cried
Stubb, casting a passing glance upon them as he shot by; ye'll be
picked up presently --all right --I saw some sharks astern
--St. Bernard's dogs, you know --relieve distressed
travellers. Hurrah! this is the way to sail now. Every keel a
sun-beam! Hurrah! --Here we go like three tin kettles at the tail of
a mad cougar! This puts me in mind of fastening to an elephant in a
tilbury on a plain --makes the wheel-spokes fly, boys, when you fasten
to him that way; and there's danger of being pitched out too, when you
strike a hill. Hurrah! this is the way a fellow feels when he's going
to Davy Jones --all a rush down an endless inclined plane! Hurrah!
this whale carries the everlasting mail! But the monster's run was a
brief one. Giving a sudden gasp, he tumultuously sounded.

With a grating rush, the three lines flew round the loggerheads with
such a force as to gouge deep grooves in them; while so fearful were
the harpooneers that this rapid sounding would soon exhaust the lines,
that using all their dexterous might, they caught repeated smoking
turns with the rope to hold on; till at last --owing to the
perpendicular strain from the lead-lined chocks of the boats, whence
the three ropes went straight down into the blue --the gunwales of the
bows were almost even with the water, while the three sterns tilted
high in the air. And the whale soon ceasing to sound, for some time
they remained in that attitude, fearful of expending more line, though
the position was a little ticklish. But though boats have been taken
down and lost in this way, yet it is this holding on, as it is called;
this hooking up by the sharp barbs of his live flesh from the back;
this it is that often torments the Leviathan into soon rising again to
meet the sharp lance of his foes. Yet not to speak of the peril of the
thing, it is to be doubted whether this course is always the best; for
it is but reasonable to presume, that the longer the stricken whale
stays under water, the more he is exhausted. Because, owing to the
enormous surface of him --in a full grown sperm whale something less
than square feet --the pressure of the water is immense. We all know
what an astonishing atmospheric weight we ourselves stand up under;
even here, above-ground, in the air; how vast, then, the burden of a
whale, bearing on his back a column of two hundred fathoms of ocean!
It must at least equal the weight of fifty atmospheres. One whaleman
has estimated it at the weight of twenty line-of-battle ships, with
all their guns, and stores, and men on board. As the three boats lay
there on that gently rolling sea, gazing down into its eternal blue
noon; and as not a single groan or cry of any sort, nay, not so much
as a ripple or a bubble came up from its depths; what landsman would
have thought, that beneath all that silence and placidity, the utmost
monster of the seas was writhing and wrenching in agony! Not eight
inches of perpendicular rope were visible at the bows. Seems it
credible that by three such thin threads the great Leviathan was
suspended like the big weight to an eight day clock. Suspended? and
to what? To three bits of board. Is this the creature of whom it was
once so triumphantly said -- Canst thou fill his skin with barbed
irons? or his head with fish-spears? The sword of him that layeth at
him cannot hold, the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon: he esteemeth
iron as straw; the arrow cannot make him flee; darts are counted as
stubble; he laugheth at the shaking of a spear! This the creature?
this he? Oh! that unfulfilments should follow the prophets. For
with the strength of a thousand thighs in his tail, Leviathan had run
his head under the mountains of the sea, to hide him from the Pequod's
fish-spears! In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the
three boats sent down beneath the surface, must have been long enough
and broad enough to shade half Xerxes' army. Who can tell how
appalling to the wounded whale must have been such huge phantoms
flitting over his head! Stand by, men; he stirs, cried Starbuck, as
the three lines suddenly vibrated in the water, distinctly conducting
upwards to them, as by magnetic wires, the life and death throbs of
the whale, so that every oarsman felt them in his seat. The next
moment, relieved in a great part from the downward strain at the bows,
the boats gave a sudden bounce upwards, as a small ice-field will,
when a dense herd of white bears are scared from it into the sea. Haul
in! Haul in! cried Starbuck again; he's rising. The lines, of
which, hardly an instant before, not one hand's breadth could have
been gained, were now in long quick coils flung back all dripping into
the boats, and soon the whale broke water within two ship's lengths of
the hunters. His motions plainly denoted his extreme exhaustion. In
most land animals there are certain valves or flood-gates in many of
their veins, whereby when wounded, the blood is in some degree at
least instantly shut off in certain directions. Not so with the
whale; one of whose peculiarities it is, to have an entire nonvalvular
structure of the blood-vessels, so that when pierced even by so small
a point as a harpoon, a deadly drain is at once begun upon his whole
arterial system; and when this is heightened by the extraordinary
pressure of water at a great distance below the surface, his life may
be said to pour from him in incessant streams. Yet so vast is the
quantity of blood in him, and so distant and numerous its interior
fountains, that he will keep thus bleeding and bleeding for a
considerable period; even as in a drought a river will flow, whose
source is in the well-springs of far-off and undiscernible hills.
Even now, when the boats pulled upon this whale, and perilously drew
over his swaying flukes, and the lances were darted into him, they
were followed by steady jets from the new made wound, which kept
continually playing, while the natural spout-hole in his head was only
at intervals, however rapid, sending its affrighted moisture into the
air. From this last vent no blood yet came, because no vital part of
him had thus far been struck. His life, as they significantly call
it, was untouched. As the boats now more closely surrounded him, the
whole upper part of his form, with much of it that is ordinarily
submerged, was plainly revealed. His eyes, or rather the places where
his eyes had been, were beheld. As strange misgrown masses gather in
the knot-holes of the noblest oaks when prostrate, so from the points
which the whale's eyes had once occupied, now protruded blind bulbs,
horribly pitiable to see. but pity there was none. For all his old
age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be
murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of
men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach
unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all. Still rolling in his
blood, at last he partially disclosed a strangely discolored bunch or
protuberance, the size of a bushel, low down on the flank.

A nice spot, cried Flask; just let me prick him there once. Avast!
cried Starbuck, there's no need of that! But humane Starbuck was too
late. At the instant of the dart an ulcerous jet shot from this cruel
wound, and goaded by it into more than sufferable anguish, the whale
now spouting thick blood, with swift fury blindly darted at the craft,
bespattering them and their glorying crews all over with showers of
gore, capsizing Flask's boat and marring the bows. It was his death
stroke. For, by this time, so spent was he by loss of blood, that he
helplessly rolled away from the wreck he had made; lay panting on his
side, impotently flapped with his stumped fin, then over and over
slowly revolved like a waning world; turned up the white secrets of
his belly; lay like a log, and died. It was most piteous, that last
expiring spout. As when by unseen hands the water is gradually drawn
off from some mighty fountain, and with half-stifled melancholy
gurglings the spray-column lowers and lowers to the ground --so the
last long dying spout of the whale. Soon, while the crews were
awaiting the arrival of the ship, the body showed symptoms of sinking
with all its treasures unrifled. Immediately, by Starbuck's orders,
lines were secured to it at different points, so that ere long every
boat was a buoy; the sunken whale being suspended a few inches beneath
them by the cords. By very heedful management, when the ship drew
nigh, the whale was transferred to her side, and was strongly secured
there by the stiffest fluke-chains, for it was plain that unless
artificially upheld, the body would at once sink to the bottom. It so
chanced that almost upon first cutting into him with the spade, the
entire length of a corroded harpoon was found imbedded in his flesh,
on the lower part of the bunch before described. But as the stumps of
harpoons are frequently found in the dead bodies of captured whales,
with the flesh perfectly healed around them, and no prominence of any
kind to denote their place; therefore, there must needs have been some
other unknown reason in the present case fully to account for the
ulceration alluded to. But still more curious was the fact of a
lance-head of stone being found in him, not far from the buried iron,
the flesh perfectly firm about it. Who had darted that stone lance?
And when? It might have been darted by some Nor' West Indian long
before America was discovered. What other marvels might have been
rummaged out of this monstrous cabinet there is no telling. But a
sudden stop was put to further discoveries, by the ship's being
unprecedentedly dragged over sideways to the sea, owing to the body's
immensely increasing tendency to sink. However, Starbuck, who had the
ordering of affairs, hung on to it to the last; hung on to it so
resolutely, indeed, that when at length the ship would have been
capsized, if still persisting in locking arms with the body; then,
when the command was given to break clear from it, such was the
immovable strain upon the timber-heads to which the fluke-chains and
cables were fastened, that it was impossible to cast them
off. Meantime everything in the Pequod was aslant. To cross to the
other side of the deck was like walking up the steep gabled roof of a
house. The ship groaned and gasped. Many of the ivory inlayings of
her bulwarks and cabins were started from their places, by the
unnatural dislocation. In vain handspikes and crows were brought to
bear upon the immovable fluke-chains, to pry them adrift from the
timber-heads; and so low had the whale now settled that the submerged
ends could not be at all approached, while every moment whole tons of
ponderosity seemed added to the sinking bulk, and the ship seemed on
the point of going over. Hold on, hold on, won't ye? cried Stubb to
the body, don't be in such a devil of a hurry to sink! By thunder,
men, we must do something or go for it. No use prying there; avast, I
say with your handspikes, and run one of ye for a prayer book and a
pen-knife, and cut the big chains. Knife? Aye, aye, cried Queequeg,
and seizing the carpenter's heavy hatchet, he leaned out of a
porthole, and steel to iron, began slashing at the largest
fluke-chains. But a few strokes, full of sparks, were given, when the
exceeding strain effected the rest. With a terrific snap, every
fastening went adrift; the ship righted, the carcase sank. Now, this
occasional inevitable sinking of the recently killed Sperm Whale is a
very curious thing; nor has any fisherman yet adequately accounted for
it. Usually the dead Sperm Whale floats with great buoyancy, with its
side or belly considerably elevated above the surface. If the only
whales that thus sank were old, meagre, and broken-hearted creatures,
their pads of lard diminished and all their bones heavy and rheumatic;
then you might with some reason assert that this sinking is caused by
an uncommon specific gravity in the fish so sinking, consequent upon
this absence of buoyant matter in him. But it is not so. For young
whales, in the highest health, and swelling with noble aspirations,
prematurely cut off in the warm flush and May of life, with all their
panting lard about them; even these brawny, buoyant heroes do
sometimes sink. Be it said, however, that the Sperm Whale is far less
liable to this accident than any other species. Where one of that
sort go down, twenty Right Whales do. This difference in the species
is no doubt imputable in no small degree to the greater quantity of
bone in the Right Whale; his Venetian blinds alone sometimes weighing
more than a ton; from this incumbrance the Sperm Whale is wholly free.
But there are instances where, after the lapse of many hours or
several days, the sunken whale again rises, more buoyant than in life.
But the reason of this is obvious. Gases are generated in him; he
swells to a prodigious magnitude; becomes a sort of animal balloon. A
line-of-battle ship could hardly keep him under then. In the Shore
Whaling, on soundings, among the Bays of New Zealand, when a Right
Whale gives token of sinking, they fasten buoys to him, with plenty of
rope; so that when the body has gone down, they know where to look for
it when it shall have ascended again. It was not long after the
sinking of the body that a cry was heard from the Pequod's mast-heads,
announcing that the Jungfrau was again lowering her boats; though the
only spout in sight was that of a Fin-Back, belonging to the species
of uncapturable whales, because of its incredible power of swimming.
Nevertheless, the Fin-Back's spout is so similar to the Sperm Whale's,
that by unskilful fishermen it is often mistaken for it. And
consequently Derick and all his host were now in valiant chase of this
unnearable brute. The Virgin crowding all sail, made after her four
young keels, and thus they all disappeared far to leeward, still in
bold, hopeful chase. Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the
Dericks, my friend.


There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the
true method. The more I dive into this matter of whaling, and push my
researches up to the very spring-head of it, so much the more am I
impressed with its great honorableness and antiquity; and especially
when I find so many great demi-gods and heroes, prophets of all sorts,
who one way or other have shed distinction upon it, I am transported
with the reflection that I myself belong, though but subordinately, to
so emblazoned a fraternity. The gallant Perseus, a son of Jupiter,
was the first whaleman; and to the eternal honor of our calling be it
said, that the first whale attacked by our brotherhood was not killed
with any sordid intent. Those were the knightly days of our
profession, when we only bore arms to succor the distressed, and not
to fill men's lamp-feeders. Every one knows the fine story of Perseus
and Andromeda; how the lovely Andromeda, the daughter of a king, was
tied to a rock on the sea-coast, and as Leviathan was in the very act
of carrying her off, Perseus, the prince of whalemen, intrepidly
advancing, harpooned the monster, and delivered and married the maid.
It was an admirable artistic exploit, rarely achieved by the best
harpooneers of the present day; inasmuch as this Leviathan was slain
at the very first dart. And let no man doubt this Arkite story; for
in the ancient Joppa, now Jaffa, on the Syrian coast, in one of the
Pagan temples, there stood for many ages the vast skeleton of a whale,
which the city's legends and all the inhabitants asserted to be the
identical bones of the monster that Perseus slew. When the Romans
took Joppa, the same skeleton was carried to Italy in triumph. What
seems most singular and suggestively important in this story, is this:
it was from Joppa that Jonah set sail. Akin to the adventure of
Perseus and Andromeda --indeed, by some supposed to be indirectly
derived from it --is that famous story of St. George and the Dragon;
which dragon I maintain to have been a whale; for in many old
chronicles whales and dragons are strangely jumbled together, and
often stand for each other. Thou art as a lion of the waters, and as
a dragon of the sea, saith ezekiel; hereby, plainly meaning a whale;
in truth, some versions of the Bible use that word itself. Besides,
it would much subtract from the glory of the exploit had St. George
but encountered a crawling reptile of the land, instead of doing
battle with the great monster of the deep. Any man may kill a snake,
but only a Perseus, a St. George, a Coffin, have the heart in them to
march boldly up to a whale. Let not the modern paintings of this
scene mislead us; for though the creature encountered by that valiant
whaleman of old is vaguely represented of a griffin-like shape, and
though the battle is depicted on land and the saint on horseback, yet
considering the great ignorance of those times, when the true form of
the whale was unknown to artists; and considering that as in Perseus'
case, St. George's whale might have crawled up out of the sea on the
beach; and considering that the animal ridden by St. George might
have been only a large seal, or sea-horse; bearing all this in mind,
it will not appear altogether incompatible with the sacred legend and
the ancientest draughts of the scene, to hold this so-called dragon no
other than the great Leviathan himself. In fact, placed before the
strict and piercing truth, this whole story will fare like that fish,
flesh, and fowl idol of the Philistines, Dagon by name; who being
planted before the ark of Israel, his horse's head and both the palms
of his hands fell off from him, and only the stump or fishy part of
him remained. Thus, then, one of our own noble stamp, even a
whaleman, is the tutelary guardian of England; and by good rights, we
harpooneers of Nantucket should be enrolled in the most noble order of
St. George. And therefore, let not the knights of that honorable
company (none of whom, I venture to say, have ever had to do with a
whale like their great patron), let them never eye a Nantucketer with
disdain, since even in our woollen frocks and tarred trowsers we are
much better entitled to st. george's decoration than they. Whether to
admit Hercules among us or not, concerning this I long remained
dubious: for though according to the Greek mythologies, that antique
Crockett and Kit Carson --that brawny doer of rejoicing good deeds,
was swallowed down and thrown up by a whale; still, whether that
strictly makes a whaleman of him, that might be mooted. It nowhere
appears that he ever actually harpooned his fish, unless, indeed, from
the inside. Nevertheless, he may be deemed a sort of involuntary
whaleman; at any rate the whale caught him, if he did not the whale.
I claim him for one of our clan. But, by the best contradictory
authorities, this Grecian story of Hercules and the whale is
considered to be derived from the still more ancient Hebrew story of
Jonah and the whale; and vice versa; certainly they are very similar.
If I claim the demigod then, why not the prophet? Nor do heroes,
saints, demigods, and prophets alone comprise the whole roll of our
order. Our grand master is still to be named; for like royal kings of
old times, we find the headwaters of our fraternity in nothing short
of the great gods themselves. That wondrous oriental story is now to
be rehearsed from the Shaster, which gives us the dread Vishnoo, one
of the three persons in the godhead of the Hindoos; gives us this
divine Vishnoo himself for our Lord; --Vishnoo, who, by the first of
his ten earthly incarnations, has for ever set apart and sanctified
the whale. When Brahma, or the God of Gods, saith the Shaster,
resolved to recreate the world after one of its periodical
dissolutions, he gave birth to Vishnoo, to preside over the work; but
the Vedas, or mystical books, whose perusal would seem to have been
indispensable to Vishnoo before beginning the creation, and which
therefore must have contained something in the shape of practical
hints to young architects, these Vedas were lying at the bottom of the
waters; so Vishnoo became incarnate in a whale, and sounding down in
him to the uttermost depths, rescued the sacred volumes. Was not this
Vishnoo a whaleman, then? even as a man who rides a horse is called a
horseman? Perseus, St. George, Hercules, Jonah, and Vishnoo!
there's a member-roll for you! What club but the whaleman's can head
off like that?


Reference was made to the historical story of Jonah and the whale in
the preceding chapter. Now some Nantucketers rather distrust this
historical story of Jonah and the whale. But then there were some
sceptical Greeks and Romans, who, standing out from the orthodox
pagans of their times, equally doubted the story of Hercules and the
whale, and Arion and the dolphin; and yet their doubting those
traditions did not make those traditions one whit the less facts, for
all that. One old Sag-Harbor whaleman's chief reason for questioning
the Hebrew story was this: --He had one of those quaint old-fashioned
Bibles, embellished with curious, unscientific plates; one of which
represented Jonah's whale with two spouts in his head --a peculiarity
only true with respect to a species of the Leviathan (the Right Whale,
and the varieties of that order), concerning which the fishermen have
this saying, A penny roll would choke him; his swallow is so very
small. But, to this, Bishop Jebb's anticipative answer is ready. It
is not necessary, hints the Bishop, that we consider Jonah as tombed
in the whale's belly, but as temporarily lodged in some part of his
mouth. And this seems reasonable enough in the good Bishop. For
truly, the Right Whale's mouth would accommodate a couple of whist
tables, and comfortably seat all the players. Possibly, too, Jonah
might have ensconced himself in a hollow tooth; but, on second
thoughts, the Right Whale is toothless. Another reason which
Sag-Harbor (he went by that name) urged for his want of faith in this
matter of the prophet, was something obscurely in reference to his
incarcerated body and the whale's gastric juices. But this objection
likewise falls to the ground, because a German exegetist supposes that
Jonah must have taken refuge in the floating body of a dead whale --
even as the French soldiers in the Russian campaign turned their dead
horses into tents, and crawled into them. Besides, it has been
divined by other continental commentators, that when Jonah was thrown
overboard from the Joppa ship, he straightway effected his escape to
another vessel near by, some vessel with a whale for a figure-head;
and, I would add, possibly called The Whale, as some craft are
nowadays christened the Shark, the Gull, the Eagle. Nor have there
been wanting learned exegetists who have opined that the whale
mentioned in the book of Jonah merely meant a life-preserver --an
inflated bag of wind --which the endangered prophet swam to, and so
was saved from a watery doom. Poor Sag-Harbor, therefore, seems
worsted all round. But he had still another reason for his want of
faith. It was this, if I remember right: Jonah was swallowed by the
whale in the Mediterranean Sea, and after three days he was vomited up
somewhere within three days' journey of Nineveh, a city on the Tigris,
very much more than three days' journey across from the nearest point
of the Mediterranean coast. How is that? But was there no other way
for the whale to land the prophet within that short distance of
Nineveh? Yes. He might have carried him round by the way of the Cape
of Good Hope. But not to speak of the passage through the whole
length of the Mediterranean, and another passage up the Persian Gulf
and Red Sea, such a supposition would involve the complete
circumnavigation of all Africa in three days, not to speak of the
Tigris waters, near the site of Nineveh, being too shallow for any
whale to swim in. Besides, this idea of Jonah's weathering the Cape
of Good Hope at so early a day would wrest the honor of the discovery
of that great headland from Bartholomew Diaz, its reputed discoverer,
and so make modern history a liar. But all these foolish arguments of
old Sag-Harbor only evinced his foolish pride of reason --a thing
still more reprehensible in him, seeing that he had but little
learning except what he had picked up from the sun and the sea. I say
it only shows his foolish, impious pride, and abominable, devilish
rebellion against the reverend clergy. For by a Portuguese Catholic
priest, this very idea of Jonah's going to Nineveh via the Cape of
Good Hope was advanced as a signal magnification of the general
miracle. And so it was. Besides, to this day, the highly enlightened
Turks devoutly believe in the historical story of Jonah. And some
three centuries ago, an English traveller in old Harris's Voyages,
speaks of a Turkish Mosque built in honor of Jonah, in which mosque
was a miraculous lamp that burnt without any oil.


To make them run easily and swiftly, the axles of carriages are
anointed; and for much the same purpose, some whalers perform an
analogous operation upon their boat; they grease the bottom. Nor is
it to be doubted that as such a procedure can do no harm, it may
possibly be of no contemptible advantage; considering that oil and
water are hostile; that oil is a sliding thing, and that the object in
view is to make the boat slide bravely. Queequeg believed strongly in
anointing his boat, and one morning not long after the German ship
Jungfrau disappeared, took more than customary pains in that
occupation; crawling under its bottom, where it hung over the side,
and rubbing in the unctuousness as though diligently seeking to insure
a crop of hair from the craft's bald keel. He seemed to be working in
obedience to some particular presentiment. Nor did it remain
unwarranted by the event. Towards noon whales were raised; but so
soon as the ship sailed down to them, they turned and fled with swift
precipitancy; a disordered flight, as of Cleopatra's barges from
Actium. Nevertheless, the boats pursued, and Stubb's was foremost. By
great exertion, Tashtego at last succeeded in planting one iron; but
the stricken whale, without at all sounding, still continued his
horizontal flight, with added fleetness. Such unintermitted
strainings upon the planted iron must sooner or later inevitably
extract it. It became imperative to lance the flying whale, or be
content to lose him. But to haul the boat up to his flank was
impossible, he swam so fast and furious. What then remained? Of all
the wondrous devices and dexterities, the sleights of hand and
countless subtleties, to which the veteran whaleman is so often
forced, none exceed that fine manoeuvre with the lance called
pitchpoling. Small sword, or broad sword, in all its exercises boasts
nothing like it. It is only indispensable with an inveterate running
whale; its grand fact and feature is the wonderful distance to which
the long lance is accurately darted from a violently rocking, jerking
boat, under extreme headway. Steel and wood included, the entire
spear is some ten or twelve feet in length; the staff is much slighter
than that of the harpoon, and also of a lighter material--pine. It is
furnished with a small rope called a warp, of considerable length, by
which it can be hauled back to the hand after darting. But before
going further, it is important to mention here, that though the
harpoon may be pitchpoled in the same way with the lance, yet it is
seldom done; and when done, is still less frequently successful, on
account of the greater weight and inferior length of the harpoon as
compared with the lance, which in effect become serious drawbacks. As
a general thing, therefore, you must first get fast to a whale, before
any pitchpoling comes into play. Look now at Stubb; a man who from
his humorous, deliberate coolness and equanimity in the direst
emergencies, was specially qualified to excel in pitchpoling. Look at
him; he stands upright in the tossed bow of the flying boat; wrapt in
fleecy foam, the towing whale is forty feet ahead. Handling the long
lance lightly, glancing twice or thrice along its length to see if it
be exactly straight, Stubb whistlingly gathers up the coil of the warp
in one hand, so as to secure its free end in his grasp, leaving the
rest unobstructed. Then holding the lance full before his waistband's
middle, he levels it at the whale; when, covering him with it, he
steadily depresses the butt-end in his hand, thereby elevating the
point till the weapon stands fairly balanced upon his palm, fifteen
feet in the air. He minds you somewhat of a juggler, balancing a long
staff on his chin. Next moment with a rapid, nameless impulse, in a
superb lofty arch the bright steel spans the foaming distance, and
quivers in the life spot of the whale. Instead of sparkling water, he
now spouts red blood. That drove the spigot out of him! cries
Stubb. 'Tis July's immortal Fourth; all fountains must run wine
to-day! Would now, it were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or
unspeakable old Monongahela! Then, Tashtego, lad, I'd have ye hold a
canakin to the jet, and we'd drink round it! Yea, verily, hearts
alive, we'd brew choice punch in the spread of his spout-hole there,
and from that live punch-bowl quaff the living stuff! Again and again
to such gamesome talk, the dexterous dart is repeated, the spear
returning to its master like a greyhound held in skilful leash. The
agonized whale goes into his flurry; the tow-line is slackened, and
the pitchpoler dropping astern, folds his hands, and mutely watches
the monster die.


That for six thousand years --and no one knows how many millions of
ages before --the great whales should have been spouting all over the
sea, and sprinkling and mistifying the gardens of the deep, as with so
many sprinkling or mistifying pots; and that for some centuries back,
thousands of hunters should have been close by the fountain of the
whale, watching these sprinklings and spoutings --that all this should
be, and yet, that down to this blessed minute (fifteen and a quarter
minutes past one o'clock P. M. of this sixteenth day of December,
A. D. ), it should still remain a problem, whether these spoutings
are, after all, really water, or nothing but vapor --this is surely a
noteworthy thing. Let us, then, look at this matter, along with some
interesting items contingent. Every one knows that by the peculiar
cunning of their gills, the finny tribes in general breathe the air
which at all times is combined with the element in which they swim,
hence, a herring or a cod might live a century, and never once raise
its head above the surface. But owing to his marked internal
structure which gives him regular lungs, like a human being's, the
whale can only live by inhaling the disengaged air in the open
atmosphere. Wherefore the necessity for his periodical visits to the
upper world. But he cannot in any degree breathe through his mouth,
for, in his ordinary attitude, the Sperm Whale's mouth is buried at
least eight feet beneath the surface; and what is still more, his
windpipe has no connexion with his mouth. No, he breathes through his
spiracle alone; and this is on the top of his head. If I say, that in
any creature breathing is only a function indispensable to vitality,
inasmuch as it withdraws from the air a certain element, which being
subsequently brought into contact with the blood imparts to the blood
its vivifying principle, I do not think I shall err; though I may
possibly use some superfluous scientific words. Assume it, and it
follows that if all the blood in a man could be aerated with one
breath, he might then seal up his nostrils and not fetch another for a
considerable time. That is to say, he would then live without
breathing. Anomalous as it may seem, this is precisely the case with
the whale, who systematically lives, by intervals, his full hour and
more (when at the bottom) without drawing a single breath, or so much
as in any way inhaling a particle of air; for, remember, he has no
gills. How is this? Between his ribs and on each side of his spine
he is supplied with a remarkable involved Cretan labyrinth of
vermicelli-like vessels, which vessels, when he quits the surface, are
completely distended with oxygenated blood. So that for an hour or
more, a thousand fathoms in the sea, he carries a surplus stock of
vitality in him, just as the camel crossing the waterless desert
carries a surplus supply of drink for future use in its four
supplementary stomachs. The anatomical fact of this labyrinth is
indisputable; and that the supposition founded upon it is reasonable
and true, seems the more cogent to me, when I consider the otherwise
inexplicable obstinacy of that leviathan in having his spoutings out,
as the fishermen phrase it. This is what I mean. If unmolested, upon
rising to the surface, the Sperm Whale will continue there for a
period of time exactly uniform with all his other unmolested
risings. Say he stays eleven minutes, and jets seventy times, that is,
respires seventy breaths; then whenever he rises again, he will be
sure to have his seventy breaths over again, to a minute. Now, if
after he fetches a few breaths you alarm him, so that he sounds, he
will be always dodging up again to make good his regular allowance of
air. And not till those seventy breaths are told, will he finally go
down to stay out his full term below. Remark, however, that in
different individuals these rates are different; but in any one they
are alike. Now, why should the whale thus insist upon having his
spoutings out, unless it be to replenish his reservoir of air, ere
descending for good? How obvious is it, too, that this necessity for
the whale's rising exposes him to all the fatal hazards of the chase.
For not by hook or by net could this vast leviathan be caught, when
sailing a thousand fathoms beneath the sunlight. Not so much thy
skill, then, O hunter, as the great necessities that strike the
victory to thee! In man, breathing is incessantly going on --one
breath only serving for two or three pulsations; so that whatever
other business he has to attend to, waking or sleeping, breathe he
must, or die he will. But the Sperm Whale only breathes about one
seventh or Sunday of his time. It has been said that the whale only
breathes through his spout-hole; if it could truthfully be added that
his spouts are mixed with water, then I opine we should be furnished
with the reason why his sense of smell seems obliterated in him; for
the only thing about him that at all answers to his nose is that
identical spout-hole; and being so clogged with two elements, it could
not be expected to have the power of smelling. But owing to the
mystery of the spout --whether it be water or whether it be vapor --no
absolute certainty can as yet be arrived at on this head. Sure it is,
nevertheless, that the Sperm Whale has no proper olfactories. But
what does he want of them? No roses, no violets, no Cologne-water in
the sea. Furthermore, as his windpipe solely opens into the tube of
his spouting canal, and as that long canal --like the grand Erie Canal
--is furnished with a sort of locks (that open and shut) for the
downward retention of air or the upward exclusion of water, therefore
the whale has no voice; unless you insult him by saying, that when he
so strangely rumbles, he talks through his nose. But then again, what
has the whale to say? Seldom have I known any profound being that had
anything to say to this world, unless forced to stammer out something
by way of getting a living. Oh! happy that the world is such an
excellent listener! Now, the spouting canal of the Sperm Whale,
chiefly intended as it is for the conveyance of air, and for several
feet laid along, horizontally, just beneath the upper surface of his
head, and a little to one side; this curious canal is very much like a
gas-pipe laid down in a city on one side of a street. But the
question returns whether this gas-pipe is also a water-pipe; in other
words, whether the spout of the Sperm Whale is the mere vapor of the
exhaled breath, or whether that exhaled breath is mixed with water
taken in at the mouth, and discharged through the spiracle. It is
certain that the mouth indirectly communicates with the spouting
canal; but it cannot be proved that this is for the purpose of
discharging water through the spiracle. Because the greatest
necessity for so doing would seem to be, when in feeding he
accidentally takes in water. But the Sperm Whale's food is far
beneath the surface, and there he cannot spout even if he would.
Besides, if you regard him very closely, and time him with your watch,
you will find that when unmolested, there is an undeviating rhyme
between the periods of his jets and the ordinary periods of
respiration. But why pester one with all this reasoning on the
subject? Speak out! You have seen him spout; then declare what the
spout is; can you not tell water from air? My dear sir, in this world
it is not so easy to settle these plain things. I have ever found
your plain things the knottiest of all. And as for this whale spout,
you might almost stand in it, and yet be undecided as to what it is
precisely. The central body of it is hidden in the snowy sparkling
mist enveloping it; and how can you certainly tell whether any water
falls from it, when, always, when you are close enough to a whale to
get a close view of his spout, he is in a prodigious commotion, the
water cascading all around him. And if at such times you should think
that you really perceived drops of moisture in the spout, how do you
know that they are not merely condensed from its vapor; or how do you
know that they are not those identical drops superficially lodged in
the spout-hole fissure, which is countersunk into the summit of the
whale's head? For even when tranquilly swimming through the mid-day
sea in a calm, with his elevated hump sun-dried as a dromedary's in
the desert; even then, the whale always carries a small basin of water
on his head, as under a blazing sun you will sometimes see a cavity in
a rock filled up with rain. Nor is it at all prudent for the hunter
to be over curious touching the precise nature of the whale spout. It
will not do for him to be peering into it, and putting his face in it.
You cannot go with your pitcher to this fountain and fill it, and
bring it away. For even when coming into slight contact with the
outer, vapory shreds of the jet, which will often happen, your skin
will feverishly smart, from the acridness of the thing so touching it.
And I know one, who coming into still closer contact with the spout,
whether with some scientific object in view, or otherwise, I cannot
say, the skin peeled off from his cheek and arm. Wherefore, among
whalemen, the spout is deemed poisonous; they try to evade it.
Another thing; I have heard it said, and I do not much doubt it, that
if the jet is fairly spouted into your eyes, it will blind you. The
wisest thing the investigator can do then, it seems to me, is to let
this deadly spout alone. Still, we can hypothesize, even if we cannot
prove and establish. My hypothesis is this: that the spout is nothing
but mist. And besides other reasons, to this conclusion I am
impelled, by considerations touching the great inherent dignity and
sublimity of the Sperm Whale; I account him no common, shallow being,
inasmuch as it is an undisputed fact that he is never found on
soundings, or near shores; all other whales sometimes are. He is both
ponderous and profound. And I am convinced that from the heads of all
ponderous profound beings, such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter,
Dante, and so on, there always goes up a certain semi-visible steam,
while in the act of thinking deep thoughts. While composing a little
treatise on Eternity, I had the curiosity to place a mirror before me;
and ere long saw reflected there, a curious involved worming and
undulation in the atmosphere over my head. The invariable moisture of
my hair, while plunged in deep thought, after six cups of hot tea in
my thin shingled attic, of an August noon; this seems an additional
argument for the above supposition. And how nobly it raises our
conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to behold him solemnly sailing
through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild head overhung by a canopy
of vapor, engendered by his incommunicable contemplations, and that
vapor --as you will sometimes see it --glorified by a rainbow, as if
Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts. For, d'ye see,
rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor. And
so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine
intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray.
And for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts
or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all
things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this
combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who
regards them both with equal eye.

< Chapter LXXXVI 16 THE TAIL >

Other poets have warbled the praises of the soft eye of the antelope,
and the lovely plumage of the bird that never alights; less celestial,
I celebrate a tail. Reckoning the largest sized Sperm Whale's tail to
begin at that point of the trunk where it tapers to about the girth of
a man, it comprises upon its upper surface alone, an area of at least
fifty square feet. The compact round body of its root expands into
two broad, firm, flat palms or flukes, gradually shoaling away to less
than an inch in thickness. At the crotch or junction, these flukes
slightly overlap, then sideways recede from each other like wings,
leaving a wide vacancy between. In no living thing are the lines of
beauty more exquisitely defined than in the crescentic borders of
these flukes. At its utmost expansion in the full grown whale, the
tail will considerably exceed twenty feet across. The entire member
seems a dense webbed bed of welded sinews; but cut into it, and you
find that three distinct strata compose it: --upper, middle, and
lower. The fibres in the upper and lower layers, are long and
horizontal; those of the middle one, very short, and running crosswise
between the outside layers. This triune structure, as much as
anything else, imparts power to the tail. To the student of old Roman
walls, the middle layer will furnish a curious parallel to the thin
course of tiles always alternating with the stone in those wonderful
relics of the antique, and which undoubtedly contribute so much to the
great strength of the masonry. But as if this vast local power in the
tendinous tail were not enough, the whole bulk of the leviathan is
knit over with a warp and woof of muscular fibres and filaments, which
passing on either side the loins and running down into the flukes,
insensibly blend with them, and largely contribute to their might; so
that in the tail the confluent measureless force of the whole whale
seems concentrated to a point. Could annihilation occur to matter,
this were the thing to do it. Nor does this --its amazing strength,
at all tend to cripple the graceful flexion of its motions; where
infantileness of ease undulates through a Titanism of power. On the
contrary, those motions derive their most appalling beauty from it.
Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows
it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do
with the magic. Take away the tied tendons that all over seem
bursting from the marble in the carved Hercules, and its charm would
be gone. As devout Eckerman lifted the linen sheet from the naked
corpse of Goethe, he was overwhelmed with the massive chest of the
man, that seemed as a Roman triumphal arch. When Angelo paints even
God the Father in human form, mark what robustness is there. And
whatever they may reveal of the divine love in the Son, the soft,
curled, hermaphroditical Italian pictures, in which his idea has been
most successfully embodied; these pictures, so destitute as they are
of all brawniness, hint nothing of any power, but the mere negative,
feminine one of submission and endurance, which on all hands it is
conceded, form the peculiar practical virtues of his teachings. Such
is the subtle elasticity of the organ I treat of, that whether wielded
in sport, or in earnest, or in anger, whatever be the mood it be in,
its flexions are invariably marked by exceeding grace. Therein no
fairy's arm can transcend it. Five great motions are peculiar to
it. First, when used as a fin for progression; Second, when used as a
mace in battle; Third, in sweeping; Fourth, in lobtailing; Fifth, in
peaking flukes. First: Being horizontal in its position, the
Leviathan's tail acts in a different manner from the tails of all
other sea creatures. It never wriggles. In man or fish, wriggling is
a sign of inferiority. To the whale, his tail is the sole means of
propulsion. Scroll-wise coiled forwards beneath the body, and then
rapidly sprung backwards, it is this which gives that singular
darting, leaping motion to the monster when furiously swimming. His
side-fins only serve to steer by. Second: It is a little significant,
that while one sperm whale only fights another sperm whale with his
head and jaw, nevertheless, in his conflicts with man, he chiefly and
contemptuously uses his tail. In striking at a boat, he swiftly
curves away his flukes from it, and the blow is only inflicted by the
recoil. If it be made in the unobstructed air, especially if it
descend to its mark, the stroke is then simply irresistible.

No ribs of man or boat can withstand it. Your only salvation lies in
eluding it; but if it comes sideways through the opposing water, then
partly owing to the light buoyancy of the whaleboat, and the
elasticity of its materials, a cracked rib or a dashed plank or two, a
sort of stitch in the side, is generally the most serious result.
These submerged side blows are so often received in the fishery, that
they are accounted mere child's play. Some one strips off a frock,
and the hole is stopped. Third: I cannot demonstrate it, but it seems
to me, that in the whale the sense of touch is concentrated in the
tail; for in this respect there is a delicacy in it only equalled by
the daintiness of the elephant's trunk. This delicacy is chiefly
evinced in the action of sweeping, when in maidenly gentleness the
whale with a certain soft slowness moves his immense flukes from side
to side upon the surface of the sea; and if he feel but a sailor's
whisker, woe to that sailor, whiskers and all. What tenderness there
is in that preliminary touch! Had this tail any prehensile power, I
should straightway bethink me of Darmonodes' elephant that so
frequented the flower-market, and with low salutations presented
nosegays to damsels, and then caressed their zones. On more accounts
than one, a pity it is that the whale does not possess this prehensile
virtue in his tail; for I have heard of yet another elephant, that
when wounded in the fight, curved round his trunk and extracted the
dart. Fourth: Stealing unawares upon the whale in the fancied
security of the middle of solitary seas, you find him unbent from the
vast corpulence of his dignity, and kitten-like, he plays on the ocean
as if it were a hearth. But still you see his power in his play. The
broad palms of his tail are flirted high into the air; then smiting
the surface, the thunderous concussion resounds for miles. You would
almost think a great gun had been discharged; and if you noticed the
light wreath of vapor from the spiracle at his other extremity, you
would think that that was the smoke from the touch-hole. Fifth: As in
the ordinary floating posture of the leviathan the flukes lie
considerably below the level of his back, they are then completely out
of sight beneath the surface; but when he is about to plunge into the
deeps, his entire flukes with at least thirty feet of his body are
tossed erect in the air, and so remain vibrating a moment, till they
downwards shoot out of view. Excepting the sublime breach --somewhere
else to be described --this peaking of the whale's flukes is perhaps
the grandest sight to be seen in all animated nature. Out of the
bottomless profundities the gigantic tail seems spasmodically
snatching at the highest heaven. So in dreams, have I seen majestic
Satan thrusting forth his tormented colossal claw from the flame
Baltic of Hell. But in gazing at such scenes, it is all in all what
mood you are in; if in the Dantean, the devils will occur to you; if
in that of Isaiah, the archangels. Standing at the mast-head of my
ship during a sunrise that crimsoned sky and sea, I once saw a large
herd of whales in the east, all heading towards the sun, and for a
moment vibrating in concert with peaked flukes. As it seemed to me at
the time, such a grand embodiment of adoration of the gods was never
beheld, even in Persia, the home of the fire worshippers. As Ptolemy
Philopater testified of the African elephant, I then testified of the
whale, pronouncing him the most devout of all beings. For according
to King Juba, the military elephants of antiquity often hailed the
morning with their trunks uplifted in the profoundest silence. The
chance comparison in this chapter, between the whale and the elephant,
so far as some aspects of the tail of the one and the trunk of the
other are concerned, should not tend to place those two opposite
organs on an equality, much less the creatures to which they
respectively belong. For as the mightiest elephant is but a terrier
to Leviathan, so, compared with Leviathan's tail, his trunk is but the
stalk of a lily. The most direful blow from the elephant's trunk were
as the playful tap of a fan, compared with the measureless crush and
crash of the sperm whale's ponderous flukes, which in repeated
instances have one after the other hurled entire boats with all their
oars and crews into the air, very much as an Indian juggler tosses his
balls. The more I consider this mighty tail, the more do I deplore my
inability to express it. At times there are gestures in it, which,
though they would well grace the hand of man, remain wholly
inexplicable. In an extensive herd, so remarkable, occasionally, are
these mystic gestures, that I have heard hunters who have declared
them akin to Free-Mason signs and symbols; that the whale, indeed, by
these methods intelligently conversed with the world. Nor are there
wanting other motions of the whale in his general body, full of
strangeness, and unaccountable to his most experienced
assailant. Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep; I know him
not, and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whale,
how understand his head? much more, how comprehend his face, when
face he has none? Thou shalt see my back parts, my tail, he seems to
say, but my face shall not be seen. But I cannot completely make out
his back parts; and hint what he will about his face, I say again he
has no face. Though all comparison in the way of general bulk between
the whale and the elephant is preposterous, inasmuch as in that
particular the elephant stands in much the same respect to the whale
that a dog does to the elephant; nevertheless, there are not wanting
some points of curious similitude; among these is the spout. It is
well known that the elephant will often draw up water or dust in his
trunk, and then elevating it, jet it forth in a stream.


The long and narrow peninsula of Malacca, extending south-eastward
from the territories of Birmah, forms the most southerly point of all
Asia. In a continuous line from that peninsula stretch the long
islands of Sumatra, Java, Bally, and Timor; which, with many others,
form a vast mole, or rampart, lengthwise connecting Asia with
Australia, and dividing the long unbroken Indian ocean from the
thickly studded oriental archipelagoes. This rampart is pierced by
several sally-ports for the convenience of ships and whales;
conspicuous among which are the straits of Sunda and Malacca. By the
straits of Sunda, chiefly, vessels bound to China from the west,
emerge into the China seas. Those narrow straits of Sunda divide
Sumatra from Java; and standing midway in that vast rampart of
islands, buttressed by that bold green promontory, known to seamen as
Java Head; they not a little correspond to the central gateway opening
into some vast walled empire: and considering the inexhaustible wealth
of spices, and silks, and jewels, and gold, and ivory, with which the
thousand islands of that oriental sea are enriched, it seems a
significant provision of nature, that such treasures, by the very
formation of the land, should at least bear the appearance, however
ineffectual, of being guarded from the all-grasping western world. The
shores of the Straits of Sunda are unsupplied with those domineering
fortresses which guard the entrances to the Mediterranean, the Baltic,
and the Propontis. Unlike the Danes, these Orientals do not demand
the obsequious homage of lowered top-sails from the endless procession
of ships before the wind, which for centuries past, by night and by
day, have passed between the islands of Sumatra and Java, freighted
with the costliest cargoes of the east. But while they freely waive a
ceremonial like this, they do by no means renounce their claim to more
solid tribute. Time out of mind the piratical proas of the Malays,
lurking among the low shaded coves and islets of Sumatra, have sallied
out upon the vessels sailing through the straits, fiercely demanding
tribute at the point of their spears. Though by the repeated bloody
chastisements they have received at the hands of European cruisers,
the audacity of these corsairs has of late been somewhat repressed;
yet, even at the present day, we occasionally hear of English and
American vessels, which, in those waters, have been remorselessly
boarded and pillaged.

With a fair, fresh wind, the Pequod was now drawing nigh to these
straits; Ahab purposing to pass through them into the Javan sea, and
thence, cruising northwards, over waters known to be frequented here
and there by the Sperm whale, sweep inshore by the Philippine Islands,
and gain the far coast of Japan, in time for the great whaling season
there. By these means, the circumnavigating Pequod would sweep almost
all the known Sperm Whale cruising grounds of the world, previous to
descending upon the Line in the Pacific; where Ahab, though everywhere
else foiled in his pursuit, firmly counted upon giving battle to Moby
Dick, in the sea he was most known to frequent; and at a season when
he might most reasonably be presumed to be haunting it. But how now?
in this zoned quest, does Ahab touch no land? does his crew drink
air? Surely, he will stop for water. Nay. For a long time, now, the
circus-running sun has raced within his fiery ring, and needs no
sustenance but what's in himself. So Ahab. Mark this, too, in the
whaler. While other hulls are loaded down with alien stuff, to be
transferred to foreign wharves; the world-wandering whale-ship carries
no cargo but herself and crew, their weapons and their wants. She has
a whole lake's contents bottled in her ample hold. She is ballasted
with utilities; not altogether with unusable pig-lead and
kentledge. She carries years' water in her. Clear old prime Nantucket
water; which, when three years afloat, the Nantucketer, in the
Pacific, prefers to drink before the brackish fluid, but yesterday
rafted off in casks, from the Peruvian or Indian streams. Hence it
is, that, while other ships may have gone to China from New York, and
back again, touching at a score of ports, the whale-ship, in all that
interval, may not have sighted one grain of soil; her crew having seen
no man but floating seamen like themselves. So that did you carry
them the news that another flood had come; they would only answer --
Well, boys, here's the ark! Now, as many Sperm Whales had been
captured off the western coast of Java, in the near vicinity of the
straits of Sunda; indeed, as most of the ground, roundabout, was
generally recognised by the fishermen as an excellent spot for
cruising; therefore, as the Pequod gained more and more upon Java
Head, the look-outs were repeatedly hailed, and admonished to keep
wide awake. But though the green palmy cliffs of the land soon loomed
on the starboard bow, and with delighted nostrils the fresh cinnamon
was snuffed in the air, yet not a single jet was descried. Almost
renouncing all thought of falling in with any game hereabouts, the
ship had well nigh entered the straits, when the customary cheering
cry was heard from aloft, and ere long a spectacle of singular
magnificence saluted us. But here be it premised, that owing to the
unwearied activity with which of late they have been hunted over all
four oceans, the Sperm Whales, instead of almost invariably sailing in
small detached companies, as in former times, are now frequently met
with in extensive herds, sometimes embracing so great a multitude,
that it would almost seem as if numerous nations of them had sworn
solemn league and covenant for mutual assistance and protection. To
this aggregation of the Sperm Whale into such immense caravans, may be
imputed the circumstance that even in the best cruising grounds, you
may now sometimes sail for weeks and months together, without being
greeted by a single spout; and then be suddenly saluted by what
sometimes seems thousands on thousands. Broad on both bows, at the
distance of some two or three miles, and forming a great semicircle,
embracing one half of the level horizon, a continuous chain of
whale-jets were up-playing and sparkling in the noon-day air. Unlike
the straight perpendicular twin-jets of the Right Whale, which,
dividing at top, falls over in two branches, like the cleft drooping
boughs of a willow, the single forward-slanting spout of the Sperm
Whale presents a thick curled bush of white mist, continually rising
and falling away to leeward. Seen from the Pequod's deck, then, as
she would rise on a high hill of the sea, this host of vapory spouts,
individually curling up into the air, and beheld through a blending
atmosphere of bluish haze, showed like the thousand cheerful chimneys
of some dense metropolis, descried of a balmy autumnal morning, by
some horseman on a height. As marching armies approaching an
unfriendly defile in the mountains, accelerate their march, all
eagerness to place that perilous passage in their rear, and once more
expand in comparative security upon the plain; even so did this vast
fleet of whales now seem hurrying forward through the straits;
gradually contracting the wings of their semicircle, and swimming on,
in one solid, but still crescentic centre. Crowding all sail the
Pequod pressed after them; the harpooneers handling their weapons, and
loudly cheering from the heads of their yet suspended boats. If the
wind only held, little doubt had they, that chased through these
Straits of Sunda, the vast host would only deploy into the Oriental
seas to witness the capture of not a few of their number. And who
could tell whether, in that congregated caravan, Moby Dick himself
might not temporarily be swimming, like the worshipped white-elephant
in the coronation procession of the Siamese! So with stun-sail piled
on stun-sail, we sailed along, driving these leviathans before us;
when, of a sudden, the voice of Tashtego was heard, loudly directing
attention to something in our wake. Corresponding to the crescent in
our van, we beheld another in our rear. It seemed formed of detached
white vapors, rising and falling something like the spouts of the
whales; only they did not so completely come and go; for they
constantly hovered, without finally disappearing. Levelling his glass
at this sight, ahab quickly revolved in his pivot-hole, crying, aloft
there, and rig whips and buckets to wet the sails; --Malays, sir, and
after us! As if too long lurking behind the headlands, till the
Pequod should fairly have entered the straits, these rascally Asiatics
were now in hot pursuit, to make up for their over-cautious delay. But
when the swift Pequod, with a fresh leading wind, was herself in hot
chase; how very kind of these tawny philanthropists to assist in
speeding her on to her own chosen pursuit, -- mere riding-whips and
rowels to her, that they were. As with glass under arm, Ahab
to-and-fro paced the deck; in his forward turn beholding the monsters
he chased, and in the after one the bloodthirsty pirates chasing him;
some such fancy as the above seemed his. And when he glanced upon the
green walls of the watery defile in which the ship was then sailing,
and bethought him that through that gate lay the route to his
vengeance, and beheld, how that through that same gate he was now both
chasing and being chased to his deadly end; and not only that, but a
herd of remorseless wild pirates and inhuman atheistical devils were
infernally cheering him on with their curses; --when all these
conceits had passed through his brain, Ahab's brow was left gaunt and
ribbed, like the black sand beach after some stormy tide has been
gnawing it, without being able to drag the firm thing from its
place. But thoughts like these troubled very few of the reckless crew;
and when, after steadily dropping and dropping the pirates astern, the
Pequod at last shot by the vivid green Cockatoo Point on the Sumatra
side, emerging at last upon the broad waters beyond; then, the
harpooneers seemed more to grieve that the swift whales had been
gaining upon the ship, than to rejoice that the ship had so
victoriously gained upon the Malays. But still driving on in the wake
of the whales, at length they seemed abating their speed; gradually
the ship neared them; and the wind now dying away, word was passed to
spring to the boats. But no sooner did the herd, by some presumed
wonderful instinct of the Sperm Whale, become notified of the three
keels that were after them, --though as yet a mile in their rear,
--than they rallied again, and forming in close ranks and battalions,
so that their spouts all looked like flashing lines of stacked
bayonets, moved on with redoubled velocity. Stripped to our shirts
and drawers, we sprang to the white-ash, and after several hours'
pulling were almost disposed to renounce the chase, when a general
pausing commotion among the whales gave animating token that they were
now at last under the influence of that strange perplexity of inert
irresolution, which, when the fishermen perceive it in the whale, they
say he is gallied. The compact martial columns in which they had been
hitherto rapidly and steadily swimming, were now broken up in one
measureless rout; and like King Porus' elephants in the Indian battle
with Alexander, they seemed going mad with consternation. In all
directions expanding in vast irregular circles, and aimlessly swimming
hither and thither, by their short thick spoutings, they plainly
betrayed their distraction of panic. This was still more strangely
evinced by those of their number, who, completely paralysed as it
were, helplessly floated like water-logged dismantled ships on the
sea. Had these leviathans been but a flock of simple sheep, pursued
over the pasture by three fierce wolves, they could not possibly have
evinced such excessive dismay. But this occasional timidity is
characteristic of almost all herding creatures. Though banding
together in tens of thousands, the lion-maned buffaloes of the West
have fled before a solitary horseman. Witness, too, all human beings,
how when herded together in the sheepfold of a theatre's pit, they
will, at the slightest alarm of fire, rush helter-skelter for the
outlets, crowding, trampling, jamming, and remorselessly dashing each
other to death. Best, therefore, withhold any amazement at the
strangely gallied whales before us, for there is no folly of the
beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of
men. Though many of the whales, as has been said, were in violent
motion, yet it is to be observed that as a whole the herd neither
advanced nor retreated, but collectively remained in one place. As is
customary in those cases, the boats at once separated, each making for
some one lone whale on the outskirts of the shoal. In about three
minutes' time, Queequeg's harpoon was flung; the stricken fish darted
blinding spray in our faces, and then running away with us like light,
steered straight for the heart of the herd. Though such a movement on
the part of the whale struck under such circumstances, is in no wise
unprecedented; and indeed is almost always more or less anticipated;
yet does it present one of the more perilous vicissitudes of the
fishery. For as the swift monster drags you deeper and deeper into
the frantic shoal, you bid adieu to circumspect life and only exist in
a delirious throb. As, blind and deaf, the whale plunged forward, as
if by sheer power of speed to rid himself of the iron leech that had
fastened to him; as we thus tore a white gash in the sea, on all sides
menaced as we flew, by the crazed creatures to and fro rushing about
us; our beset boat was like a ship mobbed by ice-isles in a tempest,
and striving to steer through their complicated channels and straits,
knowing not at what moment it may be locked in and crushed. But not a
bit daunted, Queequeg steered us manfully; now sheering off from this
monster directly across our route in advance; now edging away from
that, whose colossal flukes were suspended overhead, while all the
time, Starbuck stood up in the bows, lance in hand, pricking out of
our way whatever whales he could reach by short darts, for there was
no time to make long ones. Nor were the oarsmen quite idle, though
their wonted duty was now altogether dispensed with. They chiefly
attended to the shouting part of the business. Out of the way,
Commodore! cried one, to a great dromedary that of a sudden rose
bodily to the surface, and for an instant threatened to swamp us. Hard
down with your tail, there! cried a second to another, which, close
to our gunwale, seemed calmly cooling himself with his own fan-like
extremity. All whaleboats carry certain curious contrivances,
originally invented by the Nantucket Indians, called druggs. Two
thick squares of wood of equal size are stoutly clenched together, so
that they cross each other's grain at right angles; a line of
considerable length is then attached to the middle of this block, and
the other end of the line being looped, it can in a moment be fastened
to a harpoon. It is chiefly among gallied whales that this drugg is
used. For then, more whales are close round you than you can possibly
chase at one time. But sperm whales are not every day encountered;
while you may, then, you must kill all you can. And if you cannot
kill them all at once, you must wing them, so that they can be
afterwards killed at your leisure. Hence it is, that at times like
these the drugg comes into requisition. Our boat was furnished with
three of them. The first and second were successfully darted, and we
saw the whales staggeringly running off, fettered by the enormous
sidelong resistance of the towing drugg. They were cramped like
malefactors with the chain and ball. But upon flinging the third, in
the act of tossing overboard the clumsy wooden block, it caught under
one of the seats of the boat, and in an instant tore it out and
carried it away, dropping the oarsman in the boat's bottom as the seat
slid from under him. On both sides the sea came in at the wounded
planks, but we stuffed two or three drawers and shirts in, and so
stopped the leaks for the time. It had been next to impossible to
dart these drugged-harpoons, were it not that as we advanced into the
herd, our whale's way greatly diminished; moreover, that as we went
still further and further from the circumference of commotion, the
direful disorders seemed waning. So that when at last the jerking
harpoon drew out, and the towing whale sideways vanished; then, with
the tapering force of his parting momentum, we glided between two
whales into the innermost heart of the shoal, as if from some mountain
torrent we had slid into a serene valley lake. Here the storms in the
roaring glens between the outermost whales, were heard but not
felt. In this central expanse the sea presented that smooth satin-like
surface, called a sleek, produced by the subtle moisture thrown off by
the whale in his more quiet moods. Yes, we were now in that enchanted
calm which they say lurks at the heart of every commotion. And still
in the distracted distance we beheld the tumults of the outer
concentric circles, and saw successive pods of whales, eight or ten in
each, swiftly going round and round, like multiplied spans of horses
in a ring; and so closely shoulder to shoulder, that a Titanic
circus-rider might easily have over-arched the middle ones, and so
have gone round on their backs. Owing to the density of the crowd of
reposing whales, more immediately surrounding the embayed axis of the
herd, no possible chance of escape was at present afforded us. We
must watch for a breach in the living wall that hemmed us in; the wall
that had only admitted us in order to shut us up. Keeping at the
centre of the lake, we were occasionally visited by small tame cows
and calves; the women and children of this routed host. Now,
inclusive of the occasional wide intervals between the revolving outer
circles, and inclusive of the spaces between the various pods in any
one of those circles, the entire area at this juncture, embraced by
the whole multitude, must have contained at least two or three square
miles. At any rate --though indeed such a test at such a time might
be deceptive --spoutings might be discovered from our low boat that
seemed playing up almost from the rim of the horizon. I mention this
circumstance, because, as if the cows and calves had been purposely
locked up in this innermost fold; and as if the wide extent of the
herd had hitherto prevented them from learning the precise cause of
its stopping; or, possibly, being so young, unsophisticated, and every
way innocent and inexperienced; however it may have been, these
smaller whales --now and then visiting our becalmed boat from the
margin of the lake --evinced a wondrous fearlessness and confidence,
or else a still becharmed panic which it was impossible not to marvel
at. Like household dogs they came snuffling round us, right up to our
gunwales, and touching them; till it almost seemed that some spell had
suddenly domesticated them. Queequeg patted their foreheads; Starbuck
scratched their backs with his lance; but fearful of the consequences,
for the time refrained from darting it. But far beneath this wondrous
world upon the surface, another and still stranger world met our eyes
as we gazed over the side. For, suspended in those watery vaults,
floated the forms of the nursing mothers of the whales, and those that
by their enormous girth seemed shortly to become mothers. The lake,
as I have hinted, was to a considerable depth exceedingly transparent;
and as human infants while suckling will calmly and fixedly gaze away
from the breast, as if leading two different lives at the time; and
while yet drawing mortal nourishment, be still spiritually feasting
upon some unearthly reminiscence; --even so did the young of these
whales seem looking up towards us, but not at us, as if we were but a
bit of Gulf-weed in their new-born sight. floating on their sides,
the mothers also seemed quietly eyeing us. One of these little
infants, that from certain queer tokens seemed hardly a day old, might
have measured some fourteen feet in length, and some six feet in
girth. He was a little frisky; though as yet his body seemed scarce
yet recovered from that irksome position it had so lately occupied in
the maternal reticule; where, tail to head, and all ready for the
final spring, the unborn whale lies bent like a Tartar's bow. The
delicate side-fins, and the palms of his flukes, still freshly
retained the plaited crumpled appearance of a baby's ears newly
arrived from foreign parts. Line! line! cried Queequeg, looking
over the gunwale; him fast! him fast! --Who line him! Who struck?
Two whale; one big, one little! What ails ye, man? cried Starbuck.
Look-e here, said Queequeg pointing down. As when the stricken whale,
that from the tub has reeled out hundreds of fathoms of rope; as,
after deep sounding, he floats up again, and shows the slackened
curling line buoyantly rising and spiralling towards the air; so now,
Starbuck saw long coils of the umbilical cord of Madame Leviathan, by
which the young cub seemed still tethered to its dam. Not seldom in
the rapid vicissitudes of the chase, this natural line, with the
maternal end loose, becomes entangled with the hempen one, so that the
cub is thereby trapped. Some of the subtlest secrets of the seas
seemed divulged to us in this enchanted pond. We saw young Leviathan
amours in the deep. And thus, though surrounded by circle upon circle
of consternations and affrights, did these inscrutable creatures at
the centre freely and fearlessly indulge in all peaceful concernments;
yea, serenely revelled in dalliance and delight. But even so, amid
the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever
centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of
unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there i still
bathe me in eternal mildness of joy. Meanwhile, as we thus lay
entranced, the occasional sudden frantic spectacles in the distance
evinced the activity of the other boats, still engaged in drugging the
whales on the frontier of the host; or possibly carrying on the war
within the first circle, where abundance of room and some convenient
retreats were afforded them. But the sight of the enraged drugged
whales now and then blindly darting to and fro across the circles, was
nothing to what at last met our eyes. It is sometimes the custom when
fast to a whale more than commonly powerful and alert, to seek to
hamstring him, as it were, by sundering or maiming his gigantic
tail-tendon. It is done by darting a short-handled cutting-spade, to
which is attached a rope for hauling it back again. A whale wounded
(as we afterwards learned) in this part, but not effectually, as it
seemed, had broken away from the boat, carrying along with him half of
the harpoon line; and in the extraordinary agony of the wound, he was
now dashing among the revolving circles like the lone mounted
desperado Arnold, at the battle of Saratoga, carrying dismay wherever
he went. But agonizing as was the wound of this whale, and an
appalling spectacle enough, any way; yet the peculiar horror with
which he seemed to inspire the rest of the herd, was owing to a cause
which at first the intervening distance obscured from us. But at
length we perceived that by one of the unimaginable accidents of the
fishery, this whale had become entangled in the harpoon-line that he
towed; he had also run away with the cutting-spade in him; and while
the free end of the rope attached to that weapon, had permanently
caught in the coils of the harpoon-line round his tail, the
cutting-spade itself had worked loose from his flesh. So that
tormented to madness, he was now churning through the water, violently
flailing with his flexible tail, and tossing the keen spade about him,
wounding and murdering his own comrades. this terrific object seemed
to recall the whole herd from their stationary fright. First, the
whales forming the margin of our lake began to crowd a little, and
tumble against each other, as if lifted by half spent billows from
afar; then the lake itself began faintly to heave and swell; the
submarine bridal-chambers and nurseries vanished; in more and more
contracting orbits the whales in the more central circles began to
swim in thickening clusters. Yes, the long calm was departing. A low
advancing hum was soon heard; and then like to the tumultuous masses
of block-ice when the great river Hudson breaks up in Spring, the
entire host of whales came tumbling upon their inner centre, as if to
pile themselves up in one common mountain. Instantly Starbuck and
Queequeg changed places; Starbuck taking the stern. Oars! Oars! he
intensely whispered, seizing the helm -- gripe your oars, and clutch
your souls, now! My God, men, stand by! Shove him off, you Queequeg
--the whale there! --prick him! --hit him! Stand up --stand up, and
stay so! Spring, men -- pull, men; never mind their backs --scrape
them! --scrape away! The boat was now all but jammed between two
vast black bulks, leaving a narrow Dardanelles between their long
lengths. But by desperate endeavor we at last shot into a temporary
opening; then giving way rapidly, and at the same time earnestly
watching for another outlet. After many similar hair-breadth escapes,
we at last swiftly glided into what had just been one of the outer
circles, but now crossed by random whales, all violently making for
one centre. This lucky salvation was cheaply purchased by the loss of
Queequeg's hat, who, while standing in the bows to prick the fugitive
whales, had his hat taken clean from his head by the air-eddy made by
the sudden tossing of a pair of broad flukes close by. Riotous and
disordered as the universal commotion now was, it soon resolved itself
into what seemed a systematic movement; for having clumped together at
last in one dense body, they then renewed their onward flight with
augmented fleetness. Further pursuit was useless; but the boats still
lingered in their wake to pick up what drugged whales might be dropped
astern, and likewise to secure one which Flask had killed and waifed.
The waif is a pennoned pole, two or three of which are carried by
every boat; and which, when additional game is at hand, are inserted
upright into the floating body of a dead whale, both to mark its place
on the sea, and also as token of prior possession, should the boats of
any other ship draw near. The result of this lowering was somewhat
illustrative of that sagacious saying in the Fishery, --the more
whales the less fish. Of all the drugged whales only one was
captured. The rest contrived to escape for the time, but only to be
taken, as will hereafter be seen, by some other craft than the Pequod.

To gally, or gallow, is to frighten excessively --to confound with
fright. It is an old Saxon word. It occurs once in Shakespeare: --
The wrathful skies Gallow the very wanderers of the dark And make them
keep their caves. To common language, the word is now completely
obsolete. When the polite landsman first hears it from the gaunt
Nantucketer, he is apt to set it down as one of the whaleman's
self-derived savageries. Much the same is it with many other sinewy
Saxonisms of this sort, which emigrated to New-England rocks with the
noble brawn of the old English emigrants in the time of the
Commonwealth. Thus, some of the best and furthest-descended English
words --the etymological Howards and Percys --are now democratised,
nay, plebeianised --so to speak --in the New World. The sperm whale,
as with all other species of the Leviathan, but unlike most other
fish, breeds indifferently at all seasons; after a gestation which may
probably be set down at nine months, producing but one at a time;
though in some few known instances giving birth to an Esau and Jacob:
-- a contingency provided for in suckling by two teats, curiously
situated, one on each side of the anus; but the breasts themselves
extend upwards from that. When by chance these precious parts in a
nursing whale are cut by the hunter's lance, the mother's pouring milk
and blood rivallingly discolor the sea for rods. The milk is very
sweet and rich; it has been tasted by man; it might do well with
strawberries. When overflowing with mutual esteem, the whales salute
more hominum.


The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or herd of Sperm
Whales, and there was also then given the probable cause inducing
those vast aggregations. Now, though such great bodies are at times
encountered, yet, as must have been seen, even at the present day,
small detached bands are occasionally observed, embracing from twenty
to fifty individuals each. Such bands are known as schools. They
generally are of two sorts; those composed almost entirely of females,
and those mustering none but young vigorous males, or bulls, as they
are familiarly designated. In cavalier attendance upon the school of
females, you invariably see a male of full grown magnitude, but not
old; who, upon any alarm, evinces his gallantry by falling in the rear
and covering the flight of his ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a
luxurious Ottoman, swimming about over the watery world, surroundingly
accompanied by all the solaces and endearments of the harem. The
contrast between this Ottoman and his concubines is striking; because,
while he is always of the largest leviathanic proportions, the ladies,
even at full growth, are not more than one third of the bulk of an
average-sized male. They are comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare
say, not to exceed half a dozen yards round the waist. Nevertheless,
it cannot be denied, that upon the whole they are hereditarily
entitled to en bon point. It is very curious to watch this harem and
its lord in their indolent ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for
ever on the move in leisurely search of variety. You meet them on the
Line in time for the full flower of the Equatorial feeding season,
having just returned, perhaps, from spending the summer in the
Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all unpleasant weariness and
warmth. By the time they have lounged up and down the promenade of
the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental waters in anticipation
of the cool season there, and so evade the other excessive temperature
of the year. When serenely advancing on one of these journeys, if any
strange suspicious sights are seen, my lord whale keeps a wary eye on
his interesting family. Should any unwarrantably pert young Leviathan
coming that way, presume to draw confidentially close to one of the
ladies, with what prodigious fury the Bashaw assails him, and chases
him away! High times, indeed, if unprincipled young rakes like him
are to be permitted to invade the sanctity of domestic bliss; though
do what the Bashaw will, he cannot keep the most notorious Lothario
out of his bed; for, alas! all fish bed in common. As ashore, the
ladies often cause the most terrible duels among their rival admirers;
just so with the whales, who sometimes come to deadly battle, and all
for love. They fence with their long lower jaws, sometimes locking
them together, and so striving for the supremacy like elks that
warringly interweave their antlers. Not a few are captured having the
deep scars of these encounters, --furrowed heads, broken teeth,
scolloped fins; and in some instances, wrenched and dislocated mouths.
but supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake himself away at
the first rush of the harem's lord, then is it very diverting to watch
that lord. Gently he insinuates his vast bulk among them again and
revels there awhile, still in tantalizing vicinity to young Lothario,
like pious Solomon devoutly worshipping among his thousand concubines.
Granting other whales to be in sight, the fishermen will seldom give
chase to one of these Grand Turks; for these Grand Turks are too
lavish of their strength, and hence their unctuousness is small. As
for the sons and the daughters they beget, why, those sons and
daughters must take care of themselves; at least, with only the
maternal help. For like certain other omnivorous roving lovers that
might be named, my Lord Whale has no taste for the nursery, however
much for the bower; and so, being a great traveller, he leaves his
anonymous babies all over the world; every baby an exotic. In good
time, nevertheless, as the ardor of youth declines; as years and dumps
increase; as reflection lends her solemn pauses; in short, as a
general lassitude overtakes the sated Turk; then a love of ease and
virtue supplants the love for maidens; our Ottoman enters upon the
impotent, repentant, admonitory stage of life, forswears, disbands the
harem, and grown to an exemplary, sulky old soul, goes about all alone
among the meridians and parallels saying his prayers, and warning each
young Leviathan from his amorous errors. Now, as the harem of whales
is called by the fishermen a school, so is the lord and master of that
school technically known as the schoolmaster. It is therefore not in
strict character, however admirably satirical, that after going to
school himself, he should then go abroad inculcating not what he
learned there, but the folly of it. His title, schoolmaster, would
very naturally seem derived from the name bestowed upon the harem
itself, but some have surmised that the man who first thus entitled
this sort of Ottoman whale, must have read the memoirs of Vidocq, and
informed himself what sort of a country-schoolmaster that famous
Frenchman was in his younger days, and what was the nature of those
occult lessons he inculcated into some of his pupils.

The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale
betakes himself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm
Whales. Almost universally, a lone whale --as a solitary Leviathan is
called --proves an ancient one. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel
Boone, he will have no one near him but Nature herself; and her he
takes to wife in the wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she
is, though she keeps so many moody secrets. The schools composing
none but young and vigorous males, previously mentioned, offer a
strong contrast to the harem schools. For while those female whales
are characteristically timid, the young males, or forty-barrel-bulls,
as they call them, are by far the most pugnacious of all Leviathans,
and proverbially the most dangerous to encounter; excepting those
wondrous grey-headed, grizzled whales, sometimes met, and these will
fight you like grim fiends exasperated by a penal gout. The
Forty-barrel-bull schools are larger than the harem schools. Like a
mob of young collegians, they are full of fight, fun, and wickedness,
tumbling round the world at such a reckless, rollicking rate, that no
prudent underwriter would insure them any more than he would a riotous
lad at Yale or Harvard. They soon relinquish this turbulence though,
and when about three fourths grown, break up, and separately go about
in quest of settlements, that is, harems. Another point of difference
between the male and female schools is still more characteristic of
the sexes. Say you strike a Forty-barrel-bull --poor devil! all his
comrades quit him. But strike a member of the harem school, and her
companions swim around her with every token of concern, sometimes
lingering so near her and so long, as themselves to fall a prey.


The allusion to the waifs and waif-poles in the last chapter but one,
necessitates some account of the laws and regulations of the whale
fishery, of which the waif may be deemed the grand symbol and badge.
It frequently happens that when several ships are cruising in company,
a whale may be struck by one vessel, then escape, and be finally
killed and captured by another vessel; and herein are indirectly
comprised many minor contingencies, all partaking of this one grand
feature. For example, --after a weary and perilous chase and capture
of a whale, the body may get loose from the ship by reason of a
violent storm; and drifting far away to leeward, be retaken by a
second whaler, who, in a calm, snugly tows it alongside, without risk
of life or line. Thus the most vexatious and violent disputes would
often arise between the fishermen, were there not some written or
unwritten, universal, undisputed law applicable to all cases. Perhaps
the only formal whaling code authorized by legislative enactment, was
that of Holland. It was decreed by the States-General in A. D. . But
though no other nation has ever had any written whaling law, yet the
American fishermen have been their own legislators and lawyers in this
matter. They have provided a system which for terse comprehensiveness
surpasses Justinian's Pandects and the By-laws of the Chinese Society
for the Suppression of Meddling with other People's Business. Yes;
these laws might be engraven on a Queen Anne's farthing, or the barb
of a harpoon, and worn round the neck, so small are they. I. A
Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it. II. A Loose-Fish is fair
game for anybody who can soonest catch it. But what plays the
mischief with this masterly code is the admirable brevity of it, which
necessitates a vast volume of commentaries to expound it. First: What
is a Fast-Fish? Alive or dead a fish is technically fast, when it is
connected with an occupied ship or boat, by any medium at all
controllable by the occupant or occupants, -- a mast, an oar, a
nine-inch cable, a telegraph wire, or a strand of cobweb, it is all
the same. Likewise a fish is technically fast when it bears a waif,
or any other recognised symbol of possession; so long as the party
waifing it plainly evince their ability at any time to take it
alongside, as well as their intention so to do. These are scientific
commentaries; but the commentaries of the whalemen themselves
sometimes consist in hard words and harder knocks --the
Coke-upon-Littleton of the fist. True, among the more upright and
honorable whalemen allowances are always made for peculiar cases,
where it would be an outrageous moral injustice for one party to claim
possession of a whale previously chased or killed by another
party. But others are by no means so scrupulous. Some fifty years ago
there was a curious case of whale-trover litigated in England, wherein
the plaintiffs set forth that after a hard chase of a whale in the
Northern seas; and when indeed they (the plaintiffs) had succeeded in
harpooning the fish; they were at last, through peril of their lives,
obliged to forsake not only their lines, but their boat itself.

Ultimately the defendants (the crew of another ship) came up with the
whale, struck, killed, seized, and finally appropriated it before the
very eyes of the plaintiffs. And when those defendants were
remonstrated with, their captain snapped his fingers in the
plaintiffs' teeth, and assured them that by way of doxology to the
deed he had done, he would now retain their line, harpoons, and boat,
which had remained attached to the whale at the time of the
seizure. Wherefore the plaintiffs now sued for the recovery of the
value of their whale, line, harpoons, and boat. Mr. Erskine was
counsel for the defendants; Lord Ellenborough was the judge. In the
course of the defence, the witty Erskine went on to illustrate his
position, by alluding to a recent crim. con. case, wherein a
gentleman, after in vain trying to bridle his wife's viciousness, had
at last abandoned her upon the seas of life; but in the course of
years, repenting of that step, he instituted an action to recover
possession of her. Erskine was on the other side; and he then
supported it by saying, that though the gentleman had originally
harpooned the lady, and had once had her fast, and only by reason of
the great stress of her plunging viciousness, had as last abandoned
her; yet abandon her he did, so that she became a loose-fish; and
therefore when a subsequent gentleman re-harpooned her, the lady then
became that subsequent gentleman's property, along with whatever
harpoon might have been found sticking in her. Now in the present
case Erskine contended that the examples of the whale and the lady
were reciprocally illustrative of each other. These pleadings, and
the counter pleadings, being duly heard, the very learned judge in set
terms decided, to wit, --That as for the boat, he awarded it to the
plaintiffs, because they had merely abandoned it to save their lives;
but that with regard to the controverted whale, harpoons, and line,
they belonged to the defendants; the whale, because it was a
Loose-Fish at the time of the final capture; and the harpoons and line
because when the fish made off with them, it (the fish) acquired a
property in those articles; and hence anybody who afterwards took the
fish had a right to them. Now the defendants afterwards took the
fish; ergo, the aforesaid articles were theirs. A common man looking
at this decision of the very learned Judge, might possibly object to
it. But ploughed up to the primary rock of the matter, the two great
principles laid down in the twin whaling laws previously quoted, and
applied and elucidated by Lord Ellenborough in the above cited case;
these two laws touching Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish, I say, will, on
reflection, be found the fundamentals of all human jurisprudence; For
notwithstanding its complicated tracery of sculpture, the Temple of
the Law, like the Temple of the Philistines, has but two props to
stand on. Is it not a saying in every one's mouth, Possession is half
of the law: that is, regardless of how the thing came into possession?
But often possession is the whole of the law. What are the sinews and
souls of Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish, whereof
possession is the whole of the law? What to the rapacious landlord is
the widow's last mite but a Fast-Fish? What is yonder undetected
villain's marble mansion with a door-plate for a waif; what is that
but a Fast-Fish? What is the ruinous discount which Mordecai, the
broker, gets from poor Woebegone, the bankrupt, on a loan to keep
Woebegone's family from starvation; what is that ruinous discount but
a Fast-Fish? What is the archbishop of Savesoul's income of 100,000
pounds seized from the scant bread and cheese of hundreds of thousands
of broken-backed laborers (all sure of heaven without any of
Savesoul's help) what is that globular 100,000 but a Fast-Fish? What
are the Duke of Dunder's hereditary towns and hamlets but Fast-Fish?
What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor Ireland, but a
Fast-Fish? What to that apostolic lancer, Brother Jonathan, is Texas
but a Fast-Fish? And concerning all these, is not Possession the
whole of the law? But if the doctrine of Fast-Fish be pretty
generally applicable, the kindred doctrine of Loose-Fish is still more
widely so. That is internationally and universally applicable. What
was America in but a loose-fish, in which Columbus struck the Spanish
standard by way of waifing it for his royal master and mistress? What
was Poland to the Czar? What Greece to the Turk? What India to
England? What at last will Mexico be to the United States? All
Loose-Fish. What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World
but Loose-Fish? What all men's minds and opinions but Loose-Fish?
What is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish?
What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of
thinkers but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a
Loose-Fish? And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a
Fast-Fish, too?

< Chapter XC 2 HEADS OR TAILS >

De balena vero sufficit, si rex habeat caput, et regina
caudam. Bracton, l 3. c. 3. Latin from the books of the Laws of
England, which taken along with the context, means, that of all whales
captured by anybody on the coast of that land, the King, as Honorary
Grand Harpooneer, must have the head, and the Queen be respectfully
presented with the tail. A division which, in the whale, is much like
halving an apple; there is no intermediate remainder. Now as this
law, under a modified form, is to this day in force in England; and as
it offers in various respects a strange anomaly touching the general
law of Fast and Loose-Fish, it is here treated of in a separate
chapter, on the same courteous principle that prompts the English
railways to be at the expense of a separate car, specially reserved
for the accommodation of royalty. In the first place, in curious
proof of the fact that the above-mentioned law is still in force, I
proceed to lay before you a circumstance that happened within the last
two years. It seems that some honest mariners of Dover, or Sandwich,
or some one of the Cinque Ports, had after a hard chase succeeded in
killing and beaching a fine whale which they had originally descried
afar off from the shore. Now the Cinque Ports are partially or
somehow under the jurisdiction of a sort of policeman or beadle,
called a Lord Warden. Holding the office directly from the crown, I
believe, all the royal emoluments incident to the Cinque Port
territories become by assignment his. By some writers this office is
called a sinecure. But not so. Because the Lord Warden is busily
employed at times in fobbing his perquisites; which are his chiefly by
virtue of that same fobbing of them. Now when these poor sun-burnt
mariners, bare-footed, and with their trowsers rolled high up on their
eely legs, had wearily hauled their fat fish high and dry, promising
themselves a good 150 pounds from the precious oil and bone; and in
fantasy sipping rare tea with their wives, and good ale with their
cronies, upon the strength of their respective shares; up steps a very
learned and most Christian and charitable gentleman, with a copy of
Blackstone under his arm; and laying it upon the whale's head, he says
-- Hands off! this fish, my masters, is a Fast-Fish. I seize it as
the Lord Warden's. Upon this the poor mariners in their respectful
consternation --so truly English --knowing not what to say, fall to
vigorously scratching their heads all round; meanwhile ruefully
glancing from the whale to the stranger. But that did in nowise mend
the matter, or at all soften the hard heart of the learned gentleman
with the copy of Blackstone. At length one of them, after long
scratching about for his ideas, made bold to speak. Please, sir, who
is the Lord Warden? The Duke. But the duke had nothing to do with
taking this fish? It is his. We have been at great trouble, and
peril, and some expense, and is all that to go to the Duke's benefit;
we getting nothing at all for our pains but our blisters? It is
his. Is the duke so very poor as to be forced to this desperate mode
of getting a livelihood? It is his. I thought to relieve my old
bed-ridden mother by part of my share of this whale. It is his. Won't
the Duke be content with a quarter or a half? It is his. In a word,
the whale was seized and sold, and his Grace the Duke of Wellington
received the money. Thinking that viewed in some particular lights,
the case might by a bare possibility in some small degree be deemed,
under the circumstances, a rather hard one, an honest clergyman of the
town respectfully addressed a note to his Grace, begging him to take
the case of those unfortunate mariners into full consideration. To
which my Lord Duke in substance replied (both letters were published)
that he had already done so, and received the money, and would be
obliged to the reverend gentleman if for the future he (the reverend
gentleman) would decline meddling with other people's business.

Is this the still militant old man, standing at the corners of the
three kingdoms, on all hands coercing alms of beggars? It will
readily be seen that in this case the alleged right of the Duke to the
whale was a delegated one from the Sovereign. We must needs inquire
then on what principle the Sovereign is originally invested with that
right. The law itself has already been set forth. But Plowdon gives
us the reason for it. Says Plowdon, the whale so caught belongs to
the King and Queen, because of its superior excellence. And by the
soundest commentators this has ever been held a cogent argument in
such matters. But why should the King have the head, and the Queen
the tail? A reason for that, ye lawyers! In his treatise on
Queen-Gold, or Queen-pinmoney, an old King's Bench author, one William
Prynne, thus discourseth: Ye tail is ye Queen's, that ye Queen's
wardrobe may be supplied with ye whalebone. Now this was written at a
time when the black limber bone of the Greenland or Right whale was
largely used in ladies' bodices. But this same bone is not in the
tail; it is in the head, which is a sad mistake for a sagacious lawyer
like Prynne. But is the Queen a mermaid, to be presented with a tail?
An allegorical meaning may lurk here. There are two royal fish so
styled by the English law writers -- the whale and the sturgeon; both
royal property under certain limitations, and nominally supplying the
tenth branch of the crown's ordinary revenue. I know not that any
other author has hinted of the matter; but by inference it seems to me
that the sturgeon must be divided in the same way as the whale, the
King receiving the highly dense and elastic head peculiar to that
fish, which, symbolically regarded, may possibly be humorously
grounded upon some presumed congeniality. And thus there seems a
reason in all things, even in law.


In vain it was to rake for Ambergriese in the paunch of this
Leviathan, insufferable fetor denying not inquiry. Sir T. Browne,
V. E. It was a week or two after the last whaling scene recounted,
and when we were slowly sailing over a sleepy, vapory, mid-day sea,
that the many noses on the Pequod's deck proved more vigilant
discoverers than the three pairs of eyes aloft. A peculiar and not
very pleasant smell was smelt in the sea. I will bet something now,
said Stubb, that somewhere hereabouts are some of those drugged whales
we tickled the other day. I thought they would keel up before
long. Presently, the vapors in advance slid aside; and there in the
distance lay a ship, whose furled sails betokened that some sort of
whale must be alongside. As we glided nearer, the stranger showed
French colors from his peak; and by the eddying cloud of vulture
sea-fowl that circled, and hovered, and swooped around him, it was
plain that the whale alongside must be what the fishermen call a
blasted whale, that is, a whale that has died unmolested on the sea,
and so floated an unappropriated corpse. It may well be conceived,
what an unsavory odor such a mass must exhale; worse than an Assyrian
city in the plague, when the living are incompetent to bury the
departed. So intolerable indeed is it regarded by some, that no
cupidity could persuade them to moor alongside of it. Yet are there
those who will still do it; notwithstanding the fact that the oil
obtained from such subjects is of a very inferior quality, and by no
means of the nature of attar-of-rose. Coming still nearer with the
expiring breeze, we saw that the Frenchman had a second whale
alongside; and this second whale seemed even more of a nosegay than
the first. In truth, it turned out to be one of those problematical
whales that seem to dry up and die with a sort of prodigious
dyspepsia, or indigestion; leaving their defunct bodies almost
entirely bankrupt of anything like oil. Nevertheless, in the proper
place we shall see that no knowing fisherman will ever turn up his
nose at such a whale as this, however much he may shun blasted whales
in general. The Pequod had now swept so nigh to the stranger, that
Stubb vowed he recognized his cutting spade-pole entangled in the
lines that were knotted round the tail of one of these whales.
There's a pretty fellow, now, he banteringly laughed, standing in the
ship's bows, there's a jackal for ye! I well know that these Crappoes
of Frenchmen are but poor devils in the fishery; sometimes lowering
their boats for breakers, mistaking them for Sperm Whale spouts; yes,
and sometimes sailing from their port with their hold full of boxes of
tallow candles, and cases of snuffers, foreseeing that all the oil
they will get won't be enough to dip the Captain's wick into; aye, we
all know these things; but look ye, here's a Crappo that is content
with our leavings, the drugged whale there, I mean; aye, and is
content too with scraping the dry bones of that other precious fish he
has there. Poor devil! I say, pass round a hat, some one, and let's
make him a present of a little oil for dear charity's sake. For what
oil he'll get from that drugged whale there, wouldn't be fit to burn
in a jail; no, not in a condemned cell. And as for the other whale,
why, I'll agree to get more oil by chopping up and trying out these
three masts of ours, than he'll get from that bundle of bones; though,
now that I think of it, it may contain something worth a good deal
more than oil; yes, ambergris. I wonder now if our old man has
thought of that. It's worth trying. Yes, I'm for it; and so saying
he started for the quarter-deck. By this time the faint air had
become a complete calm; so that whether or no, the Pequod was now
fairly entrapped in the smell, with no hope of escaping except by its
breezing up again. Issuing from the cabin, Stubb now called his boat's
crew, and pulled off for the stranger. Drawing across her bow, he
perceived that in accordance with the fanciful French taste, the upper
part of her stem-piece was carved in the likeness of a huge drooping
stalk, was painted green, and for thorns had copper spikes projecting
from it here and there; the whole terminating in a symmetrical folded
bulb of a bright red color. Upon her head boards, in large gilt
letters, he read Bouton de Rose, --Rose-button, or Rose-bud; and this
was the romantic name of this aromatic ship. Though Stubb did not
understand the Bouton part of the inscription, yet the word rose, and
the bulbous figure-head put together, sufficiently explained the whole
to him. A wooden rose-bud, eh? he cried with his hand to his nose,
that will do very well; but how like all creation it smells! Now in
order to hold direct communication with the people on deck, he had to
pull round the bows to the starboard side, and thus come close to the
blasted whale; and so talk over it. Arrived then at this spot, with
one hand still to his nose, he bawled -- Bouton-de-Rose, ahoy! are
there any of you Bouton-de-Roses that speak English? Yes, rejoined a
Guernsey-man from the bulwarks, who turned out to be the
chief-mate. Well, then, my Bouton-de-Rose-bud, have you seen the White
Whale? What whale? The White Whale --a Sperm Whale --Moby Dick, have
ye seen him? Never heard of such a whale. Cachalot Blanche! White
Whale --no. Very good, then; good bye now, and I'll call again in a
minute. Then rapidly pulling back towards the Pequod, and seeing Ahab
leaning over the quarter-deck rail awaiting his report, he moulded his
two hands into a trumpet and shouted -- No, Sir! No! Upon which Ahab
retired, and Stubb returned to the Frenchman. He now perceived that
the Guernsey-man, who had just got into the chains, and was using a
cutting-spade, had slung his nose in a sort of bag. What's the matter
with your nose, there? said Stubb.

Broke it?

I wish it was broken, or that I didn't have any nose at all! answered
the Guernsey-man, who did not seem to relish the job he was at very
much. But what are you holding yours for? Oh, nothing! It's a wax
nose; I have to hold it on. Fine day, aint it? Air rather gardenny,
I should say; throw us a bunch of posies, will ye, Bouton-de-Rose?
What in the devil's name do you want here? roared the Guernsey-man,
flying into a sudden passion. Oh! keep cool--cool? yes, that's the
word; why don't you pack those whales in ice while you're working at
'em? But joking aside, though; do you know, Rose-bud, that it's all
nonsense trying to get any oil out of such whales? As for that dried
up one, there, he hasn't a gill in his whole carcase. I know that
well enough; but, d'ye see, the Captain here won't believe it; this is
his first voyage; he was a Cologne manufacturer before. But come
aboard, and mayhap he'll believe you, if he won't me; and so I'll get
out of this dirty scrape. Anything to oblige ye, my sweet and
pleasant fellow, rejoined Stubb, and with that he soon mounted to the
deck. There a queer scene presented itself. The sailors, in tasselled
caps of red worsted, were getting the heavy tackles in readiness for
the whales. But they worked rather slow and talked very fast, and
seemed in anything but a good humor. All their noses upwardly
projected from their faces like so many jib-booms. Now and then pairs
of them would drop their work, and run up to the mast-head to get some
fresh air. Some thinking they would catch the plague, dipped oakum in
coal-tar, and at intervals held it to their nostrils. Others having
broken the stems of their pipes almost short off at the bowl, were
vigorously puffing tobacco-smoke, so that it constantly filled their
olfactories. Stubb was struck by a shower of outcries and anathemas
proceeding from the Captain's round-house abaft; and looking in that
direction saw a fiery face thrust from behind the door, which was held
ajar from within. This was the tormented surgeon, who, after in vain
remonstrating against the proceedings of the day, had betaken himself
to the Captain's round-house ( cabinet he called it) to avoid the
pest; but still, could not help yelling out his entreaties and
indignations at times. Marking all this, Stubb argued well for his
scheme, and turning to the Guernsey-man had a little chat with him,
during which the stranger mate expressed his detestation of his
Captain as a conceited ignoramus, who had brought them all into so
unsavory and unprofitable a pickle. Sounding him carefully, Stubb
further perceived that the Guernsey-man had not the slightest
suspicion concerning the ambergris. He therefore held his peace on
that head, but otherwise was quite frank and confidential with him, so
that the two quickly concocted a little plan for both circumventing
and satirizing the Captain, without his at all dreaming of distrusting
their sincerity. According to this little plan of theirs, the
Guernsey-man, under cover of an interpreter's office, was to tell the
Captain what he pleased, but as coming from Stubb; and as for Stubb,
he was to utter any nonsense that should come uppermost in him during
the interview. By this time their destined victim appeared from his
cabin. He was a small and dark, but rather delicate looking man for a
sea-captain, with large whiskers and moustache, however; and wore a
red cotton velvet vest with watch-seals at his side. To this
gentleman, Stubb was now politely introduced by the Guernsey-man, who
at once ostentatiously put on the aspect of interpreting between
them. What shall I say to him first? said he. Why, said Stubb,
eyeing the velvet vest and the watch and seals, you may as well begin
by telling him that he looks a sort of babyish to me, though I don't
pretend to be a judge. He says, Monsieur, said the Guernsey-man, in
French, turning to his captain, that only yesterday his ship spoke a
vessel, whose captain and chief-mate, with six sailors, had all died
of a fever caught from a blasted whale they had brought alongside.
Upon this the captain started, and eagerly desired to know more.

What now? said the Guernsey-man to Stubb. Why, since he takes it so
easy, tell him that now I have eyed him carefully, I'm quite certain
that he's no more fit to command a whale-ship than a St. Jago monkey.
In fact, tell him from me he's a baboon.

He vows and declares, Monsieur, that the other whale, the dried one,
is far more deadly than the blasted one; in fine, Monsieur, he
conjures us, as we value our lives, to cut loose from these
fish. Instantly the captain ran forward, and in a loud voice commanded
his crew to desist from hoisting the cutting-tackles, and at once cast
loose the cables and chains confining the whales to the ship. What
now? said the Guernsey-man, when the captain had returned to
them. Why, let me see; yes, you may as well tell him now that -- that
--in fact, tell him I've diddled him, and (aside to himself) perhaps
somebody else. He says, Monsieur, that he's very happy to have been
of any service to us. Hearing this, the captain vowed that they were
the grateful parties (meaning himself and mate) and concluded by
inviting Stubb down into his cabin to drink a bottle of Bordeaux. He
wants you to take a glass of wine with him, said the
interpreter. Thank him heartily; but tell him it's against my
principles to drink with the man I've diddled. In fact, tell him I
must go. He says, Monsieur, that his principles won't admit of his
drinking; but that if Monsieur wants to live another day to drink,
then Monsieur had best drop all four boats, and pull the ship away
from these whales, for it's so calm they won't drift. By this time
Stubb was over the side, and getting into his boat, hailed the
Guernsey-man to this effect, --that having a long tow-line in his
boat, he would do what he could to help them, by pulling out the
lighter whale of the two from the ship's side. While the Frenchman's
boats, then, were engaged in towing the ship one way, Stubb
benevolently towed away at his whale the other way, ostentatiously
slacking out a most unusually long tow-line. Presently a breeze
sprang up; Stubb feigned to cast off from the whale; hoisting his
boats, the Frenchman soon increased his distance, while the Pequod
slid in between him and Stubb's whale. Whereupon Stubb quickly pulled
to the floating body, and hailing the pequod to give notice of his
intentions, at once proceeded to reap the fruit of his unrighteous
cunning. Seizing his sharp boat-spade, he commenced an excavation in
the body, a little behind the side fin. You would almost have thought
he was digging a cellar there in the sea; and when at length his spade
struck against the gaunt ribs, it was like turning up old Roman tiles
and pottery buried in fat English loam. His boat's crew were all in
high excitement, eagerly helping their chief, and looking as anxious
as gold-hunters. And all the time numberless fowls were diving, and
ducking, and screaming, and yelling, and fighting around them. Stubb
was beginning to look disappointed, especially as the horrible nosegay
increased, when suddenly from out the very heart of this plague, there
stole a faint stream of perfume, which flowed through the tide of bad
smells without being absorbed by it, as one river will flow into and
then along with another, without at all blending with it for a time.
I have it, I have it, cried Stubb, with delight, striking something in
the subterranean regions, a purse! a purse! Dropping his spade, he
thrust both hands in, and drew out handfuls of something that looked
like ripe Windsor soap, or rich mottled old cheese; very unctuous and
savory withal. You might easily dent it with your thumb; it is of a
hue between yellow and ash color. And this, good friends, is
ambergris, worth a gold guinea an ounce to any druggist. Some six
handfuls were obtained; but more was unavoidably lost in the sea, and
still more, perhaps, might have been secured were it not for impatient
Ahab's loud command to Stubb to desist, and come on board, else the
ship would bid them good bye.

< Chapter XCII 31 AMBERGRIS >

Now this ambergris is a very curious substance, and so important as an
article of commerce, that in a certain Nantucket-born Captain Coffin
was examined at the bar of the English House of Commons on that
subject. for at that time, and indeed until a comparatively late day,
the precise origin of ambergris remained, like amber itself, a problem
to the learned. Though the word ambergris is but the French compound
for grey amber, yet the two substances are quite distinct. For amber,
though at times found on the sea-coast, is also dug up in some far
inland soils, whereas ambergris is never found except upon the sea.
Besides, amber is a hard, transparent, brittle, odorless substance,
used for mouth-pieces to pipes, for beads and ornaments; but ambergris
is soft, waxy, and so highly fragrant and spicy, that it is largely
used in perfumery, in pastiles, precious candles, hair-powders, and
pomatum. The Turks use it in cooking, and also carry it to Mecca, for
the same purpose that frankincense is carried to St. Peter's in Rome.
Some wine merchants drop a few grains into claret, to flavor it. Who
would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale
themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick
whale! Yet so it is. By some, ambergris is supposed to be the cause,
and by others the effect, of the dyspepsia in the whale. How to cure
such a dyspepsia it were hard to say, unless by administering three or
four boat loads of Brandreth's pills, and then running out of harm's
way, as laborers do in blasting rocks. I have forgotten to say that
there were found in this ambergris, certain hard, round, bony plates,
which at first Stubb thought might be sailors' trousers buttons; but
it afterwards turned out that they were nothing more than pieces of
small squid bones embalmed in that manner. Now that the incorruption
of this most fragrant ambergris should be found in the heart of such
decay; is this nothing? Bethink thee of that saying of St. Paul in
Corinthians, about corruption and incorruption; how that we are sown
in dishonor, but raised in glory. And likewise call to mind that
saying of paracelsus about what it is that maketh the best musk. Also
forget not the strange fact that of all things of ill-savor,
Cologne-water, in its rudimental manufacturing stages, is the worst. I
should like to conclude the chapter with the above appeal, but cannot,
owing to my anxiety to repel a charge often made against whalemen, and
which, in the estimation of some already biased minds, might be
considered as indirectly substantiated by what has been said of the
Frenchman's two whales. Elsewhere in this volume the slanderous
aspersion has been disproved, that the vocation of whaling is
throughout a slatternly, untidy business. But there is another thing
to rebut. They hint that all whales always smell bad. Now how did
this odious stigma originate? I opine, that it is plainly traceable
to the first arrival of the Greenland whaling ships in London, more
than two centuries ago. Because those whalemen did not then, and do
not now, try out their oil at sea as the Southern ships have always
done; but cutting up the fresh blubber in small bits, thrust it
through the bung holes of large casks, and carry it home in that
manner; the shortness of the season in those Icy Seas, and the sudden
and violent storms to which they are exposed, forbidding any other
course. The consequence is, that upon breaking into the hold, and
unloading one of these whale cemeteries, in the Greenland dock, a
savor is given forth somewhat similar to that arising from excavating
an old city grave-yard, for the foundations of a Lying-in Hospital. I
partly surmise also, that this wicked charge against whalers may be
likewise imputed to the existence on the coast of Greenland, in former
times, of a Dutch village called Schmerenburgh or Smeerenberg, which
latter name is the one used by the learned Fogo Von Slack, in his
great work on Smells, a textbook on that subject. As its name imports
(smeer, fat; berg, to put up), this village was founded in order to
afford a place for the blubber of the dutch whale fleet to be tried
out, without being taken home to Holland for that purpose. It was a
collection of furnaces, fat-kettles, and oil sheds; and when the works
were in full operation certainly gave forth no very pleasant
savor. But all this is quite different from a South Sea Sperm Whaler;
which in a voyage of four years perhaps, after completely filling her
hold with oil, does not, perhaps, consume fifty days in the business
of boiling out; and in the state that it is casked, the oil is nearly
scentless. The truth is, that living or dead, if but decently
treated, whales as a species are by no means creatures of ill odor;
nor can whalemen be recognised, as the people of the middle ages
affected to detect a Jew in the company, by the nose. Nor indeed can
the whale possibly be otherwise than fragrant, when, as a general
thing, he enjoys such high health; taking abundance of exercise;
always out of doors; though, it is true, seldom in the open air. I
say, that the motion of a Sperm Whale's flukes above water dispenses a
perfume, as when a musk-scented lady rustles her dress in a warm
parlor. What then shall I liken the Sperm Whale to for fragrance,
considering his magnitude? Must it not be to that famous elephant,
with jewelled tusks, and redolent with myrrh, which was led out of an
Indian town to do honor to Alexander the Great?


It was but some few days after encountering the Frenchman, that a most
significant event befell the most insignificant of the Pequod's crew;
an event most lamentable; and which ended in providing the sometimes
madly merry and predestinated craft with a living and ever
accompanying prophecy of whatever shattered sequel might prove her
own. Now, in the whale ship, it is not every one that goes in the
boats. Some few hands are reserved called ship-keepers, whose
province it is to work the vessel while the boats are pursuing the
whale. As a general thing, these ship-keepers are as hardy fellows as
the men comprising the boats' crews. But if there happen to be an
unduly slender, clumsy, or timorous wight in the ship, that wight is
certain to be made a ship-keeper. It was so in the Pequod with the
little negro Pippin by nick-name, Pip by abbreviation. Poor Pip! ye
have heard of him before; ye must remember his tambourine on that
dramatic midnight, so gloomy-jolly. In outer aspect, Pip and
Dough-Boy made a match, like a black pony and a white one, of equal
developments, though of dissimilar color, driven in one eccentric
span. But while hapless Dough-Boy was by nature dull and torpid in
his intellects, Pip, though over tender-hearted, was at bottom very
bright, with that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness peculiar to his
tribe; a tribe, which ever enjoy all holidays and festivities with
finer, freer relish than any other race. For blacks, the year's
calendar should show naught but three hundred and sixty-five Fourth of
Julys and New Year's Days. Nor smile so, while I write that this
little black was brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy;
behold yon lustrous ebony, panelled in king's cabinets. But Pip loved
life, and all life's peaceable securities; so that the panic-striking
business in which he had somehow unaccountably become entrapped, had
most sadly blurred his brightness; though, as ere long will be seen,
what was thus temporarily subdued in him, in the end was destined to
be luridly illumined by strange wild fires, that fictitiously showed
him off to ten times the natural lustre with which in his native
Tolland County in Connecticut, he had once enlivened many a fiddler's
frolic on the green; and at melodious even-tide, with his gay ha-ha!
had turned the round horizon into one star-belled tambourine. So,
though in the clear air of day, suspended against a blue-veined neck,
the pure-watered diamond drop will healthful glow; yet, when the
cunning jeweller would show you the diamond in its most impressive
lustre, he lays it against a gloomy ground, and then lights it up, not
by the sun, but by some unnatural gases. Then come out those fiery
effulgences, infernally superb; then the evil-blazing diamond, once
the divinest symbol of the crystal skies, looks like some crown-jewel
stolen from the King of Hell. But let us to the story. It came to
pass, that in the ambergris affair Stubb's after-oarsman chanced so to
sprain his hand, as for a time to become quite maimed; and,
temporarily, Pip was put into his place. The first time Stubb lowered
with him, Pip evinced much nervousness; but happily, for that time,
escaped close contact with the whale; and therefore came off not
altogether discreditably; though Stubb observing him, took care,
afterwards, to exhort him to cherish his courageousness to the utmost,
for he might often find it needful. Now upon the second lowering, the
boat paddled upon the whale; and as the fish received the darted iron,
it gave its customary rap, which happened, in this instance, to be
right under poor Pip's seat. The involuntary consternation of the
moment caused him to leap, paddle in hand, out of the boat; and in
such a way, that part of the slack whale line coming against his
chest, he breasted it overboard with him, so as to become entangled in
it, when at last plumping into the water. That instant the stricken
whale started on a fierce run, the line swiftly straightened; and
presto! poor Pip came all foaming up to the chocks of the boat,
remorselessly dragged there by the line, which had taken several turns
around his chest and neck. Tashtego stood in the bows. He was full
of the fire of the hunt. He hated Pip for a poltroon. Snatching the
boat-knife from its sheath, he suspended its sharp edge over the line,
and turning towards Stubb, exclaimed interrogatively, cut? meantime
pip's blue, choked face plainly looked, Do, for God's sake! All
passed in a flash. In less than half a minute, this entire thing
happened. Damn him, cut! roared Stubb; and so the whale was lost and
Pip was saved. So soon as he recovered himself, the poor little negro
was assailed by yells and execrations from the crew. Tranquilly
permitting these irregular cursings to evaporate, Stubb then in a
plain, business-like, but still half humorous manner, cursed Pip
officially; and that done, unofficially gave him much wholesome
advice. The substance was, Never jump from a boat, Pip, except --but
all the rest was indefinite, as the soundest advice ever is. Now, in
general, Stick to the boat, is your true motto in whaling; but cases
will sometimes happen when Leap from the boat, is still better.
Moreover, as if perceiving at last that if he should give undiluted
conscientious advice to Pip, he would be leaving him too wide a margin
to jump in for the future; Stubb suddenly dropped all advice, and
concluded with a peremptory command, Stick to the boat, Pip, or by the
Lord, I wont pick you up if you jump; mind that. We can't afford to
lose whales by the likes of you; a whale would sell for thirty times
what you would, Pip, in Alabama. Bear that in mind, and don't jump
any more. Hereby perhaps Stubb indirectly hinted, that though man
loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which propensity
too often interferes with his benevolence. But we are all in the
hands of the Gods; and Pip jumped again. It was under very similar
circumstances to the first performance; but this time he did not
breast out the line; and hence, when the whale started to run, Pip was
left behind on the sea, like a hurried traveller's trunk. Alas!
Stubb was but too true to his word. It was a beautiful, bounteous,
blue day; the spangled sea calm and cool, and flatly stretching away,
all round, to the horizon, like gold-beater's skin hammered out to the
extremest. Bobbing up and down in that sea, Pip's ebon head showed
like a head of cloves.

No boat-knife was lifted when he fell so rapidly astern. Stubb's
inexorable back was turned upon him; and the whale was winged. In
three minutes, a whole mile of shoreless ocean was between Pip and
Stubb. Out from the centre of the sea, poor Pip turned his crisp,
curling, black head to the sun, another lonely castaway, though the
loftiest and the brightest. Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open
ocean is as easy to the practised swimmer as to ride in a
spring-carriage ashore. But the awful lonesomeness is
intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the middle of such a
heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it? Mark, how when sailors
in a dead calm bathe in the open sea --mark how closely they hug their
ship and only coast along her sides. But had Stubb really abandoned
the poor little negro to his fate? No; he did not mean to, at least.
Because there were two boats in his wake, and he supposed, no doubt,
that they would of course come up to Pip very quickly, and pick him
up; though, indeed, such considerations towards oarsmen jeopardized
through their own timidity, is not always manifested by the hunters in
all similar instances; and such instances not unfrequently occur;
almost invariably in the fishery, a coward, so called, is marked with
the same ruthless detestation peculiar to military navies and armies.
But it so happened, that those boats, without seeing Pip, suddenly
spying whales close to them on one side, turned, and gave chase; and
Stubb's boat was now so far away, and he and all his crew so intent
upon his fish, that Pip's ringed horizon began to expand around him
miserably. By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him;
but from that hour the little negro went about the deck an idiot;
such, at least, they said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept his
finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned
entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where
strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before
his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded
heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip
saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the
firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God's foot upon
the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates
called him mad. So man's insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering
from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought,
which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then
uncompromised, indifferent as his God. For the rest, blame not Stubb
too hardly. The thing is common in that fishery; and in the sequel of
the narrative, it will then be seen what like abandonment befell


That whale of Stubb's so dearly purchased, was duly brought to the
Pequod's side, where all those cutting and hoisting operations
previously detailed, were regularly gone through, even to the baling
of the Heidelburgh Tun, or Case. While some were occupied with this
latter duty, others were employed in dragging away the larger tubs, so
soon as filled with the sperm; and when the proper time arrived, this
same sperm was carefully manipulated ere going to the try-works, of
which anon. It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that
when, with several others, I sat down before a large Constantine's
bath of it, I found it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there
rolling about in the liquid part. It was our business to squeeze
these lumps back into fluid. A sweet and unctuous duty! no wonder
that in old times this sperm was such a favorite cosmetic. Such a
clearer! such a sweetener! such a softener! such a delicious
mollifier! After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my
fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and
spiralize. As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after
the bitter exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the
ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed
my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues,
woven almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and
discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as I
snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma, --literally and truly, like the
smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I lived
as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that
inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost
began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare
virtue in allaying the heat of anger: while bathing in that bath, I
felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulence, or malice, of any
sort whatsoever. Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I
squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed
that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found
myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking
their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate,
friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was
continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes
sentimentally; as much as to say, --Oh! my dear fellow beings, why
should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest
ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us
all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves
universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness. Would that I
could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now, since by many
prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases
man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of
attainable felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the
fancy; but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the
fire-side, the country; now that I have perceived all this, I am ready
to squeeze case eternally. In thoughts of the visions of the night, I
saw long rows of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of
spermaceti. Now, while discoursing of sperm, it behooves to speak of
other things akin to it, in the business of preparing the sperm whale
for the try-works. First comes white-horse, so called, which is
obtained from the tapering part of the fish, and also from the thicker
portions of his flukes. It is tough with congealed tendons --a wad of
muscle --but still contains some oil. After being severed from the
whale, the white-horse is first cut into portable oblongs ere going to
the mincer. They look much like blocks of Berkshire
marble. Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmentary
parts of the whale's flesh, here and there adhering to the blanket of
blubber, and often participating to a considerable degree in its
unctuousness. It is a most refreshing, convivial, beautiful object to
behold. As its name imports, it is of an exceedingly rich, mottled
tint, with a bestreaked snowy and golden ground, dotted with spots of
the deepest crimson and purple. It is plums of rubies, in pictures of
citron. Spite of reason, it is hard to keep yourself from eating it.
I confess, that once I stole behind the foremast to try it. It tasted
something as I should conceive a royal cutlet from the thigh of Louis
le Gros might have tasted, supposing him to have been killed the first
day after the venison season, and that particular venison season
contemporary with an unusually fine vintage of the vineyards of

There is another substance, and a very singular one, which turns up in
the course of this business, but which I feel it to be very puzzling
adequately to describe. It is called slobgollion; an appellation
original with the whalemen, and even so is the nature of the
substance. It is an ineffably oozy, stringy affair, most frequently
found in the tubs of sperm, after a prolonged squeezing, and
subsequent decanting. I hold it to be the wondrously thin, ruptured
membranes of the case, coalescing. Gurry, so called, is a term
properly belonging to right whalemen, but sometimes incidentally used
by the sperm fishermen. It designates the dark, glutinous substance
which is scraped off the back of the Greenland or right whale, and
much of which covers the decks of those inferior souls who hunt that
ignoble Leviathan. Nippers. Strictly this word is not indigenous to
the whale's vocabulary. But as applied by whalemen, it becomes so. A
whaleman's nipper is a short firm strip of tendinous stuff cut from
the tapering part of Leviathan's tail: it averages an inch in
thickness, and for the rest, is about the size of the iron part of a
hoe. Edgewise moved along the oily deck, it operates like a leathern
squilgee; and by nameless blandishments, as of magic, allures along
with it all impurities. But to learn all about these recondite
matters, your best way is at once to descend into the blubber-room,
and have a long talk with its inmates. This place has previously been
mentioned as the receptacle for the blanket-pieces, when stript and
hoisted from the whale. When the proper time arrives for cutting up
its contents, this apartment is a scene of terror to all tyros,
especially by night. On one side, lit by a dull lantern, a space has
been left clear for the workmen. They generally go in pairs, --a
pike-and-gaff-man and a spade-man. The whaling-pike is similar to a
frigate's boarding-weapon of the same name. The gaff is something
like a boat-hook. With his gaff, the gaffman hooks on to a sheet of
blubber, and strives to hold it from slipping, as the ship pitches and
lurches about. Meanwhile, the spade-man stands on the sheet itself,
perpendicularly chopping it into the portable horse-pieces. This
spade is sharp as hone can make it; the spademan's feet are shoeless;
the thing he stands on will sometimes irresistibly slide away from
him, like a sledge. If he cuts off one of his own toes, or one of his
assistants', would you be very much astonished? Toes are scarce among
veteran blubber-room men.

< Chapter XCV 6 THE CASSOCK >

Had you stepped on board the Pequod at a certain juncture of this
post-mortemizing of the whale; and had you strolled forward nigh the
windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no small
curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would have
seen there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers. Not the
wondrous cistern in the whale's huge head; not the prodigy of his
unhinged lower jaw; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail; none of
these would so surprise you, as half a glimpse of that unaccountable
cone, -- longer than a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter at
the base, and jet-black as Yojo, the ebony idol of Queequeg. And an
idol, indeed, it is; or, rather, in old times, its likeness was. Such
an idol as that found in the secret groves of Queen Maachah in Judea;
and for worshipping which, king Asa, her son, did depose her, and
destroyed the idol, and burnt it for an abomination at the brook
Kedron, as darkly set forth in the 15th chapter of the first book of
Kings. Look at the sailor, called the mincer, who now comes along,
and assisted by two allies, heavily backs the grandissimus, as the
mariners call it, and with bowed shoulders, staggers off with it as if
he were a grenadier carrying a dead comrade from the field. extending
it upon the forecastle deck, he now proceeds cylindrically to remove
its dark pelt, as an African hunter the pelt of a boa. This done he
turns the pelt inside out, like a pantaloon leg; gives it a good
stretching, so as almost to double its diameter; and at last hangs it,
well spread, in the rigging, to dry. Ere long, it is taken down; when
removing some three feet of it, towards the pointed extremity, and
then cutting two slits for arm-holes at the other end, he lengthwise
slips himself bodily into it. The mincer now stands before you
invested in the full canonicals of his calling. Immemorial to all his
order, this investiture alone will adequately protect him, while
employed in the peculiar functions of his office. That office
consists in mincing the horse-pieces of blubber for the pots; an
operation which is conducted at a curious wooden horse, planted
endwise against the bulwarks, and with a capacious tub beneath it,
into which the minced pieces drop, fast as the sheets from a rapt
orator's desk. Arrayed in decent black; occupying a conspicuous
pulpit; intent on bible leaves; what a candidate for an
archbishoprick, what a lad for a Pope were this mincer! Bible leaves!
Bible leaves! This is the invariable cry from the mates to the
mincer. It enjoins him to be careful, and cut his work into as thin
slices as possible, inasmuch as by so doing the business of boiling
out the oil is much accelerated, and its quantity considerably
increased, besides perhaps improving it in quality.

< Chapter XCVI 17 THE TRY-WORKS >

Besides her hoisted boats, an American whaler is outwardly
distinguished by her try-works. She presents the curious anomaly of
the most solid masonry joining with oak and hemp in constituting the
completed ship. it is as if from the open field a brick-kiln were
transported to her planks. The try-works are planted between the
foremast and main-mast, the most roomy part of the deck. The timbers
beneath are of a peculiar strength, fitted to sustain the weight of an
almost solid mass of brick and mortar, some ten feet by eight square,
and five in height. The foundation does not penetrate the deck, but
the masonry is firmly secured to the surface by ponderous knees of
iron bracing it on all sides, and screwing it down to the timbers. On
the flanks it is cased with wood, and at top completely covered by a
large, sloping, battened hatchway. Removing this hatch we expose the
great try-pots, two in number, and each of several barrels'
capacity. When not in use, they are kept remarkably clean. Sometimes
they are polished with soapstone and sand, till they shine within like
silver punch-bowls. During the night-watches some cynical old sailors
will crawl into them and coil themselves away there for a nap. While
employed in polishing them --one man in each pot, side by side --many
confidential communications are carried on, over the iron lips. It is
a place also for profound mathematical meditation. It was in the left
hand try-pot of the Pequod, with the soapstone diligently circling
round me, that I was first indirectly struck by the remarkable fact,
that in geometry all bodies gliding along the cycloid, my soapstone
for example, will descend from any point in precisely the same
time. Removing the fire-board from the front of the try-works, the
bare masonry of that side is exposed, penetrated by the two iron
mouths of the furnaces, directly underneath the pots. These mouths
are fitted with heavy doors of iron. The intense heat of the fire is
prevented from communicating itself to the deck, by means of a shallow
reservoir extending under the entire inclosed surface of the works.
By a tunnel inserted at the rear, this reservoir is kept replenished
with water as fast as it evaporates. There are no external chimneys;
they open direct from the rear wall. And here let us go back for a
moment. It was about nine o'clock at night that the Pequod's
try-works were first started on this present voyage. It belonged to
Stubb to oversee the business. All ready there? Off hatch, then, and
start her. You cook, fire the works. This was an easy thing, for the
carpenter had been thrusting his shavings into the furnace throughout
the passage. Here be it said that in a whaling voyage the first fire
in the try-works has to be fed for a time with wood. After that no
wood is used, except as a means of quick ignition to the staple fuel.
In a word, after being tried out, the crisp, shrivelled blubber, now
called scraps or fritters, still contains considerable of its unctuous
properties. These fritters feed the flames. Like a plethoric burning
martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope, once ignited, the whale
supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body. Would that he
consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is horrible to inhale, and
inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must live in it for the
time. It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such as may
lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left wing
of the day of judgment; it is an argument for the pit. By midnight
the works were in full operation. We were clear from the carcase;
sail had been made; the wind was freshening; the wild ocean darkness
was intense. But that darkness was licked up by the fierce flames,
which at intervals forked forth from the sooty flues, and illuminated
every lofty rope in the rigging, as with the famed Greek fire. The
burning ship drove on, as if remorselessly commissioned to some
vengeful deed. So the pitch and sulphur-freighted brigs of the bold
Hydriote, Canaris, issuing from their midnight harbors, with broad
sheets of flame for sails, bore down upon the turkish frigates, and
folded them in conflagrations. The hatch, removed from the top of the
works, now afforded a wide hearth in front of them. Standing on this
were the Tartarean shapes of the pagan harpooneers, always the
whale-ship's stokers. With huge pronged poles they pitched hissing
masses of blubber into the scalding pots, or stirred up the fires
beneath, till the snaky flames darted, curling, out of the doors to
catch them by the feet. The smoke rolled away in sullen heaps. To
every pitch of the ship there was a pitch of the boiling oil, which
seemed all eagerness to leap into their faces. Opposite the mouth of
the works, on the further side of the wide wooden hearth, was the
windlass. This served for a sea-sofa. Here lounged the watch, when
not otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till
their eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawny features, now
all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the
contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were
strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works. As
they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of
terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forked
upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace; as to and fro,
in their front, the harpooneers wildly gesticulated with their huge
pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped,
and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell
further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and
scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat
round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with
savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into
that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her
monomaniac commander's soul. So seemed it to me, as I stood at her
helm, and for long hours silently guided the way of this fire-ship on
the sea. Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the
better saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others. The
continual sight of the fiend shapes before me, capering half in smoke
and half in fire, these at last begat kindred visions in my soul, so
soon as I began to yield to that unaccountable drowsiness which ever
would come over me at a midnight helm. But that night, in particular,
a strange (and ever since inexplicable) thing occurred to me.
Starting from a brief standing sleep, I was horribly conscious of
something fatally wrong. The jaw-bone tiller smote my side, which
leaned against it; in my ears was the low hum of sails, just beginning
to shake in the wind; I thought my eyes were open; I was half
conscious of putting my fingers to the lids and mechanically
stretching them still further apart. But, spite of all this, I could
see no compass before me to steer by; though it seemed but a minute
since I had been watching the card, by the steady binnacle lamp
illuminating it. Nothing seemed before me but a jet gloom, now and
then made ghastly by flashes of redness. Uppermost was the impression,
that whatever swift, rushing thing I stood on was not so much bound to
any haven ahead as rushing from all havens astern. A stark,
bewildered feeling, as of death, came over me. Convulsively my hands
grasped the tiller, but with the crazy conceit that the tiller was,
somehow, in some enchanted way, inverted. My God! what is the matter
with me? thought I. Lo! in my brief sleep I had turned myself
about, and was fronting the ship's stern, with my back to her prow and
the compass. In an instant I faced back, just in time to prevent the
vessel from flying up into the wind, and very probably capsizing her.
How glad and how grateful the relief from this unnatural hallucination
of the night, and the fatal contingency of being brought by the lee!
look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with
thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the
first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire,
when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the
natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in
the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler,
relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp --all
others but liars! Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal
Swamp, nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the
millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun
hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which
is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath
more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true --not
true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was
the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and
Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. All is vanity. ALL.
This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's wisdom
yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing
grave-yards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper,
Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a
care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore
jolly; --not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break
the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon. But even
Solomon, he says, the man that wandereth out of the way of
understanding shall remain ( i. e. even while living) in the
congregation of the dead. Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it
invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a
wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is
a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the
blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in
the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge,
that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the
mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even
though they soar.

< Chapter XCVII 9 THE LAMP >

Had you descended from the Pequod's try-works to the Pequod's
forecastle, where the off duty watch were sleeping, for one single
moment you would have almost thought you were standing in some
illuminated shrine of canonized kings and counsellors. There they lay
in their triangular oaken vaults, each mariner a chiselled muteness; a
score of lamps flashing upon his hooded eyes. In merchantmen, oil for
the sailor is more scarce than the milk of queens. To dress in the
dark, and eat in the dark, and stumble in darkness to his pallet, this
is his usual lot. But the whaleman, as he seeks the food of light, so
he lives in light. He makes his berth an Aladdin's lamp, and lays him
down in it; so that in the pitchiest night the ship's black hull still
houses an illumination. See with what entire freedom the whaleman
takes his handful of lamps --often but old bottles and vials, though
--to the copper cooler at the try-works, and replenishes them there,
as mugs of ale at a vat. He burns, too, the purest of oil, in its
unmanufactured, and, therefore, unvitiated state; a fluid unknown to
solar, lunar, or astral contrivances ashore. It is sweet as early
grass butter in April. He goes and hunts for his oil, so as to be
sure of its freshness and genuineness, even as the traveller on the
prairie hunts up his own supper of game.


Already has it been related how the great leviathan is afar off
descried from the mast-head; how he is chased over the watery moors,
and slaughtered in the valleys of the deep; how he is then towed
alongside and beheaded; and how (on the principle which entitled the
headsman of old to the garments in which the beheaded was killed) his
great padded surtout becomes the property of his executioner; how, in
due time, he is condemned to the pots, and, like Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abednego, his spermaceti, oil, and bone pass unscathed through the
fire; --but now it remains to conclude the last chapter of this part
of the description by rehearsing --singing, if I may -- the romantic
proceeding of decanting off his oil into the casks and striking them
down into the hold, where once again leviathan returns to his native
profundities, sliding along beneath the surface as before; but, alas!
never more to rise and blow. While still warm, the oil, like hot
punch, is received into the six-barrel casks; and while, perhaps, the
ship is pitching and rolling this way and that in the midnight sea,
the enormous casks are slewed round and headed over, end for end, and
sometimes perilously scoot across the slippery deck, like so many land
slides, till at last man-handled and stayed in their course; and all
round the hoops, rap, rap, go as many hammers as can play upon them,
for now, ex officio, every sailor is a cooper. At length, when the
last pint is casked, and all is cool, then the great hatchways are
unsealed, the bowels of the ship are thrown open, and down go the
casks to their final rest in the sea. This done, the hatches are
replaced, and hermetically closed, like a closet walled up. In the
sperm fishery, this is perhaps one of the most remarkable incidents in
all the business of whaling. One day the planks stream with freshets
of blood and oil; on the sacred quarter-deck enormous masses of the
whale's head are profanely piled; great rusty casks lie about, as in a
brewery yard; the smoke from the try-works has besooted all the
bulwarks; the mariners go about suffused with unctuousness; the entire
ship seems great leviathan himself; while on all hands the din is
deafening. But a day or two after, you look about you, and prick your
ears in this self-same ship; and were it not for the tell-tale boats
and try-works, you would all but swear you trod some silent merchant
vessel, with a most scrupulously neat commander. The unmanufactured
sperm oil possesses a singularly cleansing virtue. This is the reason
why the decks never look so white as just after what they call an
affair of oil. Besides, from the ashes of the burned scraps of the
whale, a potent ley is readily made; and whenever any adhesiveness
from the back of the whale remains clinging to the side, that ley
quickly exterminates it. Hands go diligently along the bulwarks, and
with buckets of water and rags restore them to their full
tidiness. The soot is brushed from the lower rigging. All the
numerous implements which have been in use are likewise faithfully
cleansed and put away. The great hatch is scrubbed and placed upon
the try-works, completely hiding the pots; every cask is out of sight;
all tackles are coiled in unseen nooks; and when by the combined and
simultaneous industry of almost the entire ship's company, the whole
of this conscientious duty is at last concluded, then the crew
themselves proceed to their own ablutions; shift themselves from top
to toe; and finally issue to the immaculate deck, fresh and all aglow,
as bridegrooms new-leaped from out the daintiest Holland. Now, with
elated step, they pace the planks in twos and threes, and humorously
discourse of parlors, sofas, carpets, and fine cambrics; propose to
mat the deck; think of having hangings to the top; object not to
taking tea by moonlight on the piazza of the forecastle. To hint to
such musked mariners of oil, and bone, and blubber, were little short
of audacity. They know not the thing you distantly allude to. Away,
and bring us napkins! But mark: aloft there, at the three mast heads,
stand three men intent on spying out more whales, which, if caught,
infallibly will again soil the old oaken furniture, and drop at least
one small grease-spot somewhere. Yes; and many is the time, when,
after the severest uninterrupted labors, which know no night;
continuing straight through for ninety-six hours; when from the boat,
where they have swelled their wrists with all day rowing on the Line,
--they only step to the deck to carry vast chains, and heave the heavy
windlass, and cut and slash, yea, and in their very sweatings to be
smoked and burned anew by the combined fires of the equatorial sun and
the equatorial try-works; when, on the heel of all this, they have
finally bestirred themselves to cleanse the ship, and make a spotless
dairy room of it; many is the time the poor fellows, just buttoning
the necks of their clean frocks, are startled by the cry of There she
blows! and away they fly to fight another whale, and go through the
whole weary thing again. Oh! my friends, but this is man-killing!
Yet this is life. For hardly have we mortals by long toilings
extracted from the world's vast bulk its small but valuable sperm; and
then, with weary patience, cleansed ourselves from its defilements,
and learned to live here in clean tabernacles of the soul; hardly is
this done, when -- There she blows! --the ghost is spouted up, and
away we sail to fight some other world, and go through young life's
old routine again. Oh! the metempsychosis! Oh! Pythagoras, that in
bright Greece, two thousand years ago, did die, so good, so wise, so
mild; I sailed with thee along the Peruvian coast last voyage -- and,
foolish as I am, taught thee, a green simple boy, how to splice a

< Chapter XCIX 30 THE DOUBLOON >

Ere now it has been related how Ahab was wont to pace his
quarter-deck, taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle and
mainmast; but in the multiplicity of other things requiring narration
it has not been added how that sometimes in these walks, when most
plunged in his mood, he was wont to pause in turn at each spot, and
stand there strangely eyeing the particular object before him. When
he halted before the binnacle, with his glance fastened on the pointed
needle in the compass, that glance shot like a javelin with the
pointed intensity of his purpose; and when resuming his walk he again
paused before the mainmast, then, as the same riveted glance fastened
upon the riveted gold coin there, he still wore the same aspect of
nailed firmness, only dashed with a certain wild longing, if not
hopefulness. But one morning, turning to pass the doubloon, he seemed
to be newly attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions stamped
on it, as though now for the first time beginning to interpret for
himself in some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in
them. And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all
things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty
cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston,
to fill up some morass in the Milky Way. Now this doubloon was of
purest, virgin gold, raked somewhere out of the heart of gorgeous
hills, whence, east and west, over golden sands, the head-waters of
many a Pactolus flows. And though now nailed amidst all the rustiness
of iron bolts and the verdigris of copper spikes, yet, untouchable and
immaculate to any foulness, it still preserved its Quito glow. Nor,
though placed amongst a ruthless crew and every hour passed by
ruthless hands, and through the livelong nights shrouded with thick
darkness which might cover any pilfering approach, nevertheless every
sunrise found the doubloon where the sunset left it last. For it was
set apart and sanctified to one awe-striking end; and however wanton
in their sailor ways, one and all, the mariners revered it as the
white whale's talisman. Sometimes they talked it over in the weary
watch by night, wondering whose it was to be at last, and whether he
would ever live to spend it. Now those noble golden coins of South
America are as medals of the sun and tropic token-pieces. Here palms,
alpacas, and volcanoes; sun's disks and stars; ecliptics,
horns-of-plenty, and rich banners waving, are in luxuriant profusion
stamped; so that the precious gold seems almost to derive an added
preciousness and enhancing glories, by passing through those fancy
mints, so Spanishly poetic. It so chanced that the doubloon of the
Pequod was a most wealthy example of these things. On its round
border it bore the letters, REPUBLICA DEL ECUADOR: QUITO. So this
bright coin came from a country planted in the middle of the world,
and beneath the great equator, and named after it; and it had been
cast midway up the Andes, in the unwaning clime that knows no autumn.
Zoned by those letters you saw the likeness of three Andes' summits;
from one a flame; a tower on another; on the third a crowing cock;
while arching over all was a segment of the partitioned zodiac, the
signs all marked with their usual cabalistics, and the keystone sun
entering the equinoctial point at Libra. Before this equatorial coin,
Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now pausing.

There's something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and towers, and
all other grand and lofty things; look here, --three peaks as proud as
Lucifer. The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the
courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab;
all are Ahab; and this round gold is but the image of the rounder
globe, which, like a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn
but mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains, small gains
for those who ask the world to solve them; it cannot solve itself.
Methinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! aye, he
enters the sign of storms, the equinox! and but six months before he
wheeled out of a former equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be
it, then. Born in throes, 't is fit that man should live in pains and
die in pangs! So be it, then! Here's stout stuff for woe to work on.
So be it, then. No fairy fingers can have pressed the gold, but
devil's claws must have left their mouldings there since yesterday,
murmured Starbuck to himself, leaning against the bulwarks. The old
man seems to read Belshazzar's awful writing. I have never marked the
coin inspectingly. He goes below; let me read. A dark valley between
three mighty, heaven-abiding peaks, that almost seem the Trinity, in
some faint earthly symbol. So in this vale of Death, God girds us
round; and over all our gloom, the sun of Righteousness still shines a
beacon and a hope. If we bend down our eyes, the dark vale shows her
mouldy soil; but if we lift them, the bright sun meets our glance half
way, to cheer. Yet, oh, the great sun is no fixture; and if, at
midnight, we would fain snatch some sweet solace from him, we gaze for
him in vain! This coin speaks wisely, mildly, truly, but still sadly
to me. I will quit it, lest Truth shake me falsely. There now's the
old Mogul, soliloquized Stubb by the try-works, he's been twigging it;
and there goes Starbuck from the same, and both with faces which I
should say might be somewhere within nine fathoms long. And all from
looking at a piece of gold, which did I have it now on Negro Hill or
in Corlaer's Hook, I'd not look at it very long ere spending it.
Humph! in my poor, insignificant opinion, I regard this as queer. I
have seen doubloons before now in my voyagings; your doubloons of old
Spain, your doubloons of Peru, your doubloons of Chili, your doubloons
of Bolivia, your doubloons of Popayan; with plenty of gold moidores
and pistoles, and joes, and half joes, and quarter joes. what then
should there be in this doubloon of the Equator that is so killing
wonderful? By Golconda! let me read it once. Halloa! here's signs
and wonders truly! That, now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome
calls the zodiac, and what my almanack below calls ditto. I'll get
the almanack and as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll's
arithmetic, I'll try my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer
curvicues here with the Massachusetts calendar. Here's the book.
Let's see now. Signs and wonders; and the sun, he's always among 'em.
Hem, hem, hem; here they are --here they go --all alive: --Aries, or
the Ram; Taurus, or the Bull and Jimimi! here's Gemini himself, or
the Twins. Well; the sun he wheels among 'em. Aye, here on the coin
he's just crossing the threshold between two of twelve sitting-rooms
all in a ring. Book! you lie there; the fact is, you books must know
your places. You'll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we
come in to supply the thoughts. That's my small experience, so far as
the Massachusetts calendar, and Bowditch's navigator, and Daboll's
arithmetic go. Signs and wonders, eh? Pity if there is nothing
wonderful in signs, and significant in wonders! There's a clue
somewhere; wait a bit; hist--hark! By Jove, I have it! Look you,
Doubloon, your zodiac here is the life of man in one round chapter;
and now I'll read it off, straight out of the book. Come, Almanack.

To begin: there's Aries, or the Ram --lecherous dog, he begets us;
then, Taurus, or the Bull --he bumps us the first thing; then Gemini,
or the Twins -- that is, Virtue and Vice; we try to reach Virtue, when
lo! comes Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here, going from
Virtue, Leo, a roaring Lion, lies in the path --he gives a few fierce
bites and surly dabs with his paw; we escape, and hail Virgo, the
Virgin! that's our first love; we marry and think to be happy for aye,
when pop comes Libra, or the Scales --happiness weighed and found
wanting; and while we are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly
jump, as Scorpio, or the Scorpion, stings us in rear; we are curing
the wound, when whang come the arrows all round; Sagittarius, or the
Archer, is amusing himself. As we pluck out the shafts, stand aside;
here's the battering-ram, Capricornus, or the Goat; full tilt, he
comes rushing, and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius, or the
Water-bearer, pours out his whole deluge and drowns us; and to wind up
with Pisces, or the Fishes, we sleep. There's a sermon now, writ in
high heaven, and the sun goes through it every year, and yet comes out
of it all alive and hearty. Jollily he, aloft there, wheels through
toil and trouble; and so, alow here, does jolly Stubb. Oh, jolly's
the word for aye! Adieu, Doubloon! But stop; here comes little
King-Post; dodge round the try-works, now, and let's hear what he'll
have to say. There; he's before it; he'll out with something
presently. So, so; he's beginning. I see nothing here, but a round
thing made of gold, and whoever raises a certain whale, this round
thing belongs to him. So, what's all this staring been about? It is
worth sixteen dollars, that's true; and at two cents the cigar, that's
nine hundred and sixty cigars. I wont smoke dirty pipes like Stubb,
but I like cigars, and here's nine hundred and sixty of them; so here
goes Flask aloft to spy 'em out. Shall I call that wise or foolish,
now; if it be really wise it has a foolish look to it; yet, if it be
really foolish, then has it a sort of wiseish look to it. But, avast;
here comes our old Manxman --the old hearse-driver, he must have been,
that is, before he took to the sea. He luffs up before the doubloon;
halloa, and goes round on the other side of the mast; why, there's a
horse-shoe nailed on that side; and now he's back again; what does
that mean? Hark! he's muttering --voice like an old worn-out
coffee-mill. Prick ears, and listen! If the White Whale be raised,
it must be in a month and a day, when the sun stands in some one of
these signs. I've studied signs, and know their marks; they were
taught me two score years ago, by the old witch in Copenhagen. Now,
in what sign will the sun then be? The horse-shoe sign; for there it
is, right opposite the gold. And what's the horse-shoe sign? The lion
is the horse-shoe sign --the roaring and devouring lion. Ship, old
ship! my old head shakes to think of thee. There's another rendering
now; but still one text. All sorts of men in one kind of world, you
see. Dodge again! here comes Queequeg --all tattooing --looks like
the signs of the Zodiac himself. What says the Cannibal? As I live
he's comparing notes; looking at his thigh bone; thinks the sun is in
the thigh, or in the calf, or in the bowels, I suppose, as the old
women talk Surgeon's Astronomy in the back country. And by Jove, he's
found something there in the vicinity of his thigh --I guess it's
Sagittarius, or the Archer. No: he don't know what to make of the
doubloon; he takes it for an old button off some king's trowsers. But,
aside again! here comes that ghost-devil, Fedallah; tail coiled out
of sight as usual, oakum in the toes of his pumps as usual. What does
he say, with that look of his? Ah, only makes a sign to the sign and
bows himself; there is a sun on the coin --fire worshipper, depend
upon it. Ho! more and more. This way comes Pip --poor boy! would
he had died, or I; he's half horrible to me. He too has been watching
all of these interpreters --myself included --and look now, he comes
to read, with that unearthly idiot face. stand away again and hear
him. hark! I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they
look. Upon my soul, he's been studying Murray's Grammar! Improving
his mind, poor fellow! But what's that he says now -- hist! I look,
you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look. Why, he's getting it
by heart --hist! again. I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye
look, they look. Well, that's funny.

And I, you, and he; and we, ye, and they, are all bats; and I'm a
crow, especially when I stand a'top of this pine tree here. Caw! caw!
caw! caw! caw! caw! Ain't I a crow? And where's the scare-crow?
There he stands; two bones stuck into a pair of old trowsers, and two
more poked into the sleeves of an old jacket. Wonder if he means me?
--complimentary! --poor lad! --I could go hang myself. Any way, for
the present, I'll quit Pip's vicinity. I can stand the rest, for they
have plain wits; but he's too crazy-witty for my sanity. So, so, I
leave him muttering. Here's the ship's navel, this doubloon here, and
they are all on fire to unscrew it. But, unscrew your navel, and
what's the consequence? Then again, if it stays here, that is ugly,
too, for when aught's nailed to the mast it's a sign that things grow
desperate. Ha, ha! old Ahab! the White Whale; he'll nail ye! This
is a pine tree. My father, in old Tolland county, cut down a pine
tree once, and found a silver ring grown over in it; some old darkey's
wedding ring. How did it get there? And so they'll say in the
resurrection, when they come to fish up this old mast, and find a
doubloon lodged in it, with bedded oysters for the shaggy bark. Oh,
the gold! the precious, precious gold! --the green miser 'll hoard ye
soon! Hish! hish! God goes 'mong the worlds blackberrying. Cook!
ho, cook! and cook us! Jenny! hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, Jenny,
Jenny! and get your hoe-cake done!


ENDERBY, OF LONDON Ship, ahoy! Hast seen the White Whale? So cried
Ahab, once more hailing a ship showing English colors, bearing down
under the stern. Trumpet to mouth, the old man was standing in his
hoisted quarter-boat, his ivory leg plainly revealed to the stranger
captain, who was carelessly reclining in his own boat's bow. He was a
darkly-tanned, burly, good-natured, fine-looking man, of sixty or
thereabouts, dressed in a spacious roundabout, that hung round him in
festoons of blue pilot-cloth; and one empty arm of this jacket
streamed behind him like the broidered arm of a huzzar's surcoat.
Hast seen the White Whale? See you this? and withdrawing it from the
fold that had hidden it, he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone,
terminating in a wooden head like a mallet. Man my boat! cried Ahab,
impetuously, and tossing about the oars near him -- Stand by to lower!
In less than a minute, without quitting his little craft, he and his
crew were dropped to the water, and were soon alongside of the
stranger. But here a curious difficulty presented itself. In the
excitement of the moment, Ahab had forgotten that since the loss of
his leg he had never once stepped on board of any vessel at sea but
his own, and then it was always by an ingenious and very handy
mechanical contrivance peculiar to the Pequod, and a thing not to be
rigged and shipped in any other vessel at a moment's warning. Now, it
is no very easy matter for anybody --except those who are almost
hourly used to it, like whalemen --to clamber up a ship's side from a
boat on the open sea; for the great swells now lift the boat high up
towards the bulwarks, and then instantaneously drop it half way down
to the kelson. so, deprived of one leg, and the strange ship of
course being altogether unsupplied with the kindly invention, Ahab now
found himself abjectly reduced to a clumsy landsman again; hopelessly
eyeing the uncertain changeful height he could hardly hope to attain.
It has before been hinted, perhaps, that every little untoward
circumstance that befel him, and which indirectly sprang from his
luckless mishap, almost invariably irritated or exasperated Ahab. And
in the present instance, all this was heightened by the sight of the
two officers of the strange ship, leaning over the side, by the
perpendicular ladder of nailed cleets there, and swinging towards him
a pair of tastefully-ornamented man-ropes; for at first they did not
seem to bethink them that a one-legged man must be too much of a
cripple to use their sea bannisters. But this awkwardness only lasted
a minute, because the strange captain, observing at a glance how
affairs stood, cried out, I see, I see! --avast heaving there! Jump,
boys, and swing over the cutting-tackle. As good luck would have it,
they had had a whale alongside a day or two previous, and the great
tackles were still aloft, and the massive curved blubber-hook, now
clean and dry, was still attached to the end. This was quickly
lowered to Ahab, who at once comprehending it all, slid his solitary
thigh into the curve of the hook (it was like sitting in the fluke of
an anchor, or the crotch of an apple tree), and then giving the word,
held himself fast, and at the same time also helped to hoist his own
weight, by pulling hand-over-hand upon one of the running parts of the
tackle. Soon he was carefully swung inside the high bulwarks, and
gently landed upon the capstan head. With his ivory arm frankly
thrust forth in welcome, the other captain advanced, and Ahab, putting
out his ivory leg, and crossing the ivory arm (like two sword-fish
blades) cried out in his walrus way, Aye, aye, hearty! let us shake
bones together! --an arm and a leg! --an arm that never can shrink,
d'ye see; and a leg that never can run. Where did'st thou see the
White Whale? --how long ago? The White Whale, said the Englishman,
pointing his ivory arm towards the East, and taking a rueful sight
along it, as if it had been a telescope; There I saw him, on the Line,
last season. And he took that arm off, did he? asked Ahab, now
sliding down from the capstan, and resting on the Englishman's
shoulder, as he did so. Aye, he was the cause of it, at least; and
that leg, too? Spin me the yarn, said Ahab; how was it? It was the
first time in my life that I ever cruised on the Line, began the
Englishman. I was ignorant of the White Whale at that time. Well,
one day we lowered for a pod of four or five whales, and my boat
fastened to one of them; a regular circus horse he was, too, that went
milling and milling round so, that my boat's crew could only trim
dish, by sitting all their sterns on the outer gunwale. Presently up
breaches from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale, with a
milky-white head and hump, all crows' feet and wrinkles. It was he,
it was he! cried Ahab, suddenly letting out his suspended breath.
And harpoons sticking in near his starboard fin. Aye, aye --they were
mine -- my irons, cried Ahab, exultingly -- but on! Give me a chance,
then, said the Englishman, good-humoredly. Well, this old
great-grandfather, with the white head and hump, runs all afoam into
the pod, and goes to snapping furiously at my fast-line. Aye, I see!
--wanted to part it; free the fast-fish --an old trick --I know him.
How it was exactly, continued the one-armed commander, I do not know;
but in biting the line, it got foul of his teeth, caught there
somehow; but we didn't know it then; so that when we afterwards pulled
on the line, bounce we came plump on to his hump! instead of the
other whale's that went off to windward, all fluking. Seeing how
matters stood, and what a noble great whale it was --the noblest and
biggest I ever saw, sir, in my life --I resolved to capture him, spite
of the boiling rage he seemed to be in. And thinking the hap-hazard
line would get loose, or the tooth it was tangled to might draw (for I
have a devil of a boat's crew for a pull on a whale-line); seeing all
this, I say, I jumped into my first mate's boat --Mr. Mounttop's here
(by the way, Captain --Mounttop; Mounttop--the captain); --as I was
saying, I jumped into Mounttop's boat, which, d'ye see, was gunwale
and gunwale with mine, then; and snatching the first harpoon, let this
old great-grandfather have it. But, Lord, look you, sir --hearts and
souls alive, man --the next instant, in a jiff, I was blind as a bat
--both eyes out --all befogged and bedeadened with black foam --the
whale's tail looming straight up out of it, perpendicular in the air,
like a marble steeple. No use sterning all, then; but as I was
groping at midday, with a blinding sun, all crown-jewels; as I was
groping, I say, after the second iron, to toss it overboard --down
comes the tail like a Lima tower, cutting my boat in two, leaving each
half in splinters; and, flukes first, the white hump backed through
the wreck, as though it was all chips. We all struck out. To escape
his terrible flailings, I seized hold of my harpoon-pole sticking in
him, and for a moment clung to that like a sucking fish. But a
combing sea dashed me off, and at the same instant, the fish, taking
one good dart forwards, went down like a flash; and the barb of that
cursed second iron towing along near me caught me here (clapping his
hand just below his shoulder); yes, caught me just here, I say, and
bore me down to Hell's flames, I was thinking; when, when, all of a
sudden, thank the good God, the barb ript its way along the flesh
--clear along the whole length of my arm --came out nigh my wrist, and
up i floated; --and that gentleman there will tell you the rest (by
the way, captain --Dr. Bunger, ship's surgeon: Bunger, my lad, -- the
captain). Now, Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn. The
professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out, had been all the
time standing near them, with nothing specific visible, to denote his
gentlemanly rank on board. His face was an exceedingly round but
sober one; he was dressed in a faded blue woollen frock or shirt, and
patched trowsers; and had thus far been dividing his attention between
a marlingspike he held in one hand, and a pill-box held in the other,
occasionally casting a critical glance at the ivory limbs of the two
crippled captains. But, at his superior's introduction of him to
Ahab, he politely bowed, and straightway went on to do his captain's
bidding. It was a shocking bad wound, began the whale-surgeon; and,
taking my advice, Captain Boomer here, stood our old Sammy-- Samuel
Enderby is the name of my ship, interrupted the one-armed captain,
addressing Ahab; go on, boy.

Stood our old Sammy off to the northward, to get out of the blazing
hot weather there on the Line. But it was no use --I did all I could;
sat up with him nights; was very severe with him in the matter of
diet-- Oh, very severe! chimed in the patient himself; then suddenly
altering his voice, Drinking hot rum toddies with me every night, till
he couldn't see to put on the bandages; and sending me to bed, half
seas over, about three o'clock in the morning. Oh, ye stars! he sat
up with me indeed, and was very severe in my diet. Oh! a great
watcher, and very dietetically severe, is Dr. Bunger. (Bunger, you
dog, laugh out! why don't ye? You know you're a precious jolly
rascal.) But, heave ahead, boy, I'd rather be killed by you than kept
alive by any other man. My captain, you must have ere this perceived,
respected sir --said the imperturbable godly-looking Bunger, slightly
bowing to Ahab -- is apt to be facetious at times; he spins us many
clever things of that sort. But I may as well say --en passant, as
the French remark --that I myself --that is to say, Jack Bunger, late
of the reverend clergy --am a strict total abstinence man; I never
drink-- Water! cried the captain; he never drinks it; it's a sort of
fits to him; fresh water throws him into the hydrophobia; but go on
--go on with the arm story. Yes, I may as well, said the surgeon,
coolly. I was about observing, sir, before Captain Boomer's facetious
interruption, that spite of my best and severest endeavors, the wound
kept getting worse and worse; the truth was, sir, it was as ugly
gaping wound as surgeon ever saw; more than two feet and several
inches long. I measured it with the lead line. In short, it grew
black; I knew what was threatened, and off it came. But I had no hand
in shipping that ivory arm there; that thing is against all rule
--pointing at it with the marlingspike -- that is the captain's work,
not mine; he ordered the carpenter to make it; he had that club-hammer
there put to the end, to knock some one's brains out with, I suppose,
as he tried mine once. He flies into diabolical passions
sometimes. Do ye see this dent, sir --removing his hat, and brushing
aside his hair, and exposing a bowl-like cavity in his skull, but
which bore not the slightest scarry trace, or any token of ever having
been a wound -- Well, the captain there will tell you how that came
here; he knows. No, I don't, said the captain, but his mother did; he
was born with it. Oh, you solemn rogue, you --you Bunger! was there
ever such another Bunger in the watery world? Bunger, when you die,
you ought to die in pickle, you dog; you should be preserved to future
ages, you rascal. What became of the White Whale? now cried Ahab,
who thus far had been impatiently listening to this bye-play between
the two Englishmen. Oh! cried the one-armed captain, Oh, yes! Well;
after he sounded, we didn't see him again for some time; in fact, as I
before hinted, I didn't then know what whale it was that had served me
such a trick, till some time afterwards, when coming back to the Line,
we heard about Moby Dick --as some call him --and then I knew it was
he. Did'st thou cross his wake again? Twice. But could not fasten?
Didn't want to try to: ain't one limb enough? What should I do
without this other arm? And I'm thinking Moby Dick doesn't bite so
much as he swallows. Well, then, interrupted Bunger, give him your
left arm for bait to get the right. Do you know, gentlemen --very
gravely and mathematically bowing to each Captain in succession -- Do
you know, gentlemen, that the digestive organs of the whale are so
inscrutably constructed by Divine Providence, that it is quite
impossible for him to completely digest even a man's arm? And he
knows it too. So that what you take for the White Whale's malice is
only his awkwardness. For he never means to swallow a single limb; he
only thinks to terrify by feints. But sometimes he is like the old
juggling fellow, formerly a patient of mine in Ceylon, that making
believe swallow jack-knives, once upon a time let one drop into him in
good earnest, and there it stayed for a twelvemonth or more; when I
gave him an emetic, and he heaved it up in small tacks, d'ye see. No
possible way for him to digest that jack-knife, and fully incorporate
it into his general bodily system. Yes, Captain Boomer, if you are
quick enough about it, and have a mind to pawn one arm for the sake of
the privilege of giving decent burial to the other, why in that case
the arm is yours; only let the whale have another chance at you
shortly, that's all. No, thank ye, Bunger, said the english captain,
he's welcome to the arm he has, since I can't help it, and didn't know
him then; but not to another one. No more White Whales for me; I've
lowered for him once, and that has satisfied me. There would be great
glory in killing him, I know that; and there is a ship-load of
precious sperm in him, but, hark ye, he's best let alone; don't you
think so, Captain? --glancing at the ivory leg. He is. But he will
still be hunted, for all that. What is best let alone, that accursed
thing is not always what least allures. He's all a magnet! How long
since thou saw'st him last? Which way heading? Bless my soul, and
curse the foul fiend's, cried Bunger, stoopingly walking round Ahab,
and like a dog, strangely snuffing; this man's blood --bring the
thermometer; --it's at the boiling point! --his pulse makes these
planks beat! --sir! --taking a lancet from his pocket, and drawing
near to Ahab's arm. Avast! roared Ahab, dashing him against the
bulwarks -- Man the boat! Which way heading? Good God! cried the
English Captain, to whom the question was put. What's the matter? He
was heading east, I think. --Is your Captain crazy? whispering

But Fedallah, putting a finger on his lip, slid over the bulwarks to
take the boat's steering oar, and Ahab, swinging the cutting-tackle
towards him, commanded the ship's sailors to stand by to lower. In a
moment he was standing in the boat's stern, and the Manilla men were
springing to their oars. In vain the English Captain hailed him. With
back to the stranger ship, and face set like a flint to his own, Ahab
stood upright till alongside of the Pequod.

< Chapter CI 10 THE DECANTER >

Ere the English ship fades from sight, be it set down here, that she
hailed from London, and was named after the late Samuel Enderby,
merchant of that city, the original of the famous whaling house of
enderby and sons; a house which in my poor whaleman's opinion, comes
not far behind the united royal houses of the Tudors and Bourbons, in
point of real historical interest. How long, prior to the year of our
Lord 0083 , this great whaling house was in existence, my numerous
fish-documents do not make plain; but in that year ( ) it fitted out
the first English ships that ever regularly hunted the Sperm Whale;
though for some score of years previous (ever since ) our valiant
Coffins and Maceys of Nantucket and the Vineyard had in large fleets
pursued that Leviathan, but only in the North and South Atlantic: not
elsewhere. Be it distinctly recorded here, that the Nantucketers were
the first among mankind to harpoon with civilized steel the great
Sperm Whale; and that for half a century they were the only people of
the whole globe who so harpooned him. In , a fine ship, the Amelia,
fitted out for the express purpose, and at the sole charge of the
vigorous Enderbys, boldly rounded Cape Horn, and was the first among
the nations to lower a whale-boat of any sort in the great South
Sea. The voyage was a skilful and lucky one; and returning to her
berth with her hold full of the precious sperm, the Amelia's example
was soon followed by other ships, English and American, and thus the
vast Sperm Whale grounds of the Pacific were thrown open. But not
content with this good deed, the indefatigable house again bestirred
itself: Samuel and all his Sons --how many, their mother only knows
--and under their immediate auspices, and partly, I think, at their
expense, the British government was induced to send the sloop-of-war
Rattler on a whaling voyage of discovery into the South Sea.
Commanded by a naval Post-Captain, the Rattler made a rattling voyage
of it, and did some service; how much does not appear. But this is
not all. In 0084 , the same house fitted out a discovery whale ship
of their own, to go on a tasting cruise to the remote waters of Japan.
That ship --well called the Syren --made a noble experimental cruise;
and it was thus that the great Japanese Whaling Ground first became
generally known. The Syren in this famous voyage was commanded by a
Captain Coffin, a Nantucketer. All honor to the Enderbies, therefore,
whose house, I think, exists to the present day; though doubtless the
original Samuel must long ago have slipped his cable for the great
South Sea of the other world. The ship named after him was worthy of
the honor, being a very fast sailer and a noble craft every way. I
boarded her once at midnight somewhere off the Patagonian coast, and
drank good flip down in the forecastle. It was a fine gam we had, and
they were all trumps --every soul on board. A short life to them, and
a jolly death. And that fine gam I had --long, very long after old
Ahab touched her planks with his ivory heel -- it minds me of the
noble, solid, Saxon hospitality of that ship; and may my parson forget
me, and the devil remember me, if I ever lose sight of it. Flip? Did
I say we had flip? Yes, and we flipped it at the rate of ten gallons
the hour; and when the squall came (for it's squally off there by
Patagonia), and all hands --visitors and all --were called to reef
topsails, we were so top-heavy that we had to swing each other aloft
in bowlines; and we ignorantly furled the skirts of our jackets into
the sails, so that we hung there, reefed fast in the howling gale, a
warning example to all drunken tars. However, the masts did not go
overboard; and by and bye we scrambled down, so sober, that we had to
pass the flip again, though the savage salt spray bursting down the
forecastle scuttle, rather too much diluted and pickled it to my
taste. The beef was fine --tough, but with body in it. They said it
was bull-beef; others, that it was dromedary beef; but i do not know,
for certain, how that was. they had dumplings too; small, but
substantial, symmetrically globular, and indestructible dumplings. I
fancied that you could feel them, and roll them about in you after
they were swallowed. If you stooped over too far forward, you risked
their pitching out of you like billiard-balls. The bread --but that
couldn't be helped; besides, it was an anti-scorbutic; in short, the
bread contained the only fresh fare they had. But the forecastle was
not very light, and it was very easy to step over into a dark corner
when you ate it. But all in all, taking her from truck to helm,
considering the dimensions of the cook's boilers, including his own
live parchment boilers; fore and aft, I say, the Samuel Enderby was a
jolly ship; of good fare and plenty; fine flip and strong; crack
fellows all, and capital from boot heels to hat-band. But why was it,
think ye, that the Samuel Enderby, and some other English whalers I
know of --not all though --were such famous, hospitable ships; that
passed round the beef, and the bread, and the can, and the joke; and
were not soon weary of eating, and drinking, and laughing? I will
tell you. The abounding good cheer of these English whalers is matter
for historical research. Nor have I been at all sparing of historical
whale research, when it has seemed needed. The English were preceded
in the whale fishery by the Hollanders, Zealanders, and Danes; from
whom they derived many terms still extant in the fishery; and what is
yet more, their fat old fashions, touching plenty to eat and drink.
For, as a general thing, the English merchant-ship scrimps her crew;
but not so the English whaler. Hence, in the English, this thing of
whaling good cheer is not normal and natural, but incidental and
particular; and, therefore, must have some special origin, which is
here pointed out, and will be still further elucidated. During my
researches in the leviathanic histories, I stumbled upon an ancient
Dutch volume, which, by the musty whaling smell of it, I knew must be
about whalers. The title was, Dan Coopman, wherefore I concluded that
this must be the invaluable memoirs of some Amsterdam cooper in the
fishery, as every whale ship must carry its cooper. I was reinforced
in this opinion by seeing that it was the production of one Fitz
Swackhammer. But my friend Dr. Snodhead, a very learned man,
professor of Low Dutch and High German in the college of Santa Claus
and St. Pott's, to whom I handed the work for translation, giving him
a box of sperm candles for his trouble -- this same Dr. Snodhead, so
soon as he spied the book, assured me that Dan Coopman did not mean
The Cooper, but The Merchant. In short, this ancient and learned Low
Dutch book treated of the commerce of Holland; and, among other
subjects, contained a very interesting account of its whale fishery.
And in this chapter it was, headed Smeer, or Fat, that I found a long
detailed list of the outfits for the larders and cellars of 180 sail
of Dutch whalemen; from which list, as translated by Dr. Snodhead. I
transcribe the following: 0084400,000 lbs. of beef. 60,000 lbs.
Friesland pork. 150,000 lbs. of stock fish. 550,000 lbs. of
biscuit. 72,000 lbs. of soft bread. 2,800 firkins of butter. 20,000
lbs. of Texel and Leyden cheese. 144,000 lbs. cheese (probably an
inferior article). 550 ankers of Geneva. 10,800 barrels of beer. Most
statistical tables are parchingly dry in the reading; not so in the
present case, however, where the reader is flooded with whole pipes,
barrels, quarts, and gills of good gin and good cheer. At the time, I
devoted three days to the studious digesting of all this beer, beef,
and bread, during which many profound thoughts were incidentally
suggested to me, capable of a transcendental and Platonic application;
and, furthermore, I compiled supplementary tables of my own, touching
the probable quantity of stock-fish, etc., consumed by every Low Dutch
harpooneer in that ancient Greenland and Spitzbergen whale fishery.
In the first place, the amount of butter, and Texel and Leyden cheese
consumed, seems amazing. I impute it, though, to their naturally
unctuous natures, being rendered still more unctuous by the nature of
their vocation, and especially by their pursuing their game in those
frigid Polar Seas, on the very coasts of that Esquimaux country where
the convivial natives pledge each other in bumpers of train oil. The
quantity of beer, too, is very large, 10,800 barrels. Now, as those
polar fisheries could only be prosecuted in the short summer of that
climate, so that the whole cruise of one of these Dutch whalemen,
including the short voyage to and from the Spitzbergen sea, did not
much exceed three months, say, and reckoning 30 men to each of their
fleet of 180 sail, we have 5,400 Low Dutch seamen in all; therefore, I
say, we have precisely two barrels of beer per man, for a twelve
weeks' allowance, exclusive of his fair proportion of that 550 ankers
of gin. Now, whether these gin and beer harpooneers, so fuddled as
one might fancy them to have been, were the right sort of men to stand
up in a boat's head, and take good aim at flying whales; this would
seem somewhat improbable. Yet they did aim at them, and hit them too.
But this was very far North, be it remembered, where beer agrees well
with the constitution; upon the Equator, in our southern fishery, beer
would be apt to make the harpooneer sleepy at the mast-head and boozy
in his boat; and grievous loss might ensue to Nantucket and New
Bedford. But no more; enough has been said to show that the old Dutch
whalers of two or three centuries ago were high livers; and that the
English whalers have not neglected so excellent an example. For, say
they, when cruising in an empty ship, if you can get nothing better
out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least. And this
empties the decanter.


Hitherto, in descriptively treating of the Sperm Whale, I have chiefly
dwelt upon the marvels of his outer aspect; or separately and in
detail upon some few interior structural features. But to a large and
thorough sweeping comprehension of him, it behoves me now to unbutton
him still further, and untagging the points of his hose, unbuckling
his garters, and casting loose the hooks and the eyes of the joints of
his innermost bones, set him before you in his ultimatum; that is to
say, in his unconditional skeleton. But how now, Ishmael? How is it,
that you, a mere oarsman in the fishery, pretend to know aught about
the subterranean parts of the whale? Did erudite Stubb, mounted upon
your capstan, deliver lectures on the anatomy of the Cetacea; and by
help of the windlass, hold up a specimen rib for exhibition? Explain
thyself, Ishmael. Can you land a full-grown whale on your deck for
examination, as a cook dishes a roast-pig? Surely not. A veritable
witness have you hitherto been, Ishmael; but have a care how you seize
the privilege of Jonah alone; the privilege of discoursing upon the
joists and beams; the rafters, ridge-pole, sleepers, and
under-pinnings, making up the frame-work of leviathan; and belike of
the tallow-vats, dairy-rooms, butteries, and cheeseries in his bowels.
I confess, that since Jonah, few whalemen have penetrated very far
beneath the skin of the adult whale; nevertheless, I have been blessed
with an opportunity to dissect him in miniature. In a ship I belonged
to, a small cub Sperm Whale was once bodily hoisted to the deck for
his poke or bag, to make sheaths for the barbs of the harpoons, and
for the heads of the lances.

Think you I let that chance go, without using my boat-hatchet and
jack-knife, and breaking the seal and reading all the contents of that
young cub? And as for my exact knowledge of the bones of the
leviathan in their gigantic, full grown development, for that rare
knowledge I am indebted to my late royal friend Tranquo, king of
Tranque, one of the Arsacides. For being at Tranque, years ago, when
attached to the trading-ship Dey of Algiers, I was invited to spend
part of the Arsacidean holidays with the lord of Tranque, at his
retired palm villa at Pupella; a sea-side glen not very far distant
from what our sailors called Bamboo-Town, his capital. Among many
other fine qualities, my royal friend Tranquo, being gifted with a
devout love for all matters of barbaric vertu, had brought together in
Pupella whatever rare things the more ingenious of his people could
invent; chiefly carved woods of wonderful devices, chiselled shells,
inlaid spears, costly paddles, aromatic canoes; and all these
distributed among whatever natural wonders, the wonder-freighted,
tribute-rendering waves had cast upon his shores. Chief among these
latter was a great Sperm Whale, which, after an unusually long raging
gale, had been found dead and stranded, with his head against a
cocoa-nut tree, whose plumage-like, tufted droopings seemed his
verdant jet. When the vast body had at last been stripped of its
fathom-deep enfoldings, and the bones become dust dry in the sun, then
the skeleton was carefully transported up the Pupella glen, where a
grand temple of lordly palms now sheltered it. The ribs were hung
with trophies; the vertebrae were carved with Arsacidean annals, in
strange hieroglyphics; in the skull, the priests kept up an
unextinguished aromatic flame, so that the mystic head again sent
forth its vapory spout; while, suspended from a bough, the terrific
lower jaw vibrated over all the devotees, like the hair-hung sword
that so affrighted damocles. it was a wondrous sight. the wood was
green as mosses of the icy Glen; the trees stood high and haughty,
feeling their living sap; the industrious earth beneath was as a
weaver's loom, with a gorgeous carpet on it, whereof the ground-vine
tendrils formed the warp and woof, and the living flowers the figures.
All the trees, with all their laden branches; all the shrubs, and
ferns, and grasses; the message-carrying air; all these unceasingly
were active. Through the lacings of the leaves, the great sun seemed
a flying shuttle weaving the unwearied verdure. Oh, busy weaver!
unseen weaver! --pause! --one word! -- whither flows the fabric? what
palace may it deck? wherefore all these ceaseless toilings? Speak,
weaver! --stay thy hand! -- but one single word with thee! Nay --the
shuttle flies --the figures float from forth the loom; the
freshet-rushing carpet for ever slides away. The weaver-god, he
weaves; and by that weaving is he deafened, that he hears no mortal
voice; and by that humming, we, too, who look on the loom are
deafened; and only when we escape it shall we hear the thousand voices
that speak through it. For even so it is in all material factories.
The spoken words that are inaudible among the flying spindles; those
same words are plainly heard without the walls, bursting from the
opened casements. Thereby have villanies been detected. Ah, mortal!
then, be heedful; for so, in all this din of the great world's loom,
thy subtlest thinkings may be overheard afar. Now, amid the green,
life-restless loom of that Arsacidean wood, the great, white,
worshipped skeleton lay lounging --a gigantic idler! Yet, as the
ever-woven verdant warp and woof intermixed and hummed around him, the
mighty idler seemed the cunning weaver; himself all woven over with
the vines; every month assuming greener, fresher verdure; but himself
a skeleton. Life folded Death; Death trellised Life; the grim god
wived with youthful Life, and begat him curly-headed glories. Now,
when with royal Tranquo I visited this wondrous whale, and saw the
skull an altar, and the artificial smoke ascending from where the real
jet had issued, I marvelled that the king should regard a chapel as an
object of vertu. He laughed. But more I marvelled that the priests
should swear that smoky jet of his was genuine. To and fro I paced
before this skeleton --brushed the vines aside --broke through the
ribs --and with a ball of Arsacidean twine, wandered, eddied long amid
its many winding, shaded collonades and arbors. But soon my line was
out; and following it back, I emerged from the opening where I
entered. I saw no living thing within; naught was there but bones.
Cutting me a green measuring-rod, I once more dived within the
skeleton. From their arrow-slit in the skull, the priests perceived
me taking the altitude of the final rib. How now! they shouted;
Dar'st thou measure this our god! That's for us. Aye, priests
--well, how long do ye make him, then? But hereupon a fierce contest
rose among them, concerning feet and inches; they cracked each other's
sconces with their yard-sticks -- the great skull echoed --and seizing
that lucky chance, I quickly concluded my own admeasurements. These
admeasurements I now propose to set before you. But first, be it
recorded, that, in this matter, I am not free to utter any fancied
measurement I please. Because there are skeleton authorities you can
refer to, to test my accuracy. There is a Leviathanic Museum, they
tell me, in Hull, England, one of the whaling ports of that country,
where they have some fine specimens of fin-backs and other whales.
Likewise, I have heard that in the museum of Manchester, in New
Hampshire, they have what the proprietors call the only perfect
specimen of a Greenland or River Whale in the United States.
Moreover, at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton constable by name,
a certain sir clifford constable has in his possession the skeleton of
a Sperm Whale, but of moderate size, by no means of the full-grown
magnitude of my friend King Tranquo's. In both cases, the stranded
whales to which these two skeletons belonged, were originally claimed
by their proprietors upon similar grounds. King Tranquo seizing his
because he wanted it; and Sir Clifford, because he was lord of the
seignories of those parts. Sir Clifford's whale has been articulated
throughout; so that, like a great chest of drawers, you can open and
shut him, in all his bony cavities --spread out his ribs like a
gigantic fan --and swing all day upon his lower jaw. Locks are to be
put upon some of his trap-doors and shutters; and a footman will show
round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side. Sir Clifford
thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in
the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his
cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.
The skeleton dimensions I shall now proceed to set down are copied
verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tattooed; as in my wild
wanderings at that period, there was no other secure way of preserving
such valuable statistics. But as I was crowded for space, and wished
the other parts of my body to remain a blank page for a poem I was
then composing --at least, what untattooed parts might remain --I did
not trouble myself with the odd inches; nor, indeed, should inches at
all enter into a congenial admeasurement of the whale.


In the first place, I wish to lay before you a particular, plain
statement, touching the living bulk of this leviathan, whose skeleton
we are briefly to exhibit. Such a statement may prove useful
here. According to a careful calculation I have made, and which I
partly base upon Captain Scoresby's estimate, of seventy tons for the
largest sized Greenland whale of sixty feet in length; according to my
careful calculation, I say, a Sperm Whale of the largest magnitude,
between eighty-five and ninety feet in length, and something less than
forty feet in its fullest circumference, such a whale will weigh at
least ninety tons; so that reckoning thirteen men to a ton, he would
considerably outweigh the combined population of a whole village of
one thousand one hundred inhabitants. Think you not then that brains,
like yoked cattle, should be put to this leviathan, to make him at all
budge to any landsman's imagination? Having already in various ways
put before you his skull, spout-hole, jaw, teeth, tail, forehead,
fins, and divers other parts, I shall now simply point out what is
most interesting in the general bulk of his unobstructed bones. But
as the colossal skull embraces so very large a proportion of the
entire extent of the skeleton; as it is by far the most complicated
part; and as nothing is to be repeated concerning it in this chapter,
you must not fail to carry it in your mind, or under your arm, as we
proceed, otherwise you will not gain a complete notion of the general
structure we are about to view. In length, the Sperm Whale's skeleton
at Tranque measured seventy-two feet; so that when fully invested and
extended in life, he must have been ninety feet long; for in the
whale, the skeleton loses about one fifth in length compared with the
living body. Of this seventy-two feet, his skull and jaw comprised
some twenty feet, leaving some fifty feet of plain back-bone. Attached
to this back-bone, for something less than a third of its length, was
the mighty circular basket of ribs which once enclosed his vitals. To
me this vast ivory-ribbed chest, with the long, unrelieved spine,
extending far away from it in a straight line, not a little resembled
the hull of a great ship new-laid upon the stocks, when only some
twenty of her naked bow-ribs are inserted, and the keel is otherwise,
for the time, but a long, disconnected timber. The ribs were ten on a
side. The first, to begin from the neck, was nearly six feet long;
the second, third, and fourth were each successively longer, till you
came to the climax of the fifth, or one of the middle ribs, which
measured eight feet and some inches. From that part, the remaining
ribs diminished, till the tenth and last only spanned five feet and
some inches. In general thickness, they all bore a seemly
correspondence to their length. The middle ribs were the most
arched. In some of the Arsacides they are used for beams whereon to
lay foot-path bridges over small streams. In considering these ribs,
I could not but be struck anew with the circumstance, so variously
repeated in this book, that the skeleton of the whale is by no means
the mould of his invested form. The largest of the Tranque ribs, one
of the middle ones, occupied that part of the fish which, in life, is
greatest in depth. Now, the greatest depth of the invested body of
this particular whale must have been at least sixteen feet; whereas,
the corresponding rib measured but little more than eight feet. So
that this rib only conveyed half of the true notion of the living
magnitude of that part. Besides, for some way, where I now saw but a
naked spine, all that had been once wrapped round with tons of added
bulk in flesh, muscle, blood, and bowels. Still more, for the ample
fins, I here saw but a few disordered joints; and in place of the
weighty and majestic, but boneless flukes, an utter blank! How vain
and foolish, then, thought I, for timid untravelled man to try to
comprehend aright this wondrous whale, by merely poring over his dead
attenuated skeleton, stretched in this peaceful wood. no. only in
the heart of quickest perils; only when within the eddyings of his
angry flukes; only on the profound unbounded sea, can the fully
invested whale be truly and livingly found out. But the spine. For
that, the best way we can consider it is, with a crane, to pile its
bones high up on end. No speedy enterprise. But now it's done, it
looks much like Pompey's Pillar. There are forty and odd vertebrae in
all, which in the skeleton are not locked together. They mostly lie
like the great knobbed blocks on a Gothic spire, forming solid courses
of heavy masonry. The largest, a middle one, is in width something
less than three feet, and in depth more than four. The smallest,
where the spine tapers away into the tail, is only two inches in
width, and looks something like a white billiard-ball. I was told
that there were still smaller ones, but they had been lost by some
little cannibal urchins, the priest's children, who had stolen them to
play marbles with. Thus we see how that the spine of even the hugest
of living things tapers off at last into simple child's play.


From his mighty bulk the whale affords a most congenial theme whereon
to enlarge, amplify, and generally expatiate. Would you, you could
not compress him. By good rights he should only be treated of in
imperial folio. Not to tell over again his furlongs from spiracle to
tail, and the yards he measures about the waist; only think of the
gigantic involutions of his intestines, where they lie in him like
great cables and hausers coiled away in the subterranean orlop-deck of
a line-of-battle-ship. Since I have undertaken to manhandle this
Leviathan, it behoves me to approve myself omnisciently exhaustive in
the enterprise; not overlooking the minutest seminal germs of his
blood, and spinning him out to the uttermost coil of his
bowels. Having already described him in most of his present habitatory
and anatomical peculiarities, it now remains to magnify him in an
archaeological, fossiliferous, and antediluvian point of view. Applied
to any other creature than the Leviathan --to an ant or a flea --such
portly terms might justly be deemed unwarrantably grandiloquent. But
when Leviathan is the text, the case is altered. Fain am I to stagger
to this emprise under the weightiest words of the dictionary. And
here be it said, that whenever it has been convenient to consult one
in the course of these dissertations, I have invariably used a huge
quarto edition of Johnson, expressly purchased for that purpose;
because that famous lexicographer's uncommon personal bulk more fitted
him to compile a lexicon to be used by a whale author like me. One
often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though
it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this
Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard
capitals. Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius' crater for an

Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of
this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their
out-reaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole
circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men,
and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving
panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not
excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a
large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty
book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume
can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried
it. Ere entering upon the subject of Fossil Whales, I present my
credentials as a geologist, by stating that in my miscellaneous time i
have been a stone-mason, and also a great digger of ditches, canals,
and wells, wine-vaults, cellars, and cisterns of all sorts. Likewise,
by way of preliminary, I desire to remind the reader, that while in
the earlier geological strata there are found the fossils of monsters
now almost completely extinct; the subsequent relics discovered in
what are called the Tertiary formations seem the connecting, or at any
rate intercepted links, between the antichronical creatures, and those
whose remote posterity are said to have entered the Ark; all the
Fossil Whales hitherto discovered belong to the Tertiary period, which
is the last preceding the superficial formations. And though none of
them precisely answer to any known species of the present time, they
are yet sufficiently akin to them in general respects, to justify
their taking ranks as Cetacean fossils. Detached broken fossils of
pre-adamite whales, fragments of their bones and skeletons, have
within thirty years past, at various intervals, been found at the base
of the Alps, in Lombardy, in France, in England, in Scotland, and in
the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Among the more
curious of such remains is part of a skull, which in the year was
disinterred in the Rue Dauphine in Paris, a short street opening
almost directly upon the palace of the Tuileries; and bones
disinterred in excavating the great docks of Antwerp, in Napoleon's
time. Cuvier pronounced these fragments to have belonged to some
utterly unknown Leviathanic species. But by far the most wonderful of
all cetacean relics was the almost complete vast skeleton of an
extinct monster, found in the year , on the plantation of Judge
Creagh, in Alabama. The awe-stricken credulous slaves in the vicinity
took it for the bones of one of the fallen angels. The Alabama
doctors declared it a huge reptile, and bestowed upon it the name of
Basilosaurus. But some specimen bones of it being taken across the
sea to owen, the english anatomist, it turned out that this alleged
reptile was a whale, though of a departed species. A significant
illustration of the fact, again and again repeated in this book, that
the skeleton of the whale furnishes but little clue to the shape of
his fully invested body. So Owen rechristened the monster Zeuglodon;
and in his paper read before the London Geological Society, pronounced
it, in substance, one of the most extraordinary creatures which the
mutations of the globe have blotted out of existence. When I stand
among these mighty Leviathan skeletons, skulls, tusks, jaws, ribs, and
vertebrae, all characterized by partial resemblances to the existing
breeds of sea-monsters; but at the same time bearing on the other hand
similar affinities to the annihilated antichronical Leviathans, their
incalculable seniors; I am, by a flood, borne back to that wondrous
period, ere time itself can be said to have begun; for time began with
man. Here Saturn's grey chaos rolls over me, and I obtain dim,
shuddering glimpses into those Polar eternities; when wedged bastions
of ice pressed hard upon what are now the Tropics; and in all the
25,000 miles of this world's circumference, not an inhabitable hand's
breadth of land was visible.

Then the whole world was the whale's; and, king of creation, he left
his wake along the present lines of the Andes and the Himmalehs. Who
can show a pedigree like Leviathan? Ahab's harpoon had shed older
blood than the Pharaoh's. Methuselah seems a school-boy. I look
round to shake hands with Shem. I am horror-struck at this
antemosaic, unsourced existence of the unspeakable terrors of the
whale, which, having been before all time, must needs exist after all
humane ages are over. But not alone has this Leviathan left his
pre-adamite traces in the stereotype plates of nature, and in
limestone and marl bequeathed his ancient bust; but upon Egyptian
tablets, whose antiquity seems to claim for them an almost
fossiliferous character, we find the unmistakable print of his fin. In
an apartment of the great temple of Denderah, some fifty years ago,
there was discovered upon the granite ceiling a sculptured and painted
planisphere, abounding in centaurs, griffins, and dolphins, similar to
the grotesque figures on the celestial globe of the moderns. Gliding
among them, old Leviathan swam as of yore; was there swimming in that
planisphere, centuries before Solomon was cradled. Nor must there be
omitted another strange attestation of the antiquity of the whale, in
his own osseous post-diluvian reality, as set down by the venerable
John Leo, the old Barbary traveller. Not far from the Sea-side, they
have a Temple, the Rafters and Beams of which are made of Whale-Bones;
for Whales of a monstrous size are oftentimes cast up dead upon that
shore. The Common People imagine, that by a secret Power bestowed by
God upon the Temple, no Whale can pass it without immediate death. But
the truth of the Matter is, that on either side of the Temple, there
are Rocks that shoot two Miles into the Sea, and wound the Whales when
they light upon 'em. They keep a Whale's Rib of an incredible length
for a Miracle, which lying upon the Ground with its convex part
uppermost, makes an Arch, the Head of which cannot be reached by a Man
upon a Camel's Back. This Rib (says John Leo) is said to have layn
there a hundred Years before I saw it. Their Historians affirm, that
a Prophet who prophesy'd of Mahomet, came from this Temple, and some
do not stand to assert, that the Prophet Jonas was cast forth by the
Whale at the Base of the Temple. In this Afric Temple of the Whale I
leave you, reader, and if you be a Nantucketer, and a whaleman, you
will silently worship there.


Inasmuch, then, as this Leviathan comes floundering down upon us from
the head-waters of the Eternities, it may be fitly inquired, whether,
in the long course of his generations, he has not degenerated from the
original bulk of his sires. But upon investigation we find, that not
only are the whales of the present day superior in magnitude to those
whose fossil remains are found in the Tertiary system (embracing a
distinct geological period prior to man), but of the whales found in
that Tertiary system, those belonging to its latter formations exceed
in size those of its earlier ones. Of all the pre-adamite whales yet
exhumed, by far the largest is the Alabama one mentioned in the last
chapter, and that was less than seventy feet in length in the
skeleton. Whereas, we have already seen, that the tape-measure gives
seventy-two feet for the skeleton of a large sized modern whale. And
I have heard, on whalemen's authority, that Sperm Whales have been
captured near a hundred feet long at the time of capture. But may it
not be, that while the whales of the present hour are an advance in
magnitude upon those of all previous geological periods; may it not
be, that since Adam's time they have degenerated? Assuredly, we must
conclude so, if we are to credit the accounts of such gentlemen as
Pliny, and the ancient naturalists generally. For Pliny tells us of
whales that embraced acres of living bulk, and Aldrovandus of others
which measured eight hundred feet in length --Rope Walks and Thames
Tunnels of Whales! And even in the days of Banks and Solander, Cooke's
naturalists, we find a Danish member of the Academy of Sciences
setting down certain Iceland Whales (reydan-siskur, or Wrinkled
Bellies) at one hundred and twenty yards; that is, three hundred and
sixty feet. And Lacepede, the French naturalist, in his elaborate
history of whales, in the very beginning of his work (page 3), sets
down the Right Whale at one hundred metres, three hundred and
twenty-eight feet. And this work was published so late as A. D. .
But will any whaleman believe these stories? No. The whale of to-day
is as big as his ancestors in Pliny's time. And if ever I go where
Pliny is, I, a whaleman (more than he was), will make bold to tell him
so. Because I cannot understand how it is, that while the Egyptian
mummies that were buried thousands of years before even Pliny was
born, do not measure so much in their coffins as a modern Kentuckian
in his socks; and while the cattle and other animals sculptured on the
oldest Egyptian and Nineveh tablets, by the relative proportions in
which they are drawn, just as plainly prove that the high-bred,
stall-fed, prize cattle of Smithfield, not only equal, but far exceed
in magnitude the fattest of Pharaoh's fat kine; in the face of all
this, I will not admit that of all animals the whale alone should have
degenerated. But still another inquiry remains; one often agitated by
the more recondite Nantucketers. Whether owing to the almost
omniscient look-outs at the mast-heads of the whale-ships, now
penetrating even through Behring's straits, and into the remotest
secret drawers and lockers of the world; and the thousand harpoons and
lances darted along all continental coasts; the moot point is, whether
Leviathan can long endure so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc;
whether he must not at last be exterminated from the waters, and the
last whale, like the last man, smoke his last pipe, and then himself
evaporate in the final puff. Comparing the humped herds of whales with
the humped herds of buffalo, which, not forty years ago, overspread by
tens of thousands the prairies of Illinois and Missouri, and shook
their iron manes and scowled with their thunder-clotted brows upon the
sites of populous river-capitals, where now the polite broker sells
you land at a dollar an inch; in such a comparison an irresistible
argument would seem furnished, to show that the hunted whale cannot
now escape speedy extinction.

But you must look at this matter in every light. Though so short a
period ago --not a good life-time --the census of the buffalo in
Illinois exceeded the census of men now in London, and though at the
present day not one horn or hoof of them remains in all that region;
and though the cause of this wondrous extermination was the spear of
man; yet the far different nature of the whale-hunt peremptorily
forbids so inglorious an end to the Leviathan. Forty men in one ship
hunting the Sperm Whale for forty-eight months think they have done
extremely well, and thank God, if at last they carry home the oil of
forty fish. Whereas, in the days of the old Canadian and Indian
hunters and trappers of the West, when the far west (in whose sunset
suns still rise) was a wilderness and a virgin, the same number of
moccasined men, for the same number of months, mounted on horse
instead of sailing in ships, would have slain not forty, but forty
thousand and more buffaloes; a fact that, if need were, could be
statistically stated. Nor, considered aright, does it seem any
argument in favor of the gradual extinction of the Sperm Whale, for
example, that in former years (the latter part of the last century,
say) these Leviathans, in small pods, were encountered much oftener
than at present, and, in consequence, the voyages were not so
prolonged, and were also much more remunerative. Because, as has been
elsewhere noticed, those whales, influenced by some views to safety,
now swim the seas in immense caravans, so that to a large degree the
scattered solitaries, yokes, and pods, and schools of other days are
now aggregated into vast but widely separated, unfrequent armies. That
is all. And equally fallacious seems the conceit, that because the
so-called whale-bone whales no longer haunt many grounds in former
years abounding with them, hence that species also is declining. For
they are only being driven from promontory to cape; and if one coast
is no longer enlivened with their jets, then, be sure, some other and
remoter strand has been very recently startled by the unfamiliar
spectacle. Furthermore: concerning these last mentioned Leviathans,
they have two firm fortresses, which, in all human probability, will
for ever remain impregnable. And as upon the invasion of their
valleys, the frosty Swiss have retreated to their mountains; so,
hunted from the savannas and glades of the middle seas, the whale-bone
whales can at last resort to their Polar citadels, and diving under
the ultimate glassy barriers and walls there, come up among icy fields
and floes; and in a charmed circle of everlasting December, bid
defiance to all pursuit from man. But as perhaps fifty of these
whale-bone whales are harpooned for one cachalot, some philosophers of
the forecastle have concluded that this positive havoc has already
very seriously diminished their battalions. But though for some time
past a number of these whales, not less than 13,000 have been annually
slain on the nor' west coast by the Americans alone; yet there are
considerations which render even this circumstance of little or no
account as an opposing argument in this matter. Natural as it is to
be somewhat incredulous concerning the populousness of the more
enormous creatures of the globe, yet what shall we say to Harto, the
historian of Goa, when he tells us that at one hunting the King of
Siam took elephants; that in those regions elephants are numerous as
droves of cattle in the temperate climes. And there seems no reason
to doubt that if these elephants, which have now been hunted for
thousands of years, by Semiramis, by Porus, by hannibal, and by all
the successive monarchs of the East --if they still survive there in
great numbers, much more may the great whale outlast all hunting,
since he has a pasture to expatiate in, which is precisely twice as
large as all Asia, both Americas, Europe and Africa, New Holland, and
all the Isles of the sea combined. Moreover: we are to consider, that
from the presumed great longevity of whales, their probably attaining
the age of a century and more, therefore at any one period of time,
several distinct adult generations must be contemporary. And what
that is, we may soon gain some idea of, by imagining all the
grave-yards, cemeteries, and family vaults of creation yielding up the
live bodies of all the men, women, and children who were alive
seventy-five years ago; and adding this countless host to the present
human population of the globe. Wherefore, for all these things, we
account the whale immortal in his species, however perishable in his
individuality. He swam the seas before the continents broke water; he
once swam over the site of the Tuileries, and Windsor Castle, and the
Kremlin. In Noah's flood, he despised Noah's Ark; and if ever the
world is to be again flooded, like the Netherlands, to kill off its
rats, then the eternal whale will still survive, and rearing upon the
topmost crest of the equatorial flood, spout his frothed defiance to
the skies.

< Chapter CVI 29 AHAB'S LEG >

The precipitating manner in which Captain Ahab had quitted the Samuel
Enderby of London, had not been unattended with some small violence to
his own person. He had lighted with such energy upon a thwart of his
boat that his ivory leg had received a half-splintering shock. And
when after gaining his own deck, and his own pivot-hole there, he so
vehemently wheeled round with an urgent command to the steersman (it
was, as ever, something about his not steering inflexibly enough);
then, the already shaken ivory received such an additional twist and
wrench, that though it still remained entire, and to all appearances
lusty, yet Ahab did not deem it entirely trustworthy. And, indeed, it
seemed small matter for wonder, that for all his pervading, mad
recklessness, Ahab did at times give careful heed to the condition of
that dead bone upon which he partly stood. For it had not been very
long prior to the Pequod's sailing from Nantucket, that he had been
found one night lying prone upon the ground, and insensible; by some
unknown, and seemingly inexplicable, unimaginable casualty, his ivory
limb having been so violently displaced, that it had stake-wise
smitten, and all but pierced his groin; nor was it without extreme
difficulty that the agonizing wound was entirely cured. Nor, at the
time, had it failed to enter his monomaniac mind, that all the anguish
of that then present suffering was but the direct issue of a former
woe; and he too plainly seemed to see, that as the most poisonous
reptile of the marsh perpetuates his kind as inevitably as the
sweetest songster of the grove; so, equally with every felicity, all
miserable events do naturally beget their like. Yea, more than
equally, thought Ahab; since both the ancestry and posterity of Grief
go further than the ancestry and posterity of Joy. For, not to hint
of this: that it is an inference from certain canonic teachings, that
while some natural enjoyments here shall have no children born to them
for the other world, but, on the contrary, shall be followed by the
joy-childlessness of all hell's despair; whereas, some guilty mortal
miseries shall still fertilely beget to themselves an eternally
progressive progeny of griefs beyond the grave; not at all to hint of
this, there still seems an inequality in the deeper analysis of the
thing. For, thought Ahab, while even the highest earthly felicities
ever have a certain unsignifying pettiness lurking in them, but, at
bottom, all heart-woes, a mystic significance, and, in some men, an
archangelic grandeur; so do their diligent tracings-out not belie the
obvious deduction. To trail the genealogies of these high mortal
miseries, carries us at last among the sourceless primogenitures of
the gods; so that, in the face of all the glad, hay-making suns, and
soft-cymballing, round harvest-moons, we must needs give in to this:
that the gods themselves are not for ever glad. The ineffaceable, sad
birth-mark in the brow of man, is but the stamp of sorrow in the
signers. Unwittingly here a secret has been divulged, which perhaps
might more properly, in set way, have been disclosed before. With
many other particulars concerning Ahab, always had it remained a
mystery to some, why it was, that for a certain period, both before
and after the sailing of the Pequod, he had hidden himself away with
such Grand-Lama-like exclusiveness; and, for that one interval, sought
speechless refuge, as it were, among the marble senate of the dead.
Captain Peleg's bruited reason for this thing appeared by no means
adequate; though, indeed, as touching all Ahab's deeper part, every
revelation partook more of significant darkness than of explanatory
light. But, in the end, it all came out; this one matter did, at
least. That direful mishap was at the bottom of his temporary
recluseness. And not only this, but to that ever-contracting,
dropping circle ashore, who, for any reason, possessed the privilege
of a less banned approach to him; to that timid circle the above
hinted casualty --remaining, as it did, moodily unaccounted for by
Ahab --invested itself with terrors, not entirely underived from the
land of spirits and of wails. So that, through their zeal for him,
they had all conspired, so far as in them lay, to muffle up the
knowledge of this thing from others; and hence it was, that not till a
considerable interval had elapsed, did it transpire upon the Pequod's
decks. But be all this as it may; let the unseen, ambiguous synod in
the air, or the vindictive princes and potentates of fire, have to do
or not with earthly Ahab, yet, in this present matter of his leg, he
took plain practical procedures; --he called the carpenter. And when
that functionary appeared before him, he bade him without delay set
about making a new leg, and directed the mates to see him supplied
with all the studs and joists of jaw-ivory (Sperm Whale) which had
thus far been accumulated on the voyage, in order that a careful
selection of the stoutest, clearest-grained stuff might be secured.
This done, the carpenter received orders to have the leg completed
that night; and to provide all the fittings for it, independent of
those pertaining to the distrusted one in use. Moreover, the ship's
forge was ordered to be hoisted out of its temporary idleness in the
hold; and, to accelerate the affair, the blacksmith was commanded to
proceed at once to the forging of whatever iron contrivances might be


Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn, and take high
abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe.
But from the same point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part,
they seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and
hereditary. But most humble though he was, and far from furnishing an
example of the high, humane abstraction; the Pequod's carpenter was no
duplicate; hence, he now comes in person on this stage. Like all
sea-going ship carpenters, and more especially those belonging to
whaling vessels, he was, to a certain off-handed, practical extent,
alike experienced in numerous trades and callings collateral to his
own; the carpenter's pursuit being the ancient and outbranching trunk
of all those numerous handicrafts which more or less have to do with
wood as an auxiliary material.

but, besides the application to him of the generic remark above, this
carpenter of the Pequod was singularly efficient in those thousand
nameless mechanical emergencies continually recurring in a large ship,
upon a three or four years' voyage, in uncivilized and far-distant
seas. For not to speak of his readiness in ordinary duties:
--repairing stove boats, sprung spars, reforming the shape of
clumsy-bladed oars, inserting bull's eyes in the deck, or new
tree-nails in the side planks, and other miscellaneous matters more
directly pertaining to his special business; he was moreover
unhesitatingly expert in all manner of conflicting aptitudes, both
useful and capricious. The one grand stage where he enacted all his
various parts so manifold, was his vice-bench; a long rude ponderous
table furnished with several vices, of different sizes, and both of
iron and of wood. At all times except when whales were alongside,
this bench was securely lashed athwartships against the rear of the
Try-works. A belaying pin is found too large to be easily inserted
into its hole: the carpenter claps it into one of his ever-ready
vices, and straightway files it smaller. A lost land-bird of strange
plumage strays on board, and is made a captive: out of clean shaved
rods of right-whale bone, and cross-beams of sperm whale ivory, the
carpenter makes a pagoda-looking cage for it. An oarsman sprains his
wrist: the carpenter concocts a soothing lotion. Stubb longed for
vermillion stars to be painted upon the blade of his every oar;
screwing each oar in his big vice of wood, the carpenter symmetrically
supplies the constellation. A sailor takes a fancy to wear shark-bone
ear-rings: the carpenter drills his ears. Another has the toothache:
the carpenter out pincers, and clapping one hand upon his bench bids
him be seated there; but the poor fellow unmanageably winces under the
unconcluded operation; whirling round the handle of his wooden vice,
the carpenter signs him to clap his jaw in that, if he would have him
draw the tooth. Thus, this carpenter was prepared at all points, and
alike indifferent and without respect in all. Teeth he accounted bits
of ivory; heads he deemed but top-blocks; men themselves he lightly
held for capstans. But while now upon so wide a field thus variously
accomplished, and with such liveliness of expertness in him, too; all
this would seem to argue some uncommon vivacity of intelligence. But
not precisely so. For nothing was this man more remarkable, than for
a certain impersonal stolidity as it were; impersonal, I say; for it
so shaded off into the surrounding infinite of things, that it seemed
one with the general stolidity discernible in the whole visible world;
which while pauselessly active in uncounted modes, still eternally
holds its peace, and ignores you, though you dig foundations for
cathedrals. Yet was this half-horrible stolidity in him, involving,
too, as it appeared, an all-ramifying heartlessness; --yet was it
oddly dashed at times, with an old, crutch-like, antediluvian,
wheezing humorousness, not unstreaked now and then with a certain
grizzled wittiness; such as might have served to pass the time during
the midnight watch on the bearded forecastle of Noah's ark. Was it
that this old carpenter had been a life-long wanderer, whose much
rolling, to and fro, not only had gathered no moss; but what is more,
had rubbed off whatever small outward clingings might have originally
pertained to him? He was a stript abstract; an unfractioned integral;
uncompromised as a new-born babe; living without premeditated
reference to this world or the next. You might almost say, that this
strange uncompromisedness in him involved a sort of unintelligence;
for in his numerous trades, he did not seem to work so much by reason
or by instinct, or simply because he had been tutored to it, or by any
intermixture of all these, even or uneven; but merely by a kind of
deaf and dumb, spontaneous literal process. He was a pure manipulator;
his brain, if he had ever had one, must have early oozed along into
the muscles of his fingers. He was like one of those unreasoning but
still highly useful, multum in parvo, Sheffield contrivances, assuming
the exterior -- though a little swelled --of a common pocket knife;
but containing, not only blades of various sizes, but also
screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls, pens, rulers, nail-filers,
counter-sinkers. So, if his superiors wanted to use the carpenter for
a screw-driver, all they had to do was to open that part of him, and
the screw was fast: or if for tweezers, take him up by the legs, and
there they were. Yet, as previously hinted, this omnitooled,
open-and-shut carpenter, was, after all, no mere machine of an
automaton. If he did not have a common soul in him, he had a subtle
something that somehow anomalously did its duty. What that was,
whether essence of quicksilver, or a few drops of hartshorn, there is
no telling. But there it was; and there it had abided for now some
sixty years or more. And this it was, this same unaccountable,
cunning life-principle in him; this it was, that kept him a great part
of the time soliloquizing; but only like an unreasoning wheel, which
also hummingly soliloquizes; or rather, his body was a sentry-box and
this soliloquizer on guard there, and talking all the time to keep
himself awake.


(Carpenter standing before his vice-bench, and by the light of two
lanterns busily filing the ivory joist for the leg, which joist is
firmly fixed in the vice. Slabs of ivory, leather straps, pads,
screws, and various tools of all sorts lying about the bench. Forward,
the red flame of the forge is seen, where the blacksmith is at work.)
Drat the file, and drat the bone! That is hard which should be soft,
and that soft which should be hard. So we go, who file old jaws and
shinbones. Let's try another. Aye, now, this works better (
sneezes). Halloa, this bone dust is ( sneezes)-- why it's (
sneezes)--yes it's ( sneezes)--bless my soul, it won't let me speak!
This is what an old fellow gets now for working in dead lumber. Saw a
live tree, and you don't get this dust; amputate a live bone, and you
don't get it ( sneezes). Come, come, you old Smut, there, bear a
hand, and let's have that ferule and buckle-screw; I'll be ready for
them presently. Lucky now ( sneezes) there's no knee-joint to make;
that might puzzle a little; but a mere shinbone --why it's easy as
making hop-poles; only I should like to put a good finish on. Time,
time; if I but only had the time, I could turn him out as neat a leg
now as ever ( sneezes) scraped to a lady in a parlor. Those buckskin
legs and calves of legs I've seen in shop windows wouldn't compare at
all. They soak water, they do; and of course get rheumatic, and have
to be doctored ( sneezes) with washes and lotions, just like live
legs. There; before I saw it off, now, I must call his old Mogulship,
and see whether the length will be all right; too short, if anything,
I guess. Ha! that's the heel; we are in luck; here he comes, or it's
somebody else, that's certain. Ahab ( advancing). (During the ensuing
scene, the carpenter continues sneezing at times). Well, manmaker!
Just in time, sir. If the captain pleases, I will now mark the
length. Let me measure, sir. Measured for a leg! good. Well, it's
not the first time. About it! There; keep thy finger on it. This is
a cogent vice thou hast here, carpenter; let me feel its grip once.
so, so; it does pinch some. Oh, sir, it will break bones--beware,
beware! No fear; I like a good grip; I like to feel something in this
slippery world that can hold, man. What's Prometheus about there?
--the blacksmith, I mean --what's he about? He must be forging the
buckle-screw, sir, now. Right. It's a partnership; he supplies the
muscle part. He makes a fierce red flame there! Aye, sir; he must
have the white heat for this kind of fine work. Um-m. So he must. I
do deem it now a most meaning thing, that that old Greek, Prometheus,
who made men, they say, should have been a blacksmith, and animated
them with fire; for what's made in fire must properly belong to fire;
and so hell's probable. How the soot flies! This must be the
remainder the Greek made the Africans of. Carpenter, when he's
through with that buckle, tell him to forge a pair of steel
shoulder-blades; there's a pedlar aboard with a crushing pack. Sir?
Hold; while Prometheus is about it, I'll order a complete man after a
desirable pattern. Imprimis, fifty feet high in his socks; then,
chest modelled after the Thames Tunnel; then, legs with roots to 'em,
to stay in one place; then, arms three feet through the wrist; no
heart at all, brass forehead, and about a quarter of an acre of fine
brains; and let me see --shall I order eyes to see outwards? No, but
put a sky-light on top of his head to illuminate inwards. There, take
the order, and away. Now, what's he speaking about, and who's he
speaking to, I should like to know? Shall I keep standing here? (
aside). 'Tis but indifferent architecture to make a blind dome;
here's one. No, no, no; I must have a lantern. Ho, ho! That's it,
hey? Here are two, sir; one will serve my turn. What art thou
thrusting that thief-catcher into my face for, man? thrusted light is
worse than presented pistols. i thought, sir, that you spoke to
carpenter. Carpenter? why that's --but no; --a very tidy, and, I may
say, an extremely gentlemanlike sort of business thou art in here,
carpenter; --or would'st thou rather work in clay? Sir? --Clay? clay,
sir? That's mud; we leave clay to ditchers, sir. The fellow's
impious! What art thou sneezing about? Bone is rather dusty,
sir. Take the hint, then; and when thou art dead, never bury thyself
under living people's noses. Sir? --oh! ah! --I guess so; so;
--yes, yes --oh dear! Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest
thyself a right good workmanlike workman, eh! Well, then, will it
speak thoroughly well for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg
thou makest, I shall nevertheless feel another leg in the same
identical place with it; that is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the
flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst thou not drive that old Adam away?
Truly, sir, I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I have heard
something curious on that score, sir; how that a dismasted man never
entirely loses the feeling of his old spar, but it will be still
pricking him at times. May I humbly ask if it be really so, sir? It
is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where mine once was;
so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye, yet two to the
soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there
to a hair, do I. Is't a riddle? I should humbly call it a poser, sir.

Hist, then. How dost thou know that some entire, living, thinking
thing may not be invisibly and uninterpenetratingly standing precisely
where thou now standest; aye, and standing there in thy spite? In thy
most solitary hours, then, dost thou not fear eavesdroppers? Hold,
don't speak! And if I still feel the smart of my crushed leg, though
it be now so long dissolved; then, why mayest not thou, carpenter,
feel the fiery pains of hell for ever, and without a body? Hah! Good
Lord! Truly, sir, if it comes to that, I must calculate over again; I
think I didn't carry a small figure, sir. Look ye, pudding-heads
should never grant premises. --How long before this leg is done?
Perhaps an hour, sir. Bungle away at it then, and bring it to me
(turns to go). Oh, Life! Here I am, proud as Greek god, and yet
standing debtor to this blockhead for a bone to stand on! Cursed be
that mortal inter-indebtedness which will not do away with ledgers. I
would be free as air; and I'm down in the whole world's books. I am
so rich, I could have given bid for bid with the wealthiest
Praetorians at the auction of the Roman empire (which was the
world's); and yet I owe for the flesh in the tongue I brag with. By
heavens! I'll get a crucible, and into it, and dissolve myself down
to one small, compendious vertebra. So. Carpenter ( resuming his
work). Well, well, well! Stubb knows him best of all, and Stubb
always says he's queer; says nothing but that one sufficient little
word queer; he's queer, says Stubb; he's queer--queer, queer; and
keeps dinning it into Mr. Starbuck all the time -- queer, sir --queer,
queer, very queer. And here's his leg! Yes, now that I think of it,
here's his bedfellow! has a stick of whale's jaw-bone for a wife!
And this is his leg; he'll stand on this. What was that now about one
leg standing in three places, and all three places standing in one
hell --how was that? Oh! I don't wonder he looked so scornful at me!
I'm a sort of strange-thoughted sometimes, they say; but that's only
haphazard-like. Then, a short, little old body like me, should never
undertake to wade out into deep waters with tall, heron-built
captains; the water chucks you under the chin pretty quick, and
there's a great cry for life-boats. And here's the heron's leg! long
and slim, sure enough! Now, for most folks one pair of legs lasts a
lifetime, and that must be because they use them mercifully, as a
tender-hearted old lady uses her roly-poly old coach-horses. But
Ahab; oh he's a hard driver. Look, driven one leg to death, and
spavined the other for life, and now wears out bone legs by the
cord. Halloa, there, you Smut! bear a hand there with those screws,
and let's finish it before the resurrection fellow comes a-calling
with his horn for all legs, true or false, as brewery-men go round
collecting old beer barrels, to fill 'em up again. What a leg this
is! It looks like a real live leg, filed down to nothing but the
core; he'll be standing on this to-morrow; he'll be taking altitudes
on it. Halloa! I almost forgot the little oval slate, smoothed
ivory, where he figures up the latitude. So, so; chisel, file, and
sand-paper, now!


According to usage they were pumping the ship next morning; and lo!
no inconsiderable oil came up with the water; the casks below must
have sprung a bad leak. Much concern was shown; and Starbuck went
down into the cabin to report this unfavorable affair. Now, from the
South and West the Pequod was drawing nigh to Formosa and the Bashee
Isles, between which lies one of the tropical outlets from the China
waters into the Pacific. And so Starbuck found Ahab with a general
chart of the oriental archipelagoes spread before him; and another
separate one representing the long eastern coasts of the Japanese
islands -- Niphon, Matsmai, and Sikoke. With his snow-white new ivory
leg br