Moby Dick (11 of 14)

Uploaded by The16thCavern on 11.10.2012

By Herman Melville
CHAPTER 101. 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 & 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 1775, this great whaling house was in existence, my numerous
fish-documents do not make plain; but in that year (1775) it fitted
out the first English ships that ever regularly hunted the Sperm Whale;
though for some score of years previous (ever since 1726) 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 1778, 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
1819, 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
All honour 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 honour, 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 by 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
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
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:
400,000 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. Texel & Leyden cheese. 144,000 lbs. cheese
(probably an inferior article). 550 ankers of Geneva. 10,800 barrels of
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
CHAPTER 102. A Bower in the Arsacides.
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 behooves 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
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 vapoury 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 villainies 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 colonnades and arbours. 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.
CHAPTER 103. Measurement of The Whale's Skeleton.
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
footpath 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.
CHAPTER 104. The Fossil Whale.
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 hawsers coiled away in the subterranean orlop-deck of a
Since I have undertaken to manhandle this Leviathan, it behooves 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
inkstand! 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
outreaching 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
rank 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 1779 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 1842, 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.
CHAPTER 105. Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish?—Will He Perish?
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
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
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. 1825.
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 whaleships, 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 lifetime—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 Whales 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 favour 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 4,000 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 106. 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 heartwoes, 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 needed.
CHAPTER 107. The Carpenter.
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
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, countersinkers. 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.
CHAPTER 108. Ahab and the Carpenter.
The Deck—First Night Watch.
Drat the file, and drat the bone! That is hard which should be soft,
and that is 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.
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.
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;—yes—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 mayst 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 the
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.
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!
CHAPTER 109. Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin.
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 unfavourable affair.*
*In Sperm-whalemen with any considerable quantity of oil on board, it
is a regular semiweekly duty to conduct a hose into the hold, and drench
the casks with sea-water; which afterwards, at varying intervals, is
removed by the ship's pumps. Hereby the casks are sought to be kept
damply tight; while by the changed character of the withdrawn water, the
mariners readily detect any serious leakage in the precious cargo.
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 braced against the screwed leg of his table, and with a long
pruning-hook of a jack-knife in his hand, the wondrous old man, with his
back to the gangway door, was wrinkling his brow, and tracing his old
courses again.
"Who's there?" hearing the footstep at the door, but not turning round
to it. "On deck! Begone!"
"Captain Ahab mistakes; it is I. The oil in the hold is leaking, sir. We
must up Burtons and break out."
"Up Burtons and break out? Now that we are nearing Japan; heave-to here
for a week to tinker a parcel of old hoops?"
"Either do that, sir, or waste in one day more oil than we may make good
in a year. What we come twenty thousand miles to get is worth saving,
"So it is, so it is; if we get it."
"I was speaking of the oil in the hold, sir."
"And I was not speaking or thinking of that at all. Begone! Let it leak!
I'm all aleak myself. Aye! leaks in leaks! not only full of leaky casks,
but those leaky casks are in a leaky ship; and that's a far worse plight
than the Pequod's, man. Yet I don't stop to plug my leak; for who can
find it in the deep-loaded hull; or how hope to plug it, even if
found, in this life's howling gale? Starbuck! I'll not have the Burtons
"What will the owners say, sir?"
"Let the owners stand on Nantucket beach and outyell the Typhoons. What
cares Ahab? Owners, owners? Thou art always prating to me, Starbuck,
about those miserly owners, as if the owners were my conscience. But
look ye, the only real owner of anything is its commander; and hark ye,
my conscience is in this ship's keel.—On deck!"
"Captain Ahab," said the reddening mate, moving further into the cabin,
with a daring so strangely respectful and cautious that it almost seemed
not only every way seeking to avoid the slightest outward manifestation
of itself, but within also seemed more than half distrustful of itself;
"A better man than I might well pass over in thee what he would quickly
enough resent in a younger man; aye, and in a happier, Captain Ahab."
"Devils! Dost thou then so much as dare to critically think of me?—On
"Nay, sir, not yet; I do entreat. And I do dare, sir—to be forbearing!
Shall we not understand each other better than hitherto, Captain Ahab?"
Ahab seized a loaded musket from the rack (forming part of most
South-Sea-men's cabin furniture), and pointing it towards Starbuck,
exclaimed: "There is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one
Captain that is lord over the Pequod.—On deck!"
For an instant in the flashing eyes of the mate, and his fiery cheeks,
you would have almost thought that he had really received the blaze of
the levelled tube. But, mastering his emotion, he half calmly rose,
and as he quitted the cabin, paused for an instant and said: "Thou hast
outraged, not insulted me, sir; but for that I ask thee not to beware of
Starbuck; thou wouldst but laugh; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of
thyself, old man."
"He waxes brave, but nevertheless obeys; most careful bravery that!"
murmured Ahab, as Starbuck disappeared. "What's that he said—Ahab
beware of Ahab—there's something there!" Then unconsciously using the
musket for a staff, with an iron brow he paced to and fro in the little
cabin; but presently the thick plaits of his forehead relaxed, and
returning the gun to the rack, he went to the deck.
"Thou art but too good a fellow, Starbuck," he said lowly to the mate;
then raising his voice to the crew: "Furl the t'gallant-sails, and
close-reef the top-sails, fore and aft; back the main-yard; up Burton,
and break out in the main-hold."
It were perhaps vain to surmise exactly why it was, that as respecting
Starbuck, Ahab thus acted. It may have been a flash of honesty in him;
or mere prudential policy which, under the circumstance, imperiously
forbade the slightest symptom of open disaffection, however transient,
in the important chief officer of his ship. However it was, his orders
were executed; and the Burtons were hoisted.
CHAPTER 110. Queequeg in His Coffin.
Upon searching, it was found that the casks last struck into the hold
were perfectly sound, and that the leak must be further off. So, it
being calm weather, they broke out deeper and deeper, disturbing the
slumbers of the huge ground-tier butts; and from that black midnight
sending those gigantic moles into the daylight above. So deep did they
go; and so ancient, and corroded, and weedy the aspect of the lowermost
puncheons, that you almost looked next for some mouldy corner-stone cask
containing coins of Captain Noah, with copies of the posted placards,
vainly warning the infatuated old world from the flood. Tierce after
tierce, too, of water, and bread, and beef, and shooks of staves, and
iron bundles of hoops, were hoisted out, till at last the piled decks
were hard to get about; and the hollow hull echoed under foot, as if
you were treading over empty catacombs, and reeled and rolled in the sea
like an air-freighted demijohn. Top-heavy was the ship as a dinnerless
student with all Aristotle in his head. Well was it that the Typhoons
did not visit them then.
Now, at this time it was that my poor pagan companion, and fast
bosom-friend, Queequeg, was seized with a fever, which brought him nigh
to his endless end.
Be it said, that in this vocation of whaling, sinecures are unknown;
dignity and danger go hand in hand; till you get to be Captain, the
higher you rise the harder you toil. So with poor Queequeg, who, as
harpooneer, must not only face all the rage of the living whale, but—as
we have elsewhere seen—mount his dead back in a rolling sea; and
finally descend into the gloom of the hold, and bitterly sweating
all day in that subterraneous confinement, resolutely manhandle the
clumsiest casks and see to their stowage. To be short, among whalemen,
the harpooneers are the holders, so called.
Poor Queequeg! when the ship was about half disembowelled, you should
have stooped over the hatchway, and peered down upon him there; where,
stripped to his woollen drawers, the tattooed savage was crawling about
amid that dampness and slime, like a green spotted lizard at the bottom
of a well. And a well, or an ice-house, it somehow proved to him, poor
pagan; where, strange to say, for all the heat of his sweatings, he
caught a terrible chill which lapsed into a fever; and at last, after
some days' suffering, laid him in his hammock, close to the very sill
of the door of death. How he wasted and wasted away in those few
long-lingering days, till there seemed but little left of him but his
frame and tattooing. But as all else in him thinned, and his cheek-bones
grew sharper, his eyes, nevertheless, seemed growing fuller and fuller;
they became of a strange softness of lustre; and mildly but deeply
looked out at you there from his sickness, a wondrous testimony to that
immortal health in him which could not die, or be weakened. And like
circles on the water, which, as they grow fainter, expand; so his eyes
seemed rounding and rounding, like the rings of Eternity. An awe that
cannot be named would steal over you as you sat by the side of this
waning savage, and saw as strange things in his face, as any beheld who
were bystanders when Zoroaster died. For whatever is truly wondrous and
fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books. And the drawing
near of Death, which alike levels all, alike impresses all with a last
revelation, which only an author from the dead could adequately tell.
So that—let us say it again—no dying Chaldee or Greek had higher and
holier thoughts than those, whose mysterious shades you saw creeping
over the face of poor Queequeg, as he quietly lay in his swaying
hammock, and the rolling sea seemed gently rocking him to his final
rest, and the ocean's invisible flood-tide lifted him higher and higher
towards his destined heaven.
Not a man of the crew but gave him up; and, as for Queequeg himself,
what he thought of his case was forcibly shown by a curious favour he
asked. He called one to him in the grey morning watch, when the day was
just breaking, and taking his hand, said that while in Nantucket he
had chanced to see certain little canoes of dark wood, like the rich
war-wood of his native isle; and upon inquiry, he had learned that all
whalemen who died in Nantucket, were laid in those same dark canoes,
and that the fancy of being so laid had much pleased him; for it was not
unlike the custom of his own race, who, after embalming a dead warrior,
stretched him out in his canoe, and so left him to be floated away to
the starry archipelagoes; for not only do they believe that the stars
are isles, but that far beyond all visible horizons, their own mild,
uncontinented seas, interflow with the blue heavens; and so form the
white breakers of the milky way. He added, that he shuddered at
the thought of being buried in his hammock, according to the usual
sea-custom, tossed like something vile to the death-devouring sharks.
No: he desired a canoe like those of Nantucket, all the more congenial
to him, being a whaleman, that like a whale-boat these coffin-canoes
were without a keel; though that involved but uncertain steering, and
much lee-way adown the dim ages.
Now, when this strange circumstance was made known aft, the carpenter
was at once commanded to do Queequeg's bidding, whatever it might
include. There was some heathenish, coffin-coloured old lumber aboard,
which, upon a long previous voyage, had been cut from the aboriginal
groves of the Lackaday islands, and from these dark planks the coffin
was recommended to be made. No sooner was the carpenter apprised of
the order, than taking his rule, he forthwith with all the indifferent
promptitude of his character, proceeded into the forecastle and took
Queequeg's measure with great accuracy, regularly chalking Queequeg's
person as he shifted the rule.
"Ah! poor fellow! he'll have to die now," ejaculated the Long Island
Going to his vice-bench, the carpenter for convenience sake and general
reference, now transferringly measured on it the exact length the coffin
was to be, and then made the transfer permanent by cutting two notches
at its extremities. This done, he marshalled the planks and his tools,
and to work.
When the last nail was driven, and the lid duly planed and fitted,
he lightly shouldered the coffin and went forward with it, inquiring
whether they were ready for it yet in that direction.
Overhearing the indignant but half-humorous cries with which the
people on deck began to drive the coffin away, Queequeg, to every one's
consternation, commanded that the thing should be instantly brought to
him, nor was there any denying him; seeing that, of all mortals, some
dying men are the most tyrannical; and certainly, since they will
shortly trouble us so little for evermore, the poor fellows ought to be
Leaning over in his hammock, Queequeg long regarded the coffin with
an attentive eye. He then called for his harpoon, had the wooden stock
drawn from it, and then had the iron part placed in the coffin along
with one of the paddles of his boat. All by his own request, also,
biscuits were then ranged round the sides within: a flask of fresh water
was placed at the head, and a small bag of woody earth scraped up in
the hold at the foot; and a piece of sail-cloth being rolled up for a
pillow, Queequeg now entreated to be lifted into his final bed, that he
might make trial of its comforts, if any it had. He lay without moving
a few minutes, then told one to go to his bag and bring out his little
god, Yojo. Then crossing his arms on his breast with Yojo between, he
called for the coffin lid (hatch he called it) to be placed over him.
The head part turned over with a leather hinge, and there lay Queequeg
in his coffin with little but his composed countenance in view. "Rarmai"
(it will do; it is easy), he murmured at last, and signed to be replaced
in his hammock.
But ere this was done, Pip, who had been slily hovering near by all this
while, drew nigh to him where he lay, and with soft sobbings, took him
by the hand; in the other, holding his tambourine.
"Poor rover! will ye never have done with all this weary roving? where
go ye now? But if the currents carry ye to those sweet Antilles where
the beaches are only beat with water-lilies, will ye do one little
errand for me? Seek out one Pip, who's now been missing long: I think
he's in those far Antilles. If ye find him, then comfort him; for he
must be very sad; for look! he's left his tambourine behind;—I found
it. Rig-a-dig, dig, dig! Now, Queequeg, die; and I'll beat ye your dying
"I have heard," murmured Starbuck, gazing down the scuttle, "that in
violent fevers, men, all ignorance, have talked in ancient tongues;
and that when the mystery is probed, it turns out always that in their
wholly forgotten childhood those ancient tongues had been really spoken
in their hearing by some lofty scholars. So, to my fond faith, poor Pip,
in this strange sweetness of his lunacy, brings heavenly vouchers of all
our heavenly homes. Where learned he that, but there?—Hark! he speaks
again: but more wildly now."
"Form two and two! Let's make a General of him! Ho, where's his harpoon?
Lay it across here.—Rig-a-dig, dig, dig! huzza! Oh for a game cock
now to sit upon his head and crow! Queequeg dies game!—mind ye that;
Queequeg dies game!—take ye good heed of that; Queequeg dies game! I
say; game, game, game! but base little Pip, he died a coward; died all
a'shiver;—out upon Pip! Hark ye; if ye find Pip, tell all the Antilles
he's a runaway; a coward, a coward, a coward! Tell them he jumped from
a whale-boat! I'd never beat my tambourine over base Pip, and hail
him General, if he were once more dying here. No, no! shame upon all
cowards—shame upon them! Let 'em go drown like Pip, that jumped from a
whale-boat. Shame! shame!"
During all this, Queequeg lay with closed eyes, as if in a dream. Pip
was led away, and the sick man was replaced in his hammock.
But now that he had apparently made every preparation for death; now
that his coffin was proved a good fit, Queequeg suddenly rallied; soon
there seemed no need of the carpenter's box: and thereupon, when some
expressed their delighted surprise, he, in substance, said, that the
cause of his sudden convalescence was this;—at a critical moment, he
had just recalled a little duty ashore, which he was leaving undone;
and therefore had changed his mind about dying: he could not die yet,
he averred. They asked him, then, whether to live or die was a matter of
his own sovereign will and pleasure. He answered, certainly. In a word,
it was Queequeg's conceit, that if a man made up his mind to live, mere
sickness could not kill him: nothing but a whale, or a gale, or some
violent, ungovernable, unintelligent destroyer of that sort.
Now, there is this noteworthy difference between savage and civilized;
that while a sick, civilized man may be six months convalescing,
generally speaking, a sick savage is almost half-well again in a day.
So, in good time my Queequeg gained strength; and at length after
sitting on the windlass for a few indolent days (but eating with a
vigorous appetite) he suddenly leaped to his feet, threw out his arms
and legs, gave himself a good stretching, yawned a little bit, and then
springing into the head of his hoisted boat, and poising a harpoon,
pronounced himself fit for a fight.
With a wild whimsiness, he now used his coffin for a sea-chest; and
emptying into it his canvas bag of clothes, set them in order there.
Many spare hours he spent, in carving the lid with all manner of
grotesque figures and drawings; and it seemed that hereby he was
striving, in his rude way, to copy parts of the twisted tattooing on
his body. And this tattooing had been the work of a departed prophet and
seer of his island, who, by those hieroglyphic marks, had written out on
his body a complete theory of the heavens and the earth, and a mystical
treatise on the art of attaining truth; so that Queequeg in his own
proper person was a riddle to unfold; a wondrous work in one volume; but
whose mysteries not even himself could read, though his own live heart
beat against them; and these mysteries were therefore destined in
the end to moulder away with the living parchment whereon they were
inscribed, and so be unsolved to the last. And this thought it must
have been which suggested to Ahab that wild exclamation of his, when
one morning turning away from surveying poor Queequeg—"Oh, devilish
tantalization of the gods!"
CHAPTER 111. The Pacific.
When gliding by the Bashee isles we emerged at last upon the great South
Sea; were it not for other things, I could have greeted my dear Pacific
with uncounted thanks, for now the long supplication of my youth was
answered; that serene ocean rolled eastwards from me a thousand leagues
of blue.
There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently
awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath; like those
fabled undulations of the Ephesian sod over the buried Evangelist St.
John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures, wide-rolling watery
prairies and Potters' Fields of all four continents, the waves should
rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed
shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that
we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like
slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their
To any meditative Magian rover, this serene Pacific, once beheld, must
ever after be the sea of his adoption. It rolls the midmost waters of
the world, the Indian ocean and Atlantic being but its arms. The same
waves wash the moles of the new-built Californian towns, but yesterday
planted by the recentest race of men, and lave the faded but still
gorgeous skirts of Asiatic lands, older than Abraham; while all between
float milky-ways of coral isles, and low-lying, endless, unknown
Archipelagoes, and impenetrable Japans. Thus this mysterious, divine
Pacific zones the world's whole bulk about; makes all coasts one bay
to it; seems the tide-beating heart of earth. Lifted by those eternal
swells, you needs must own the seductive god, bowing your head to Pan.
But few thoughts of Pan stirred Ahab's brain, as standing like an
iron statue at his accustomed place beside the mizen rigging, with one
nostril he unthinkingly snuffed the sugary musk from the Bashee isles
(in whose sweet woods mild lovers must be walking), and with the other
consciously inhaled the salt breath of the new found sea; that sea in
which the hated White Whale must even then be swimming. Launched at
length upon these almost final waters, and gliding towards the Japanese
cruising-ground, the old man's purpose intensified itself. His firm lips
met like the lips of a vice; the Delta of his forehead's veins swelled
like overladen brooks; in his very sleep, his ringing cry ran through
the vaulted hull, "Stern all! the White Whale spouts thick blood!"
CHAPTER 112. The Blacksmith.
Availing himself of the mild, summer-cool weather that now reigned in
these latitudes, and in preparation for the peculiarly active
pursuits shortly to be anticipated, Perth, the begrimed, blistered old
blacksmith, had not removed his portable forge to the hold again, after
concluding his contributory work for Ahab's leg, but still retained
it on deck, fast lashed to ringbolts by the foremast; being now almost
incessantly invoked by the headsmen, and harpooneers, and bowsmen to do
some little job for them; altering, or repairing, or new shaping their
various weapons and boat furniture. Often he would be surrounded by an
eager circle, all waiting to be served; holding boat-spades, pike-heads,
harpoons, and lances, and jealously watching his every sooty movement,
as he toiled. Nevertheless, this old man's was a patient hammer wielded
by a patient arm. No murmur, no impatience, no petulance did come from
him. Silent, slow, and solemn; bowing over still further his chronically
broken back, he toiled away, as if toil were life itself, and the
heavy beating of his hammer the heavy beating of his heart. And so it
was.—Most miserable!
A peculiar walk in this old man, a certain slight but painful appearing
yawing in his gait, had at an early period of the voyage excited the
curiosity of the mariners. And to the importunity of their persisted
questionings he had finally given in; and so it came to pass that every
one now knew the shameful story of his wretched fate.
Belated, and not innocently, one bitter winter's midnight, on the road
running between two country towns, the blacksmith half-stupidly felt
the deadly numbness stealing over him, and sought refuge in a leaning,
dilapidated barn. The issue was, the loss of the extremities of both
feet. Out of this revelation, part by part, at last came out the four
acts of the gladness, and the one long, and as yet uncatastrophied fifth
act of the grief of his life's drama.
He was an old man, who, at the age of nearly sixty, had postponedly
encountered that thing in sorrow's technicals called ruin. He had been
an artisan of famed excellence, and with plenty to do; owned a house
and garden; embraced a youthful, daughter-like, loving wife, and three
blithe, ruddy children; every Sunday went to a cheerful-looking church,
planted in a grove. But one night, under cover of darkness, and further
concealed in a most cunning disguisement, a desperate burglar slid into
his happy home, and robbed them all of everything. And darker yet to
tell, the blacksmith himself did ignorantly conduct this burglar into
his family's heart. It was the Bottle Conjuror! Upon the opening of that
fatal cork, forth flew the fiend, and shrivelled up his home. Now, for
prudent, most wise, and economic reasons, the blacksmith's shop was in
the basement of his dwelling, but with a separate entrance to it; so
that always had the young and loving healthy wife listened with no
unhappy nervousness, but with vigorous pleasure, to the stout ringing of
her young-armed old husband's hammer; whose reverberations, muffled by
passing through the floors and walls, came up to her, not unsweetly,
in her nursery; and so, to stout Labor's iron lullaby, the blacksmith's
infants were rocked to slumber.
Oh, woe on woe! Oh, Death, why canst thou not sometimes be timely? Hadst
thou taken this old blacksmith to thyself ere his full ruin came upon
him, then had the young widow had a delicious grief, and her orphans a
truly venerable, legendary sire to dream of in their after years; and
all of them a care-killing competency. But Death plucked down some
virtuous elder brother, on whose whistling daily toil solely hung the
responsibilities of some other family, and left the worse than useless
old man standing, till the hideous rot of life should make him easier to
Why tell the whole? The blows of the basement hammer every day grew more
and more between; and each blow every day grew fainter than the last;
the wife sat frozen at the window, with tearless eyes, glitteringly
gazing into the weeping faces of her children; the bellows fell; the
forge choked up with cinders; the house was sold; the mother dived
down into the long church-yard grass; her children twice followed her
thither; and the houseless, familyless old man staggered off a vagabond
in crape; his every woe unreverenced; his grey head a scorn to flaxen
Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death
is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; it is but
the first salutation to the possibilities of the immense Remote, the
Wild, the Watery, the Unshored; therefore, to the death-longing eyes of
such men, who still have left in them some interior compunctions against
suicide, does the all-contributed and all-receptive ocean alluringly
spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and
wonderful, new-life adventures; and from the hearts of infinite
Pacifics, the thousand mermaids sing to them—"Come hither,
broken-hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate
death; here are wonders supernatural, without dying for them. Come
hither! bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and
abhorring, landed world, is more oblivious than death. Come hither! put
up THY gravestone, too, within the churchyard, and come hither, till we
marry thee!"
Hearkening to these voices, East and West, by early sunrise, and by fall
of eve, the blacksmith's soul responded, Aye, I come! And so Perth went
CHAPTER 113. The Forge.
With matted beard, and swathed in a bristling shark-skin apron, about
mid-day, Perth was standing between his forge and anvil, the latter
placed upon an iron-wood log, with one hand holding a pike-head in the
coals, and with the other at his forge's lungs, when Captain Ahab came
along, carrying in his hand a small rusty-looking leathern bag. While
yet a little distance from the forge, moody Ahab paused; till at last,
Perth, withdrawing his iron from the fire, began hammering it upon the
anvil—the red mass sending off the sparks in thick hovering flights,
some of which flew close to Ahab.
"Are these thy Mother Carey's chickens, Perth? they are always flying
in thy wake; birds of good omen, too, but not to all;—look here, they
burn; but thou—thou liv'st among them without a scorch."
"Because I am scorched all over, Captain Ahab," answered Perth, resting
for a moment on his hammer; "I am past scorching; not easily can'st thou
scorch a scar."
"Well, well; no more. Thy shrunk voice sounds too calmly, sanely woeful
to me. In no Paradise myself, I am impatient of all misery in others
that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou
not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet
hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?—What wert thou making there?"
"Welding an old pike-head, sir; there were seams and dents in it."
"And can'st thou make it all smooth again, blacksmith, after such hard
usage as it had?"
"I think so, sir."
"And I suppose thou can'st smoothe almost any seams and dents; never
mind how hard the metal, blacksmith?"
"Aye, sir, I think I can; all seams and dents but one."
"Look ye here, then," cried Ahab, passionately advancing, and leaning
with both hands on Perth's shoulders; "look ye here—HERE—can ye
smoothe out a seam like this, blacksmith," sweeping one hand across his
ribbed brow; "if thou could'st, blacksmith, glad enough would I lay
my head upon thy anvil, and feel thy heaviest hammer between my eyes.
Answer! Can'st thou smoothe this seam?"
"Oh! that is the one, sir! Said I not all seams and dents but one?"
"Aye, blacksmith, it is the one; aye, man, it is unsmoothable; for
though thou only see'st it here in my flesh, it has worked down into the
bone of my skull—THAT is all wrinkles! But, away with child's play; no
more gaffs and pikes to-day. Look ye here!" jingling the leathern bag,
as if it were full of gold coins. "I, too, want a harpoon made; one that
a thousand yoke of fiends could not part, Perth; something that will
stick in a whale like his own fin-bone. There's the stuff," flinging
the pouch upon the anvil. "Look ye, blacksmith, these are the gathered
nail-stubbs of the steel shoes of racing horses."
"Horse-shoe stubbs, sir? Why, Captain Ahab, thou hast here, then, the
best and stubbornest stuff we blacksmiths ever work."
"I know it, old man; these stubbs will weld together like glue from the
melted bones of murderers. Quick! forge me the harpoon. And forge me
first, twelve rods for its shank; then wind, and twist, and hammer these
twelve together like the yarns and strands of a tow-line. Quick! I'll
blow the fire."
When at last the twelve rods were made, Ahab tried them, one by one, by
spiralling them, with his own hand, round a long, heavy iron bolt. "A
flaw!" rejecting the last one. "Work that over again, Perth."
This done, Perth was about to begin welding the twelve into one, when
Ahab stayed his hand, and said he would weld his own iron. As, then,
with regular, gasping hems, he hammered on the anvil, Perth passing to
him the glowing rods, one after the other, and the hard pressed forge
shooting up its intense straight flame, the Parsee passed silently, and
bowing over his head towards the fire, seemed invoking some curse or
some blessing on the toil. But, as Ahab looked up, he slid aside.
"What's that bunch of lucifers dodging about there for?" muttered Stubb,
looking on from the forecastle. "That Parsee smells fire like a fusee;
and smells of it himself, like a hot musket's powder-pan."
At last the shank, in one complete rod, received its final heat; and as
Perth, to temper it, plunged it all hissing into the cask of water near
by, the scalding steam shot up into Ahab's bent face.
"Would'st thou brand me, Perth?" wincing for a moment with the pain;
"have I been but forging my own branding-iron, then?"
"Pray God, not that; yet I fear something, Captain Ahab. Is not this
harpoon for the White Whale?"
"For the white fiend! But now for the barbs; thou must make them
thyself, man. Here are my razors—the best of steel; here, and make the
barbs sharp as the needle-sleet of the Icy Sea."
For a moment, the old blacksmith eyed the razors as though he would fain
not use them.
"Take them, man, I have no need for them; for I now neither shave, sup,
nor pray till—but here—to work!"
Fashioned at last into an arrowy shape, and welded by Perth to the
shank, the steel soon pointed the end of the iron; and as the blacksmith
was about giving the barbs their final heat, prior to tempering them, he
cried to Ahab to place the water-cask near.
"No, no—no water for that; I want it of the true death-temper. Ahoy,
there! Tashtego, Queequeg, Daggoo! What say ye, pagans! Will ye give me
as much blood as will cover this barb?" holding it high up. A cluster of
dark nods replied, Yes. Three punctures were made in the heathen flesh,
and the White Whale's barbs were then tempered.
"Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli!"
deliriously howled Ahab, as the malignant iron scorchingly devoured the
baptismal blood.
Now, mustering the spare poles from below, and selecting one of hickory,
with the bark still investing it, Ahab fitted the end to the socket of
the iron. A coil of new tow-line was then unwound, and some fathoms of
it taken to the windlass, and stretched to a great tension. Pressing
his foot upon it, till the rope hummed like a harp-string, then eagerly
bending over it, and seeing no strandings, Ahab exclaimed, "Good! and
now for the seizings."
At one extremity the rope was unstranded, and the separate spread yarns
were all braided and woven round the socket of the harpoon; the pole
was then driven hard up into the socket; from the lower end the rope
was traced half-way along the pole's length, and firmly secured so, with
intertwistings of twine. This done, pole, iron, and rope—like the Three
Fates—remained inseparable, and Ahab moodily stalked away with the
weapon; the sound of his ivory leg, and the sound of the hickory pole,
both hollowly ringing along every plank. But ere he entered his cabin,
light, unnatural, half-bantering, yet most piteous sound was heard. Oh,
Pip! thy wretched laugh, thy idle but unresting eye; all thy strange
mummeries not unmeaningly blended with the black tragedy of the
melancholy ship, and mocked it! End of Chapters 109 to 113