Part 09 - Moby Dick Audiobook by Herman Melville (Chs 105-123)

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-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 ones.
Of all the pre-adamite whales yet exhumed, by far the largest is the Alabama one
mentioned in the last chapter, and that was less than seventy feet in length in the
Whereas, we have already seen, that the tape-measure gives seventy-two feet for the
skeleton of a large sized modern whale.
And I have heard, on whalemen's authority, that Sperm Whales have been captured near a
hundred feet long at the time of capture.
But may it not be, that while the whales of the present hour are an advance in
magnitude upon those of all previous geological periods; may it not be, that
since Adam's time they have degenerated?
Assuredly, we must conclude so, if we are to credit the accounts of such gentlemen as
Pliny, and the ancient naturalists generally.
For Pliny tells us of Whales that embraced acres of living bulk, and Aldrovandus of
others which measured eight hundred feet in length--Rope Walks and Thames Tunnels of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
But, besides the application to him of the generic remark above, this carpenter of the
Pequod was singularly efficient in those thousand nameless mechanical emergencies
continually recurring in a large ship, upon
a three or four years' voyage, in uncivilized and far-distant seas.
For not to speak of his readiness in ordinary duties:--repairing stove boats,
sprung spars, reforming the shape of clumsy-bladed oars, inserting bull's eyes
in the deck, or new tree-nails in the side
planks, and other miscellaneous matters more directly pertaining to his special
business; he was moreover unhesitatingly expert in all manner of conflicting
aptitudes, both useful and capricious.
The one grand stage where he enacted all his various parts so manifold, was his
vice-bench; a long rude ponderous table furnished with several vices, of different
sizes, and both of iron and of wood.
At all times except when whales were alongside, this bench was securely lashed
athwartships against the rear of the Try- works.
A belaying pin is found too large to be easily inserted into its hole: the
carpenter claps it into one of his ever- ready vices, and straightway files it
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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?
'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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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.
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
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, sir."
"So it is, so it is; if we get it." "I was speaking of the oil in the hold,
"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?
I'll not have the Burtons hoisted." "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 deck!"
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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 sailor.
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 indulged.
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 march."
"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
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
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
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 restlessness.
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
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
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 harvest.
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 curls!
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 a-whaling.
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.
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
-Chapter 114. The Gilder.
Penetrating further and further into the heart of the Japanese cruising ground, the
Pequod was soon all astir in the fishery.
Often, in mild, pleasant weather, for twelve, fifteen, eighteen, and twenty hours
on the stretch, they were engaged in the boats, steadily pulling, or sailing, or
paddling after the whales, or for an
interlude of sixty or seventy minutes calmly awaiting their uprising; though with
but small success for their pains.
At such times, under an abated sun; afloat all day upon smooth, slow heaving swells;
seated in his boat, light as a birch canoe; and so sociably mixing with the soft waves
themselves, that like hearth-stone cats
they purr against the gunwale; these are the times of dreamy quietude, when
beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets
the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and
would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.
These are the times, when in his whale-boat the rover softly feels a certain filial,
confident, land-like feeling towards the sea; that he regards it as so much flowery
earth; and the distant ship revealing only
the tops of her masts, seems struggling forward, not through high rolling waves,
but through the tall grass of a rolling prairie: as when the western emigrants'
horses only show their erected ears, while
their hidden bodies widely wade through the amazing verdure.
The long-drawn virgin vales; the mild blue hill-sides; as over these there steals the
hush, the hum; you almost swear that play- wearied children lie sleeping in these
solitudes, in some glad May-time, when the flowers of the woods are plucked.
And all this mixes with your most mystic mood; so that fact and fancy, half-way
meeting, interpenetrate, and form one seamless whole.
Nor did such soothing scenes, however temporary, fail of at least as temporary an
effect on Ahab.
But if these secret golden keys did seem to open in him his own secret golden
treasuries, yet did his breath upon them prove but tarnishing.
Oh, grassy glades! oh, ever vernal endless landscapes in the soul; in ye,--though long
parched by the dead drought of the earthy life,--in ye, men yet may roll, like young
horses in new morning clover; and for some
few fleeting moments, feel the cool dew of the life immortal on them.
Would to God these blessed calms would last.
But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed
by storms, a storm for every calm.
There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed
gradations, and at the last one pause:-- through infancy's unconscious spell,
boyhood's thoughtless faith, adolescence'
doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in
manhood's pondering repose of If.
But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and
Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we
unmoor no more?
In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary?
Where is the foundling's father hidden?
Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the
secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.
And that same day, too, gazing far down from his boat's side into that same golden
sea, Starbuck lowly murmured:--
"Loveliness unfathomable, as ever lover saw in his young bride's eye!--Tell me not of
thy teeth-tiered sharks, and thy kidnapping cannibal ways.
Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe."
And Stubb, fish-like, with sparkling scales, leaped up in that same golden
"I am Stubb, and Stubb has his history; but here Stubb takes oaths that he has always
been jolly!"
Chapter 115. The Pequod Meets The Bachelor.
And jolly enough were the sights and the sounds that came bearing down before the
wind, some few weeks after Ahab's harpoon had been welded.
It was a Nantucket ship, the Bachelor, which had just wedged in her last cask of
oil, and bolted down her bursting hatches; and now, in glad holiday apparel, was
joyously, though somewhat vain-gloriously,
sailing round among the widely-separated ships on the ground, previous to pointing
her prow for home.
The three men at her mast-head wore long streamers of narrow red bunting at their
hats; from the stern, a whale-boat was suspended, bottom down; and hanging captive
from the bowsprit was seen the long lower jaw of the last whale they had slain.
Signals, ensigns, and jacks of all colours were flying from her rigging, on every
Sideways lashed in each of her three basketed tops were two barrels of sperm;
above which, in her top-mast cross-trees, you saw slender breakers of the same
precious fluid; and nailed to her main truck was a brazen lamp.
As was afterwards learned, the Bachelor had met with the most surprising success; all
the more wonderful, for that while cruising in the same seas numerous other vessels had
gone entire months without securing a single fish.
Not only had barrels of beef and bread been given away to make room for the far more
valuable sperm, but additional supplemental casks had been bartered for, from the ships
she had met; and these were stowed along
the deck, and in the captain's and officers' state-rooms.
Even the cabin table itself had been knocked into kindling-wood; and the cabin
mess dined off the broad head of an oil- butt, lashed down to the floor for a
In the forecastle, the sailors had actually caulked and pitched their chests, and
filled them; it was humorously added, that the cook had clapped a head on his largest
boiler, and filled it; that the steward had
plugged his spare coffee-pot and filled it; that the harpooneers had headed the sockets
of their irons and filled them; that indeed everything was filled with sperm, except
the captain's pantaloons pockets, and those
he reserved to thrust his hands into, in self-complacent testimony of his entire
As this glad ship of good luck bore down upon the moody Pequod, the barbarian sound
of enormous drums came from her forecastle; and drawing still nearer, a crowd of her
men were seen standing round her huge try-
pots, which, covered with the parchment- like POKE or stomach skin of the black
fish, gave forth a loud roar to every stroke of the clenched hands of the crew.
On the quarter-deck, the mates and harpooneers were dancing with the olive-
hued girls who had eloped with them from the Polynesian Isles; while suspended in an
ornamented boat, firmly secured aloft
between the foremast and mainmast, three Long Island negroes, with glittering
fiddle-bows of whale ivory, were presiding over the hilarious jig.
Meanwhile, others of the ship's company were tumultuously busy at the masonry of
the try-works, from which the huge pots had been removed.
You would have almost thought they were pulling down the cursed Bastille, such wild
cries they raised, as the now useless brick and mortar were being hurled into the sea.
Lord and master over all this scene, the captain stood erect on the ship's elevated
quarter-deck, so that the whole rejoicing drama was full before him, and seemed
merely contrived for his own individual diversion.
And Ahab, he too was standing on his quarter-deck, shaggy and black, with a
stubborn gloom; and as the two ships crossed each other's wakes--one all
jubilations for things passed, the other
all forebodings as to things to come--their two captains in themselves impersonated the
whole striking contrast of the scene.
"Come aboard, come aboard!" cried the gay Bachelor's commander, lifting a glass and a
bottle in the air. "Hast seen the White Whale?" gritted Ahab
in reply.
"No; only heard of him; but don't believe in him at all," said the other good-
humoredly. "Come aboard!"
"Thou art too damned jolly.
Sail on. Hast lost any men?"
"Not enough to speak of--two islanders, that's all;--but come aboard, old hearty,
come along.
I'll soon take that black from your brow. Come along, will ye (merry's the play); a
full ship and homeward-bound."
"How wondrous familiar is a fool!" muttered Ahab; then aloud, "Thou art a full ship and
homeward bound, thou sayst; well, then, call me an empty ship, and outward-bound.
So go thy ways, and I will mine.
Forward there! Set all sail, and keep her to the wind!"
And thus, while the one ship went cheerily before the breeze, the other stubbornly
fought against it; and so the two vessels parted; the crew of the Pequod looking with
grave, lingering glances towards the
receding Bachelor; but the Bachelor's men never heeding their gaze for the lively
revelry they were in.
And as Ahab, leaning over the taffrail, eyed the homewardbound craft, he took from
his pocket a small vial of sand, and then looking from the ship to the vial, seemed
thereby bringing two remote associations
together, for that vial was filled with Nantucket soundings.
Chapter 116. The Dying Whale.
Not seldom in this life, when, on the right side, fortune's favourites sail close by
us, we, though all adroop before, catch somewhat of the rushing breeze, and
joyfully feel our bagging sails fill out.
So seemed it with the Pequod. For next day after encountering the gay
Bachelor, whales were seen and four were slain; and one of them by Ahab.
It was far down the afternoon; and when all the spearings of the crimson fight were
done: and floating in the lovely sunset sea and sky, sun and whale both stilly died
together; then, such a sweetness and such
plaintiveness, such inwreathing orisons curled up in that rosy air, that it almost
seemed as if far over from the deep green convent valleys of the Manilla isles, the
Spanish land-breeze, wantonly turned
sailor, had gone to sea, freighted with these vesper hymns.
Soothed again, but only soothed to deeper gloom, Ahab, who had sterned off from the
whale, sat intently watching his final wanings from the now tranquil boat.
For that strange spectacle observable in all sperm whales dying--the turning
sunwards of the head, and so expiring--that strange spectacle, beheld of such a placid
evening, somehow to Ahab conveyed a wondrousness unknown before.
"He turns and turns him to it,--how slowly, but how steadfastly, his homage-rendering
and invoking brow, with his last dying motions.
He too worships fire; most faithful, broad, baronial vassal of the sun!--Oh that these
too-favouring eyes should see these too- favouring sights.
Look! here, far water-locked; beyond all hum of human weal or woe; in these most
candid and impartial seas; where to traditions no rocks furnish tablets; where
for long Chinese ages, the billows have
still rolled on speechless and unspoken to, as stars that shine upon the Niger's
unknown source; here, too, life dies sunwards full of faith; but see! no sooner
dead, than death whirls round the corpse, and it heads some other way.
"Oh, thou dark Hindoo half of nature, who of drowned bones hast builded thy separate
throne somewhere in the heart of these unverdured seas; thou art an infidel, thou
queen, and too truly speakest to me in the
wide-slaughtering Typhoon, and the hushed burial of its after calm.
Nor has this thy whale sunwards turned his dying head, and then gone round again,
without a lesson to me.
"Oh, trebly hooped and welded hip of power! Oh, high aspiring, rainbowed jet!--that one
strivest, this one jettest all in vain!
In vain, oh whale, dost thou seek intercedings with yon all-quickening sun,
that only calls forth life, but gives it not again.
Yet dost thou, darker half, rock me with a prouder, if a darker faith.
All thy unnamable imminglings float beneath me here; I am buoyed by breaths of once
living things, exhaled as air, but water now.
"Then hail, for ever hail, O sea, in whose eternal tossings the wild fowl finds his
only rest.
Born of earth, yet suckled by the sea; though hill and valley mothered me, ye
billows are my foster-brothers!"
Chapter 117. The Whale Watch.
The four whales slain that evening had died wide apart; one, far to windward; one, less
distant, to leeward; one ahead; one astern.
These last three were brought alongside ere nightfall; but the windward one could not
be reached till morning; and the boat that had killed it lay by its side all night;
and that boat was Ahab's.
The waif-pole was thrust upright into the dead whale's spout-hole; and the lantern
hanging from its top, cast a troubled flickering glare upon the black, glossy
back, and far out upon the midnight waves,
which gently chafed the whale's broad flank, like soft surf upon a beach.
Ahab and all his boat's crew seemed asleep but the Parsee; who crouching in the bow,
sat watching the sharks, that spectrally played round the whale, and tapped the
light cedar planks with their tails.
A sound like the moaning in squadrons over Asphaltites of unforgiven ghosts of
Gomorrah, ran shuddering through the air.
Started from his slumbers, Ahab, face to face, saw the Parsee; and hooped round by
the gloom of the night they seemed the last men in a flooded world.
"I have dreamed it again," said he.
"Of the hearses? Have I not said, old man, that neither
hearse nor coffin can be thine?" "And who are hearsed that die on the sea?"
"But I said, old man, that ere thou couldst die on this voyage, two hearses must verily
be seen by thee on the sea; the first not made by mortal hands; and the visible wood
of the last one must be grown in America."
"Aye, aye! a strange sight that, Parsee:--a hearse and its plumes floating over the
ocean with the waves for the pall-bearers. Ha! Such a sight we shall not soon see."
"Believe it or not, thou canst not die till it be seen, old man."
"And what was that saying about thyself?" "Though it come to the last, I shall still
go before thee thy pilot."
"And when thou art so gone before--if that ever befall--then ere I can follow, thou
must still appear to me, to pilot me still?--Was it not so?
Well, then, did I believe all ye say, oh my pilot!
I have here two pledges that I shall yet slay Moby Dick and survive it."
"Take another pledge, old man," said the Parsee, as his eyes lighted up like fire-
flies in the gloom--"Hemp only can kill thee."
"The gallows, ye mean.--I am immortal then, on land and on sea," cried Ahab, with a
laugh of derision;--"Immortal on land and on sea!"
Both were silent again, as one man.
The grey dawn came on, and the slumbering crew arose from the boat's bottom, and ere
noon the dead whale was brought to the ship.
Chapter 118. The Quadrant.
The season for the Line at length drew near; and every day when Ahab, coming from
his cabin, cast his eyes aloft, the vigilant helmsman would ostentatiously
handle his spokes, and the eager mariners
quickly run to the braces, and would stand there with all their eyes centrally fixed
on the nailed doubloon; impatient for the order to point the ship's prow for the
In good time the order came.
It was hard upon high noon; and Ahab, seated in the bows of his high-hoisted
boat, was about taking his wonted daily observation of the sun to determine his
Now, in that Japanese sea, the days in summer are as freshets of effulgences.
That unblinkingly vivid Japanese sun seems the blazing focus of the glassy ocean's
immeasurable burning-glass.
The sky looks lacquered; clouds there are none; the horizon floats; and this
nakedness of unrelieved radiance is as the insufferable splendors of God's throne.
Well that Ahab's quadrant was furnished with coloured glasses, through which to
take sight of that solar fire.
So, swinging his seated form to the roll of the ship, and with his astrological-looking
instrument placed to his eye, he remained in that posture for some moments to catch
the precise instant when the sun should gain its precise meridian.
Meantime while his whole attention was absorbed, the Parsee was kneeling beneath
him on the ship's deck, and with face thrown up like Ahab's, was eyeing the same
sun with him; only the lids of his eyes
half hooded their orbs, and his wild face was subdued to an earthly passionlessness.
At length the desired observation was taken; and with his pencil upon his ivory
leg, Ahab soon calculated what his latitude must be at that precise instant.
Then falling into a moment's revery, he again looked up towards the sun and
murmured to himself: "Thou sea-mark! thou high and mighty Pilot! thou tellest me
truly where I AM--but canst thou cast the least hint where I SHALL be?
Or canst thou tell where some other thing besides me is this moment living?
Where is Moby Dick?
This instant thou must be eyeing him.
These eyes of mine look into the very eye that is even now beholding him; aye, and
into the eye that is even now equally beholding the objects on the unknown,
thither side of thee, thou sun!"
Then gazing at his quadrant, and handling, one after the other, its numerous
cabalistical contrivances, he pondered again, and muttered: "Foolish toy! babies'
plaything of haughty Admirals, and
Commodores, and Captains; the world brags of thee, of thy cunning and might; but what
after all canst thou do, but tell the poor, pitiful point, where thou thyself happenest
to be on this wide planet, and the hand that holds thee: no! not one jot more!
Thou canst not tell where one drop of water or one grain of sand will be to-morrow
noon; and yet with thy impotence thou insultest the sun!
Curse thee, thou vain toy; and cursed be all the things that cast man's eyes aloft
to that heaven, whose live vividness but scorches him, as these old eyes are even
now scorched with thy light, O sun!
Level by nature to this earth's horizon are the glances of man's eyes; not shot from
the crown of his head, as if God had meant him to gaze on his firmament.
Curse thee, thou quadrant!" dashing it to the deck, "no longer will I guide my
earthly way by thee; the level ship's compass, and the level deadreckoning, by
log and by line; THESE shall conduct me, and show me my place on the sea.
Aye," lighting from the boat to the deck, "thus I trample on thee, thou paltry thing
that feebly pointest on high; thus I split and destroy thee!"
As the frantic old man thus spoke and thus trampled with his live and dead feet, a
sneering triumph that seemed meant for Ahab, and a fatalistic despair that seemed
meant for himself--these passed over the mute, motionless Parsee's face.
Unobserved he rose and glided away; while, awestruck by the aspect of their commander,
the seamen clustered together on the forecastle, till Ahab, troubledly pacing
the deck, shouted out--"To the braces!
Up helm!--square in!"
In an instant the yards swung round; and as the ship half-wheeled upon her heel, her
three firm-seated graceful masts erectly poised upon her long, ribbed hull, seemed
as the three Horatii pirouetting on one sufficient steed.
Standing between the knight-heads, Starbuck watched the Pequod's tumultuous way, and
Ahab's also, as he went lurching along the deck.
"I have sat before the dense coal fire and watched it all aglow, full of its tormented
flaming life; and I have seen it wane at last, down, down, to dumbest dust.
Old man of oceans! of all this fiery life of thine, what will at length remain but
one little heap of ashes!"
"Aye," cried Stubb, "but sea-coal ashes-- mind ye that, Mr. Starbuck--sea-coal, not
your common charcoal.
Well, well; I heard Ahab mutter, 'Here some one thrusts these cards into these old
hands of mine; swears that I must play them, and no others.'
And damn me, Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die in it!"
-Chapter 119. The Candles.
Warmest climes but nurse the cruellest fangs: the tiger of Bengal crouches in
spiced groves of ceaseless verdure.
Skies the most effulgent but basket the deadliest thunders: gorgeous Cuba knows
tornadoes that never swept tame northern lands.
So, too, it is, that in these resplendent Japanese seas the mariner encounters the
direst of all storms, the Typhoon.
It will sometimes burst from out that cloudless sky, like an exploding bomb upon
a dazed and sleepy town.
Towards evening of that day, the Pequod was torn of her canvas, and bare-poled was left
to fight a Typhoon which had struck her directly ahead.
When darkness came on, sky and sea roared and split with the thunder, and blazed with
the lightning, that showed the disabled masts fluttering here and there with the
rags which the first fury of the tempest had left for its after sport.
Holding by a shroud, Starbuck was standing on the quarter-deck; at every flash of the
lightning glancing aloft, to see what additional disaster might have befallen the
intricate hamper there; while Stubb and
Flask were directing the men in the higher hoisting and firmer lashing of the boats.
But all their pains seemed naught.
Though lifted to the very top of the cranes, the windward quarter boat (Ahab's)
did not escape.
A great rolling sea, dashing high up against the reeling ship's high teetering
side, stove in the boat's bottom at the stern, and left it again, all dripping
through like a sieve.
"Bad work, bad work! Mr. Starbuck," said Stubb, regarding the
wreck, "but the sea will have its way. Stubb, for one, can't fight it.
You see, Mr. Starbuck, a wave has such a great long start before it leaps, all round
the world it runs, and then comes the spring!
But as for me, all the start I have to meet it, is just across the deck here.
But never mind; it's all in fun: so the old song says;"--(SINGS.)
Oh! jolly is the gale, And a joker is the whale,
A' flourishin' his tail,-- Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty,
joky, hoky-poky lad, is the Ocean, oh!
The scud all a flyin', That's his flip only foamin';
When he stirs in the spicin',-- Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty,
joky, hoky-poky lad, is the Ocean, oh!
Thunder splits the ships, But he only smacks his lips,
A tastin' of this flip,-- Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty,
joky, hoky-poky lad, is the Ocean, oh!
"Avast Stubb," cried Starbuck, "let the Typhoon sing, and strike his harp here in
our rigging; but if thou art a brave man thou wilt hold thy peace."
"But I am not a brave man; never said I was a brave man; I am a coward; and I sing to
keep up my spirits.
And I tell you what it is, Mr. Starbuck, there's no way to stop my singing in this
world but to cut my throat. And when that's done, ten to one I sing ye
the doxology for a wind-up."
"Madman! look through my eyes if thou hast none of thine own."
"What! how can you see better of a dark night than anybody else, never mind how
"Here!" cried Starbuck, seizing Stubb by the shoulder, and pointing his hand towards
the weather bow, "markest thou not that the gale comes from the eastward, the very
course Ahab is to run for Moby Dick? the
very course he swung to this day noon? now mark his boat there; where is that stove?
In the stern-sheets, man; where he is wont to stand--his stand-point is stove, man!
Now jump overboard, and sing away, if thou must!
"I don't half understand ye: what's in the wind?"
"Yes, yes, round the Cape of Good Hope is the shortest way to Nantucket,"
soliloquized Starbuck suddenly, heedless of Stubb's question.
"The gale that now hammers at us to stave us, we can turn it into a fair wind that
will drive us towards home.
Yonder, to windward, all is blackness of doom; but to leeward, homeward--I see it
lightens up there; but not with the lightning."
At that moment in one of the intervals of profound darkness, following the flashes,
a voice was heard at his side; and almost at the same instant a volley of thunder peals
rolled overhead.
"Who's there?" "Old Thunder!" said Ahab, groping his way
along the bulwarks to his pivot-hole; but suddenly finding his path made plain to him
by elbowed lances of fire.
Now, as the lightning rod to a spire on shore is intended to carry off the perilous
fluid into the soil; so the kindred rod which at sea some ships carry to each mast,
is intended to conduct it into the water.
But as this conductor must descend to considerable depth, that its end may avoid
all contact with the hull; and as moreover, if kept constantly towing there, it would
be liable to many mishaps, besides
interfering not a little with some of the rigging, and more or less impeding the
vessel's way in the water; because of all this, the lower parts of a ship's
lightning-rods are not always overboard;
but are generally made in long slender links, so as to be the more readily hauled
up into the chains outside, or thrown down into the sea, as occasion may require.
"The rods! the rods!" cried Starbuck to the crew, suddenly admonished to vigilance by
the vivid lightning that had just been darting flambeaux, to light Ahab to his
"Are they overboard? drop them over, fore and aft.
Quick!" "Avast!" cried Ahab; "let's have fair play
here, though we be the weaker side.
Yet I'll contribute to raise rods on the Himmalehs and Andes, that all the world may
be secured; but out on privileges! Let them be, sir."
"Look aloft!" cried Starbuck.
"The corpusants! the corpusants!"
All the yard-arms were tipped with a pallid fire; and touched at each tri-pointed
lightning-rod-end with three tapering white flames, each of the three tall masts was
silently burning in that sulphurous air,
like three gigantic wax tapers before an altar.
"Blast the boat! let it go!" cried Stubb at this instant, as a swashing sea heaved up
under his own little craft, so that its gunwale violently jammed his hand, as he
was passing a lashing.
"Blast it!"--but slipping backward on the deck, his uplifted eyes caught the flames;
and immediately shifting his tone he cried- -"The corpusants have mercy on us all!"
To sailors, oaths are household words; they will swear in the trance of the calm, and
in the teeth of the tempest; they will imprecate curses from the topsail-yard-
arms, when most they teeter over to a
seething sea; but in all my voyagings, seldom have I heard a common oath when
God's burning finger has been laid on the ship; when His "Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin"
has been woven into the shrouds and the cordage.
While this pallidness was burning aloft, few words were heard from the enchanted
crew; who in one thick cluster stood on the forecastle, all their eyes gleaming in that
pale phosphorescence, like a far away constellation of stars.
Relieved against the ghostly light, the gigantic jet negro, Daggoo, loomed up to
thrice his real stature, and seemed the black cloud from which the thunder had
The parted mouth of Tashtego revealed his shark-white teeth, which strangely gleamed
as if they too had been tipped by corpusants; while lit up by the
preternatural light, Queequeg's tattooing
burned like Satanic blue flames on his body.
The tableau all waned at last with the pallidness aloft; and once more the Pequod
and every soul on her decks were wrapped in a pall.
A moment or two passed, when Starbuck, going forward, pushed against some one.
It was Stubb. "What thinkest thou now, man; I heard thy
cry; it was not the same in the song."
"No, no, it wasn't; I said the corpusants have mercy on us all; and I hope they will,
still. But do they only have mercy on long faces?-
-have they no bowels for a laugh?
And look ye, Mr. Starbuck--but it's too dark to look.
Hear me, then: I take that mast-head flame we saw for a sign of good luck; for those
masts are rooted in a hold that is going to be chock a' block with sperm-oil, d'ye see;
and so, all that sperm will work up into the masts, like sap in a tree.
Yes, our three masts will yet be as three spermaceti candles--that's the good promise
we saw."
At that moment Starbuck caught sight of Stubb's face slowly beginning to glimmer
into sight.
Glancing upwards, he cried: "See! see!" and once more the high tapering flames were
beheld with what seemed redoubled supernaturalness in their pallor.
"The corpusants have mercy on us all," cried Stubb, again.
At the base of the mainmast, full beneath the doubloon and the flame, the Parsee was
kneeling in Ahab's front, but with his head bowed away from him; while near by, from
the arched and overhanging rigging, where
they had just been engaged securing a spar, a number of the seamen, arrested by the
glare, now cohered together, and hung pendulous, like a knot of numbed wasps from
a drooping, orchard twig.
In various enchanted attitudes, like the standing, or stepping, or running skeletons
in Herculaneum, others remained rooted to the deck; but all their eyes upcast.
"Aye, aye, men!" cried Ahab.
"Look up at it; mark it well; the white flame but lights the way to the White
Hand me those mainmast links there; I would fain feel this pulse, and let mine beat
against it; blood against fire! So."
Then turning--the last link held fast in his left hand, he put his foot upon the
Parsee; and with fixed upward eye, and high-flung right arm, he stood erect before
the lofty tri-pointed trinity of flames.
"Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once did
worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour I bear
the scar; I now know thee, thou clear
spirit, and I now know that thy right worship is defiance.
To neither love nor reverence wilt thou be kind; and e'en for hate thou canst but
kill; and all are killed.
No fearless fool now fronts thee. I own thy speechless, placeless power; but
to the last gasp of my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional, unintegral
mastery in me.
In the midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here.
Though but a point at best; whencesoe'er I came; wheresoe'er I go; yet while I earthly
live, the queenly personality lives in me, and feels her royal rights.
But war is pain, and hate is woe.
Come in thy lowest form of love, and I will kneel and kiss thee; but at thy highest,
come as mere supernal power; and though thou launchest navies of full-freighted
worlds, there's that in here that still remains indifferent.
Oh, thou clear spirit, of thy fire thou madest me, and like a true child of fire,
I breathe it back to thee."
"I own thy speechless, placeless power; said I not so?
Nor was it wrung from me; nor do I now drop these links.
Thou canst blind; but I can then grope.
Thou canst consume; but I can then be ashes.
Take the homage of these poor eyes, and shutter-hands.
I would not take it.
The lightning flashes through my skull; mine eye-balls ache and ache; my whole
beaten brain seems as beheaded, and rolling on some stunning ground.
Oh, oh!
Yet blindfold, yet will I talk to thee. Light though thou be, thou leapest out of
darkness; but I am darkness leaping out of light, leaping out of thee!
The javelins cease; open eyes; see, or not?
There burn the flames! Oh, thou magnanimous! now I do glory in my
genealogy. But thou art but my fiery father; my sweet
mother, I know not.
Oh, cruel! what hast thou done with her? There lies my puzzle; but thine is greater.
Thou knowest not how came ye, hence callest thyself unbegotten; certainly knowest not
thy beginning, hence callest thyself unbegun.
I know that of me, which thou knowest not of thyself, oh, thou omnipotent.
There is some unsuffusing thing beyond thee, thou clear spirit, to whom all thy
eternity is but time, all thy creativeness mechanical.
Through thee, thy flaming self, my scorched eyes do dimly see it.
Oh, thou foundling fire, thou hermit immemorial, thou too hast thy
incommunicable riddle, thy unparticipated grief.
Here again with haughty agony, I read my sire.
Leap! leap up, and lick the sky!
I leap with thee; I burn with thee; would fain be welded with thee; defyingly I
worship thee!" "The boat! the boat!" cried Starbuck, "look
at thy boat, old man!"
Ahab's harpoon, the one forged at Perth's fire, remained firmly lashed in its
conspicuous crotch, so that it projected beyond his whale-boat's bow; but the sea
that had stove its bottom had caused the
loose leather sheath to drop off; and from the keen steel barb there now came a
levelled flame of pale, forked fire.
As the silent harpoon burned there like a serpent's tongue, Starbuck grasped Ahab by
the arm--"God, God is against thee, old man; forbear!
'tis an ill voyage! ill begun, ill continued; let me square the yards, while
we may, old man, and make a fair wind of it homewards, to go on a better voyage than
Overhearing Starbuck, the panic-stricken crew instantly ran to the braces--though
not a sail was left aloft.
For the moment all the aghast mate's thoughts seemed theirs; they raised a half
mutinous cry.
But dashing the rattling lightning links to the deck, and snatching the burning
harpoon, Ahab waved it like a torch among them; swearing to transfix with it the
first sailor that but cast loose a rope's end.
Petrified by his aspect, and still more shrinking from the fiery dart that he held,
the men fell back in dismay, and Ahab again spoke:--
"All your oaths to hunt the White Whale are as binding as mine; and heart, soul, and
body, lungs and life, old Ahab is bound.
And that ye may know to what tune this heart beats; look ye here; thus I blow out
the last fear!" And with one blast of his breath he
extinguished the flame.
As in the hurricane that sweeps the plain, men fly the neighborhood of some lone,
gigantic elm, whose very height and strength but render it so much the more
unsafe, because so much the more a mark for
thunderbolts; so at those last words of Ahab's many of the mariners did run from
him in a terror of dismay.
Chapter 120. The Deck Towards the End of the First Night
"We must send down the main-top-sail yard, sir.
The band is working loose and the lee lift is half-stranded.
Shall I strike it, sir?" "Strike nothing; lash it.
If I had sky-sail poles, I'd sway them up now."
"Sir!--in God's name!--sir?" "Well."
"The anchors are working, sir.
Shall I get them inboard?" "Strike nothing, and stir nothing, but lash
everything. The wind rises, but it has not got up to my
table-lands yet.
Quick, and see to it.--By masts and keels! he takes me for the hunch-backed skipper of
some coasting smack. Send down my main-top-sail yard!
Ho, gluepots!
Loftiest trucks were made for wildest winds, and this brain-truck of mine now
sails amid the cloud-scud. Shall I strike that?
Oh, none but cowards send down their brain- trucks in tempest time.
What a hooroosh aloft there! I would e'en take it for sublime, did I not
know that the colic is a noisy malady.
Oh, take medicine, take medicine!"
Chapter 121. Midnight.--The Forecastle Bulwarks.
"No, Stubb; you may pound that knot there as much as you please, but you will never
pound into me what you were just now saying.
And how long ago is it since you said the very contrary?
Didn't you once say that whatever ship Ahab sails in, that ship should pay something
extra on its insurance policy, just as though it were loaded with powder barrels
aft and boxes of lucifers forward?
Stop, now; didn't you say so?" "Well, suppose I did?
What then? I've part changed my flesh since that time,
why not my mind?
Besides, supposing we ARE loaded with powder barrels aft and lucifers forward;
how the devil could the lucifers get afire in this drenching spray here?
Why, my little man, you have pretty red hair, but you couldn't get afire now.
Shake yourself; you're Aquarius, or the water-bearer, Flask; might fill pitchers at
your coat collar.
Don't you see, then, that for these extra risks the Marine Insurance companies have
extra guarantees? Here are hydrants, Flask.
But hark, again, and I'll answer ye the other thing.
First take your leg off from the crown of the anchor here, though, so I can pass the
rope; now listen.
What's the mighty difference between holding a mast's lightning-rod in the
storm, and standing close by a mast that hasn't got any lightning-rod at all in a
Don't you see, you timber-head, that no harm can come to the holder of the rod,
unless the mast is first struck? What are you talking about, then?
Not one ship in a hundred carries rods, and Ahab,--aye, man, and all of us,--were in no
more danger then, in my poor opinion, than all the crews in ten thousand ships now
sailing the seas.
Why, you King-Post, you, I suppose you would have every man in the world go about
with a small lightning-rod running up the corner of his hat, like a militia officer's
skewered feather, and trailing behind like his sash.
Why don't ye be sensible, Flask? it's easy to be sensible; why don't ye, then? any man
with half an eye can be sensible."
"I don't know that, Stubb. You sometimes find it rather hard."
"Yes, when a fellow's soaked through, it's hard to be sensible, that's a fact.
And I am about drenched with this spray.
Never mind; catch the turn there, and pass it.
Seems to me we are lashing down these anchors now as if they were never going to
be used again.
Tying these two anchors here, Flask, seems like tying a man's hands behind him.
And what big generous hands they are, to be sure.
These are your iron fists, hey?
What a hold they have, too! I wonder, Flask, whether the world is
anchored anywhere; if she is, she swings with an uncommon long cable, though.
There, hammer that knot down, and we've done.
So; next to touching land, lighting on deck is the most satisfactory.
I say, just wring out my jacket skirts, will ye?
Thank ye.
They laugh at long-togs so, Flask; but seems to me, a Long tailed coat ought
always to be worn in all storms afloat. The tails tapering down that way, serve to
carry off the water, d'ye see.
Same with cocked hats; the cocks form gable-end eave-troughs, Flask.
No more monkey-jackets and tarpaulins for me; I must mount a swallow-tail, and drive
down a beaver; so.
Halloa! whew! there goes my tarpaulin overboard; Lord, Lord, that the winds that
come from heaven should be so unmannerly! This is a nasty night, lad."
Chapter 122. Midnight Aloft.--Thunder and Lightning.
"Um, um, um. Stop that thunder!
Plenty too much thunder up here.
What's the use of thunder? Um, um, um.
We don't want thunder; we want rum; give us a glass of rum.
Um, um, um!"
Chapter 123. The Musket.
During the most violent shocks of the Typhoon, the man at the Pequod's jaw-bone
tiller had several times been reelingly hurled to the deck by its spasmodic
motions, even though preventer tackles had
been attached to it--for they were slack-- because some play to the tiller was
In a severe gale like this, while the ship is but a tossed shuttlecock to the blast,
it is by no means uncommon to see the needles in the compasses, at intervals, go
round and round.
It was thus with the Pequod's; at almost every shock the helmsman had not failed to
notice the whirling velocity with which they revolved upon the cards; it is a sight
that hardly anyone can behold without some sort of unwonted emotion.
Some hours after midnight, the Typhoon abated so much, that through the strenuous
exertions of Starbuck and Stubb--one engaged forward and the other aft--the
shivered remnants of the jib and fore and
main-top-sails were cut adrift from the spars, and went eddying away to leeward,
like the feathers of an albatross, which sometimes are cast to the winds when that
storm-tossed bird is on the wing.
The three corresponding new sails were now bent and reefed, and a storm-trysail was
set further aft; so that the ship soon went through the water with some precision
again; and the course--for the present,
East-south-east--which he was to steer, if practicable, was once more given to the
helmsman. For during the violence of the gale, he had
only steered according to its vicissitudes.
But as he was now bringing the ship as near her course as possible, watching the
compass meanwhile, lo! a good sign! the wind seemed coming round astern; aye, the
foul breeze became fair!
Instantly the yards were squared, to the lively song of "HO! THE FAIR WIND! OH-YE-
HO, CHEERLY MEN!" the crew singing for joy, that so promising an event should so soon
have falsified the evil portents preceding it.
In compliance with the standing order of his commander--to report immediately, and
at any one of the twenty-four hours, any decided change in the affairs of the deck,-
-Starbuck had no sooner trimmed the yards
to the breeze--however reluctantly and gloomily,--than he mechanically went below
to apprise Captain Ahab of the circumstance.
Ere knocking at his state-room, he involuntarily paused before it a moment.
The cabin lamp--taking long swings this way and that--was burning fitfully, and casting
fitful shadows upon the old man's bolted door,--a thin one, with fixed blinds
inserted, in place of upper panels.
The isolated subterraneousness of the cabin made a certain humming silence to reign
there, though it was hooped round by all the roar of the elements.
The loaded muskets in the rack were shiningly revealed, as they stood upright
against the forward bulkhead.
Starbuck was an honest, upright man; but out of Starbuck's heart, at that instant
when he saw the muskets, there strangely evolved an evil thought; but so blent with
its neutral or good accompaniments that for the instant he hardly knew it for itself.
"He would have shot me once," he murmured, "yes, there's the very musket that he
pointed at me;--that one with the studded stock; let me touch it--lift it.
Strange, that I, who have handled so many deadly lances, strange, that I should shake
so now. Loaded?
I must see.
Aye, aye; and powder in the pan;--that's not good.
Best spill it?--wait. I'll cure myself of this.
I'll hold the musket boldly while I think.- -I come to report a fair wind to him.
But how fair? Fair for death and doom,--THAT'S fair for
Moby Dick.
It's a fair wind that's only fair for that accursed fish.--The very tube he pointed at
me!--the very one; THIS one--I hold it here; he would have killed me with the very
thing I handle now.--Aye and he would fain kill all his crew.
Does he not say he will not strike his spars to any gale?
Has he not dashed his heavenly quadrant? and in these same perilous seas, gropes he
not his way by mere dead reckoning of the error-abounding log? and in this very
Typhoon, did he not swear that he would have no lightning-rods?
But shall this crazed old man be tamely suffered to drag a whole ship's company
down to doom with him?--Yes, it would make him the wilful murderer of thirty men and
more, if this ship come to any deadly harm;
and come to deadly harm, my soul swears this ship will, if Ahab have his way.
If, then, he were this instant--put aside, that crime would not be his.
Ha! is he muttering in his sleep?
Yes, just there,--in there, he's sleeping. Sleeping? aye, but still alive, and soon
awake again. I can't withstand thee, then, old man.
Not reasoning; not remonstrance; not entreaty wilt thou hearken to; all this
thou scornest. Flat obedience to thy own flat commands,
this is all thou breathest.
Aye, and say'st the men have vow'd thy vow; say'st all of us are Ahabs.
Great God forbid!--But is there no other way? no lawful way?--Make him a prisoner to
be taken home?
What! hope to wrest this old man's living power from his own living hands?
Only a fool would try it.
Say he were pinioned even; knotted all over with ropes and hawsers; chained down to
ring-bolts on this cabin floor; he would be more hideous than a caged tiger, then.
I could not endure the sight; could not possibly fly his howlings; all comfort,
sleep itself, inestimable reason would leave me on the long intolerable voyage.
What, then, remains?
The land is hundreds of leagues away, and locked Japan the nearest.
I stand alone here upon an open sea, with two oceans and a whole continent between me
and law.--Aye, aye, 'tis so.--Is heaven a murderer when its lightning strikes a
would-be murderer in his bed, tindering
sheets and skin together?--And would I be a murderer, then, if"--and slowly,
stealthily, and half sideways looking, he placed the loaded musket's end against the
"On this level, Ahab's hammock swings within; his head this way.
A touch, and Starbuck may survive to hug his wife and child again.--Oh Mary!
Mary!--boy! boy! boy!--But if I wake thee not to death, old man, who can tell to what
unsounded deeps Starbuck's body this day week may sink, with all the crew!
Great God, where art Thou?
Shall I? shall I?--The wind has gone down and shifted, sir; the fore and main
topsails are reefed and set; she heads her course."
"Stern all!
Oh Moby Dick, I clutch thy heart at last!" Such were the sounds that now came hurtling
from out the old man's tormented sleep, as if Starbuck's voice had caused the long
dumb dream to speak.
The yet levelled musket shook like a drunkard's arm against the panel; Starbuck
seemed wrestling with an angel; but turning from the door, he placed the death-tube in
its rack, and left the place.
"He's too sound asleep, Mr. Stubb; go thou down, and wake him, and tell him.
I must see to the deck here. Thou know'st what to say."