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Title: Moby Dick; Or, The Whale
Author: Melville, Herman
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Moby Dick; Or, The Whale" ***

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By Herman Melville

Original Transcriber’s Notes:

This text is a combination of etexts, one from the now-defunct ERIS
Library for preserving the Virginia Tech version. The resulting etext
was compared with a public domain hard copy version of the text.

In chapters 24, 89, and 90, we substituted a capital L for the symbol
for the British pound, a unit of currency.


(Supplied by a Late Consumptive Usher to a Grammar School)

The pale Usher--threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him
now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer
handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all
the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it
somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality.

“While you take in hand to school others, and to teach them by what
name a whale-fish is to be called in our tongue leaving out, through
ignorance, the letter H, which almost alone maketh the signification of
the word, you deliver that which is not true.” --HACKLUYT

“WHALE.... Sw. and Dan. HVAL. This animal is named from roundness or
rolling; for in Dan. HVALT is arched or vaulted.” --WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY

“WHALE.... It is more immediately from the Dut. and Ger. WALLEN; A.S.
WALW-IAN, to roll, to wallow.” --RICHARDSON’S DICTIONARY

     KETOS,               GREEK.
     CETUS,               LATIN.
     WHOEL,               ANGLO-SAXON.
     HVALT,               DANISH.
     WAL,                 DUTCH.
     HWAL,                SWEDISH.
     WHALE,               ICELANDIC.
     WHALE,               ENGLISH.
     BALEINE,             FRENCH.
     BALLENA,             SPANISH.

EXTRACTS (Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian).

It will be seen that this mere painstaking burrower and grub-worm of a
poor devil of a Sub-Sub appears to have gone through the long Vaticans
and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions to
whales he could anyways find in any book whatsoever, sacred or
profane. Therefore you must not, in every case at least, take the
higgledy-piggledy whale statements, however authentic, in these
extracts, for veritable gospel cetology. Far from it. As touching the
ancient authors generally, as well as the poets here appearing, these
extracts are solely valuable or entertaining, as affording a glancing
bird’s eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied,
and sung of Leviathan, by many nations and generations, including our

So fare thee well, poor devil of a Sub-Sub, whose commentator I am. Thou
belongest to that hopeless, sallow tribe which no wine of this world
will ever warm; and for whom even Pale Sherry would be too rosy-strong;
but with whom one sometimes loves to sit, and feel poor-devilish, too;
and grow convivial upon tears; and say to them bluntly, with full eyes
and empty glasses, and in not altogether unpleasant sadness--Give it up,
Sub-Subs! For by how much the more pains ye take to please the world,
by so much the more shall ye for ever go thankless! Would that I could
clear out Hampton Court and the Tuileries for ye! But gulp down your
tears and hie aloft to the royal-mast with your hearts; for your friends
who have gone before are clearing out the seven-storied heavens, and
making refugees of long-pampered Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, against
your coming. Here ye strike but splintered hearts together--there, ye
shall strike unsplinterable glasses!


“And God created great whales.” --GENESIS.

“Leviathan maketh a path to shine after him; One would think the deep to
be hoary.” --JOB.

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” --JONAH.

“There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play
therein.” --PSALMS.

“In that day, the Lord with his sore, and great, and strong sword,
shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked
serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” --ISAIAH

“And what thing soever besides cometh within the chaos of this monster’s
mouth, be it beast, boat, or stone, down it goes all incontinently that
foul great swallow of his, and perisheth in the bottomless gulf of his

“The Indian Sea breedeth the most and the biggest fishes that are: among
which the Whales and Whirlpooles called Balaene, take up as much in
length as four acres or arpens of land.” --HOLLAND’S PLINY.

“Scarcely had we proceeded two days on the sea, when about sunrise a
great many Whales and other monsters of the sea, appeared. Among the
former, one was of a most monstrous size.... This came towards us,
open-mouthed, raising the waves on all sides, and beating the sea before
him into a foam.” --TOOKE’S LUCIAN. “THE TRUE HISTORY.”

“He visited this country also with a view of catching horse-whales,
which had bones of very great value for their teeth, of which he brought
some to the king.... The best whales were catched in his own country, of
which some were forty-eight, some fifty yards long. He said that he was
one of six who had killed sixty in two days.” --OTHER OR OTHER’S VERBAL

“And whereas all the other things, whether beast or vessel, that
enter into the dreadful gulf of this monster’s (whale’s) mouth, are
immediately lost and swallowed up, the sea-gudgeon retires into it in
great security, and there sleeps.” --MONTAIGNE. --APOLOGY FOR RAIMOND

“Let us fly, let us fly! Old Nick take me if is not Leviathan described
by the noble prophet Moses in the life of patient Job.” --RABELAIS.

“This whale’s liver was two cartloads.” --STOWE’S ANNALS.

“The great Leviathan that maketh the seas to seethe like boiling pan.”

“Touching that monstrous bulk of the whale or ork we have received
nothing certain. They grow exceeding fat, insomuch that an incredible
quantity of oil will be extracted out of one whale.” --IBID. “HISTORY OF

“The sovereignest thing on earth is parmacetti for an inward bruise.”

“Very like a whale.” --HAMLET.

     “Which to secure, no skill of leach’s art
     Mote him availle, but to returne againe
     To his wound’s worker, that with lowly dart,
     Dinting his breast, had bred his restless paine,
     Like as the wounded whale to shore flies thro’ the maine.”

“Immense as whales, the motion of whose vast bodies can in a peaceful
calm trouble the ocean til it boil.” --SIR WILLIAM DAVENANT. PREFACE TO

“What spermacetti is, men might justly doubt, since the learned
Hosmannus in his work of thirty years, saith plainly, Nescio quid sit.”

     “Like Spencer’s Talus with his modern flail
     He threatens ruin with his ponderous tail.
     Their fixed jav’lins in his side he wears,
     And on his back a grove of pikes appears.”

“By art is created that great Leviathan, called a Commonwealth or
State--(in Latin, Civitas) which is but an artificial man.” --OPENING

“Silly Mansoul swallowed it without chewing, as if it had been a sprat
in the mouth of a whale.” --PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.

     “That sea beast
     Leviathan, which God of all his works
     Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.” --PARADISE LOST.

     ---“There Leviathan,
     Hugest of living creatures, in the deep
     Stretched like a promontory sleeps or swims,
     And seems a moving land; and at his gills
     Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.” --IBID.

“The mighty whales which swim in a sea of water, and have a sea of oil
swimming in them.” --FULLLER’S PROFANE AND HOLY STATE.

     “So close behind some promontory lie
     The huge Leviathan to attend their prey,
     And give no chance, but swallow in the fry,
     Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way.”

“While the whale is floating at the stern of the ship, they cut off his
head, and tow it with a boat as near the shore as it will come; but it
will be aground in twelve or thirteen feet water.” --THOMAS EDGE’S TEN

“In their way they saw many whales sporting in the ocean, and in
wantonness fuzzing up the water through their pipes and vents, which
nature has placed on their shoulders.” --SIR T. HERBERT’S VOYAGES INTO

“Here they saw such huge troops of whales, that they were forced to
proceed with a great deal of caution for fear they should run their ship

“We set sail from the Elbe, wind N.E. in the ship called The
Jonas-in-the-Whale.... Some say the whale can’t open his mouth, but that
is a fable.... They frequently climb up the masts to see whether they
can see a whale, for the first discoverer has a ducat for his pains....
I was told of a whale taken near Shetland, that had above a barrel of
herrings in his belly.... One of our harpooneers told me that he caught
once a whale in Spitzbergen that was white all over.” --A VOYAGE TO

“Several whales have come in upon this coast (Fife) Anno 1652, one
eighty feet in length of the whale-bone kind came in, which (as I was
informed), besides a vast quantity of oil, did afford 500 weight of
baleen. The jaws of it stand for a gate in the garden of Pitferren.”

“Myself have agreed to try whether I can master and kill this
Sperma-ceti whale, for I could never hear of any of that sort that was
killed by any man, such is his fierceness and swiftness.” --RICHARD

“Whales in the sea God’s voice obey.” --N. E. PRIMER.

“We saw also abundance of large whales, there being more in those
southern seas, as I may say, by a hundred to one; than we have to the
northward of us.” --CAPTAIN COWLEY’S VOYAGE ROUND THE GLOBE, A.D. 1729.

“... and the breath of the whale is frequently attended with such an
insupportable smell, as to bring on a disorder of the brain.” --ULLOA’S

     “To fifty chosen sylphs of special note,
     We trust the important charge, the petticoat.
     Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail,
     Tho’ stuffed with hoops and armed with ribs of whale.”

“If we compare land animals in respect to magnitude, with those
that take up their abode in the deep, we shall find they will appear
contemptible in the comparison. The whale is doubtless the largest
animal in creation.” --GOLDSMITH, NAT. HIST.

“If you should write a fable for little fishes, you would make them
speak like great wales.” --GOLDSMITH TO JOHNSON.

“In the afternoon we saw what was supposed to be a rock, but it was
found to be a dead whale, which some Asiatics had killed, and were then
towing ashore. They seemed to endeavor to conceal themselves behind the
whale, in order to avoid being seen by us.” --COOK’S VOYAGES.

“The larger whales, they seldom venture to attack. They stand in so
great dread of some of them, that when out at sea they are afraid to
mention even their names, and carry dung, lime-stone, juniper-wood,
and some other articles of the same nature in their boats, in order to
terrify and prevent their too near approach.” --UNO VON TROIL’S LETTERS

“The Spermacetti Whale found by the Nantuckois, is an active, fierce
animal, and requires vast address and boldness in the fishermen.”

“And pray, sir, what in the world is equal to it?” --EDMUND BURKE’S

“Spain--a great whale stranded on the shores of Europe.” --EDMUND BURKE.

“A tenth branch of the king’s ordinary revenue, said to be grounded on
the consideration of his guarding and protecting the seas from pirates
and robbers, is the right to royal fish, which are whale and sturgeon.
And these, when either thrown ashore or caught near the coast, are the
property of the king.” --BLACKSTONE.

     “Soon to the sport of death the crews repair:
     Rodmond unerring o’er his head suspends
     The barbed steel, and every turn attends.”

     “Bright shone the roofs, the domes, the spires,
     And rockets blew self driven,
     To hang their momentary fire
     Around the vault of heaven.

     “So fire with water to compare,
     The ocean serves on high,
     Up-spouted by a whale in air,
     To express unwieldy joy.” --COWPER, ON THE QUEEN’S

“Ten or fifteen gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at
a stroke, with immense velocity.” --JOHN HUNTER’S ACCOUNT OF THE

“The aorta of a whale is larger in the bore than the main pipe of the
water-works at London Bridge, and the water roaring in its passage
through that pipe is inferior in impetus and velocity to the blood
gushing from the whale’s heart.” --PALEY’S THEOLOGY.

“The whale is a mammiferous animal without hind feet.” --BARON CUVIER.

“In 40 degrees south, we saw Spermacetti Whales, but did not take
any till the first of May, the sea being then covered with them.”

     “In the free element beneath me swam,
     Floundered and dived, in play, in chace, in battle,
     Fishes of every colour, form, and kind;
     Which language cannot paint, and mariner
     Had never seen; from dread Leviathan
     To insect millions peopling every wave:
     Gather’d in shoals immense, like floating islands,
     Led by mysterious instincts through that waste
     And trackless region, though on every side
     Assaulted by voracious enemies,
     Whales, sharks, and monsters, arm’d in front or jaw,
     With swords, saws, spiral horns, or hooked fangs.”

     “Io!  Paean!  Io! sing.
     To the finny people’s king.
     Not a mightier whale than this
     In the vast Atlantic is;
     Not a fatter fish than he,
     Flounders round the Polar Sea.”

“In the year 1690 some persons were on a high hill observing the
whales spouting and sporting with each other, when one observed:
there--pointing to the sea--is a green pasture where our children’s
grand-children will go for bread.” --OBED MACY’S HISTORY OF NANTUCKET.

“I built a cottage for Susan and myself and made a gateway in the form
of a Gothic Arch, by setting up a whale’s jaw bones.” --HAWTHORNE’S

“She came to bespeak a monument for her first love, who had been killed
by a whale in the Pacific ocean, no less than forty years ago.” --IBID.

“No, Sir, ‘tis a Right Whale,” answered Tom; “I saw his sprout; he threw
up a pair of as pretty rainbows as a Christian would wish to look at.
He’s a raal oil-butt, that fellow!” --COOPER’S PILOT.

“The papers were brought in, and we saw in the Berlin Gazette
that whales had been introduced on the stage there.” --ECKERMANN’S

“My God! Mr. Chace, what is the matter?” I answered, “we have been stove

     “A mariner sat in the shrouds one night,
     The wind was piping free;
     Now bright, now dimmed, was the moonlight pale,
     And the phospher gleamed in the wake of the whale,
     As it floundered in the sea.”

“The quantity of line withdrawn from the boats engaged in the capture
of this one whale, amounted altogether to 10,440 yards or nearly six
English miles....

“Sometimes the whale shakes its tremendous tail in the air, which,
cracking like a whip, resounds to the distance of three or four miles.”

“Mad with the agonies he endures from these fresh attacks, the
infuriated Sperm Whale rolls over and over; he rears his enormous head,
and with wide expanded jaws snaps at everything around him; he rushes
at the boats with his head; they are propelled before him with vast
swiftness, and sometimes utterly destroyed.... It is a matter of great
astonishment that the consideration of the habits of so interesting,
and, in a commercial point of view, so important an animal (as the Sperm
Whale) should have been so entirely neglected, or should have excited
so little curiosity among the numerous, and many of them competent
observers, that of late years, must have possessed the most abundant
and the most convenient opportunities of witnessing their habitudes.”

“The Cachalot” (Sperm Whale) “is not only better armed than the True
Whale” (Greenland or Right Whale) “in possessing a formidable weapon
at either extremity of its body, but also more frequently displays a
disposition to employ these weapons offensively and in manner at once so
artful, bold, and mischievous, as to lead to its being regarded as the
most dangerous to attack of all the known species of the whale tribe.”

     October 13.  “There she blows,” was sung out from the mast-head.
     “Where away?” demanded the captain.
     “Three points off the lee bow, sir.”
      “Raise up your wheel.  Steady!”  “Steady, sir.”
      “Mast-head ahoy!  Do you see that whale now?”
      “Ay ay, sir!  A shoal of Sperm Whales!  There she blows!  There she
      “Sing out! sing out every time!”
      “Ay Ay, sir!  There she blows! there--there--THAR she
      “How far off?”
      “Two miles and a half.”
      “Thunder and lightning! so near!  Call all hands.”

“The Whale-ship Globe, on board of which vessel occurred the horrid
transactions we are about to relate, belonged to the island of
A.D. 1828.

Being once pursued by a whale which he had wounded, he parried the
assault for some time with a lance; but the furious monster at length
rushed on the boat; himself and comrades only being preserved by leaping
into the water when they saw the onset was inevitable.” --MISSIONARY

“Nantucket itself,” said Mr. Webster, “is a very striking and peculiar
portion of the National interest. There is a population of eight or nine
thousand persons living here in the sea, adding largely every year
to the National wealth by the boldest and most persevering industry.”

“The whale fell directly over him, and probably killed him in a moment.”

“If you make the least damn bit of noise,” replied Samuel, “I will send

“The voyages of the Dutch and English to the Northern Ocean, in order,
if possible, to discover a passage through it to India, though they
failed of their main object, laid-open the haunts of the whale.”

“These things are reciprocal; the ball rebounds, only to bound forward
again; for now in laying open the haunts of the whale, the whalemen seem
to have indirectly hit upon new clews to that same mystic North-West

“It is impossible to meet a whale-ship on the ocean without being struck
by her near appearance. The vessel under short sail, with look-outs at
the mast-heads, eagerly scanning the wide expanse around them, has a
totally different air from those engaged in regular voyage.” --CURRENTS

“Pedestrians in the vicinity of London and elsewhere may recollect
having seen large curved bones set upright in the earth, either to form
arches over gateways, or entrances to alcoves, and they may perhaps
have been told that these were the ribs of whales.” --TALES OF A WHALE

“It was not till the boats returned from the pursuit of these whales,
that the whites saw their ship in bloody possession of the savages

“It is generally well known that out of the crews of Whaling vessels
(American) few ever return in the ships on board of which they
departed.” --CRUISE IN A WHALE BOAT.

“Suddenly a mighty mass emerged from the water, and shot up
perpendicularly into the air. It was the whale.” --MIRIAM COFFIN OR THE

“The Whale is harpooned to be sure; but bethink you, how you would
manage a powerful unbroken colt, with the mere appliance of a rope tied
to the root of his tail.” --A CHAPTER ON WHALING IN RIBS AND TRUCKS.

“On one occasion I saw two of these monsters (whales) probably male and
female, slowly swimming, one after the other, within less than a stone’s
throw of the shore” (Terra Del Fuego), “over which the beech tree
extended its branches.” --DARWIN’S VOYAGE OF A NATURALIST.

“‘Stern all!’ exclaimed the mate, as upon turning his head, he saw the
distended jaws of a large Sperm Whale close to the head of the boat,
threatening it with instant destruction;--‘Stern all, for your lives!’”

“So be cheery, my lads, let your hearts never fail, While the bold
harpooneer is striking the whale!” --NANTUCKET SONG.

     “Oh, the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale
     In his ocean home will be
     A giant in might, where might is right,
     And King of the boundless sea.”
      --WHALE SONG.

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having
little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on
shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of
the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating
the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth;
whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find
myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up
the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get
such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to
prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically
knocking people’s hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea
as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a
philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly
take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew
it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very
nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by
wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs--commerce surrounds it with
her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme
downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and
cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land.
Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears
Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What
do you see?--Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand
thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some
leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some
looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the
rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these
are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster--tied to
counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are
the green fields gone? What do they here?

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and
seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the
extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder
warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water
as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand--miles of
them--leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets
and avenues--north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite.
Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all
those ships attract them thither?

Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take
almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a
dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic
in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest
reveries--stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will
infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region.
Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this
experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical
professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for

But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest,
quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of
the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees,
each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and
here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder
cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a
mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their
hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though
this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd’s
head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd’s eye were fixed upon the
magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores
on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies--what is the
one charm wanting?--Water--there is not a drop of water there! Were
Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to
see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two
handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly
needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why
is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at
some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a
passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first
told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the
old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate
deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning.
And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because
he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain,
plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see
in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of
life; and this is the key to it all.

Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin
to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs,
I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger.
For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is
but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get
sea-sick--grow quarrelsome--don’t sleep of nights--do not enjoy
themselves much, as a general thing;--no, I never go as a passenger;
nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever go to sea as a
Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction
of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all
honourable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind
whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself,
without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not.
And as for going as cook,--though I confess there is considerable glory
in that, a cook being a sort of officer on ship-board--yet, somehow,
I never fancied broiling fowls;--though once broiled, judiciously
buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who
will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled
fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old
Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the
mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the pyramids.

No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast,
plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head.
True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to
spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort
of thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one’s sense of honour,
particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the
Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all,
if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been
lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand
in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a
schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and
the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in

What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom
and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed,
I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel
Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and
respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t
a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may
order me about--however they may thump and punch me about, I have the
satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is
one way or other served in much the same way--either in a physical
or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is
passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and
be content.

Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of
paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single
penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must
pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying
and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable
infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But BEING
PAID,--what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man
receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly
believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account
can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves
to perdition!

Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome
exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world,
head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is,
if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the
Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from
the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not
so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many
other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it.
But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a
merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling
voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the
constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me
in some unaccountable way--he can better answer than any one else. And,
doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand
programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as
a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances.
I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:




Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the
Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others
were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and
easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces--though
I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the
circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives
which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced
me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the
delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill
and discriminating judgment.

Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great
whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my
curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island
bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all
the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped
to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not
have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting
itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on
barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a
horror, and could still be social with it--would they let me--since it
is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place
one lodges in.

By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the
great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild
conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into
my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them
all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.

CHAPTER 2. The Carpet-Bag.

I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it under my arm,
and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific. Quitting the good city of
old Manhatto, I duly arrived in New Bedford. It was a Saturday night in
December. Much was I disappointed upon learning that the little packet
for Nantucket had already sailed, and that no way of reaching that place
would offer, till the following Monday.

As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling stop at
this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, it may as well
be related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing. For my mind was
made up to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a
fine, boisterous something about everything connected with that famous
old island, which amazingly pleased me. Besides though New Bedford has
of late been gradually monopolising the business of whaling, and though
in this matter poor old Nantucket is now much behind her, yet Nantucket
was her great original--the Tyre of this Carthage;--the place where the
first dead American whale was stranded. Where else but from Nantucket
did those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes to
give chase to the Leviathan? And where but from Nantucket, too, did that
first adventurous little sloop put forth, partly laden with imported
cobblestones--so goes the story--to throw at the whales, in order to
discover when they were nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the bowsprit?

Now having a night, a day, and still another night following before me
in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined port, it became a
matter of concernment where I was to eat and sleep meanwhile. It was a
very dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold
and cheerless. I knew no one in the place. With anxious grapnels I had
sounded my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver,--So,
wherever you go, Ishmael, said I to myself, as I stood in the middle of
a dreary street shouldering my bag, and comparing the gloom towards the
north with the darkness towards the south--wherever in your wisdom you
may conclude to lodge for the night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to inquire
the price, and don’t be too particular.

With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed the sign of “The
Crossed Harpoons”--but it looked too expensive and jolly there. Further
on, from the bright red windows of the “Sword-Fish Inn,” there came such
fervent rays, that it seemed to have melted the packed snow and ice from
before the house, for everywhere else the congealed frost lay ten inches
thick in a hard, asphaltic pavement,--rather weary for me, when I struck
my foot against the flinty projections, because from hard, remorseless
service the soles of my boots were in a most miserable plight. Too
expensive and jolly, again thought I, pausing one moment to watch the
broad glare in the street, and hear the sounds of the tinkling glasses
within. But go on, Ishmael, said I at last; don’t you hear? get away
from before the door; your patched boots are stopping the way. So on I
went. I now by instinct followed the streets that took me waterward, for
there, doubtless, were the cheapest, if not the cheeriest inns.

Such dreary streets! blocks of blackness, not houses, on either hand,
and here and there a candle, like a candle moving about in a tomb. At
this hour of the night, of the last day of the week, that quarter of
the town proved all but deserted. But presently I came to a smoky light
proceeding from a low, wide building, the door of which stood invitingly
open. It had a careless look, as if it were meant for the uses of the
public; so, entering, the first thing I did was to stumble over an
ash-box in the porch. Ha! thought I, ha, as the flying particles almost
choked me, are these ashes from that destroyed city, Gomorrah? But “The
Crossed Harpoons,” and “The Sword-Fish?”--this, then must needs be the
sign of “The Trap.” However, I picked myself up and hearing a loud voice
within, pushed on and opened a second, interior door.

It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred black
faces turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond, a black Angel
of Doom was beating a book in a pulpit. It was a negro church; and the
preacher’s text was about the blackness of darkness, and the weeping and
wailing and teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing out,
Wretched entertainment at the sign of ‘The Trap!’

Moving on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far from the docks,
and heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking up, saw a swinging
sign over the door with a white painting upon it, faintly representing
a tall straight jet of misty spray, and these words underneath--“The
Spouter Inn:--Peter Coffin.”

Coffin?--Spouter?--Rather ominous in that particular connexion, thought
I. But it is a common name in Nantucket, they say, and I suppose this
Peter here is an emigrant from there. As the light looked so dim, and
the place, for the time, looked quiet enough, and the dilapidated little
wooden house itself looked as if it might have been carted here from
the ruins of some burnt district, and as the swinging sign had a
poverty-stricken sort of creak to it, I thought that here was the very
spot for cheap lodgings, and the best of pea coffee.

It was a queer sort of place--a gable-ended old house, one side palsied
as it were, and leaning over sadly. It stood on a sharp bleak corner,
where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than ever
it did about poor Paul’s tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a
mighty pleasant zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the hob
quietly toasting for bed. “In judging of that tempestuous wind called
Euroclydon,” says an old writer--of whose works I possess the only copy
extant--“it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou lookest out at
it from a glass window where the frost is all on the outside, or whether
thou observest it from that sashless window, where the frost is on both
sides, and of which the wight Death is the only glazier.” True enough,
thought I, as this passage occurred to my mind--old black-letter, thou
reasonest well. Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is
the house. What a pity they didn’t stop up the chinks and the crannies
though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it’s too late
to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone
is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago. Poor Lazarus
there, chattering his teeth against the curbstone for his pillow, and
shaking off his tatters with his shiverings, he might plug up both ears
with rags, and put a corn-cob into his mouth, and yet that would not
keep out the tempestuous Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his
red silken wrapper--(he had a redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What
a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them
talk of their oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give
me the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals.

But what thinks Lazarus? Can he warm his blue hands by holding them up
to the grand northern lights? Would not Lazarus rather be in Sumatra
than here? Would he not far rather lay him down lengthwise along the
line of the equator; yea, ye gods! go down to the fiery pit itself, in
order to keep out this frost?

Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstone before the
door of Dives, this is more wonderful than that an iceberg should be
moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives himself, he too lives like a
Czar in an ice palace made of frozen sighs, and being a president of a
temperance society, he only drinks the tepid tears of orphans.

But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling, and there is
plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the ice from our frosted feet,
and see what sort of a place this “Spouter” may be.

CHAPTER 3. The Spouter-Inn.

Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in a wide,
low, straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots, reminding one of
the bulwarks of some condemned old craft. On one side hung a very large
oilpainting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in the
unequal crosslights by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent
study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of
the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its
purpose. Such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at first
you almost thought some ambitious young artist, in the time of the New
England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint
of much and earnest contemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and
especially by throwing open the little window towards the back of the
entry, you at last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however
wild, might not be altogether unwarranted.

But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous,
black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over three
blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy,
soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted.
Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable
sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily
took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting
meant. Ever and anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you
through.--It’s the Black Sea in a midnight gale.--It’s the unnatural
combat of the four primal elements.--It’s a blasted heath.--It’s a
Hyperborean winter scene.--It’s the breaking-up of the icebound stream
of Time. But at last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous
something in the picture’s midst. THAT once found out, and all the rest
were plain. But stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic
fish? even the great leviathan himself?

In fact, the artist’s design seemed this: a final theory of my own,
partly based upon the aggregated opinions of many aged persons with whom
I conversed upon the subject. The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a
great hurricane; the half-foundered ship weltering there with its three
dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated whale, purposing to
spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling himself
upon the three mast-heads.

The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with a heathenish
array of monstrous clubs and spears. Some were thickly set with
glittering teeth resembling ivory saws; others were tufted with knots of
human hair; and one was sickle-shaped, with a vast handle sweeping round
like the segment made in the new-mown grass by a long-armed mower. You
shuddered as you gazed, and wondered what monstrous cannibal and savage
could ever have gone a death-harvesting with such a hacking, horrifying
implement. Mixed with these were rusty old whaling lances and harpoons
all broken and deformed. Some were storied weapons. With this once long
lance, now wildly elbowed, fifty years ago did Nathan Swain kill fifteen
whales between a sunrise and a sunset. And that harpoon--so like a
corkscrew now--was flung in Javan seas, and run away with by a whale,
years afterwards slain off the Cape of Blanco. The original iron entered
nigh the tail, and, like a restless needle sojourning in the body of a
man, travelled full forty feet, and at last was found imbedded in the

Crossing this dusky entry, and on through yon low-arched way--cut
through what in old times must have been a great central chimney with
fireplaces all round--you enter the public room. A still duskier place
is this, with such low ponderous beams above, and such old wrinkled
planks beneath, that you would almost fancy you trod some old craft’s
cockpits, especially of such a howling night, when this corner-anchored
old ark rocked so furiously. On one side stood a long, low, shelf-like
table covered with cracked glass cases, filled with dusty rarities
gathered from this wide world’s remotest nooks. Projecting from the
further angle of the room stands a dark-looking den--the bar--a rude
attempt at a right whale’s head. Be that how it may, there stands the
vast arched bone of the whale’s jaw, so wide, a coach might almost drive
beneath it. Within are shabby shelves, ranged round with old decanters,
bottles, flasks; and in those jaws of swift destruction, like another
cursed Jonah (by which name indeed they called him), bustles a little
withered old man, who, for their money, dearly sells the sailors
deliriums and death.

Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his poison. Though
true cylinders without--within, the villanous green goggling glasses
deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheating bottom. Parallel meridians
rudely pecked into the glass, surround these footpads’ goblets. Fill to
THIS mark, and your charge is but a penny; to THIS a penny more; and so
on to the full glass--the Cape Horn measure, which you may gulp down for
a shilling.

Upon entering the place I found a number of young seamen gathered about
a table, examining by a dim light divers specimens of SKRIMSHANDER. I
sought the landlord, and telling him I desired to be accommodated with a
room, received for answer that his house was full--not a bed unoccupied.
“But avast,” he added, tapping his forehead, “you haint no objections
to sharing a harpooneer’s blanket, have ye? I s’pose you are goin’
a-whalin’, so you’d better get used to that sort of thing.”

I told him that I never liked to sleep two in a bed; that if I should
ever do so, it would depend upon who the harpooneer might be, and
that if he (the landlord) really had no other place for me, and the
harpooneer was not decidedly objectionable, why rather than wander
further about a strange town on so bitter a night, I would put up with
the half of any decent man’s blanket.

“I thought so. All right; take a seat. Supper?--you want supper?
Supper’ll be ready directly.”

I sat down on an old wooden settle, carved all over like a bench on the
Battery. At one end a ruminating tar was still further adorning it with
his jack-knife, stooping over and diligently working away at the space
between his legs. He was trying his hand at a ship under full sail, but
he didn’t make much headway, I thought.

At last some four or five of us were summoned to our meal in an
adjoining room. It was cold as Iceland--no fire at all--the landlord
said he couldn’t afford it. Nothing but two dismal tallow candles, each
in a winding sheet. We were fain to button up our monkey jackets, and
hold to our lips cups of scalding tea with our half frozen fingers. But
the fare was of the most substantial kind--not only meat and potatoes,
but dumplings; good heavens! dumplings for supper! One young fellow in
a green box coat, addressed himself to these dumplings in a most direful

“My boy,” said the landlord, “you’ll have the nightmare to a dead

“Landlord,” I whispered, “that aint the harpooneer is it?”

“Oh, no,” said he, looking a sort of diabolically funny, “the harpooneer
is a dark complexioned chap. He never eats dumplings, he don’t--he eats
nothing but steaks, and he likes ‘em rare.”

“The devil he does,” says I. “Where is that harpooneer? Is he here?”

“He’ll be here afore long,” was the answer.

I could not help it, but I began to feel suspicious of this “dark
complexioned” harpooneer. At any rate, I made up my mind that if it so
turned out that we should sleep together, he must undress and get into
bed before I did.

Supper over, the company went back to the bar-room, when, knowing not
what else to do with myself, I resolved to spend the rest of the evening
as a looker on.

Presently a rioting noise was heard without. Starting up, the landlord
cried, “That’s the Grampus’s crew. I seed her reported in the offing
this morning; a three years’ voyage, and a full ship. Hurrah, boys; now
we’ll have the latest news from the Feegees.”

A tramping of sea boots was heard in the entry; the door was flung open,
and in rolled a wild set of mariners enough. Enveloped in their shaggy
watch coats, and with their heads muffled in woollen comforters, all
bedarned and ragged, and their beards stiff with icicles, they seemed an
eruption of bears from Labrador. They had just landed from their boat,
and this was the first house they entered. No wonder, then, that they
made a straight wake for the whale’s mouth--the bar--when the wrinkled
little old Jonah, there officiating, soon poured them out brimmers all
round. One complained of a bad cold in his head, upon which Jonah
mixed him a pitch-like potion of gin and molasses, which he swore was a
sovereign cure for all colds and catarrhs whatsoever, never mind of how
long standing, or whether caught off the coast of Labrador, or on the
weather side of an ice-island.

The liquor soon mounted into their heads, as it generally does even
with the arrantest topers newly landed from sea, and they began capering
about most obstreperously.

I observed, however, that one of them held somewhat aloof, and though
he seemed desirous not to spoil the hilarity of his shipmates by his own
sober face, yet upon the whole he refrained from making as much noise
as the rest. This man interested me at once; and since the sea-gods
had ordained that he should soon become my shipmate (though but a
sleeping-partner one, so far as this narrative is concerned), I will
here venture upon a little description of him. He stood full six feet
in height, with noble shoulders, and a chest like a coffer-dam. I have
seldom seen such brawn in a man. His face was deeply brown and burnt,
making his white teeth dazzling by the contrast; while in the deep
shadows of his eyes floated some reminiscences that did not seem to give
him much joy. His voice at once announced that he was a Southerner,
and from his fine stature, I thought he must be one of those tall
mountaineers from the Alleghanian Ridge in Virginia. When the revelry
of his companions had mounted to its height, this man slipped away
unobserved, and I saw no more of him till he became my comrade on the
sea. In a few minutes, however, he was missed by his shipmates, and
being, it seems, for some reason a huge favourite with them, they raised
a cry of “Bulkington! Bulkington! where’s Bulkington?” and darted out of
the house in pursuit of him.

It was now about nine o’clock, and the room seeming almost
supernaturally quiet after these orgies, I began to congratulate myself
upon a little plan that had occurred to me just previous to the entrance
of the seamen.

No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would a good deal
rather not sleep with your own brother. I don’t know how it is, but
people like to be private when they are sleeping. And when it comes to
sleeping with an unknown stranger, in a strange inn, in a strange
town, and that stranger a harpooneer, then your objections indefinitely
multiply. Nor was there any earthly reason why I as a sailor should
sleep two in a bed, more than anybody else; for sailors no more sleep
two in a bed at sea, than bachelor Kings do ashore. To be sure they
all sleep together in one apartment, but you have your own hammock, and
cover yourself with your own blanket, and sleep in your own skin.

The more I pondered over this harpooneer, the more I abominated the
thought of sleeping with him. It was fair to presume that being a
harpooneer, his linen or woollen, as the case might be, would not be of
the tidiest, certainly none of the finest. I began to twitch all over.
Besides, it was getting late, and my decent harpooneer ought to be
home and going bedwards. Suppose now, he should tumble in upon me at
midnight--how could I tell from what vile hole he had been coming?

“Landlord! I’ve changed my mind about that harpooneer.--I shan’t sleep
with him. I’ll try the bench here.”

“Just as you please; I’m sorry I can’t spare ye a tablecloth for a
mattress, and it’s a plaguy rough board here”--feeling of the knots and
notches. “But wait a bit, Skrimshander; I’ve got a carpenter’s plane
there in the bar--wait, I say, and I’ll make ye snug enough.” So saying
he procured the plane; and with his old silk handkerchief first dusting
the bench, vigorously set to planing away at my bed, the while grinning
like an ape. The shavings flew right and left; till at last the
plane-iron came bump against an indestructible knot. The landlord was
near spraining his wrist, and I told him for heaven’s sake to quit--the
bed was soft enough to suit me, and I did not know how all the planing
in the world could make eider down of a pine plank. So gathering up the
shavings with another grin, and throwing them into the great stove in
the middle of the room, he went about his business, and left me in a
brown study.

I now took the measure of the bench, and found that it was a foot too
short; but that could be mended with a chair. But it was a foot too
narrow, and the other bench in the room was about four inches higher
than the planed one--so there was no yoking them. I then placed the
first bench lengthwise along the only clear space against the wall,
leaving a little interval between, for my back to settle down in. But I
soon found that there came such a draught of cold air over me from under
the sill of the window, that this plan would never do at all, especially
as another current from the rickety door met the one from the window,
and both together formed a series of small whirlwinds in the immediate
vicinity of the spot where I had thought to spend the night.

The devil fetch that harpooneer, thought I, but stop, couldn’t I steal
a march on him--bolt his door inside, and jump into his bed, not to be
wakened by the most violent knockings? It seemed no bad idea; but upon
second thoughts I dismissed it. For who could tell but what the next
morning, so soon as I popped out of the room, the harpooneer might be
standing in the entry, all ready to knock me down!

Still, looking round me again, and seeing no possible chance of spending
a sufferable night unless in some other person’s bed, I began to think
that after all I might be cherishing unwarrantable prejudices against
this unknown harpooneer. Thinks I, I’ll wait awhile; he must be dropping
in before long. I’ll have a good look at him then, and perhaps we may
become jolly good bedfellows after all--there’s no telling.

But though the other boarders kept coming in by ones, twos, and threes,
and going to bed, yet no sign of my harpooneer.

“Landlord!” said I, “what sort of a chap is he--does he always keep such
late hours?” It was now hard upon twelve o’clock.

The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and seemed to
be mightily tickled at something beyond my comprehension. “No,” he
answered, “generally he’s an early bird--airley to bed and airley to
rise--yes, he’s the bird what catches the worm. But to-night he went out
a peddling, you see, and I don’t see what on airth keeps him so late,
unless, may be, he can’t sell his head.”

“Can’t sell his head?--What sort of a bamboozingly story is this you
are telling me?” getting into a towering rage. “Do you pretend to say,
landlord, that this harpooneer is actually engaged this blessed Saturday
night, or rather Sunday morning, in peddling his head around this town?”

“That’s precisely it,” said the landlord, “and I told him he couldn’t
sell it here, the market’s overstocked.”

“With what?” shouted I.

“With heads to be sure; ain’t there too many heads in the world?”

“I tell you what it is, landlord,” said I quite calmly, “you’d better
stop spinning that yarn to me--I’m not green.”

“May be not,” taking out a stick and whittling a toothpick, “but I
rayther guess you’ll be done BROWN if that ere harpooneer hears you a
slanderin’ his head.”

“I’ll break it for him,” said I, now flying into a passion again at this
unaccountable farrago of the landlord’s.

“It’s broke a’ready,” said he.

“Broke,” said I--“BROKE, do you mean?”

“Sartain, and that’s the very reason he can’t sell it, I guess.”

“Landlord,” said I, going up to him as cool as Mt. Hecla in a
snow-storm--“landlord, stop whittling. You and I must understand one
another, and that too without delay. I come to your house and want a
bed; you tell me you can only give me half a one; that the other half
belongs to a certain harpooneer. And about this harpooneer, whom I
have not yet seen, you persist in telling me the most mystifying and
exasperating stories tending to beget in me an uncomfortable feeling
towards the man whom you design for my bedfellow--a sort of connexion,
landlord, which is an intimate and confidential one in the highest
degree. I now demand of you to speak out and tell me who and what this
harpooneer is, and whether I shall be in all respects safe to spend the
night with him. And in the first place, you will be so good as to unsay
that story about selling his head, which if true I take to be good
evidence that this harpooneer is stark mad, and I’ve no idea of sleeping
with a madman; and you, sir, YOU I mean, landlord, YOU, sir, by trying
to induce me to do so knowingly, would thereby render yourself liable to
a criminal prosecution.”

“Wall,” said the landlord, fetching a long breath, “that’s a purty long
sarmon for a chap that rips a little now and then. But be easy, be easy,
this here harpooneer I have been tellin’ you of has just arrived from
the south seas, where he bought up a lot of ‘balmed New Zealand heads
(great curios, you know), and he’s sold all on ‘em but one, and that one
he’s trying to sell to-night, cause to-morrow’s Sunday, and it would not
do to be sellin’ human heads about the streets when folks is goin’ to
churches. He wanted to, last Sunday, but I stopped him just as he was
goin’ out of the door with four heads strung on a string, for all the
airth like a string of inions.”

This account cleared up the otherwise unaccountable mystery, and showed
that the landlord, after all, had had no idea of fooling me--but at
the same time what could I think of a harpooneer who stayed out of a
Saturday night clean into the holy Sabbath, engaged in such a cannibal
business as selling the heads of dead idolators?

“Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a dangerous man.”

“He pays reg’lar,” was the rejoinder. “But come, it’s getting dreadful
late, you had better be turning flukes--it’s a nice bed; Sal and me
slept in that ere bed the night we were spliced. There’s plenty of room
for two to kick about in that bed; it’s an almighty big bed that. Why,
afore we give it up, Sal used to put our Sam and little Johnny in the
foot of it. But I got a dreaming and sprawling about one night, and
somehow, Sam got pitched on the floor, and came near breaking his arm.
Arter that, Sal said it wouldn’t do. Come along here, I’ll give ye a
glim in a jiffy;” and so saying he lighted a candle and held it towards
me, offering to lead the way. But I stood irresolute; when looking at a
clock in the corner, he exclaimed “I vum it’s Sunday--you won’t see that
harpooneer to-night; he’s come to anchor somewhere--come along then; DO
come; WON’T ye come?”

I considered the matter a moment, and then up stairs we went, and I was
ushered into a small room, cold as a clam, and furnished, sure enough,
with a prodigious bed, almost big enough indeed for any four harpooneers
to sleep abreast.

“There,” said the landlord, placing the candle on a crazy old sea chest
that did double duty as a wash-stand and centre table; “there, make
yourself comfortable now, and good night to ye.” I turned round from
eyeing the bed, but he had disappeared.

Folding back the counterpane, I stooped over the bed. Though none of the
most elegant, it yet stood the scrutiny tolerably well. I then glanced
round the room; and besides the bedstead and centre table, could see
no other furniture belonging to the place, but a rude shelf, the four
walls, and a papered fireboard representing a man striking a whale. Of
things not properly belonging to the room, there was a hammock lashed
up, and thrown upon the floor in one corner; also a large seaman’s bag,
containing the harpooneer’s wardrobe, no doubt in lieu of a land trunk.
Likewise, there was a parcel of outlandish bone fish hooks on the shelf
over the fire-place, and a tall harpoon standing at the head of the bed.

But what is this on the chest? I took it up, and held it close to the
light, and felt it, and smelt it, and tried every way possible to arrive
at some satisfactory conclusion concerning it. I can compare it to
nothing but a large door mat, ornamented at the edges with little
tinkling tags something like the stained porcupine quills round an
Indian moccasin. There was a hole or slit in the middle of this mat,
as you see the same in South American ponchos. But could it be possible
that any sober harpooneer would get into a door mat, and parade the
streets of any Christian town in that sort of guise? I put it on, to try
it, and it weighed me down like a hamper, being uncommonly shaggy and
thick, and I thought a little damp, as though this mysterious harpooneer
had been wearing it of a rainy day. I went up in it to a bit of glass
stuck against the wall, and I never saw such a sight in my life. I tore
myself out of it in such a hurry that I gave myself a kink in the neck.

I sat down on the side of the bed, and commenced thinking about this
head-peddling harpooneer, and his door mat. After thinking some time on
the bed-side, I got up and took off my monkey jacket, and then stood in
the middle of the room thinking. I then took off my coat, and thought
a little more in my shirt sleeves. But beginning to feel very cold now,
half undressed as I was, and remembering what the landlord said about
the harpooneer’s not coming home at all that night, it being so very
late, I made no more ado, but jumped out of my pantaloons and boots, and
then blowing out the light tumbled into bed, and commended myself to the
care of heaven.

Whether that mattress was stuffed with corn-cobs or broken crockery,
there is no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, and could not sleep
for a long time. At last I slid off into a light doze, and had pretty
nearly made a good offing towards the land of Nod, when I heard a heavy
footfall in the passage, and saw a glimmer of light come into the room
from under the door.

Lord save me, thinks I, that must be the harpooneer, the infernal
head-peddler. But I lay perfectly still, and resolved not to say a word
till spoken to. Holding a light in one hand, and that identical New
Zealand head in the other, the stranger entered the room, and without
looking towards the bed, placed his candle a good way off from me on the
floor in one corner, and then began working away at the knotted cords
of the large bag I before spoke of as being in the room. I was all
eagerness to see his face, but he kept it averted for some time while
employed in unlacing the bag’s mouth. This accomplished, however, he
turned round--when, good heavens! what a sight! Such a face! It was of
a dark, purplish, yellow colour, here and there stuck over with large
blackish looking squares. Yes, it’s just as I thought, he’s a terrible
bedfellow; he’s been in a fight, got dreadfully cut, and here he is,
just from the surgeon. But at that moment he chanced to turn his face
so towards the light, that I plainly saw they could not be
sticking-plasters at all, those black squares on his cheeks. They were
stains of some sort or other. At first I knew not what to make of this;
but soon an inkling of the truth occurred to me. I remembered a story of
a white man--a whaleman too--who, falling among the cannibals, had been
tattooed by them. I concluded that this harpooneer, in the course of his
distant voyages, must have met with a similar adventure. And what is it,
thought I, after all! It’s only his outside; a man can be honest in any
sort of skin. But then, what to make of his unearthly complexion, that
part of it, I mean, lying round about, and completely independent of the
squares of tattooing. To be sure, it might be nothing but a good coat of
tropical tanning; but I never heard of a hot sun’s tanning a white man
into a purplish yellow one. However, I had never been in the South Seas;
and perhaps the sun there produced these extraordinary effects upon the
skin. Now, while all these ideas were passing through me like lightning,
this harpooneer never noticed me at all. But, after some difficulty
having opened his bag, he commenced fumbling in it, and presently pulled
out a sort of tomahawk, and a seal-skin wallet with the hair on. Placing
these on the old chest in the middle of the room, he then took the New
Zealand head--a ghastly thing enough--and crammed it down into the bag.
He now took off his hat--a new beaver hat--when I came nigh singing out
with fresh surprise. There was no hair on his head--none to speak of at
least--nothing but a small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead. His
bald purplish head now looked for all the world like a mildewed skull.
Had not the stranger stood between me and the door, I would have bolted
out of it quicker than ever I bolted a dinner.

Even as it was, I thought something of slipping out of the window, but
it was the second floor back. I am no coward, but what to make of
this head-peddling purple rascal altogether passed my comprehension.
Ignorance is the parent of fear, and being completely nonplussed and
confounded about the stranger, I confess I was now as much afraid of him
as if it was the devil himself who had thus broken into my room at
the dead of night. In fact, I was so afraid of him that I was not
game enough just then to address him, and demand a satisfactory answer
concerning what seemed inexplicable in him.

Meanwhile, he continued the business of undressing, and at last showed
his chest and arms. As I live, these covered parts of him were checkered
with the same squares as his face; his back, too, was all over the same
dark squares; he seemed to have been in a Thirty Years’ War, and just
escaped from it with a sticking-plaster shirt. Still more, his very
legs were marked, as if a parcel of dark green frogs were running up
the trunks of young palms. It was now quite plain that he must be some
abominable savage or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South
Seas, and so landed in this Christian country. I quaked to think of it.
A peddler of heads too--perhaps the heads of his own brothers. He might
take a fancy to mine--heavens! look at that tomahawk!

But there was no time for shuddering, for now the savage went about
something that completely fascinated my attention, and convinced me that
he must indeed be a heathen. Going to his heavy grego, or wrapall, or
dreadnaught, which he had previously hung on a chair, he fumbled in the
pockets, and produced at length a curious little deformed image with
a hunch on its back, and exactly the colour of a three days’ old Congo
baby. Remembering the embalmed head, at first I almost thought that
this black manikin was a real baby preserved in some similar manner. But
seeing that it was not at all limber, and that it glistened a good deal
like polished ebony, I concluded that it must be nothing but a wooden
idol, which indeed it proved to be. For now the savage goes up to the
empty fire-place, and removing the papered fire-board, sets up this
little hunch-backed image, like a tenpin, between the andirons. The
chimney jambs and all the bricks inside were very sooty, so that I
thought this fire-place made a very appropriate little shrine or chapel
for his Congo idol.

I now screwed my eyes hard towards the half hidden image, feeling but
ill at ease meantime--to see what was next to follow. First he takes
about a double handful of shavings out of his grego pocket, and places
them carefully before the idol; then laying a bit of ship biscuit on
top and applying the flame from the lamp, he kindled the shavings into
a sacrificial blaze. Presently, after many hasty snatches into the fire,
and still hastier withdrawals of his fingers (whereby he seemed to be
scorching them badly), he at last succeeded in drawing out the biscuit;
then blowing off the heat and ashes a little, he made a polite offer of
it to the little negro. But the little devil did not seem to fancy such
dry sort of fare at all; he never moved his lips. All these strange
antics were accompanied by still stranger guttural noises from the
devotee, who seemed to be praying in a sing-song or else singing some
pagan psalmody or other, during which his face twitched about in the
most unnatural manner. At last extinguishing the fire, he took the idol
up very unceremoniously, and bagged it again in his grego pocket as
carelessly as if he were a sportsman bagging a dead woodcock.

All these queer proceedings increased my uncomfortableness, and
seeing him now exhibiting strong symptoms of concluding his business
operations, and jumping into bed with me, I thought it was high time,
now or never, before the light was put out, to break the spell in which
I had so long been bound.

But the interval I spent in deliberating what to say, was a fatal one.
Taking up his tomahawk from the table, he examined the head of it for an
instant, and then holding it to the light, with his mouth at the handle,
he puffed out great clouds of tobacco smoke. The next moment the light
was extinguished, and this wild cannibal, tomahawk between his teeth,
sprang into bed with me. I sang out, I could not help it now; and giving
a sudden grunt of astonishment he began feeling me.

Stammering out something, I knew not what, I rolled away from him
against the wall, and then conjured him, whoever or whatever he might
be, to keep quiet, and let me get up and light the lamp again. But his
guttural responses satisfied me at once that he but ill comprehended my

“Who-e debel you?”--he at last said--“you no speak-e, dam-me, I kill-e.”
 And so saying the lighted tomahawk began flourishing about me in the

“Landlord, for God’s sake, Peter Coffin!” shouted I. “Landlord! Watch!
Coffin! Angels! save me!”

“Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me, I kill-e!” again growled the
cannibal, while his horrid flourishings of the tomahawk scattered the
hot tobacco ashes about me till I thought my linen would get on fire.
But thank heaven, at that moment the landlord came into the room light
in hand, and leaping from the bed I ran up to him.

“Don’t be afraid now,” said he, grinning again, “Queequeg here wouldn’t
harm a hair of your head.”

“Stop your grinning,” shouted I, “and why didn’t you tell me that that
infernal harpooneer was a cannibal?”

“I thought ye know’d it;--didn’t I tell ye, he was a peddlin’ heads
around town?--but turn flukes again and go to sleep. Queequeg, look
here--you sabbee me, I sabbee--you this man sleepe you--you sabbee?”

“Me sabbee plenty”--grunted Queequeg, puffing away at his pipe and
sitting up in bed.

“You gettee in,” he added, motioning to me with his tomahawk, and
throwing the clothes to one side. He really did this in not only a civil
but a really kind and charitable way. I stood looking at him a moment.
For all his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely looking
cannibal. What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to
myself--the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason
to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober
cannibal than a drunken Christian.

“Landlord,” said I, “tell him to stash his tomahawk there, or pipe, or
whatever you call it; tell him to stop smoking, in short, and I will
turn in with him. But I don’t fancy having a man smoking in bed with me.
It’s dangerous. Besides, I ain’t insured.”

This being told to Queequeg, he at once complied, and again politely
motioned me to get into bed--rolling over to one side as much as to
say--“I won’t touch a leg of ye.”

“Good night, landlord,” said I, “you may go.”

I turned in, and never slept better in my life.

CHAPTER 4. The Counterpane.

Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown
over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost
thought I had been his wife. The counterpane was of patchwork, full of
odd little parti-coloured squares and triangles; and this arm of his
tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure,
no two parts of which were of one precise shade--owing I suppose to
his keeping his arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt
sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times--this same arm of his, I
say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt.
Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I could
hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues together; and
it was only by the sense of weight and pressure that I could tell that
Queequeg was hugging me.

My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When I was a
child, I well remember a somewhat similar circumstance that befell me;
whether it was a reality or a dream, I never could entirely settle.
The circumstance was this. I had been cutting up some caper or other--I
think it was trying to crawl up the chimney, as I had seen a little
sweep do a few days previous; and my stepmother who, somehow or other,
was all the time whipping me, or sending me to bed supperless,--my
mother dragged me by the legs out of the chimney and packed me off to
bed, though it was only two o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st June,
the longest day in the year in our hemisphere. I felt dreadfully. But
there was no help for it, so up stairs I went to my little room in the
third floor, undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to kill time,
and with a bitter sigh got between the sheets.

I lay there dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours must elapse
before I could hope for a resurrection. Sixteen hours in bed! the
small of my back ached to think of it. And it was so light too; the
sun shining in at the window, and a great rattling of coaches in the
streets, and the sound of gay voices all over the house. I felt worse
and worse--at last I got up, dressed, and softly going down in my
stockinged feet, sought out my stepmother, and suddenly threw myself
at her feet, beseeching her as a particular favour to give me a good
slippering for my misbehaviour; anything indeed but condemning me to lie
abed such an unendurable length of time. But she was the best and most
conscientious of stepmothers, and back I had to go to my room. For
several hours I lay there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than I
have ever done since, even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes. At
last I must have fallen into a troubled nightmare of a doze; and slowly
waking from it--half steeped in dreams--I opened my eyes, and the before
sun-lit room was now wrapped in outer darkness. Instantly I felt a shock
running through all my frame; nothing was to be seen, and nothing was
to be heard; but a supernatural hand seemed placed in mine. My arm hung
over the counterpane, and the nameless, unimaginable, silent form
or phantom, to which the hand belonged, seemed closely seated by my
bed-side. For what seemed ages piled on ages, I lay there, frozen with
the most awful fears, not daring to drag away my hand; yet ever thinking
that if I could but stir it one single inch, the horrid spell would be
broken. I knew not how this consciousness at last glided away from me;
but waking in the morning, I shudderingly remembered it all, and for
days and weeks and months afterwards I lost myself in confounding
attempts to explain the mystery. Nay, to this very hour, I often puzzle
myself with it.

Now, take away the awful fear, and my sensations at feeling the
supernatural hand in mine were very similar, in their strangeness, to
those which I experienced on waking up and seeing Queequeg’s pagan
arm thrown round me. But at length all the past night’s events soberly
recurred, one by one, in fixed reality, and then I lay only alive to
the comical predicament. For though I tried to move his arm--unlock his
bridegroom clasp--yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me tightly,
as though naught but death should part us twain. I now strove to rouse
him--“Queequeg!”--but his only answer was a snore. I then rolled over,
my neck feeling as if it were in a horse-collar; and suddenly felt a
slight scratch. Throwing aside the counterpane, there lay the tomahawk
sleeping by the savage’s side, as if it were a hatchet-faced baby. A
pretty pickle, truly, thought I; abed here in a strange house in the
broad day, with a cannibal and a tomahawk! “Queequeg!--in the name of
goodness, Queequeg, wake!” At length, by dint of much wriggling, and
loud and incessant expostulations upon the unbecomingness of his
hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style, I succeeded in
extracting a grunt; and presently, he drew back his arm, shook himself
all over like a Newfoundland dog just from the water, and sat up in bed,
stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, and rubbing his eyes as if he
did not altogether remember how I came to be there, though a dim
consciousness of knowing something about me seemed slowly dawning over
him. Meanwhile, I lay quietly eyeing him, having no serious misgivings
now, and bent upon narrowly observing so curious a creature. When, at
last, his mind seemed made up touching the character of his bedfellow,
and he became, as it were, reconciled to the fact; he jumped out upon
the floor, and by certain signs and sounds gave me to understand that,
if it pleased me, he would dress first and then leave me to dress
afterwards, leaving the whole apartment to myself. Thinks I, Queequeg,
under the circumstances, this is a very civilized overture; but, the
truth is, these savages have an innate sense of delicacy, say what
you will; it is marvellous how essentially polite they are. I pay this
particular compliment to Queequeg, because he treated me with so much
civility and consideration, while I was guilty of great rudeness;
staring at him from the bed, and watching all his toilette motions; for
the time my curiosity getting the better of my breeding. Nevertheless,
a man like Queequeg you don’t see every day, he and his ways were well
worth unusual regarding.

He commenced dressing at top by donning his beaver hat, a very tall one,
by the by, and then--still minus his trowsers--he hunted up his boots.
What under the heavens he did it for, I cannot tell, but his next
movement was to crush himself--boots in hand, and hat on--under the bed;
when, from sundry violent gaspings and strainings, I inferred he was
hard at work booting himself; though by no law of propriety that I ever
heard of, is any man required to be private when putting on his
boots. But Queequeg, do you see, was a creature in the transition
stage--neither caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just enough civilized
to show off his outlandishness in the strangest possible manners. His
education was not yet completed. He was an undergraduate. If he had not
been a small degree civilized, he very probably would not have troubled
himself with boots at all; but then, if he had not been still a savage,
he never would have dreamt of getting under the bed to put them on. At
last, he emerged with his hat very much dented and crushed down over his
eyes, and began creaking and limping about the room, as if, not
being much accustomed to boots, his pair of damp, wrinkled cowhide
ones--probably not made to order either--rather pinched and tormented
him at the first go off of a bitter cold morning.

Seeing, now, that there were no curtains to the window, and that the
street being very narrow, the house opposite commanded a plain view
into the room, and observing more and more the indecorous figure that
Queequeg made, staving about with little else but his hat and boots on;
I begged him as well as I could, to accelerate his toilet somewhat,
and particularly to get into his pantaloons as soon as possible. He
complied, and then proceeded to wash himself. At that time in the
morning any Christian would have washed his face; but Queequeg, to
my amazement, contented himself with restricting his ablutions to his
chest, arms, and hands. He then donned his waistcoat, and taking up a
piece of hard soap on the wash-stand centre table, dipped it into water
and commenced lathering his face. I was watching to see where he kept
his razor, when lo and behold, he takes the harpoon from the bed corner,
slips out the long wooden stock, unsheathes the head, whets it a little
on his boot, and striding up to the bit of mirror against the wall,
begins a vigorous scraping, or rather harpooning of his cheeks. Thinks
I, Queequeg, this is using Rogers’s best cutlery with a vengeance.
Afterwards I wondered the less at this operation when I came to know of
what fine steel the head of a harpoon is made, and how exceedingly sharp
the long straight edges are always kept.

The rest of his toilet was soon achieved, and he proudly marched out of
the room, wrapped up in his great pilot monkey jacket, and sporting his
harpoon like a marshal’s baton.

CHAPTER 5. Breakfast.

I quickly followed suit, and descending into the bar-room accosted the
grinning landlord very pleasantly. I cherished no malice towards him,
though he had been skylarking with me not a little in the matter of my

However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a
good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own
proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be
backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in
that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him,
be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.

The bar-room was now full of the boarders who had been dropping in the
night previous, and whom I had not as yet had a good look at. They were
nearly all whalemen; chief mates, and second mates, and third mates, and
sea carpenters, and sea coopers, and sea blacksmiths, and harpooneers,
and ship keepers; a brown and brawny company, with bosky beards; an
unshorn, shaggy set, all wearing monkey jackets for morning gowns.

You could pretty plainly tell how long each one had been ashore. This
young fellow’s healthy cheek is like a sun-toasted pear in hue, and
would seem to smell almost as musky; he cannot have been three days
landed from his Indian voyage. That man next him looks a few shades
lighter; you might say a touch of satin wood is in him. In the
complexion of a third still lingers a tropic tawn, but slightly bleached
withal; HE doubtless has tarried whole weeks ashore. But who could show
a cheek like Queequeg? which, barred with various tints, seemed like the
Andes’ western slope, to show forth in one array, contrasting climates,
zone by zone.

“Grub, ho!” now cried the landlord, flinging open a door, and in we went
to breakfast.

They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become quite at ease
in manner, quite self-possessed in company. Not always, though: Ledyard,
the great New England traveller, and Mungo Park, the Scotch one; of all
men, they possessed the least assurance in the parlor. But perhaps the
mere crossing of Siberia in a sledge drawn by dogs as Ledyard did, or
the taking a long solitary walk on an empty stomach, in the negro heart
of Africa, which was the sum of poor Mungo’s performances--this kind of
travel, I say, may not be the very best mode of attaining a high social
polish. Still, for the most part, that sort of thing is to be had

These reflections just here are occasioned by the circumstance that
after we were all seated at the table, and I was preparing to hear some
good stories about whaling; to my no small surprise, nearly every
man maintained a profound silence. And not only that, but they looked
embarrassed. Yes, here were a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the
slightest bashfulness had boarded great whales on the high seas--entire
strangers to them--and duelled them dead without winking; and yet, here
they sat at a social breakfast table--all of the same calling, all of
kindred tastes--looking round as sheepishly at each other as though they
had never been out of sight of some sheepfold among the Green Mountains.
A curious sight; these bashful bears, these timid warrior whalemen!

But as for Queequeg--why, Queequeg sat there among them--at the head of
the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an icicle. To be sure I cannot
say much for his breeding. His greatest admirer could not have cordially
justified his bringing his harpoon into breakfast with him, and using it
there without ceremony; reaching over the table with it, to the imminent
jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him. But
THAT was certainly very coolly done by him, and every one knows that in
most people’s estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly.

We will not speak of all Queequeg’s peculiarities here; how he eschewed
coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided attention to beefsteaks,
done rare. Enough, that when breakfast was over he withdrew like the
rest into the public room, lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was sitting
there quietly digesting and smoking with his inseparable hat on, when I
sallied out for a stroll.

CHAPTER 6. The Street.

If I had been astonished at first catching a glimpse of so outlandish
an individual as Queequeg circulating among the polite society of a
civilized town, that astonishment soon departed upon taking my first
daylight stroll through the streets of New Bedford.

In thoroughfares nigh the docks, any considerable seaport will
frequently offer to view the queerest looking nondescripts from foreign
parts. Even in Broadway and Chestnut streets, Mediterranean mariners
will sometimes jostle the affrighted ladies. Regent Street is not
unknown to Lascars and Malays; and at Bombay, in the Apollo Green, live
Yankees have often scared the natives. But New Bedford beats all Water
Street and Wapping. In these last-mentioned haunts you see only sailors;
but in New Bedford, actual cannibals stand chatting at street corners;
savages outright; many of whom yet carry on their bones unholy flesh. It
makes a stranger stare.

But, besides the Feegeeans, Tongatobooarrs, Erromanggoans, Pannangians,
and Brighggians, and, besides the wild specimens of the whaling-craft
which unheeded reel about the streets, you will see other sights still
more curious, certainly more comical. There weekly arrive in this town
scores of green Vermonters and New Hampshire men, all athirst for gain
and glory in the fishery. They are mostly young, of stalwart frames;
fellows who have felled forests, and now seek to drop the axe and snatch
the whale-lance. Many are as green as the Green Mountains whence they
came. In some things you would think them but a few hours old. Look
there! that chap strutting round the corner. He wears a beaver hat and
swallow-tailed coat, girdled with a sailor-belt and sheath-knife. Here
comes another with a sou’-wester and a bombazine cloak.

No town-bred dandy will compare with a country-bred one--I mean a
downright bumpkin dandy--a fellow that, in the dog-days, will mow his
two acres in buckskin gloves for fear of tanning his hands. Now when a
country dandy like this takes it into his head to make a distinguished
reputation, and joins the great whale-fishery, you should see the
comical things he does upon reaching the seaport. In bespeaking his
sea-outfit, he orders bell-buttons to his waistcoats; straps to his
canvas trowsers. Ah, poor Hay-Seed! how bitterly will burst those straps
in the first howling gale, when thou art driven, straps, buttons, and
all, down the throat of the tempest.

But think not that this famous town has only harpooneers, cannibals, and
bumpkins to show her visitors. Not at all. Still New Bedford is a queer
place. Had it not been for us whalemen, that tract of land would this
day perhaps have been in as howling condition as the coast of Labrador.
As it is, parts of her back country are enough to frighten one, they
look so bony. The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to live
in, in all New England. It is a land of oil, true enough: but not like
Canaan; a land, also, of corn and wine. The streets do not run with
milk; nor in the spring-time do they pave them with fresh eggs. Yet, in
spite of this, nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like
houses; parks and gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford. Whence came
they? how planted upon this once scraggy scoria of a country?

Go and gaze upon the iron emblematical harpoons round yonder lofty
mansion, and your question will be answered. Yes; all these brave houses
and flowery gardens came from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
One and all, they were harpooned and dragged up hither from the bottom
of the sea. Can Herr Alexander perform a feat like that?

In New Bedford, fathers, they say, give whales for dowers to their
daughters, and portion off their nieces with a few porpoises a-piece.
You must go to New Bedford to see a brilliant wedding; for, they say,
they have reservoirs of oil in every house, and every night recklessly
burn their lengths in spermaceti candles.

In summer time, the town is sweet to see; full of fine maples--long
avenues of green and gold. And in August, high in air, the beautiful and
bountiful horse-chestnuts, candelabra-wise, proffer the passer-by their
tapering upright cones of congregated blossoms. So omnipotent is art;
which in many a district of New Bedford has superinduced bright terraces
of flowers upon the barren refuse rocks thrown aside at creation’s final

And the women of New Bedford, they bloom like their own red roses. But
roses only bloom in summer; whereas the fine carnation of their cheeks
is perennial as sunlight in the seventh heavens. Elsewhere match that
bloom of theirs, ye cannot, save in Salem, where they tell me the young
girls breathe such musk, their sailor sweethearts smell them miles off
shore, as though they were drawing nigh the odorous Moluccas instead of
the Puritanic sands.

CHAPTER 7. The Chapel.

In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, and few are
the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who
fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot. I am sure that I did not.

Returning from my first morning stroll, I again sallied out upon this
special errand. The sky had changed from clear, sunny cold, to driving
sleet and mist. Wrapping myself in my shaggy jacket of the cloth called
bearskin, I fought my way against the stubborn storm. Entering, I
found a small scattered congregation of sailors, and sailors’ wives and
widows. A muffled silence reigned, only broken at times by the shrieks
of the storm. Each silent worshipper seemed purposely sitting apart from
the other, as if each silent grief were insular and incommunicable. The
chaplain had not yet arrived; and there these silent islands of men and
women sat steadfastly eyeing several marble tablets, with black borders,
masoned into the wall on either side the pulpit. Three of them ran
something like the following, but I do not pretend to quote:--

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN TALBOT, Who, at the age of eighteen, was
lost overboard, Near the Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia, November
1st, 1836. THIS TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS SISTER.

WALTER CANNY, SETH MACY, AND SAMUEL GLEIG, Forming one of the boats’
crews OF THE SHIP ELIZA Who were towed out of sight by a Whale, On the
Off-shore Ground in the PACIFIC, December 31st, 1839. THIS MARBLE Is
here placed by their surviving SHIPMATES.

of his boat was killed by a Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan, AUGUST
3d, 1833. THIS TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS WIDOW.

Shaking off the sleet from my ice-glazed hat and jacket, I seated myself
near the door, and turning sideways was surprised to see Queequeg near
me. Affected by the solemnity of the scene, there was a wondering gaze
of incredulous curiosity in his countenance. This savage was the only
person present who seemed to notice my entrance; because he was the only
one who could not read, and, therefore, was not reading those frigid
inscriptions on the wall. Whether any of the relatives of the seamen
whose names appeared there were now among the congregation, I knew not;
but so many are the unrecorded accidents in the fishery, and so plainly
did several women present wear the countenance if not the trappings
of some unceasing grief, that I feel sure that here before me were
assembled those, in whose unhealing hearts the sight of those bleak
tablets sympathetically caused the old wounds to bleed afresh.

Oh! ye whose dead lie buried beneath the green grass; who standing among
flowers can say--here, HERE lies my beloved; ye know not the desolation
that broods in bosoms like these. What bitter blanks in those
black-bordered marbles which cover no ashes! What despair in those
immovable inscriptions! What deadly voids and unbidden infidelities in
the lines that seem to gnaw upon all Faith, and refuse resurrections to
the beings who have placelessly perished without a grave. As well might
those tablets stand in the cave of Elephanta as here.

In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included;
why it is that a universal proverb says of them, that they tell no
tales, though containing more secrets than the Goodwin Sands; how it is
that to his name who yesterday departed for the other world, we prefix
so significant and infidel a word, and yet do not thus entitle him, if
he but embarks for the remotest Indies of this living earth; why the
Life Insurance Companies pay death-forfeitures upon immortals; in what
eternal, unstirring paralysis, and deadly, hopeless trance, yet lies
antique Adam who died sixty round centuries ago; how it is that we
still refuse to be comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are
dwelling in unspeakable bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all
the dead; wherefore but the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a
whole city. All these things are not without their meanings.

But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these
dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.

It needs scarcely to be told, with what feelings, on the eve of a
Nantucket voyage, I regarded those marble tablets, and by the murky
light of that darkened, doleful day read the fate of the whalemen
who had gone before me. Yes, Ishmael, the same fate may be thine. But
somehow I grew merry again. Delightful inducements to embark, fine
chance for promotion, it seems--aye, a stove boat will make me an
immortal by brevet. Yes, there is death in this business of whaling--a
speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity. But what
then? Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death.
Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true
substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too
much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that
thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my
better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not
me. And therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove boat and
stove body when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot.

CHAPTER 8. The Pulpit.

I had not been seated very long ere a man of a certain venerable
robustness entered; immediately as the storm-pelted door flew back upon
admitting him, a quick regardful eyeing of him by all the congregation,
sufficiently attested that this fine old man was the chaplain. Yes, it
was the famous Father Mapple, so called by the whalemen, among whom he
was a very great favourite. He had been a sailor and a harpooneer in his
youth, but for many years past had dedicated his life to the ministry.
At the time I now write of, Father Mapple was in the hardy winter of a
healthy old age; that sort of old age which seems merging into a second
flowering youth, for among all the fissures of his wrinkles, there shone
certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom--the spring verdure
peeping forth even beneath February’s snow. No one having previously
heard his history, could for the first time behold Father Mapple without
the utmost interest, because there were certain engrafted clerical
peculiarities about him, imputable to that adventurous maritime life
he had led. When he entered I observed that he carried no umbrella, and
certainly had not come in his carriage, for his tarpaulin hat ran down
with melting sleet, and his great pilot cloth jacket seemed almost to
drag him to the floor with the weight of the water it had absorbed.
However, hat and coat and overshoes were one by one removed, and hung up
in a little space in an adjacent corner; when, arrayed in a decent suit,
he quietly approached the pulpit.

Like most old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a
regular stairs to such a height would, by its long angle with the floor,
seriously contract the already small area of the chapel, the architect,
it seemed, had acted upon the hint of Father Mapple, and finished the
pulpit without a stairs, substituting a perpendicular side ladder, like
those used in mounting a ship from a boat at sea. The wife of a whaling
captain had provided the chapel with a handsome pair of red worsted
man-ropes for this ladder, which, being itself nicely headed, and
stained with a mahogany colour, the whole contrivance, considering what
manner of chapel it was, seemed by no means in bad taste. Halting for
an instant at the foot of the ladder, and with both hands grasping the
ornamental knobs of the man-ropes, Father Mapple cast a look upwards,
and then with a truly sailor-like but still reverential dexterity, hand
over hand, mounted the steps as if ascending the main-top of his vessel.

The perpendicular parts of this side ladder, as is usually the case with
swinging ones, were of cloth-covered rope, only the rounds were of wood,
so that at every step there was a joint. At my first glimpse of the
pulpit, it had not escaped me that however convenient for a ship,
these joints in the present instance seemed unnecessary. For I was not
prepared to see Father Mapple after gaining the height, slowly turn
round, and stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder
step by step, till the whole was deposited within, leaving him
impregnable in his little Quebec.

I pondered some time without fully comprehending the reason for this.
Father Mapple enjoyed such a wide reputation for sincerity and sanctity,
that I could not suspect him of courting notoriety by any mere tricks
of the stage. No, thought I, there must be some sober reason for this
thing; furthermore, it must symbolize something unseen. Can it be,
then, that by that act of physical isolation, he signifies his spiritual
withdrawal for the time, from all outward worldly ties and connexions?
Yes, for replenished with the meat and wine of the word, to the faithful
man of God, this pulpit, I see, is a self-containing stronghold--a lofty
Ehrenbreitstein, with a perennial well of water within the walls.

But the side ladder was not the only strange feature of the place,
borrowed from the chaplain’s former sea-farings. Between the marble
cenotaphs on either hand of the pulpit, the wall which formed its back
was adorned with a large painting representing a gallant ship beating
against a terrible storm off a lee coast of black rocks and snowy
breakers. But high above the flying scud and dark-rolling clouds, there
floated a little isle of sunlight, from which beamed forth an angel’s
face; and this bright face shed a distinct spot of radiance upon the
ship’s tossed deck, something like that silver plate now inserted into
the Victory’s plank where Nelson fell. “Ah, noble ship,” the angel
seemed to say, “beat on, beat on, thou noble ship, and bear a hardy
helm; for lo! the sun is breaking through; the clouds are rolling
off--serenest azure is at hand.”

Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that
had achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in
the likeness of a ship’s bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on a
projecting piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship’s fiddle-headed

What could be more full of meaning?--for the pulpit is ever this earth’s
foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the
world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first
descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is
the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favourable winds.
Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete;
and the pulpit is its prow.

CHAPTER 9. The Sermon.

Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered
the scattered people to condense. “Starboard gangway, there! side away
to larboard--larboard gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!”

There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a
still slighter shuffling of women’s shoes, and all was quiet again, and
every eye on the preacher.

He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit’s bows, folded his large
brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered
a prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the
bottom of the sea.

This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of
a bell in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog--in such tones he
commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards
the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy--

     “The ribs and terrors in the whale,
     Arched over me a dismal gloom,
     While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
     And lift me deepening down to doom.

     “I saw the opening maw of hell,
     With endless pains and sorrows there;
     Which none but they that feel can tell--
     Oh, I was plunging to despair.

     “In black distress, I called my God,
     When I could scarce believe him mine,
     He bowed his ear to my complaints--
     No more the whale did me confine.

     “With speed he flew to my relief,
     As on a radiant dolphin borne;
     Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone
     The face of my Deliverer God.

     “My song for ever shall record
     That terrible, that joyful hour;
     I give the glory to my God,
     His all the mercy and the power.”

Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the
howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned
over the leaves of the Bible, and at last, folding his hand down upon
the proper page, said: “Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the
first chapter of Jonah--‘And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up

“Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters--four yarns--is one
of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what
depths of the soul does Jonah’s deep sealine sound! what a pregnant
lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the
fish’s belly! How billow-like and boisterously grand! We feel the floods
surging over us; we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters;
sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is about us! But WHAT is this
lesson that the book of Jonah teaches? Shipmates, it is a two-stranded
lesson; a lesson to us all as sinful men, and a lesson to me as a pilot
of the living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson to us all, because it
is a story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears, the
swift punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the deliverance and
joy of Jonah. As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of
Amittai was in his wilful disobedience of the command of God--never
mind now what that command was, or how conveyed--which he found a hard
command. But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to
do--remember that--and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to
persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in
this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.

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

“‘Who’s there?’ cries the Captain at his busy desk, hurriedly making
out his papers for the Customs--‘Who’s there?’ Oh! how that harmless
question mangles Jonah! For the instant he almost turns to flee again.
But he rallies. ‘I seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon
sail ye, sir?’ Thus far the busy Captain had not looked up to Jonah,
though the man now stands before him; but no sooner does he hear that
hollow voice, than he darts a scrutinizing glance. ‘We sail with the
next coming tide,’ at last he slowly answered, still intently eyeing
him. ‘No sooner, sir?’--‘Soon enough for any honest man that goes a
passenger.’ Ha! Jonah, that’s another stab. But he swiftly calls away
the Captain from that scent. ‘I’ll sail with ye,’--he says,--‘the
passage money how much is that?--I’ll pay now.’ For it is particularly
written, shipmates, as if it were a thing not to be overlooked in this
history, ‘that he paid the fare thereof’ ere the craft did sail. And
taken with the context, this is full of meaning.

“Now Jonah’s Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime
in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this
world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without
a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.
So Jonah’s Captain prepares to test the length of Jonah’s purse, ere he
judge him openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum; and it’s assented
to. Then the Captain knows that Jonah is a fugitive; but at the same
time resolves to help a flight that paves its rear with gold. Yet when
Jonah fairly takes out his purse, prudent suspicions still molest the
Captain. He rings every coin to find a counterfeit. Not a forger, any
way, he mutters; and Jonah is put down for his passage. ‘Point out my
state-room, Sir,’ says Jonah now, ‘I’m travel-weary; I need sleep.’
‘Thou lookest like it,’ says the Captain, ‘there’s thy room.’ Jonah
enters, and would lock the door, but the lock contains no key. Hearing
him foolishly fumbling there, the Captain laughs lowly to himself, and
mutters something about the doors of convicts’ cells being never allowed
to be locked within. All dressed and dusty as he is, Jonah throws
himself into his berth, and finds the little state-room ceiling almost
resting on his forehead. The air is close, and Jonah gasps. Then, in
that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship’s water-line, Jonah
feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale
shall hold him in the smallest of his bowels’ wards.

“Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly
oscillates in Jonah’s room; and the ship, heeling over towards the wharf
with the weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and all,
though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity with
reference to the room; though, in truth, infallibly straight itself, it
but made obvious the false, lying levels among which it hung. The lamp
alarms and frightens Jonah; as lying in his berth his tormented eyes
roll round the place, and this thus far successful fugitive finds no
refuge for his restless glance. But that contradiction in the lamp more
and more appals him. The floor, the ceiling, and the side, are all awry.
‘Oh! so my conscience hangs in me!’ he groans, ‘straight upwards, so it
burns; but the chambers of my soul are all in crookedness!’

“Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still
reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the
Roman race-horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as
one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish,
praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed; and at last amid
the whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the
man who bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and there’s naught
to staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in his berth, Jonah’s prodigy
of ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep.

“And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and
from the deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening,
glides to sea. That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded
smugglers! the contraband was Jonah. But the sea rebels; he will not
bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes on, the ship is like to
break. But now when the boatswain calls all hands to lighten her;
when boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard; when the wind
is shrieking, and the men are yelling, and every plank thunders with
trampling feet right over Jonah’s head; in all this raging tumult, Jonah
sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees no black sky and raging sea, feels not
the reeling timbers, and little hears he or heeds he the far rush of the
mighty whale, which even now with open mouth is cleaving the seas after
him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship--a
berth in the cabin as I have taken it, and was fast asleep. But the
frightened master comes to him, and shrieks in his dead ear, ‘What
meanest thou, O, sleeper! arise!’ Startled from his lethargy by that
direful cry, Jonah staggers to his feet, and stumbling to the deck,
grasps a shroud, to look out upon the sea. But at that moment he is
sprung upon by a panther billow leaping over the bulwarks. Wave after
wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding no speedy vent runs roaring
fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to drowning while yet afloat.
And ever, as the white moon shows her affrighted face from the steep
gullies in the blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the rearing
bowsprit pointing high upward, but soon beat downward again towards the
tormented deep.

“Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing
attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The sailors mark
him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him, and at last,
fully to test the truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven,
they fall to casting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was
upon them. The lot is Jonah’s; that discovered, then how furiously they
mob him with their questions. ‘What is thine occupation? Whence comest
thou? Thy country? What people? But mark now, my shipmates, the behavior
of poor Jonah. The eager mariners but ask him who he is, and where
from; whereas, they not only receive an answer to those questions,
but likewise another answer to a question not put by them, but the
unsolicited answer is forced from Jonah by the hard hand of God that is
upon him.

“‘I am a Hebrew,’ he cries--and then--‘I fear the Lord the God of Heaven
who hath made the sea and the dry land!’ Fear him, O Jonah? Aye, well
mightest thou fear the Lord God THEN! Straightway, he now goes on to
make a full confession; whereupon the mariners became more and more
appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet supplicating
God for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness of his
deserts,--when wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him and cast him
forth into the sea, for he knew that for HIS sake this great tempest
was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and seek by other means to
save the ship. But all in vain; the indignant gale howls louder;
then, with one hand raised invokingly to God, with the other they not
unreluctantly lay hold of Jonah.

“And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea;
when instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea
is still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth
water behind. He goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless
commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into
the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to all his ivory
teeth, like so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed unto
the Lord out of the fish’s belly. But observe his prayer, and learn a
weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and wail for
direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He
leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that
spite of all his pains and pangs, he will still look towards His holy
temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not
clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. And how pleasing to
God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in the eventual deliverance of
him from the sea and the whale. Shipmates, I do not place Jonah before
you to be copied for his sin but I do place him before you as a model
for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like

While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking,
slanting storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who,
when describing Jonah’s sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself.
His deep chest heaved as with a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed the
warring elements at work; and the thunders that rolled away from off his
swarthy brow, and the light leaping from his eye, made all his simple
hearers look on him with a quick fear that was strange to them.

There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the leaves
of the Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with closed
eyes, for the moment, seemed communing with God and himself.

But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head lowly,
with an aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these

“Shipmates, God has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press
upon me. I have read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson that
Jonah teaches to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to me,
for I am a greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly would I come down
from this mast-head and sit on the hatches there where you sit, and
listen as you listen, while some one of you reads ME that other and more
awful lesson which Jonah teaches to ME, as a pilot of the living God.
How being an anointed pilot-prophet, or speaker of true things, and
bidden by the Lord to sound those unwelcome truths in the ears of a
wicked Nineveh, Jonah, appalled at the hostility he should raise, fled
from his mission, and sought to escape his duty and his God by taking
ship at Joppa. But God is everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As we
have seen, God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down to
living gulfs of doom, and with swift slantings tore him along ‘into the
midst of the seas,’ where the eddying depths sucked him ten thousand
fathoms down, and ‘the weeds were wrapped about his head,’ and all the
watery world of woe bowled over him. Yet even then beyond the reach of
any plummet--‘out of the belly of hell’--when the whale grounded upon
the ocean’s utmost bones, even then, God heard the engulphed, repenting
prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto the fish; and from the
shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale came breeching
up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the delights of air and
earth; and ‘vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;’ when the word of the
Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and beaten--his ears, like
two sea-shells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean--Jonah
did the Almighty’s bidding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the
Truth to the face of Falsehood! That was it!

“This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of
the living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms from
Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God
has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than
to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe
to him who, in this world, courts not dishonour! Woe to him who would
not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him
who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is
himself a castaway!”

He dropped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his
face to them again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out with
a heavenly enthusiasm,--“But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of
every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight,
than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than
the kelson is low? Delight is to him--a far, far upward, and inward
delight--who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever
stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong
arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has
gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the
truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out
from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight,--top-gallant
delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his
God, and is only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the
waves of the billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake
from this sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness
will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final
breath--O Father!--chiefly known to me by Thy rod--mortal or immortal,
here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world’s, or
mine own. Yet this is nothing: I leave eternity to Thee; for what is man
that he should live out the lifetime of his God?”

He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered his face with
his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had departed,
and he was left alone in the place.

CHAPTER 10. A Bosom Friend.

Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there
quite alone; he having left the Chapel before the benediction some time.
He was sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the stove
hearth, and in one hand was holding close up to his face that little
negro idol of his; peering hard into its face, and with a jack-knife
gently whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to himself in his
heathenish way.

But being now interrupted, he put up the image; and pretty soon, going
to the table, took up a large book there, and placing it on his lap
began counting the pages with deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth
page--as I fancied--stopping a moment, looking vacantly around him, and
giving utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment. He
would then begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number
one each time, as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was
only by such a large number of fifties being found together, that his
astonishment at the multitude of pages was excited.

With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and
hideously marred about the face--at least to my taste--his countenance
yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot
hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw
the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes,
fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a
thousand devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing
about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim.
He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor.
Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved, his forehead was drawn
out in freer and brighter relief, and looked more expansive than it
otherwise would, this I will not venture to decide; but certain it was
his head was phrenologically an excellent one. It may seem ridiculous,
but it reminded me of General Washington’s head, as seen in the popular
busts of him. It had the same long regularly graded retreating slope
from above the brows, which were likewise very projecting, like two
long promontories thickly wooded on top. Queequeg was George Washington
cannibalistically developed.

Whilst I was thus closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be
looking out at the storm from the casement, he never heeded my presence,
never troubled himself with so much as a single glance; but appeared
wholly occupied with counting the pages of the marvellous book.
Considering how sociably we had been sleeping together the night
previous, and especially considering the affectionate arm I had found
thrown over me upon waking in the morning, I thought this indifference
of his very strange. But savages are strange beings; at times you do not
know exactly how to take them. At first they are overawing; their calm
self-collectedness of simplicity seems a Socratic wisdom. I had noticed
also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little, with the
other seamen in the inn. He made no advances whatever; appeared to have
no desire to enlarge the circle of his acquaintances. All this struck
me as mighty singular; yet, upon second thoughts, there was something
almost sublime in it. Here was a man some twenty thousand miles from
home, by the way of Cape Horn, that is--which was the only way he could
get there--thrown among people as strange to him as though he were in
the planet Jupiter; and yet he seemed entirely at his ease; preserving
the utmost serenity; content with his own companionship; always equal to
himself. Surely this was a touch of fine philosophy; though no doubt he
had never heard there was such a thing as that. But, perhaps, to be
true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so living or
so striving. So soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself
out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he
must have “broken his digester.”

As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that
mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then
only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms gathering
round the casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain;
the storm booming without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of
strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart
and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing
savage had redeemed it. There he sat, his very indifference speaking a
nature in which there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits.
Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel myself
mysteriously drawn towards him. And those same things that would have
repelled most others, they were the very magnets that thus drew me. I’ll
try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but
hollow courtesy. I drew my bench near him, and made some friendly signs
and hints, doing my best to talk with him meanwhile. At first he little
noticed these advances; but presently, upon my referring to his last
night’s hospitalities, he made out to ask me whether we were again to be
bedfellows. I told him yes; whereat I thought he looked pleased, perhaps
a little complimented.

We then turned over the book together, and I endeavored to explain to
him the purpose of the printing, and the meaning of the few pictures
that were in it. Thus I soon engaged his interest; and from that we went
to jabbering the best we could about the various outer sights to be seen
in this famous town. Soon I proposed a social smoke; and, producing
his pouch and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat
exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly
passing between us.

If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan’s
breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left
us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as
I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against
mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were
married; meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we were bosom friends;
he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In a countryman, this
sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing
to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would
not apply.

After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our room
together. He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his
enormous tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco, drew out
some thirty dollars in silver; then spreading them on the table, and
mechanically dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one of them
towards me, and said it was mine. I was going to remonstrate; but he
silenced me by pouring them into my trowsers’ pockets. I let them stay.
He then went about his evening prayers, took out his idol, and removed
the paper fireboard. By certain signs and symptoms, I thought he seemed
anxious for me to join him; but well knowing what was to follow, I
deliberated a moment whether, in case he invited me, I would comply or

I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible
Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in
worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do
you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and
earth--pagans and all included--can possibly be jealous of an
insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?--to do
the will of God--THAT is worship. And what is the will of God?--to do to
my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me--THAT is the
will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that
this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular
Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him
in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped
prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with
Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that
done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences
and all the world. But we did not go to sleep without some little chat.

How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential
disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very
bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie
and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’
honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg--a cosy, loving pair.

CHAPTER 11. Nightgown.

We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and
Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs
over mine, and then drawing them back; so entirely sociable and free
and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what
little nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt like
getting up again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.

Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position
began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves
sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us, leaning against the
head-board with our four knees drawn up close together, and our two
noses bending over them, as if our kneepans were warming-pans. We felt
very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors;
indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the
room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some
small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world
that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If
you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so
a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if,
like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown
of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general
consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this
reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which
is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this
sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and
your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the
one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time, when all at
once I thought I would open my eyes; for when between sheets, whether
by day or by night, and whether asleep or awake, I have a way of always
keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to concentrate the snugness
of being in bed. Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright
except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element
of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part. Upon
opening my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant and self-created
darkness into the imposed and coarse outer gloom of the unilluminated
twelve-o’clock-at-night, I experienced a disagreeable revulsion. Nor did
I at all object to the hint from Queequeg that perhaps it were best to
strike a light, seeing that we were so wide awake; and besides he felt
a strong desire to have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk. Be it said,
that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the
bed the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when
love once comes to bend them. For now I liked nothing better than to
have Queequeg smoking by me, even in bed, because he seemed to be full
of such serene household joy then. I no more felt unduly concerned for
the landlord’s policy of insurance. I was only alive to the condensed
confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real
friend. With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed
the Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew over us a
blue hanging tester of smoke, illuminated by the flame of the new-lit

Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled the savage away to far
distant scenes, I know not, but he now spoke of his native island; and,
eager to hear his history, I begged him to go on and tell it. He gladly
complied. Though at the time I but ill comprehended not a few of his
words, yet subsequent disclosures, when I had become more familiar with
his broken phraseology, now enable me to present the whole story such as
it may prove in the mere skeleton I give.

CHAPTER 12. Biographical.

Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and
South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.

When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in
a grass clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green
sapling; even then, in Queequeg’s ambitious soul, lurked a strong desire
to see something more of Christendom than a specimen whaler or two. His
father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the
maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable
warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins--royal stuff; though
sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his
untutored youth.

A Sag Harbor ship visited his father’s bay, and Queequeg sought a
passage to Christian lands. But the ship, having her full complement of
seamen, spurned his suit; and not all the King his father’s influence
could prevail. But Queequeg vowed a vow. Alone in his canoe, he paddled
off to a distant strait, which he knew the ship must pass through when
she quitted the island. On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low
tongue of land, covered with mangrove thickets that grew out into the
water. Hiding his canoe, still afloat, among these thickets, with its
prow seaward, he sat down in the stern, paddle low in hand; and when the
ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with
one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up
the chains; and throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled
a ring-bolt there, and swore not to let it go, though hacked in pieces.

In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a
cutlass over his naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King, and
Queequeg budged not. Struck by his desperate dauntlessness, and his wild
desire to visit Christendom, the captain at last relented, and told
him he might make himself at home. But this fine young savage--this sea
Prince of Wales, never saw the Captain’s cabin. They put him down among
the sailors, and made a whaleman of him. But like Czar Peter content to
toil in the shipyards of foreign cities, Queequeg disdained no seeming
ignominy, if thereby he might happily gain the power of enlightening his
untutored countrymen. For at bottom--so he told me--he was actuated by a
profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to
make his people still happier than they were; and more than that,
still better than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon
convinced him that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked;
infinitely more so, than all his father’s heathens. Arrived at last in
old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on
to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also,
poor Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it’s a wicked world in
all meridians; I’ll die a pagan.

And thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these Christians,
wore their clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish. Hence the queer
ways about him, though now some time from home.

By hints, I asked him whether he did not propose going back, and having
a coronation; since he might now consider his father dead and gone, he
being very old and feeble at the last accounts. He answered no, not yet;
and added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians, had
unfitted him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan
Kings before him. But by and by, he said, he would return,--as soon as
he felt himself baptized again. For the nonce, however, he proposed to
sail about, and sow his wild oats in all four oceans. They had made a
harpooneer of him, and that barbed iron was in lieu of a sceptre now.

I asked him what might be his immediate purpose, touching his future
movements. He answered, to go to sea again, in his old vocation. Upon
this, I told him that whaling was my own design, and informed him of my
intention to sail out of Nantucket, as being the most promising port for
an adventurous whaleman to embark from. He at once resolved to accompany
me to that island, ship aboard the same vessel, get into the same watch,
the same boat, the same mess with me, in short to share my every hap;
with both my hands in his, boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds.
To all this I joyously assented; for besides the affection I now felt
for Queequeg, he was an experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not
fail to be of great usefulness to one, who, like me, was wholly ignorant
of the mysteries of whaling, though well acquainted with the sea, as
known to merchant seamen.

His story being ended with his pipe’s last dying puff, Queequeg embraced
me, pressed his forehead against mine, and blowing out the light, we
rolled over from each other, this way and that, and very soon were

CHAPTER 13. Wheelbarrow.

Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber,
for a block, I settled my own and comrade’s bill; using, however, my
comrade’s money. The grinning landlord, as well as the boarders, seemed
amazingly tickled at the sudden friendship which had sprung up between
me and Queequeg--especially as Peter Coffin’s cock and bull stories
about him had previously so much alarmed me concerning the very person
whom I now companied with.

We borrowed a wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own
poor carpet-bag, and Queequeg’s canvas sack and hammock, away we went
down to “the Moss,” the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the
wharf. As we were going along the people stared; not at Queequeg
so much--for they were used to seeing cannibals like him in their
streets,--but at seeing him and me upon such confidential terms. But we
heeded them not, going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and Queequeg
now and then stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon barbs. I asked
him why he carried such a troublesome thing with him ashore, and
whether all whaling ships did not find their own harpoons. To this, in
substance, he replied, that though what I hinted was true enough, yet
he had a particular affection for his own harpoon, because it was of
assured stuff, well tried in many a mortal combat, and deeply intimate
with the hearts of whales. In short, like many inland reapers
and mowers, who go into the farmers’ meadows armed with their own
scythes--though in no wise obliged to furnish them--even so, Queequeg,
for his own private reasons, preferred his own harpoon.

Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny story about
the first wheelbarrow he had ever seen. It was in Sag Harbor. The owners
of his ship, it seems, had lent him one, in which to carry his
heavy chest to his boarding house. Not to seem ignorant about the
thing--though in truth he was entirely so, concerning the precise way in
which to manage the barrow--Queequeg puts his chest upon it; lashes it
fast; and then shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf. “Why,”
 said I, “Queequeg, you might have known better than that, one would
think. Didn’t the people laugh?”

Upon this, he told me another story. The people of his island of
Rokovoko, it seems, at their wedding feasts express the fragrant water
of young cocoanuts into a large stained calabash like a punchbowl; and
this punchbowl always forms the great central ornament on the braided
mat where the feast is held. Now a certain grand merchant ship once
touched at Rokovoko, and its commander--from all accounts, a very
stately punctilious gentleman, at least for a sea captain--this
commander was invited to the wedding feast of Queequeg’s sister, a
pretty young princess just turned of ten. Well; when all the wedding
guests were assembled at the bride’s bamboo cottage, this Captain
marches in, and being assigned the post of honour, placed himself over
against the punchbowl, and between the High Priest and his majesty the
King, Queequeg’s father. Grace being said,--for those people have their
grace as well as we--though Queequeg told me that unlike us, who at such
times look downwards to our platters, they, on the contrary, copying the
ducks, glance upwards to the great Giver of all feasts--Grace, I say,
being said, the High Priest opens the banquet by the immemorial ceremony
of the island; that is, dipping his consecrated and consecrating fingers
into the bowl before the blessed beverage circulates. Seeing himself
placed next the Priest, and noting the ceremony, and thinking
himself--being Captain of a ship--as having plain precedence over a
mere island King, especially in the King’s own house--the Captain coolly
proceeds to wash his hands in the punchbowl;--taking it I suppose for a
huge finger-glass. “Now,” said Queequeg, “what you tink now?--Didn’t our
people laugh?”

At last, passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood on board the schooner.
Hoisting sail, it glided down the Acushnet river. On one side, New
Bedford rose in terraces of streets, their ice-covered trees all
glittering in the clear, cold air. Huge hills and mountains of casks on
casks were piled upon her wharves, and side by side the world-wandering
whale ships lay silent and safely moored at last; while from others
came a sound of carpenters and coopers, with blended noises of fires and
forges to melt the pitch, all betokening that new cruises were on the
start; that one most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a
second; and a second ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever
and for aye. Such is the endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all
earthly effort.

Gaining the more open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little
Moss tossed the quick foam from her bows, as a young colt his snortings.
How I snuffed that Tartar air!--how I spurned that turnpike earth!--that
common highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and
hoofs; and turned me to admire the magnanimity of the sea which will
permit no records.

At the same foam-fountain, Queequeg seemed to drink and reel with me.
His dusky nostrils swelled apart; he showed his filed and pointed teeth.
On, on we flew; and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to the
blast; ducked and dived her bows as a slave before the Sultan. Sideways
leaning, we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a wire; the
two tall masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes. So full of
this reeling scene were we, as we stood by the plunging bowsprit, that
for some time we did not notice the jeering glances of the passengers, a
lubber-like assembly, who marvelled that two fellow beings should be so
companionable; as though a white man were anything more dignified than a
whitewashed negro. But there were some boobies and bumpkins there, who,
by their intense greenness, must have come from the heart and centre of
all verdure. Queequeg caught one of these young saplings mimicking him
behind his back. I thought the bumpkin’s hour of doom was come. Dropping
his harpoon, the brawny savage caught him in his arms, and by an almost
miraculous dexterity and strength, sent him high up bodily into the air;
then slightly tapping his stern in mid-somerset, the fellow landed with
bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg, turning his back upon him,
lighted his tomahawk pipe and passed it to me for a puff.

“Capting! Capting!” yelled the bumpkin, running towards that officer;
“Capting, Capting, here’s the devil.”

“Hallo, _you_ sir,” cried the Captain, a gaunt rib of the sea, stalking
up to Queequeg, “what in thunder do you mean by that? Don’t you know you
might have killed that chap?”

“What him say?” said Queequeg, as he mildly turned to me.

“He say,” said I, “that you came near kill-e that man there,” pointing
to the still shivering greenhorn.

“Kill-e,” cried Queequeg, twisting his tattooed face into an unearthly
expression of disdain, “ah! him bevy small-e fish-e; Queequeg no kill-e
so small-e fish-e; Queequeg kill-e big whale!”

“Look you,” roared the Captain, “I’ll kill-e YOU, you cannibal, if you
try any more of your tricks aboard here; so mind your eye.”

But it so happened just then, that it was high time for the Captain to
mind his own eye. The prodigious strain upon the main-sail had parted
the weather-sheet, and the tremendous boom was now flying from side to
side, completely sweeping the entire after part of the deck. The poor
fellow whom Queequeg had handled so roughly, was swept overboard; all
hands were in a panic; and to attempt snatching at the boom to stay it,
seemed madness. It flew from right to left, and back again, almost
in one ticking of a watch, and every instant seemed on the point of
snapping into splinters. Nothing was done, and nothing seemed capable of
being done; those on deck rushed towards the bows, and stood eyeing the
boom as if it were the lower jaw of an exasperated whale. In the
midst of this consternation, Queequeg dropped deftly to his knees, and
crawling under the path of the boom, whipped hold of a rope, secured one
end to the bulwarks, and then flinging the other like a lasso, caught it
round the boom as it swept over his head, and at the next jerk, the spar
was that way trapped, and all was safe. The schooner was run into the
wind, and while the hands were clearing away the stern boat, Queequeg,
stripped to the waist, darted from the side with a long living arc of
a leap. For three minutes or more he was seen swimming like a dog,
throwing his long arms straight out before him, and by turns revealing
his brawny shoulders through the freezing foam. I looked at the grand
and glorious fellow, but saw no one to be saved. The greenhorn had gone
down. Shooting himself perpendicularly from the water, Queequeg, now
took an instant’s glance around him, and seeming to see just how matters
were, dived down and disappeared. A few minutes more, and he rose again,
one arm still striking out, and with the other dragging a lifeless form.
The boat soon picked them up. The poor bumpkin was restored. All hands
voted Queequeg a noble trump; the captain begged his pardon. From that
hour I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle; yea, till poor Queequeg took
his last long dive.

Was there ever such unconsciousness? He did not seem to think that he at
all deserved a medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies. He only
asked for water--fresh water--something to wipe the brine off; that
done, he put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against the
bulwarks, and mildly eyeing those around him, seemed to be saying
to himself--“It’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We
cannibals must help these Christians.”

CHAPTER 14. Nantucket.

Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning; so, after a
fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket.

Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of
the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely
than the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it--a mere hillock, and elbow of
sand; all beach, without a background. There is more sand there than
you would use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper. Some
gamesome wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they
don’t grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have
to send beyond seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that
pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true
cross in Rome; that people there plant toadstools before their houses,
to get under the shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes an
oasis, three blades in a day’s walk a prairie; that they wear quicksand
shoes, something like Laplander snow-shoes; that they are so shut up,
belted about, every way inclosed, surrounded, and made an utter island
of by the ocean, that to their very chairs and tables small clams will
sometimes be found adhering, as to the backs of sea turtles. But these
extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no Illinois.

Look now at the wondrous traditional story of how this island was
settled by the red-men. Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle
swooped down upon the New England coast, and carried off an infant
Indian in his talons. With loud lament the parents saw their child borne
out of sight over the wide waters. They resolved to follow in the same
direction. Setting out in their canoes, after a perilous passage they
discovered the island, and there they found an empty ivory casket,--the
poor little Indian’s skeleton.

What wonder, then, that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should take
to the sea for a livelihood! They first caught crabs and quohogs in
the sand; grown bolder, they waded out with nets for mackerel; more
experienced, they pushed off in boats and captured cod; and at last,
launching a navy of great ships on the sea, explored this watery world;
put an incessant belt of circumnavigations round it; peeped in
at Behring’s Straits; and in all seasons and all oceans declared
everlasting war with the mightiest animated mass that has survived the
flood; most monstrous and most mountainous! That Himmalehan, salt-sea
Mastodon, clothed with such portentousness of unconscious power, that
his very panics are more to be dreaded than his most fearless and
malicious assaults!

And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits, issuing from
their ant-hill in the sea, overrun and conquered the watery world like
so many Alexanders; parcelling out among them the Atlantic, Pacific, and
Indian oceans, as the three pirate powers did Poland. Let America add
Mexico to Texas, and pile Cuba upon Canada; let the English overswarm
all India, and hang out their blazing banner from the sun; two thirds
of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea is his; he
owns it, as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a right of
way through it. Merchant ships are but extension bridges; armed ones but
floating forts; even pirates and privateers, though following the sea
as highwaymen the road, they but plunder other ships, other fragments of
the land like themselves, without seeking to draw their living from the
bottomless deep itself. The Nantucketer, he alone resides and riots on
the sea; he alone, in Bible language, goes down to it in ships; to and
fro ploughing it as his own special plantation. THERE is his home; THERE
lies his business, which a Noah’s flood would not interrupt, though it
overwhelmed all the millions in China. He lives on the sea, as prairie
cocks in the prairie; he hides among the waves, he climbs them as
chamois hunters climb the Alps. For years he knows not the land; so
that when he comes to it at last, it smells like another world, more
strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman. With the landless gull,
that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between billows;
so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails,
and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush herds of
walruses and whales.

CHAPTER 15. Chowder.

It was quite late in the evening when the little Moss came snugly
to anchor, and Queequeg and I went ashore; so we could attend to no
business that day, at least none but a supper and a bed. The landlord of
the Spouter-Inn had recommended us to his cousin Hosea Hussey of the
Try Pots, whom he asserted to be the proprietor of one of the best kept
hotels in all Nantucket, and moreover he had assured us that Cousin
Hosea, as he called him, was famous for his chowders. In short, he
plainly hinted that we could not possibly do better than try pot-luck at
the Try Pots. But the directions he had given us about keeping a yellow
warehouse on our starboard hand till we opened a white church to the
larboard, and then keeping that on the larboard hand till we made a
corner three points to the starboard, and that done, then ask the first
man we met where the place was: these crooked directions of his very
much puzzled us at first, especially as, at the outset, Queequeg
insisted that the yellow warehouse--our first point of departure--must
be left on the larboard hand, whereas I had understood Peter Coffin to
say it was on the starboard. However, by dint of beating about a little
in the dark, and now and then knocking up a peaceable inhabitant
to inquire the way, we at last came to something which there was no

Two enormous wooden pots painted black, and suspended by asses’ ears,
swung from the cross-trees of an old top-mast, planted in front of an
old doorway. The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the other
side, so that this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows.
Perhaps I was over sensitive to such impressions at the time, but I
could not help staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving. A sort of
crick was in my neck as I gazed up to the two remaining horns; yes, TWO
of them, one for Queequeg, and one for me. It’s ominous, thinks I. A
Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones
staring at me in the whalemen’s chapel; and here a gallows! and a pair
of prodigious black pots too! Are these last throwing out oblique hints
touching Tophet?

I was called from these reflections by the sight of a freckled woman
with yellow hair and a yellow gown, standing in the porch of the inn,
under a dull red lamp swinging there, that looked much like an injured
eye, and carrying on a brisk scolding with a man in a purple woollen

“Get along with ye,” said she to the man, “or I’ll be combing ye!”

“Come on, Queequeg,” said I, “all right. There’s Mrs. Hussey.”

And so it turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey being from home, but leaving
Mrs. Hussey entirely competent to attend to all his affairs. Upon
making known our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing
further scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and
seating us at a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded
repast, turned round to us and said--“Clam or Cod?”

“What’s that about Cods, ma’am?” said I, with much politeness.

“Clam or Cod?” she repeated.

“A clam for supper? a cold clam; is THAT what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?”
 says I, “but that’s a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter
time, ain’t it, Mrs. Hussey?”

But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple
Shirt, who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing
but the word “clam,” Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to
the kitchen, and bawling out “clam for two,” disappeared.

“Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make out a supper for us
both on one clam?”

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the
apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder
came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends!
hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than
hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into
little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned
with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty
voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food
before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched
it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking
me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try
a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word
“cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the
savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good
time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.

We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I
to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head?
What’s that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people? “But look,
Queequeg, ain’t that a live eel in your bowl? Where’s your harpoon?”

Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved
its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for
breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you
began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area
before the house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished
necklace of codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books
bound in superior old shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk,
too, which I could not at all account for, till one morning happening
to take a stroll along the beach among some fishermen’s boats, I saw
Hosea’s brindled cow feeding on fish remnants, and marching along the
sand with each foot in a cod’s decapitated head, looking very slip-shod,
I assure ye.

Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey
concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about to precede
me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm, and demanded his
harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers. “Why not?” said I;
“every true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon--but why not?” “Because
it’s dangerous,” says she. “Ever since young Stiggs coming from that
unfort’nt v’y’ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half, with
only three barrels of _ile_, was found dead in my first floor back, with
his harpoon in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to take
sich dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg” (for
she had learned his name), “I will just take this here iron, and keep
it for you till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow for
breakfast, men?”

“Both,” says I; “and let’s have a couple of smoked herring by way of

CHAPTER 16. The Ship.

In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise and
no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had been
diligently consulting Yojo--the name of his black little god--and Yojo
had told him two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon it
everyway, that instead of our going together among the whaling-fleet in
harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I say, Yojo
earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship should rest wholly
with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us; and, in order to
do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which, if left to myself, I,
Ishmael, should infallibly light upon, for all the world as though it
had turned out by chance; and in that vessel I must immediately ship
myself, for the present irrespective of Queequeg.

I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great
confidence in the excellence of Yojo’s judgment and surprising forecast
of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as a rather good
sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole, but in all
cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs.

Now, this plan of Queequeg’s, or rather Yojo’s, touching the selection
of our craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a little relied
upon Queequeg’s sagacity to point out the whaler best fitted to carry
us and our fortunes securely. But as all my remonstrances produced
no effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged to acquiesce; and accordingly
prepared to set about this business with a determined rushing sort
of energy and vigor, that should quickly settle that trifling little
affair. Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our
little bedroom--for it seemed that it was some sort of Lent or Ramadan,
or day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer with Queequeg and Yojo that
day; HOW it was I never could find out, for, though I applied myself
to it several times, I never could master his liturgies and XXXIX
Articles--leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his tomahawk pipe, and Yojo
warming himself at his sacrificial fire of shavings, I sallied out among
the shipping. After much prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries,
I learnt that there were three ships up for three-years’ voyages--The
Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the Pequod. DEVIL-DAM, I do not know the
origin of; TIT-BIT is obvious; PEQUOD, you will no doubt remember, was
the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians; now extinct
as the ancient Medes. I peered and pryed about the Devil-dam; from her,
hopped over to the Tit-bit; and finally, going on board the Pequod,
looked around her for a moment, and then decided that this was the very
ship for us.

You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I
know;--square-toed luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box
galliots, and what not; but take my word for it, you never saw such a
rare old craft as this same rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old
school, rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed look
about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms
of all four oceans, her old hull’s complexion was darkened like a French
grenadier’s, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable
bows looked bearded. Her masts--cut somewhere on the coast of Japan,
where her original ones were lost overboard in a gale--her masts stood
stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Cologne. Her
ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped
flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Becket bled. But to all these
her old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features, pertaining
to the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed.
Old Captain Peleg, many years her chief-mate, before he commanded
another vessel of his own, and now a retired seaman, and one of the
principal owners of the Pequod,--this old Peleg, during the term of his
chief-mateship, had built upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid
it, all over, with a quaintness both of material and device, unmatched
by anything except it be Thorkill-Hake’s carved buckler or bedstead. She
was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with
pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of
a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All
round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous
jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for
pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not
through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of
sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported
there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved
from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe. The helmsman who
steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the Tartar, when he holds
back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw. A noble craft, but somehow a
most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.

Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority,
in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I saw
nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of tent, or
rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It seemed only
a temporary erection used in port. It was of a conical shape, some ten
feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber black bone taken
from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-whale.
Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of these slabs laced
together, mutually sloped towards each other, and at the apex united in
a tufted point, where the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro like the
top-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem’s head. A triangular opening
faced towards the bows of the ship, so that the insider commanded a
complete view forward.

And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who
by his aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and
the ship’s work suspended, was now enjoying respite from the burden of
command. He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all
over with curious carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a
stout interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was

There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance of
the elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen,
and heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker style;
only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest
wrinkles interlacing round his eyes, which must have arisen from
his continual sailings in many hard gales, and always looking to
windward;--for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed
together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.

“Is this the Captain of the Pequod?” said I, advancing to the door of
the tent.

“Supposing it be the captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?”
 he demanded.

“I was thinking of shipping.”

“Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer--ever been in a
stove boat?”

“No, Sir, I never have.”

“Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say--eh?

“Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn. I’ve been several
voyages in the merchant service, and I think that--”

“Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me. Dost see that
leg?--I’ll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of
the marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed! I suppose now
ye feel considerable proud of having served in those marchant ships.
But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?--it looks
a little suspicious, don’t it, eh?--Hast not been a pirate, hast
thou?--Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?--Dost not think of
murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?”

I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the mask
of these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman, as an insulated
Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather
distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the

“But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I think of
shipping ye.”

“Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world.”

“Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?”

“Who is Captain Ahab, sir?”

“Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of this ship.”

“I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the Captain himself.”

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

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

“Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured,
chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a
boat!--ah, ah!”

I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched at
the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly as I
could, “What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could I know
there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale, though indeed
I might have inferred as much from the simple fact of the accident.”

“Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d’ye see; thou
dost not talk shark a bit. SURE, ye’ve been to sea before now; sure of

“Sir,” said I, “I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in the

“Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant
service--don’t aggravate me--I won’t have it. But let us understand each
other. I have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye yet feel
inclined for it?”

“I do, sir.”

“Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live whale’s
throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!”

“I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to be
got rid of, that is; which I don’t take to be the fact.”

“Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find
out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to
see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just
step forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back
to me and tell me what ye see there.”

For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not
knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest. But
concentrating all his crow’s feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg started
me on the errand.

Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the
ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely
pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but
exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I
could see.

“Well, what’s the report?” said Peleg when I came back; “what did ye

“Not much,” I replied--“nothing but water; considerable horizon though,
and there’s a squall coming up, I think.”

“Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go
round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can’t ye see the world where
you stand?”

I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the
Pequod was as good a ship as any--I thought the best--and all this I now
repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed his willingness
to ship me.

“And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off,” he added--“come
along with ye.” And so saying, he led the way below deck into the cabin.

Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and
surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along with
Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the other
shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports, being held by a crowd
of old annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards; each
owning about the value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a nail
or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest their money in whaling
vessels, the same way that you do yours in approved state stocks
bringing in good interest.

Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a
Quaker, the island having been originally settled by that sect; and to
this day its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon measure the
peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously modified
by things altogether alien and heterogeneous. For some of these same
Quakers are the most sanguinary of all sailors and whale-hunters. They
are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance.

So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with Scripture
names--a singularly common fashion on the island--and in childhood
naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of the Quaker
idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless adventure
of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these unoutgrown
peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not unworthy a
Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things
unite in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular brain
and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion
of many long night-watches in the remotest waters, and beneath
constellations never seen here at the north, been led to think
untraditionally and independently; receiving all nature’s sweet or
savage impressions fresh from her own virgin voluntary and confiding
breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some help from accidental
advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty language--that man makes
one in a whole nation’s census--a mighty pageant creature, formed for
noble tragedies. Nor will it at all detract from him, dramatically
regarded, if either by birth or other circumstances, he have what seems
a half wilful overruling morbidness at the bottom of his nature. For all
men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure
of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease. But,
as yet we have not to do with such an one, but with quite another; and
still a man, who, if indeed peculiar, it only results again from another
phase of the Quaker, modified by individual circumstances.

Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman.
But unlike Captain Peleg--who cared not a rush for what are called
serious things, and indeed deemed those self-same serious things the
veriest of all trifles--Captain Bildad had not only been originally
educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all
his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many unclad, lovely island
creatures, round the Horn--all that had not moved this native born
Quaker one single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his
vest. Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack of
common consistency about worthy Captain Peleg. Though refusing, from
conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet himself
had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe
to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns
upon tuns of leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his
days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do
not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably
he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s
religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This
world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in short clothes
of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied waistcoat;
from that becoming boat-header, chief-mate, and captain, and finally a
ship owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded his adventurous
career by wholly retiring from active life at the goodly age of
sixty, and dedicating his remaining days to the quiet receiving of his
well-earned income.

Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an
incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard
task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a
curious story, that when he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his crew,
upon arriving home, were mostly all carried ashore to the hospital, sore
exhausted and worn out. For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was
certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used to swear,
though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate
quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When Bildad was a
chief-mate, to have his drab-coloured eye intently looking at you, made
you feel completely nervous, till you could clutch something--a hammer
or a marling-spike, and go to work like mad, at something or other,
never mind what. Indolence and idleness perished before him. His own
person was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his
long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh, no superfluous beard,
his chin having a soft, economical nap to it, like the worn nap of his
broad-brimmed hat.

Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I
followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space between the decks
was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always sat so,
and never leaned, and this to save his coat tails. His broad-brim was
placed beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was
buttoned up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in
reading from a ponderous volume.

“Bildad,” cried Captain Peleg, “at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have been
studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my certain
knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?”

As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate,
Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up, and
seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.

“He says he’s our man, Bildad,” said Peleg, “he wants to ship.”

“Dost thee?” said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.

“I dost,” said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.

“What do ye think of him, Bildad?” said Peleg.

“He’ll do,” said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away at
his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.

I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg,
his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I said
nothing, only looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a chest,
and drawing forth the ship’s articles, placed pen and ink before him,
and seated himself at a little table. I began to think it was high time
to settle with myself at what terms I would be willing to engage for the
voyage. I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid no
wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain shares of
the profits called lays, and that these lays were proportioned to the
degree of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the ship’s
company. I was also aware that being a green hand at whaling, my own
lay would not be very large; but considering that I was used to the sea,
could steer a ship, splice a rope, and all that, I made no doubt that
from all I had heard I should be offered at least the 275th lay--that
is, the 275th part of the clear net proceeds of the voyage, whatever
that might eventually amount to. And though the 275th lay was what they
call a rather LONG LAY, yet it was better than nothing; and if we had a
lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I would wear out
on it, not to speak of my three years’ beef and board, for which I would
not have to pay one stiver.

It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely
fortune--and so it was, a very poor way indeed. But I am one of those
that never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite content if the
world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am putting up at this grim
sign of the Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole, I thought that the 275th lay
would be about the fair thing, but would not have been surprised had I
been offered the 200th, considering I was of a broad-shouldered make.

But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about
receiving a generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had heard
something of both Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old crony Bildad;
how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod, therefore
the other and more inconsiderable and scattered owners, left nearly the
whole management of the ship’s affairs to these two. And I did not know
but what the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty deal to say about
shipping hands, especially as I now found him on board the Pequod,
quite at home there in the cabin, and reading his Bible as if at his
own fireside. Now while Peleg was vainly trying to mend a pen with his
jack-knife, old Bildad, to my no small surprise, considering that he was
such an interested party in these proceedings; Bildad never heeded
us, but went on mumbling to himself out of his book, “LAY not up for
yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth--”

“Well, Captain Bildad,” interrupted Peleg, “what d’ye say, what lay
shall we give this young man?”

“Thou knowest best,” was the sepulchral reply, “the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh wouldn’t be too much, would it?--‘where moth and rust do
corrupt, but LAY--’”

LAY, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for one,
shall not LAY up many LAYS here below, where moth and rust do corrupt.
It was an exceedingly LONG LAY that, indeed; and though from the
magnitude of the figure it might at first deceive a landsman, yet
the slightest consideration will show that though seven hundred and
seventy-seven is a pretty large number, yet, when you come to make
a TEENTH of it, you will then see, I say, that the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh part of a farthing is a good deal less than seven
hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloons; and so I thought at the time.

“Why, blast your eyes, Bildad,” cried Peleg, “thou dost not want to
swindle this young man! he must have more than that.”

“Seven hundred and seventy-seventh,” again said Bildad, without lifting
his eyes; and then went on mumbling--“for where your treasure is, there
will your heart be also.”

“I am going to put him down for the three hundredth,” said Peleg, “do ye
hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say.”

Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him said,
“Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou must consider the
duty thou owest to the other owners of this ship--widows and orphans,
many of them--and that if we too abundantly reward the labors of this
young man, we may be taking the bread from those widows and those
orphans. The seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, Captain Peleg.”

“Thou Bildad!” roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the
cabin. “Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these
matters, I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be
heavy enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape

“Captain Peleg,” said Bildad steadily, “thy conscience may be drawing
ten inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can’t tell; but as thou art still
an impenitent man, Captain Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy conscience be
but a leaky one; and will in the end sink thee foundering down to the
fiery pit, Captain Peleg.”

“Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing, ye
insult me. It’s an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature that
he’s bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again to me, and
start my soul-bolts, but I’ll--I’ll--yes, I’ll swallow a live goat with
all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye canting, drab-coloured
son of a wooden gun--a straight wake with ye!”

As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a marvellous
oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded him.

Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and
responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up
all idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and temporarily
commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad, who,
I made no doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the awakened
wrath of Peleg. But to my astonishment, he sat down again on the
transom very quietly, and seemed to have not the slightest intention of
withdrawing. He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg and his ways. As
for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had, there seemed no more
left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb, though he twitched a
little as if still nervously agitated. “Whew!” he whistled at last--“the
squall’s gone off to leeward, I think. Bildad, thou used to be good at
sharpening a lance, mend that pen, will ye. My jack-knife here needs
the grindstone. That’s he; thank ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man,
Ishmael’s thy name, didn’t ye say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael,
for the three hundredth lay.”

“Captain Peleg,” said I, “I have a friend with me who wants to ship
too--shall I bring him down to-morrow?”

“To be sure,” said Peleg. “Fetch him along, and we’ll look at him.”

“What lay does he want?” groaned Bildad, glancing up from the book in
which he had again been burying himself.

“Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad,” said Peleg. “Has he ever
whaled it any?” turning to me.

“Killed more whales than I can count, Captain Peleg.”

“Well, bring him along then.”

And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that I
had done a good morning’s work, and that the Pequod was the identical
ship that Yojo had provided to carry Queequeg and me round the Cape.

But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the Captain
with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though, indeed, in
many cases, a whale-ship will be completely fitted out, and receive all
her crew on board, ere the captain makes himself visible by arriving
to take command; for sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the
shore intervals at home so exceedingly brief, that if the captain have
a family, or any absorbing concernment of that sort, he does not trouble
himself much about his ship in port, but leaves her to the owners till
all is ready for sea. However, it is always as well to have a look at
him before irrevocably committing yourself into his hands. Turning back
I accosted Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.

“And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It’s all right enough; thou
art shipped.”

“Yes, but I should like to see him.”

“But I don’t think thou wilt be able to at present. I don’t know exactly
what’s the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the house; a sort
of sick, and yet he don’t look so. In fact, he ain’t sick; but no, he
isn’t well either. Any how, young man, he won’t always see me, so I
don’t suppose he will thee. He’s a queer man, Captain Ahab--so some
think--but a good one. Oh, thou’lt like him well enough; no fear, no
fear. He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak
much; but, when he does speak, then you may well listen. Mark ye, be
forewarned; Ahab’s above the common; Ahab’s been in colleges, as well as
‘mong the cannibals; been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed
his fiery lance in mightier, stranger foes than whales. His lance!
aye, the keenest and the surest that out of all our isle! Oh! he ain’t
Captain Bildad; no, and he ain’t Captain Peleg; HE’S AHAB, boy; and Ahab
of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!”

“And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did
they not lick his blood?”

“Come hither to me--hither, hither,” said Peleg, with a significance in
his eye that almost startled me. “Look ye, lad; never say that on board
the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself.
‘Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died
when he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old squaw Tistig, at
Gayhead, said that the name would somehow prove prophetic. And, perhaps,
other fools like her may tell thee the same. I wish to warn thee. It’s a
lie. I know Captain Ahab well; I’ve sailed with him as mate years ago;
I know what he is--a good man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but
a swearing good man--something like me--only there’s a good deal more of
him. Aye, aye, I know that he was never very jolly; and I know that on
the passage home, he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but it
was the sharp shooting pains in his bleeding stump that brought that
about, as any one might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost
his leg last voyage by that accursed whale, he’s been a kind of
moody--desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass
off. And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man, it’s
better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one. So
good-bye to thee--and wrong not Captain Ahab, because he happens to
have a wicked name. Besides, my boy, he has a wife--not three voyages
wedded--a sweet, resigned girl. Think of that; by that sweet girl that
old man has a child: hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless
harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his

As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been
incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain
wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the time,
I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don’t know what,
unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a strange
awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all describe, was
not exactly awe; I do not know what it was. But I felt it; and it did
not disincline me towards him; though I felt impatience at what seemed
like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to me then. However,
my thoughts were at length carried in other directions, so that for the
present dark Ahab slipped my mind.

CHAPTER 17. The Ramadan.

As Queequeg’s Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue all
day, I did not choose to disturb him till towards night-fall; for I
cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations,
never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart to undervalue
even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool; or those other
creatures in certain parts of our earth, who with a degree of footmanism
quite unprecedented in other planets, bow down before the torso of
a deceased landed proprietor merely on account of the inordinate
possessions yet owned and rented in his name.

I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these
things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals,
pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these
subjects. There was Queequeg, now, certainly entertaining the most
absurd notions about Yojo and his Ramadan;--but what of that? Queequeg
thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to be content;
and there let him rest. All our arguing with him would not avail; let
him be, I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all--Presbyterians and Pagans
alike--for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and
sadly need mending.

Towards evening, when I felt assured that all his performances and
rituals must be over, I went up to his room and knocked at the door; but
no answer. I tried to open it, but it was fastened inside. “Queequeg,”
 said I softly through the key-hole:--all silent. “I say, Queequeg! why
don’t you speak? It’s I--Ishmael.” But all remained still as before. I
began to grow alarmed. I had allowed him such abundant time; I thought
he might have had an apoplectic fit. I looked through the key-hole; but
the door opening into an odd corner of the room, the key-hole prospect
was but a crooked and sinister one. I could only see part of the
foot-board of the bed and a line of the wall, but nothing more. I
was surprised to behold resting against the wall the wooden shaft of
Queequeg’s harpoon, which the landlady the evening previous had taken
from him, before our mounting to the chamber. That’s strange, thought I;
but at any rate, since the harpoon stands yonder, and he seldom or
never goes abroad without it, therefore he must be inside here, and no
possible mistake.

“Queequeg!--Queequeg!”--all still. Something must have happened.
Apoplexy! I tried to burst open the door; but it stubbornly resisted.
Running down stairs, I quickly stated my suspicions to the first person
I met--the chamber-maid. “La! la!” she cried, “I thought something must
be the matter. I went to make the bed after breakfast, and the door was
locked; and not a mouse to be heard; and it’s been just so silent ever
since. But I thought, may be, you had both gone off and locked your
baggage in for safe keeping. La! la, ma’am!--Mistress! murder! Mrs.
Hussey! apoplexy!”--and with these cries, she ran towards the kitchen, I

Mrs. Hussey soon appeared, with a mustard-pot in one hand and a
vinegar-cruet in the other, having just broken away from the occupation
of attending to the castors, and scolding her little black boy meantime.

“Wood-house!” cried I, “which way to it? Run for God’s sake, and fetch
something to pry open the door--the axe!--the axe! he’s had a stroke;
depend upon it!”--and so saying I was unmethodically rushing up stairs
again empty-handed, when Mrs. Hussey interposed the mustard-pot and
vinegar-cruet, and the entire castor of her countenance.

“What’s the matter with you, young man?”

“Get the axe! For God’s sake, run for the doctor, some one, while I pry
it open!”

“Look here,” said the landlady, quickly putting down the vinegar-cruet,
so as to have one hand free; “look here; are you talking about prying
open any of my doors?”--and with that she seized my arm. “What’s the
matter with you? What’s the matter with you, shipmate?”

In as calm, but rapid a manner as possible, I gave her to understand the
whole case. Unconsciously clapping the vinegar-cruet to one side of her
nose, she ruminated for an instant; then exclaimed--“No! I haven’t seen
it since I put it there.” Running to a little closet under the landing
of the stairs, she glanced in, and returning, told me that Queequeg’s
harpoon was missing. “He’s killed himself,” she cried. “It’s unfort’nate
Stiggs done over again--there goes another counterpane--God pity his poor
mother!--it will be the ruin of my house. Has the poor lad a sister?
Where’s that girl?--there, Betty, go to Snarles the Painter, and tell
him to paint me a sign, with--“no suicides permitted here, and no
smoking in the parlor;”--might as well kill both birds at once. Kill?
The Lord be merciful to his ghost! What’s that noise there? You, young
man, avast there!”

And running up after me, she caught me as I was again trying to force
open the door.

“I don’t allow it; I won’t have my premises spoiled. Go for the
locksmith, there’s one about a mile from here. But avast!” putting her
hand in her side-pocket, “here’s a key that’ll fit, I guess; let’s
see.” And with that, she turned it in the lock; but, alas! Queequeg’s
supplemental bolt remained unwithdrawn within.

“Have to burst it open,” said I, and was running down the entry a
little, for a good start, when the landlady caught at me, again vowing
I should not break down her premises; but I tore from her, and with a
sudden bodily rush dashed myself full against the mark.

With a prodigious noise the door flew open, and the knob slamming
against the wall, sent the plaster to the ceiling; and there, good
heavens! there sat Queequeg, altogether cool and self-collected; right
in the middle of the room; squatting on his hams, and holding Yojo on
top of his head. He looked neither one way nor the other way, but sat
like a carved image with scarce a sign of active life.

“Queequeg,” said I, going up to him, “Queequeg, what’s the matter with

“He hain’t been a sittin’ so all day, has he?” said the landlady.

But all we said, not a word could we drag out of him; I almost felt
like pushing him over, so as to change his position, for it was almost
intolerable, it seemed so painfully and unnaturally constrained;
especially, as in all probability he had been sitting so for upwards of
eight or ten hours, going too without his regular meals.

“Mrs. Hussey,” said I, “he’s ALIVE at all events; so leave us, if you
please, and I will see to this strange affair myself.”

Closing the door upon the landlady, I endeavored to prevail upon
Queequeg to take a chair; but in vain. There he sat; and all he could
do--for all my polite arts and blandishments--he would not move a peg,
nor say a single word, nor even look at me, nor notice my presence in
the slightest way.

I wonder, thought I, if this can possibly be a part of his Ramadan; do
they fast on their hams that way in his native island. It must be so;
yes, it’s part of his creed, I suppose; well, then, let him rest; he’ll
get up sooner or later, no doubt. It can’t last for ever, thank God,
and his Ramadan only comes once a year; and I don’t believe it’s very
punctual then.

I went down to supper. After sitting a long time listening to the long
stories of some sailors who had just come from a plum-pudding voyage, as
they called it (that is, a short whaling-voyage in a schooner or brig,
confined to the north of the line, in the Atlantic Ocean only); after
listening to these plum-puddingers till nearly eleven o’clock, I went
up stairs to go to bed, feeling quite sure by this time Queequeg must
certainly have brought his Ramadan to a termination. But no; there he
was just where I had left him; he had not stirred an inch. I began to
grow vexed with him; it seemed so downright senseless and insane to be
sitting there all day and half the night on his hams in a cold room,
holding a piece of wood on his head.

“For heaven’s sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; get up and have
some supper. You’ll starve; you’ll kill yourself, Queequeg.” But not a
word did he reply.

Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep;
and no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me. But previous to
turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket, and threw it over him, as
it promised to be a very cold night; and he had nothing but his ordinary
round jacket on. For some time, do all I would, I could not get into
the faintest doze. I had blown out the candle; and the mere thought
of Queequeg--not four feet off--sitting there in that uneasy position,
stark alone in the cold and dark; this made me really wretched. Think of
it; sleeping all night in the same room with a wide awake pagan on his
hams in this dreary, unaccountable Ramadan!

But somehow I dropped off at last, and knew nothing more till break of
day; when, looking over the bedside, there squatted Queequeg, as if he
had been screwed down to the floor. But as soon as the first glimpse of
sun entered the window, up he got, with stiff and grating joints,
but with a cheerful look; limped towards me where I lay; pressed his
forehead again against mine; and said his Ramadan was over.

Now, as I before hinted, I have no objection to any person’s religion,
be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any
other person, because that other person don’t believe it also. But when
a man’s religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment
to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to
lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and
argue the point with him.

And just so I now did with Queequeg. “Queequeg,” said I, “get into bed
now, and lie and listen to me.” I then went on, beginning with the rise
and progress of the primitive religions, and coming down to the various
religions of the present time, during which time I labored to show
Queequeg that all these Lents, Ramadans, and prolonged ham-squattings in
cold, cheerless rooms were stark nonsense; bad for the health; useless
for the soul; opposed, in short, to the obvious laws of Hygiene and
common sense. I told him, too, that he being in other things such an
extremely sensible and sagacious savage, it pained me, very badly pained
me, to see him now so deplorably foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan
of his. Besides, argued I, fasting makes the body cave in; hence the
spirit caves in; and all thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be
half-starved. This is the reason why most dyspeptic religionists cherish
such melancholy notions about their hereafters. In one word, Queequeg,
said I, rather digressively; hell is an idea first born on an undigested
apple-dumpling; and since then perpetuated through the hereditary
dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans.

I then asked Queequeg whether he himself was ever troubled with
dyspepsia; expressing the idea very plainly, so that he could take it
in. He said no; only upon one memorable occasion. It was after a great
feast given by his father the king, on the gaining of a great battle
wherein fifty of the enemy had been killed by about two o’clock in the
afternoon, and all cooked and eaten that very evening.

“No more, Queequeg,” said I, shuddering; “that will do;” for I knew the
inferences without his further hinting them. I had seen a sailor who had
visited that very island, and he told me that it was the custom, when
a great battle had been gained there, to barbecue all the slain in the
yard or garden of the victor; and then, one by one, they were placed
in great wooden trenchers, and garnished round like a pilau, with
breadfruit and cocoanuts; and with some parsley in their mouths, were
sent round with the victor’s compliments to all his friends, just as
though these presents were so many Christmas turkeys.

After all, I do not think that my remarks about religion made much
impression upon Queequeg. Because, in the first place, he somehow seemed
dull of hearing on that important subject, unless considered from his
own point of view; and, in the second place, he did not more than one
third understand me, couch my ideas simply as I would; and, finally, he
no doubt thought he knew a good deal more about the true religion than
I did. He looked at me with a sort of condescending concern and
compassion, as though he thought it a great pity that such a sensible
young man should be so hopelessly lost to evangelical pagan piety.

At last we rose and dressed; and Queequeg, taking a prodigiously hearty
breakfast of chowders of all sorts, so that the landlady should not
make much profit by reason of his Ramadan, we sallied out to board the
Pequod, sauntering along, and picking our teeth with halibut bones.

CHAPTER 18. His Mark.

As we were walking down the end of the wharf towards the ship, Queequeg
carrying his harpoon, Captain Peleg in his gruff voice loudly hailed us
from his wigwam, saying he had not suspected my friend was a cannibal,
and furthermore announcing that he let no cannibals on board that craft,
unless they previously produced their papers.

“What do you mean by that, Captain Peleg?” said I, now jumping on the
bulwarks, and leaving my comrade standing on the wharf.

“I mean,” he replied, “he must show his papers.”

“Yes,” said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice, sticking his head from
behind Peleg’s, out of the wigwam. “He must show that he’s converted.
Son of darkness,” he added, turning to Queequeg, “art thou at present in
communion with any Christian church?”

“Why,” said I, “he’s a member of the first Congregational Church.” Here
be it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket ships at
last come to be converted into the churches.

“First Congregational Church,” cried Bildad, “what! that worships in
Deacon Deuteronomy Coleman’s meeting-house?” and so saying, taking
out his spectacles, he rubbed them with his great yellow bandana
handkerchief, and putting them on very carefully, came out of the
wigwam, and leaning stiffly over the bulwarks, took a good long look at

“How long hath he been a member?” he then said, turning to me; “not very
long, I rather guess, young man.”

“No,” said Peleg, “and he hasn’t been baptized right either, or it would
have washed some of that devil’s blue off his face.”

“Do tell, now,” cried Bildad, “is this Philistine a regular member of
Deacon Deuteronomy’s meeting? I never saw him going there, and I pass it
every Lord’s day.”

“I don’t know anything about Deacon Deuteronomy or his meeting,” said
I; “all I know is, that Queequeg here is a born member of the First
Congregational Church. He is a deacon himself, Queequeg is.”

“Young man,” said Bildad sternly, “thou art skylarking with me--explain
thyself, thou young Hittite. What church dost thee mean? answer me.”

Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied. “I mean, sir, the same
ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there,
and Queequeg here, and all of us, and every mother’s son and soul of
us belong; the great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole
worshipping world; we all belong to that; only some of us cherish some
queer crotchets no ways touching the grand belief; in THAT we all join

“Splice, thou mean’st SPLICE hands,” cried Peleg, drawing nearer. “Young
man, you’d better ship for a missionary, instead of a fore-mast hand;
I never heard a better sermon. Deacon Deuteronomy--why Father Mapple
himself couldn’t beat it, and he’s reckoned something. Come aboard, come
aboard; never mind about the papers. I say, tell Quohog there--what’s
that you call him? tell Quohog to step along. By the great anchor, what
a harpoon he’s got there! looks like good stuff that; and he handles it
about right. I say, Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand
in the head of a whale-boat? did you ever strike a fish?”

Without saying a word, Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon
the bulwarks, from thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats
hanging to the side; and then bracing his left knee, and poising his
harpoon, cried out in some such way as this:--

“Cap’ain, you see him small drop tar on water dere? You see him? well,
spose him one whale eye, well, den!” and taking sharp aim at it, he
darted the iron right over old Bildad’s broad brim, clean across the
ship’s decks, and struck the glistening tar spot out of sight.

“Now,” said Queequeg, quietly hauling in the line, “spos-ee him whale-e
eye; why, dad whale dead.”

“Quick, Bildad,” said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close
vicinity of the flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin gangway.
“Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship’s papers. We must have
Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats. Look ye, Quohog,
we’ll give ye the ninetieth lay, and that’s more than ever was given a
harpooneer yet out of Nantucket.”

So down we went into the cabin, and to my great joy Queequeg was soon
enrolled among the same ship’s company to which I myself belonged.

When all preliminaries were over and Peleg had got everything ready for
signing, he turned to me and said, “I guess, Quohog there don’t know how
to write, does he? I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign thy name or
make thy mark?”

But at this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken
part in similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking the
offered pen, copied upon the paper, in the proper place, an exact
counterpart of a queer round figure which was tattooed upon his arm; so
that through Captain Peleg’s obstinate mistake touching his appellative,
it stood something like this:--

Quohog. his X mark.

Meanwhile Captain Bildad sat earnestly and steadfastly eyeing Queequeg,
and at last rising solemnly and fumbling in the huge pockets of his
broad-skirted drab coat, took out a bundle of tracts, and selecting
one entitled “The Latter Day Coming; or No Time to Lose,” placed it in
Queequeg’s hands, and then grasping them and the book with both his,
looked earnestly into his eyes, and said, “Son of darkness, I must do my
duty by thee; I am part owner of this ship, and feel concerned for the
souls of all its crew; if thou still clingest to thy Pagan ways, which I
sadly fear, I beseech thee, remain not for aye a Belial bondsman. Spurn
the idol Bell, and the hideous dragon; turn from the wrath to come; mind
thine eye, I say; oh! goodness gracious! steer clear of the fiery pit!”

Something of the salt sea yet lingered in old Bildad’s language,
heterogeneously mixed with Scriptural and domestic phrases.

“Avast there, avast there, Bildad, avast now spoiling our harpooneer,”
 cried Peleg. “Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers--it takes the shark
out of ‘em; no harpooneer is worth a straw who aint pretty sharkish.
There was young Nat Swaine, once the bravest boat-header out of all
Nantucket and the Vineyard; he joined the meeting, and never came to
good. He got so frightened about his plaguy soul, that he shrinked and
sheered away from whales, for fear of after-claps, in case he got stove
and went to Davy Jones.”

“Peleg! Peleg!” said Bildad, lifting his eyes and hands, “thou thyself,
as I myself, hast seen many a perilous time; thou knowest, Peleg, what
it is to have the fear of death; how, then, can’st thou prate in this
ungodly guise. Thou beliest thine own heart, Peleg. Tell me, when this
same Pequod here had her three masts overboard in that typhoon on Japan,
that same voyage when thou went mate with Captain Ahab, did’st thou not
think of Death and the Judgment then?”

“Hear him, hear him now,” cried Peleg, marching across the cabin, and
thrusting his hands far down into his pockets,--“hear him, all of ye.
Think of that! When every moment we thought the ship would sink!
Death and the Judgment then? What? With all three masts making such an
everlasting thundering against the side; and every sea breaking over us,
fore and aft. Think of Death and the Judgment then? No! no time to think
about Death then. Life was what Captain Ahab and I was thinking of;
and how to save all hands--how to rig jury-masts--how to get into the
nearest port; that was what I was thinking of.”

Bildad said no more, but buttoning up his coat, stalked on deck,
where we followed him. There he stood, very quietly overlooking some
sailmakers who were mending a top-sail in the waist. Now and then
he stooped to pick up a patch, or save an end of tarred twine, which
otherwise might have been wasted.

CHAPTER 19. The Prophet.

“Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?”

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

“Have ye shipped in her?” he repeated.

“You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose,” said I, trying to gain a little
more time for an uninterrupted look at him.

“Aye, the Pequod--that ship there,” he said, drawing back his whole
arm, and then rapidly shoving it straight out from him, with the fixed
bayonet of his pointed finger darted full at the object.

“Yes,” said I, “we have just signed the articles.”

“Anything down there about your souls?”

“About what?”

“Oh, perhaps you hav’n’t got any,” he said quickly. “No matter though,
I know many chaps that hav’n’t got any,--good luck to ‘em; and they are
all the better off for it. A soul’s a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon.”

“What are you jabbering about, shipmate?” said I.

“HE’S got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that sort
in other chaps,” abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous emphasis
upon the word HE.

“Queequeg,” said I, “let’s go; this fellow has broken loose from
somewhere; he’s talking about something and somebody we don’t know.”

“Stop!” cried the stranger. “Ye said true--ye hav’n’t seen Old Thunder
yet, have ye?”

“Who’s Old Thunder?” said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness
of his manner.

“Captain Ahab.”

“What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?”

“Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name. Ye
hav’n’t seen him yet, have ye?”

“No, we hav’n’t. He’s sick they say, but is getting better, and will be
all right again before long.”

“All right again before long!” laughed the stranger, with a solemnly
derisive sort of laugh. “Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right, then
this left arm of mine will be all right; not before.”

“What do you know about him?”

“What did they TELL you about him? Say that!”

“They didn’t tell much of anything about him; only I’ve heard that he’s
a good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his crew.”

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

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

“ALL about it, eh--sure you do?--all?”

“Pretty sure.”

With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like
stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a
little, turned and said:--“Ye’ve shipped, have ye? Names down on the
papers? Well, well, what’s signed, is signed; and what’s to be, will be;
and then again, perhaps it won’t be, after all. Anyhow, it’s all fixed
and arranged a’ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I
suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity ‘em! Morning to ye,
shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I’m sorry I stopped

“Look here, friend,” said I, “if you have anything important to tell
us, out with it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle us, you are
mistaken in your game; that’s all I have to say.”

“And it’s said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way;
you are just the man for him--the likes of ye. Morning to ye, shipmates,
morning! Oh! when ye get there, tell ‘em I’ve concluded not to make one
of ‘em.”

“Ah, my dear fellow, you can’t fool us that way--you can’t fool us. It
is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a great
secret in him.”

“Morning to ye, shipmates, morning.”

“Morning it is,” said I. “Come along, Queequeg, let’s leave this crazy
man. But stop, tell me your name, will you?”


Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting, after each
other’s fashion, upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed that he was
nothing but a humbug, trying to be a bugbear. But we had not gone
perhaps above a hundred yards, when chancing to turn a corner, and
looking back as I did so, who should be seen but Elijah following us,
though at a distance. Somehow, the sight of him struck me so, that I
said nothing to Queequeg of his being behind, but passed on with my
comrade, anxious to see whether the stranger would turn the same corner
that we did. He did; and then it seemed to me that he was dogging
us, but with what intent I could not for the life of me imagine. This
circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous, half-hinting, half-revealing,
shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all kinds of vague wonderments
and half-apprehensions, and all connected with the Pequod; and Captain
Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn fit; and the silver
calabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of him, when I left the ship
the day previous; and the prediction of the squaw Tistig; and the voyage
we had bound ourselves to sail; and a hundred other shadowy things.

I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was really
dogging us or not, and with that intent crossed the way with Queequeg,
and on that side of it retraced our steps. But Elijah passed on, without
seeming to notice us. This relieved me; and once more, and finally as it
seemed to me, I pronounced him in my heart, a humbug.

CHAPTER 20. All Astir.

A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the Pequod.
Not only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on
board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything
betokened that the ship’s preparations were hurrying to a close. Captain
Peleg seldom or never went ashore, but sat in his wigwam keeping a sharp
look-out upon the hands: Bildad did all the purchasing and providing
at the stores; and the men employed in the hold and on the rigging were
working till long after night-fall.

On the day following Queequeg’s signing the articles, word was given at
all the inns where the ship’s company were stopping, that their chests
must be on board before night, for there was no telling how soon
the vessel might be sailing. So Queequeg and I got down our traps,
resolving, however, to sleep ashore till the last. But it seems they
always give very long notice in these cases, and the ship did not sail
for several days. But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and
there is no telling how many things to be thought of, before the Pequod
was fully equipped.

Every one knows what a multitude of things--beds, sauce-pans, knives
and forks, shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not, are
indispensable to the business of housekeeping. Just so with whaling,
which necessitates a three-years’ housekeeping upon the wide ocean,
far from all grocers, costermongers, doctors, bakers, and bankers. And
though this also holds true of merchant vessels, yet not by any means
to the same extent as with whalemen. For besides the great length of the
whaling voyage, the numerous articles peculiar to the prosecution of the
fishery, and the impossibility of replacing them at the remote harbors
usually frequented, it must be remembered, that of all ships, whaling
vessels are the most exposed to accidents of all kinds, and especially
to the destruction and loss of the very things upon which the success of
the voyage most depends. Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare
lines and harpoons, and spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captain
and duplicate ship.

At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage of the
Pequod had been almost completed; comprising her beef, bread, water,
fuel, and iron hoops and staves. But, as before hinted, for some time
there was a continual fetching and carrying on board of divers odds and
ends of things, both large and small.

Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was Captain
Bildad’s sister, a lean old lady of a most determined and indefatigable
spirit, but withal very kindhearted, who seemed resolved that, if SHE
could help it, nothing should be found wanting in the Pequod, after once
fairly getting to sea. At one time she would come on board with a jar
of pickles for the steward’s pantry; another time with a bunch of quills
for the chief mate’s desk, where he kept his log; a third time with a
roll of flannel for the small of some one’s rheumatic back. Never did
any woman better deserve her name, which was Charity--Aunt Charity, as
everybody called her. And like a sister of charity did this charitable
Aunt Charity bustle about hither and thither, ready to turn her hand
and heart to anything that promised to yield safety, comfort, and
consolation to all on board a ship in which her beloved brother
Bildad was concerned, and in which she herself owned a score or two of
well-saved dollars.

But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress coming on
board, as she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle in one hand, and
a still longer whaling lance in the other. Nor was Bildad himself nor
Captain Peleg at all backward. As for Bildad, he carried about with him
a long list of the articles needed, and at every fresh arrival, down
went his mark opposite that article upon the paper. Every once in a
while Peleg came hobbling out of his whalebone den, roaring at the men
down the hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at the mast-head, and then
concluded by roaring back into his wigwam.

During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited the
craft, and as often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was, and when
he was going to come on board his ship. To these questions they would
answer, that he was getting better and better, and was expected aboard
every day; meantime, the two captains, Peleg and Bildad, could attend
to everything necessary to fit the vessel for the voyage. If I had been
downright honest with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart
that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage,
without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute
dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea.
But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be
already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his
suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said
nothing, and tried to think nothing.

At last it was given out that some time next day the ship would
certainly sail. So next morning, Queequeg and I took a very early start.

CHAPTER 21. Going Aboard.

It was nearly six o’clock, but only grey imperfect misty dawn, when we
drew nigh the wharf.

“There are some sailors running ahead there, if I see right,” said I to
Queequeg, “it can’t be shadows; she’s off by sunrise, I guess; come on!”

“Avast!” cried a voice, whose owner at the same time coming close behind
us, laid a hand upon both our shoulders, and then insinuating himself
between us, stood stooping forward a little, in the uncertain twilight,
strangely peering from Queequeg to me. It was Elijah.

“Going aboard?”

“Hands off, will you,” said I.

“Lookee here,” said Queequeg, shaking himself, “go ‘way!”

“Ain’t going aboard, then?”

“Yes, we are,” said I, “but what business is that of yours? Do you know,
Mr. Elijah, that I consider you a little impertinent?”

“No, no, no; I wasn’t aware of that,” said Elijah, slowly and
wonderingly looking from me to Queequeg, with the most unaccountable

“Elijah,” said I, “you will oblige my friend and me by withdrawing. We
are going to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would prefer not to be

“Ye be, be ye? Coming back afore breakfast?”

“He’s cracked, Queequeg,” said I, “come on.”

“Holloa!” cried stationary Elijah, hailing us when we had removed a few

“Never mind him,” said I, “Queequeg, come on.”

But he stole up to us again, and suddenly clapping his hand on my
shoulder, said--“Did ye see anything looking like men going towards that
ship a while ago?”

Struck by this plain matter-of-fact question, I answered, saying, “Yes,
I thought I did see four or five men; but it was too dim to be sure.”

“Very dim, very dim,” said Elijah. “Morning to ye.”

Once more we quitted him; but once more he came softly after us; and
touching my shoulder again, said, “See if you can find ‘em now, will ye?

“Find who?”

“Morning to ye! morning to ye!” he rejoined, again moving off. “Oh! I
was going to warn ye against--but never mind, never mind--it’s all one,
all in the family too;--sharp frost this morning, ain’t it? Good-bye to
ye. Shan’t see ye again very soon, I guess; unless it’s before the Grand
Jury.” And with these cracked words he finally departed, leaving me, for
the moment, in no small wonderment at his frantic impudence.

At last, stepping on board the Pequod, we found everything in profound
quiet, not a soul moving. The cabin entrance was locked within; the
hatches were all on, and lumbered with coils of rigging. Going forward
to the forecastle, we found the slide of the scuttle open. Seeing a
light, we went down, and found only an old rigger there, wrapped in a
tattered pea-jacket. He was thrown at whole length upon two chests, his
face downwards and inclosed in his folded arms. The profoundest slumber
slept upon him.

“Those sailors we saw, Queequeg, where can they have gone to?” said I,
looking dubiously at the sleeper. But it seemed that, when on the wharf,
Queequeg had not at all noticed what I now alluded to; hence I would
have thought myself to have been optically deceived in that matter,
were it not for Elijah’s otherwise inexplicable question. But I beat the
thing down; and again marking the sleeper, jocularly hinted to Queequeg
that perhaps we had best sit up with the body; telling him to establish
himself accordingly. He put his hand upon the sleeper’s rear, as though
feeling if it was soft enough; and then, without more ado, sat quietly
down there.

“Gracious! Queequeg, don’t sit there,” said I.

“Oh! perry dood seat,” said Queequeg, “my country way; won’t hurt him

“Face!” said I, “call that his face? very benevolent countenance then;
but how hard he breathes, he’s heaving himself; get off, Queequeg, you
are heavy, it’s grinding the face of the poor. Get off, Queequeg! Look,
he’ll twitch you off soon. I wonder he don’t wake.”

Queequeg removed himself to just beyond the head of the sleeper, and
lighted his tomahawk pipe. I sat at the feet. We kept the pipe passing
over the sleeper, from one to the other. Meanwhile, upon questioning him
in his broken fashion, Queequeg gave me to understand that, in his
land, owing to the absence of settees and sofas of all sorts, the king,
chiefs, and great people generally, were in the custom of fattening some
of the lower orders for ottomans; and to furnish a house comfortably in
that respect, you had only to buy up eight or ten lazy fellows, and lay
them round in the piers and alcoves. Besides, it was very convenient on
an excursion; much better than those garden-chairs which are convertible
into walking-sticks; upon occasion, a chief calling his attendant, and
desiring him to make a settee of himself under a spreading tree, perhaps
in some damp marshy place.

While narrating these things, every time Queequeg received the tomahawk
from me, he flourished the hatchet-side of it over the sleeper’s head.

“What’s that for, Queequeg?”

“Perry easy, kill-e; oh! perry easy!”

He was going on with some wild reminiscences about his tomahawk-pipe,
which, it seemed, had in its two uses both brained his foes and soothed
his soul, when we were directly attracted to the sleeping rigger. The
strong vapour now completely filling the contracted hole, it began
to tell upon him. He breathed with a sort of muffledness; then seemed
troubled in the nose; then revolved over once or twice; then sat up and
rubbed his eyes.

“Holloa!” he breathed at last, “who be ye smokers?”

“Shipped men,” answered I, “when does she sail?”

“Aye, aye, ye are going in her, be ye? She sails to-day. The Captain
came aboard last night.”

“What Captain?--Ahab?”

“Who but him indeed?”

I was going to ask him some further questions concerning Ahab, when we
heard a noise on deck.

“Holloa! Starbuck’s astir,” said the rigger. “He’s a lively chief mate,
that; good man, and a pious; but all alive now, I must turn to.” And so
saying he went on deck, and we followed.

It was now clear sunrise. Soon the crew came on board in twos and
threes; the riggers bestirred themselves; the mates were actively
engaged; and several of the shore people were busy in bringing various
last things on board. Meanwhile Captain Ahab remained invisibly
enshrined within his cabin.

CHAPTER 22. Merry Christmas.

At length, towards noon, upon the final dismissal of the ship’s riggers,
and after the Pequod had been hauled out from the wharf, and after the
ever-thoughtful Charity had come off in a whale-boat, with her last
gift--a night-cap for Stubb, the second mate, her brother-in-law, and a
spare Bible for the steward--after all this, the two Captains, Peleg
and Bildad, issued from the cabin, and turning to the chief mate, Peleg

“Now, Mr. Starbuck, are you sure everything is right? Captain Ahab is
all ready--just spoke to him--nothing more to be got from shore, eh?
Well, call all hands, then. Muster ‘em aft here--blast ‘em!”

“No need of profane words, however great the hurry, Peleg,” said Bildad,
“but away with thee, friend Starbuck, and do our bidding.”

How now! Here upon the very point of starting for the voyage, Captain
Peleg and Captain Bildad were going it with a high hand on the
quarter-deck, just as if they were to be joint-commanders at sea, as
well as to all appearances in port. And, as for Captain Ahab, no sign of
him was yet to be seen; only, they said he was in the cabin. But then,
the idea was, that his presence was by no means necessary in getting the
ship under weigh, and steering her well out to sea. Indeed, as that was
not at all his proper business, but the pilot’s; and as he was not
yet completely recovered--so they said--therefore, Captain Ahab stayed
below. And all this seemed natural enough; especially as in the merchant
service many captains never show themselves on deck for a considerable
time after heaving up the anchor, but remain over the cabin table,
having a farewell merry-making with their shore friends, before they
quit the ship for good with the pilot.

But there was not much chance to think over the matter, for Captain
Peleg was now all alive. He seemed to do most of the talking and
commanding, and not Bildad.

“Aft here, ye sons of bachelors,” he cried, as the sailors lingered at
the main-mast. “Mr. Starbuck, drive’em aft.”

“Strike the tent there!”--was the next order. As I hinted before, this
whalebone marquee was never pitched except in port; and on board the
Pequod, for thirty years, the order to strike the tent was well known to
be the next thing to heaving up the anchor.

“Man the capstan! Blood and thunder!--jump!”--was the next command, and
the crew sprang for the handspikes.

Now in getting under weigh, the station generally occupied by the pilot
is the forward part of the ship. And here Bildad, who, with Peleg, be it
known, in addition to his other officers, was one of the licensed pilots
of the port--he being suspected to have got himself made a pilot in
order to save the Nantucket pilot-fee to all the ships he was concerned
in, for he never piloted any other craft--Bildad, I say, might now
be seen actively engaged in looking over the bows for the approaching
anchor, and at intervals singing what seemed a dismal stave of psalmody,
to cheer the hands at the windlass, who roared forth some sort of
a chorus about the girls in Booble Alley, with hearty good will.
Nevertheless, not three days previous, Bildad had told them that no
profane songs would be allowed on board the Pequod, particularly in
getting under weigh; and Charity, his sister, had placed a small choice
copy of Watts in each seaman’s berth.

Meantime, overseeing the other part of the ship, Captain Peleg ripped
and swore astern in the most frightful manner. I almost thought he would
sink the ship before the anchor could be got up; involuntarily I paused
on my handspike, and told Queequeg to do the same, thinking of the
perils we both ran, in starting on the voyage with such a devil for a
pilot. I was comforting myself, however, with the thought that in pious
Bildad might be found some salvation, spite of his seven hundred and
seventy-seventh lay; when I felt a sudden sharp poke in my rear, and
turning round, was horrified at the apparition of Captain Peleg in the
act of withdrawing his leg from my immediate vicinity. That was my first

“Is that the way they heave in the marchant service?” he roared.
“Spring, thou sheep-head; spring, and break thy backbone! Why don’t ye
spring, I say, all of ye--spring! Quohog! spring, thou chap with the red
whiskers; spring there, Scotch-cap; spring, thou green pants. Spring, I
say, all of ye, and spring your eyes out!” And so saying, he moved
along the windlass, here and there using his leg very freely, while
imperturbable Bildad kept leading off with his psalmody. Thinks I,
Captain Peleg must have been drinking something to-day.

At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It
was a short, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into
night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose
freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor. The long rows of
teeth on the bulwarks glistened in the moonlight; and like the white
ivory tusks of some huge elephant, vast curving icicles depended from
the bows.

Lank Bildad, as pilot, headed the first watch, and ever and anon, as the
old craft deep dived into the green seas, and sent the shivering frost
all over her, and the winds howled, and the cordage rang, his steady
notes were heard,--

“Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood, Stand dressed in living green.
So to the Jews old Canaan stood, While Jordan rolled between.”

Never did those sweet words sound more sweetly to me than then. They
were full of hope and fruition. Spite of this frigid winter night in the
boisterous Atlantic, spite of my wet feet and wetter jacket, there was
yet, it then seemed to me, many a pleasant haven in store; and meads
and glades so eternally vernal, that the grass shot up by the spring,
untrodden, unwilted, remains at midsummer.

At last we gained such an offing, that the two pilots were needed
no longer. The stout sail-boat that had accompanied us began ranging

It was curious and not unpleasing, how Peleg and Bildad were affected at
this juncture, especially Captain Bildad. For loath to depart, yet;
very loath to leave, for good, a ship bound on so long and perilous a
voyage--beyond both stormy Capes; a ship in which some thousands of
his hard earned dollars were invested; a ship, in which an old shipmate
sailed as captain; a man almost as old as he, once more starting to
encounter all the terrors of the pitiless jaw; loath to say good-bye to
a thing so every way brimful of every interest to him,--poor old Bildad
lingered long; paced the deck with anxious strides; ran down into the
cabin to speak another farewell word there; again came on deck, and
looked to windward; looked towards the wide and endless waters, only
bounded by the far-off unseen Eastern Continents; looked towards
the land; looked aloft; looked right and left; looked everywhere
and nowhere; and at last, mechanically coiling a rope upon its pin,
convulsively grasped stout Peleg by the hand, and holding up a lantern,
for a moment stood gazing heroically in his face, as much as to say,
“Nevertheless, friend Peleg, I can stand it; yes, I can.”

As for Peleg himself, he took it more like a philosopher; but for all
his philosophy, there was a tear twinkling in his eye, when the lantern
came too near. And he, too, did not a little run from cabin to deck--now
a word below, and now a word with Starbuck, the chief mate.

But, at last, he turned to his comrade, with a final sort of look
about him,--“Captain Bildad--come, old shipmate, we must go. Back the
main-yard there! Boat ahoy! Stand by to come close alongside, now!
Careful, careful!--come, Bildad, boy--say your last. Luck to ye,
Starbuck--luck to ye, Mr. Stubb--luck to ye, Mr. Flask--good-bye and
good luck to ye all--and this day three years I’ll have a hot supper
smoking for ye in old Nantucket. Hurrah and away!”

“God bless ye, and have ye in His holy keeping, men,” murmured old
Bildad, almost incoherently. “I hope ye’ll have fine weather now, so
that Captain Ahab may soon be moving among ye--a pleasant sun is all
he needs, and ye’ll have plenty of them in the tropic voyage ye go.
Be careful in the hunt, ye mates. Don’t stave the boats needlessly,
ye harpooneers; good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent.
within the year. Don’t forget your prayers, either. Mr. Starbuck, mind
that cooper don’t waste the spare staves. Oh! the sail-needles are in
the green locker! Don’t whale it too much a’ Lord’s days, men; but don’t
miss a fair chance either, that’s rejecting Heaven’s good gifts. Have an
eye to the molasses tierce, Mr. Stubb; it was a little leaky, I thought.
If ye touch at the islands, Mr. Flask, beware of fornication. Good-bye,
good-bye! Don’t keep that cheese too long down in the hold, Mr.
Starbuck; it’ll spoil. Be careful with the butter--twenty cents the
pound it was, and mind ye, if--”

“Come, come, Captain Bildad; stop palavering,--away!” and with that,
Peleg hurried him over the side, and both dropt into the boat.

Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between; a
screaming gull flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled; we gave
three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate into the lone

CHAPTER 23. The Lee Shore.

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

When on that shivering winter’s night, the Pequod thrust her vindictive
bows into the cold malicious waves, who should I see standing at her
helm but Bulkington! I looked with sympathetic awe and fearfulness upon
the man, who in mid-winter just landed from a four years’ dangerous
voyage, could so unrestingly push off again for still another
tempestuous term. The land seemed scorching to his feet. Wonderfullest
things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs; this
six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave of Bulkington. Let me only say
that it fared with him as with the storm-tossed ship, that miserably
drives along the leeward land. The port would fain give succor; the port
is pitiful; in the port is safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm
blankets, friends, all that’s kind to our mortalities. But in that gale,
the port, the land, is that ship’s direst jeopardy; she must fly all
hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make
her shudder through and through. With all her might she crowds all sail
off shore; in so doing, fights ‘gainst the very winds that fain would
blow her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea’s landlessness again;
for refuge’s sake forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her
bitterest foe!

Know ye now, Bulkington? Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally
intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid
effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while
the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the
treacherous, slavish shore?

But as in landlessness alone resides highest truth, shoreless,
indefinite as God--so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite,
than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety!
For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land! Terrors of
the terrible! is all this agony so vain? Take heart, take heart,
O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy
ocean-perishing--straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!

CHAPTER 24. The Advocate.

As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of whaling;
and as this business of whaling has somehow come to be regarded among
landsmen as a rather unpoetical and disreputable pursuit; therefore, I
am all anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby done
to us hunters of whales.

In the first place, it may be deemed almost superfluous to establish
the fact, that among people at large, the business of whaling is not
accounted on a level with what are called the liberal professions. If a
stranger were introduced into any miscellaneous metropolitan society,
it would but slightly advance the general opinion of his merits, were
he presented to the company as a harpooneer, say; and if in emulation
of the naval officers he should append the initials S.W.F. (Sperm
Whale Fishery) to his visiting card, such a procedure would be deemed
pre-eminently presuming and ridiculous.

Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honouring us
whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to a
butchering sort of business; and that when actively engaged therein, we
are surrounded by all manner of defilements. Butchers we are, that is
true. But butchers, also, and butchers of the bloodiest badge have been
all Martial Commanders whom the world invariably delights to honour. And
as for the matter of the alleged uncleanliness of our business, ye shall
soon be initiated into certain facts hitherto pretty generally unknown,
and which, upon the whole, will triumphantly plant the sperm whale-ship
at least among the cleanliest things of this tidy earth. But even
granting the charge in question to be true; what disordered slippery
decks of a whale-ship are comparable to the unspeakable carrion of those
battle-fields from which so many soldiers return to drink in all ladies’
plaudits? And if the idea of peril so much enhances the popular conceit
of the soldier’s profession; let me assure ye that many a veteran
who has freely marched up to a battery, would quickly recoil at the
apparition of the sperm whale’s vast tail, fanning into eddies the air
over his head. For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared
with the interlinked terrors and wonders of God!

But, though the world scouts at us whale hunters, yet does it
unwittingly pay us the profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding
adoration! for almost all the tapers, lamps, and candles that burn round
the globe, burn, as before so many shrines, to our glory!

But look at this matter in other lights; weigh it in all sorts of
scales; see what we whalemen are, and have been.

Why did the Dutch in De Witt’s time have admirals of their whaling
fleets? Why did Louis XVI. of France, at his own personal expense, fit
out whaling ships from Dunkirk, and politely invite to that town some
score or two of families from our own island of Nantucket? Why did
Britain between the years 1750 and 1788 pay to her whalemen in bounties
upwards of L1,000,000? And lastly, how comes it that we whalemen of
America now outnumber all the rest of the banded whalemen in the world;
sail a navy of upwards of seven hundred vessels; manned by eighteen
thousand men; yearly consuming 4,000,000 of dollars; the ships worth,
at the time of sailing, $20,000,000! and every year importing into our
harbors a well reaped harvest of $7,000,000. How comes all this, if
there be not something puissant in whaling?

But this is not the half; look again.

I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosopher cannot, for his life,
point out one single peaceful influence, which within the last sixty
years has operated more potentially upon the whole broad world, taken in
one aggregate, than the high and mighty business of whaling. One way
and another, it has begotten events so remarkable in themselves, and so
continuously momentous in their sequential issues, that whaling may
well be regarded as that Egyptian mother, who bore offspring themselves
pregnant from her womb. It would be a hopeless, endless task to
catalogue all these things. Let a handful suffice. For many years past
the whale-ship has been the pioneer in ferreting out the remotest and
least known parts of the earth. She has explored seas and archipelagoes
which had no chart, where no Cook or Vancouver had ever sailed. If
American and European men-of-war now peacefully ride in once savage
harbors, let them fire salutes to the honour and glory of the
whale-ship, which originally showed them the way, and first interpreted
between them and the savages. They may celebrate as they will the heroes
of Exploring Expeditions, your Cooks, your Krusensterns; but I say that
scores of anonymous Captains have sailed out of Nantucket, that were
as great, and greater than your Cook and your Krusenstern. For in their
succourless empty-handedness, they, in the heathenish sharked waters,
and by the beaches of unrecorded, javelin islands, battled with virgin
wonders and terrors that Cook with all his marines and muskets would
not willingly have dared. All that is made such a flourish of in the old
South Sea Voyages, those things were but the life-time commonplaces of
our heroic Nantucketers. Often, adventures which Vancouver dedicates
three chapters to, these men accounted unworthy of being set down in the
ship’s common log. Ah, the world! Oh, the world!

Until the whale fishery rounded Cape Horn, no commerce but colonial,
scarcely any intercourse but colonial, was carried on between Europe and
the long line of the opulent Spanish provinces on the Pacific coast.
It was the whaleman who first broke through the jealous policy of the
Spanish crown, touching those colonies; and, if space permitted, it
might be distinctly shown how from those whalemen at last eventuated the
liberation of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the yoke of Old Spain, and
the establishment of the eternal democracy in those parts.

That great America on the other side of the sphere, Australia, was given
to the enlightened world by the whaleman. After its first blunder-born
discovery by a Dutchman, all other ships long shunned those shores
as pestiferously barbarous; but the whale-ship touched there. The
whale-ship is the true mother of that now mighty colony. Moreover,
in the infancy of the first Australian settlement, the emigrants were
several times saved from starvation by the benevolent biscuit of the
whale-ship luckily dropping an anchor in their waters. The uncounted
isles of all Polynesia confess the same truth, and do commercial homage
to the whale-ship, that cleared the way for the missionary and the
merchant, and in many cases carried the primitive missionaries to their
first destinations. If that double-bolted land, Japan, is ever to become
hospitable, it is the whale-ship alone to whom the credit will be due;
for already she is on the threshold.

But if, in the face of all this, you still declare that whaling has no
aesthetically noble associations connected with it, then am I ready to
shiver fifty lances with you there, and unhorse you with a split helmet
every time.

The whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler, you
will say.

the first account of our Leviathan? Who but mighty Job! And who composed
the first narrative of a whaling-voyage? Who, but no less a prince than
Alfred the Great, who, with his own royal pen, took down the words from
Other, the Norwegian whale-hunter of those times! And who pronounced our
glowing eulogy in Parliament? Who, but Edmund Burke!

True enough, but then whalemen themselves are poor devils; they have no
good blood in their veins.

NO GOOD BLOOD IN THEIR VEINS? They have something better than royal
blood there. The grandmother of Benjamin Franklin was Mary Morrel;
afterwards, by marriage, Mary Folger, one of the old settlers
of Nantucket, and the ancestress to a long line of Folgers and
harpooneers--all kith and kin to noble Benjamin--this day darting the
barbed iron from one side of the world to the other.

Good again; but then all confess that somehow whaling is not

WHALING NOT RESPECTABLE? Whaling is imperial! By old English statutory
law, the whale is declared “a royal fish.” *

Oh, that’s only nominal! The whale himself has never figured in any
grand imposing way.

triumphs given to a Roman general upon his entering the world’s capital,
the bones of a whale, brought all the way from the Syrian coast, were
the most conspicuous object in the cymballed procession.*

*See subsequent chapters for something more on this head.

Grant it, since you cite it; but, say what you will, there is no real
dignity in whaling.

NO DIGNITY IN WHALING? The dignity of our calling the very heavens
attest. Cetus is a constellation in the South! No more! Drive down your
hat in presence of the Czar, and take it off to Queequeg! No more! I
know a man that, in his lifetime, has taken three hundred and fifty
whales. I account that man more honourable than that great captain of
antiquity who boasted of taking as many walled towns.

And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet undiscovered
prime thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small
but high hushed world which I might not be unreasonably ambitious of; if
hereafter I shall do anything that, upon the whole, a man might rather
have done than to have left undone; if, at my death, my executors, or
more properly my creditors, find any precious MSS. in my desk, then here
I prospectively ascribe all the honour and the glory to whaling; for a
whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.

CHAPTER 25. Postscript.

In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught but
substantiated facts. But after embattling his facts, an advocate who
should wholly suppress a not unreasonable surmise, which might
tell eloquently upon his cause--such an advocate, would he not be

It is well known that at the coronation of kings and queens, even modern
ones, a certain curious process of seasoning them for their functions is
gone through. There is a saltcellar of state, so called, and there
may be a castor of state. How they use the salt, precisely--who knows?
Certain I am, however, that a king’s head is solemnly oiled at his
coronation, even as a head of salad. Can it be, though, that they
anoint it with a view of making its interior run well, as they anoint
machinery? Much might be ruminated here, concerning the essential
dignity of this regal process, because in common life we esteem but
meanly and contemptibly a fellow who anoints his hair, and palpably
smells of that anointing. In truth, a mature man who uses hair-oil,
unless medicinally, that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him
somewhere. As a general rule, he can’t amount to much in his totality.

But the only thing to be considered here, is this--what kind of oil is
used at coronations? Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil,
nor castor oil, nor bear’s oil, nor train oil, nor cod-liver oil. What
then can it possibly be, but sperm oil in its unmanufactured, unpolluted
state, the sweetest of all oils?

Think of that, ye loyal Britons! we whalemen supply your kings and
queens with coronation stuff!

CHAPTER 26. Knights and Squires.

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

“Aye, aye,” said Stubb, the second mate, “Starbuck, there, is as careful
a man as you’ll find anywhere in this fishery.” But we shall ere long
see what that word “careful” precisely means when used by a man like
Stubb, or almost any other whale hunter.

Starbuck was no crusader after perils; in him courage was not a
sentiment; but a thing simply useful to him, and always at hand upon all
mortally practical occasions. Besides, he thought, perhaps, that in this
business of whaling, courage was one of the great staple outfits of
the ship, like her beef and her bread, and not to be foolishly wasted.
Wherefore he had no fancy for lowering for whales after sun-down; nor
for persisting in fighting a fish that too much persisted in fighting
him. For, thought Starbuck, I am here in this critical ocean to kill
whales for my living, and not to be killed by them for theirs; and that
hundreds of men had been so killed Starbuck well knew. What doom was
his own father’s? Where, in the bottomless deeps, could he find the torn
limbs of his brother?

With memories like these in him, and, moreover, given to a certain
superstitiousness, as has been said; the courage of this Starbuck which
could, nevertheless, still flourish, must indeed have been extreme. But
it was not in reasonable nature that a man so organized, and with such
terrible experiences and remembrances as he had; it was not in nature
that these things should fail in latently engendering an element in
him, which, under suitable circumstances, would break out from its
confinement, and burn all his courage up. And brave as he might be, it
was that sort of bravery chiefly, visible in some intrepid men, which,
while generally abiding firm in the conflict with seas, or winds, or
whales, or any of the ordinary irrational horrors of the world, yet
cannot withstand those more terrific, because more spiritual terrors,
which sometimes menace you from the concentrating brow of an enraged and
mighty man.

But were the coming narrative to reveal in any instance, the complete
abasement of poor Starbuck’s fortitude, scarce might I have the heart to
write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to expose
the fall of valour in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint
stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be;
men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal, is so noble
and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any
ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their
costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves,
so far within us, that it remains intact though all the outer character
seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of
a valor-ruined man. Nor can piety itself, at such a shameful sight,
completely stifle her upbraidings against the permitting stars. But this
august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings and robes, but
that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture. Thou shalt see it
shining in the arm that wields a pick or drives a spike; that democratic
dignity which, on all hands, radiates without end from God; Himself! The
great God absolute! The centre and circumference of all democracy! His
omnipresence, our divine equality!

If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and castaways, I shall
hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave round them tragic
graces; if even the most mournful, perchance the most abased, among them
all, shall at times lift himself to the exalted mounts; if I shall touch
that workman’s arm with some ethereal light; if I shall spread a rainbow
over his disastrous set of sun; then against all mortal critics bear
me out in it, thou Just Spirit of Equality, which hast spread one royal
mantle of humanity over all my kind! Bear me out in it, thou great
democratic God! who didst not refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the
pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves
of finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who
didst pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a
war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all
Thy mighty, earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from
the kingly commons; bear me out in it, O God!

CHAPTER 27. Knights and Squires.

Stubb was the second mate. He was a native of Cape Cod; and hence,
according to local usage, was called a Cape-Cod-man. A happy-go-lucky;
neither craven nor valiant; taking perils as they came with an
indifferent air; and while engaged in the most imminent crisis of the
chase, toiling away, calm and collected as a journeyman joiner engaged
for the year. Good-humored, easy, and careless, he presided over his
whale-boat as if the most deadly encounter were but a dinner, and his
crew all invited guests. He was as particular about the comfortable
arrangement of his part of the boat, as an old stage-driver is about the
snugness of his box. When close to the whale, in the very death-lock of
the fight, he handled his unpitying lance coolly and off-handedly, as
a whistling tinker his hammer. He would hum over his old rigadig tunes
while flank and flank with the most exasperated monster. Long usage had,
for this Stubb, converted the jaws of death into an easy chair. What he
thought of death itself, there is no telling. Whether he ever thought of
it at all, might be a question; but, if he ever did chance to cast his
mind that way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor,
he took it to be a sort of call of the watch to tumble aloft, and bestir
themselves there, about something which he would find out when he obeyed
the order, and not sooner.

What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going,
unfearing man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a
world full of grave pedlars, all bowed to the ground with their packs;
what helped to bring about that almost impious good-humor of his; that
thing must have been his pipe. For, like his nose, his short, black
little pipe was one of the regular features of his face. You would
almost as soon have expected him to turn out of his bunk without his
nose as without his pipe. He kept a whole row of pipes there ready
loaded, stuck in a rack, within easy reach of his hand; and, whenever he
turned in, he smoked them all out in succession, lighting one from
the other to the end of the chapter; then loading them again to be in
readiness anew. For, when Stubb dressed, instead of first putting his
legs into his trowsers, he put his pipe into his mouth.

I say this continual smoking must have been one cause, at least, of his
peculiar disposition; for every one knows that this earthly air, whether
ashore or afloat, is terribly infected with the nameless miseries of
the numberless mortals who have died exhaling it; and as in time of the
cholera, some people go about with a camphorated handkerchief to their
mouths; so, likewise, against all mortal tribulations, Stubb’s tobacco
smoke might have operated as a sort of disinfecting agent.

The third mate was Flask, a native of Tisbury, in Martha’s Vineyard. A
short, stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning whales,
who somehow seemed to think that the great leviathans had personally
and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of
honour with him, to destroy them whenever encountered. So utterly lost
was he to all sense of reverence for the many marvels of their majestic
bulk and mystic ways; and so dead to anything like an apprehension of
any possible danger from encountering them; that in his poor opinion,
the wondrous whale was but a species of magnified mouse, or at least
water-rat, requiring only a little circumvention and some small
application of time and trouble in order to kill and boil. This
ignorant, unconscious fearlessness of his made him a little waggish in
the matter of whales; he followed these fish for the fun of it; and a
three years’ voyage round Cape Horn was only a jolly joke that lasted
that length of time. As a carpenter’s nails are divided into wrought
nails and cut nails; so mankind may be similarly divided. Little Flask
was one of the wrought ones; made to clinch tight and last long. They
called him King-Post on board of the Pequod; because, in form, he could
be well likened to the short, square timber known by that name in Arctic
whalers; and which by the means of many radiating side timbers inserted
into it, serves to brace the ship against the icy concussions of those
battering seas.

Now these three mates--Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were momentous
men. They it was who by universal prescription commanded three of the
Pequod’s boats as headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which
Captain Ahab would probably marshal his forces to descend on the whales,
these three headsmen were as captains of companies. Or, being armed with
their long keen whaling spears, they were as a picked trio of lancers;
even as the harpooneers were flingers of javelins.

And since in this famous fishery, each mate or headsman, like a Gothic
Knight of old, is always accompanied by his boat-steerer or harpooneer,
who in certain conjunctures provides him with a fresh lance, when
the former one has been badly twisted, or elbowed in the assault; and
moreover, as there generally subsists between the two, a close intimacy
and friendliness; it is therefore but meet, that in this place we set
down who the Pequod’s harpooneers were, and to what headsman each of
them belonged.

First of all was Queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate, had selected
for his squire. But Queequeg is already known.

Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly
promontory of Martha’s Vineyard, where there still exists the last
remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring
island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the
fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers. Tashtego’s
long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding
eyes--for an Indian, Oriental in their largeness, but Antarctic in their
glittering expression--all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor
of the unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest
of the great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal
forests of the main. But no longer snuffing in the trail of the wild
beasts of the woodland, Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great
whales of the sea; the unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the
infallible arrow of the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe
snaky limbs, you would almost have credited the superstitions of some of
the earlier Puritans, and half-believed this wild Indian to be a son
of the Prince of the Powers of the Air. Tashtego was Stubb the second
mate’s squire.

Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black
negro-savage, with a lion-like tread--an Ahasuerus to behold. Suspended
from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the sailors called
them ring-bolts, and would talk of securing the top-sail halyards to
them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily shipped on board of a whaler,
lying in a lonely bay on his native coast. And never having been
anywhere in the world but in Africa, Nantucket, and the pagan harbors
most frequented by whalemen; and having now led for many years the bold
life of the fishery in the ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what
manner of men they shipped; Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues,
and erect as a giraffe, moved about the decks in all the pomp of six
feet five in his socks. There was a corporeal humility in looking up at
him; and a white man standing before him seemed a white flag come to
beg truce of a fortress. Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus
Daggoo, was the Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man
beside him. As for the residue of the Pequod’s company, be it said, that
at the present day not one in two of the many thousand men before the
mast employed in the American whale fishery, are Americans born, though
pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the same with the
American whale fishery as with the American army and military and
merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in the construction
of the American Canals and Railroads. The same, I say, because in all
these cases the native American liberally provides the brains, the rest
of the world as generously supplying the muscles. No small number of
these whaling seamen belong to the Azores, where the outward bound
Nantucket whalers frequently touch to augment their crews from the hardy
peasants of those rocky shores. In like manner, the Greenland whalers
sailing out of Hull or London, put in at the Shetland Islands, to
receive the full complement of their crew. Upon the passage homewards,
they drop them there again. How it is, there is no telling, but
Islanders seem to make the best whalemen. They were nearly all Islanders
in the Pequod, ISOLATOES too, I call such, not acknowledging the common
continent of men, but each ISOLATO living on a separate continent of his
own. Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were!
An Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all
the ends of the earth, accompanying Old Ahab in the Pequod to lay the
world’s grievances before that bar from which not very many of them ever
come back. Black Little Pip--he never did--oh, no! he went before. Poor
Alabama boy! On the grim Pequod’s forecastle, ye shall ere long see him,
beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time, when sent for,
to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid strike in with angels, and
beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here, hailed a hero there!

CHAPTER 28. Ahab.

For several days after leaving Nantucket, nothing above hatches was seen
of Captain Ahab. The mates regularly relieved each other at the watches,
and for aught that could be seen to the contrary, they seemed to be the
only commanders of the ship; only they sometimes issued from the cabin
with orders so sudden and peremptory, that after all it was plain they
but commanded vicariously. Yes, their supreme lord and dictator was
there, though hitherto unseen by any eyes not permitted to penetrate
into the now sacred retreat of the cabin.

Every time I ascended to the deck from my watches below, I instantly
gazed aft to mark if any strange face were visible; for my first vague
disquietude touching the unknown captain, now in the seclusion of the
sea, became almost a perturbation. This was strangely heightened
at times by the ragged Elijah’s diabolical incoherences uninvitedly
recurring to me, with a subtle energy I could not have before conceived
of. But poorly could I withstand them, much as in other moods I was
almost ready to smile at the solemn whimsicalities of that outlandish
prophet of the wharves. But whatever it was of apprehensiveness or
uneasiness--to call it so--which I felt, yet whenever I came to look
about me in the ship, it seemed against all warrantry to cherish such
emotions. For though the harpooneers, with the great body of the crew,
were a far more barbaric, heathenish, and motley set than any of the
tame merchant-ship companies which my previous experiences had made me
acquainted with, still I ascribed this--and rightly ascribed it--to the
fierce uniqueness of the very nature of that wild Scandinavian vocation
in which I had so abandonedly embarked. But it was especially the aspect
of the three chief officers of the ship, the mates, which was most
forcibly calculated to allay these colourless misgivings, and induce
confidence and cheerfulness in every presentment of the voyage. Three
better, more likely sea-officers and men, each in his own different way,
could not readily be found, and they were every one of them Americans; a
Nantucketer, a Vineyarder, a Cape man. Now, it being Christmas when the
ship shot from out her harbor, for a space we had biting Polar weather,
though all the time running away from it to the southward; and by every
degree and minute of latitude which we sailed, gradually leaving that
merciless winter, and all its intolerable weather behind us. It was one
of those less lowering, but still grey and gloomy enough mornings of the
transition, when with a fair wind the ship was rushing through the water
with a vindictive sort of leaping and melancholy rapidity, that as I
mounted to the deck at the call of the forenoon watch, so soon as I
levelled my glance towards the taffrail, foreboding shivers ran over me.
Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarter-deck.

There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the
recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when
the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them,
or taking away one particle from their compacted aged robustness. His
whole high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an
unalterable mould, like Cellini’s cast Perseus. Threading its way out
from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his
tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing,
you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. It resembled that
perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of
a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and
without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top
to bottom, ere running off into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly
alive, but branded. Whether that mark was born with him, or whether it
was the scar left by some desperate wound, no one could certainly say.
By some tacit consent, throughout the voyage little or no allusion was
made to it, especially by the mates. But once Tashtego’s senior, an old
Gay-Head Indian among the crew, superstitiously asserted that not till
he was full forty years old did Ahab become that way branded, and
then it came upon him, not in the fury of any mortal fray, but in
an elemental strife at sea. Yet, this wild hint seemed inferentially
negatived, by what a grey Manxman insinuated, an old sepulchral man,
who, having never before sailed out of Nantucket, had never ere this
laid eye upon wild Ahab. Nevertheless, the old sea-traditions, the
immemorial credulities, popularly invested this old Manxman with
preternatural powers of discernment. So that no white sailor seriously
contradicted him when he said that if ever Captain Ahab should
be tranquilly laid out--which might hardly come to pass, so he
muttered--then, whoever should do that last office for the dead, would
find a birth-mark on him from crown to sole.

So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the livid
brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I hardly noted
that not a little of this overbearing grimness was owing to the barbaric
white leg upon which he partly stood. It had previously come to me that
this ivory leg had at sea been fashioned from the polished bone of
the sperm whale’s jaw. “Aye, he was dismasted off Japan,” said the old
Gay-Head Indian once; “but like his dismasted craft, he shipped another
mast without coming home for it. He has a quiver of ‘em.”

I was struck with the singular posture he maintained. Upon each side of
the Pequod’s quarter deck, and pretty close to the mizzen shrouds, there
was an auger hole, bored about half an inch or so, into the plank.
His bone leg steadied in that hole; one arm elevated, and holding by a
shroud; Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out beyond the
ship’s ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude,
a determinate, unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless,
forward dedication of that glance. Not a word he spoke; nor did his
officers say aught to him; though by all their minutest gestures
and expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy, if not painful,
consciousness of being under a troubled master-eye. And not only that,
but moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his
face; in all the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.

Ere long, from his first visit in the air, he withdrew into his cabin.
But after that morning, he was every day visible to the crew; either
standing in his pivot-hole, or seated upon an ivory stool he had; or
heavily walking the deck. As the sky grew less gloomy; indeed, began to
grow a little genial, he became still less and less a recluse; as
if, when the ship had sailed from home, nothing but the dead wintry
bleakness of the sea had then kept him so secluded. And, by and by, it
came to pass, that he was almost continually in the air; but, as yet,
for all that he said, or perceptibly did, on the at last sunny deck,
he seemed as unnecessary there as another mast. But the Pequod was
only making a passage now; not regularly cruising; nearly all whaling
preparatives needing supervision the mates were fully competent to, so
that there was little or nothing, out of himself, to employ or excite
Ahab, now; and thus chase away, for that one interval, the clouds that
layer upon layer were piled upon his brow, as ever all clouds choose the
loftiest peaks to pile themselves upon.

Nevertheless, ere long, the warm, warbling persuasiveness of the
pleasant, holiday weather we came to, seemed gradually to charm him from
his mood. For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May,
trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest,
most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green
sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants; so Ahab did, in the
end, a little respond to the playful allurings of that girlish air. More
than once did he put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any
other man, would have soon flowered out in a smile.

CHAPTER 29. Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb.

Some days elapsed, and ice and icebergs all astern, the Pequod now
went rolling through the bright Quito spring, which, at sea, almost
perpetually reigns on the threshold of the eternal August of the Tropic.
The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days,
were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up--flaked up, with
rose-water snow. The starred and stately nights seemed haughty dames in
jewelled velvets, nursing at home in lonely pride, the memory of their
absent conquering Earls, the golden helmeted suns! For sleeping man,
‘twas hard to choose between such winsome days and such seducing nights.
But all the witcheries of that unwaning weather did not merely lend new
spells and potencies to the outward world. Inward they turned upon the
soul, especially when the still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory
shot her crystals as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights.
And all these subtle agencies, more and more they wrought on Ahab’s

Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less
man has to do with aught that looks like death. Among sea-commanders,
the old greybeards will oftenest leave their berths to visit the
night-cloaked deck. It was so with Ahab; only that now, of late, he
seemed so much to live in the open air, that truly speaking, his visits
were more to the cabin, than from the cabin to the planks. “It feels
like going down into one’s tomb,”--he would mutter to himself--“for an
old captain like me to be descending this narrow scuttle, to go to my
grave-dug berth.”

So, almost every twenty-four hours, when the watches of the night were
set, and the band on deck sentinelled the slumbers of the band below;
and when if a rope was to be hauled upon the forecastle, the sailors
flung it not rudely down, as by day, but with some cautiousness dropt
it to its place for fear of disturbing their slumbering shipmates; when
this sort of steady quietude would begin to prevail, habitually, the
silent steersman would watch the cabin-scuttle; and ere long the old man
would emerge, gripping at the iron banister, to help his crippled way.
Some considering touch of humanity was in him; for at times like these,
he usually abstained from patrolling the quarter-deck; because to his
wearied mates, seeking repose within six inches of his ivory heel, such
would have been the reverberating crack and din of that bony step, that
their dreams would have been on the crunching teeth of sharks. But once,
the mood was on him too deep for common regardings; and as with heavy,
lumber-like pace he was measuring the ship from taffrail to mainmast,
Stubb, the old second mate, came up from below, with a certain
unassured, deprecating humorousness, hinted that if Captain Ahab was
pleased to walk the planks, then, no one could say nay; but there might
be some way of muffling the noise; hinting something indistinctly and
hesitatingly about a globe of tow, and the insertion into it, of the
ivory heel. Ah! Stubb, thou didst not know Ahab then.

“Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb,” said Ahab, “that thou wouldst wad me that
fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot. Below to thy nightly grave;
where such as ye sleep between shrouds, to use ye to the filling one at
last.--Down, dog, and kennel!”

Starting at the unforseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly
scornful old man, Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly, “I
am not used to be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half like
it, sir.”

“Avast! gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving away,
as if to avoid some passionate temptation.

“No, sir; not yet,” said Stubb, emboldened, “I will not tamely be called
a dog, sir.”

“Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and begone,
or I’ll clear the world of thee!”

As he said this, Ahab advanced upon him with such overbearing terrors in
his aspect, that Stubb involuntarily retreated.

“I was never served so before without giving a hard blow for it,”
 muttered Stubb, as he found himself descending the cabin-scuttle. “It’s
very queer. Stop, Stubb; somehow, now, I don’t well know whether to go
back and strike him, or--what’s that?--down here on my knees and pray
for him? Yes, that was the thought coming up in me; but it would be the
first time I ever DID pray. It’s queer; very queer; and he’s queer too;
aye, take him fore and aft, he’s about the queerest old man Stubb ever
sailed with. How he flashed at me!--his eyes like powder-pans! is he
mad? Anyway there’s something on his mind, as sure as there must be
something on a deck when it cracks. He aint in his bed now, either, more
than three hours out of the twenty-four; and he don’t sleep then. Didn’t
that Dough-Boy, the steward, tell me that of a morning he always finds
the old man’s hammock clothes all rumpled and tumbled, and the sheets
down at the foot, and the coverlid almost tied into knots, and the
pillow a sort of frightful hot, as though a baked brick had been on
it? A hot old man! I guess he’s got what some folks ashore call
a conscience; it’s a kind of Tic-Dolly-row they say--worse nor a
toothache. Well, well; I don’t know what it is, but the Lord keep me
from catching it. He’s full of riddles; I wonder what he goes into the
after hold for, every night, as Dough-Boy tells me he suspects; what’s
that for, I should like to know? Who’s made appointments with him in
the hold? Ain’t that queer, now? But there’s no telling, it’s the old
game--Here goes for a snooze. Damn me, it’s worth a fellow’s while to be
born into the world, if only to fall right asleep. And now that I think
of it, that’s about the first thing babies do, and that’s a sort of
queer, too. Damn me, but all things are queer, come to think of ‘em. But
that’s against my principles. Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and
sleep when you can, is my twelfth--So here goes again. But how’s that?
didn’t he call me a dog? blazes! he called me ten times a donkey, and
piled a lot of jackasses on top of THAT! He might as well have kicked
me, and done with it. Maybe he DID kick me, and I didn’t observe it,
I was so taken all aback with his brow, somehow. It flashed like a
bleached bone. What the devil’s the matter with me? I don’t stand right
on my legs. Coming afoul of that old man has a sort of turned me wrong
side out. By the Lord, I must have been dreaming, though--How? how?
how?--but the only way’s to stash it; so here goes to hammock again;
and in the morning, I’ll see how this plaguey juggling thinks over by

CHAPTER 30. The Pipe.

When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the
bulwarks; and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a sailor
of the watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also his pipe.
Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the stool on the
weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked.

In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were
fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could one
look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking
him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of
the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.

Some moments passed, during which the thick vapour came from his mouth
in quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face. “How
now,” he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, “this smoking no
longer soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be
gone! Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring--aye, and
ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with
such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the
strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe?
This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapours
among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I’ll
smoke no more--”

He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed in the
waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking pipe
made. With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly paced the planks.

CHAPTER 31. Queen Mab.

Next morning Stubb accosted Flask.

“Such a queer dream, King-Post, I never had. You know the old man’s
ivory leg, well I dreamed he kicked me with it; and when I tried to kick
back, upon my soul, my little man, I kicked my leg right off! And then,
presto! Ahab seemed a pyramid, and I, like a blazing fool, kept kicking
at it. But what was still more curious, Flask--you know how curious all
dreams are--through all this rage that I was in, I somehow seemed to be
thinking to myself, that after all, it was not much of an insult, that
kick from Ahab. ‘Why,’ thinks I, ‘what’s the row? It’s not a real leg,
only a false leg.’ And there’s a mighty difference between a living
thump and a dead thump. That’s what makes a blow from the hand, Flask,
fifty times more savage to bear than a blow from a cane. The living
member--that makes the living insult, my little man. And thinks I to
myself all the while, mind, while I was stubbing my silly toes against
that cursed pyramid--so confoundedly contradictory was it all, all
the while, I say, I was thinking to myself, ‘what’s his leg now, but
a cane--a whalebone cane. Yes,’ thinks I, ‘it was only a playful
cudgelling--in fact, only a whaleboning that he gave me--not a base
kick. Besides,’ thinks I, ‘look at it once; why, the end of it--the foot
part--what a small sort of end it is; whereas, if a broad footed farmer
kicked me, THERE’S a devilish broad insult. But this insult is whittled
down to a point only.’ But now comes the greatest joke of the
dream, Flask. While I was battering away at the pyramid, a sort of
badger-haired old merman, with a hump on his back, takes me by the
shoulders, and slews me round. ‘What are you ‘bout?’ says he. Slid! man,
but I was frightened. Such a phiz! But, somehow, next moment I was over
the fright. ‘What am I about?’ says I at last. ‘And what business is
that of yours, I should like to know, Mr. Humpback? Do YOU want a kick?’
By the lord, Flask, I had no sooner said that, than he turned round his
stern to me, bent over, and dragging up a lot of seaweed he had for a
clout--what do you think, I saw?--why thunder alive, man, his stern
was stuck full of marlinspikes, with the points out. Says I, on second
thoughts, ‘I guess I won’t kick you, old fellow.’ ‘Wise Stubb,’ said he,
‘wise Stubb;’ and kept muttering it all the time, a sort of eating of
his own gums like a chimney hag. Seeing he wasn’t going to stop saying
over his ‘wise Stubb, wise Stubb,’ I thought I might as well fall to
kicking the pyramid again. But I had only just lifted my foot for it,
when he roared out, ‘Stop that kicking!’ ‘Halloa,’ says I, ‘what’s
the matter now, old fellow?’ ‘Look ye here,’ says he; ‘let’s argue
the insult. Captain Ahab kicked ye, didn’t he?’ ‘Yes, he did,’ says
I--‘right HERE it was.’ ‘Very good,’ says he--‘he used his ivory leg,
didn’t he?’ ‘Yes, he did,’ says I. ‘Well then,’ says he, ‘wise Stubb,
what have you to complain of? Didn’t he kick with right good will? it
wasn’t a common pitch pine leg he kicked with, was it? No, you were
kicked by a great man, and with a beautiful ivory leg, Stubb. It’s an
honour; I consider it an honour. Listen, wise Stubb. In old England the
greatest lords think it great glory to be slapped by a queen, and made
garter-knights of; but, be YOUR boast, Stubb, that ye were kicked by
old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say; BE kicked by him;
account his kicks honours; and on no account kick back; for you can’t
help yourself, wise Stubb. Don’t you see that pyramid?’ With that, he
all of a sudden seemed somehow, in some queer fashion, to swim off into
the air. I snored; rolled over; and there I was in my hammock! Now, what
do you think of that dream, Flask?”

“I don’t know; it seems a sort of foolish to me, tho.’”

“May be; may be. But it’s made a wise man of me, Flask. D’ye see Ahab
standing there, sideways looking over the stern? Well, the best thing
you can do, Flask, is to let the old man alone; never speak to him,
whatever he says. Halloa! What’s that he shouts? Hark!”

“Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales hereabouts!

“If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him!

“What do you think of that now, Flask? ain’t there a small drop of
something queer about that, eh? A white whale--did ye mark that, man?
Look ye--there’s something special in the wind. Stand by for it, Flask.
Ahab has that that’s bloody on his mind. But, mum; he comes this way.”

CHAPTER 32. Cetology.

Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost
in its unshored, harbourless immensities. Ere that come to pass; ere the
Pequod’s weedy hull rolls side by side with the barnacled hulls of the
leviathan; at the outset it is but well to attend to a matter almost
indispensable to a thorough appreciative understanding of the more
special leviathanic revelations and allusions of all sorts which are to

It is some systematized exhibition of the whale in his broad genera,
that I would now fain put before you. Yet is it no easy task. The
classification of the constituents of a chaos, nothing less is here
essayed. Listen to what the best and latest authorities have laid down.

“No branch of Zoology is so much involved as that which is entitled
Cetology,” says Captain Scoresby, A.D. 1820.

“It is not my intention, were it in my power, to enter into the
inquiry as to the true method of dividing the cetacea into groups and
families.... Utter confusion exists among the historians of this animal”
 (sperm whale), says Surgeon Beale, A.D. 1839.

“Unfitness to pursue our research in the unfathomable waters.”
 “Impenetrable veil covering our knowledge of the cetacea.” “A field
strewn with thorns.” “All these incomplete indications but serve to
torture us naturalists.”

Thus speak of the whale, the great Cuvier, and John Hunter, and Lesson,
those lights of zoology and anatomy. Nevertheless, though of real
knowledge there be little, yet of books there are a plenty; and so in
some small degree, with cetology, or the science of whales. Many are
the men, small and great, old and new, landsmen and seamen, who have at
large or in little, written of the whale. Run over a few:--The Authors
of the Bible; Aristotle; Pliny; Aldrovandi; Sir Thomas Browne; Gesner;
Ray; Linnaeus; Rondeletius; Willoughby; Green; Artedi; Sibbald; Brisson;
Marten; Lacepede; Bonneterre; Desmarest; Baron Cuvier; Frederick Cuvier;
John Hunter; Owen; Scoresby; Beale; Bennett; J. Ross Browne; the
Author of Miriam Coffin; Olmstead; and the Rev. T. Cheever. But to what
ultimate generalizing purpose all these have written, the above cited
extracts will show.

Of the names in this list of whale authors, only those following Owen
ever saw living whales; and but one of them was a real professional
harpooneer and whaleman. I mean Captain Scoresby. On the separate
subject of the Greenland or right-whale, he is the best existing
authority. But Scoresby knew nothing and says nothing of the great
sperm whale, compared with which the Greenland whale is almost unworthy
mentioning. And here be it said, that the Greenland whale is an usurper
upon the throne of the seas. He is not even by any means the largest
of the whales. Yet, owing to the long priority of his claims, and the
profound ignorance which, till some seventy years back, invested the
then fabulous or utterly unknown sperm-whale, and which ignorance to
this present day still reigns in all but some few scientific retreats
and whale-ports; this usurpation has been every way complete. Reference
to nearly all the leviathanic allusions in the great poets of past days,
will satisfy you that the Greenland whale, without one rival, was to
them the monarch of the seas. But the time has at last come for a new
proclamation. This is Charing Cross; hear ye! good people all,--the
Greenland whale is deposed,--the great sperm whale now reigneth!

There are only two books in being which at all pretend to put the living
sperm whale before you, and at the same time, in the remotest degree
succeed in the attempt. Those books are Beale’s and Bennett’s; both in
their time surgeons to English South-Sea whale-ships, and both exact and
reliable men. The original matter touching the sperm whale to be found
in their volumes is necessarily small; but so far as it goes, it is of
excellent quality, though mostly confined to scientific description. As
yet, however, the sperm whale, scientific or poetic, lives not complete
in any literature. Far above all other hunted whales, his is an
unwritten life.

Now the various species of whales need some sort of popular
comprehensive classification, if only an easy outline one for the
present, hereafter to be filled in all its departments by subsequent
laborers. As no better man advances to take this matter in hand, I
hereupon offer my own poor endeavors. I promise nothing complete;
because any human thing supposed to be complete, must for that very
reason infallibly be faulty. I shall not pretend to a minute anatomical
description of the various species, or--in this place at least--to much
of any description. My object here is simply to project the draught of a
systematization of cetology. I am the architect, not the builder.

But it is a ponderous task; no ordinary letter-sorter in the Post-Office
is equal to it. To grope down into the bottom of the sea after them;
to have one’s hands among the unspeakable foundations, ribs, and very
pelvis of the world; this is a fearful thing. What am I that I should
essay to hook the nose of this leviathan! The awful tauntings in Job
might well appal me. Will he (the leviathan) make a covenant with thee?
Behold the hope of him is vain! But I have swam through libraries and
sailed through oceans; I have had to do with whales with these visible
hands; I am in earnest; and I will try. There are some preliminaries to

First: The uncertain, unsettled condition of this science of Cetology
is in the very vestibule attested by the fact, that in some quarters it
still remains a moot point whether a whale be a fish. In his System of
Nature, A.D. 1776, Linnaeus declares, “I hereby separate the whales from
the fish.” But of my own knowledge, I know that down to the year 1850,
sharks and shad, alewives and herring, against Linnaeus’s express edict,
were still found dividing the possession of the same seas with the

The grounds upon which Linnaeus would fain have banished the whales from
the waters, he states as follows: “On account of their warm bilocular
heart, their lungs, their movable eyelids, their hollow ears, penem
intrantem feminam mammis lactantem,” and finally, “ex lege naturae jure
meritoque.” I submitted all this to my friends Simeon Macey and Charley
Coffin, of Nantucket, both messmates of mine in a certain voyage, and
they united in the opinion that the reasons set forth were altogether
insufficient. Charley profanely hinted they were humbug.

Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old fashioned
ground that the whale is a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me.
This fundamental thing settled, the next point is, in what internal
respect does the whale differ from other fish. Above, Linnaeus has given
you those items. But in brief, they are these: lungs and warm blood;
whereas, all other fish are lungless and cold blooded.

Next: how shall we define the whale, by his obvious externals, so as
conspicuously to label him for all time to come? To be short, then, a
him. However contracted, that definition is the result of expanded
meditation. A walrus spouts much like a whale, but the walrus is not a
fish, because he is amphibious. But the last term of the definition is
still more cogent, as coupled with the first. Almost any one must have
noticed that all the fish familiar to landsmen have not a flat, but a
vertical, or up-and-down tail. Whereas, among spouting fish the tail,
though it may be similarly shaped, invariably assumes a horizontal

By the above definition of what a whale is, I do by no means exclude
from the leviathanic brotherhood any sea creature hitherto identified
with the whale by the best informed Nantucketers; nor, on the other
hand, link with it any fish hitherto authoritatively regarded as alien.*
Hence, all the smaller, spouting, and horizontal tailed fish must be
included in this ground-plan of Cetology. Now, then, come the grand
divisions of the entire whale host.

*I am aware that down to the present time, the fish styled Lamatins and
Dugongs (Pig-fish and Sow-fish of the Coffins of Nantucket) are included
by many naturalists among the whales. But as these pig-fish are a noisy,
contemptible set, mostly lurking in the mouths of rivers, and feeding on
wet hay, and especially as they do not spout, I deny their credentials
as whales; and have presented them with their passports to quit the
Kingdom of Cetology.

First: According to magnitude I divide the whales into three primary
BOOKS (subdivisible into CHAPTERS), and these shall comprehend them all,
both small and large.


As the type of the FOLIO I present the SPERM WHALE; of the OCTAVO, the

FOLIOS. Among these I here include the following chapters:--I. The SPERM

BOOK I. (FOLIO), CHAPTER I. (SPERM WHALE).--This whale, among the
English of old vaguely known as the Trumpa whale, and the Physeter
whale, and the Anvil Headed whale, is the present Cachalot of the
French, and the Pottsfich of the Germans, and the Macrocephalus of the
Long Words. He is, without doubt, the largest inhabitant of the globe;
the most formidable of all whales to encounter; the most majestic in
aspect; and lastly, by far the most valuable in commerce; he being
the only creature from which that valuable substance, spermaceti, is
obtained. All his peculiarities will, in many other places, be enlarged
upon. It is chiefly with his name that I now have to do. Philologically
considered, it is absurd. Some centuries ago, when the Sperm whale was
almost wholly unknown in his own proper individuality, and when his oil
was only accidentally obtained from the stranded fish; in those days
spermaceti, it would seem, was popularly supposed to be derived from a
creature identical with the one then known in England as the Greenland
or Right Whale. It was the idea also, that this same spermaceti was that
quickening humor of the Greenland Whale which the first syllable of
the word literally expresses. In those times, also, spermaceti was
exceedingly scarce, not being used for light, but only as an ointment
and medicament. It was only to be had from the druggists as you nowadays
buy an ounce of rhubarb. When, as I opine, in the course of time, the
true nature of spermaceti became known, its original name was still
retained by the dealers; no doubt to enhance its value by a notion so
strangely significant of its scarcity. And so the appellation must at
last have come to be bestowed upon the whale from which this spermaceti
was really derived.

BOOK I. (FOLIO), CHAPTER II. (RIGHT WHALE).--In one respect this is the
most venerable of the leviathans, being the one first regularly hunted
by man. It yields the article commonly known as whalebone or baleen; and
the oil specially known as “whale oil,” an inferior article in commerce.
Among the fishermen, he is indiscriminately designated by all the
following titles: The Whale; the Greenland Whale; the Black Whale;
the Great Whale; the True Whale; the Right Whale. There is a deal of
obscurity concerning the identity of the species thus multitudinously
baptised. What then is the whale, which I include in the second species
of my Folios? It is the Great Mysticetus of the English naturalists; the
Greenland Whale of the English whalemen; the Baleine Ordinaire of the
French whalemen; the Growlands Walfish of the Swedes. It is the whale
which for more than two centuries past has been hunted by the Dutch and
English in the Arctic seas; it is the whale which the American fishermen
have long pursued in the Indian ocean, on the Brazil Banks, on the Nor’
West Coast, and various other parts of the world, designated by them
Right Whale Cruising Grounds.

Some pretend to see a difference between the Greenland whale of the
English and the right whale of the Americans. But they precisely agree
in all their grand features; nor has there yet been presented a single
determinate fact upon which to ground a radical distinction. It is by
endless subdivisions based upon the most inconclusive differences, that
some departments of natural history become so repellingly intricate. The
right whale will be elsewhere treated of at some length, with reference
to elucidating the sperm whale.

BOOK I. (FOLIO), CHAPTER III. (FIN-BACK).--Under this head I reckon
a monster which, by the various names of Fin-Back, Tall-Spout, and
Long-John, has been seen almost in every sea and is commonly the whale
whose distant jet is so often descried by passengers crossing the
Atlantic, in the New York packet-tracks. In the length he attains, and
in his baleen, the Fin-back resembles the right whale, but is of a less
portly girth, and a lighter colour, approaching to olive. His great lips
present a cable-like aspect, formed by the intertwisting, slanting folds
of large wrinkles. His grand distinguishing feature, the fin, from which
he derives his name, is often a conspicuous object. This fin is some
three or four feet long, growing vertically from the hinder part of the
back, of an angular shape, and with a very sharp pointed end. Even if
not the slightest other part of the creature be visible, this isolated
fin will, at times, be seen plainly projecting from the surface. When
the sea is moderately calm, and slightly marked with spherical ripples,
and this gnomon-like fin stands up and casts shadows upon the wrinkled
surface, it may well be supposed that the watery circle surrounding it
somewhat resembles a dial, with its style and wavy hour-lines graved on
it. On that Ahaz-dial the shadow often goes back. The Fin-Back is not
gregarious. He seems a whale-hater, as some men are man-haters. Very
shy; always going solitary; unexpectedly rising to the surface in the
remotest and most sullen waters; his straight and single lofty jet
rising like a tall misanthropic spear upon a barren plain; gifted with
such wondrous power and velocity in swimming, as to defy all present
pursuit from man; this leviathan seems the banished and unconquerable
Cain of his race, bearing for his mark that style upon his back. From
having the baleen in his mouth, the Fin-Back is sometimes included with
the right whale, among a theoretic species denominated WHALEBONE WHALES,
that is, whales with baleen. Of these so called Whalebone whales, there
would seem to be several varieties, most of which, however, are little
known. Broad-nosed whales and beaked whales; pike-headed whales; bunched
whales; under-jawed whales and rostrated whales, are the fishermen’s
names for a few sorts.

In connection with this appellative of “Whalebone whales,” it is of
great importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature may be
convenient in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales, yet it is
in vain to attempt a clear classification of the Leviathan, founded upon
either his baleen, or hump, or fin, or teeth; notwithstanding that those
marked parts or features very obviously seem better adapted to afford
the basis for a regular system of Cetology than any other detached
bodily distinctions, which the whale, in his kinds, presents. How
then? The baleen, hump, back-fin, and teeth; these are things whose
peculiarities are indiscriminately dispersed among all sorts of whales,
without any regard to what may be the nature of their structure in other
and more essential particulars. Thus, the sperm whale and the humpbacked
whale, each has a hump; but there the similitude ceases. Then, this same
humpbacked whale and the Greenland whale, each of these has baleen;
but there again the similitude ceases. And it is just the same with the
other parts above mentioned. In various sorts of whales, they form such
irregular combinations; or, in the case of any one of them detached,
such an irregular isolation; as utterly to defy all general
methodization formed upon such a basis. On this rock every one of the
whale-naturalists has split.

But it may possibly be conceived that, in the internal parts of the
whale, in his anatomy--there, at least, we shall be able to hit the
right classification. Nay; what thing, for example, is there in the
Greenland whale’s anatomy more striking than his baleen? Yet we have
seen that by his baleen it is impossible correctly to classify the
Greenland whale. And if you descend into the bowels of the various
leviathans, why there you will not find distinctions a fiftieth part as
available to the systematizer as those external ones already enumerated.
What then remains? nothing but to take hold of the whales bodily, in
their entire liberal volume, and boldly sort them that way. And this is
the Bibliographical system here adopted; and it is the only one that can
possibly succeed, for it alone is practicable. To proceed.

BOOK I. (FOLIO) CHAPTER IV. (HUMP-BACK).--This whale is often seen on
the northern American coast. He has been frequently captured there, and
towed into harbor. He has a great pack on him like a peddler; or you
might call him the Elephant and Castle whale. At any rate, the popular
name for him does not sufficiently distinguish him, since the sperm
whale also has a hump though a smaller one. His oil is not very
valuable. He has baleen. He is the most gamesome and light-hearted of
all the whales, making more gay foam and white water generally than any
other of them.

BOOK I. (FOLIO), CHAPTER V. (RAZOR-BACK).--Of this whale little is known
but his name. I have seen him at a distance off Cape Horn. Of a retiring
nature, he eludes both hunters and philosophers. Though no coward, he
has never yet shown any part of him but his back, which rises in a long
sharp ridge. Let him go. I know little more of him, nor does anybody

gentleman, with a brimstone belly, doubtless got by scraping along the
Tartarian tiles in some of his profounder divings. He is seldom seen;
at least I have never seen him except in the remoter southern seas,
and then always at too great a distance to study his countenance. He is
never chased; he would run away with rope-walks of line. Prodigies are
told of him. Adieu, Sulphur Bottom! I can say nothing more that is true
of ye, nor can the oldest Nantucketer.

Thus ends BOOK I. (FOLIO), and now begins BOOK II. (OCTAVO).

OCTAVOES.*--These embrace the whales of middling magnitude, among which
present may be numbered:--I., the GRAMPUS; II., the BLACK FISH; III.,

*Why this book of whales is not denominated the Quarto is very plain.
Because, while the whales of this order, though smaller than those of
the former order, nevertheless retain a proportionate likeness to them
in figure, yet the bookbinder’s Quarto volume in its dimensioned form
does not preserve the shape of the Folio volume, but the Octavo volume

BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER I. (GRAMPUS).--Though this fish, whose
loud sonorous breathing, or rather blowing, has furnished a proverb
to landsmen, is so well known a denizen of the deep, yet is he not
popularly classed among whales. But possessing all the grand distinctive
features of the leviathan, most naturalists have recognised him for one.
He is of moderate octavo size, varying from fifteen to twenty-five feet
in length, and of corresponding dimensions round the waist. He swims in
herds; he is never regularly hunted, though his oil is considerable in
quantity, and pretty good for light. By some fishermen his approach is
regarded as premonitory of the advance of the great sperm whale.

BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER II. (BLACK FISH).--I give the popular
fishermen’s names for all these fish, for generally they are the best.
Where any name happens to be vague or inexpressive, I shall say so,
and suggest another. I do so now, touching the Black Fish, so-called,
because blackness is the rule among almost all whales. So, call him the
Hyena Whale, if you please. His voracity is well known, and from the
circumstance that the inner angles of his lips are curved upwards, he
carries an everlasting Mephistophelean grin on his face. This whale
averages some sixteen or eighteen feet in length. He is found in almost
all latitudes. He has a peculiar way of showing his dorsal hooked fin
in swimming, which looks something like a Roman nose. When not more
profitably employed, the sperm whale hunters sometimes capture the Hyena
whale, to keep up the supply of cheap oil for domestic employment--as
some frugal housekeepers, in the absence of company, and quite alone by
themselves, burn unsavory tallow instead of odorous wax. Though their
blubber is very thin, some of these whales will yield you upwards of
thirty gallons of oil.

WHALE.--Another instance of a curiously named whale, so named I suppose
from his peculiar horn being originally mistaken for a peaked nose. The
creature is some sixteen feet in length, while its horn averages five
feet, though some exceed ten, and even attain to fifteen feet. Strictly
speaking, this horn is but a lengthened tusk, growing out from the jaw
in a line a little depressed from the horizontal. But it is only
found on the sinister side, which has an ill effect, giving its owner
something analogous to the aspect of a clumsy left-handed man. What
precise purpose this ivory horn or lance answers, it would be hard to
say. It does not seem to be used like the blade of the sword-fish and
bill-fish; though some sailors tell me that the Narwhale employs it for
a rake in turning over the bottom of the sea for food. Charley Coffin
said it was used for an ice-piercer; for the Narwhale, rising to the
surface of the Polar Sea, and finding it sheeted with ice, thrusts his
horn up, and so breaks through. But you cannot prove either of these
surmises to be correct. My own opinion is, that however this one-sided
horn may really be used by the Narwhale--however that may be--it would
certainly be very convenient to him for a folder in reading pamphlets.
The Narwhale I have heard called the Tusked whale, the Horned whale, and
the Unicorn whale. He is certainly a curious example of the Unicornism
to be found in almost every kingdom of animated nature. From certain
cloistered old authors I have gathered that this same sea-unicorn’s horn
was in ancient days regarded as the great antidote against poison,
and as such, preparations of it brought immense prices. It was also
distilled to a volatile salts for fainting ladies, the same way that the
horns of the male deer are manufactured into hartshorn. Originally it
was in itself accounted an object of great curiosity. Black Letter tells
me that Sir Martin Frobisher on his return from that voyage, when
Queen Bess did gallantly wave her jewelled hand to him from a window
of Greenwich Palace, as his bold ship sailed down the Thames; “when Sir
Martin returned from that voyage,” saith Black Letter, “on bended knees
he presented to her highness a prodigious long horn of the Narwhale,
which for a long period after hung in the castle at Windsor.” An Irish
author avers that the Earl of Leicester, on bended knees, did likewise
present to her highness another horn, pertaining to a land beast of the
unicorn nature.

The Narwhale has a very picturesque, leopard-like look, being of a
milk-white ground colour, dotted with round and oblong spots of black.
His oil is very superior, clear and fine; but there is little of it, and
he is seldom hunted. He is mostly found in the circumpolar seas.

BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER IV. (KILLER).--Of this whale little is
precisely known to the Nantucketer, and nothing at all to the professed
naturalist. From what I have seen of him at a distance, I should say
that he was about the bigness of a grampus. He is very savage--a sort of
Feegee fish. He sometimes takes the great Folio whales by the lip, and
hangs there like a leech, till the mighty brute is worried to death. The
Killer is never hunted. I never heard what sort of oil he has. Exception
might be taken to the name bestowed upon this whale, on the ground
of its indistinctness. For we are all killers, on land and on sea;
Bonapartes and Sharks included.

BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER V. (THRASHER).--This gentleman is famous for
his tail, which he uses for a ferule in thrashing his foes. He mounts
the Folio whale’s back, and as he swims, he works his passage by
flogging him; as some schoolmasters get along in the world by a similar
process. Still less is known of the Thrasher than of the Killer. Both
are outlaws, even in the lawless seas.

Thus ends BOOK II. (OCTAVO), and begins BOOK III. (DUODECIMO).

DUODECIMOES.--These include the smaller whales. I. The Huzza Porpoise.
II. The Algerine Porpoise. III. The Mealy-mouthed Porpoise.

To those who have not chanced specially to study the subject, it may
possibly seem strange, that fishes not commonly exceeding four or five
feet should be marshalled among WHALES--a word, which, in the popular
sense, always conveys an idea of hugeness. But the creatures set
down above as Duodecimoes are infallibly whales, by the terms of my
definition of what a whale is--i.e. a spouting fish, with a horizontal

common porpoise found almost all over the globe. The name is of my own
bestowal; for there are more than one sort of porpoises, and something
must be done to distinguish them. I call him thus, because he always
swims in hilarious shoals, which upon the broad sea keep tossing
themselves to heaven like caps in a Fourth-of-July crowd. Their
appearance is generally hailed with delight by the mariner. Full of fine
spirits, they invariably come from the breezy billows to windward. They
are the lads that always live before the wind. They are accounted a
lucky omen. If you yourself can withstand three cheers at beholding
these vivacious fish, then heaven help ye; the spirit of godly
gamesomeness is not in ye. A well-fed, plump Huzza Porpoise will
yield you one good gallon of good oil. But the fine and delicate fluid
extracted from his jaws is exceedingly valuable. It is in request among
jewellers and watchmakers. Sailors put it on their hones. Porpoise
meat is good eating, you know. It may never have occurred to you that
a porpoise spouts. Indeed, his spout is so small that it is not very
readily discernible. But the next time you have a chance, watch him; and
you will then see the great Sperm whale himself in miniature.

savage. He is only found, I think, in the Pacific. He is somewhat larger
than the Huzza Porpoise, but much of the same general make. Provoke him,
and he will buckle to a shark. I have lowered for him many times, but
never yet saw him captured.

largest kind of Porpoise; and only found in the Pacific, so far as it is
known. The only English name, by which he has hitherto been designated,
is that of the fishers--Right-Whale Porpoise, from the circumstance that
he is chiefly found in the vicinity of that Folio. In shape, he differs
in some degree from the Huzza Porpoise, being of a less rotund and jolly
girth; indeed, he is of quite a neat and gentleman-like figure. He has
no fins on his back (most other porpoises have), he has a lovely tail,
and sentimental Indian eyes of a hazel hue. But his mealy-mouth spoils
all. Though his entire back down to his side fins is of a deep sable,
yet a boundary line, distinct as the mark in a ship’s hull, called
the “bright waist,” that line streaks him from stem to stern, with two
separate colours, black above and white below. The white comprises part
of his head, and the whole of his mouth, which makes him look as if he
had just escaped from a felonious visit to a meal-bag. A most mean and
mealy aspect! His oil is much like that of the common porpoise.

Beyond the DUODECIMO, this system does not proceed, inasmuch as
the Porpoise is the smallest of the whales. Above, you have all the
Leviathans of note. But there are a rabble of uncertain, fugitive,
half-fabulous whales, which, as an American whaleman, I know by
reputation, but not personally. I shall enumerate them by their
fore-castle appellations; for possibly such a list may be valuable to
future investigators, who may complete what I have here but begun. If
any of the following whales, shall hereafter be caught and marked, then
he can readily be incorporated into this System, according to his Folio,
Octavo, or Duodecimo magnitude:--The Bottle-Nose Whale; the Junk Whale;
the Pudding-Headed Whale; the Cape Whale; the Leading Whale; the Cannon
Whale; the Scragg Whale; the Coppered Whale; the Elephant Whale; the
Iceberg Whale; the Quog Whale; the Blue Whale; etc. From Icelandic,
Dutch, and old English authorities, there might be quoted other lists of
uncertain whales, blessed with all manner of uncouth names. But I omit
them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly help suspecting them for
mere sounds, full of Leviathanism, but signifying nothing.

Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this system would not be
here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I have
kept my word. But I now leave my cetological System standing thus
unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the
crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small
erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true
ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever
completing anything. This whole book is but a draught--nay, but the
draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!

CHAPTER 33. The Specksynder.

Concerning the officers of the whale-craft, this seems as good a place
as any to set down a little domestic peculiarity on ship-board, arising
from the existence of the harpooneer class of officers, a class unknown
of course in any other marine than the whale-fleet.

The large importance attached to the harpooneer’s vocation is evinced
by the fact, that originally in the old Dutch Fishery, two centuries
and more ago, the command of a whale ship was not wholly lodged in
the person now called the captain, but was divided between him and an
officer called the Specksynder. Literally this word means Fat-Cutter;
usage, however, in time made it equivalent to Chief Harpooneer. In
those days, the captain’s authority was restricted to the navigation
and general management of the vessel; while over the whale-hunting
department and all its concerns, the Specksynder or Chief Harpooneer
reigned supreme. In the British Greenland Fishery, under the corrupted
title of Specksioneer, this old Dutch official is still retained, but
his former dignity is sadly abridged. At present he ranks simply
as senior Harpooneer; and as such, is but one of the captain’s more
inferior subalterns. Nevertheless, as upon the good conduct of the
harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely depends, and since
in the American Fishery he is not only an important officer in the boat,
but under certain circumstances (night watches on a whaling ground) the
command of the ship’s deck is also his; therefore the grand political
maxim of the sea demands, that he should nominally live apart from
the men before the mast, and be in some way distinguished as their
professional superior; though always, by them, familiarly regarded as
their social equal.

Now, the grand distinction drawn between officer and man at sea, is
this--the first lives aft, the last forward. Hence, in whale-ships and
merchantmen alike, the mates have their quarters with the captain; and
so, too, in most of the American whalers the harpooneers are lodged in
the after part of the ship. That is to say, they take their meals in the
captain’s cabin, and sleep in a place indirectly communicating with it.

Though the long period of a Southern whaling voyage (by far the longest
of all voyages now or ever made by man), the peculiar perils of it, and
the community of interest prevailing among a company, all of whom, high
or low, depend for their profits, not upon fixed wages, but upon their
common luck, together with their common vigilance, intrepidity, and
hard work; though all these things do in some cases tend to beget a less
rigorous discipline than in merchantmen generally; yet, never mind
how much like an old Mesopotamian family these whalemen may, in some
primitive instances, live together; for all that, the punctilious
externals, at least, of the quarter-deck are seldom materially relaxed,
and in no instance done away. Indeed, many are the Nantucket ships in
which you will see the skipper parading his quarter-deck with an elated
grandeur not surpassed in any military navy; nay, extorting almost
as much outward homage as if he wore the imperial purple, and not the
shabbiest of pilot-cloth.

And though of all men the moody captain of the Pequod was the least
given to that sort of shallowest assumption; and though the only homage
he ever exacted, was implicit, instantaneous obedience; though he
required no man to remove the shoes from his feet ere stepping upon
the quarter-deck; and though there were times when, owing to peculiar
circumstances connected with events hereafter to be detailed, he
addressed them in unusual terms, whether of condescension or IN
TERROREM, or otherwise; yet even Captain Ahab was by no means
unobservant of the paramount forms and usages of the sea.

Nor, perhaps, will it fail to be eventually perceived, that behind those
forms and usages, as it were, he sometimes masked himself; incidentally
making use of them for other and more private ends than they were
legitimately intended to subserve. That certain sultanism of his brain,
which had otherwise in a good degree remained unmanifested; through
those forms that same sultanism became incarnate in an irresistible
dictatorship. For be a man’s intellectual superiority what it will,
it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men,
without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always,
in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever
keeps God’s true princes of the Empire from the world’s hustings; and
leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who
become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice
hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted
superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks
in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them,
that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted
potency. But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown
of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian
herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization. Nor, will the
tragic dramatist who would depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest
sweep and direct swing, ever forget a hint, incidentally so important in
his art, as the one now alluded to.

But Ahab, my Captain, still moves before me in all his Nantucket
grimness and shagginess; and in this episode touching Emperors and
Kings, I must not conceal that I have only to do with a poor old
whale-hunter like him; and, therefore, all outward majestical trappings
and housings are denied me. Oh, Ahab! what shall be grand in thee, it
must needs be plucked at from the skies, and dived for in the deep, and
featured in the unbodied air!

CHAPTER 34. The Cabin-Table.

It is noon; and Dough-Boy, the steward, thrusting his pale loaf-of-bread
face from the cabin-scuttle, announces dinner to his lord and
master; who, sitting in the lee quarter-boat, has just been taking an
observation of the sun; and is now mutely reckoning the latitude on the
smooth, medallion-shaped tablet, reserved for that daily purpose on
the upper part of his ivory leg. From his complete inattention to the
tidings, you would think that moody Ahab had not heard his menial. But
presently, catching hold of the mizen shrouds, he swings himself to
the deck, and in an even, unexhilarated voice, saying, “Dinner, Mr.
Starbuck,” disappears into the cabin.

When the last echo of his sultan’s step has died away, and Starbuck, the
first Emir, has every reason to suppose that he is seated, then Starbuck
rouses from his quietude, takes a few turns along the planks, and, after
a grave peep into the binnacle, says, with some touch of pleasantness,
“Dinner, Mr. Stubb,” and descends the scuttle. The second Emir lounges
about the rigging awhile, and then slightly shaking the main brace, to
see whether it will be all right with that important rope, he likewise
takes up the old burden, and with a rapid “Dinner, Mr. Flask,” follows
after his predecessors.

But the third Emir, now seeing himself all alone on the quarter-deck,
seems to feel relieved from some curious restraint; for, tipping all
sorts of knowing winks in all sorts of directions, and kicking off his
shoes, he strikes into a sharp but noiseless squall of a hornpipe right
over the Grand Turk’s head; and then, by a dexterous sleight, pitching
his cap up into the mizentop for a shelf, he goes down rollicking so
far at least as he remains visible from the deck, reversing all other
processions, by bringing up the rear with music. But ere stepping into
the cabin doorway below, he pauses, ships a new face altogether, and,
then, independent, hilarious little Flask enters King Ahab’s presence,
in the character of Abjectus, or the Slave.

It is not the least among the strange things bred by the intense
artificialness of sea-usages, that while in the open air of the deck
some officers will, upon provocation, bear themselves boldly and
defyingly enough towards their commander; yet, ten to one, let those
very officers the next moment go down to their customary dinner in that
same commander’s cabin, and straightway their inoffensive, not to say
deprecatory and humble air towards him, as he sits at the head of
the table; this is marvellous, sometimes most comical. Wherefore this
difference? A problem? Perhaps not. To have been Belshazzar, King of
Babylon; and to have been Belshazzar, not haughtily but courteously,
therein certainly must have been some touch of mundane grandeur. But he
who in the rightly regal and intelligent spirit presides over his own
private dinner-table of invited guests, that man’s unchallenged power
and dominion of individual influence for the time; that man’s royalty of
state transcends Belshazzar’s, for Belshazzar was not the greatest. Who
has but once dined his friends, has tasted what it is to be Caesar. It
is a witchery of social czarship which there is no withstanding. Now,
if to this consideration you superadd the official supremacy of a
ship-master, then, by inference, you will derive the cause of that
peculiarity of sea-life just mentioned.

Over his ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned
sea-lion on the white coral beach, surrounded by his warlike but still
deferential cubs. In his own proper turn, each officer waited to be
served. They were as little children before Ahab; and yet, in Ahab,
there seemed not to lurk the smallest social arrogance. With one mind,
their intent eyes all fastened upon the old man’s knife, as he carved
the chief dish before him. I do not suppose that for the world they
would have profaned that moment with the slightest observation, even
upon so neutral a topic as the weather. No! And when reaching out his
knife and fork, between which the slice of beef was locked, Ahab thereby
motioned Starbuck’s plate towards him, the mate received his meat as
though receiving alms; and cut it tenderly; and a little started
if, perchance, the knife grazed against the plate; and chewed it
noiselessly; and swallowed it, not without circumspection. For, like
the Coronation banquet at Frankfort, where the German Emperor profoundly
dines with the seven Imperial Electors, so these cabin meals were
somehow solemn meals, eaten in awful silence; and yet at table old Ahab
forbade not conversation; only he himself was dumb. What a relief it was
to choking Stubb, when a rat made a sudden racket in the hold below. And
poor little Flask, he was the youngest son, and little boy of this weary
family party. His were the shinbones of the saline beef; his would have
been the drumsticks. For Flask to have presumed to help himself, this
must have seemed to him tantamount to larceny in the first degree. Had
he helped himself at that table, doubtless, never more would he have
been able to hold his head up in this honest world; nevertheless,
strange to say, Ahab never forbade him. And had Flask helped himself,
the chances were Ahab had never so much as noticed it. Least of all, did
Flask presume to help himself to butter. Whether he thought the owners
of the ship denied it to him, on account of its clotting his clear,
sunny complexion; or whether he deemed that, on so long a voyage in such
marketless waters, butter was at a premium, and therefore was not for
him, a subaltern; however it was, Flask, alas! was a butterless man!

Another thing. Flask was the last person down at the dinner, and Flask
is the first man up. Consider! For hereby Flask’s dinner was badly
jammed in point of time. Starbuck and Stubb both had the start of him;
and yet they also have the privilege of lounging in the rear. If Stubb
even, who is but a peg higher than Flask, happens to have but a small
appetite, and soon shows symptoms of concluding his repast, then Flask
must bestir himself, he will not get more than three mouthfuls that day;
for it is against holy usage for Stubb to precede Flask to the deck.
Therefore it was that Flask once admitted in private, that ever since he
had arisen to the dignity of an officer, from that moment he had never
known what it was to be otherwise than hungry, more or less. For what
he ate did not so much relieve his hunger, as keep it immortal in him.
Peace and satisfaction, thought Flask, have for ever departed from
my stomach. I am an officer; but, how I wish I could fish a bit of
old-fashioned beef in the forecastle, as I used to when I was before the
mast. There’s the fruits of promotion now; there’s the vanity of glory:
there’s the insanity of life! Besides, if it were so that any mere
sailor of the Pequod had a grudge against Flask in Flask’s official
capacity, all that sailor had to do, in order to obtain ample vengeance,
was to go aft at dinner-time, and get a peep at Flask through the cabin
sky-light, sitting silly and dumfoundered before awful Ahab.

Now, Ahab and his three mates formed what may be called the first table
in the Pequod’s cabin. After their departure, taking place in inverted
order to their arrival, the canvas cloth was cleared, or rather was
restored to some hurried order by the pallid steward. And then the three
harpooneers were bidden to the feast, they being its residuary legatees.
They made a sort of temporary servants’ hall of the high and mighty

In strange contrast to the hardly tolerable constraint and nameless
invisible domineerings of the captain’s table, was the entire care-free
license and ease, the almost frantic democracy of those inferior fellows
the harpooneers. While their masters, the mates, seemed afraid of the
sound of the hinges of their own jaws, the harpooneers chewed their food
with such a relish that there was a report to it. They dined like lords;
they filled their bellies like Indian ships all day loading with spices.
Such portentous appetites had Queequeg and Tashtego, that to fill out
the vacancies made by the previous repast, often the pale Dough-Boy was
fain to bring on a great baron of salt-junk, seemingly quarried out of
the solid ox. And if he were not lively about it, if he did not go with
a nimble hop-skip-and-jump, then Tashtego had an ungentlemanly way of
accelerating him by darting a fork at his back, harpoon-wise. And once
Daggoo, seized with a sudden humor, assisted Dough-Boy’s memory by
snatching him up bodily, and thrusting his head into a great empty
wooden trencher, while Tashtego, knife in hand, began laying out the
circle preliminary to scalping him. He was naturally a very nervous,
shuddering sort of little fellow, this bread-faced steward; the progeny
of a bankrupt baker and a hospital nurse. And what with the standing
spectacle of the black terrific Ahab, and the periodical tumultuous
visitations of these three savages, Dough-Boy’s whole life was one
continual lip-quiver. Commonly, after seeing the harpooneers furnished
with all things they demanded, he would escape from their clutches into
his little pantry adjoining, and fearfully peep out at them through the
blinds of its door, till all was over.

It was a sight to see Queequeg seated over against Tashtego, opposing
his filed teeth to the Indian’s: crosswise to them, Daggoo seated on the
floor, for a bench would have brought his hearse-plumed head to the low
carlines; at every motion of his colossal limbs, making the low cabin
framework to shake, as when an African elephant goes passenger in a
ship. But for all this, the great negro was wonderfully abstemious,
not to say dainty. It seemed hardly possible that by such comparatively
small mouthfuls he could keep up the vitality diffused through so broad,
baronial, and superb a person. But, doubtless, this noble savage fed
strong and drank deep of the abounding element of air; and through his
dilated nostrils snuffed in the sublime life of the worlds. Not by
beef or by bread, are giants made or nourished. But Queequeg, he had a
mortal, barbaric smack of the lip in eating--an ugly sound enough--so
much so, that the trembling Dough-Boy almost looked to see whether
any marks of teeth lurked in his own lean arms. And when he would hear
Tashtego singing out for him to produce himself, that his bones might be
picked, the simple-witted steward all but shattered the crockery hanging
round him in the pantry, by his sudden fits of the palsy. Nor did the
whetstone which the harpooneers carried in their pockets, for their
lances and other weapons; and with which whetstones, at dinner, they
would ostentatiously sharpen their knives; that grating sound did not at
all tend to tranquillize poor Dough-Boy. How could he forget that in his
Island days, Queequeg, for one, must certainly have been guilty of some
murderous, convivial indiscretions. Alas! Dough-Boy! hard fares the
white waiter who waits upon cannibals. Not a napkin should he carry on
his arm, but a buckler. In good time, though, to his great delight,
the three salt-sea warriors would rise and depart; to his credulous,
fable-mongering ears, all their martial bones jingling in them at every
step, like Moorish scimetars in scabbards.

But, though these barbarians dined in the cabin, and nominally lived
there; still, being anything but sedentary in their habits, they were
scarcely ever in it except at mealtimes, and just before sleeping-time,
when they passed through it to their own peculiar quarters.

In this one matter, Ahab seemed no exception to most American whale
captains, who, as a set, rather incline to the opinion that by rights
the ship’s cabin belongs to them; and that it is by courtesy alone that
anybody else is, at any time, permitted there. So that, in real truth,
the mates and harpooneers of the Pequod might more properly be said to
have lived out of the cabin than in it. For when they did enter it, it
was something as a street-door enters a house; turning inwards for
a moment, only to be turned out the next; and, as a permanent thing,
residing in the open air. Nor did they lose much hereby; in the cabin
was no companionship; socially, Ahab was inaccessible. Though nominally
included in the census of Christendom, he was still an alien to it. He
lived in the world, as the last of the Grisly Bears lived in settled
Missouri. And as when Spring and Summer had departed, that wild Logan of
the woods, burying himself in the hollow of a tree, lived out the winter
there, sucking his own paws; so, in his inclement, howling old age,
Ahab’s soul, shut up in the caved trunk of his body, there fed upon the
sullen paws of its gloom!

CHAPTER 35. The Mast-Head.

It was during the more pleasant weather, that in due rotation with the
other seamen my first mast-head came round.

In most American whalemen the mast-heads are manned almost
simultaneously with the vessel’s leaving her port; even though she may
have fifteen thousand miles, and more, to sail ere reaching her proper
cruising ground. And if, after a three, four, or five years’ voyage
she is drawing nigh home with anything empty in her--say, an empty vial
even--then, her mast-heads are kept manned to the last; and not till her
skysail-poles sail in among the spires of the port, does she altogether
relinquish the hope of capturing one whale more.

Now, as the business of standing mast-heads, ashore or afloat, is a very
ancient and interesting one, let us in some measure expatiate here.
I take it, that the earliest standers of mast-heads were the old
Egyptians; because, in all my researches, I find none prior to them.
For though their progenitors, the builders of Babel, must doubtless, by
their tower, have intended to rear the loftiest mast-head in all Asia,
or Africa either; yet (ere the final truck was put to it) as that great
stone mast of theirs may be said to have gone by the board, in the dread
gale of God’s wrath; therefore, we cannot give these Babel builders
priority over the Egyptians. And that the Egyptians were a nation of
mast-head standers, is an assertion based upon the general belief among
archaeologists, that the first pyramids were founded for astronomical
purposes: a theory singularly supported by the peculiar stair-like
formation of all four sides of those edifices; whereby, with prodigious
long upliftings of their legs, those old astronomers were wont to mount
to the apex, and sing out for new stars; even as the look-outs of a
modern ship sing out for a sail, or a whale just bearing in sight. In
Saint Stylites, the famous Christian hermit of old times, who built him
a lofty stone pillar in the desert and spent the whole latter portion of
his life on its summit, hoisting his food from the ground with a
tackle; in him we have a remarkable instance of a dauntless
stander-of-mast-heads; who was not to be driven from his place by fogs
or frosts, rain, hail, or sleet; but valiantly facing everything out to
the last, literally died at his post. Of modern standers-of-mast-heads
we have but a lifeless set; mere stone, iron, and bronze men; who,
though well capable of facing out a stiff gale, are still entirely
incompetent to the business of singing out upon discovering any strange
sight. There is Napoleon; who, upon the top of the column of Vendome,
stands with arms folded, some one hundred and fifty feet in the air;
careless, now, who rules the decks below; whether Louis Philippe, Louis
Blanc, or Louis the Devil. Great Washington, too, stands high aloft on
his towering main-mast in Baltimore, and like one of Hercules’ pillars,
his column marks that point of human grandeur beyond which few mortals
will go. Admiral Nelson, also, on a capstan of gun-metal, stands his
mast-head in Trafalgar Square; and ever when most obscured by that
London smoke, token is yet given that a hidden hero is there; for
where there is smoke, must be fire. But neither great Washington, nor
Napoleon, nor Nelson, will answer a single hail from below, however
madly invoked to befriend by their counsels the distracted decks
upon which they gaze; however it may be surmised, that their spirits
penetrate through the thick haze of the future, and descry what shoals
and what rocks must be shunned.

It may seem unwarrantable to couple in any respect the mast-head
standers of the land with those of the sea; but that in truth it is
not so, is plainly evinced by an item for which Obed Macy, the sole
historian of Nantucket, stands accountable. The worthy Obed tells us,
that in the early times of the whale fishery, ere ships were regularly
launched in pursuit of the game, the people of that island erected lofty
spars along the sea-coast, to which the look-outs ascended by means
of nailed cleats, something as fowls go upstairs in a hen-house. A few
years ago this same plan was adopted by the Bay whalemen of New Zealand,
who, upon descrying the game, gave notice to the ready-manned boats nigh
the beach. But this custom has now become obsolete; turn we then to the
one proper mast-head, that of a whale-ship at sea. The three mast-heads
are kept manned from sun-rise to sun-set; the seamen taking their
regular turns (as at the helm), and relieving each other every two
hours. In the serene weather of the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant
the mast-head; nay, to a dreamy meditative man it is delightful. There
you stand, a hundred feet above the silent decks, striding along the
deep, as if the masts were gigantic stilts, while beneath you and
between your legs, as it were, swim the hugest monsters of the sea, even
as ships once sailed between the boots of the famous Colossus at old
Rhodes. There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea, with
nothing ruffled but the waves. The tranced ship indolently rolls; the
drowsy trade winds blow; everything resolves you into languor. For the
most part, in this tropic whaling life, a sublime uneventfulness invests
you; you hear no news; read no gazettes; extras with startling accounts
of commonplaces never delude you into unnecessary excitements; you hear
of no domestic afflictions; bankrupt securities; fall of stocks; are
never troubled with the thought of what you shall have for dinner--for
all your meals for three years and more are snugly stowed in casks, and
your bill of fare is immutable.

In one of those southern whalesmen, on a long three or four years’
voyage, as often happens, the sum of the various hours you spend at the
mast-head would amount to several entire months. And it is much to be
deplored that the place to which you devote so considerable a portion
of the whole term of your natural life, should be so sadly destitute
of anything approaching to a cosy inhabitiveness, or adapted to breed a
comfortable localness of feeling, such as pertains to a bed, a hammock,
a hearse, a sentry box, a pulpit, a coach, or any other of those small
and snug contrivances in which men temporarily isolate themselves. Your
most usual point of perch is the head of the t’ gallant-mast, where you
stand upon two thin parallel sticks (almost peculiar to whalemen) called
the t’ gallant cross-trees. Here, tossed about by the sea, the beginner
feels about as cosy as he would standing on a bull’s horns. To be sure,
in cold weather you may carry your house aloft with you, in the shape of
a watch-coat; but properly speaking the thickest watch-coat is no more
of a house than the unclad body; for as the soul is glued inside of its
fleshy tabernacle, and cannot freely move about in it, nor even move out
of it, without running great risk of perishing (like an ignorant pilgrim
crossing the snowy Alps in winter); so a watch-coat is not so much of
a house as it is a mere envelope, or additional skin encasing you. You
cannot put a shelf or chest of drawers in your body, and no more can you
make a convenient closet of your watch-coat.

Concerning all this, it is much to be deplored that the mast-heads of a
southern whale ship are unprovided with those enviable little tents
or pulpits, called CROW’S-NESTS, in which the look-outs of a Greenland
whaler are protected from the inclement weather of the frozen seas. In
the fireside narrative of Captain Sleet, entitled “A Voyage among the
Icebergs, in quest of the Greenland Whale, and incidentally for the
re-discovery of the Lost Icelandic Colonies of Old Greenland;” in
this admirable volume, all standers of mast-heads are furnished with
a charmingly circumstantial account of the then recently invented
CROW’S-NEST of the Glacier, which was the name of Captain Sleet’s good
craft. He called it the SLEET’S CROW’S-NEST, in honour of himself; he
being the original inventor and patentee, and free from all ridiculous
false delicacy, and holding that if we call our own children after our
own names (we fathers being the original inventors and patentees), so
likewise should we denominate after ourselves any other apparatus we
may beget. In shape, the Sleet’s crow’s-nest is something like a large
tierce or pipe; it is open above, however, where it is furnished with
a movable side-screen to keep to windward of your head in a hard gale.
Being fixed on the summit of the mast, you ascend into it through a
little trap-hatch in the bottom. On the after side, or side next the
stern of the ship, is a comfortable seat, with a locker underneath for
umbrellas, comforters, and coats. In front is a leather rack, in which
to keep your speaking trumpet, pipe, telescope, and other nautical
conveniences. When Captain Sleet in person stood his mast-head in this
crow’s-nest of his, he tells us that he always had a rifle with him
(also fixed in the rack), together with a powder flask and shot, for
the purpose of popping off the stray narwhales, or vagrant sea unicorns
infesting those waters; for you cannot successfully shoot at them from
the deck owing to the resistance of the water, but to shoot down upon
them is a very different thing. Now, it was plainly a labor of love
for Captain Sleet to describe, as he does, all the little detailed
conveniences of his crow’s-nest; but though he so enlarges upon many
of these, and though he treats us to a very scientific account of his
experiments in this crow’s-nest, with a small compass he kept there for
the purpose of counteracting the errors resulting from what is called
the “local attraction” of all binnacle magnets; an error ascribable to
the horizontal vicinity of the iron in the ship’s planks, and in the
Glacier’s case, perhaps, to there having been so many broken-down
blacksmiths among her crew; I say, that though the Captain is very
discreet and scientific here, yet, for all his learned “binnacle
deviations,” “azimuth compass observations,” and “approximate errors,”
 he knows very well, Captain Sleet, that he was not so much immersed
in those profound magnetic meditations, as to fail being attracted
occasionally towards that well replenished little case-bottle, so nicely
tucked in on one side of his crow’s nest, within easy reach of his hand.
Though, upon the whole, I greatly admire and even love the brave, the
honest, and learned Captain; yet I take it very ill of him that he
should so utterly ignore that case-bottle, seeing what a faithful friend
and comforter it must have been, while with mittened fingers and hooded
head he was studying the mathematics aloft there in that bird’s nest
within three or four perches of the pole.

But if we Southern whale-fishers are not so snugly housed aloft as
Captain Sleet and his Greenlandmen were; yet that disadvantage is
greatly counter-balanced by the widely contrasting serenity of those
seductive seas in which we South fishers mostly float. For one, I used
to lounge up the rigging very leisurely, resting in the top to have a
chat with Queequeg, or any one else off duty whom I might find there;
then ascending a little way further, and throwing a lazy leg over the
top-sail yard, take a preliminary view of the watery pastures, and so at
last mount to my ultimate destination.

Let me make a clean breast of it here, and frankly admit that I kept but
sorry guard. With the problem of the universe revolving in me, how
could I--being left completely to myself at such a thought-engendering
altitude--how could I but lightly hold my obligations to observe all
whale-ships’ standing orders, “Keep your weather eye open, and sing out
every time.”

And let me in this place movingly admonish you, ye ship-owners of
Nantucket! Beware of enlisting in your vigilant fisheries any lad with
lean brow and hollow eye; given to unseasonable meditativeness; and who
offers to ship with the Phaedon instead of Bowditch in his head. Beware
of such an one, I say; your whales must be seen before they can be
killed; and this sunken-eyed young Platonist will tow you ten wakes
round the world, and never make you one pint of sperm the richer. Nor
are these monitions at all unneeded. For nowadays, the whale-fishery
furnishes an asylum for many romantic, melancholy, and absent-minded
young men, disgusted with the carking cares of earth, and seeking
sentiment in tar and blubber. Childe Harold not unfrequently perches
himself upon the mast-head of some luckless disappointed whale-ship, and
in moody phrase ejaculates:--

“Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll! Ten thousand
blubber-hunters sweep over thee in vain.”

Very often do the captains of such ships take those absent-minded
young philosophers to task, upbraiding them with not feeling sufficient
“interest” in the voyage; half-hinting that they are so hopelessly lost
to all honourable ambition, as that in their secret souls they would
rather not see whales than otherwise. But all in vain; those young
Platonists have a notion that their vision is imperfect; they are
short-sighted; what use, then, to strain the visual nerve? They have
left their opera-glasses at home.

“Why, thou monkey,” said a harpooneer to one of these lads, “we’ve been
cruising now hard upon three years, and thou hast not raised a whale
yet. Whales are scarce as hen’s teeth whenever thou art up here.”
 Perhaps they were; or perhaps there might have been shoals of them in
the far horizon; but lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of
vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending
cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity;
takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep,
blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every
strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every
dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form, seems to him
the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by
continually flitting through it. In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs
away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space; like
Crammer’s(Thomas Cranmer) sprinkled Pantheistic ashes, forming at last a part of every
shore the round globe over.

There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a
gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from
the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye,
move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity
comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps,
at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you
drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise
for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!

CHAPTER 36. The Quarter-Deck.


It was not a great while after the affair of the pipe, that one
morning shortly after breakfast, Ahab, as was his wont, ascended the
cabin-gangway to the deck. There most sea-captains usually walk at that
hour, as country gentlemen, after the same meal, take a few turns in the

Soon his steady, ivory stride was heard, as to and fro he paced his old
rounds, upon planks so familiar to his tread, that they were all over
dented, like geological stones, with the peculiar mark of his walk. Did
you fixedly gaze, too, upon that ribbed and dented brow; there also,
you would see still stranger foot-prints--the foot-prints of his one
unsleeping, ever-pacing thought.

But on the occasion in question, those dents looked deeper, even as
his nervous step that morning left a deeper mark. And, so full of his
thought was Ahab, that at every uniform turn that he made, now at the
main-mast and now at the binnacle, you could almost see that thought
turn in him as he turned, and pace in him as he paced; so completely
possessing him, indeed, that it all but seemed the inward mould of every
outer movement.

“D’ye mark him, Flask?” whispered Stubb; “the chick that’s in him pecks
the shell. ‘Twill soon be out.”

The hours wore on;--Ahab now shut up within his cabin; anon, pacing the
deck, with the same intense bigotry of purpose in his aspect.

It drew near the close of day. Suddenly he came to a halt by the
bulwarks, and inserting his bone leg into the auger-hole there, and with
one hand grasping a shroud, he ordered Starbuck to send everybody aft.

“Sir!” said the mate, astonished at an order seldom or never given on
ship-board except in some extraordinary case.

“Send everybody aft,” repeated Ahab. “Mast-heads, there! come down!”

When the entire ship’s company were assembled, and with curious and not
wholly unapprehensive faces, were eyeing him, for he looked not unlike
the weather horizon when a storm is coming up, Ahab, after rapidly
glancing over the bulwarks, and then darting his eyes among the crew,
started from his standpoint; and as though not a soul were nigh him
resumed his heavy turns upon the deck. With bent head and half-slouched
hat he continued to pace, unmindful of the wondering whispering among
the men; till Stubb cautiously whispered to Flask, that Ahab must have
summoned them there for the purpose of witnessing a pedestrian feat. But
this did not last long. Vehemently pausing, he cried:--

“What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?”

“Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed

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

“And what do ye next, men?”

“Lower away, and after him!”

“And what tune is it ye pull to, men?”

“A dead whale or a stove boat!”

More and more strangely and fiercely glad and approving, grew the
countenance of the old man at every shout; while the mariners began
to gaze curiously at each other, as if marvelling how it was that they
themselves became so excited at such seemingly purposeless questions.

But, they were all eagerness again, as Ahab, now half-revolving in his
pivot-hole, with one hand reaching high up a shroud, and tightly, almost
convulsively grasping it, addressed them thus:--

“All ye mast-headers have before now heard me give orders about a white
whale. Look ye! d’ye see this Spanish ounce of gold?”--holding up a
broad bright coin to the sun--“it is a sixteen dollar piece, men. D’ye
see it? Mr. Starbuck, hand me yon top-maul.”

While the mate was getting the hammer, Ahab, without speaking, was
slowly rubbing the gold piece against the skirts of his jacket, as if
to heighten its lustre, and without using any words was meanwhile
lowly humming to himself, producing a sound so strangely muffled and
inarticulate that it seemed the mechanical humming of the wheels of his
vitality in him.

Receiving the top-maul from Starbuck, he advanced towards the main-mast
with the hammer uplifted in one hand, exhibiting the gold with the
other, and with a high raised voice exclaiming: “Whosoever of ye
raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw;
whosoever of ye raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes
punctured in his starboard fluke--look ye, whosoever of ye raises me
that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!”

“Huzza! huzza!” cried the seamen, as with swinging tarpaulins they
hailed the act of nailing the gold to the mast.

“It’s a white whale, I say,” resumed Ahab, as he threw down the topmaul:
“a white whale. Skin your eyes for him, men; look sharp for white water;
if ye see but a bubble, sing out.”

All this while Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg had looked on with even
more intense interest and surprise than the rest, and at the mention
of the wrinkled brow and crooked jaw they had started as if each was
separately touched by some specific recollection.

“Captain Ahab,” said Tashtego, “that white whale must be the same that
some call Moby Dick.”

“Moby Dick?” shouted Ahab. “Do ye know the white whale then, Tash?”

“Does he fan-tail a little curious, sir, before he goes down?” said the
Gay-Header deliberately.

“And has he a curious spout, too,” said Daggoo, “very bushy, even for a
parmacetty, and mighty quick, Captain Ahab?”

“And he have one, two, three--oh! good many iron in him hide, too,
Captain,” cried Queequeg disjointedly, “all twiske-tee be-twisk, like
him--him--” faltering hard for a word, and screwing his hand round and
round as though uncorking a bottle--“like him--him--”

“Corkscrew!” cried Ahab, “aye, Queequeg, the harpoons lie all twisted
and wrenched in him; aye, Daggoo, his spout is a big one, like a whole
shock of wheat, and white as a pile of our Nantucket wool after the
great annual sheep-shearing; aye, Tashtego, and he fan-tails like a
split jib in a squall. Death and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye have
seen--Moby Dick--Moby Dick!”

“Captain Ahab,” said Starbuck, who, with Stubb and Flask, had thus far
been eyeing his superior with increasing surprise, but at last seemed
struck with a thought which somewhat explained all the wonder. “Captain
Ahab, I have heard of Moby Dick--but it was not Moby Dick that took off
thy leg?”

“Who told thee that?” cried Ahab; then pausing, “Aye, Starbuck; aye, my
hearties all round; it was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that
brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye,” he shouted with
a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose;
“Aye, aye! it was that accursed white whale that razed me; made a poor
pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!” Then tossing both arms, with
measureless imprecations he shouted out: “Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him
round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and
round perdition’s flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have
shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and
over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out.
What say ye, men, will ye splice hands on it, now? I think ye do look

“Aye, aye!” shouted the harpooneers and seamen, running closer to the
excited old man: “A sharp eye for the white whale; a sharp lance for
Moby Dick!”

“God bless ye,” he seemed to half sob and half shout. “God bless ye,
men. Steward! go draw the great measure of grog. But what’s this long
face about, Mr. Starbuck; wilt thou not chase the white whale? art not
game for Moby Dick?”

“I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain
Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I
came here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance. How many barrels
will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it
will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market.”

“Nantucket market! Hoot! But come closer, Starbuck; thou requirest
a little lower layer. If money’s to be the measurer, man, and the
accountants have computed their great counting-house the globe, by
girdling it with guineas, one to every three parts of an inch; then, let
me tell thee, that my vengeance will fetch a great premium HERE!”

“He smites his chest,” whispered Stubb, “what’s that for? methinks it
rings most vast, but hollow.”

“Vengeance on a dumb brute!” cried Starbuck, “that simply smote thee
from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing,
Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous.”

“Hark ye yet again--the little lower layer. All visible objects, man,
are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the
undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth
the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man
will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside
except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that
wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But
‘tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength,
with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is
chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale
principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy,
man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that,
then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play
herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man,
is even that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines. Take off
thine eye! more intolerable than fiends’ glarings is a doltish
stare! So, so; thou reddenest and palest; my heat has melted thee to
anger-glow. But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat, that thing
unsays itself. There are men from whom warm words are small indignity. I
meant not to incense thee. Let it go. Look! see yonder Turkish cheeks of
spotted tawn--living, breathing pictures painted by the sun. The Pagan
leopards--the unrecking and unworshipping things, that live; and seek,
and give no reasons for the torrid life they feel! The crew, man, the
crew! Are they not one and all with Ahab, in this matter of the whale?
See Stubb! he laughs! See yonder Chilian! he snorts to think of it.
Stand up amid the general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot,
Starbuck! And what is it? Reckon it. ‘Tis but to help strike a fin; no
wondrous feat for Starbuck. What is it more? From this one poor hunt,
then, the best lance out of all Nantucket, surely he will not hang back,
when every foremast-hand has clutched a whetstone? Ah! constrainings
seize thee; I see! the billow lifts thee! Speak, but speak!--Aye, aye!
thy silence, then, THAT voices thee. (ASIDE) Something shot from my
dilated nostrils, he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is mine;
cannot oppose me now, without rebellion.”

“God keep me!--keep us all!” murmured Starbuck, lowly.

But in his joy at the enchanted, tacit acquiescence of the mate, Ahab
did not hear his foreboding invocation; nor yet the low laugh from the
hold; nor yet the presaging vibrations of the winds in the cordage;
nor yet the hollow flap of the sails against the masts, as for a moment
their hearts sank in. For again Starbuck’s downcast eyes lighted up with
the stubbornness of life; the subterranean laugh died away; the winds
blew on; the sails filled out; the ship heaved and rolled as before. Ah,
ye admonitions and warnings! why stay ye not when ye come? But
rather are ye predictions than warnings, ye shadows! Yet not so much
predictions from without, as verifications of the foregoing things
within. For with little external to constrain us, the innermost
necessities in our being, these still drive us on.

“The measure! the measure!” cried Ahab.

Receiving the brimming pewter, and turning to the harpooneers, he
ordered them to produce their weapons. Then ranging them before him near
the capstan, with their harpoons in their hands, while his three mates
stood at his side with their lances, and the rest of the ship’s company
formed a circle round the group; he stood for an instant searchingly
eyeing every man of his crew. But those wild eyes met his, as the
bloodshot eyes of the prairie wolves meet the eye of their leader, ere
he rushes on at their head in the trail of the bison; but, alas! only to
fall into the hidden snare of the Indian.

“Drink and pass!” he cried, handing the heavy charged flagon to the
nearest seaman. “The crew alone now drink. Round with it, round! Short
draughts--long swallows, men; ‘tis hot as Satan’s hoof. So, so; it
goes round excellently. It spiralizes in ye; forks out at the
serpent-snapping eye. Well done; almost drained. That way it went, this
way it comes. Hand it me--here’s a hollow! Men, ye seem the years; so
brimming life is gulped and gone. Steward, refill!

“Attend now, my braves. I have mustered ye all round this capstan; and
ye mates, flank me with your lances; and ye harpooneers, stand there
with your irons; and ye, stout mariners, ring me in, that I may in some
sort revive a noble custom of my fisherman fathers before me. O men, you
will yet see that--Ha! boy, come back? bad pennies come not sooner. Hand
it me. Why, now, this pewter had run brimming again, were’t not thou St.
Vitus’ imp--away, thou ague!

“Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let
me touch the axis.” So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the
three level, radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing,
suddenly and nervously twitched them; meanwhile, glancing intently from
Starbuck to Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some
nameless, interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the
same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic
life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic
aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of
Starbuck fell downright.

“In vain!” cried Ahab; “but, maybe, ‘tis well. For did ye three but
once take the full-forced shock, then mine own electric thing, THAT had
perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too, it would have dropped ye
dead. Perchance ye need it not. Down lances! And now, ye mates, I do
appoint ye three cupbearers to my three pagan kinsmen there--yon three
most honourable gentlemen and noblemen, my valiant harpooneers. Disdain
the task? What, when the great Pope washes the feet of beggars, using
his tiara for ewer? Oh, my sweet cardinals! your own condescension, THAT
shall bend ye to it. I do not order ye; ye will it. Cut your seizings
and draw the poles, ye harpooneers!”

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

“Stab me not with that keen steel! Cant them; cant them over! know ye
not the goblet end? Turn up the socket! So, so; now, ye cup-bearers,
advance. The irons! take them; hold them while I fill!” Forthwith,
slowly going from one officer to the other, he brimmed the harpoon
sockets with the fiery waters from the pewter.

“Now, three to three, ye stand. Commend the murderous chalices! Bestow
them, ye who are now made parties to this indissoluble league. Ha!
Starbuck! but the deed is done! Yon ratifying sun now waits to sit upon
it. Drink, ye harpooneers! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful
whaleboat’s bow--Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt
Moby Dick to his death!” The long, barbed steel goblets were lifted;
and to cries and maledictions against the white whale, the spirits were
simultaneously quaffed down with a hiss. Starbuck paled, and turned, and
shivered. Once more, and finally, the replenished pewter went the rounds
among the frantic crew; when, waving his free hand to them, they all
dispersed; and Ahab retired within his cabin.

CHAPTER 37. Sunset.


I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where’er I
sail. The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them;
but first I pass.

Yonder, by ever-brimming goblet’s rim, the warm waves blush like wine.
The gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver sun--slow dived from noon--goes
down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her endless hill. Is, then,
the crown too heavy that I wear? this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is
it bright with many a gem; I the wearer, see not its far flashings; but
darkly feel that I wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. ‘Tis iron--that
I know--not gold. ‘Tis split, too--that I feel; the jagged edge galls
me so, my brain seems to beat against the solid metal; aye, steel skull,
mine; the sort that needs no helmet in the most brain-battering fight!

Dry heat upon my brow? Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred
me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me;
all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne’er enjoy. Gifted with
the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly
and most malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise! Good night--good

‘Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least;
but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they
revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all
stand before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others, the
match itself must needs be wasting! What I’ve dared, I’ve willed; and
what I’ve willed, I’ll do! They think me mad--Starbuck does; but I’m
demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm
to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered;
and--Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my
dismemberer. Now, then, be the prophet and the fulfiller one. That’s
more than ye, ye great gods, ever were. I laugh and hoot at ye, ye
cricket-players, ye pugilists, ye deaf Burkes and blinded Bendigoes!
I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies--Take some one of your own
size; don’t pommel ME! No, ye’ve knocked me down, and I am up again; but
YE have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags! I have
no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see
if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve
yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is
laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded
gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds,
unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron

CHAPTER 38. Dusk.


My soul is more than matched; she’s overmanned; and by a madman!
Insufferable sting, that sanity should ground arms on such a field! But
he drilled deep down, and blasted all my reason out of me! I think I see
his impious end; but feel that I must help him to it. Will I, nill I,
the ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no
knife to cut. Horrible old man! Who’s over him, he cries;--aye, he would
be a democrat to all above; look, how he lords it over all below! Oh! I
plainly see my miserable office,--to obey, rebelling; and worse yet,
to hate with touch of pity! For in his eyes I read some lurid woe would
shrivel me up, had I it. Yet is there hope. Time and tide flow wide.
The hated whale has the round watery world to swim in, as the small
gold-fish has its glassy globe. His heaven-insulting purpose, God may
wedge aside. I would up heart, were it not like lead. But my whole
clock’s run down; my heart the all-controlling weight, I have no key to
lift again.


Oh, God! to sail with such a heathen crew that have small touch of human
mothers in them! Whelped somewhere by the sharkish sea. The white whale
is their demigorgon. Hark! the infernal orgies! that revelry is forward!
mark the unfaltering silence aft! Methinks it pictures life. Foremost
through the sparkling sea shoots on the gay, embattled, bantering
bow, but only to drag dark Ahab after it, where he broods within his
sternward cabin, builded over the dead water of the wake, and further
on, hunted by its wolfish gurglings. The long howl thrills me through!
Peace! ye revellers, and set the watch! Oh, life! ‘tis in an hour like
this, with soul beat down and held to knowledge,--as wild, untutored
things are forced to feed--Oh, life! ‘tis now that I do feel the latent
horror in thee! but ‘tis not me! that horror’s out of me! and with the
soft feeling of the human in me, yet will I try to fight ye, ye grim,
phantom futures! Stand by me, hold me, bind me, O ye blessed influences!

CHAPTER 39. First Night Watch.



Ha! ha! ha! ha! hem! clear my throat!--I’ve been thinking over it
ever since, and that ha, ha’s the final consequence. Why so? Because a
laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer; and come what
will, one comfort’s always left--that unfailing comfort is, it’s all
predestinated. I heard not all his talk with Starbuck; but to my poor
eye Starbuck then looked something as I the other evening felt. Be sure
the old Mogul has fixed him, too. I twigged it, knew it; had had the
gift, might readily have prophesied it--for when I clapped my eye upon
his skull I saw it. Well, Stubb, WISE Stubb--that’s my title--well,
Stubb, what of it, Stubb? Here’s a carcase. I know not all that may be
coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing. Such a waggish
leering as lurks in all your horribles! I feel funny. Fa, la! lirra,
skirra! What’s my juicy little pear at home doing now? Crying its eyes
out?--Giving a party to the last arrived harpooneers, I dare say, gay as
a frigate’s pennant, and so am I--fa, la! lirra, skirra! Oh--

We’ll drink to-night with hearts as light, To love, as gay and fleeting
As bubbles that swim, on the beaker’s brim, And break on the lips while

A brave stave that--who calls? Mr. Starbuck? Aye, aye, sir--(ASIDE) he’s
my superior, he has his too, if I’m not mistaken.--Aye, aye, sir, just
through with this job--coming.

CHAPTER 40. Midnight, Forecastle.



     Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies!
     Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain!
     Our captain’s commanded.--

1ST NANTUCKET SAILOR. Oh, boys, don’t be sentimental; it’s bad for the
digestion! Take a tonic, follow me! (SINGS, AND ALL FOLLOW)

    Our captain stood upon the deck,
    A spy-glass in his hand,
    A viewing of those gallant whales
    That blew at every strand.
    Oh, your tubs in your boats, my boys,
    And by your braces stand,
    And we’ll have one of those fine whales,
    Hand, boys, over hand!
    So, be cheery, my lads! may your hearts never fail!
    While the bold harpooner is striking the whale!

MATE’S VOICE FROM THE QUARTER-DECK. Eight bells there, forward!

2ND NANTUCKET SAILOR. Avast the chorus! Eight bells there! d’ye hear,
bell-boy? Strike the bell eight, thou Pip! thou blackling! and let me
call the watch. I’ve the sort of mouth for that--the hogshead mouth.
So, so, (THRUSTS HIS HEAD DOWN THE SCUTTLE,) Star-bo-l-e-e-n-s, a-h-o-y!
Eight bells there below! Tumble up!

DUTCH SAILOR. Grand snoozing to-night, maty; fat night for that. I
mark this in our old Mogul’s wine; it’s quite as deadening to some as
filliping to others. We sing; they sleep--aye, lie down there, like
ground-tier butts. At ‘em again! There, take this copper-pump, and hail
‘em through it. Tell ‘em to avast dreaming of their lasses. Tell ‘em
it’s the resurrection; they must kiss their last, and come to judgment.
That’s the way--THAT’S it; thy throat ain’t spoiled with eating
Amsterdam butter.

FRENCH SAILOR. Hist, boys! let’s have a jig or two before we ride to
anchor in Blanket Bay. What say ye? There comes the other watch. Stand
by all legs! Pip! little Pip! hurrah with your tambourine!

PIP. (SULKY AND SLEEPY) Don’t know where it is.

FRENCH SAILOR. Beat thy belly, then, and wag thy ears. Jig it, men,
I say; merry’s the word; hurrah! Damn me, won’t you dance? Form, now,
Indian-file, and gallop into the double-shuffle? Throw yourselves! Legs!

ICELAND SAILOR. I don’t like your floor, maty; it’s too springy to my
taste. I’m used to ice-floors. I’m sorry to throw cold water on the
subject; but excuse me.

MALTESE SAILOR. Me too; where’s your girls? Who but a fool would take
his left hand by his right, and say to himself, how d’ye do? Partners! I
must have partners!

SICILIAN SAILOR. Aye; girls and a green!--then I’ll hop with ye; yea,
turn grasshopper!

LONG-ISLAND SAILOR. Well, well, ye sulkies, there’s plenty more of us.
Hoe corn when you may, say I. All legs go to harvest soon. Ah! here
comes the music; now for it!

Here you are, Pip; and there’s the windlass-bitts; up you mount! Now,

AZORE SAILOR. (DANCING) Go it, Pip! Bang it, bell-boy! Rig it, dig it,
stig it, quig it, bell-boy! Make fire-flies; break the jinglers!

PIP. Jinglers, you say?--there goes another, dropped off; I pound it so.

CHINA SAILOR. Rattle thy teeth, then, and pound away; make a pagoda of

FRENCH SAILOR. Merry-mad! Hold up thy hoop, Pip, till I jump through it!
Split jibs! tear yourselves!

TASHTEGO. (QUIETLY SMOKING) That’s a white man; he calls that fun:
humph! I save my sweat.

OLD MANX SAILOR. I wonder whether those jolly lads bethink them of what
they are dancing over. I’ll dance over your grave, I will--that’s
the bitterest threat of your night-women, that beat head-winds round
corners. O Christ! to think of the green navies and the green-skulled
crews! Well, well; belike the whole world’s a ball, as you scholars have
it; and so ‘tis right to make one ballroom of it. Dance on, lads, you’re
young; I was once.

3D NANTUCKET SAILOR. Spell oh!--whew! this is worse than pulling after
whales in a calm--give us a whiff, Tash.


LASCAR SAILOR. By Brahma! boys, it’ll be douse sail soon. The sky-born,
high-tide Ganges turned to wind! Thou showest thy black brow, Seeva!

snow’s caps turn to jig it now. They’ll shake their tassels soon. Now
would all the waves were women, then I’d go drown, and chassee with them
evermore! There’s naught so sweet on earth--heaven may not match
it!--as those swift glances of warm, wild bosoms in the dance, when the
over-arboring arms hide such ripe, bursting grapes.

SICILIAN SAILOR. (RECLINING.) Tell me not of it! Hark ye, lad--fleet
interlacings of the limbs--lithe swayings--coyings--flutterings! lip!
heart! hip! all graze: unceasing touch and go! not taste, observe ye,
else come satiety. Eh, Pagan? (NUDGING.)

TAHITAN SAILOR. (RECLINING ON A MAT.) Hail, holy nakedness of our
dancing girls!--the Heeva-Heeva! Ah! low veiled, high palmed Tahiti! I
still rest me on thy mat, but the soft soil has slid! I saw thee woven
in the wood, my mat! green the first day I brought ye thence; now worn
and wilted quite. Ah me!--not thou nor I can bear the change! How
then, if so be transplanted to yon sky? Hear I the roaring streams from
Pirohitee’s peak of spears, when they leap down the crags and drown the
villages?--The blast! the blast! Up, spine, and meet it! (LEAPS TO HIS

PORTUGUESE SAILOR. How the sea rolls swashing ‘gainst the side! Stand
by for reefing, hearties! the winds are just crossing swords, pell-mell
they’ll go lunging presently.

DANISH SAILOR. Crack, crack, old ship! so long as thou crackest, thou
holdest! Well done! The mate there holds ye to it stiffly. He’s no more
afraid than the isle fort at Cattegat, put there to fight the Baltic
with storm-lashed guns, on which the sea-salt cakes!

4TH NANTUCKET SAILOR. He has his orders, mind ye that. I heard old
Ahab tell him he must always kill a squall, something as they burst a
waterspout with a pistol--fire your ship right into it!

ENGLISH SAILOR. Blood! but that old man’s a grand old cove! We are the
lads to hunt him up his whale!

ALL. Aye! aye!

OLD MANX SAILOR. How the three pines shake! Pines are the hardest sort
of tree to live when shifted to any other soil, and here there’s none
but the crew’s cursed clay. Steady, helmsman! steady. This is the sort
of weather when brave hearts snap ashore, and keeled hulls split at sea.
Our captain has his birthmark; look yonder, boys, there’s another in the
sky--lurid-like, ye see, all else pitch black.

DAGGOO. What of that? Who’s afraid of black’s afraid of me! I’m quarried
out of it!

SPANISH SAILOR. (ASIDE.) He wants to bully, ah!--the old grudge makes
me touchy (ADVANCING.) Aye, harpooneer, thy race is the undeniable dark
side of mankind--devilish dark at that. No offence.


ST. JAGO’S SAILOR. That Spaniard’s mad or drunk. But that can’t be, or
else in his one case our old Mogul’s fire-waters are somewhat long in

5TH NANTUCKET SAILOR. What’s that I saw--lightning? Yes.

SPANISH SAILOR. No; Daggoo showing his teeth.

DAGGOO (SPRINGING). Swallow thine, mannikin! White skin, white liver!

SPANISH SAILOR (MEETING HIM). Knife thee heartily! big frame, small

ALL. A row! a row! a row!

TASHTEGO (WITH A WHIFF). A row a’low, and a row aloft--Gods and
men--both brawlers! Humph!

BELFAST SAILOR. A row! arrah a row! The Virgin be blessed, a row! Plunge
in with ye!

ENGLISH SAILOR. Fair play! Snatch the Spaniard’s knife! A ring, a ring!

OLD MANX SAILOR. Ready formed. There! the ringed horizon. In that ring
Cain struck Abel. Sweet work, right work! No? Why then, God, mad’st thou
the ring?

MATE’S VOICE FROM THE QUARTER-DECK. Hands by the halyards! in
top-gallant sails! Stand by to reef topsails!

ALL. The squall! the squall! jump, my jollies! (THEY SCATTER.)

PIP (SHRINKING UNDER THE WINDLASS). Jollies? Lord help such jollies!
Crish, crash! there goes the jib-stay! Blang-whang! God! Duck lower,
Pip, here comes the royal yard! It’s worse than being in the whirled
woods, the last day of the year! Who’d go climbing after chestnuts now?
But there they go, all cursing, and here I don’t. Fine prospects to ‘em;
they’re on the road to heaven. Hold on hard! Jimmini, what a squall!
But those chaps there are worse yet--they are your white squalls, they.
White squalls? white whale, shirr! shirr! Here have I heard all their
chat just now, and the white whale--shirr! shirr!--but spoken of
once! and only this evening--it makes me jingle all over like my
tambourine--that anaconda of an old man swore ‘em in to hunt him! Oh,
thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on
this small black boy down here; preserve him from all men that have no
bowels to feel fear!

CHAPTER 41. Moby Dick.

I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest;
my oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more
did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A
wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab’s quenchless feud
seemed mine. With greedy ears I learned the history of that murderous
monster against whom I and all the others had taken our oaths of
violence and revenge.

For some time past, though at intervals only, the unaccompanied,
secluded White Whale had haunted those uncivilized seas mostly
frequented by the Sperm Whale fishermen. But not all of them knew of his
existence; only a few of them, comparatively, had knowingly seen him;
while the number who as yet had actually and knowingly given battle to
him, was small indeed. For, owing to the large number of whale-cruisers;
the disorderly way they were sprinkled over the entire watery
circumference, many of them adventurously pushing their quest along
solitary latitudes, so as seldom or never for a whole twelvemonth or
more on a stretch, to encounter a single news-telling sail of any sort;
the inordinate length of each separate voyage; the irregularity of the
times of sailing from home; all these, with other circumstances, direct
and indirect, long obstructed the spread through the whole world-wide
whaling-fleet of the special individualizing tidings concerning Moby
Dick. It was hardly to be doubted, that several vessels reported to have
encountered, at such or such a time, or on such or such a meridian,
a Sperm Whale of uncommon magnitude and malignity, which whale, after
doing great mischief to his assailants, had completely escaped them; to
some minds it was not an unfair presumption, I say, that the whale in
question must have been no other than Moby Dick. Yet as of late the
Sperm Whale fishery had been marked by various and not unfrequent
instances of great ferocity, cunning, and malice in the monster
attacked; therefore it was, that those who by accident ignorantly gave
battle to Moby Dick; such hunters, perhaps, for the most part, were
content to ascribe the peculiar terror he bred, more, as it were, to
the perils of the Sperm Whale fishery at large, than to the individual
cause. In that way, mostly, the disastrous encounter between Ahab and
the whale had hitherto been popularly regarded.

And as for those who, previously hearing of the White Whale, by chance
caught sight of him; in the beginning of the thing they had every one of
them, almost, as boldly and fearlessly lowered for him, as for any other
whale of that species. But at length, such calamities did ensue in these
assaults--not restricted to sprained wrists and ankles, broken limbs, or
devouring amputations--but fatal to the last degree of fatality; those
repeated disastrous repulses, all accumulating and piling their terrors
upon Moby Dick; those things had gone far to shake the fortitude of many
brave hunters, to whom the story of the White Whale had eventually come.

Nor did wild rumors of all sorts fail to exaggerate, and still the more
horrify the true histories of these deadly encounters. For not only do
fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising
terrible events,--as the smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but, in
maritime life, far more than in that of terra firma, wild rumors abound,
wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to. And as the
sea surpasses the land in this matter, so the whale fishery surpasses
every other sort of maritime life, in the wonderfulness and fearfulness
of the rumors which sometimes circulate there. For not only are whalemen
as a body unexempt from that ignorance and superstitiousness hereditary
to all sailors; but of all sailors, they are by all odds the most
directly brought into contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing
in the sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest marvels, but,
hand to jaw, give battle to them. Alone, in such remotest waters, that
though you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a thousand shores, you
would not come to any chiseled hearth-stone, or aught hospitable beneath
that part of the sun; in such latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too
such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by influences all
tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty birth.

No wonder, then, that ever gathering volume from the mere transit over
the widest watery spaces, the outblown rumors of the White Whale did
in the end incorporate with themselves all manner of morbid hints,
and half-formed foetal suggestions of supernatural agencies, which
eventually invested Moby Dick with new terrors unborrowed from anything
that visibly appears. So that in many cases such a panic did he finally
strike, that few who by those rumors, at least, had heard of the White
Whale, few of those hunters were willing to encounter the perils of his

But there were still other and more vital practical influences at work.
Not even at the present day has the original prestige of the Sperm
Whale, as fearfully distinguished from all other species of the
leviathan, died out of the minds of the whalemen as a body. There are
those this day among them, who, though intelligent and courageous
enough in offering battle to the Greenland or Right whale, would
perhaps--either from professional inexperience, or incompetency, or
timidity, decline a contest with the Sperm Whale; at any rate, there are
plenty of whalemen, especially among those whaling nations not sailing
under the American flag, who have never hostilely encountered the Sperm
Whale, but whose sole knowledge of the leviathan is restricted to
the ignoble monster primitively pursued in the North; seated on their
hatches, these men will hearken with a childish fireside interest
and awe, to the wild, strange tales of Southern whaling. Nor is the
pre-eminent tremendousness of the great Sperm Whale anywhere more
feelingly comprehended, than on board of those prows which stem him.

And as if the now tested reality of his might had in former
legendary times thrown its shadow before it; we find some book
naturalists--Olassen and Povelson--declaring the Sperm Whale not only to
be a consternation to every other creature in the sea, but also to be so
incredibly ferocious as continually to be athirst for human blood. Nor
even down to so late a time as Cuvier’s, were these or almost similar
impressions effaced. For in his Natural History, the Baron himself
affirms that at sight of the Sperm Whale, all fish (sharks included) are
“struck with the most lively terrors,” and “often in the precipitancy of
their flight dash themselves against the rocks with such violence as to
cause instantaneous death.” And however the general experiences in the
fishery may amend such reports as these; yet in their full terribleness,
even to the bloodthirsty item of Povelson, the superstitious belief in
them is, in some vicissitudes of their vocation, revived in the minds of
the hunters.

So that overawed by the rumors and portents concerning him, not a few of
the fishermen recalled, in reference to Moby Dick, the earlier days
of the Sperm Whale fishery, when it was oftentimes hard to induce long
practised Right whalemen to embark in the perils of this new and daring
warfare; such men protesting that although other leviathans might be
hopefully pursued, yet to chase and point lance at such an apparition
as the Sperm Whale was not for mortal man. That to attempt it, would
be inevitably to be torn into a quick eternity. On this head, there are
some remarkable documents that may be consulted.

Nevertheless, some there were, who even in the face of these things
were ready to give chase to Moby Dick; and a still greater number who,
chancing only to hear of him distantly and vaguely, without the
specific details of any certain calamity, and without superstitious
accompaniments, were sufficiently hardy not to flee from the battle if

One of the wild suggestions referred to, as at last coming to be linked
with the White Whale in the minds of the superstitiously inclined,
was the unearthly conceit that Moby Dick was ubiquitous; that he had
actually been encountered in opposite latitudes at one and the same
instant of time.

Nor, credulous as such minds must have been, was this conceit altogether
without some faint show of superstitious probability. For as the secrets
of the currents in the seas have never yet been divulged, even to
the most erudite research; so the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale
when beneath the surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his
pursuers; and from time to time have originated the most curious and
contradictory speculations regarding them, especially concerning the
mystic modes whereby, after sounding to a great depth, he transports
himself with such vast swiftness to the most widely distant points.

It is a thing well known to both American and English whale-ships, and
as well a thing placed upon authoritative record years ago by Scoresby,
that some whales have been captured far north in the Pacific, in whose
bodies have been found the barbs of harpoons darted in the Greenland
seas. Nor is it to be gainsaid, that in some of these instances it has
been declared that the interval of time between the two assaults could
not have exceeded very many days. Hence, by inference, it has been
believed by some whalemen, that the Nor’ West Passage, so long a problem
to man, was never a problem to the whale. So that here, in the real
living experience of living men, the prodigies related in old times of
the inland Strello mountain in Portugal (near whose top there was said
to be a lake in which the wrecks of ships floated up to the surface);
and that still more wonderful story of the Arethusa fountain near
Syracuse (whose waters were believed to have come from the Holy Land
by an underground passage); these fabulous narrations are almost fully
equalled by the realities of the whalemen.

Forced into familiarity, then, with such prodigies as these; and knowing
that after repeated, intrepid assaults, the White Whale had escaped
alive; it cannot be much matter of surprise that some whalemen should
go still further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only
ubiquitous, but immortal (for immortality is but ubiquity in time); that
though groves of spears should be planted in his flanks, he would still
swim away unharmed; or if indeed he should ever be made to spout thick
blood, such a sight would be but a ghastly deception; for again in
unensanguined billows hundreds of leagues away, his unsullied jet would
once more be seen.

But even stripped of these supernatural surmisings, there was enough in
the earthly make and incontestable character of the monster to strike
the imagination with unwonted power. For, it was not so much his
uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales,
but, as was elsewhere thrown out--a peculiar snow-white wrinkled
forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent
features; the tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he
revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.

The rest of his body was so streaked, and spotted, and marbled with
the same shrouded hue, that, in the end, he had gained his distinctive
appellation of the White Whale; a name, indeed, literally justified by
his vivid aspect, when seen gliding at high noon through a dark blue
sea, leaving a milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden

Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable hue, nor yet his
deformed lower jaw, that so much invested the whale with natural terror,
as that unexampled, intelligent malignity which, according to specific
accounts, he had over and over again evinced in his assaults. More than
all, his treacherous retreats struck more of dismay than perhaps aught
else. For, when swimming before his exulting pursuers, with every
apparent symptom of alarm, he had several times been known to turn
round suddenly, and, bearing down upon them, either stave their boats to
splinters, or drive them back in consternation to their ship.

Already several fatalities had attended his chase. But though similar
disasters, however little bruited ashore, were by no means unusual
in the fishery; yet, in most instances, such seemed the White Whale’s
infernal aforethought of ferocity, that every dismembering or death
that he caused, was not wholly regarded as having been inflicted by an
unintelligent agent.

Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury the minds of
his more desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chips of chewed
boats, and the sinking limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of the
white curds of the whale’s direful wrath into the serene, exasperating
sunlight, that smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.

His three boats stove around him, and oars and men both whirling in the
eddies; one captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had
dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duellist at his foe, blindly seeking
with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale.
That captain was Ahab. And then it was, that suddenly sweeping his
sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby Dick had reaped away Ahab’s
leg, as a mower a blade of grass in the field. No turbaned Turk, no
hired Venetian or Malay, could have smote him with more seeming malice.
Small reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal
encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale,
all the more fell for that in his frantic morbidness he at last came
to identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his
intellectual and spiritual exasperations. The White Whale swam before
him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which
some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with
half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been
from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe
one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced
in their statue devil;--Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them;
but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he
pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and
torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice
in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle
demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly
personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon
the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt
by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a
mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

It is not probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at
the precise time of his bodily dismemberment. Then, in darting at the
monster, knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden, passionate,
corporal animosity; and when he received the stroke that tore him, he
probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but nothing more.
Yet, when by this collision forced to turn towards home, and for long
months of days and weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one
hammock, rounding in mid winter that dreary, howling Patagonian Cape;
then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another;
and so interfusing, made him mad. That it was only then, on the homeward
voyage, after the encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems
all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the passage,
he was a raving lunatic; and, though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital
strength yet lurked in his Egyptian chest, and was moreover intensified
by his delirium, that his mates were forced to lace him fast, even
there, as he sailed, raving in his hammock. In a strait-jacket, he swung
to the mad rockings of the gales. And, when running into more sufferable
latitudes, the ship, with mild stun’sails spread, floated across the
tranquil tropics, and, to all appearances, the old man’s delirium seemed
left behind him with the Cape Horn swells, and he came forth from his
dark den into the blessed light and air; even then, when he bore that
firm, collected front, however pale, and issued his calm orders once
again; and his mates thanked God the direful madness was now gone; even
then, Ahab, in his hidden self, raved on. Human madness is oftentimes a
cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but
become transfigured into some still subtler form. Ahab’s full lunacy
subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like the unabated Hudson,
when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but unfathomably through the
Highland gorge. But, as in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of
Ahab’s broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not
one jot of his great natural intellect had perished. That before living
agent, now became the living instrument. If such a furious trope may
stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it,
and turned all its concentred cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far
from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a
thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon
any one reasonable object.

This is much; yet Ahab’s larger, darker, deeper part remains unhinted.
But vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound. Winding
far down from within the very heart of this spiked Hotel de Cluny where
we here stand--however grand and wonderful, now quit it;--and take your
way, ye nobler, sadder souls, to those vast Roman halls of Thermes;
where far beneath the fantastic towers of man’s upper earth, his root
of grandeur, his whole awful essence sits in bearded state; an antique
buried beneath antiquities, and throned on torsoes! So with a broken
throne, the great gods mock that captive king; so like a Caryatid, he
patient sits, upholding on his frozen brow the piled entablatures of
ages. Wind ye down there, ye prouder, sadder souls! question that proud,
sad king! A family likeness! aye, he did beget ye, ye young exiled
royalties; and from your grim sire only will the old State-secret come.

Now, in his heart, Ahab had some glimpse of this, namely: all my means
are sane, my motive and my object mad. Yet without power to kill, or
change, or shun the fact; he likewise knew that to mankind he did long
dissemble; in some sort, did still. But that thing of his dissembling
was only subject to his perceptibility, not to his will determinate.
Nevertheless, so well did he succeed in that dissembling, that when
with ivory leg he stepped ashore at last, no Nantucketer thought him
otherwise than but naturally grieved, and that to the quick, with the
terrible casualty which had overtaken him.

The report of his undeniable delirium at sea was likewise popularly
ascribed to a kindred cause. And so too, all the added moodiness which
always afterwards, to the very day of sailing in the Pequod on the
present voyage, sat brooding on his brow. Nor is it so very unlikely,
that far from distrusting his fitness for another whaling voyage, on
account of such dark symptoms, the calculating people of that prudent
isle were inclined to harbor the conceit, that for those very reasons he
was all the better qualified and set on edge, for a pursuit so full
of rage and wildness as the bloody hunt of whales. Gnawed within and
scorched without, with the infixed, unrelenting fangs of some incurable
idea; such an one, could he be found, would seem the very man to dart
his iron and lift his lance against the most appalling of all brutes.
Or, if for any reason thought to be corporeally incapacitated for that,
yet such an one would seem superlatively competent to cheer and howl on
his underlings to the attack. But be all this as it may, certain it is,
that with the mad secret of his unabated rage bolted up and keyed in
him, Ahab had purposely sailed upon the present voyage with the one only
and all-engrossing object of hunting the White Whale. Had any one of his
old acquaintances on shore but half dreamed of what was lurking in him
then, how soon would their aghast and righteous souls have wrenched the
ship from such a fiendish man! They were bent on profitable cruises, the
profit to be counted down in dollars from the mint. He was intent on an
audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.

Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses a
Job’s whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made
up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals--morally enfeebled
also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in
Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in
Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask. Such a crew, so officered,
seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him
to his monomaniac revenge. How it was that they so aboundingly responded
to the old man’s ire--by what evil magic their souls were possessed,
that at times his hate seemed almost theirs; the White Whale as much
their insufferable foe as his; how all this came to be--what the White
Whale was to them, or how to their unconscious understandings, also, in
some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon
of the seas of life,--all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than
Ishmael can go. The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one
tell whither leads his shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his
pick? Who does not feel the irresistible arm drag? What skiff in tow
of a seventy-four can stand still? For one, I gave myself up to the
abandonment of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to
encounter the whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest

CHAPTER 42. The Whiteness of The Whale.

What the white whale was to Ahab, has been hinted; what, at times, he
was to me, as yet remains unsaid.

Aside from those more obvious considerations touching Moby Dick, which
could not but occasionally awaken in any man’s soul some alarm, there
was another thought, or rather vague, nameless horror concerning him,
which at times by its intensity completely overpowered all the rest; and
yet so mystical and well nigh ineffable was it, that I almost despair of
putting it in a comprehensible form. It was the whiteness of the whale
that above all things appalled me. But how can I hope to explain myself
here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all
these chapters might be naught.

Though in many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as
if imparting some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas,
and pearls; and though various nations have in some way recognised a
certain royal preeminence in this hue; even the barbaric, grand old
kings of Pegu placing the title “Lord of the White Elephants” above all
their other magniloquent ascriptions of dominion; and the modern kings
of Siam unfurling the same snow-white quadruped in the royal standard;
and the Hanoverian flag bearing the one figure of a snow-white charger;
and the great Austrian Empire, Caesarian, heir to overlording Rome,
having for the imperial colour the same imperial hue; and though this
pre-eminence in it applies to the human race itself, giving the white
man ideal mastership over every dusky tribe; and though, besides, all
this, whiteness has been even made significant of gladness, for among
the Romans a white stone marked a joyful day; and though in other mortal
sympathies and symbolizings, this same hue is made the emblem of many
touching, noble things--the innocence of brides, the benignity of age;
though among the Red Men of America the giving of the white belt
of wampum was the deepest pledge of honour; though in many climes,
whiteness typifies the majesty of Justice in the ermine of the Judge,
and contributes to the daily state of kings and queens drawn by
milk-white steeds; though even in the higher mysteries of the most
august religions it has been made the symbol of the divine spotlessness
and power; by the Persian fire worshippers, the white forked flame being
held the holiest on the altar; and in the Greek mythologies, Great Jove
himself being made incarnate in a snow-white bull; and though to the
noble Iroquois, the midwinter sacrifice of the sacred White Dog was
by far the holiest festival of their theology, that spotless, faithful
creature being held the purest envoy they could send to the Great Spirit
with the annual tidings of their own fidelity; and though directly from
the Latin word for white, all Christian priests derive the name of
one part of their sacred vesture, the alb or tunic, worn beneath the
cassock; and though among the holy pomps of the Romish faith, white is
specially employed in the celebration of the Passion of our Lord; though
in the Vision of St. John, white robes are given to the redeemed, and
the four-and-twenty elders stand clothed in white before the great-white
throne, and the Holy One that sitteth there white like wool; yet for all
these accumulated associations, with whatever is sweet, and honourable,
and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea
of this hue, which strikes more of panic to the soul than that redness
which affrights in blood.

This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness, when
divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with any object
terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest bounds.
Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of the tropics;
what but their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the transcendent
horrors they are? That ghastly whiteness it is which imparts such an
abhorrent mildness, even more loathsome than terrific, to the dumb
gloating of their aspect. So that not the fierce-fanged tiger in his
heraldic coat can so stagger courage as the white-shrouded bear or

*With reference to the Polar bear, it may possibly be urged by him
who would fain go still deeper into this matter, that it is not
the whiteness, separately regarded, which heightens the intolerable
hideousness of that brute; for, analysed, that heightened hideousness,
it might be said, only rises from the circumstance, that the
irresponsible ferociousness of the creature stands invested in the
fleece of celestial innocence and love; and hence, by bringing together
two such opposite emotions in our minds, the Polar bear frightens us
with so unnatural a contrast. But even assuming all this to be true;
yet, were it not for the whiteness, you would not have that intensified

As for the white shark, the white gliding ghostliness of repose in that
creature, when beheld in his ordinary moods, strangely tallies with the
same quality in the Polar quadruped. This peculiarity is most vividly
hit by the French in the name they bestow upon that fish. The Romish
mass for the dead begins with “Requiem eternam” (eternal rest), whence
REQUIEM denominating the mass itself, and any other funeral music. Now,
in allusion to the white, silent stillness of death in this shark, and
the mild deadliness of his habits, the French call him REQUIN.

Bethink thee of the albatross, whence come those clouds of spiritual
wonderment and pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in all
imaginations? Not Coleridge first threw that spell; but God’s great,
unflattering laureate, Nature.*

*I remember the first albatross I ever saw. It was during a prolonged
gale, in waters hard upon the Antarctic seas. From my forenoon watch
below, I ascended to the overclouded deck; and there, dashed upon the
main hatches, I saw a regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness, and
with a hooked, Roman bill sublime. At intervals, it arched forth
its vast archangel wings, as if to embrace some holy ark. Wondrous
flutterings and throbbings shook it. Though bodily unharmed, it uttered
cries, as some king’s ghost in supernatural distress. Through its
inexpressible, strange eyes, methought I peeped to secrets which took
hold of God. As Abraham before the angels, I bowed myself; the white
thing was so white, its wings so wide, and in those for ever exiled
waters, I had lost the miserable warping memories of traditions and of
towns. Long I gazed at that prodigy of plumage. I cannot tell, can only
hint, the things that darted through me then. But at last I awoke; and
turning, asked a sailor what bird was this. A goney, he replied. Goney!
never had heard that name before; is it conceivable that this glorious
thing is utterly unknown to men ashore! never! But some time after, I
learned that goney was some seaman’s name for albatross. So that by no
possibility could Coleridge’s wild Rhyme have had aught to do with those
mystical impressions which were mine, when I saw that bird upon our
deck. For neither had I then read the Rhyme, nor knew the bird to be
an albatross. Yet, in saying this, I do but indirectly burnish a little
brighter the noble merit of the poem and the poet.

I assert, then, that in the wondrous bodily whiteness of the bird
chiefly lurks the secret of the spell; a truth the more evinced in this,
that by a solecism of terms there are birds called grey albatrosses;
and these I have frequently seen, but never with such emotions as when I
beheld the Antarctic fowl.

But how had the mystic thing been caught? Whisper it not, and I will
tell; with a treacherous hook and line, as the fowl floated on the sea.
At last the Captain made a postman of it; tying a lettered, leathern
tally round its neck, with the ship’s time and place; and then letting
it escape. But I doubt not, that leathern tally, meant for man, was
taken off in Heaven, when the white fowl flew to join the wing-folding,
the invoking, and adoring cherubim!

Most famous in our Western annals and Indian traditions is that of
the White Steed of the Prairies; a magnificent milk-white charger,
large-eyed, small-headed, bluff-chested, and with the dignity of a
thousand monarchs in his lofty, overscorning carriage. He was the
elected Xerxes of vast herds of wild horses, whose pastures in those
days were only fenced by the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies. At
their flaming head he westward trooped it like that chosen star which
every evening leads on the hosts of light. The flashing cascade of his
mane, the curving comet of his tail, invested him with housings more
resplendent than gold and silver-beaters could have furnished him. A
most imperial and archangelical apparition of that unfallen, western
world, which to the eyes of the old trappers and hunters revived the
glories of those primeval times when Adam walked majestic as a god,
bluff-browed and fearless as this mighty steed. Whether marching amid
his aides and marshals in the van of countless cohorts that endlessly
streamed it over the plains, like an Ohio; or whether with his
circumambient subjects browsing all around at the horizon, the White
Steed gallopingly reviewed them with warm nostrils reddening through his
cool milkiness; in whatever aspect he presented himself, always to the
bravest Indians he was the object of trembling reverence and awe. Nor
can it be questioned from what stands on legendary record of this noble
horse, that it was his spiritual whiteness chiefly, which so clothed him
with divineness; and that this divineness had that in it which, though
commanding worship, at the same time enforced a certain nameless terror.

But there are other instances where this whiteness loses all that
accessory and strange glory which invests it in the White Steed and

What is it that in the Albino man so peculiarly repels and often shocks
the eye, as that sometimes he is loathed by his own kith and kin! It
is that whiteness which invests him, a thing expressed by the name
he bears. The Albino is as well made as other men--has no substantive
deformity--and yet this mere aspect of all-pervading whiteness makes him
more strangely hideous than the ugliest abortion. Why should this be so?

Nor, in quite other aspects, does Nature in her least palpable but
not the less malicious agencies, fail to enlist among her forces
this crowning attribute of the terrible. From its snowy aspect, the
gauntleted ghost of the Southern Seas has been denominated the White
Squall. Nor, in some historic instances, has the art of human malice
omitted so potent an auxiliary. How wildly it heightens the effect of
that passage in Froissart, when, masked in the snowy symbol of their
faction, the desperate White Hoods of Ghent murder their bailiff in the

Nor, in some things, does the common, hereditary experience of all
mankind fail to bear witness to the supernaturalism of this hue. It
cannot well be doubted, that the one visible quality in the aspect of
the dead which most appals the gazer, is the marble pallor lingering
there; as if indeed that pallor were as much like the badge of
consternation in the other world, as of mortal trepidation here. And
from that pallor of the dead, we borrow the expressive hue of the shroud
in which we wrap them. Nor even in our superstitions do we fail to
throw the same snowy mantle round our phantoms; all ghosts rising in a
milk-white fog--Yea, while these terrors seize us, let us add, that even
the king of terrors, when personified by the evangelist, rides on his
pallid horse.

Therefore, in his other moods, symbolize whatever grand or gracious
thing he will by whiteness, no man can deny that in its profoundest
idealized significance it calls up a peculiar apparition to the soul.

But though without dissent this point be fixed, how is mortal man to
account for it? To analyse it, would seem impossible. Can we, then,
by the citation of some of those instances wherein this thing of
whiteness--though for the time either wholly or in great part stripped
of all direct associations calculated to impart to it aught fearful,
but nevertheless, is found to exert over us the same sorcery, however
modified;--can we thus hope to light upon some chance clue to conduct us
to the hidden cause we seek?

Let us try. But in a matter like this, subtlety appeals to subtlety,
and without imagination no man can follow another into these halls. And
though, doubtless, some at least of the imaginative impressions about
to be presented may have been shared by most men, yet few perhaps were
entirely conscious of them at the time, and therefore may not be able to
recall them now.

Why to the man of untutored ideality, who happens to be but loosely
acquainted with the peculiar character of the day, does the bare mention
of Whitsuntide marshal in the fancy such long, dreary, speechless
processions of slow-pacing pilgrims, down-cast and hooded with
new-fallen snow? Or, to the unread, unsophisticated Protestant of the
Middle American States, why does the passing mention of a White Friar or
a White Nun, evoke such an eyeless statue in the soul?

Or what is there apart from the traditions of dungeoned warriors and
kings (which will not wholly account for it) that makes the White
Tower of London tell so much more strongly on the imagination of
an untravelled American, than those other storied structures, its
neighbors--the Byward Tower, or even the Bloody? And those sublimer
towers, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, whence, in peculiar moods,
comes that gigantic ghostliness over the soul at the bare mention of
that name, while the thought of Virginia’s Blue Ridge is full of a soft,
dewy, distant dreaminess? Or why, irrespective of all latitudes and
longitudes, does the name of the White Sea exert such a spectralness
over the fancy, while that of the Yellow Sea lulls us with mortal
thoughts of long lacquered mild afternoons on the waves, followed by
the gaudiest and yet sleepiest of sunsets? Or, to choose a wholly
unsubstantial instance, purely addressed to the fancy, why, in reading
the old fairy tales of Central Europe, does “the tall pale man” of the
Hartz forests, whose changeless pallor unrustlingly glides through the
green of the groves--why is this phantom more terrible than all the
whooping imps of the Blocksburg?

Nor is it, altogether, the remembrance of her cathedral-toppling
earthquakes; nor the stampedoes of her frantic seas; nor the
tearlessness of arid skies that never rain; nor the sight of her wide
field of leaning spires, wrenched cope-stones, and crosses all adroop
(like canted yards of anchored fleets); and her suburban avenues of
house-walls lying over upon each other, as a tossed pack of cards;--it
is not these things alone which make tearless Lima, the strangest,
saddest city thou can’st see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and
there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro,
this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful
greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid
pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own distortions.

I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness
is not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of
objects otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there aught
of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind almost
solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited under
any form at all approaching to muteness or universality. What I mean
by these two statements may perhaps be respectively elucidated by the
following examples.

First: The mariner, when drawing nigh the coasts of foreign lands, if by
night he hear the roar of breakers, starts to vigilance, and feels just
enough of trepidation to sharpen all his faculties; but under precisely
similar circumstances, let him be called from his hammock to view his
ship sailing through a midnight sea of milky whiteness--as if from
encircling headlands shoals of combed white bears were swimming round
him, then he feels a silent, superstitious dread; the shrouded phantom
of the whitened waters is horrible to him as a real ghost; in vain the
lead assures him he is still off soundings; heart and helm they both go
down; he never rests till blue water is under him again. Yet where is
the mariner who will tell thee, “Sir, it was not so much the fear of
striking hidden rocks, as the fear of that hideous whiteness that so
stirred me?”

Second: To the native Indian of Peru, the continual sight of the
snowhowdahed Andes conveys naught of dread, except, perhaps, in the
mere fancying of the eternal frosted desolateness reigning at such vast
altitudes, and the natural conceit of what a fearfulness it would be
to lose oneself in such inhuman solitudes. Much the same is it with the
backwoodsman of the West, who with comparative indifference views an
unbounded prairie sheeted with driven snow, no shadow of tree or twig
to break the fixed trance of whiteness. Not so the sailor, beholding the
scenery of the Antarctic seas; where at times, by some infernal trick
of legerdemain in the powers of frost and air, he, shivering and half
shipwrecked, instead of rainbows speaking hope and solace to his misery,
views what seems a boundless churchyard grinning upon him with its lean
ice monuments and splintered crosses.

But thou sayest, methinks that white-lead chapter about whiteness is but
a white flag hung out from a craven soul; thou surrenderest to a hypo,

Tell me, why this strong young colt, foaled in some peaceful valley of
Vermont, far removed from all beasts of prey--why is it that upon the
sunniest day, if you but shake a fresh buffalo robe behind him, so that
he cannot even see it, but only smells its wild animal muskiness--why
will he start, snort, and with bursting eyes paw the ground in phrensies
of affright? There is no remembrance in him of any gorings of wild
creatures in his green northern home, so that the strange muskiness he
smells cannot recall to him anything associated with the experience of
former perils; for what knows he, this New England colt, of the black
bisons of distant Oregon?

No; but here thou beholdest even in a dumb brute, the instinct of the
knowledge of the demonism in the world. Though thousands of miles from
Oregon, still when he smells that savage musk, the rending, goring bison
herds are as present as to the deserted wild foal of the prairies, which
this instant they may be trampling into dust.

Thus, then, the muffled rollings of a milky sea; the bleak rustlings
of the festooned frosts of mountains; the desolate shiftings of the
windrowed snows of prairies; all these, to Ishmael, are as the shaking
of that buffalo robe to the frightened colt!

Though neither knows where lie the nameless things of which the mystic
sign gives forth such hints; yet with me, as with the colt, somewhere
those things must exist. Though in many of its aspects this visible
world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright.

But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and
learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange
and far more portentous--why, as we have seen, it is at once the
most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the
Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in
things the most appalling to mankind.

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids
and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the
thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky
way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as
the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all
colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness,
full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows--a colourless, all-colour
of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory
of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues--every stately
or lovely emblazoning--the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea,
and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of
young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent
in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature
absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but
the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that
the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great
principle of light, for ever remains white or colourless in itself, and
if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even
tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge--pondering all this, the
palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in
Lapland, who refuse to wear coloured and colouring glasses upon their
eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental
white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these
things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery

CHAPTER 43. Hark!

“HIST! Did you hear that noise, Cabaco?”

It was the middle-watch; a fair moonlight; the seamen were standing in a
cordon, extending from one of the fresh-water butts in the waist, to the
scuttle-butt near the taffrail. In this manner, they passed the buckets
to fill the scuttle-butt. Standing, for the most part, on the hallowed
precincts of the quarter-deck, they were careful not to speak or rustle
their feet. From hand to hand, the buckets went in the deepest silence,
only broken by the occasional flap of a sail, and the steady hum of the
unceasingly advancing keel.

It was in the midst of this repose, that Archy, one of the cordon, whose
post was near the after-hatches, whispered to his neighbor, a Cholo, the
words above.

“Hist! did you hear that noise, Cabaco?”

“Take the bucket, will ye, Archy? what noise d’ye mean?”

“There it is again--under the hatches--don’t you hear it--a cough--it
sounded like a cough.”

“Cough be damned! Pass along that return bucket.”

“There again--there it is!--it sounds like two or three sleepers turning
over, now!”

“Caramba! have done, shipmate, will ye? It’s the three soaked biscuits
ye eat for supper turning over inside of ye--nothing else. Look to the

“Say what ye will, shipmate; I’ve sharp ears.”

“Aye, you are the chap, ain’t ye, that heard the hum of the old
Quakeress’s knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you’re
the chap.”

“Grin away; we’ll see what turns up. Hark ye, Cabaco, there is somebody
down in the after-hold that has not yet been seen on deck; and I suspect
our old Mogul knows something of it too. I heard Stubb tell Flask, one
morning watch, that there was something of that sort in the wind.”

“Tish! the bucket!”

CHAPTER 44. The Chart.

Had you followed Captain Ahab down into his cabin after the squall that
took place on the night succeeding that wild ratification of his purpose
with his crew, you would have seen him go to a locker in the transom,
and bringing out a large wrinkled roll of yellowish sea charts, spread
them before him on his screwed-down table. Then seating himself before
it, you would have seen him intently study the various lines and
shadings which there met his eye; and with slow but steady pencil trace
additional courses over spaces that before were blank. At intervals, he
would refer to piles of old log-books beside him, wherein were set down
the seasons and places in which, on various former voyages of various
ships, sperm whales had been captured or seen.

While thus employed, the heavy pewter lamp suspended in chains over his
head, continually rocked with the motion of the ship, and for ever threw
shifting gleams and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled brow, till it
almost seemed that while he himself was marking out lines and courses
on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and
courses upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead.

But it was not this night in particular that, in the solitude of his
cabin, Ahab thus pondered over his charts. Almost every night they were
brought out; almost every night some pencil marks were effaced, and
others were substituted. For with the charts of all four oceans before
him, Ahab was threading a maze of currents and eddies, with a view to
the more certain accomplishment of that monomaniac thought of his soul.

Now, to any one not fully acquainted with the ways of the leviathans,
it might seem an absurdly hopeless task thus to seek out one solitary
creature in the unhooped oceans of this planet. But not so did it
seem to Ahab, who knew the sets of all tides and currents; and thereby
calculating the driftings of the sperm whale’s food; and, also, calling
to mind the regular, ascertained seasons for hunting him in particular
latitudes; could arrive at reasonable surmises, almost approaching to
certainties, concerning the timeliest day to be upon this or that ground
in search of his prey.

So assured, indeed, is the fact concerning the periodicalness of the
sperm whale’s resorting to given waters, that many hunters believe that,
could he be closely observed and studied throughout the world; were the
logs for one voyage of the entire whale fleet carefully collated,
then the migrations of the sperm whale would be found to correspond in
invariability to those of the herring-shoals or the flights of swallows.
On this hint, attempts have been made to construct elaborate migratory
charts of the sperm whale.*

     *Since the above was written, the statement is happily borne
     out by an official circular, issued by Lieutenant Maury, of
     the National Observatory, Washington, April 16th, 1851. By
     that circular, it appears that precisely such a chart is in
     course of completion; and portions of it are presented in
     the circular. “This chart divides the ocean into districts
     of five degrees of latitude by five degrees of longitude;
     perpendicularly through each of which districts are twelve
     columns for the twelve months; and horizontally through each
     of which districts are three lines; one to show the number
     of days that have been spent in each month in every
     district, and the two others to show the number of days in
     which whales, sperm or right, have been seen.”

Besides, when making a passage from one feeding-ground to another, the
sperm whales, guided by some infallible instinct--say, rather, secret
intelligence from the Deity--mostly swim in VEINS, as they are called;
continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such undeviating
exactitude, that no ship ever sailed her course, by any chart, with
one tithe of such marvellous precision. Though, in these cases, the
direction taken by any one whale be straight as a surveyor’s parallel,
and though the line of advance be strictly confined to its own
unavoidable, straight wake, yet the arbitrary VEIN in which at these
times he is said to swim, generally embraces some few miles in width
(more or less, as the vein is presumed to expand or contract); but
never exceeds the visual sweep from the whale-ship’s mast-heads,
when circumspectly gliding along this magic zone. The sum is, that at
particular seasons within that breadth and along that path, migrating
whales may with great confidence be looked for.

And hence not only at substantiated times, upon well known separate
feeding-grounds, could Ahab hope to encounter his prey; but in crossing
the widest expanses of water between those grounds he could, by his
art, so place and time himself on his way, as even then not to be wholly
without prospect of a meeting.

There was a circumstance which at first sight seemed to entangle his
delirious but still methodical scheme. But not so in the reality,
perhaps. Though the gregarious sperm whales have their regular seasons
for particular grounds, yet in general you cannot conclude that the
herds which haunted such and such a latitude or longitude this year,
say, will turn out to be identically the same with those that were found
there the preceding season; though there are peculiar and unquestionable
instances where the contrary of this has proved true. In general, the
same remark, only within a less wide limit, applies to the solitaries
and hermits among the matured, aged sperm whales. So that though Moby
Dick had in a former year been seen, for example, on what is called the
Seychelle ground in the Indian ocean, or Volcano Bay on the Japanese
Coast; yet it did not follow, that were the Pequod to visit either of
those spots at any subsequent corresponding season, she would infallibly
encounter him there. So, too, with some other feeding grounds, where
he had at times revealed himself. But all these seemed only his casual
stopping-places and ocean-inns, so to speak, not his places of prolonged
abode. And where Ahab’s chances of accomplishing his object have
hitherto been spoken of, allusion has only been made to whatever
way-side, antecedent, extra prospects were his, ere a particular
set time or place were attained, when all possibilities would become
probabilities, and, as Ahab fondly thought, every possibility the next
thing to a certainty. That particular set time and place were conjoined
in the one technical phrase--the Season-on-the-Line. For there and then,
for several consecutive years, Moby Dick had been periodically descried,
lingering in those waters for awhile, as the sun, in its annual round,
loiters for a predicted interval in any one sign of the Zodiac. There
it was, too, that most of the deadly encounters with the white whale had
taken place; there the waves were storied with his deeds; there also was
that tragic spot where the monomaniac old man had found the awful motive
to his vengeance. But in the cautious comprehensiveness and unloitering
vigilance with which Ahab threw his brooding soul into this unfaltering
hunt, he would not permit himself to rest all his hopes upon the one
crowning fact above mentioned, however flattering it might be to those
hopes; nor in the sleeplessness of his vow could he so tranquillize his
unquiet heart as to postpone all intervening quest.

Now, the Pequod had sailed from Nantucket at the very beginning of the
Season-on-the-Line. No possible endeavor then could enable her commander
to make the great passage southwards, double Cape Horn, and then running
down sixty degrees of latitude arrive in the equatorial Pacific in time
to cruise there. Therefore, he must wait for the next ensuing season.
Yet the premature hour of the Pequod’s sailing had, perhaps, been
correctly selected by Ahab, with a view to this very complexion of
things. Because, an interval of three hundred and sixty-five days
and nights was before him; an interval which, instead of impatiently
enduring ashore, he would spend in a miscellaneous hunt; if by chance
the White Whale, spending his vacation in seas far remote from his
periodical feeding-grounds, should turn up his wrinkled brow off the
Persian Gulf, or in the Bengal Bay, or China Seas, or in any other
waters haunted by his race. So that Monsoons, Pampas, Nor’-Westers,
Harmattans, Trades; any wind but the Levanter and Simoon, might
blow Moby Dick into the devious zig-zag world-circle of the Pequod’s
circumnavigating wake.

But granting all this; yet, regarded discreetly and coolly, seems it not
but a mad idea, this; that in the broad boundless ocean, one solitary
whale, even if encountered, should be thought capable of individual
recognition from his hunter, even as a white-bearded Mufti in the
thronged thoroughfares of Constantinople? Yes. For the peculiar
snow-white brow of Moby Dick, and his snow-white hump, could not but
be unmistakable. And have I not tallied the whale, Ahab would mutter
to himself, as after poring over his charts till long after midnight he
would throw himself back in reveries--tallied him, and shall he escape?
His broad fins are bored, and scalloped out like a lost sheep’s ear! And
here, his mad mind would run on in a breathless race; till a weariness
and faintness of pondering came over him; and in the open air of the
deck he would seek to recover his strength. Ah, God! what trances
of torments does that man endure who is consumed with one unachieved
revengeful desire. He sleeps with clenched hands; and wakes with his own
bloody nails in his palms.

Often, when forced from his hammock by exhausting and intolerably vivid
dreams of the night, which, resuming his own intense thoughts through
the day, carried them on amid a clashing of phrensies, and whirled them
round and round and round in his blazing brain, till the very throbbing
of his life-spot became insufferable anguish; and when, as was sometimes
the case, these spiritual throes in him heaved his being up from its
base, and a chasm seemed opening in him, from which forked flames and
lightnings shot up, and accursed fiends beckoned him to leap down among
them; when this hell in himself yawned beneath him, a wild cry would be
heard through the ship; and with glaring eyes Ahab would burst from his
state room, as though escaping from a bed that was on fire. Yet these,
perhaps, instead of being the unsuppressable symptoms of some latent
weakness, or fright at his own resolve, were but the plainest tokens
of its intensity. For, at such times, crazy Ahab, the scheming,
unappeasedly steadfast hunter of the white whale; this Ahab that had
gone to his hammock, was not the agent that so caused him to burst from
it in horror again. The latter was the eternal, living principle or
soul in him; and in sleep, being for the time dissociated from the
characterizing mind, which at other times employed it for its outer
vehicle or agent, it spontaneously sought escape from the scorching
contiguity of the frantic thing, of which, for the time, it was no
longer an integral. But as the mind does not exist unless leagued with
the soul, therefore it must have been that, in Ahab’s case, yielding up
all his thoughts and fancies to his one supreme purpose; that purpose,
by its own sheer inveteracy of will, forced itself against gods and
devils into a kind of self-assumed, independent being of its own. Nay,
could grimly live and burn, while the common vitality to which it was
conjoined, fled horror-stricken from the unbidden and unfathered birth.
Therefore, the tormented spirit that glared out of bodily eyes, when
what seemed Ahab rushed from his room, was for the time but a vacated
thing, a formless somnambulistic being, a ray of living light, to be
sure, but without an object to colour, and therefore a blankness in
itself. God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature
in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a
vulture feeds upon that heart for ever; that vulture the very creature
he creates.

CHAPTER 45. The Affidavit.

So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed, as
indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious particulars
in the habits of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter, in its earlier
part, is as important a one as will be found in this volume; but the
leading matter of it requires to be still further and more familiarly
enlarged upon, in order to be adequately understood, and moreover to
take away any incredulity which a profound ignorance of the entire
subject may induce in some minds, as to the natural verity of the main
points of this affair.

I care not to perform this part of my task methodically; but shall
be content to produce the desired impression by separate citations of
items, practically or reliably known to me as a whaleman; and from these
citations, I take it--the conclusion aimed at will naturally follow of

First: I have personally known three instances where a whale, after
receiving a harpoon, has effected a complete escape; and, after an
interval (in one instance of three years), has been again struck by
the same hand, and slain; when the two irons, both marked by the same
private cypher, have been taken from the body. In the instance where
three years intervened between the flinging of the two harpoons; and I
think it may have been something more than that; the man who darted
them happening, in the interval, to go in a trading ship on a voyage to
Africa, went ashore there, joined a discovery party, and penetrated far
into the interior, where he travelled for a period of nearly two years,
often endangered by serpents, savages, tigers, poisonous miasmas,
with all the other common perils incident to wandering in the heart of
unknown regions. Meanwhile, the whale he had struck must also have
been on its travels; no doubt it had thrice circumnavigated the globe,
brushing with its flanks all the coasts of Africa; but to no purpose.
This man and this whale again came together, and the one vanquished the
other. I say I, myself, have known three instances similar to this; that
is in two of them I saw the whales struck; and, upon the second attack,
saw the two irons with the respective marks cut in them, afterwards
taken from the dead fish. In the three-year instance, it so fell out
that I was in the boat both times, first and last, and the last time
distinctly recognised a peculiar sort of huge mole under the whale’s
eye, which I had observed there three years previous. I say three years,
but I am pretty sure it was more than that. Here are three instances,
then, which I personally know the truth of; but I have heard of many
other instances from persons whose veracity in the matter there is no
good ground to impeach.

Secondly: It is well known in the Sperm Whale Fishery, however ignorant
the world ashore may be of it, that there have been several memorable
historical instances where a particular whale in the ocean has been at
distant times and places popularly cognisable. Why such a whale became
thus marked was not altogether and originally owing to his bodily
peculiarities as distinguished from other whales; for however peculiar
in that respect any chance whale may be, they soon put an end to his
peculiarities by killing him, and boiling him down into a peculiarly
valuable oil. No: the reason was this: that from the fatal experiences
of the fishery there hung a terrible prestige of perilousness about
such a whale as there did about Rinaldo Rinaldini, insomuch that
most fishermen were content to recognise him by merely touching their
tarpaulins when he would be discovered lounging by them on the sea,
without seeking to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance. Like some
poor devils ashore that happen to know an irascible great man, they
make distant unobtrusive salutations to him in the street, lest if they
pursued the acquaintance further, they might receive a summary thump for
their presumption.

But not only did each of these famous whales enjoy great individual
celebrity--Nay, you may call it an ocean-wide renown; not only was he
famous in life and now is immortal in forecastle stories after death,
but he was admitted into all the rights, privileges, and distinctions of
a name; had as much a name indeed as Cambyses or Caesar. Was it not so,
O Timor Tom! thou famed leviathan, scarred like an iceberg, who so long
did’st lurk in the Oriental straits of that name, whose spout was oft
seen from the palmy beach of Ombay? Was it not so, O New Zealand Jack!
thou terror of all cruisers that crossed their wakes in the vicinity of
the Tattoo Land? Was it not so, O Morquan! King of Japan, whose lofty
jet they say at times assumed the semblance of a snow-white cross
against the sky? Was it not so, O Don Miguel! thou Chilian whale, marked
like an old tortoise with mystic hieroglyphics upon the back! In plain
prose, here are four whales as well known to the students of Cetacean
History as Marius or Sylla to the classic scholar.

But this is not all. New Zealand Tom and Don Miguel, after at various
times creating great havoc among the boats of different vessels, were
finally gone in quest of, systematically hunted out, chased and killed
by valiant whaling captains, who heaved up their anchors with
that express object as much in view, as in setting out through the
Narragansett Woods, Captain Butler of old had it in his mind to capture
that notorious murderous savage Annawon, the headmost warrior of the
Indian King Philip.

I do not know where I can find a better place than just here, to make
mention of one or two other things, which to me seem important, as in
printed form establishing in all respects the reasonableness of the
whole story of the White Whale, more especially the catastrophe. For
this is one of those disheartening instances where truth requires full
as much bolstering as error. So ignorant are most landsmen of some of
the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without
some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the
fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still
worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.

First: Though most men have some vague flitting ideas of the general
perils of the grand fishery, yet they have nothing like a fixed, vivid
conception of those perils, and the frequency with which they recur.
One reason perhaps is, that not one in fifty of the actual disasters and
deaths by casualties in the fishery, ever finds a public record at home,
however transient and immediately forgotten that record. Do you suppose
that that poor fellow there, who this moment perhaps caught by the
whale-line off the coast of New Guinea, is being carried down to the
bottom of the sea by the sounding leviathan--do you suppose that that
poor fellow’s name will appear in the newspaper obituary you will read
to-morrow at your breakfast? No: because the mails are very irregular
between here and New Guinea. In fact, did you ever hear what might be
called regular news direct or indirect from New Guinea? Yet I tell you
that upon one particular voyage which I made to the Pacific, among many
others we spoke thirty different ships, every one of which had had a
death by a whale, some of them more than one, and three that had each
lost a boat’s crew. For God’s sake, be economical with your lamps and
candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man’s blood was
spilled for it.

Secondly: People ashore have indeed some indefinite idea that a whale is
an enormous creature of enormous power; but I have ever found that when
narrating to them some specific example of this two-fold enormousness,
they have significantly complimented me upon my facetiousness; when, I
declare upon my soul, I had no more idea of being facetious than Moses,
when he wrote the history of the plagues of Egypt.

But fortunately the special point I here seek can be established upon
testimony entirely independent of my own. That point is this: The Sperm
Whale is in some cases sufficiently powerful, knowing, and judiciously
malicious, as with direct aforethought to stave in, utterly destroy, and
sink a large ship; and what is more, the Sperm Whale HAS done it.

First: In the year 1820 the ship Essex, Captain Pollard, of Nantucket,
was cruising in the Pacific Ocean. One day she saw spouts, lowered her
boats, and gave chase to a shoal of sperm whales. Ere long, several of
the whales were wounded; when, suddenly, a very large whale escaping
from the boats, issued from the shoal, and bore directly down upon the
ship. Dashing his forehead against her hull, he so stove her in, that in
less than “ten minutes” she settled down and fell over. Not a surviving
plank of her has been seen since. After the severest exposure, part of
the crew reached the land in their boats. Being returned home at last,
Captain Pollard once more sailed for the Pacific in command of another
ship, but the gods shipwrecked him again upon unknown rocks and
breakers; for the second time his ship was utterly lost, and forthwith
forswearing the sea, he has never tempted it since. At this day Captain
Pollard is a resident of Nantucket. I have seen Owen Chace, who was
chief mate of the Essex at the time of the tragedy; I have read his
plain and faithful narrative; I have conversed with his son; and all
this within a few miles of the scene of the catastrophe.*

*The following are extracts from Chace’s narrative: “Every fact seemed
to warrant me in concluding that it was anything but chance which
directed his operations; he made two several attacks upon the ship, at
a short interval between them, both of which, according to their
direction, were calculated to do us the most injury, by being made
ahead, and thereby combining the speed of the two objects for the shock;
to effect which, the exact manoeuvres which he made were necessary. His
aspect was most horrible, and such as indicated resentment and fury. He
came directly from the shoal which we had just before entered, and in
which we had struck three of his companions, as if fired with revenge
for their sufferings.” Again: “At all events, the whole circumstances
taken together, all happening before my own eyes, and producing, at the
time, impressions in my mind of decided, calculating mischief, on the
part of the whale (many of which impressions I cannot now recall),
induce me to be satisfied that I am correct in my opinion.”

Here are his reflections some time after quitting the ship, during
a black night in an open boat, when almost despairing of reaching any
hospitable shore. “The dark ocean and swelling waters were nothing; the
fears of being swallowed up by some dreadful tempest, or dashed
upon hidden rocks, with all the other ordinary subjects of fearful
contemplation, seemed scarcely entitled to a moment’s thought; the
wholly engrossed my reflections, until day again made its appearance.”

In another place--p. 45,--he speaks of “THE MYSTERIOUS AND MORTAL ATTACK

Secondly: The ship Union, also of Nantucket, was in the year 1807
totally lost off the Azores by a similar onset, but the authentic
particulars of this catastrophe I have never chanced to encounter,
though from the whale hunters I have now and then heard casual allusions
to it.

Thirdly: Some eighteen or twenty years ago Commodore J---, then
commanding an American sloop-of-war of the first class, happened to be
dining with a party of whaling captains, on board a Nantucket ship in
the harbor of Oahu, Sandwich Islands. Conversation turning upon whales,
the Commodore was pleased to be sceptical touching the amazing strength
ascribed to them by the professional gentlemen present. He peremptorily
denied for example, that any whale could so smite his stout sloop-of-war
as to cause her to leak so much as a thimbleful. Very good; but there
is more coming. Some weeks after, the Commodore set sail in this
impregnable craft for Valparaiso. But he was stopped on the way by a
portly sperm whale, that begged a few moments’ confidential business
with him. That business consisted in fetching the Commodore’s craft such
a thwack, that with all his pumps going he made straight for the nearest
port to heave down and repair. I am not superstitious, but I consider
the Commodore’s interview with that whale as providential. Was not Saul
of Tarsus converted from unbelief by a similar fright? I tell you, the
sperm whale will stand no nonsense.

I will now refer you to Langsdorff’s Voyages for a little circumstance
in point, peculiarly interesting to the writer hereof. Langsdorff, you
must know by the way, was attached to the Russian Admiral Krusenstern’s
famous Discovery Expedition in the beginning of the present century.
Captain Langsdorff thus begins his seventeenth chapter:

“By the thirteenth of May our ship was ready to sail, and the next day
we were out in the open sea, on our way to Ochotsh. The weather was very
clear and fine, but so intolerably cold that we were obliged to keep on
our fur clothing. For some days we had very little wind; it was not
till the nineteenth that a brisk gale from the northwest sprang up. An
uncommon large whale, the body of which was larger than the ship itself,
lay almost at the surface of the water, but was not perceived by any
one on board till the moment when the ship, which was in full sail,
was almost upon him, so that it was impossible to prevent its striking
against him. We were thus placed in the most imminent danger, as this
gigantic creature, setting up its back, raised the ship three feet at
least out of the water. The masts reeled, and the sails fell altogether,
while we who were below all sprang instantly upon the deck, concluding
that we had struck upon some rock; instead of this we saw the monster
sailing off with the utmost gravity and solemnity. Captain D’Wolf
applied immediately to the pumps to examine whether or not the vessel
had received any damage from the shock, but we found that very happily
it had escaped entirely uninjured.”

Now, the Captain D’Wolf here alluded to as commanding the ship in
question, is a New Englander, who, after a long life of unusual
adventures as a sea-captain, this day resides in the village of
Dorchester near Boston. I have the honour of being a nephew of his. I
have particularly questioned him concerning this passage in Langsdorff.
He substantiates every word. The ship, however, was by no means a large
one: a Russian craft built on the Siberian coast, and purchased by my
uncle after bartering away the vessel in which he sailed from home.

In that up and down manly book of old-fashioned adventure, so full, too,
of honest wonders--the voyage of Lionel Wafer, one of ancient Dampier’s
old chums--I found a little matter set down so like that just quoted
from Langsdorff, that I cannot forbear inserting it here for a
corroborative example, if such be needed.

Lionel, it seems, was on his way to “John Ferdinando,” as he calls
the modern Juan Fernandes. “In our way thither,” he says, “about four
o’clock in the morning, when we were about one hundred and fifty leagues
from the Main of America, our ship felt a terrible shock, which put our
men in such consternation that they could hardly tell where they were
or what to think; but every one began to prepare for death. And, indeed,
the shock was so sudden and violent, that we took it for granted the
ship had struck against a rock; but when the amazement was a little
over, we cast the lead, and sounded, but found no ground..... The
suddenness of the shock made the guns leap in their carriages, and
several of the men were shaken out of their hammocks. Captain Davis, who
lay with his head on a gun, was thrown out of his cabin!” Lionel then
goes on to impute the shock to an earthquake, and seems to substantiate
the imputation by stating that a great earthquake, somewhere about
that time, did actually do great mischief along the Spanish land. But
I should not much wonder if, in the darkness of that early hour of the
morning, the shock was after all caused by an unseen whale vertically
bumping the hull from beneath.

I might proceed with several more examples, one way or another known to
me, of the great power and malice at times of the sperm whale. In more
than one instance, he has been known, not only to chase the assailing
boats back to their ships, but to pursue the ship itself, and long
withstand all the lances hurled at him from its decks. The English ship
Pusie Hall can tell a story on that head; and, as for his strength,
let me say, that there have been examples where the lines attached to a
running sperm whale have, in a calm, been transferred to the ship, and
secured there; the whale towing her great hull through the water, as a
horse walks off with a cart. Again, it is very often observed that, if
the sperm whale, once struck, is allowed time to rally, he then acts,
not so often with blind rage, as with wilful, deliberate designs of
destruction to his pursuers; nor is it without conveying some eloquent
indication of his character, that upon being attacked he will frequently
open his mouth, and retain it in that dread expansion for several
consecutive minutes. But I must be content with only one more and a
concluding illustration; a remarkable and most significant one, by which
you will not fail to see, that not only is the most marvellous event in
this book corroborated by plain facts of the present day, but that these
marvels (like all marvels) are mere repetitions of the ages; so that for
the millionth time we say amen with Solomon--Verily there is nothing new
under the sun.

In the sixth Christian century lived Procopius, a Christian magistrate
of Constantinople, in the days when Justinian was Emperor and Belisarius
general. As many know, he wrote the history of his own times, a work
every way of uncommon value. By the best authorities, he has always been
considered a most trustworthy and unexaggerating historian, except in
some one or two particulars, not at all affecting the matter presently
to be mentioned.

Now, in this history of his, Procopius mentions that, during the term
of his prefecture at Constantinople, a great sea-monster was captured
in the neighboring Propontis, or Sea of Marmora, after having destroyed
vessels at intervals in those waters for a period of more than fifty
years. A fact thus set down in substantial history cannot easily be
gainsaid. Nor is there any reason it should be. Of what precise species
this sea-monster was, is not mentioned. But as he destroyed ships, as
well as for other reasons, he must have been a whale; and I am strongly
inclined to think a sperm whale. And I will tell you why. For a long
time I fancied that the sperm whale had been always unknown in the
Mediterranean and the deep waters connecting with it. Even now I am
certain that those seas are not, and perhaps never can be, in the
present constitution of things, a place for his habitual gregarious
resort. But further investigations have recently proved to me, that in
modern times there have been isolated instances of the presence of the
sperm whale in the Mediterranean. I am told, on good authority, that
on the Barbary coast, a Commodore Davis of the British navy found
the skeleton of a sperm whale. Now, as a vessel of war readily passes
through the Dardanelles, hence a sperm whale could, by the same route,
pass out of the Mediterranean into the Propontis.

In the Propontis, as far as I can learn, none of that peculiar substance
called BRIT is to be found, the aliment of the right whale. But I have
every reason to believe that the food of the sperm whale--squid or
cuttle-fish--lurks at the bottom of that sea, because large creatures,
but by no means the largest of that sort, have been found at its
surface. If, then, you properly put these statements together, and
reason upon them a bit, you will clearly perceive that, according to all
human reasoning, Procopius’s sea-monster, that for half a century stove
the ships of a Roman Emperor, must in all probability have been a sperm

CHAPTER 46. Surmises.

Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in all his
thoughts and actions ever had in view the ultimate capture of Moby Dick;
though he seemed ready to sacrifice all mortal interests to that one
passion; nevertheless it may have been that he was by nature and long
habituation far too wedded to a fiery whaleman’s ways, altogether to
abandon the collateral prosecution of the voyage. Or at least if
this were otherwise, there were not wanting other motives much more
influential with him. It would be refining too much, perhaps, even
considering his monomania, to hint that his vindictiveness towards the
White Whale might have possibly extended itself in some degree to all
sperm whales, and that the more monsters he slew by so much the more he
multiplied the chances that each subsequently encountered whale would
prove to be the hated one he hunted. But if such an hypothesis be indeed
exceptionable, there were still additional considerations which, though
not so strictly according with the wildness of his ruling passion, yet
were by no means incapable of swaying him.

To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in
the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order. He knew,
for example, that however magnetic his ascendency in some respects was
over Starbuck, yet that ascendency did not cover the complete spiritual
man any more than mere corporeal superiority involves intellectual
mastership; for to the purely spiritual, the intellectual but stand in a
sort of corporeal relation. Starbuck’s body and Starbuck’s coerced will
were Ahab’s, so long as Ahab kept his magnet at Starbuck’s brain; still
he knew that for all this the chief mate, in his soul, abhorred his
captain’s quest, and could he, would joyfully disintegrate himself from
it, or even frustrate it. It might be that a long interval would elapse
ere the White Whale was seen. During that long interval Starbuck
would ever be apt to fall into open relapses of rebellion against his
captain’s leadership, unless some ordinary, prudential, circumstantial
influences were brought to bear upon him. Not only that, but the subtle
insanity of Ahab respecting Moby Dick was noways more significantly
manifested than in his superlative sense and shrewdness in foreseeing
that, for the present, the hunt should in some way be stripped of that
strange imaginative impiousness which naturally invested it; that
the full terror of the voyage must be kept withdrawn into the obscure
background (for few men’s courage is proof against protracted meditation
unrelieved by action); that when they stood their long night watches,
his officers and men must have some nearer things to think of than Moby
Dick. For however eagerly and impetuously the savage crew had hailed the
announcement of his quest; yet all sailors of all sorts are more or less
capricious and unreliable--they live in the varying outer weather, and
they inhale its fickleness--and when retained for any object remote and
blank in the pursuit, however promissory of life and passion in the
end, it is above all things requisite that temporary interests and
employments should intervene and hold them healthily suspended for the
final dash.

Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing. In times of strong emotion
mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent.
The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought
Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the White Whale fully incites the
hearts of this my savage crew, and playing round their savageness even
breeds a certain generous knight-errantism in them, still, while for the
love of it they give chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food
for their more common, daily appetites. For even the high lifted and
chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse two
thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without
committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious
perquisites by the way. Had they been strictly held to their one final
and romantic object--that final and romantic object, too many would have
turned from in disgust. I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all
hopes of cash--aye, cash. They may scorn cash now; but let some months
go by, and no perspective promise of it to them, and then this same
quiescent cash all at once mutinying in them, this same cash would soon
cashier Ahab.

Nor was there wanting still another precautionary motive more related
to Ahab personally. Having impulsively, it is probable, and perhaps
somewhat prematurely revealed the prime but private purpose of the
Pequod’s voyage, Ahab was now entirely conscious that, in so doing,
he had indirectly laid himself open to the unanswerable charge of
usurpation; and with perfect impunity, both moral and legal, his crew
if so disposed, and to that end competent, could refuse all further
obedience to him, and even violently wrest from him the command. From
even the barely hinted imputation of usurpation, and the possible
consequences of such a suppressed impression gaining ground, Ahab must
of course have been most anxious to protect himself. That protection
could only consist in his own predominating brain and heart and hand,
backed by a heedful, closely calculating attention to every minute
atmospheric influence which it was possible for his crew to be subjected

For all these reasons then, and others perhaps too analytic to be
verbally developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he must still in a good
degree continue true to the natural, nominal purpose of the Pequod’s
voyage; observe all customary usages; and not only that, but force
himself to evince all his well known passionate interest in the general
pursuit of his profession.

Be all this as it may, his voice was now often heard hailing the three
mast-heads and admonishing them to keep a bright look-out, and not omit
reporting even a porpoise. This vigilance was not long without reward.

CHAPTER 47. The Mat-Maker.

It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging
about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-coloured waters.
Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a sword-mat,
for an additional lashing to our boat. So still and subdued and yet
somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an incantation of reverie
lurked in the air, that each silent sailor seemed resolved into his own
invisible self.

I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I
kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between
the long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as
Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword
between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and
unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did
there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by
the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were
the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving
and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp
subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration, and
that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise interblending
of other threads with its own. This warp seemed necessity; and here,
thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own
destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime, Queequeg’s impulsive,
indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly,
or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference
in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final
aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword, thought I,
which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this
easy, indifferent sword must be chance--aye, chance, free will, and
necessity--nowise incompatible--all interweavingly working together.
The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate
course--its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that;
free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and
chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of
necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though
thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the
last featuring blow at events.

Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so
strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball
of free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at the clouds
whence that voice dropped like a wing. High aloft in the cross-trees was
that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego. His body was reaching eagerly forward,
his hand stretched out like a wand, and at brief sudden intervals he
continued his cries. To be sure the same sound was that very moment
perhaps being heard all over the seas, from hundreds of whalemen’s
look-outs perched as high in the air; but from few of those lungs could
that accustomed old cry have derived such a marvellous cadence as from
Tashtego the Indian’s.

As he stood hovering over you half suspended in air, so wildly and
eagerly peering towards the horizon, you would have thought him some
prophet or seer beholding the shadows of Fate, and by those wild cries
announcing their coming.

“There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!”


“On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!”

Instantly all was commotion.

The Sperm Whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and
reliable uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish from
other tribes of his genus.

“There go flukes!” was now the cry from Tashtego; and the whales

“Quick, steward!” cried Ahab. “Time! time!”

Dough-Boy hurried below, glanced at the watch, and reported the exact
minute to Ahab.

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

But at this critical instant a sudden exclamation was heard that took
every eye from the whale. With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who was
surrounded by five dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air.

CHAPTER 48. The First Lowering.

The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side
of the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose the
tackles and bands of the boat which swung there. This boat had always
been deemed one of the spare boats, though technically called the
captain’s, on account of its hanging from the starboard quarter. The
figure that now stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one white
tooth evilly protruding from its steel-like lips. A rumpled Chinese
jacket of black cotton funereally invested him, with wide black trowsers
of the same dark stuff. But strangely crowning this ebonness was a
glistening white plaited turban, the living hair braided and coiled
round and round upon his head. Less swart in aspect, the companions of
this figure were of that vivid, tiger-yellow complexion peculiar to
some of the aboriginal natives of the Manillas;--a race notorious for
a certain diabolism of subtilty, and by some honest white mariners
supposed to be the paid spies and secret confidential agents on the
water of the devil, their lord, whose counting-room they suppose to be

While yet the wondering ship’s company were gazing upon these strangers,
Ahab cried out to the white-turbaned old man at their head, “All ready
there, Fedallah?”

“Ready,” was the half-hissed reply.

“Lower away then; d’ye hear?” shouting across the deck. “Lower away
there, I say.”

Such was the thunder of his voice, that spite of their amazement the men
sprang over the rail; the sheaves whirled round in the blocks; with a
wallow, the three boats dropped into the sea; while, with a dexterous,
off-handed daring, unknown in any other vocation, the sailors,
goat-like, leaped down the rolling ship’s side into the tossed boats

Hardly had they pulled out from under the ship’s lee, when a fourth
keel, coming from the windward side, pulled round under the stern, and
showed the five strangers rowing Ahab, who, standing erect in the stern,
loudly hailed Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, to spread themselves widely,
so as to cover a large expanse of water. But with all their eyes again
riveted upon the swart Fedallah and his crew, the inmates of the other
boats obeyed not the command.

“Captain Ahab?--” said Starbuck.

“Spread yourselves,” cried Ahab; “give way, all four boats. Thou, Flask,
pull out more to leeward!”

“Aye, aye, sir,” cheerily cried little King-Post, sweeping round
his great steering oar. “Lay back!” addressing his crew.
“There!--there!--there again! There she blows right ahead, boys!--lay

“Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy.”

“Oh, I don’t mind’em, sir,” said Archy; “I knew it all before now.
Didn’t I hear ‘em in the hold? And didn’t I tell Cabaco here of it? What
say ye, Cabaco? They are stowaways, Mr. Flask.”

“Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little
ones,” drawlingly and soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew, some of whom
still showed signs of uneasiness. “Why don’t you break your backbones,
my boys? What is it you stare at? Those chaps in yonder boat? Tut! They
are only five more hands come to help us--never mind from where--the
more the merrier. Pull, then, do pull; never mind the brimstone--devils
are good fellows enough. So, so; there you are now; that’s the stroke
for a thousand pounds; that’s the stroke to sweep the stakes! Hurrah
for the gold cup of sperm oil, my heroes! Three cheers, men--all hearts
alive! Easy, easy; don’t be in a hurry--don’t be in a hurry. Why don’t
you snap your oars, you rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So, so, so,
then:--softly, softly! That’s it--that’s it! long and strong. Give way
there, give way! The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin rapscallions; ye are
all asleep. Stop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull. Pull, will ye? pull,
can’t ye? pull, won’t ye? Why in the name of gudgeons and ginger-cakes
don’t ye pull?--pull and break something! pull, and start your eyes out!
Here!” whipping out the sharp knife from his girdle; “every mother’s son
of ye draw his knife, and pull with the blade between his teeth. That’s
it--that’s it. Now ye do something; that looks like it, my steel-bits.
Start her--start her, my silver-spoons! Start her, marling-spikes!”

Stubb’s exordium to his crew is given here at large, because he had
rather a peculiar way of talking to them in general, and especially in
inculcating the religion of rowing. But you must not suppose from this
specimen of his sermonizings that he ever flew into downright passions
with his congregation. Not at all; and therein consisted his chief
peculiarity. He would say the most terrific things to his crew, in a
tone so strangely compounded of fun and fury, and the fury seemed so
calculated merely as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman could hear such
queer invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for
the mere joke of the thing. Besides he all the time looked so easy and
indolent himself, so loungingly managed his steering-oar, and so broadly
gaped--open-mouthed at times--that the mere sight of such a yawning
commander, by sheer force of contrast, acted like a charm upon the crew.
Then again, Stubb was one of those odd sort of humorists, whose jollity
is sometimes so curiously ambiguous, as to put all inferiors on their
guard in the matter of obeying them.

In obedience to a sign from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling obliquely
across Stubb’s bow; and when for a minute or so the two boats were
pretty near to each other, Stubb hailed the mate.

“Mr. Starbuck! larboard boat there, ahoy! a word with ye, sir, if ye

“Halloa!” returned Starbuck, turning round not a single inch as he
spoke; still earnestly but whisperingly urging his crew; his face set
like a flint from Stubb’s.

“What think ye of those yellow boys, sir!”

“Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed. (Strong, strong,
boys!)” in a whisper to his crew, then speaking out loud again: “A sad
business, Mr. Stubb! (seethe her, seethe her, my lads!) but never mind,
Mr. Stubb, all for the best. Let all your crew pull strong, come what
will. (Spring, my men, spring!) There’s hogsheads of sperm ahead, Mr.
Stubb, and that’s what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!) Sperm, sperm’s the
play! This at least is duty; duty and profit hand in hand.”

“Aye, aye, I thought as much,” soliloquized Stubb, when the boats
diverged, “as soon as I clapt eye on ‘em, I thought so. Aye, and that’s
what he went into the after hold for, so often, as Dough-Boy long
suspected. They were hidden down there. The White Whale’s at the bottom
of it. Well, well, so be it! Can’t be helped! All right! Give way, men!
It ain’t the White Whale to-day! Give way!”

Now the advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical instant
as the lowering of the boats from the deck, this had not unreasonably
awakened a sort of superstitious amazement in some of the ship’s
company; but Archy’s fancied discovery having some time previous got
abroad among them, though indeed not credited then, this had in some
small measure prepared them for the event. It took off the extreme edge
of their wonder; and so what with all this and Stubb’s confident way
of accounting for their appearance, they were for the time freed from
superstitious surmisings; though the affair still left abundant room for
all manner of wild conjectures as to dark Ahab’s precise agency in the
matter from the beginning. For me, I silently recalled the mysterious
shadows I had seen creeping on board the Pequod during the dim Nantucket
dawn, as well as the enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah.

Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers, having sided the
furthest to windward, was still ranging ahead of the other boats; a
circumstance bespeaking how potent a crew was pulling him. Those tiger
yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and whalebone; like five
trip-hammers they rose and fell with regular strokes of strength, which
periodically started the boat along the water like a horizontal burst
boiler out of a Mississippi steamer. As for Fedallah, who was seen
pulling the harpooneer oar, he had thrown aside his black jacket, and
displayed his naked chest with the whole part of his body above the
gunwale, clearly cut against the alternating depressions of the watery
horizon; while at the other end of the boat Ahab, with one arm, like a
fencer’s, thrown half backward into the air, as if to counterbalance any
tendency to trip; Ahab was seen steadily managing his steering oar as in
a thousand boat lowerings ere the White Whale had torn him. All at once
the outstretched arm gave a peculiar motion and then remained fixed,
while the boat’s five oars were seen simultaneously peaked. Boat and
crew sat motionless on the sea. Instantly the three spread boats in the
rear paused on their way. The whales had irregularly settled bodily
down into the blue, thus giving no distantly discernible token of the
movement, though from his closer vicinity Ahab had observed it.

“Every man look out along his oars!” cried Starbuck. “Thou, Queequeg,
stand up!”

Nimbly springing up on the triangular raised box in the bow, the savage
stood erect there, and with intensely eager eyes gazed off towards the
spot where the chase had last been descried. Likewise upon the extreme
stern of the boat where it was also triangularly platformed level with
the gunwale, Starbuck himself was seen coolly and adroitly balancing
himself to the jerking tossings of his chip of a craft, and silently
eyeing the vast blue eye of the sea.

Not very far distant Flask’s boat was also lying breathlessly still; its
commander recklessly standing upon the top of the loggerhead, a stout
sort of post rooted in the keel, and rising some two feet above the
level of the stern platform. It is used for catching turns with the
whale line. Its top is not more spacious than the palm of a man’s hand,
and standing upon such a base as that, Flask seemed perched at the
mast-head of some ship which had sunk to all but her trucks. But little
King-Post was small and short, and at the same time little King-Post was
full of a large and tall ambition, so that this loggerhead stand-point
of his did by no means satisfy King-Post.

“I can’t see three seas off; tip us up an oar there, and let me on to

Upon this, Daggoo, with either hand upon the gunwale to steady his
way, swiftly slid aft, and then erecting himself volunteered his lofty
shoulders for a pedestal.

“Good a mast-head as any, sir. Will you mount?”

“That I will, and thank ye very much, my fine fellow; only I wish you
fifty feet taller.”

Whereupon planting his feet firmly against two opposite planks of the
boat, the gigantic negro, stooping a little, presented his flat palm to
Flask’s foot, and then putting Flask’s hand on his hearse-plumed head
and bidding him spring as he himself should toss, with one dexterous
fling landed the little man high and dry on his shoulders. And here was
Flask now standing, Daggoo with one lifted arm furnishing him with a
breastband to lean against and steady himself by.

At any time it is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what wondrous
habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an erect
posture in his boat, even when pitched about by the most riotously
perverse and cross-running seas. Still more strange to see him giddily
perched upon the loggerhead itself, under such circumstances. But the
sight of little Flask mounted upon gigantic Daggoo was yet more curious;
for sustaining himself with a cool, indifferent, easy, unthought of,
barbaric majesty, the noble negro to every roll of the sea harmoniously
rolled his fine form. On his broad back, flaxen-haired Flask seemed
a snow-flake. The bearer looked nobler than the rider. Though truly
vivacious, tumultuous, ostentatious little Flask would now and then
stamp with impatience; but not one added heave did he thereby give to
the negro’s lordly chest. So have I seen Passion and Vanity stamping the
living magnanimous earth, but the earth did not alter her tides and her
seasons for that.

Meanwhile Stubb, the third mate, betrayed no such far-gazing
solicitudes. The whales might have made one of their regular soundings,
not a temporary dive from mere fright; and if that were the case,
Stubb, as his wont in such cases, it seems, was resolved to solace the
languishing interval with his pipe. He withdrew it from his hatband,
where he always wore it aslant like a feather. He loaded it, and rammed
home the loading with his thumb-end; but hardly had he ignited his match
across the rough sandpaper of his hand, when Tashtego, his harpooneer,
whose eyes had been setting to windward like two fixed stars, suddenly
dropped like light from his erect attitude to his seat, crying out in a
quick phrensy of hurry, “Down, down all, and give way!--there they are!”

To a landsman, no whale, nor any sign of a herring, would have been
visible at that moment; nothing but a troubled bit of greenish white
water, and thin scattered puffs of vapour hovering over it, and
suffusingly blowing off to leeward, like the confused scud from white
rolling billows. The air around suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it
were, like the air over intensely heated plates of iron. Beneath this
atmospheric waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin layer of
water, also, the whales were swimming. Seen in advance of all the other
indications, the puffs of vapour they spouted, seemed their forerunning
couriers and detached flying outriders.

All four boats were now in keen pursuit of that one spot of troubled
water and air. But it bade fair to outstrip them; it flew on and on,
as a mass of interblending bubbles borne down a rapid stream from the

“Pull, pull, my good boys,” said Starbuck, in the lowest possible but
intensest concentrated whisper to his men; while the sharp fixed glance
from his eyes darted straight ahead of the bow, almost seemed as two
visible needles in two unerring binnacle compasses. He did not say much
to his crew, though, nor did his crew say anything to him. Only the
silence of the boat was at intervals startlingly pierced by one of his
peculiar whispers, now harsh with command, now soft with entreaty.

How different the loud little King-Post. “Sing out and say something,
my hearties. Roar and pull, my thunderbolts! Beach me, beach me on their
black backs, boys; only do that for me, and I’ll sign over to you my
Martha’s Vineyard plantation, boys; including wife and children, boys.
Lay me on--lay me on! O Lord, Lord! but I shall go stark, staring mad!
See! see that white water!” And so shouting, he pulled his hat from his
head, and stamped up and down on it; then picking it up, flirted it far
off upon the sea; and finally fell to rearing and plunging in the boat’s
stern like a crazed colt from the prairie.

“Look at that chap now,” philosophically drawled Stubb, who, with his
unlighted short pipe, mechanically retained between his teeth, at a
short distance, followed after--“He’s got fits, that Flask has. Fits?
yes, give him fits--that’s the very word--pitch fits into ‘em. Merrily,
merrily, hearts-alive. Pudding for supper, you know;--merry’s the word.
Pull, babes--pull, sucklings--pull, all. But what the devil are you
hurrying about? Softly, softly, and steadily, my men. Only pull, and
keep pulling; nothing more. Crack all your backbones, and bite your
knives in two--that’s all. Take it easy--why don’t ye take it easy, I
say, and burst all your livers and lungs!”

But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew of
his--these were words best omitted here; for you live under the blessed
light of the evangelical land. Only the infidel sharks in the audacious
seas may give ear to such words, when, with tornado brow, and eyes of
red murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his prey.

Meanwhile, all the boats tore on. The repeated specific allusions of
Flask to “that whale,” as he called the fictitious monster which
he declared to be incessantly tantalizing his boat’s bow with its
tail--these allusions of his were at times so vivid and life-like, that
they would cause some one or two of his men to snatch a fearful look
over the shoulder. But this was against all rule; for the oarsmen
must put out their eyes, and ram a skewer through their necks; usage
pronouncing that they must have no organs but ears, and no limbs but
arms, in these critical moments.

It was a sight full of quick wonder and awe! The vast swells of the
omnipotent sea; the surging, hollow roar they made, as they rolled along
the eight gunwales, like gigantic bowls in a boundless bowling-green;
the brief suspended agony of the boat, as it would tip for an instant on
the knife-like edge of the sharper waves, that almost seemed threatening
to cut it in two; the sudden profound dip into the watery glens and
hollows; the keen spurrings and goadings to gain the top of the opposite
hill; the headlong, sled-like slide down its other side;--all these,
with the cries of the headsmen and harpooneers, and the shuddering gasps
of the oarsmen, with the wondrous sight of the ivory Pequod bearing
down upon her boats with outstretched sails, like a wild hen after her
screaming brood;--all this was thrilling.

Not the raw recruit, marching from the bosom of his wife into the fever
heat of his first battle; not the dead man’s ghost encountering the
first unknown phantom in the other world;--neither of these can feel
stranger and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the first
time finds himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of the
hunted sperm whale.

The dancing white water made by the chase was now becoming more and more
visible, owing to the increasing darkness of the dun cloud-shadows
flung upon the sea. The jets of vapour no longer blended, but tilted
everywhere to right and left; the whales seemed separating their wakes.
The boats were pulled more apart; Starbuck giving chase to three whales
running dead to leeward. Our sail was now set, and, with the still
rising wind, we rushed along; the boat going with such madness through
the water, that the lee oars could scarcely be worked rapidly enough to
escape being torn from the row-locks.

Soon we were running through a suffusing wide veil of mist; neither ship
nor boat to be seen.

“Give way, men,” whispered Starbuck, drawing still further aft the sheet
of his sail; “there is time to kill a fish yet before the squall comes.
There’s white water again!--close to! Spring!”

Soon after, two cries in quick succession on each side of us denoted
that the other boats had got fast; but hardly were they overheard, when
with a lightning-like hurtling whisper Starbuck said: “Stand up!” and
Queequeg, harpoon in hand, sprang to his feet.

Though not one of the oarsmen was then facing the life and death peril
so close to them ahead, yet with their eyes on the intense countenance
of the mate in the stern of the boat, they knew that the imminent
instant had come; they heard, too, an enormous wallowing sound as of
fifty elephants stirring in their litter. Meanwhile the boat was still
booming through the mist, the waves curling and hissing around us like
the erected crests of enraged serpents.

“That’s his hump. THERE, THERE, give it to him!” whispered Starbuck.

A short rushing sound leaped out of the boat; it was the darted iron of
Queequeg. Then all in one welded commotion came an invisible push from
astern, while forward the boat seemed striking on a ledge; the sail
collapsed and exploded; a gush of scalding vapour shot up near by;
something rolled and tumbled like an earthquake beneath us. The whole
crew were half suffocated as they were tossed helter-skelter into the
white curdling cream of the squall. Squall, whale, and harpoon had all
blended together; and the whale, merely grazed by the iron, escaped.

Though completely swamped, the boat was nearly unharmed. Swimming round
it we picked up the floating oars, and lashing them across the gunwale,
tumbled back to our places. There we sat up to our knees in the sea, the
water covering every rib and plank, so that to our downward gazing eyes
the suspended craft seemed a coral boat grown up to us from the bottom
of the ocean.

The wind increased to a howl; the waves dashed their bucklers together;
the whole squall roared, forked, and crackled around us like a white
fire upon the prairie, in which, unconsumed, we were burning; immortal
in these jaws of death! In vain we hailed the other boats; as well roar
to the live coals down the chimney of a flaming furnace as hail those
boats in that storm. Meanwhile the driving scud, rack, and mist, grew
darker with the shadows of night; no sign of the ship could be seen.
The rising sea forbade all attempts to bale out the boat. The oars were
useless as propellers, performing now the office of life-preservers.
So, cutting the lashing of the waterproof match keg, after many failures
Starbuck contrived to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching
it on a waif pole, handed it to Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this
forlorn hope. There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in
the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign
and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the
midst of despair.

Wet, drenched through, and shivering cold, despairing of ship or boat,
we lifted up our eyes as the dawn came on. The mist still spread over
the sea, the empty lantern lay crushed in the bottom of the boat.
Suddenly Queequeg started to his feet, hollowing his hand to his ear.
We all heard a faint creaking, as of ropes and yards hitherto muffled by
the storm. The sound came nearer and nearer; the thick mists were dimly
parted by a huge, vague form. Affrighted, we all sprang into the sea as
the ship at last loomed into view, bearing right down upon us within a
distance of not much more than its length.

Floating on the waves we saw the abandoned boat, as for one instant it
tossed and gaped beneath the ship’s bows like a chip at the base of a
cataract; and then the vast hull rolled over it, and it was seen no
more till it came up weltering astern. Again we swam for it, were dashed
against it by the seas, and were at last taken up and safely landed on
board. Ere the squall came close to, the other boats had cut loose from
their fish and returned to the ship in good time. The ship had given us
up, but was still cruising, if haply it might light upon some token of
our perishing,--an oar or a lance pole.

CHAPTER 49. The Hyena.

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair
we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical
joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than
suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However,
nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts
down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard
things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of
potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small
difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of
life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly,
good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen
and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking
of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes
in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might
have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the
general joke. There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this
free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it I now
regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great White Whale its

“Queequeg,” said I, when they had dragged me, the last man, to the deck,
and I was still shaking myself in my jacket to fling off the water;
“Queequeg, my fine friend, does this sort of thing often happen?”
 Without much emotion, though soaked through just like me, he gave me to
understand that such things did often happen.

“Mr. Stubb,” said I, turning to that worthy, who, buttoned up in his
oil-jacket, was now calmly smoking his pipe in the rain; “Mr. Stubb, I
think I have heard you say that of all whalemen you ever met, our chief
mate, Mr. Starbuck, is by far the most careful and prudent. I suppose
then, that going plump on a flying whale with your sail set in a foggy
squall is the height of a whaleman’s discretion?”

“Certain. I’ve lowered for whales from a leaking ship in a gale off Cape

“Mr. Flask,” said I, turning to little King-Post, who was standing close
by; “you are experienced in these things, and I am not. Will you tell
me whether it is an unalterable law in this fishery, Mr. Flask, for an
oarsman to break his own back pulling himself back-foremost into death’s

“Can’t you twist that smaller?” said Flask. “Yes, that’s the law.
I should like to see a boat’s crew backing water up to a whale face
foremost. Ha, ha! the whale would give them squint for squint, mind

Here then, from three impartial witnesses, I had a deliberate statement
of the entire case. Considering, therefore, that squalls and capsizings
in the water and consequent bivouacks on the deep, were matters
of common occurrence in this kind of life; considering that at the
superlatively critical instant of going on to the whale I must resign my
life into the hands of him who steered the boat--oftentimes a fellow who
at that very moment is in his impetuousness upon the point of scuttling
the craft with his own frantic stampings; considering that the
particular disaster to our own particular boat was chiefly to be imputed
to Starbuck’s driving on to his whale almost in the teeth of a squall,
and considering that Starbuck, notwithstanding, was famous for his
great heedfulness in the fishery; considering that I belonged to this
uncommonly prudent Starbuck’s boat; and finally considering in what a
devil’s chase I was implicated, touching the White Whale: taking all
things together, I say, I thought I might as well go below and make a
rough draft of my will. “Queequeg,” said I, “come along, you shall be my
lawyer, executor, and legatee.”

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

Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of my frock,
here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction, and the
devil fetch the hindmost.

CHAPTER 50. Ahab’s Boat and Crew. Fedallah.

“Who would have thought it, Flask!” cried Stubb; “if I had but one leg
you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole
with my timber toe. Oh! he’s a wonderful old man!”

“I don’t think it so strange, after all, on that account,” said Flask.
“If his leg were off at the hip, now, it would be a different thing.
That would disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of the other
left, you know.”

“I don’t know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel.”

Among whale-wise people it has often been argued whether, considering
the paramount importance of his life to the success of the voyage, it is
right for a whaling captain to jeopardize that life in the active perils
of the chase. So Tamerlane’s soldiers often argued with tears in their
eyes, whether that invaluable life of his ought to be carried into the
thickest of the fight.

But with Ahab the question assumed a modified aspect. Considering
that with two legs man is but a hobbling wight in all times of danger;
considering that the pursuit of whales is always under great and
extraordinary difficulties; that every individual moment, indeed, then
comprises a peril; under these circumstances is it wise for any
maimed man to enter a whale-boat in the hunt? As a general thing, the
joint-owners of the Pequod must have plainly thought not.

Ahab well knew that although his friends at home would think little of
his entering a boat in certain comparatively harmless vicissitudes of
the chase, for the sake of being near the scene of action and giving
his orders in person, yet for Captain Ahab to have a boat actually
apportioned to him as a regular headsman in the hunt--above all for
Captain Ahab to be supplied with five extra men, as that same boat’s
crew, he well knew that such generous conceits never entered the heads
of the owners of the Pequod. Therefore he had not solicited a boat’s
crew from them, nor had he in any way hinted his desires on that head.
Nevertheless he had taken private measures of his own touching all
that matter. Until Cabaco’s published discovery, the sailors had little
foreseen it, though to be sure when, after being a little while out
of port, all hands had concluded the customary business of fitting the
whaleboats for service; when some time after this Ahab was now and then
found bestirring himself in the matter of making thole-pins with his
own hands for what was thought to be one of the spare boats, and even
solicitously cutting the small wooden skewers, which when the line is
running out are pinned over the groove in the bow: when all this was
observed in him, and particularly his solicitude in having an extra
coat of sheathing in the bottom of the boat, as if to make it better
withstand the pointed pressure of his ivory limb; and also the anxiety
he evinced in exactly shaping the thigh board, or clumsy cleat, as it is
sometimes called, the horizontal piece in the boat’s bow for bracing the
knee against in darting or stabbing at the whale; when it was observed
how often he stood up in that boat with his solitary knee fixed in the
semi-circular depression in the cleat, and with the carpenter’s chisel
gouged out a little here and straightened it a little there; all these
things, I say, had awakened much interest and curiosity at the time. But
almost everybody supposed that this particular preparative heedfulness
in Ahab must only be with a view to the ultimate chase of Moby Dick;
for he had already revealed his intention to hunt that mortal monster
in person. But such a supposition did by no means involve the remotest
suspicion as to any boat’s crew being assigned to that boat.

Now, with the subordinate phantoms, what wonder remained soon waned
away; for in a whaler wonders soon wane. Besides, now and then such
unaccountable odds and ends of strange nations come up from the unknown
nooks and ash-holes of the earth to man these floating outlaws of
whalers; and the ships themselves often pick up such queer castaway
creatures found tossing about the open sea on planks, bits of wreck,
oars, whaleboats, canoes, blown-off Japanese junks, and what not; that
Beelzebub himself might climb up the side and step down into the cabin
to chat with the captain, and it would not create any unsubduable
excitement in the forecastle.

But be all this as it may, certain it is that while the subordinate
phantoms soon found their place among the crew, though still as it were
somehow distinct from them, yet that hair-turbaned Fedallah remained
a muffled mystery to the last. Whence he came in a mannerly world like
this, by what sort of unaccountable tie he soon evinced himself to be
linked with Ahab’s peculiar fortunes; nay, so far as to have some sort
of a half-hinted influence; Heaven knows, but it might have been even
authority over him; all this none knew. But one cannot sustain
an indifferent air concerning Fedallah. He was such a creature as
civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their
dreams, and that but dimly; but the like of whom now and then glide
among the unchanging Asiatic communities, especially the Oriental isles
to the east of the continent--those insulated, immemorial, unalterable
countries, which even in these modern days still preserve much of the
ghostly aboriginalness of earth’s primal generations, when the memory of
the first man was a distinct recollection, and all men his descendants,
unknowing whence he came, eyed each other as real phantoms, and asked of
the sun and the moon why they were created and to what end; when though,
according to Genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of
men, the devils also, add the uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane

CHAPTER 51. The Spirit-Spout.

Days, weeks passed, and under easy sail, the ivory Pequod had slowly
swept across four several cruising-grounds; that off the Azores; off the
Cape de Verdes; on the Plate (so called), being off the mouth of the
Rio de la Plata; and the Carrol Ground, an unstaked, watery locality,
southerly from St. Helena.

It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and
moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver;
and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery
silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen
far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it
looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from
the sea. Fedallah first descried this jet. For of these moonlight
nights, it was his wont to mount to the main-mast head, and stand a
look-out there, with the same precision as if it had been day. And yet,
though herds of whales were seen by night, not one whaleman in a hundred
would venture a lowering for them. You may think with what emotions,
then, the seamen beheld this old Oriental perched aloft at such unusual
hours; his turban and the moon, companions in one sky. But when, after
spending his uniform interval there for several successive nights
without uttering a single sound; when, after all this silence, his
unearthly voice was heard announcing that silvery, moon-lit jet, every
reclining mariner started to his feet as if some winged spirit had
lighted in the rigging, and hailed the mortal crew. “There she blows!”
 Had the trump of judgment blown, they could not have quivered more; yet
still they felt no terror; rather pleasure. For though it was a most
unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously
exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively desired a

Walking the deck with quick, side-lunging strides, Ahab commanded the
t’gallant sails and royals to be set, and every stunsail spread. The
best man in the ship must take the helm. Then, with every mast-head
manned, the piled-up craft rolled down before the wind. The strange,
upheaving, lifting tendency of the taffrail breeze filling the hollows
of so many sails, made the buoyant, hovering deck to feel like air
beneath the feet; while still she rushed along, as if two antagonistic
influences were struggling in her--one to mount direct to heaven, the
other to drive yawingly to some horizontal goal. And had you watched
Ahab’s face that night, you would have thought that in him also two
different things were warring. While his one live leg made lively echoes
along the deck, every stroke of his dead limb sounded like a coffin-tap.
On life and death this old man walked. But though the ship so swiftly
sped, and though from every eye, like arrows, the eager glances shot,
yet the silvery jet was no more seen that night. Every sailor swore he
saw it once, but not a second time.

This midnight-spout had almost grown a forgotten thing, when, some days
after, lo! at the same silent hour, it was again announced: again it
was descried by all; but upon making sail to overtake it, once more it
disappeared as if it had never been. And so it served us night after
night, till no one heeded it but to wonder at it. Mysteriously
jetted into the clear moonlight, or starlight, as the case might be;
disappearing again for one whole day, or two days, or three; and somehow
seeming at every distinct repetition to be advancing still further and
further in our van, this solitary jet seemed for ever alluring us on.

Nor with the immemorial superstition of their race, and in accordance
with the preternaturalness, as it seemed, which in many things invested
the Pequod, were there wanting some of the seamen who swore that
whenever and wherever descried; at however remote times, or in however
far apart latitudes and longitudes, that unnearable spout was cast
by one self-same whale; and that whale, Moby Dick. For a time, there
reigned, too, a sense of peculiar dread at this flitting apparition,
as if it were treacherously beckoning us on and on, in order that the
monster might turn round upon us, and rend us at last in the remotest
and most savage seas.

These temporary apprehensions, so vague but so awful, derived a wondrous
potency from the contrasting serenity of the weather, in which, beneath
all its blue blandness, some thought there lurked a devilish charm, as
for days and days we voyaged along, through seas so wearily, lonesomely
mild, that all space, in repugnance to our vengeful errand, seemed
vacating itself of life before our urn-like prow.

But, at last, when turning to the eastward, the Cape winds began howling
around us, and we rose and fell upon the long, troubled seas that are
there; when the ivory-tusked Pequod sharply bowed to the blast, and
gored the dark waves in her madness, till, like showers of silver chips,
the foam-flakes flew over her bulwarks; then all this desolate vacuity
of life went away, but gave place to sights more dismal than before.

Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and thither
before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable sea-ravens. And
every morning, perched on our stays, rows of these birds were seen; and
spite of our hootings, for a long time obstinately clung to the hemp,
as though they deemed our ship some drifting, uninhabited craft; a thing
appointed to desolation, and therefore fit roosting-place for their
homeless selves. And heaved and heaved, still unrestingly heaved the
black sea, as if its vast tides were a conscience; and the great mundane
soul were in anguish and remorse for the long sin and suffering it had

Cape of Good Hope, do they call ye? Rather Cape Tormentoto, as called
of yore; for long allured by the perfidious silences that before had
attended us, we found ourselves launched into this tormented sea,
where guilty beings transformed into those fowls and these fish, seemed
condemned to swim on everlastingly without any haven in store, or beat
that black air without any horizon. But calm, snow-white, and unvarying;
still directing its fountain of feathers to the sky; still beckoning us
on from before, the solitary jet would at times be descried.

During all this blackness of the elements, Ahab, though assuming for the
time the almost continual command of the drenched and dangerous deck,
manifested the gloomiest reserve; and more seldom than ever addressed
his mates. In tempestuous times like these, after everything above and
aloft has been secured, nothing more can be done but passively to await
the issue of the gale. Then Captain and crew become practical fatalists.
So, with his ivory leg inserted into its accustomed hole, and with one
hand firmly grasping a shroud, Ahab for hours and hours would stand
gazing dead to windward, while an occasional squall of sleet or snow
would all but congeal his very eyelashes together. Meantime, the crew
driven from the forward part of the ship by the perilous seas that
burstingly broke over its bows, stood in a line along the bulwarks in
the waist; and the better to guard against the leaping waves, each man
had slipped himself into a sort of bowline secured to the rail, in which
he swung as in a loosened belt. Few or no words were spoken; and the
silent ship, as if manned by painted sailors in wax, day after day tore
on through all the swift madness and gladness of the demoniac waves.
By night the same muteness of humanity before the shrieks of the
ocean prevailed; still in silence the men swung in the bowlines; still
wordless Ahab stood up to the blast. Even when wearied nature seemed
demanding repose he would not seek that repose in his hammock. Never
could Starbuck forget the old man’s aspect, when one night going down
into the cabin to mark how the barometer stood, he saw him with
closed eyes sitting straight in his floor-screwed chair; the rain
and half-melted sleet of the storm from which he had some time before
emerged, still slowly dripping from the unremoved hat and coat. On the
table beside him lay unrolled one of those charts of tides and currents
which have previously been spoken of. His lantern swung from his tightly
clenched hand. Though the body was erect, the head was thrown back so
that the closed eyes were pointed towards the needle of the tell-tale
that swung from a beam in the ceiling.*

*The cabin-compass is called the tell-tale, because without going to the
compass at the helm, the Captain, while below, can inform himself of the
course of the ship.

Terrible old man! thought Starbuck with a shudder, sleeping in this
gale, still thou steadfastly eyest thy purpose.

CHAPTER 52. The Albatross.

South-eastward from the Cape, off the distant Crozetts, a good cruising
ground for Right Whalemen, a sail loomed ahead, the Goney (Albatross)
by name. As she slowly drew nigh, from my lofty perch at the
fore-mast-head, I had a good view of that sight so remarkable to a tyro
in the far ocean fisheries--a whaler at sea, and long absent from home.

As if the waves had been fullers, this craft was bleached like the
skeleton of a stranded walrus. All down her sides, this spectral
appearance was traced with long channels of reddened rust, while all her
spars and her rigging were like the thick branches of trees furred over
with hoar-frost. Only her lower sails were set. A wild sight it was to
see her long-bearded look-outs at those three mast-heads. They seemed
clad in the skins of beasts, so torn and bepatched the raiment that had
survived nearly four years of cruising. Standing in iron hoops nailed to
the mast, they swayed and swung over a fathomless sea; and though, when
the ship slowly glided close under our stern, we six men in the air
came so nigh to each other that we might almost have leaped from the
mast-heads of one ship to those of the other; yet, those forlorn-looking
fishermen, mildly eyeing us as they passed, said not one word to our own
look-outs, while the quarter-deck hail was being heard from below.

“Ship ahoy! Have ye seen the White Whale?”

But as the strange captain, leaning over the pallid bulwarks, was in the
act of putting his trumpet to his mouth, it somehow fell from his hand
into the sea; and the wind now rising amain, he in vain strove to make
himself heard without it. Meantime his ship was still increasing the
distance between. While in various silent ways the seamen of the Pequod
were evincing their observance of this ominous incident at the first
mere mention of the White Whale’s name to another ship, Ahab for a
moment paused; it almost seemed as though he would have lowered a boat
to board the stranger, had not the threatening wind forbade. But taking
advantage of his windward position, he again seized his trumpet, and
knowing by her aspect that the stranger vessel was a Nantucketer and
shortly bound home, he loudly hailed--“Ahoy there! This is the Pequod,
bound round the world! Tell them to address all future letters to the
Pacific ocean! and this time three years, if I am not at home, tell them
to address them to--”

At that moment the two wakes were fairly crossed, and instantly, then,
in accordance with their singular ways, shoals of small harmless fish,
that for some days before had been placidly swimming by our side, darted
away with what seemed shuddering fins, and ranged themselves fore and
aft with the stranger’s flanks. Though in the course of his continual
voyagings Ahab must often before have noticed a similar sight, yet, to
any monomaniac man, the veriest trifles capriciously carry meanings.

“Swim away from me, do ye?” murmured Ahab, gazing over into the water.
There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep
helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before evinced. But
turning to the steersman, who thus far had been holding the ship in the
wind to diminish her headway, he cried out in his old lion voice,--“Up
helm! Keep her off round the world!”

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings;
but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through
numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that
we left behind secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for
ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange
than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise
in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in
tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims
before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they
either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.

CHAPTER 53. The Gam.

The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the whaler we had
spoken was this: the wind and sea betokened storms. But even had
this not been the case, he would not after all, perhaps, have boarded
her--judging by his subsequent conduct on similar occasions--if so it
had been that, by the process of hailing, he had obtained a negative
answer to the question he put. For, as it eventually turned out, he
cared not to consort, even for five minutes, with any stranger captain,
except he could contribute some of that information he so absorbingly
sought. But all this might remain inadequately estimated, were not
something said here of the peculiar usages of whaling-vessels when
meeting each other in foreign seas, and especially on a common

If two strangers crossing the Pine Barrens in New York State, or the
equally desolate Salisbury Plain in England; if casually encountering
each other in such inhospitable wilds, these twain, for the life of
them, cannot well avoid a mutual salutation; and stopping for a moment
to interchange the news; and, perhaps, sitting down for a while
and resting in concert: then, how much more natural that upon the
illimitable Pine Barrens and Salisbury Plains of the sea, two whaling
vessels descrying each other at the ends of the earth--off lone
Fanning’s Island, or the far away King’s Mills; how much more natural,
I say, that under such circumstances these ships should not only
interchange hails, but come into still closer, more friendly and
sociable contact. And especially would this seem to be a matter of
course, in the case of vessels owned in one seaport, and whose captains,
officers, and not a few of the men are personally known to each other;
and consequently, have all sorts of dear domestic things to talk about.

For the long absent ship, the outward-bounder, perhaps, has letters on
board; at any rate, she will be sure to let her have some papers of a
date a year or two later than the last one on her blurred and thumb-worn
files. And in return for that courtesy, the outward-bound ship would
receive the latest whaling intelligence from the cruising-ground to
which she may be destined, a thing of the utmost importance to her. And
in degree, all this will hold true concerning whaling vessels crossing
each other’s track on the cruising-ground itself, even though they
are equally long absent from home. For one of them may have received a
transfer of letters from some third, and now far remote vessel; and
some of those letters may be for the people of the ship she now meets.
Besides, they would exchange the whaling news, and have an agreeable
chat. For not only would they meet with all the sympathies of sailors,
but likewise with all the peculiar congenialities arising from a common
pursuit and mutually shared privations and perils.

Nor would difference of country make any very essential difference;
that is, so long as both parties speak one language, as is the case
with Americans and English. Though, to be sure, from the small number of
English whalers, such meetings do not very often occur, and when they
do occur there is too apt to be a sort of shyness between them; for your
Englishman is rather reserved, and your Yankee, he does not fancy that
sort of thing in anybody but himself. Besides, the English whalers
sometimes affect a kind of metropolitan superiority over the American
whalers; regarding the long, lean Nantucketer, with his nondescript
provincialisms, as a sort of sea-peasant. But where this superiority
in the English whalemen does really consist, it would be hard to say,
seeing that the Yankees in one day, collectively, kill more whales than
all the English, collectively, in ten years. But this is a harmless
little foible in the English whale-hunters, which the Nantucketer does
not take much to heart; probably, because he knows that he has a few
foibles himself.

So, then, we see that of all ships separately sailing the sea, the
whalers have most reason to be sociable--and they are so. Whereas, some
merchant ships crossing each other’s wake in the mid-Atlantic, will
oftentimes pass on without so much as a single word of recognition,
mutually cutting each other on the high seas, like a brace of dandies in
Broadway; and all the time indulging, perhaps, in finical criticism upon
each other’s rig. As for Men-of-War, when they chance to meet at sea,
they first go through such a string of silly bowings and scrapings, such
a ducking of ensigns, that there does not seem to be much right-down
hearty good-will and brotherly love about it at all. As touching
Slave-ships meeting, why, they are in such a prodigious hurry, they run
away from each other as soon as possible. And as for Pirates, when they
chance to cross each other’s cross-bones, the first hail is--“How many
skulls?”--the same way that whalers hail--“How many barrels?” And that
question once answered, pirates straightway steer apart, for they are
infernal villains on both sides, and don’t like to see overmuch of each
other’s villanous likenesses.

But look at the godly, honest, unostentatious, hospitable, sociable,
free-and-easy whaler! What does the whaler do when she meets another
whaler in any sort of decent weather? She has a “GAM,” a thing so
utterly unknown to all other ships that they never heard of the name
even; and if by chance they should hear of it, they only grin at it, and
repeat gamesome stuff about “spouters” and “blubber-boilers,” and such
like pretty exclamations. Why it is that all Merchant-seamen, and also
all Pirates and Man-of-War’s men, and Slave-ship sailors, cherish such
a scornful feeling towards Whale-ships; this is a question it would be
hard to answer. Because, in the case of pirates, say, I should like to
know whether that profession of theirs has any peculiar glory about
it. It sometimes ends in uncommon elevation, indeed; but only at the
gallows. And besides, when a man is elevated in that odd fashion, he has
no proper foundation for his superior altitude. Hence, I conclude,
that in boasting himself to be high lifted above a whaleman, in that
assertion the pirate has no solid basis to stand on.

But what is a GAM? You might wear out your index-finger running up and
down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word. Dr. Johnson
never attained to that erudition; Noah Webster’s ark does not hold it.
Nevertheless, this same expressive word has now for many years been in
constant use among some fifteen thousand true born Yankees. Certainly,
it needs a definition, and should be incorporated into the Lexicon. With
that view, let me learnedly define it.


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

CHAPTER 54. The Town-Ho’s Story.


The Cape of Good Hope, and all the watery region round about there, is
much like some noted four corners of a great highway, where you meet
more travellers than in any other part.

It was not very long after speaking the Goney that another
homeward-bound whaleman, the Town-Ho,* was encountered. She was manned
almost wholly by Polynesians. In the short gam that ensued she gave
us strong news of Moby Dick. To some the general interest in the White
Whale was now wildly heightened by a circumstance of the Town-Ho’s
story, which seemed obscurely to involve with the whale a certain
wondrous, inverted visitation of one of those so called judgments of God
which at times are said to overtake some men. This latter circumstance,
with its own particular accompaniments, forming what may be called the
secret part of the tragedy about to be narrated, never reached the ears
of Captain Ahab or his mates. For that secret part of the story was
unknown to the captain of the Town-Ho himself. It was the private
property of three confederate white seamen of that ship, one of whom, it
seems, communicated it to Tashtego with Romish injunctions of secrecy,
but the following night Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and revealed
so much of it in that way, that when he was wakened he could not well
withhold the rest. Nevertheless, so potent an influence did this thing
have on those seamen in the Pequod who came to the full knowledge of
it, and by such a strange delicacy, to call it so, were they governed in
this matter, that they kept the secret among themselves so that it never
transpired abaft the Pequod’s main-mast. Interweaving in its proper
place this darker thread with the story as publicly narrated on the
ship, the whole of this strange affair I now proceed to put on lasting

*The ancient whale-cry upon first sighting a whale from the mast-head,
still used by whalemen in hunting the famous Gallipagos terrapin.

For my humor’s sake, I shall preserve the style in which I once narrated
it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one saint’s eve,
smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden Inn. Of those
fine cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and Sebastian, were on the closer
terms with me; and hence the interluding questions they occasionally
put, and which are duly answered at the time.

“Some two years prior to my first learning the events which I am about
rehearsing to you, gentlemen, the Town-Ho, Sperm Whaler of Nantucket,
was cruising in your Pacific here, not very many days’ sail eastward
from the eaves of this good Golden Inn. She was somewhere to the
northward of the Line. One morning upon handling the pumps, according to
daily usage, it was observed that she made more water in her hold than
common. They supposed a sword-fish had stabbed her, gentlemen. But the
captain, having some unusual reason for believing that rare good luck
awaited him in those latitudes; and therefore being very averse to quit
them, and the leak not being then considered at all dangerous, though,
indeed, they could not find it after searching the hold as low down
as was possible in rather heavy weather, the ship still continued her
cruisings, the mariners working at the pumps at wide and easy intervals;
but no good luck came; more days went by, and not only was the leak yet
undiscovered, but it sensibly increased. So much so, that now taking
some alarm, the captain, making all sail, stood away for the nearest
harbor among the islands, there to have his hull hove out and repaired.

“Though no small passage was before her, yet, if the commonest chance
favoured, he did not at all fear that his ship would founder by the way,
because his pumps were of the best, and being periodically relieved at
them, those six-and-thirty men of his could easily keep the ship free;
never mind if the leak should double on her. In truth, well nigh the
whole of this passage being attended by very prosperous breezes, the
Town-Ho had all but certainly arrived in perfect safety at her port
without the occurrence of the least fatality, had it not been for the
brutal overbearing of Radney, the mate, a Vineyarder, and the bitterly
provoked vengeance of Steelkilt, a Lakeman and desperado from Buffalo.

“‘Lakeman!--Buffalo! Pray, what is a Lakeman, and where is Buffalo?’
said Don Sebastian, rising in his swinging mat of grass.

“On the eastern shore of our Lake Erie, Don; but--I crave your
courtesy--may be, you shall soon hear further of all that. Now,
gentlemen, in square-sail brigs and three-masted ships, well-nigh as
large and stout as any that ever sailed out of your old Callao to far
Manilla; this Lakeman, in the land-locked heart of our America, had yet
been nurtured by all those agrarian freebooting impressions popularly
connected with the open ocean. For in their interflowing aggregate,
those grand fresh-water seas of ours,--Erie, and Ontario, and Huron, and
Superior, and Michigan,--possess an ocean-like expansiveness, with many
of the ocean’s noblest traits; with many of its rimmed varieties of
races and of climes. They contain round archipelagoes of romantic isles,
even as the Polynesian waters do; in large part, are shored by two great
contrasting nations, as the Atlantic is; they furnish long maritime
approaches to our numerous territorial colonies from the East, dotted
all round their banks; here and there are frowned upon by batteries,
and by the goat-like craggy guns of lofty Mackinaw; they have heard the
fleet thunderings of naval victories; at intervals, they yield their
beaches to wild barbarians, whose red painted faces flash from out
their peltry wigwams; for leagues and leagues are flanked by ancient
and unentered forests, where the gaunt pines stand like serried lines
of kings in Gothic genealogies; those same woods harboring wild Afric
beasts of prey, and silken creatures whose exported furs give robes
to Tartar Emperors; they mirror the paved capitals of Buffalo and
Cleveland, as well as Winnebago villages; they float alike the
full-rigged merchant ship, the armed cruiser of the State, the steamer,
and the beech canoe; they are swept by Borean and dismasting blasts as
direful as any that lash the salted wave; they know what shipwrecks are,
for out of sight of land, however inland, they have drowned full many
a midnight ship with all its shrieking crew. Thus, gentlemen, though
an inlander, Steelkilt was wild-ocean born, and wild-ocean nurtured;
as much of an audacious mariner as any. And for Radney, though in his
infancy he may have laid him down on the lone Nantucket beach, to nurse
at his maternal sea; though in after life he had long followed our
austere Atlantic and your contemplative Pacific; yet was he quite as
vengeful and full of social quarrel as the backwoods seaman, fresh
from the latitudes of buck-horn handled bowie-knives. Yet was this
Nantucketer a man with some good-hearted traits; and this Lakeman, a
mariner, who though a sort of devil indeed, might yet by inflexible
firmness, only tempered by that common decency of human recognition
which is the meanest slave’s right; thus treated, this Steelkilt had
long been retained harmless and docile. At all events, he had proved
so thus far; but Radney was doomed and made mad, and Steelkilt--but,
gentlemen, you shall hear.

“It was not more than a day or two at the furthest after pointing
her prow for her island haven, that the Town-Ho’s leak seemed again
increasing, but only so as to require an hour or more at the pumps
every day. You must know that in a settled and civilized ocean like our
Atlantic, for example, some skippers think little of pumping their whole
way across it; though of a still, sleepy night, should the officer of
the deck happen to forget his duty in that respect, the probability
would be that he and his shipmates would never again remember it, on
account of all hands gently subsiding to the bottom. Nor in the
solitary and savage seas far from you to the westward, gentlemen, is it
altogether unusual for ships to keep clanging at their pump-handles in
full chorus even for a voyage of considerable length; that is, if it lie
along a tolerably accessible coast, or if any other reasonable retreat
is afforded them. It is only when a leaky vessel is in some very out of
the way part of those waters, some really landless latitude, that her
captain begins to feel a little anxious.

“Much this way had it been with the Town-Ho; so when her leak was found
gaining once more, there was in truth some small concern manifested by
several of her company; especially by Radney the mate. He commanded
the upper sails to be well hoisted, sheeted home anew, and every way
expanded to the breeze. Now this Radney, I suppose, was as little of a
coward, and as little inclined to any sort of nervous apprehensiveness
touching his own person as any fearless, unthinking creature on land or
on sea that you can conveniently imagine, gentlemen. Therefore when
he betrayed this solicitude about the safety of the ship, some of the
seamen declared that it was only on account of his being a part owner in
her. So when they were working that evening at the pumps, there was on
this head no small gamesomeness slily going on among them, as they stood
with their feet continually overflowed by the rippling clear water;
clear as any mountain spring, gentlemen--that bubbling from the pumps
ran across the deck, and poured itself out in steady spouts at the lee

“Now, as you well know, it is not seldom the case in this conventional
world of ours--watery or otherwise; that when a person placed in command
over his fellow-men finds one of them to be very significantly his
superior in general pride of manhood, straightway against that man he
conceives an unconquerable dislike and bitterness; and if he have a
chance he will pull down and pulverize that subaltern’s tower, and
make a little heap of dust of it. Be this conceit of mine as it may,
gentlemen, at all events Steelkilt was a tall and noble animal with a
head like a Roman, and a flowing golden beard like the tasseled housings
of your last viceroy’s snorting charger; and a brain, and a heart, and
a soul in him, gentlemen, which had made Steelkilt Charlemagne, had he
been born son to Charlemagne’s father. But Radney, the mate, was ugly
as a mule; yet as hardy, as stubborn, as malicious. He did not love
Steelkilt, and Steelkilt knew it.

“Espying the mate drawing near as he was toiling at the pump with the
rest, the Lakeman affected not to notice him, but unawed, went on with
his gay banterings.

“‘Aye, aye, my merry lads, it’s a lively leak this; hold a cannikin, one
of ye, and let’s have a taste. By the Lord, it’s worth bottling! I tell
ye what, men, old Rad’s investment must go for it! he had best cut away
his part of the hull and tow it home. The fact is, boys, that sword-fish
only began the job; he’s come back again with a gang of ship-carpenters,
saw-fish, and file-fish, and what not; and the whole posse of ‘em
are now hard at work cutting and slashing at the bottom; making
improvements, I suppose. If old Rad were here now, I’d tell him to jump
overboard and scatter ‘em. They’re playing the devil with his estate, I
can tell him. But he’s a simple old soul,--Rad, and a beauty too. Boys,
they say the rest of his property is invested in looking-glasses. I
wonder if he’d give a poor devil like me the model of his nose.’

“‘Damn your eyes! what’s that pump stopping for?’ roared Radney,
pretending not to have heard the sailors’ talk. ‘Thunder away at it!’

“‘Aye, aye, sir,’ said Steelkilt, merry as a cricket. ‘Lively, boys,
lively, now!’ And with that the pump clanged like fifty fire-engines;
the men tossed their hats off to it, and ere long that peculiar gasping
of the lungs was heard which denotes the fullest tension of life’s
utmost energies.

“Quitting the pump at last, with the rest of his band, the Lakeman went
forward all panting, and sat himself down on the windlass; his face
fiery red, his eyes bloodshot, and wiping the profuse sweat from his
brow. Now what cozening fiend it was, gentlemen, that possessed Radney
to meddle with such a man in that corporeally exasperated state, I know
not; but so it happened. Intolerably striding along the deck, the mate
commanded him to get a broom and sweep down the planks, and also a
shovel, and remove some offensive matters consequent upon allowing a pig
to run at large.

“Now, gentlemen, sweeping a ship’s deck at sea is a piece of household
work which in all times but raging gales is regularly attended to every
evening; it has been known to be done in the case of ships actually
foundering at the time. Such, gentlemen, is the inflexibility of
sea-usages and the instinctive love of neatness in seamen; some of whom
would not willingly drown without first washing their faces. But in all
vessels this broom business is the prescriptive province of the boys,
if boys there be aboard. Besides, it was the stronger men in the Town-Ho
that had been divided into gangs, taking turns at the pumps; and being
the most athletic seaman of them all, Steelkilt had been regularly
assigned captain of one of the gangs; consequently he should have
been freed from any trivial business not connected with truly nautical
duties, such being the case with his comrades. I mention all these
particulars so that you may understand exactly how this affair stood
between the two men.

“But there was more than this: the order about the shovel was almost as
plainly meant to sting and insult Steelkilt, as though Radney had spat
in his face. Any man who has gone sailor in a whale-ship will
understand this; and all this and doubtless much more, the Lakeman fully
comprehended when the mate uttered his command. But as he sat still for
a moment, and as he steadfastly looked into the mate’s malignant eye and
perceived the stacks of powder-casks heaped up in him and the slow-match
silently burning along towards them; as he instinctively saw all
this, that strange forbearance and unwillingness to stir up the deeper
passionateness in any already ireful being--a repugnance most felt, when
felt at all, by really valiant men even when aggrieved--this nameless
phantom feeling, gentlemen, stole over Steelkilt.

“Therefore, in his ordinary tone, only a little broken by the bodily
exhaustion he was temporarily in, he answered him saying that sweeping
the deck was not his business, and he would not do it. And then, without
at all alluding to the shovel, he pointed to three lads as the customary
sweepers; who, not being billeted at the pumps, had done little or
nothing all day. To this, Radney replied with an oath, in a most
domineering and outrageous manner unconditionally reiterating his
command; meanwhile advancing upon the still seated Lakeman, with an
uplifted cooper’s club hammer which he had snatched from a cask near by.

“Heated and irritated as he was by his spasmodic toil at the pumps, for
all his first nameless feeling of forbearance the sweating Steelkilt
could but ill brook this bearing in the mate; but somehow still
smothering the conflagration within him, without speaking he remained
doggedly rooted to his seat, till at last the incensed Radney shook the
hammer within a few inches of his face, furiously commanding him to do
his bidding.

“Steelkilt rose, and slowly retreating round the windlass, steadily
followed by the mate with his menacing hammer, deliberately repeated his
intention not to obey. Seeing, however, that his forbearance had not
the slightest effect, by an awful and unspeakable intimation with his
twisted hand he warned off the foolish and infatuated man; but it was to
no purpose. And in this way the two went once slowly round the windlass;
when, resolved at last no longer to retreat, bethinking him that he had
now forborne as much as comported with his humor, the Lakeman paused on
the hatches and thus spoke to the officer:

“‘Mr. Radney, I will not obey you. Take that hammer away, or look to
yourself.’ But the predestinated mate coming still closer to him, where
the Lakeman stood fixed, now shook the heavy hammer within an inch of
his teeth; meanwhile repeating a string of insufferable maledictions.
Retreating not the thousandth part of an inch; stabbing him in the eye
with the unflinching poniard of his glance, Steelkilt, clenching
his right hand behind him and creepingly drawing it back, told his
persecutor that if the hammer but grazed his cheek he (Steelkilt) would
murder him. But, gentlemen, the fool had been branded for the slaughter
by the gods. Immediately the hammer touched the cheek; the next instant
the lower jaw of the mate was stove in his head; he fell on the hatch
spouting blood like a whale.

“Ere the cry could go aft Steelkilt was shaking one of the backstays
leading far aloft to where two of his comrades were standing their
mastheads. They were both Canallers.

“‘Canallers!’ cried Don Pedro. ‘We have seen many whale-ships in our
harbours, but never heard of your Canallers. Pardon: who and what are

“‘Canallers, Don, are the boatmen belonging to our grand Erie Canal. You
must have heard of it.’

“‘Nay, Senor; hereabouts in this dull, warm, most lazy, and hereditary
land, we know but little of your vigorous North.’

“‘Aye? Well then, Don, refill my cup. Your chicha’s very fine; and
ere proceeding further I will tell ye what our Canallers are; for such
information may throw side-light upon my story.’

“For three hundred and sixty miles, gentlemen, through the entire
breadth of the state of New York; through numerous populous cities and
most thriving villages; through long, dismal, uninhabited swamps, and
affluent, cultivated fields, unrivalled for fertility; by billiard-room
and bar-room; through the holy-of-holies of great forests; on Roman
arches over Indian rivers; through sun and shade; by happy hearts or
broken; through all the wide contrasting scenery of those noble Mohawk
counties; and especially, by rows of snow-white chapels, whose spires
stand almost like milestones, flows one continual stream of Venetianly
corrupt and often lawless life. There’s your true Ashantee, gentlemen;
there howl your pagans; where you ever find them, next door to you;
under the long-flung shadow, and the snug patronising lee of churches.
For by some curious fatality, as it is often noted of your metropolitan
freebooters that they ever encamp around the halls of justice, so
sinners, gentlemen, most abound in holiest vicinities.

“‘Is that a friar passing?’ said Don Pedro, looking downwards into the
crowded plazza, with humorous concern.

“‘Well for our northern friend, Dame Isabella’s Inquisition wanes in
Lima,’ laughed Don Sebastian. ‘Proceed, Senor.’

“‘A moment! Pardon!’ cried another of the company. ‘In the name of all
us Limeese, I but desire to express to you, sir sailor, that we have by
no means overlooked your delicacy in not substituting present Lima
for distant Venice in your corrupt comparison. Oh! do not bow and look
surprised; you know the proverb all along this coast--“Corrupt as
Lima.” It but bears out your saying, too; churches more plentiful than
billiard-tables, and for ever open--and “Corrupt as Lima.” So, too,
Venice; I have been there; the holy city of the blessed evangelist, St.
Mark!--St. Dominic, purge it! Your cup! Thanks: here I refill; now, you
pour out again.’

“Freely depicted in his own vocation, gentlemen, the Canaller would make
a fine dramatic hero, so abundantly and picturesquely wicked is he. Like
Mark Antony, for days and days along his green-turfed, flowery Nile,
he indolently floats, openly toying with his red-cheeked Cleopatra,
ripening his apricot thigh upon the sunny deck. But ashore, all this
effeminacy is dashed. The brigandish guise which the Canaller so proudly
sports; his slouched and gaily-ribboned hat betoken his grand features.
A terror to the smiling innocence of the villages through which he
floats; his swart visage and bold swagger are not unshunned in cities.
Once a vagabond on his own canal, I have received good turns from one of
these Canallers; I thank him heartily; would fain be not ungrateful;
but it is often one of the prime redeeming qualities of your man of
violence, that at times he has as stiff an arm to back a poor stranger
in a strait, as to plunder a wealthy one. In sum, gentlemen, what the
wildness of this canal life is, is emphatically evinced by this; that
our wild whale-fishery contains so many of its most finished graduates,
and that scarce any race of mankind, except Sydney men, are so much
distrusted by our whaling captains. Nor does it at all diminish the
curiousness of this matter, that to many thousands of our rural boys and
young men born along its line, the probationary life of the Grand Canal
furnishes the sole transition between quietly reaping in a Christian
corn-field, and recklessly ploughing the waters of the most barbaric

“‘I see! I see!’ impetuously exclaimed Don Pedro, spilling his chicha
upon his silvery ruffles. ‘No need to travel! The world’s one Lima. I
had thought, now, that at your temperate North the generations were cold
and holy as the hills.--But the story.’

“I left off, gentlemen, where the Lakeman shook the backstay. Hardly
had he done so, when he was surrounded by the three junior mates and the
four harpooneers, who all crowded him to the deck. But sliding down the
ropes like baleful comets, the two Canallers rushed into the uproar, and
sought to drag their man out of it towards the forecastle. Others of the
sailors joined with them in this attempt, and a twisted turmoil ensued;
while standing out of harm’s way, the valiant captain danced up and down
with a whale-pike, calling upon his officers to manhandle that atrocious
scoundrel, and smoke him along to the quarter-deck. At intervals, he ran
close up to the revolving border of the confusion, and prying into
the heart of it with his pike, sought to prick out the object of his
resentment. But Steelkilt and his desperadoes were too much for them
all; they succeeded in gaining the forecastle deck, where, hastily
slewing about three or four large casks in a line with the windlass,
these sea-Parisians entrenched themselves behind the barricade.

“‘Come out of that, ye pirates!’ roared the captain, now menacing them
with a pistol in each hand, just brought to him by the steward. ‘Come
out of that, ye cut-throats!’

“Steelkilt leaped on the barricade, and striding up and down there,
defied the worst the pistols could do; but gave the captain to
understand distinctly, that his (Steelkilt’s) death would be the signal
for a murderous mutiny on the part of all hands. Fearing in his heart
lest this might prove but too true, the captain a little desisted, but
still commanded the insurgents instantly to return to their duty.

“‘Will you promise not to touch us, if we do?’ demanded their

“‘Turn to! turn to!--I make no promise;--to your duty! Do you want to
sink the ship, by knocking off at a time like this? Turn to!’ and he
once more raised a pistol.

“‘Sink the ship?’ cried Steelkilt. ‘Aye, let her sink. Not a man of us
turns to, unless you swear not to raise a rope-yarn against us. What say
ye, men?’ turning to his comrades. A fierce cheer was their response.

“The Lakeman now patrolled the barricade, all the while keeping his eye
on the Captain, and jerking out such sentences as these:--‘It’s not our
fault; we didn’t want it; I told him to take his hammer away; it was
boy’s business; he might have known me before this; I told him not to
prick the buffalo; I believe I have broken a finger here against his
cursed jaw; ain’t those mincing knives down in the forecastle there,
men? look to those handspikes, my hearties. Captain, by God, look to
yourself; say the word; don’t be a fool; forget it all; we are ready
to turn to; treat us decently, and we’re your men; but we won’t be

“‘Turn to! I make no promises, turn to, I say!’

“‘Look ye, now,’ cried the Lakeman, flinging out his arm towards him,
‘there are a few of us here (and I am one of them) who have shipped
for the cruise, d’ye see; now as you well know, sir, we can claim our
discharge as soon as the anchor is down; so we don’t want a row; it’s
not our interest; we want to be peaceable; we are ready to work, but we
won’t be flogged.’

“‘Turn to!’ roared the Captain.

“Steelkilt glanced round him a moment, and then said:--‘I tell you what
it is now, Captain, rather than kill ye, and be hung for such a shabby
rascal, we won’t lift a hand against ye unless ye attack us; but till
you say the word about not flogging us, we don’t do a hand’s turn.’

“‘Down into the forecastle then, down with ye, I’ll keep ye there till
ye’re sick of it. Down ye go.’

“‘Shall we?’ cried the ringleader to his men. Most of them were against
it; but at length, in obedience to Steelkilt, they preceded him down
into their dark den, growlingly disappearing, like bears into a cave.

“As the Lakeman’s bare head was just level with the planks, the Captain
and his posse leaped the barricade, and rapidly drawing over the slide
of the scuttle, planted their group of hands upon it, and loudly called
for the steward to bring the heavy brass padlock belonging to the

“Then opening the slide a little, the Captain whispered something
down the crack, closed it, and turned the key upon them--ten in
number--leaving on deck some twenty or more, who thus far had remained

“All night a wide-awake watch was kept by all the officers, forward and
aft, especially about the forecastle scuttle and fore hatchway; at which
last place it was feared the insurgents might emerge, after breaking
through the bulkhead below. But the hours of darkness passed in peace;
the men who still remained at their duty toiling hard at the pumps,
whose clinking and clanking at intervals through the dreary night
dismally resounded through the ship.

“At sunrise the Captain went forward, and knocking on the deck, summoned
the prisoners to work; but with a yell they refused. Water was then
lowered down to them, and a couple of handfuls of biscuit were tossed
after it; when again turning the key upon them and pocketing it, the
Captain returned to the quarter-deck. Twice every day for three days
this was repeated; but on the fourth morning a confused wrangling, and
then a scuffling was heard, as the customary summons was delivered; and
suddenly four men burst up from the forecastle, saying they were ready
to turn to. The fetid closeness of the air, and a famishing diet, united
perhaps to some fears of ultimate retribution, had constrained them to
surrender at discretion. Emboldened by this, the Captain reiterated his
demand to the rest, but Steelkilt shouted up to him a terrific hint to
stop his babbling and betake himself where he belonged. On the fifth
morning three others of the mutineers bolted up into the air from the
desperate arms below that sought to restrain them. Only three were left.

“‘Better turn to, now?’ said the Captain with a heartless jeer.

“‘Shut us up again, will ye!’ cried Steelkilt.

“‘Oh certainly,’ said the Captain, and the key clicked.

“It was at this point, gentlemen, that enraged by the defection of seven
of his former associates, and stung by the mocking voice that had last
hailed him, and maddened by his long entombment in a place as black as
the bowels of despair; it was then that Steelkilt proposed to the two
Canallers, thus far apparently of one mind with him, to burst out of
their hole at the next summoning of the garrison; and armed with their
keen mincing knives (long, crescentic, heavy implements with a handle
at each end) run amuck from the bowsprit to the taffrail; and if by any
devilishness of desperation possible, seize the ship. For himself, he
would do this, he said, whether they joined him or not. That was the
last night he should spend in that den. But the scheme met with no
opposition on the part of the other two; they swore they were ready for
that, or for any other mad thing, for anything in short but a surrender.
And what was more, they each insisted upon being the first man on deck,
when the time to make the rush should come. But to this their leader as
fiercely objected, reserving that priority for himself; particularly as
his two comrades would not yield, the one to the other, in the matter;
and both of them could not be first, for the ladder would but admit one
man at a time. And here, gentlemen, the foul play of these miscreants
must come out.

“Upon hearing the frantic project of their leader, each in his own
separate soul had suddenly lighted, it would seem, upon the same piece
of treachery, namely: to be foremost in breaking out, in order to be
the first of the three, though the last of the ten, to surrender; and
thereby secure whatever small chance of pardon such conduct might merit.
But when Steelkilt made known his determination still to lead them to
the last, they in some way, by some subtle chemistry of villany, mixed
their before secret treacheries together; and when their leader
fell into a doze, verbally opened their souls to each other in three
sentences; and bound the sleeper with cords, and gagged him with cords;
and shrieked out for the Captain at midnight.

“Thinking murder at hand, and smelling in the dark for the blood, he and
all his armed mates and harpooneers rushed for the forecastle. In a
few minutes the scuttle was opened, and, bound hand and foot, the still
struggling ringleader was shoved up into the air by his perfidious
allies, who at once claimed the honour of securing a man who had been
fully ripe for murder. But all these were collared, and dragged along
the deck like dead cattle; and, side by side, were seized up into the
mizzen rigging, like three quarters of meat, and there they hung till
morning. ‘Damn ye,’ cried the Captain, pacing to and fro before them,
‘the vultures would not touch ye, ye villains!’

“At sunrise he summoned all hands; and separating those who had rebelled
from those who had taken no part in the mutiny, he told the former that
he had a good mind to flog them all round--thought, upon the whole,
he would do so--he ought to--justice demanded it; but for the present,
considering their timely surrender, he would let them go with a
reprimand, which he accordingly administered in the vernacular.

“‘But as for you, ye carrion rogues,’ turning to the three men in the
rigging--‘for you, I mean to mince ye up for the try-pots;’ and,
seizing a rope, he applied it with all his might to the backs of the
two traitors, till they yelled no more, but lifelessly hung their heads
sideways, as the two crucified thieves are drawn.

“‘My wrist is sprained with ye!’ he cried, at last; ‘but there is still
rope enough left for you, my fine bantam, that wouldn’t give up. Take
that gag from his mouth, and let us hear what he can say for himself.’

“For a moment the exhausted mutineer made a tremulous motion of his
cramped jaws, and then painfully twisting round his head, said in a sort
of hiss, ‘What I say is this--and mind it well--if you flog me, I murder

“‘Say ye so? then see how ye frighten me’--and the Captain drew off with
the rope to strike.

“‘Best not,’ hissed the Lakeman.

“‘But I must,’--and the rope was once more drawn back for the stroke.

“Steelkilt here hissed out something, inaudible to all but the Captain;
who, to the amazement of all hands, started back, paced the deck rapidly
two or three times, and then suddenly throwing down his rope, said, ‘I
won’t do it--let him go--cut him down: d’ye hear?’

“But as the junior mates were hurrying to execute the order, a pale man,
with a bandaged head, arrested them--Radney the chief mate. Ever since
the blow, he had lain in his berth; but that morning, hearing the tumult
on the deck, he had crept out, and thus far had watched the whole
scene. Such was the state of his mouth, that he could hardly speak;
but mumbling something about his being willing and able to do what the
captain dared not attempt, he snatched the rope and advanced to his
pinioned foe.

“‘You are a coward!’ hissed the Lakeman.

“‘So I am, but take that.’ The mate was in the very act of striking,
when another hiss stayed his uplifted arm. He paused: and then pausing
no more, made good his word, spite of Steelkilt’s threat, whatever that
might have been. The three men were then cut down, all hands were turned
to, and, sullenly worked by the moody seamen, the iron pumps clanged as

“Just after dark that day, when one watch had retired below, a clamor
was heard in the forecastle; and the two trembling traitors running up,
besieged the cabin door, saying they durst not consort with the crew.
Entreaties, cuffs, and kicks could not drive them back, so at their own
instance they were put down in the ship’s run for salvation. Still, no
sign of mutiny reappeared among the rest. On the contrary, it seemed,
that mainly at Steelkilt’s instigation, they had resolved to maintain
the strictest peacefulness, obey all orders to the last, and, when the
ship reached port, desert her in a body. But in order to insure the
speediest end to the voyage, they all agreed to another thing--namely,
not to sing out for whales, in case any should be discovered. For,
spite of her leak, and spite of all her other perils, the Town-Ho still
maintained her mast-heads, and her captain was just as willing to
lower for a fish that moment, as on the day his craft first struck the
cruising ground; and Radney the mate was quite as ready to change his
berth for a boat, and with his bandaged mouth seek to gag in death the
vital jaw of the whale.

“But though the Lakeman had induced the seamen to adopt this sort of
passiveness in their conduct, he kept his own counsel (at least till all
was over) concerning his own proper and private revenge upon the man who
had stung him in the ventricles of his heart. He was in Radney the chief
mate’s watch; and as if the infatuated man sought to run more than
half way to meet his doom, after the scene at the rigging, he insisted,
against the express counsel of the captain, upon resuming the head
of his watch at night. Upon this, and one or two other circumstances,
Steelkilt systematically built the plan of his revenge.

“During the night, Radney had an unseamanlike way of sitting on the
bulwarks of the quarter-deck, and leaning his arm upon the gunwale of
the boat which was hoisted up there, a little above the ship’s side.
In this attitude, it was well known, he sometimes dozed. There was a
considerable vacancy between the boat and the ship, and down between
this was the sea. Steelkilt calculated his time, and found that his next
trick at the helm would come round at two o’clock, in the morning of the
third day from that in which he had been betrayed. At his leisure,
he employed the interval in braiding something very carefully in his
watches below.

“‘What are you making there?’ said a shipmate.

“‘What do you think? what does it look like?’

“‘Like a lanyard for your bag; but it’s an odd one, seems to me.’

“‘Yes, rather oddish,’ said the Lakeman, holding it at arm’s length
before him; ‘but I think it will answer. Shipmate, I haven’t enough
twine,--have you any?’

“But there was none in the forecastle.

“‘Then I must get some from old Rad;’ and he rose to go aft.

“‘You don’t mean to go a begging to HIM!’ said a sailor.

“‘Why not? Do you think he won’t do me a turn, when it’s to help himself
in the end, shipmate?’ and going to the mate, he looked at him
quietly, and asked him for some twine to mend his hammock. It was given
him--neither twine nor lanyard were seen again; but the next night
an iron ball, closely netted, partly rolled from the pocket of the
Lakeman’s monkey jacket, as he was tucking the coat into his hammock for
a pillow. Twenty-four hours after, his trick at the silent helm--nigh
to the man who was apt to doze over the grave always ready dug to
the seaman’s hand--that fatal hour was then to come; and in the
fore-ordaining soul of Steelkilt, the mate was already stark and
stretched as a corpse, with his forehead crushed in.

“But, gentlemen, a fool saved the would-be murderer from the bloody
deed he had planned. Yet complete revenge he had, and without being the
avenger. For by a mysterious fatality, Heaven itself seemed to step in
to take out of his hands into its own the damning thing he would have

“It was just between daybreak and sunrise of the morning of the second
day, when they were washing down the decks, that a stupid Teneriffe man,
drawing water in the main-chains, all at once shouted out, ‘There she
rolls! there she rolls!’ Jesu, what a whale! It was Moby Dick.

“‘Moby Dick!’ cried Don Sebastian; ‘St. Dominic! Sir sailor, but do
whales have christenings? Whom call you Moby Dick?’

“‘A very white, and famous, and most deadly immortal monster, Don;--but
that would be too long a story.’

“‘How? how?’ cried all the young Spaniards, crowding.

“‘Nay, Dons, Dons--nay, nay! I cannot rehearse that now. Let me get more
into the air, Sirs.’

“‘The chicha! the chicha!’ cried Don Pedro; ‘our vigorous friend looks
faint;--fill up his empty glass!’

“No need, gentlemen; one moment, and I proceed.--Now, gentlemen,
so suddenly perceiving the snowy whale within fifty yards of the
ship--forgetful of the compact among the crew--in the excitement of the
moment, the Teneriffe man had instinctively and involuntarily lifted
his voice for the monster, though for some little time past it had been
plainly beheld from the three sullen mast-heads. All was now a phrensy.
‘The White Whale--the White Whale!’ was the cry from captain, mates,
and harpooneers, who, undeterred by fearful rumours, were all anxious
to capture so famous and precious a fish; while the dogged crew eyed
askance, and with curses, the appalling beauty of the vast milky mass,
that lit up by a horizontal spangling sun, shifted and glistened like
a living opal in the blue morning sea. Gentlemen, a strange fatality
pervades the whole career of these events, as if verily mapped out
before the world itself was charted. The mutineer was the bowsman of the
mate, and when fast to a fish, it was his duty to sit next him, while
Radney stood up with his lance in the prow, and haul in or slacken
the line, at the word of command. Moreover, when the four boats were
lowered, the mate’s got the start; and none howled more fiercely with
delight than did Steelkilt, as he strained at his oar. After a stiff
pull, their harpooneer got fast, and, spear in hand, Radney sprang to
the bow. He was always a furious man, it seems, in a boat. And now his
bandaged cry was, to beach him on the whale’s topmost back. Nothing
loath, his bowsman hauled him up and up, through a blinding foam that
blent two whitenesses together; till of a sudden the boat struck as
against a sunken ledge, and keeling over, spilled out the standing mate.
That instant, as he fell on the whale’s slippery back, the boat righted,
and was dashed aside by the swell, while Radney was tossed over into the
sea, on the other flank of the whale. He struck out through the spray,
and, for an instant, was dimly seen through that veil, wildly seeking to
remove himself from the eye of Moby Dick. But the whale rushed round
in a sudden maelstrom; seized the swimmer between his jaws; and rearing
high up with him, plunged headlong again, and went down.

“Meantime, at the first tap of the boat’s bottom, the Lakeman had
slackened the line, so as to drop astern from the whirlpool; calmly
looking on, he thought his own thoughts. But a sudden, terrific,
downward jerking of the boat, quickly brought his knife to the line. He
cut it; and the whale was free. But, at some distance, Moby Dick rose
again, with some tatters of Radney’s red woollen shirt, caught in the
teeth that had destroyed him. All four boats gave chase again; but the
whale eluded them, and finally wholly disappeared.

“In good time, the Town-Ho reached her port--a savage, solitary
place--where no civilized creature resided. There, headed by the
Lakeman, all but five or six of the foremastmen deliberately deserted
among the palms; eventually, as it turned out, seizing a large double
war-canoe of the savages, and setting sail for some other harbor.

“The ship’s company being reduced to but a handful, the captain called
upon the Islanders to assist him in the laborious business of heaving
down the ship to stop the leak. But to such unresting vigilance over
their dangerous allies was this small band of whites necessitated, both
by night and by day, and so extreme was the hard work they underwent,
that upon the vessel being ready again for sea, they were in such a
weakened condition that the captain durst not put off with them in so
heavy a vessel. After taking counsel with his officers, he anchored the
ship as far off shore as possible; loaded and ran out his two cannon
from the bows; stacked his muskets on the poop; and warning the
Islanders not to approach the ship at their peril, took one man with
him, and setting the sail of his best whale-boat, steered straight
before the wind for Tahiti, five hundred miles distant, to procure a
reinforcement to his crew.

“On the fourth day of the sail, a large canoe was descried, which seemed
to have touched at a low isle of corals. He steered away from it; but
the savage craft bore down on him; and soon the voice of Steelkilt
hailed him to heave to, or he would run him under water. The captain
presented a pistol. With one foot on each prow of the yoked war-canoes,
the Lakeman laughed him to scorn; assuring him that if the pistol so
much as clicked in the lock, he would bury him in bubbles and foam.

“‘What do you want of me?’ cried the captain.

“‘Where are you bound? and for what are you bound?’ demanded Steelkilt;
‘no lies.’

“‘I am bound to Tahiti for more men.’

“‘Very good. Let me board you a moment--I come in peace.’ With that he
leaped from the canoe, swam to the boat; and climbing the gunwale, stood
face to face with the captain.

“‘Cross your arms, sir; throw back your head. Now, repeat after me.
As soon as Steelkilt leaves me, I swear to beach this boat on yonder
island, and remain there six days. If I do not, may lightning strike

“‘A pretty scholar,’ laughed the Lakeman. ‘Adios, Senor!’ and leaping
into the sea, he swam back to his comrades.

“Watching the boat till it was fairly beached, and drawn up to the
roots of the cocoa-nut trees, Steelkilt made sail again, and in due time
arrived at Tahiti, his own place of destination. There, luck befriended
him; two ships were about to sail for France, and were providentially
in want of precisely that number of men which the sailor headed. They
embarked; and so for ever got the start of their former captain, had he
been at all minded to work them legal retribution.

“Some ten days after the French ships sailed, the whale-boat arrived,
and the captain was forced to enlist some of the more civilized
Tahitians, who had been somewhat used to the sea. Chartering a small
native schooner, he returned with them to his vessel; and finding all
right there, again resumed his cruisings.

“Where Steelkilt now is, gentlemen, none know; but upon the island of
Nantucket, the widow of Radney still turns to the sea which refuses
to give up its dead; still in dreams sees the awful white whale that
destroyed him.

“‘Are you through?’ said Don Sebastian, quietly.

“‘I am, Don.’

“‘Then I entreat you, tell me if to the best of your own convictions,
this your story is in substance really true? It is so passing wonderful!
Did you get it from an unquestionable source? Bear with me if I seem to

“‘Also bear with all of us, sir sailor; for we all join in Don
Sebastian’s suit,’ cried the company, with exceeding interest.

“‘Is there a copy of the Holy Evangelists in the Golden Inn, gentlemen?’

“‘Nay,’ said Don Sebastian; ‘but I know a worthy priest near by, who
will quickly procure one for me. I go for it; but are you well advised?
this may grow too serious.’

“‘Will you be so good as to bring the priest also, Don?’

“‘Though there are no Auto-da-Fe’s in Lima now,’ said one of the company
to another; ‘I fear our sailor friend runs risk of the archiepiscopacy.
Let us withdraw more out of the moonlight. I see no need of this.’

“‘Excuse me for running after you, Don Sebastian; but may I also beg
that you will be particular in procuring the largest sized Evangelists
you can.’

“‘This is the priest, he brings you the Evangelists,’ said Don Sebastian,
gravely, returning with a tall and solemn figure.

“‘Let me remove my hat. Now, venerable priest, further into the light,
and hold the Holy Book before me that I may touch it.

“‘So help me Heaven, and on my honour the story I have told ye,
gentlemen, is in substance and its great items, true. I know it to be
true; it happened on this ball; I trod the ship; I knew the crew; I have
seen and talked with Steelkilt since the death of Radney.’”

CHAPTER 55. Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales.

I shall ere long paint to you as well as one can without canvas,
something like the true form of the whale as he actually appears to the
eye of the whaleman when in his own absolute body the whale is moored
alongside the whale-ship so that he can be fairly stepped upon there.
It may be worth while, therefore, previously to advert to those
curious imaginary portraits of him which even down to the present day
confidently challenge the faith of the landsman. It is time to set the
world right in this matter, by proving such pictures of the whale all

It may be that the primal source of all those pictorial delusions will
be found among the oldest Hindoo, Egyptian, and Grecian sculptures. For
ever since those inventive but unscrupulous times when on the marble
panellings of temples, the pedestals of statues, and on shields,
medallions, cups, and coins, the dolphin was drawn in scales of
chain-armor like Saladin’s, and a helmeted head like St. George’s; ever
since then has something of the same sort of license prevailed, not
only in most popular pictures of the whale, but in many scientific
presentations of him.

Now, by all odds, the most ancient extant portrait anyways purporting to
be the whale’s, is to be found in the famous cavern-pagoda of Elephanta,
in India. The Brahmins maintain that in the almost endless sculptures of
that immemorial pagoda, all the trades and pursuits, every conceivable
avocation of man, were prefigured ages before any of them actually came
into being. No wonder then, that in some sort our noble profession of
whaling should have been there shadowed forth. The Hindoo whale
referred to, occurs in a separate department of the wall, depicting the
incarnation of Vishnu in the form of leviathan, learnedly known as the
Matse Avatar. But though this sculpture is half man and half whale, so
as only to give the tail of the latter, yet that small section of him is
all wrong. It looks more like the tapering tail of an anaconda, than the
broad palms of the true whale’s majestic flukes.

But go to the old Galleries, and look now at a great Christian painter’s
portrait of this fish; for he succeeds no better than the antediluvian
Hindoo. It is Guido’s picture of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the
sea-monster or whale. Where did Guido get the model of such a strange
creature as that? Nor does Hogarth, in painting the same scene in his
own “Perseus Descending,” make out one whit better. The huge corpulence
of that Hogarthian monster undulates on the surface, scarcely drawing
one inch of water. It has a sort of howdah on its back, and its
distended tusked mouth into which the billows are rolling, might be
taken for the Traitors’ Gate leading from the Thames by water into the
Tower. Then, there are the Prodromus whales of old Scotch Sibbald, and
Jonah’s whale, as depicted in the prints of old Bibles and the cuts of
old primers. What shall be said of these? As for the book-binder’s whale
winding like a vine-stalk round the stock of a descending anchor--as
stamped and gilded on the backs and title-pages of many books both
old and new--that is a very picturesque but purely fabulous creature,
imitated, I take it, from the like figures on antique vases.
Though universally denominated a dolphin, I nevertheless call this
book-binder’s fish an attempt at a whale; because it was so intended
when the device was first introduced. It was introduced by an old
Italian publisher somewhere about the 15th century, during the Revival
of Learning; and in those days, and even down to a comparatively
late period, dolphins were popularly supposed to be a species of the

In the vignettes and other embellishments of some ancient books you will
at times meet with very curious touches at the whale, where all manner
of spouts, jets d’eau, hot springs and cold, Saratoga and Baden-Baden,
come bubbling up from his unexhausted brain. In the title-page of the
original edition of the “Advancement of Learning” you will find some
curious whales.

But quitting all these unprofessional attempts, let us glance at those
pictures of leviathan purporting to be sober, scientific delineations,
by those who know. In old Harris’s collection of voyages there are some
plates of whales extracted from a Dutch book of voyages, A.D. 1671,
entitled “A Whaling Voyage to Spitzbergen in the ship Jonas in the
Whale, Peter Peterson of Friesland, master.” In one of those plates the
whales, like great rafts of logs, are represented lying among ice-isles,
with white bears running over their living backs. In another plate, the
prodigious blunder is made of representing the whale with perpendicular

Then again, there is an imposing quarto, written by one Captain Colnett,
a Post Captain in the English navy, entitled “A Voyage round Cape Horn
into the South Seas, for the purpose of extending the Spermaceti Whale
Fisheries.” In this book is an outline purporting to be a “Picture of
a Physeter or Spermaceti whale, drawn by scale from one killed on the
coast of Mexico, August, 1793, and hoisted on deck.” I doubt not the
captain had this veracious picture taken for the benefit of his marines.
To mention but one thing about it, let me say that it has an eye which
applied, according to the accompanying scale, to a full grown sperm
whale, would make the eye of that whale a bow-window some five feet
long. Ah, my gallant captain, why did ye not give us Jonah looking out
of that eye!

Nor are the most conscientious compilations of Natural History for
the benefit of the young and tender, free from the same heinousness of
mistake. Look at that popular work “Goldsmith’s Animated Nature.” In the
abridged London edition of 1807, there are plates of an alleged “whale”
 and a “narwhale.” I do not wish to seem inelegant, but this unsightly
whale looks much like an amputated sow; and, as for the narwhale, one
glimpse at it is enough to amaze one, that in this nineteenth century
such a hippogriff could be palmed for genuine upon any intelligent
public of schoolboys.

Then, again, in 1825, Bernard Germain, Count de Lacepede, a great
naturalist, published a scientific systemized whale book, wherein are
several pictures of the different species of the Leviathan. All these
are not only incorrect, but the picture of the Mysticetus or Greenland
whale (that is to say, the Right whale), even Scoresby, a long
experienced man as touching that species, declares not to have its
counterpart in nature.

But the placing of the cap-sheaf to all this blundering business was
reserved for the scientific Frederick Cuvier, brother to the famous
Baron. In 1836, he published a Natural History of Whales, in which he
gives what he calls a picture of the Sperm Whale. Before showing that
picture to any Nantucketer, you had best provide for your summary
retreat from Nantucket. In a word, Frederick Cuvier’s Sperm Whale is not
a Sperm Whale, but a squash. Of course, he never had the benefit of
a whaling voyage (such men seldom have), but whence he derived that
picture, who can tell? Perhaps he got it as his scientific predecessor
in the same field, Desmarest, got one of his authentic abortions; that
is, from a Chinese drawing. And what sort of lively lads with the pencil
those Chinese are, many queer cups and saucers inform us.

As for the sign-painters’ whales seen in the streets hanging over the
shops of oil-dealers, what shall be said of them? They are generally
Richard III. whales, with dromedary humps, and very savage; breakfasting
on three or four sailor tarts, that is whaleboats full of mariners:
their deformities floundering in seas of blood and blue paint.

But these manifold mistakes in depicting the whale are not so very
surprising after all. Consider! Most of the scientific drawings have
been taken from the stranded fish; and these are about as correct as a
drawing of a wrecked ship, with broken back, would correctly represent
the noble animal itself in all its undashed pride of hull and spars.
Though elephants have stood for their full-lengths, the living Leviathan
has never yet fairly floated himself for his portrait. The living whale,
in his full majesty and significance, is only to be seen at sea in
unfathomable waters; and afloat the vast bulk of him is out of sight,
like a launched line-of-battle ship; and out of that element it is a
thing eternally impossible for mortal man to hoist him bodily into the
air, so as to preserve all his mighty swells and undulations. And, not
to speak of the highly presumable difference of contour between a young
sucking whale and a full-grown Platonian Leviathan; yet, even in the
case of one of those young sucking whales hoisted to a ship’s deck, such
is then the outlandish, eel-like, limbered, varying shape of him, that
his precise expression the devil himself could not catch.

But it may be fancied, that from the naked skeleton of the stranded
whale, accurate hints may be derived touching his true form. Not at all.
For it is one of the more curious things about this Leviathan, that
his skeleton gives very little idea of his general shape. Though Jeremy
Bentham’s skeleton, which hangs for candelabra in the library of one of
his executors, correctly conveys the idea of a burly-browed utilitarian
old gentleman, with all Jeremy’s other leading personal characteristics;
yet nothing of this kind could be inferred from any leviathan’s
articulated bones. In fact, as the great Hunter says, the mere skeleton
of the whale bears the same relation to the fully invested and padded
animal as the insect does to the chrysalis that so roundingly envelopes
it. This peculiarity is strikingly evinced in the head, as in some
part of this book will be incidentally shown. It is also very curiously
displayed in the side fin, the bones of which almost exactly answer to
the bones of the human hand, minus only the thumb. This fin has four
regular bone-fingers, the index, middle, ring, and little finger. But
all these are permanently lodged in their fleshy covering, as the human
fingers in an artificial covering. “However recklessly the whale may
sometimes serve us,” said humorous Stubb one day, “he can never be truly
said to handle us without mittens.”

For all these reasons, then, any way you may look at it, you must needs
conclude that the great Leviathan is that one creature in the world
which must remain unpainted to the last. True, one portrait may hit
the mark much nearer than another, but none can hit it with any very
considerable degree of exactness. So there is no earthly way of finding
out precisely what the whale really looks like. And the only mode in
which you can derive even a tolerable idea of his living contour, is
by going a whaling yourself; but by so doing, you run no small risk of
being eternally stove and sunk by him. Wherefore, it seems to me you had
best not be too fastidious in your curiosity touching this Leviathan.

CHAPTER 56. Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True
Pictures of Whaling Scenes.

In connexion with the monstrous pictures of whales, I am strongly
tempted here to enter upon those still more monstrous stories of
them which are to be found in certain books, both ancient and modern,
especially in Pliny, Purchas, Hackluyt, Harris, Cuvier, etc. But I pass
that matter by.

I know of only four published outlines of the great Sperm Whale;
Colnett’s, Huggins’s, Frederick Cuvier’s, and Beale’s. In the previous
chapter Colnett and Cuvier have been referred to. Huggins’s is far
better than theirs; but, by great odds, Beale’s is the best. All Beale’s
drawings of this whale are good, excepting the middle figure in the
picture of three whales in various attitudes, capping his second
chapter. His frontispiece, boats attacking Sperm Whales, though no
doubt calculated to excite the civil scepticism of some parlor men, is
admirably correct and life-like in its general effect. Some of the Sperm
Whale drawings in J. Ross Browne are pretty correct in contour; but they
are wretchedly engraved. That is not his fault though.

Of the Right Whale, the best outline pictures are in Scoresby; but they
are drawn on too small a scale to convey a desirable impression. He has
but one picture of whaling scenes, and this is a sad deficiency, because
it is by such pictures only, when at all well done, that you can derive
anything like a truthful idea of the living whale as seen by his living

But, taken for all in all, by far the finest, though in some details
not the most correct, presentations of whales and whaling scenes to
be anywhere found, are two large French engravings, well executed,
and taken from paintings by one Garnery. Respectively, they represent
attacks on the Sperm and Right Whale. In the first engraving a noble
Sperm Whale is depicted in full majesty of might, just risen beneath
the boat from the profundities of the ocean, and bearing high in the air
upon his back the terrific wreck of the stoven planks. The prow of
the boat is partially unbroken, and is drawn just balancing upon
the monster’s spine; and standing in that prow, for that one single
incomputable flash of time, you behold an oarsman, half shrouded by the
incensed boiling spout of the whale, and in the act of leaping, as if
from a precipice. The action of the whole thing is wonderfully good and
true. The half-emptied line-tub floats on the whitened sea; the wooden
poles of the spilled harpoons obliquely bob in it; the heads of the
swimming crew are scattered about the whale in contrasting expressions
of affright; while in the black stormy distance the ship is bearing down
upon the scene. Serious fault might be found with the anatomical details
of this whale, but let that pass; since, for the life of me, I could not
draw so good a one.

In the second engraving, the boat is in the act of drawing alongside
the barnacled flank of a large running Right Whale, that rolls his black
weedy bulk in the sea like some mossy rock-slide from the Patagonian
cliffs. His jets are erect, full, and black like soot; so that from so
abounding a smoke in the chimney, you would think there must be a brave
supper cooking in the great bowels below. Sea fowls are pecking at the
small crabs, shell-fish, and other sea candies and maccaroni, which the
Right Whale sometimes carries on his pestilent back. And all the while
the thick-lipped leviathan is rushing through the deep, leaving tons of
tumultuous white curds in his wake, and causing the slight boat to rock
in the swells like a skiff caught nigh the paddle-wheels of an ocean
steamer. Thus, the foreground is all raging commotion; but behind, in
admirable artistic contrast, is the glassy level of a sea becalmed, the
drooping unstarched sails of the powerless ship, and the inert mass of
a dead whale, a conquered fortress, with the flag of capture lazily
hanging from the whale-pole inserted into his spout-hole.

Who Garnery the painter is, or was, I know not. But my life for it he
was either practically conversant with his subject, or else marvellously
tutored by some experienced whaleman. The French are the lads for
painting action. Go and gaze upon all the paintings of Europe, and
where will you find such a gallery of living and breathing commotion
on canvas, as in that triumphal hall at Versailles; where the beholder
fights his way, pell-mell, through the consecutive great battles of
France; where every sword seems a flash of the Northern Lights, and the
successive armed kings and Emperors dash by, like a charge of crowned
centaurs? Not wholly unworthy of a place in that gallery, are these sea
battle-pieces of Garnery.

The natural aptitude of the French for seizing the picturesqueness of
things seems to be peculiarly evinced in what paintings and engravings
they have of their whaling scenes. With not one tenth of England’s
experience in the fishery, and not the thousandth part of that of the
Americans, they have nevertheless furnished both nations with the only
finished sketches at all capable of conveying the real spirit of
the whale hunt. For the most part, the English and American whale
draughtsmen seem entirely content with presenting the mechanical outline
of things, such as the vacant profile of the whale; which, so far as
picturesqueness of effect is concerned, is about tantamount to sketching
the profile of a pyramid. Even Scoresby, the justly renowned Right
whaleman, after giving us a stiff full length of the Greenland whale,
and three or four delicate miniatures of narwhales and porpoises, treats
us to a series of classical engravings of boat hooks, chopping knives,
and grapnels; and with the microscopic diligence of a Leuwenhoeck
submits to the inspection of a shivering world ninety-six fac-similes of
magnified Arctic snow crystals. I mean no disparagement to the excellent
voyager (I honour him for a veteran), but in so important a matter it
was certainly an oversight not to have procured for every crystal a
sworn affidavit taken before a Greenland Justice of the Peace.

In addition to those fine engravings from Garnery, there are two other
French engravings worthy of note, by some one who subscribes himself
“H. Durand.” One of them, though not precisely adapted to our present
purpose, nevertheless deserves mention on other accounts. It is a quiet
noon-scene among the isles of the Pacific; a French whaler anchored,
inshore, in a calm, and lazily taking water on board; the loosened sails
of the ship, and the long leaves of the palms in the background, both
drooping together in the breezeless air. The effect is very fine, when
considered with reference to its presenting the hardy fishermen under
one of their few aspects of oriental repose. The other engraving is
quite a different affair: the ship hove-to upon the open sea, and in the
very heart of the Leviathanic life, with a Right Whale alongside; the
vessel (in the act of cutting-in) hove over to the monster as if to a
quay; and a boat, hurriedly pushing off from this scene of activity, is
about giving chase to whales in the distance. The harpoons and lances
lie levelled for use; three oarsmen are just setting the mast in its
hole; while from a sudden roll of the sea, the little craft stands
half-erect out of the water, like a rearing horse. From the ship, the
smoke of the torments of the boiling whale is going up like the smoke
over a village of smithies; and to windward, a black cloud, rising up
with earnest of squalls and rains, seems to quicken the activity of the
excited seamen.

CHAPTER 57. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in
Stone; in Mountains; in Stars.

On Tower-hill, as you go down to the London docks, you may have seen a
crippled beggar (or KEDGER, as the sailors say) holding a painted board
before him, representing the tragic scene in which he lost his leg.
There are three whales and three boats; and one of the boats (presumed
to contain the missing leg in all its original integrity) is being
crunched by the jaws of the foremost whale. Any time these ten years,
they tell me, has that man held up that picture, and exhibited that
stump to an incredulous world. But the time of his justification has
now come. His three whales are as good whales as were ever published in
Wapping, at any rate; and his stump as unquestionable a stump as any you
will find in the western clearings. But, though for ever mounted on
that stump, never a stump-speech does the poor whaleman make; but, with
downcast eyes, stands ruefully contemplating his own amputation.

Throughout the Pacific, and also in Nantucket, and New Bedford, and
Sag Harbor, you will come across lively sketches of whales and
whaling-scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale-teeth,
or ladies’ busks wrought out of the Right Whale-bone, and other
like skrimshander articles, as the whalemen call the numerous little
ingenious contrivances they elaborately carve out of the rough material,
in their hours of ocean leisure. Some of them have little boxes
of dentistical-looking implements, specially intended for the
skrimshandering business. But, in general, they toil with their
jack-knives alone; and, with that almost omnipotent tool of the sailor,
they will turn you out anything you please, in the way of a mariner’s

Long exile from Christendom and civilization inevitably restores a man
to that condition in which God placed him, i.e. what is called savagery.
Your true whale-hunter is as much a savage as an Iroquois. I myself am a
savage, owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready
at any moment to rebel against him.

Now, one of the peculiar characteristics of the savage in his domestic
hours, is his wonderful patience of industry. An ancient Hawaiian
war-club or spear-paddle, in its full multiplicity and elaboration of
carving, is as great a trophy of human perseverance as a Latin lexicon.
For, with but a bit of broken sea-shell or a shark’s tooth, that
miraculous intricacy of wooden net-work has been achieved; and it has
cost steady years of steady application.

As with the Hawaiian savage, so with the white sailor-savage. With the
same marvellous patience, and with the same single shark’s tooth, of
his one poor jack-knife, he will carve you a bit of bone sculpture, not
quite as workmanlike, but as close packed in its maziness of design,
as the Greek savage, Achilles’s shield; and full of barbaric spirit
and suggestiveness, as the prints of that fine old Dutch savage, Albert

Wooden whales, or whales cut in profile out of the small dark slabs of
the noble South Sea war-wood, are frequently met with in the forecastles
of American whalers. Some of them are done with much accuracy.

At some old gable-roofed country houses you will see brass whales hung
by the tail for knockers to the road-side door. When the porter is
sleepy, the anvil-headed whale would be best. But these knocking
whales are seldom remarkable as faithful essays. On the spires of some
old-fashioned churches you will see sheet-iron whales placed there for
weather-cocks; but they are so elevated, and besides that are to all
intents and purposes so labelled with “HANDS OFF!” you cannot examine
them closely enough to decide upon their merit.

In bony, ribby regions of the earth, where at the base of high broken
cliffs masses of rock lie strewn in fantastic groupings upon the
plain, you will often discover images as of the petrified forms of the
Leviathan partly merged in grass, which of a windy day breaks against
them in a surf of green surges.

Then, again, in mountainous countries where the traveller is continually
girdled by amphitheatrical heights; here and there from some lucky
point of view you will catch passing glimpses of the profiles of
whales defined along the undulating ridges. But you must be a thorough
whaleman, to see these sights; and not only that, but if you wish
to return to such a sight again, you must be sure and take the exact
intersecting latitude and longitude of your first stand-point, else
so chance-like are such observations of the hills, that your precise,
previous stand-point would require a laborious re-discovery; like the
Soloma Islands, which still remain incognita, though once high-ruffed
Mendanna trod them and old Figuera chronicled them.

Nor when expandingly lifted by your subject, can you fail to trace out
great whales in the starry heavens, and boats in pursuit of them; as
when long filled with thoughts of war the Eastern nations saw armies
locked in battle among the clouds. Thus at the North have I chased
Leviathan round and round the Pole with the revolutions of the bright
points that first defined him to me. And beneath the effulgent Antarctic
skies I have boarded the Argo-Navis, and joined the chase against the
starry Cetus far beyond the utmost stretch of Hydrus and the Flying

With a frigate’s anchors for my bridle-bitts and fasces of harpoons for
spurs, would I could mount that whale and leap the topmost skies, to
see whether the fabled heavens with all their countless tents really lie
encamped beyond my mortal sight!

CHAPTER 58. Brit.

Steering north-eastward from the Crozetts, we fell in with vast meadows
of brit, the minute, yellow substance, upon which the Right Whale
largely feeds. For leagues and leagues it undulated round us, so that we
seemed to be sailing through boundless fields of ripe and golden wheat.

On the second day, numbers of Right Whales were seen, who, secure from
the attack of a Sperm Whaler like the Pequod, with open jaws sluggishly
swam through the brit, which, adhering to the fringing fibres of that
wondrous Venetian blind in their mouths, was in that manner separated
from the water that escaped at the lip.

As morning mowers, who side by side slowly and seethingly advance
their scythes through the long wet grass of marshy meads; even so these
monsters swam, making a strange, grassy, cutting sound; and leaving
behind them endless swaths of blue upon the yellow sea.*

*That part of the sea known among whalemen as the “Brazil Banks” does
not bear that name as the Banks of Newfoundland do, because of there
being shallows and soundings there, but because of this remarkable
meadow-like appearance, caused by the vast drifts of brit continually
floating in those latitudes, where the Right Whale is often chased.

But it was only the sound they made as they parted the brit which at all
reminded one of mowers. Seen from the mast-heads, especially when they
paused and were stationary for a while, their vast black forms looked
more like lifeless masses of rock than anything else. And as in the
great hunting countries of India, the stranger at a distance will
sometimes pass on the plains recumbent elephants without knowing them
to be such, taking them for bare, blackened elevations of the soil; even
so, often, with him, who for the first time beholds this species of the
leviathans of the sea. And even when recognised at last, their immense
magnitude renders it very hard really to believe that such bulky masses
of overgrowth can possibly be instinct, in all parts, with the same sort
of life that lives in a dog or a horse.

Indeed, in other respects, you can hardly regard any creatures of the
deep with the same feelings that you do those of the shore. For though
some old naturalists have maintained that all creatures of the land are
of their kind in the sea; and though taking a broad general view of
the thing, this may very well be; yet coming to specialties, where, for
example, does the ocean furnish any fish that in disposition answers to
the sagacious kindness of the dog? The accursed shark alone can in any
generic respect be said to bear comparative analogy to him.

But though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants of the
seas have ever been regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and
repelling; though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita,
so that Columbus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to discover his
one superficial western one; though, by vast odds, the most terrific
of all mortal disasters have immemorially and indiscriminately befallen
tens and hundreds of thousands of those who have gone upon the waters;
though but a moment’s consideration will teach, that however baby man
may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering
future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever,
to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize
the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the
continual repetition of these very impressions, man has lost that sense
of the full awfulness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.

The first boat we read of, floated on an ocean, that with Portuguese
vengeance had whelmed a whole world without leaving so much as a widow.
That same ocean rolls now; that same ocean destroyed the wrecked ships
of last year. Yea, foolish mortals, Noah’s flood is not yet subsided;
two thirds of the fair world it yet covers.

Wherein differ the sea and the land, that a miracle upon one is not a
miracle upon the other? Preternatural terrors rested upon the Hebrews,
when under the feet of Korah and his company the live ground opened
and swallowed them up for ever; yet not a modern sun ever sets, but in
precisely the same manner the live sea swallows up ships and crews.

But not only is the sea such a foe to man who is an alien to it, but it
is also a fiend to its own off-spring; worse than the Persian host who
murdered his own guests; sparing not the creatures which itself hath
spawned. Like a savage tigress that tossing in the jungle overlays her
own cubs, so the sea dashes even the mightiest whales against the rocks,
and leaves them there side by side with the split wrecks of ships. No
mercy, no power but its own controls it. Panting and snorting like a mad
battle steed that has lost its rider, the masterless ocean overruns the

Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide
under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden
beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish
brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the
dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more,
the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each
other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile
earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a
strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean
surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular
Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the
half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst
never return!

CHAPTER 59. Squid.

Slowly wading through the meadows of brit, the Pequod still held on her
way north-eastward towards the island of Java; a gentle air impelling
her keel, so that in the surrounding serenity her three tall tapering
masts mildly waved to that languid breeze, as three mild palms on a
plain. And still, at wide intervals in the silvery night, the lonely,
alluring jet would be seen.

But one transparent blue morning, when a stillness almost preternatural
spread over the sea, however unattended with any stagnant calm; when
the long burnished sun-glade on the waters seemed a golden finger laid
across them, enjoining some secrecy; when the slippered waves whispered
together as they softly ran on; in this profound hush of the visible
sphere a strange spectre was seen by Daggoo from the main-mast-head.

In the distance, a great white mass lazily rose, and rising higher and
higher, and disentangling itself from the azure, at last gleamed before
our prow like a snow-slide, new slid from the hills. Thus glistening
for a moment, as slowly it subsided, and sank. Then once more arose,
and silently gleamed. It seemed not a whale; and yet is this Moby Dick?
thought Daggoo. Again the phantom went down, but on re-appearing once
more, with a stiletto-like cry that startled every man from his nod, the
negro yelled out--“There! there again! there she breaches! right ahead!
The White Whale, the White Whale!”

Upon this, the seamen rushed to the yard-arms, as in swarming-time the
bees rush to the boughs. Bare-headed in the sultry sun, Ahab stood on
the bowsprit, and with one hand pushed far behind in readiness to wave
his orders to the helmsman, cast his eager glance in the direction
indicated aloft by the outstretched motionless arm of Daggoo.

Whether the flitting attendance of the one still and solitary jet had
gradually worked upon Ahab, so that he was now prepared to connect the
ideas of mildness and repose with the first sight of the particular
whale he pursued; however this was, or whether his eagerness betrayed
him; whichever way it might have been, no sooner did he distinctly
perceive the white mass, than with a quick intensity he instantly gave
orders for lowering.

The four boats were soon on the water; Ahab’s in advance, and all
swiftly pulling towards their prey. Soon it went down, and while, with
oars suspended, we were awaiting its reappearance, lo! in the same
spot where it sank, once more it slowly rose. Almost forgetting for
the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous
phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind.
A vast pulpy mass, furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing
cream-colour, lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating
from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as
if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach. No perceptible
face or front did it have; no conceivable token of either sensation or
instinct; but undulated there on the billows, an unearthly, formless,
chance-like apparition of life.

As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still
gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, with a wild voice
exclaimed--“Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than to
have seen thee, thou white ghost!”

“What was it, Sir?” said Flask.

“The great live squid, which, they say, few whale-ships ever beheld, and
returned to their ports to tell of it.”

But Ahab said nothing; turning his boat, he sailed back to the vessel;
the rest as silently following.

Whatever superstitions the sperm whalemen in general have connected with
the sight of this object, certain it is, that a glimpse of it being
so very unusual, that circumstance has gone far to invest it with
portentousness. So rarely is it beheld, that though one and all of them
declare it to be the largest animated thing in the ocean, yet very few
of them have any but the most vague ideas concerning its true nature and
form; notwithstanding, they believe it to furnish to the sperm whale
his only food. For though other species of whales find their food above
water, and may be seen by man in the act of feeding, the spermaceti
whale obtains his whole food in unknown zones below the surface; and
only by inference is it that any one can tell of what, precisely, that
food consists. At times, when closely pursued, he will disgorge what
are supposed to be the detached arms of the squid; some of them thus
exhibited exceeding twenty and thirty feet in length. They fancy that
the monster to which these arms belonged ordinarily clings by them to
the bed of the ocean; and that the sperm whale, unlike other species, is
supplied with teeth in order to attack and tear it.

There seems some ground to imagine that the great Kraken of Bishop
Pontoppodan may ultimately resolve itself into Squid. The manner in
which the Bishop describes it, as alternately rising and sinking, with
some other particulars he narrates, in all this the two correspond.
But much abatement is necessary with respect to the incredible bulk he
assigns it.

By some naturalists who have vaguely heard rumors of the mysterious
creature, here spoken of, it is included among the class of cuttle-fish,
to which, indeed, in certain external respects it would seem to belong,
but only as the Anak of the tribe.

CHAPTER 60. The Line.

With reference to the whaling scene shortly to be described, as well as
for the better understanding of all similar scenes elsewhere presented,
I have here to speak of the magical, sometimes horrible whale-line.

The line originally used in the fishery was of the best hemp, slightly
vapoured with tar, not impregnated with it, as in the case of ordinary
ropes; for while tar, as ordinarily used, makes the hemp more pliable to
the rope-maker, and also renders the rope itself more convenient to the
sailor for common ship use; yet, not only would the ordinary quantity
too much stiffen the whale-line for the close coiling to which it must
be subjected; but as most seamen are beginning to learn, tar in general
by no means adds to the rope’s durability or strength, however much it
may give it compactness and gloss.

Of late years the Manilla rope has in the American fishery almost
entirely superseded hemp as a material for whale-lines; for, though not
so durable as hemp, it is stronger, and far more soft and elastic; and
I will add (since there is an aesthetics in all things), is much more
handsome and becoming to the boat, than hemp. Hemp is a dusky, dark
fellow, a sort of Indian; but Manilla is as a golden-haired Circassian
to behold.

The whale-line is only two-thirds of an inch in thickness. At first
sight, you would not think it so strong as it really is. By experiment
its one and fifty yarns will each suspend a weight of one hundred and
twenty pounds; so that the whole rope will bear a strain nearly equal
to three tons. In length, the common sperm whale-line measures something
over two hundred fathoms. Towards the stern of the boat it is spirally
coiled away in the tub, not like the worm-pipe of a still though, but so
as to form one round, cheese-shaped mass of densely bedded “sheaves,” or
layers of concentric spiralizations, without any hollow but the “heart,”
 or minute vertical tube formed at the axis of the cheese. As the least
tangle or kink in the coiling would, in running out, infallibly take
somebody’s arm, leg, or entire body off, the utmost precaution is used
in stowing the line in its tub. Some harpooneers will consume almost an
entire morning in this business, carrying the line high aloft and then
reeving it downwards through a block towards the tub, so as in the act
of coiling to free it from all possible wrinkles and twists.

In the English boats two tubs are used instead of one; the same line
being continuously coiled in both tubs. There is some advantage in this;
because these twin-tubs being so small they fit more readily into the
boat, and do not strain it so much; whereas, the American tub, nearly
three feet in diameter and of proportionate depth, makes a rather bulky
freight for a craft whose planks are but one half-inch in thickness; for
the bottom of the whale-boat is like critical ice, which will bear up
a considerable distributed weight, but not very much of a concentrated
one. When the painted canvas cover is clapped on the American line-tub,
the boat looks as if it were pulling off with a prodigious great
wedding-cake to present to the whales.

Both ends of the line are exposed; the lower end terminating in an
eye-splice or loop coming up from the bottom against the side of the
tub, and hanging over its edge completely disengaged from everything.
This arrangement of the lower end is necessary on two accounts. First:
In order to facilitate the fastening to it of an additional line from a
neighboring boat, in case the stricken whale should sound so deep as
to threaten to carry off the entire line originally attached to the
harpoon. In these instances, the whale of course is shifted like a mug
of ale, as it were, from the one boat to the other; though the
first boat always hovers at hand to assist its consort. Second: This
arrangement is indispensable for common safety’s sake; for were the
lower end of the line in any way attached to the boat, and were the
whale then to run the line out to the end almost in a single, smoking
minute as he sometimes does, he would not stop there, for the doomed
boat would infallibly be dragged down after him into the profundity of
the sea; and in that case no town-crier would ever find her again.

Before lowering the boat for the chase, the upper end of the line is
taken aft from the tub, and passing round the loggerhead there, is again
carried forward the entire length of the boat, resting crosswise upon
the loom or handle of every man’s oar, so that it jogs against his wrist
in rowing; and also passing between the men, as they alternately sit at
the opposite gunwales, to the leaded chocks or grooves in the extreme
pointed prow of the boat, where a wooden pin or skewer the size of a
common quill, prevents it from slipping out. From the chocks it hangs
in a slight festoon over the bows, and is then passed inside the boat
again; and some ten or twenty fathoms (called box-line) being coiled
upon the box in the bows, it continues its way to the gunwale still a
little further aft, and is then attached to the short-warp--the rope
which is immediately connected with the harpoon; but previous to that
connexion, the short-warp goes through sundry mystifications too tedious
to detail.

Thus the whale-line folds the whole boat in its complicated coils,
twisting and writhing around it in almost every direction. All the
oarsmen are involved in its perilous contortions; so that to the timid
eye of the landsman, they seem as Indian jugglers, with the deadliest
snakes sportively festooning their limbs. Nor can any son of mortal
woman, for the first time, seat himself amid those hempen intricacies,
and while straining his utmost at the oar, bethink him that at any
unknown instant the harpoon may be darted, and all these horrible
contortions be put in play like ringed lightnings; he cannot be thus
circumstanced without a shudder that makes the very marrow in his bones
to quiver in him like a shaken jelly. Yet habit--strange thing! what
cannot habit accomplish?--Gayer sallies, more merry mirth, better jokes,
and brighter repartees, you never heard over your mahogany, than you
will hear over the half-inch white cedar of the whale-boat, when thus
hung in hangman’s nooses; and, like the six burghers of Calais before
King Edward, the six men composing the crew pull into the jaws of death,
with a halter around every neck, as you may say.

Perhaps a very little thought will now enable you to account for
those repeated whaling disasters--some few of which are casually
chronicled--of this man or that man being taken out of the boat by the
line, and lost. For, when the line is darting out, to be seated then in
the boat, is like being seated in the midst of the manifold whizzings
of a steam-engine in full play, when every flying beam, and shaft, and
wheel, is grazing you. It is worse; for you cannot sit motionless in the
heart of these perils, because the boat is rocking like a cradle, and
you are pitched one way and the other, without the slightest warning;
and only by a certain self-adjusting buoyancy and simultaneousness of
volition and action, can you escape being made a Mazeppa of, and run
away with where the all-seeing sun himself could never pierce you out.

Again: as the profound calm which only apparently precedes and
prophesies of the storm, is perhaps more awful than the storm itself;
for, indeed, the calm is but the wrapper and envelope of the storm; and
contains it in itself, as the seemingly harmless rifle holds the fatal
powder, and the ball, and the explosion; so the graceful repose of the
line, as it silently serpentines about the oarsmen before being brought
into actual play--this is a thing which carries more of true terror than
any other aspect of this dangerous affair. But why say more? All men
live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their
necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death,
that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.
And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would
not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before
your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.

CHAPTER 61. Stubb Kills a Whale.

If to Starbuck the apparition of the Squid was a thing of portents, to
Queequeg it was quite a different object.

“When you see him ‘quid,” said the savage, honing his harpoon in the bow
of his hoisted boat, “then you quick see him ‘parm whale.”

The next day was exceedingly still and sultry, and with nothing special
to engage them, the Pequod’s crew could hardly resist the spell of sleep
induced by such a vacant sea. For this part of the Indian Ocean through
which we then were voyaging is not what whalemen call a lively ground;
that is, it affords fewer glimpses of porpoises, dolphins, flying-fish,
and other vivacious denizens of more stirring waters, than those off the
Rio de la Plata, or the in-shore ground off Peru.

It was my turn to stand at the foremast-head; and with my shoulders
leaning against the slackened royal shrouds, to and fro I idly swayed in
what seemed an enchanted air. No resolution could withstand it; in that
dreamy mood losing all consciousness, at last my soul went out of my
body; though my body still continued to sway as a pendulum will, long
after the power which first moved it is withdrawn.

Ere forgetfulness altogether came over me, I had noticed that the seamen
at the main and mizzen-mast-heads were already drowsy. So that at last
all three of us lifelessly swung from the spars, and for every swing
that we made there was a nod from below from the slumbering helmsman.
The waves, too, nodded their indolent crests; and across the wide trance
of the sea, east nodded to west, and the sun over all.

Suddenly bubbles seemed bursting beneath my closed eyes; like vices my
hands grasped the shrouds; some invisible, gracious agency preserved me;
with a shock I came back to life. And lo! close under our lee, not forty
fathoms off, a gigantic Sperm Whale lay rolling in the water like the
capsized hull of a frigate, his broad, glossy back, of an Ethiopian hue,
glistening in the sun’s rays like a mirror. But lazily undulating in
the trough of the sea, and ever and anon tranquilly spouting his vapoury
jet, the whale looked like a portly burgher smoking his pipe of a warm
afternoon. But that pipe, poor whale, was thy last. As if struck by some
enchanter’s wand, the sleepy ship and every sleeper in it all at once
started into wakefulness; and more than a score of voices from all parts
of the vessel, simultaneously with the three notes from aloft, shouted
forth the accustomed cry, as the great fish slowly and regularly spouted
the sparkling brine into the air.

“Clear away the boats! Luff!” cried Ahab. And obeying his own order, he
dashed the helm down before the helmsman could handle the spokes.

The sudden exclamations of the crew must have alarmed the whale; and ere
the boats were down, majestically turning, he swam away to the leeward,
but with such a steady tranquillity, and making so few ripples as he
swam, that thinking after all he might not as yet be alarmed, Ahab gave
orders that not an oar should be used, and no man must speak but in
whispers. So seated like Ontario Indians on the gunwales of the boats,
we swiftly but silently paddled along; the calm not admitting of the
noiseless sails being set. Presently, as we thus glided in chase, the
monster perpendicularly flitted his tail forty feet into the air, and
then sank out of sight like a tower swallowed up.

“There go flukes!” was the cry, an announcement immediately followed by
Stubb’s producing his match and igniting his pipe, for now a respite was
granted. After the full interval of his sounding had elapsed, the whale
rose again, and being now in advance of the smoker’s boat, and much
nearer to it than to any of the others, Stubb counted upon the honour
of the capture. It was obvious, now, that the whale had at length become
aware of his pursuers. All silence of cautiousness was therefore no
longer of use. Paddles were dropped, and oars came loudly into play. And
still puffing at his pipe, Stubb cheered on his crew to the assault.

Yes, a mighty change had come over the fish. All alive to his jeopardy,
he was going “head out”; that part obliquely projecting from the mad
yeast which he brewed.*

*It will be seen in some other place of what a very light substance
the entire interior of the sperm whale’s enormous head consists. Though
apparently the most massive, it is by far the most buoyant part about
him. So that with ease he elevates it in the air, and invariably does
so when going at his utmost speed. Besides, such is the breadth of the
upper part of the front of his head, and such the tapering cut-water
formation of the lower part, that by obliquely elevating his head, he
thereby may be said to transform himself from a bluff-bowed sluggish
galliot into a sharppointed New York pilot-boat.

“Start her, start her, my men! Don’t hurry yourselves; take plenty of
time--but start her; start her like thunder-claps, that’s all,” cried
Stubb, spluttering out the smoke as he spoke. “Start her, now; give ‘em
the long and strong stroke, Tashtego. Start her, Tash, my boy--start
her, all; but keep cool, keep cool--cucumbers is the word--easy,
easy--only start her like grim death and grinning devils, and raise the
buried dead perpendicular out of their graves, boys--that’s all. Start

“Woo-hoo! Wa-hee!” screamed the Gay-Header in reply, raising some
old war-whoop to the skies; as every oarsman in the strained boat
involuntarily bounced forward with the one tremendous leading stroke
which the eager Indian gave.

But his wild screams were answered by others quite as wild. “Kee-hee!
Kee-hee!” yelled Daggoo, straining forwards and backwards on his seat,
like a pacing tiger in his cage.

“Ka-la! Koo-loo!” howled Queequeg, as if smacking his lips over a
mouthful of Grenadier’s steak. And thus with oars and yells the keels
cut the sea. Meanwhile, Stubb retaining his place in the van, still
encouraged his men to the onset, all the while puffing the smoke from
his mouth. Like desperadoes they tugged and they strained, till the
welcome cry was heard--“Stand up, Tashtego!--give it to him!” The
harpoon was hurled. “Stern all!” The oarsmen backed water; the same
moment something went hot and hissing along every one of their wrists.
It was the magical line. An instant before, Stubb had swiftly caught two
additional turns with it round the loggerhead, whence, by reason of its
increased rapid circlings, a hempen blue smoke now jetted up and mingled
with the steady fumes from his pipe. As the line passed round and
round the loggerhead; so also, just before reaching that point, it
blisteringly passed through and through both of Stubb’s hands, from
which the hand-cloths, or squares of quilted canvas sometimes worn at
these times, had accidentally dropped. It was like holding an enemy’s
sharp two-edged sword by the blade, and that enemy all the time striving
to wrest it out of your clutch.

“Wet the line! wet the line!” cried Stubb to the tub oarsman (him seated
by the tub) who, snatching off his hat, dashed sea-water into it.* More
turns were taken, so that the line began holding its place. The boat now
flew through the boiling water like a shark all fins. Stubb and Tashtego
here changed places--stem for stern--a staggering business truly in that
rocking commotion.

*Partly to show the indispensableness of this act, it may here be
stated, that, in the old Dutch fishery, a mop was used to dash the
running line with water; in many other ships, a wooden piggin, or
bailer, is set apart for that purpose. Your hat, however, is the most

From the vibrating line extending the entire length of the upper part of
the boat, and from its now being more tight than a harpstring, you would
have thought the craft had two keels--one cleaving the water, the other
the air--as the boat churned on through both opposing elements at once.
A continual cascade played at the bows; a ceaseless whirling eddy in
her wake; and, at the slightest motion from within, even but of a little
finger, the vibrating, cracking craft canted over her spasmodic gunwale
into the sea. Thus they rushed; each man with might and main clinging
to his seat, to prevent being tossed to the foam; and the tall form of
Tashtego at the steering oar crouching almost double, in order to bring
down his centre of gravity. Whole Atlantics and Pacifics seemed passed
as they shot on their way, till at length the whale somewhat slackened
his flight.

“Haul in--haul in!” cried Stubb to the bowsman! and, facing round
towards the whale, all hands began pulling the boat up to him, while yet
the boat was being towed on. Soon ranging up by his flank, Stubb, firmly
planting his knee in the clumsy cleat, darted dart after dart into the
flying fish; at the word of command, the boat alternately sterning
out of the way of the whale’s horrible wallow, and then ranging up for
another fling.

The red tide now poured from all sides of the monster like brooks down a
hill. His tormented body rolled not in brine but in blood, which bubbled
and seethed for furlongs behind in their wake. The slanting sun playing
upon this crimson pond in the sea, sent back its reflection into every
face, so that they all glowed to each other like red men. And all
the while, jet after jet of white smoke was agonizingly shot from the
spiracle of the whale, and vehement puff after puff from the mouth of
the excited headsman; as at every dart, hauling in upon his crooked
lance (by the line attached to it), Stubb straightened it again and
again, by a few rapid blows against the gunwale, then again and again
sent it into the whale.

“Pull up--pull up!” he now cried to the bowsman, as the waning whale
relaxed in his wrath. “Pull up!--close to!” and the boat ranged along
the fish’s flank. When reaching far over the bow, Stubb slowly churned
his long sharp lance into the fish, and kept it there, carefully
churning and churning, as if cautiously seeking to feel after some gold
watch that the whale might have swallowed, and which he was fearful of
breaking ere he could hook it out. But that gold watch he sought was the
innermost life of the fish. And now it is struck; for, starting from
his trance into that unspeakable thing called his “flurry,” the monster
horribly wallowed in his blood, overwrapped himself in impenetrable,
mad, boiling spray, so that the imperilled craft, instantly dropping
astern, had much ado blindly to struggle out from that phrensied
twilight into the clear air of the day.

And now abating in his flurry, the whale once more rolled out into view;
surging from side to side; spasmodically dilating and contracting his
spout-hole, with sharp, cracking, agonized respirations. At last, gush
after gush of clotted red gore, as if it had been the purple lees of red
wine, shot into the frighted air; and falling back again, ran dripping
down his motionless flanks into the sea. His heart had burst!

“He’s dead, Mr. Stubb,” said Daggoo.

“Yes; both pipes smoked out!” and withdrawing his own from his mouth,
Stubb scattered the dead ashes over the water; and, for a moment, stood
thoughtfully eyeing the vast corpse he had made.

CHAPTER 62. The Dart.

A word concerning an incident in the last chapter.

According to the invariable usage of the fishery, the whale-boat pushes
off from the ship, with the headsman or whale-killer as temporary
steersman, and the harpooneer or whale-fastener pulling the foremost
oar, the one known as the harpooneer-oar. Now it needs a strong, nervous
arm to strike the first iron into the fish; for often, in what is called
a long dart, the heavy implement has to be flung to the distance of
twenty or thirty feet. But however prolonged and exhausting the chase,
the harpooneer is expected to pull his oar meanwhile to the uttermost;
indeed, he is expected to set an example of superhuman activity to the
rest, not only by incredible rowing, but by repeated loud and intrepid
exclamations; and what it is to keep shouting at the top of one’s
compass, while all the other muscles are strained and half started--what
that is none know but those who have tried it. For one, I cannot bawl
very heartily and work very recklessly at one and the same time. In this
straining, bawling state, then, with his back to the fish, all at once
the exhausted harpooneer hears the exciting cry--“Stand up, and give it
to him!” He now has to drop and secure his oar, turn round on his
centre half way, seize his harpoon from the crotch, and with what little
strength may remain, he essays to pitch it somehow into the whale. No
wonder, taking the whole fleet of whalemen in a body, that out of fifty
fair chances for a dart, not five are successful; no wonder that so many
hapless harpooneers are madly cursed and disrated; no wonder that some
of them actually burst their blood-vessels in the boat; no wonder that
some sperm whalemen are absent four years with four barrels; no wonder
that to many ship owners, whaling is but a losing concern; for it is the
harpooneer that makes the voyage, and if you take the breath out of his
body how can you expect to find it there when most wanted!

Again, if the dart be successful, then at the second critical instant,
that is, when the whale starts to run, the boatheader and harpooneer
likewise start to running fore and aft, to the imminent jeopardy of
themselves and every one else. It is then they change places; and
the headsman, the chief officer of the little craft, takes his proper
station in the bows of the boat.

Now, I care not who maintains the contrary, but all this is both foolish
and unnecessary. The headsman should stay in the bows from first to
last; he should both dart the harpoon and the lance, and no rowing
whatever should be expected of him, except under circumstances obvious
to any fisherman. I know that this would sometimes involve a slight loss
of speed in the chase; but long experience in various whalemen of more
than one nation has convinced me that in the vast majority of failures
in the fishery, it has not by any means been so much the speed of the
whale as the before described exhaustion of the harpooneer that has
caused them.

To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this
world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of

CHAPTER 63. The Crotch.

Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs. So, in
productive subjects, grow the chapters.

The crotch alluded to on a previous page deserves independent mention.
It is a notched stick of a peculiar form, some two feet in length, which
is perpendicularly inserted into the starboard gunwale near the bow,
for the purpose of furnishing a rest for the wooden extremity of the
harpoon, whose other naked, barbed end slopingly projects from the prow.
Thereby the weapon is instantly at hand to its hurler, who snatches it
up as readily from its rest as a backwoodsman swings his rifle from
the wall. It is customary to have two harpoons reposing in the crotch,
respectively called the first and second irons.

But these two harpoons, each by its own cord, are both connected with
the line; the object being this: to dart them both, if possible, one
instantly after the other into the same whale; so that if, in the coming
drag, one should draw out, the other may still retain a hold. It is a
doubling of the chances. But it very often happens that owing to the
instantaneous, violent, convulsive running of the whale upon receiving
the first iron, it becomes impossible for the harpooneer, however
lightning-like in his movements, to pitch the second iron into him.
Nevertheless, as the second iron is already connected with the line,
and the line is running, hence that weapon must, at all events, be
anticipatingly tossed out of the boat, somehow and somewhere; else the
most terrible jeopardy would involve all hands. Tumbled into the water,
it accordingly is in such cases; the spare coils of box line (mentioned
in a preceding chapter) making this feat, in most instances, prudently
practicable. But this critical act is not always unattended with the
saddest and most fatal casualties.

Furthermore: you must know that when the second iron is thrown
overboard, it thenceforth becomes a dangling, sharp-edged terror,
skittishly curvetting about both boat and whale, entangling the lines,
or cutting them, and making a prodigious sensation in all directions.
Nor, in general, is it possible to secure it again until the whale is
fairly captured and a corpse.

Consider, now, how it must be in the case of four boats all engaging
one unusually strong, active, and knowing whale; when owing to these
qualities in him, as well as to the thousand concurring accidents of
such an audacious enterprise, eight or ten loose second irons may be
simultaneously dangling about him. For, of course, each boat is supplied
with several harpoons to bend on to the line should the first one
be ineffectually darted without recovery. All these particulars are
faithfully narrated here, as they will not fail to elucidate several
most important, however intricate passages, in scenes hereafter to be

CHAPTER 64. Stubb’s Supper.

Stubb’s whale had been killed some distance from the ship. It was
a calm; so, forming a tandem of three boats, we commenced the slow
business of towing the trophy to the Pequod. And now, as we eighteen men
with our thirty-six arms, and one hundred and eighty thumbs and fingers,
slowly toiled hour after hour upon that inert, sluggish corpse in the
sea; and it seemed hardly to budge at all, except at long intervals;
good evidence was hereby furnished of the enormousness of the mass we
moved. For, upon the great canal of Hang-Ho, or whatever they call
it, in China, four or five laborers on the foot-path will draw a bulky
freighted junk at the rate of a mile an hour; but this grand argosy we
towed heavily forged along, as if laden with pig-lead in bulk.

Darkness came on; but three lights up and down in the Pequod’s
main-rigging dimly guided our way; till drawing nearer we saw Ahab
dropping one of several more lanterns over the bulwarks. Vacantly eyeing
the heaving whale for a moment, he issued the usual orders for securing
it for the night, and then handing his lantern to a seaman, went his way
into the cabin, and did not come forward again until morning.

Though, in overseeing the pursuit of this whale, Captain Ahab had
evinced his customary activity, to call it so; yet now that the creature
was dead, some vague dissatisfaction, or impatience, or despair, seemed
working in him; as if the sight of that dead body reminded him that
Moby Dick was yet to be slain; and though a thousand other whales were
brought to his ship, all that would not one jot advance his grand,
monomaniac object. Very soon you would have thought from the sound on
the Pequod’s decks, that all hands were preparing to cast anchor in
the deep; for heavy chains are being dragged along the deck, and thrust
rattling out of the port-holes. But by those clanking links, the vast
corpse itself, not the ship, is to be moored. Tied by the head to the
stern, and by the tail to the bows, the whale now lies with its black
hull close to the vessel’s and seen through the darkness of the night,
which obscured the spars and rigging aloft, the two--ship and whale,
seemed yoked together like colossal bullocks, whereof one reclines while
the other remains standing.*

*A little item may as well be related here. The strongest and most
reliable hold which the ship has upon the whale when moored alongside,
is by the flukes or tail; and as from its greater density that part
is relatively heavier than any other (excepting the side-fins), its
flexibility even in death, causes it to sink low beneath the surface; so
that with the hand you cannot get at it from the boat, in order to
put the chain round it. But this difficulty is ingeniously overcome: a
small, strong line is prepared with a wooden float at its outer end, and
a weight in its middle, while the other end is secured to the ship. By
adroit management the wooden float is made to rise on the other side
of the mass, so that now having girdled the whale, the chain is readily
made to follow suit; and being slipped along the body, is at last locked
fast round the smallest part of the tail, at the point of junction with
its broad flukes or lobes.

If moody Ahab was now all quiescence, at least so far as could be known
on deck, Stubb, his second mate, flushed with conquest, betrayed an
unusual but still good-natured excitement. Such an unwonted bustle was
he in that the staid Starbuck, his official superior, quietly resigned
to him for the time the sole management of affairs. One small, helping
cause of all this liveliness in Stubb, was soon made strangely manifest.
Stubb was a high liver; he was somewhat intemperately fond of the whale
as a flavorish thing to his palate.

“A steak, a steak, ere I sleep! You, Daggoo! overboard you go, and cut
me one from his small!”

Here be it known, that though these wild fishermen do not, as a general
thing, and according to the great military maxim, make the enemy defray
the current expenses of the war (at least before realizing the proceeds
of the voyage), yet now and then you find some of these Nantucketers
who have a genuine relish for that particular part of the Sperm Whale
designated by Stubb; comprising the tapering extremity of the body.

About midnight that steak was cut and cooked; and lighted by two
lanterns of sperm oil, Stubb stoutly stood up to his spermaceti supper
at the capstan-head, as if that capstan were a sideboard. Nor was Stubb
the only banqueter on whale’s flesh that night. Mingling their mumblings
with his own mastications, thousands on thousands of sharks, swarming
round the dead leviathan, smackingly feasted on its fatness. The few
sleepers below in their bunks were often startled by the sharp slapping
of their tails against the hull, within a few inches of the sleepers’
hearts. Peering over the side you could just see them (as before you
heard them) wallowing in the sullen, black waters, and turning over on
their backs as they scooped out huge globular pieces of the whale of the
bigness of a human head. This particular feat of the shark seems all
but miraculous. How at such an apparently unassailable surface, they
contrive to gouge out such symmetrical mouthfuls, remains a part of the
universal problem of all things. The mark they thus leave on the whale,
may best be likened to the hollow made by a carpenter in countersinking
for a screw.

Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks
will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship’s decks, like hungry dogs
round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down
every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant
butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other’s
live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks,
also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away
under the table at the dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole
affair upside down, it would still be pretty much the same thing, that
is to say, a shocking sharkish business enough for all parties; and
though sharks also are the invariable outriders of all slave ships
crossing the Atlantic, systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in
case a parcel is to be carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently
buried; and though one or two other like instances might be set down,
touching the set terms, places, and occasions, when sharks do most
socially congregate, and most hilariously feast; yet is there no
conceivable time or occasion when you will find them in such countless
numbers, and in gayer or more jovial spirits, than around a dead sperm
whale, moored by night to a whaleship at sea. If you have never
seen that sight, then suspend your decision about the propriety of
devil-worship, and the expediency of conciliating the devil.

But, as yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was
going on so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of his
own epicurean lips.

“Cook, cook!--where’s that old Fleece?” he cried at length, widening
his legs still further, as if to form a more secure base for his supper;
and, at the same time darting his fork into the dish, as if stabbing
with his lance; “cook, you cook!--sail this way, cook!”

The old black, not in any very high glee at having been previously
roused from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable hour, came shambling
along from his galley, for, like many old blacks, there was something
the matter with his knee-pans, which he did not keep well scoured like
his other pans; this old Fleece, as they called him, came shuffling and
limping along, assisting his step with his tongs, which, after a clumsy
fashion, were made of straightened iron hoops; this old Ebony floundered
along, and in obedience to the word of command, came to a dead stop on
the opposite side of Stubb’s sideboard; when, with both hands folded
before him, and resting on his two-legged cane, he bowed his arched back
still further over, at the same time sideways inclining his head, so as
to bring his best ear into play.

“Cook,” said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his
mouth, “don’t you think this steak is rather overdone? You’ve been
beating this steak too much, cook; it’s too tender. Don’t I always say
that to be good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are those sharks
now over the side, don’t you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a
shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to ‘em; tell ‘em they are
welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must
keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and
deliver my message. Here, take this lantern,” snatching one from his
sideboard; “now then, go and preach to ‘em!”

Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck
to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low over the
sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other hand
he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side in a
mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling
behind, overheard all that was said.

“Fellow-critters: I’se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam
noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin’ ob de lips! Massa Stubb say
dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you
must stop dat dam racket!”

“Cook,” here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap
on the shoulder,--“Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn’t swear that way
when you’re preaching. That’s no way to convert sinners, cook!”

“Who dat? Den preach to him yourself,” sullenly turning to go.

“No, cook; go on, go on.”

“Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:”--

“Right!” exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, “coax ‘em to it; try that,” and
Fleece continued.

“Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you,
fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness--‘top dat dam slappin’ ob de
tail! How you tink to hear, spose you keep up such a dam slappin’ and
bitin’ dare?”

“Cook,” cried Stubb, collaring him, “I won’t have that swearing. Talk to
‘em gentlemanly.”

Once more the sermon proceeded.

“Your woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don’t blame ye so much for; dat
is natur, and can’t be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de
pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den
you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more dan de shark well goberned.
Now, look here, bred’ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping
yourselbs from dat whale. Don’t be tearin’ de blubber out your
neighbour’s mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat
whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale
belong to some one else. I know some o’ you has berry brig mout, brigger
dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat
de brigness of de mout is not to swaller wid, but to bit off de blubber
for de small fry ob sharks, dat can’t get into de scrouge to help

“Well done, old Fleece!” cried Stubb, “that’s Christianity; go on.”

“No use goin’ on; de dam willains will keep a scougin’ and slappin’ each
oder, Massa Stubb; dey don’t hear one word; no use a-preaching to
such dam g’uttons as you call ‘em, till dare bellies is full, and dare
bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get ‘em full, dey wont hear you
den; for den dey sink in the sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and
can’t hear noting at all, no more, for eber and eber.”

“Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction,
Fleece, and I’ll away to my supper.”

Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his
shrill voice, and cried--

“Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill
your dam bellies ‘till dey bust--and den die.”

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

“All ‘dention,” said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in the
desired position.

“Well,” said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile; “I shall now go
back to the subject of this steak. In the first place, how old are you,

“What dat do wid de ‘teak,” said the old black, testily.

“Silence! How old are you, cook?”

“‘Bout ninety, dey say,” he gloomily muttered.

“And you have lived in this world hard upon one hundred years, cook,
and don’t know yet how to cook a whale-steak?” rapidly bolting another
mouthful at the last word, so that morsel seemed a continuation of the
question. “Where were you born, cook?”

“‘Hind de hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin’ ober de Roanoke.”

“Born in a ferry-boat! That’s queer, too. But I want to know what
country you were born in, cook!”

“Didn’t I say de Roanoke country?” he cried sharply.

“No, you didn’t, cook; but I’ll tell you what I’m coming to, cook.
You must go home and be born over again; you don’t know how to cook a
whale-steak yet.”

“Bress my soul, if I cook noder one,” he growled, angrily, turning round
to depart.

“Come back here, cook;--here, hand me those tongs;--now take that bit of
steak there, and tell me if you think that steak cooked as it should be?
Take it, I say”--holding the tongs towards him--“take it, and taste it.”

Faintly smacking his withered lips over it for a moment, the old negro
muttered, “Best cooked ‘teak I eber taste; joosy, berry joosy.”

“Cook,” said Stubb, squaring himself once more; “do you belong to the

“Passed one once in Cape-Down,” said the old man sullenly.

“And you have once in your life passed a holy church in Cape-Town, where
you doubtless overheard a holy parson addressing his hearers as his
beloved fellow-creatures, have you, cook! And yet you come here, and
tell me such a dreadful lie as you did just now, eh?” said Stubb. “Where
do you expect to go to, cook?”

“Go to bed berry soon,” he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke.

“Avast! heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It’s an awful question. Now
what’s your answer?”

“When dis old brack man dies,” said the negro slowly, changing his whole
air and demeanor, “he hisself won’t go nowhere; but some bressed angel
will come and fetch him.”

“Fetch him? How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And fetch
him where?”

“Up dere,” said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his head, and
keeping it there very solemnly.

“So, then, you expect to go up into our main-top, do you, cook, when you
are dead? But don’t you know the higher you climb, the colder it gets?
Main-top, eh?”

“Didn’t say dat t’all,” said Fleece, again in the sulks.

“You said up there, didn’t you? and now look yourself, and see where
your tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven by
crawling through the lubber’s hole, cook; but, no, no, cook, you don’t
get there, except you go the regular way, round by the rigging. It’s a
ticklish business, but must be done, or else it’s no go. But none of
us are in heaven yet. Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my orders. Do ye
hear? Hold your hat in one hand, and clap t’other a’top of your heart,
when I’m giving my orders, cook. What! that your heart, there?--that’s
your gizzard! Aloft! aloft!--that’s it--now you have it. Hold it there
now, and pay attention.”

“All ‘dention,” said the old black, with both hands placed as desired,
vainly wriggling his grizzled head, as if to get both ears in front at
one and the same time.

“Well then, cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad,
that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that, don’t
you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my
private table here, the capstan, I’ll tell you what to do so as not to
spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal
to it with the other; that done, dish it; d’ye hear? And now to-morrow,
cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure you stand by to get
the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle. As for the ends of the
flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now ye may go.”

But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.

“Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch.
D’ye hear? away you sail, then.--Halloa! stop! make a bow before you
go.--Avast heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast--don’t forget.”

“Wish, by gor! whale eat him, ‘stead of him eat whale. I’m bressed if
he ain’t more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself,” muttered the old man,
limping away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock.

CHAPTER 65. The Whale as a Dish.

That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp, and,
like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seems so
outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into the history and
philosophy of it.

It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right
Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large
prices there. Also, that in Henry VIIIth’s time, a certain cook of the
court obtained a handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce to be
eaten with barbacued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of
whale. Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine eating. The
meat is made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being well
seasoned and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls or veal balls.
The old monks of Dunfermline were very fond of them. They had a great
porpoise grant from the crown.

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

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his
exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be
delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as
the buffalo’s (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid
pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that
is; like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a cocoanut in the
third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for
butter. Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into
some other substance, and then partaking of it. In the long try
watches of the night it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their
ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many
a good supper have I thus made.

In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine dish.
The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump,
whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings),
they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess,
in flavor somewhat resembling calves’ head, which is quite a dish among
some epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among the
epicures, by continually dining upon calves’ brains, by and by get to
have a little brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a
calf’s head from their own heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon
discrimination. And that is the reason why a young buck with an
intelligent looking calf’s head before him, is somehow one of the
saddest sights you can see. The head looks a sort of reproachfully at
him, with an “Et tu Brute!” expression.

It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively
unctuous that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with abhorrence;
that appears to result, in some way, from the consideration before
mentioned: i.e. that a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea,
and eat it too by its own light. But no doubt the first man that ever
murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if
he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and
he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market
of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the
long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of
the cannibal’s jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will
be more tolerable for the Fejee that salted down a lean missionary in
his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that
provident Fejee, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized
and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest
on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras.

But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and that is
adding insult to injury, is it? Look at your knife-handle, there, my
civilized and enlightened gourmand dining off that roast beef, what is
that handle made of?--what but the bones of the brother of the very ox
you are eating? And what do you pick your teeth with, after devouring
that fat goose? With a feather of the same fowl. And with what quill did
the Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Ganders
formally indite his circulars? It is only within the last month or two
that that society passed a resolution to patronise nothing but steel

CHAPTER 66. The Shark Massacre.

When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale, after long and
weary toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not, as a general
thing at least, customary to proceed at once to the business of cutting
him in. For that business is an exceedingly laborious one; is not very
soon completed; and requires all hands to set about it. Therefore, the
common usage is to take in all sail; lash the helm a’lee; and then send
every one below to his hammock till daylight, with the reservation that,
until that time, anchor-watches shall be kept; that is, two and two for
an hour, each couple, the crew in rotation shall mount the deck to see
that all goes well.

But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific, this plan will
not answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of sharks gather
round the moored carcase, that were he left so for six hours, say, on a
stretch, little more than the skeleton would be visible by morning.
In most other parts of the ocean, however, where these fish do not so
largely abound, their wondrous voracity can be at times considerably
diminished, by vigorously stirring them up with sharp whaling-spades,
a procedure notwithstanding, which, in some instances, only seems to
tickle them into still greater activity. But it was not thus in the
present case with the Pequod’s sharks; though, to be sure, any man
unaccustomed to such sights, to have looked over her side that night,
would have almost thought the whole round sea was one huge cheese, and
those sharks the maggots in it.

Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his supper was
concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle seaman
came on deck, no small excitement was created among the sharks; for
immediately suspending the cutting stages over the side, and lowering
three lanterns, so that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid
sea, these two mariners, darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an
incessant murdering of the sharks,* by striking the keen steel deep
into their skulls, seemingly their only vital part. But in the foamy
confusion of their mixed and struggling hosts, the marksmen could not
always hit their mark; and this brought about new revelations of the
incredible ferocity of the foe. They viciously snapped, not only at each
other’s disembowelments, but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit
their own; till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by
the same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound. Nor was
this all. It was unsafe to meddle with the corpses and ghosts of these
creatures. A sort of generic or Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in
their very joints and bones, after what might be called the individual
life had departed. Killed and hoisted on deck for the sake of his skin,
one of these sharks almost took poor Queequeg’s hand off, when he tried
to shut down the dead lid of his murderous jaw.

*The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best steel;
is about the bigness of a man’s spread hand; and in general shape,
corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named; only its
sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably narrower than
the lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as possible; and when
being used is occasionally honed, just like a razor. In its socket, a
stiff pole, from twenty to thirty feet long, is inserted for a handle.

“Queequeg no care what god made him shark,” said the savage, agonizingly
lifting his hand up and down; “wedder Fejee god or Nantucket god; but de
god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin.”

CHAPTER 67. Cutting In.

It was a Saturday night, and such a Sabbath as followed! Ex officio
professors of Sabbath breaking are all whalemen. The ivory Pequod was
turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher. You would
have thought we were offering up ten thousand red oxen to the sea gods.

In the first place, the enormous cutting tackles, among other ponderous
things comprising a cluster of blocks generally painted green, and which
no single man can possibly lift--this vast bunch of grapes was swayed up
to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lower mast-head, the strongest
point anywhere above a ship’s deck. The end of the hawser-like rope
winding through these intricacies, was then conducted to the windlass,
and the huge lower block of the tackles was swung over the whale; to
this block the great blubber hook, weighing some one hundred pounds, was
attached. And now suspended in stages over the side, Starbuck and Stubb,
the mates, armed with their long spades, began cutting a hole in the
body for the insertion of the hook just above the nearest of the two
side-fins. This done, a broad, semicircular line is cut round the hole,
the hook is inserted, and the main body of the crew striking up a wild
chorus, now commence heaving in one dense crowd at the windlass. When
instantly, the entire ship careens over on her side; every bolt in
her starts like the nail-heads of an old house in frosty weather; she
trembles, quivers, and nods her frighted mast-heads to the sky. More
and more she leans over to the whale, while every gasping heave of the
windlass is answered by a helping heave from the billows; till at last,
a swift, startling snap is heard; with a great swash the ship rolls
upwards and backwards from the whale, and the triumphant tackle rises
into sight dragging after it the disengaged semicircular end of the
first strip of blubber. Now as the blubber envelopes the whale precisely
as the rind does an orange, so is it stripped off from the body
precisely as an orange is sometimes stripped by spiralizing it. For the
strain constantly kept up by the windlass continually keeps the whale
rolling over and over in the water, and as the blubber in one strip
uniformly peels off along the line called the “scarf,” simultaneously
cut by the spades of Starbuck and Stubb, the mates; and just as fast as
it is thus peeled off, and indeed by that very act itself, it is all the
time being hoisted higher and higher aloft till its upper end grazes the
main-top; the men at the windlass then cease heaving, and for a moment
or two the prodigious blood-dripping mass sways to and fro as if let
down from the sky, and every one present must take good heed to dodge
it when it swings, else it may box his ears and pitch him headlong

One of the attending harpooneers now advances with a long, keen weapon
called a boarding-sword, and watching his chance he dexterously slices
out a considerable hole in the lower part of the swaying mass. Into this
hole, the end of the second alternating great tackle is then hooked
so as to retain a hold upon the blubber, in order to prepare for what
follows. Whereupon, this accomplished swordsman, warning all hands to
stand off, once more makes a scientific dash at the mass, and with a few
sidelong, desperate, lunging slicings, severs it completely in twain;
so that while the short lower part is still fast, the long upper strip,
called a blanket-piece, swings clear, and is all ready for lowering.
The heavers forward now resume their song, and while the one tackle is
peeling and hoisting a second strip from the whale, the other is slowly
slackened away, and down goes the first strip through the main hatchway
right beneath, into an unfurnished parlor called the blubber-room. Into
this twilight apartment sundry nimble hands keep coiling away the long
blanket-piece as if it were a great live mass of plaited serpents.
And thus the work proceeds; the two tackles hoisting and lowering
simultaneously; both whale and windlass heaving, the heavers singing,
the blubber-room gentlemen coiling, the mates scarfing, the ship
straining, and all hands swearing occasionally, by way of assuaging the
general friction.

CHAPTER 68. The Blanket.

I have given no small attention to that not unvexed subject, the skin of
the whale. I have had controversies about it with experienced whalemen
afloat, and learned naturalists ashore. My original opinion remains
unchanged; but it is only an opinion.

The question is, what and where is the skin of the whale? Already you
know what his blubber is. That blubber is something of the consistence
of firm, close-grained beef, but tougher, more elastic and compact, and
ranges from eight or ten to twelve and fifteen inches in thickness.

Now, however preposterous it may at first seem to talk of any creature’s
skin as being of that sort of consistence and thickness, yet in point
of fact these are no arguments against such a presumption; because you
cannot raise any other dense enveloping layer from the whale’s body but
that same blubber; and the outermost enveloping layer of any animal, if
reasonably dense, what can that be but the skin? True, from the unmarred
dead body of the whale, you may scrape off with your hand an infinitely
thin, transparent substance, somewhat resembling the thinnest shreds
of isinglass, only it is almost as flexible and soft as satin; that is,
previous to being dried, when it not only contracts and thickens, but
becomes rather hard and brittle. I have several such dried bits, which
I use for marks in my whale-books. It is transparent, as I said before;
and being laid upon the printed page, I have sometimes pleased myself
with fancying it exerted a magnifying influence. At any rate, it is
pleasant to read about whales through their own spectacles, as you may
say. But what I am driving at here is this. That same infinitely thin,
isinglass substance, which, I admit, invests the entire body of the
whale, is not so much to be regarded as the skin of the creature, as
the skin of the skin, so to speak; for it were simply ridiculous to say,
that the proper skin of the tremendous whale is thinner and more tender
than the skin of a new-born child. But no more of this.

Assuming the blubber to be the skin of the whale; then, when this skin,
as in the case of a very large Sperm Whale, will yield the bulk of one
hundred barrels of oil; and, when it is considered that, in quantity, or
rather weight, that oil, in its expressed state, is only three fourths,
and not the entire substance of the coat; some idea may hence be had
of the enormousness of that animated mass, a mere part of whose mere
integument yields such a lake of liquid as that. Reckoning ten barrels
to the ton, you have ten tons for the net weight of only three quarters
of the stuff of the whale’s skin.

In life, the visible surface of the Sperm Whale is not the least among
the many marvels he presents. Almost invariably it is all over obliquely
crossed and re-crossed with numberless straight marks in thick array,
something like those in the finest Italian line engravings. But these
marks do not seem to be impressed upon the isinglass substance above
mentioned, but seem to be seen through it, as if they were engraved
upon the body itself. Nor is this all. In some instances, to the quick,
observant eye, those linear marks, as in a veritable engraving, but
afford the ground for far other delineations. These are hieroglyphical;
that is, if you call those mysterious cyphers on the walls of pyramids
hieroglyphics, then that is the proper word to use in the present
connexion. By my retentive memory of the hieroglyphics upon one Sperm
Whale in particular, I was much struck with a plate representing the old
Indian characters chiselled on the famous hieroglyphic palisades on
the banks of the Upper Mississippi. Like those mystic rocks, too, the
mystic-marked whale remains undecipherable. This allusion to the Indian
rocks reminds me of another thing. Besides all the other phenomena which
the exterior of the Sperm Whale presents, he not seldom displays the
back, and more especially his flanks, effaced in great part of the
regular linear appearance, by reason of numerous rude scratches,
altogether of an irregular, random aspect. I should say that those New
England rocks on the sea-coast, which Agassiz imagines to bear the marks
of violent scraping contact with vast floating icebergs--I should say,
that those rocks must not a little resemble the Sperm Whale in this
particular. It also seems to me that such scratches in the whale are
probably made by hostile contact with other whales; for I have most
remarked them in the large, full-grown bulls of the species.

A word or two more concerning this matter of the skin or blubber of
the whale. It has already been said, that it is stript from him in long
pieces, called blanket-pieces. Like most sea-terms, this one is very
happy and significant. For the whale is indeed wrapt up in his blubber
as in a real blanket or counterpane; or, still better, an Indian poncho
slipt over his head, and skirting his extremity. It is by reason of this
cosy blanketing of his body, that the whale is enabled to keep himself
comfortable in all weathers, in all seas, times, and tides. What would
become of a Greenland whale, say, in those shuddering, icy seas of the
North, if unsupplied with his cosy surtout? True, other fish are
found exceedingly brisk in those Hyperborean waters; but these, be it
observed, are your cold-blooded, lungless fish, whose very bellies
are refrigerators; creatures, that warm themselves under the lee of
an iceberg, as a traveller in winter would bask before an inn fire;
whereas, like man, the whale has lungs and warm blood. Freeze his blood,
and he dies. How wonderful is it then--except after explanation--that
this great monster, to whom corporeal warmth is as indispensable as it
is to man; how wonderful that he should be found at home, immersed
to his lips for life in those Arctic waters! where, when seamen fall
overboard, they are sometimes found, months afterwards, perpendicularly
frozen into the hearts of fields of ice, as a fly is found glued
in amber. But more surprising is it to know, as has been proved by
experiment, that the blood of a Polar whale is warmer than that of a
Borneo negro in summer.

It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong
individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare
virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after
the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in
this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood
fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter’s, and like the
great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.

But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things! Of erections,
how few are domed like St. Peter’s! of creatures, how few vast as the

CHAPTER 69. The Funeral.

Haul in the chains! Let the carcase go astern!

The vast tackles have now done their duty. The peeled white body of the
beheaded whale flashes like a marble sepulchre; though changed in hue,
it has not perceptibly lost anything in bulk. It is still colossal.
Slowly it floats more and more away, the water round it torn and
splashed by the insatiate sharks, and the air above vexed with rapacious
flights of screaming fowls, whose beaks are like so many insulting
poniards in the whale. The vast white headless phantom floats further
and further from the ship, and every rod that it so floats, what seem
square roods of sharks and cubic roods of fowls, augment the murderous
din. For hours and hours from the almost stationary ship that hideous
sight is seen. Beneath the unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair
face of the pleasant sea, wafted by the joyous breezes, that great mass
of death floats on and on, till lost in infinite perspectives.

There’s a most doleful and most mocking funeral! The sea-vultures all in
pious mourning, the air-sharks all punctiliously in black or speckled.
In life but few of them would have helped the whale, I ween, if
peradventure he had needed it; but upon the banquet of his funeral they
most piously do pounce. Oh, horrible vultureism of earth! from which not
the mightiest whale is free.

Nor is this the end. Desecrated as the body is, a vengeful ghost
survives and hovers over it to scare. Espied by some timid man-of-war or
blundering discovery-vessel from afar, when the distance obscuring the
swarming fowls, nevertheless still shows the white mass floating in
the sun, and the white spray heaving high against it; straightway the
whale’s unharming corpse, with trembling fingers is set down in the
afterwards, perhaps, ships shun the place; leaping over it as silly
sheep leap over a vacuum, because their leader originally leaped there
when a stick was held. There’s your law of precedents; there’s your
utility of traditions; there’s the story of your obstinate survival of
old beliefs never bottomed on the earth, and now not even hovering in
the air! There’s orthodoxy!

Thus, while in life the great whale’s body may have been a real terror
to his foes, in his death his ghost becomes a powerless panic to a

Are you a believer in ghosts, my friend? There are other ghosts than
the Cock-Lane one, and far deeper men than Doctor Johnson who believe in

CHAPTER 70. The Sphynx.

It should not have been omitted that previous to completely stripping
the body of the leviathan, he was beheaded. Now, the beheading of the
Sperm Whale is a scientific anatomical feat, upon which experienced
whale surgeons very much pride themselves: and not without reason.

Consider that the whale has nothing that can properly be called a neck;
on the contrary, where his head and body seem to join, there, in that
very place, is the thickest part of him. Remember, also, that the
surgeon must operate from above, some eight or ten feet intervening
between him and his subject, and that subject almost hidden in a
discoloured, rolling, and oftentimes tumultuous and bursting sea. Bear
in mind, too, that under these untoward circumstances he has to cut many
feet deep in the flesh; and in that subterraneous manner, without so
much as getting one single peep into the ever-contracting gash thus
made, he must skilfully steer clear of all adjacent, interdicted parts,
and exactly divide the spine at a critical point hard by its insertion
into the skull. Do you not marvel, then, at Stubb’s boast, that he
demanded but ten minutes to behead a sperm whale?

When first severed, the head is dropped astern and held there by a cable
till the body is stripped. That done, if it belong to a small whale
it is hoisted on deck to be deliberately disposed of. But, with a full
grown leviathan this is impossible; for the sperm whale’s head embraces
nearly one third of his entire bulk, and completely to suspend such a
burden as that, even by the immense tackles of a whaler, this were as
vain a thing as to attempt weighing a Dutch barn in jewellers’ scales.

The Pequod’s whale being decapitated and the body stripped, the head was
hoisted against the ship’s side--about half way out of the sea, so that
it might yet in great part be buoyed up by its native element. And there
with the strained craft steeply leaning over to it, by reason of the
enormous downward drag from the lower mast-head, and every yard-arm
on that side projecting like a crane over the waves; there, that
blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod’s waist like the giant
Holofernes’s from the girdle of Judith.

When this last task was accomplished it was noon, and the seamen went
below to their dinner. Silence reigned over the before tumultuous but
now deserted deck. An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow
lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless measureless leaves upon
the sea.

A short space elapsed, and up into this noiselessness came Ahab alone
from his cabin. Taking a few turns on the quarter-deck, he paused to
gaze over the side, then slowly getting into the main-chains he
took Stubb’s long spade--still remaining there after the whale’s
Decapitation--and striking it into the lower part of the half-suspended
mass, placed its other end crutch-wise under one arm, and so stood
leaning over with eyes attentively fixed on this head.

It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst of so
intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx’s in the desert. “Speak, thou vast
and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a
beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head,
and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast
dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has
moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies
rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this
frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there,
in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast
been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side,
where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou
saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart
to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when
heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed
by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper
midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on
unharmed--while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that
would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O
head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of
Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!”

“Sail ho!” cried a triumphant voice from the main-mast-head.

“Aye? Well, now, that’s cheering,” cried Ahab, suddenly erecting
himself, while whole thunder-clouds swept aside from his brow.
“That lively cry upon this deadly calm might almost convert a better
man.--Where away?”

“Three points on the starboard bow, sir, and bringing down her breeze to

“Better and better, man. Would now St. Paul would come along that way,
and to my breezelessness bring his breeze! O Nature, and O soul of man!
how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest
atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.”

CHAPTER 71. The Jeroboam’s Story.

Hand in hand, ship and breeze blew on; but the breeze came faster than
the ship, and soon the Pequod began to rock.

By and by, through the glass the stranger’s boats and manned mast-heads
proved her a whale-ship. But as she was so far to windward, and shooting
by, apparently making a passage to some other ground, the Pequod could
not hope to reach her. So the signal was set to see what response would
be made.

Here be it said, that like the vessels of military marines, the ships of
the American Whale Fleet have each a private signal; all which signals
being collected in a book with the names of the respective vessels
attached, every captain is provided with it. Thereby, the whale
commanders are enabled to recognise each other upon the ocean, even at
considerable distances and with no small facility.

The Pequod’s signal was at last responded to by the stranger’s setting
her own; which proved the ship to be the Jeroboam of Nantucket. Squaring
her yards, she bore down, ranged abeam under the Pequod’s lee, and
lowered a boat; it soon drew nigh; but, as the side-ladder was being
rigged by Starbuck’s order to accommodate the visiting captain, the
stranger in question waved his hand from his boat’s stern in token
of that proceeding being entirely unnecessary. It turned out that
the Jeroboam had a malignant epidemic on board, and that Mayhew, her
captain, was fearful of infecting the Pequod’s company. For, though
himself and boat’s crew remained untainted, and though his ship was half
a rifle-shot off, and an incorruptible sea and air rolling and flowing
between; yet conscientiously adhering to the timid quarantine of the
land, he peremptorily refused to come into direct contact with the

But this did by no means prevent all communications. Preserving an
interval of some few yards between itself and the ship, the Jeroboam’s
boat by the occasional use of its oars contrived to keep parallel to the
Pequod, as she heavily forged through the sea (for by this time it blew
very fresh), with her main-topsail aback; though, indeed, at times by
the sudden onset of a large rolling wave, the boat would be pushed some
way ahead; but would be soon skilfully brought to her proper bearings
again. Subject to this, and other the like interruptions now and then, a
conversation was sustained between the two parties; but at intervals not
without still another interruption of a very different sort.

Pulling an oar in the Jeroboam’s boat, was a man of a singular
appearance, even in that wild whaling life where individual notabilities
make up all totalities. He was a small, short, youngish man, sprinkled
all over his face with freckles, and wearing redundant yellow hair. A
long-skirted, cabalistically-cut coat of a faded walnut tinge enveloped
him; the overlapping sleeves of which were rolled up on his wrists. A
deep, settled, fanatic delirium was in his eyes.

So soon as this figure had been first descried, Stubb had
exclaimed--“That’s he! that’s he!--the long-togged scaramouch the
Town-Ho’s company told us of!” Stubb here alluded to a strange story
told of the Jeroboam, and a certain man among her crew, some time
previous when the Pequod spoke the Town-Ho. According to this account
and what was subsequently learned, it seemed that the scaramouch in
question had gained a wonderful ascendency over almost everybody in the
Jeroboam. His story was this:

He had been originally nurtured among the crazy society of Neskyeuna
Shakers, where he had been a great prophet; in their cracked, secret
meetings having several times descended from heaven by the way of a
trap-door, announcing the speedy opening of the seventh vial, which he
carried in his vest-pocket; but, which, instead of containing gunpowder,
was supposed to be charged with laudanum. A strange, apostolic whim
having seized him, he had left Neskyeuna for Nantucket, where, with
that cunning peculiar to craziness, he assumed a steady, common-sense
exterior, and offered himself as a green-hand candidate for the
Jeroboam’s whaling voyage. They engaged him; but straightway upon
the ship’s getting out of sight of land, his insanity broke out in a
freshet. He announced himself as the archangel Gabriel, and commanded
the captain to jump overboard. He published his manifesto, whereby
he set himself forth as the deliverer of the isles of the sea and
vicar-general of all Oceanica. The unflinching earnestness with which he
declared these things;--the dark, daring play of his sleepless, excited
imagination, and all the preternatural terrors of real delirium, united
to invest this Gabriel in the minds of the majority of the ignorant
crew, with an atmosphere of sacredness. Moreover, they were afraid of
him. As such a man, however, was not of much practical use in the ship,
especially as he refused to work except when he pleased, the incredulous
captain would fain have been rid of him; but apprised that that
individual’s intention was to land him in the first convenient port, the
archangel forthwith opened all his seals and vials--devoting the ship
and all hands to unconditional perdition, in case this intention was
carried out. So strongly did he work upon his disciples among the crew,
that at last in a body they went to the captain and told him if Gabriel
was sent from the ship, not a man of them would remain. He was therefore
forced to relinquish his plan. Nor would they permit Gabriel to be any
way maltreated, say or do what he would; so that it came to pass that
Gabriel had the complete freedom of the ship. The consequence of all
this was, that the archangel cared little or nothing for the captain and
mates; and since the epidemic had broken out, he carried a higher hand
than ever; declaring that the plague, as he called it, was at his sole
command; nor should it be stayed but according to his good pleasure.
The sailors, mostly poor devils, cringed, and some of them fawned before
him; in obedience to his instructions, sometimes rendering him personal
homage, as to a god. Such things may seem incredible; but, however
wondrous, they are true. Nor is the history of fanatics half so striking
in respect to the measureless self-deception of the fanatic himself, as
his measureless power of deceiving and bedevilling so many others. But
it is time to return to the Pequod.

“I fear not thy epidemic, man,” said Ahab from the bulwarks, to Captain
Mayhew, who stood in the boat’s stern; “come on board.”

But now Gabriel started to his feet.

“Think, think of the fevers, yellow and bilious! Beware of the horrible

“Gabriel! Gabriel!” cried Captain Mayhew; “thou must either--” But
that instant a headlong wave shot the boat far ahead, and its seethings
drowned all speech.

“Hast thou seen the White Whale?” demanded Ahab, when the boat drifted

“Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk! Beware of the horrible

“I tell thee again, Gabriel, that--” But again the boat tore ahead as if
dragged by fiends. Nothing was said for some moments, while a succession
of riotous waves rolled by, which by one of those occasional caprices
of the seas were tumbling, not heaving it. Meantime, the hoisted sperm
whale’s head jogged about very violently, and Gabriel was seen eyeing
it with rather more apprehensiveness than his archangel nature seemed to

When this interlude was over, Captain Mayhew began a dark story
concerning Moby Dick; not, however, without frequent interruptions from
Gabriel, whenever his name was mentioned, and the crazy sea that seemed
leagued with him.

It seemed that the Jeroboam had not long left home, when upon speaking
a whale-ship, her people were reliably apprised of the existence of Moby
Dick, and the havoc he had made. Greedily sucking in this intelligence,
Gabriel solemnly warned the captain against attacking the White
Whale, in case the monster should be seen; in his gibbering insanity,
pronouncing the White Whale to be no less a being than the Shaker God
incarnated; the Shakers receiving the Bible. But when, some year or two
afterwards, Moby Dick was fairly sighted from the mast-heads, Macey, the
chief mate, burned with ardour to encounter him; and the captain himself
being not unwilling to let him have the opportunity, despite all
the archangel’s denunciations and forewarnings, Macey succeeded in
persuading five men to man his boat. With them he pushed off; and, after
much weary pulling, and many perilous, unsuccessful onsets, he at last
succeeded in getting one iron fast. Meantime, Gabriel, ascending to
the main-royal mast-head, was tossing one arm in frantic gestures, and
hurling forth prophecies of speedy doom to the sacrilegious assailants
of his divinity. Now, while Macey, the mate, was standing up in his
boat’s bow, and with all the reckless energy of his tribe was venting
his wild exclamations upon the whale, and essaying to get a fair chance
for his poised lance, lo! a broad white shadow rose from the sea; by its
quick, fanning motion, temporarily taking the breath out of the bodies
of the oarsmen. Next instant, the luckless mate, so full of furious
life, was smitten bodily into the air, and making a long arc in his
descent, fell into the sea at the distance of about fifty yards. Not a
chip of the boat was harmed, nor a hair of any oarsman’s head; but the
mate for ever sank.

It is well to parenthesize here, that of the fatal accidents in the
Sperm-Whale Fishery, this kind is perhaps almost as frequent as any.
Sometimes, nothing is injured but the man who is thus annihilated;
oftener the boat’s bow is knocked off, or the thigh-board, in which the
headsman stands, is torn from its place and accompanies the body. But
strangest of all is the circumstance, that in more instances than one,
when the body has been recovered, not a single mark of violence is
discernible; the man being stark dead.

The whole calamity, with the falling form of Macey, was plainly descried
from the ship. Raising a piercing shriek--“The vial! the vial!” Gabriel
called off the terror-stricken crew from the further hunting of the
whale. This terrible event clothed the archangel with added influence;
because his credulous disciples believed that he had specifically
fore-announced it, instead of only making a general prophecy, which any
one might have done, and so have chanced to hit one of many marks in the
wide margin allowed. He became a nameless terror to the ship.

Mayhew having concluded his narration, Ahab put such questions to
him, that the stranger captain could not forbear inquiring whether he
intended to hunt the White Whale, if opportunity should offer. To which
Ahab answered--“Aye.” Straightway, then, Gabriel once more started
to his feet, glaring upon the old man, and vehemently exclaimed, with
downward pointed finger--“Think, think of the blasphemer--dead, and down
there!--beware of the blasphemer’s end!”

Ahab stolidly turned aside; then said to Mayhew, “Captain, I have
just bethought me of my letter-bag; there is a letter for one of thy
officers, if I mistake not. Starbuck, look over the bag.”

Every whale-ship takes out a goodly number of letters for various ships,
whose delivery to the persons to whom they may be addressed, depends
upon the mere chance of encountering them in the four oceans. Thus,
most letters never reach their mark; and many are only received after
attaining an age of two or three years or more.

Soon Starbuck returned with a letter in his hand. It was sorely tumbled,
damp, and covered with a dull, spotted, green mould, in consequence
of being kept in a dark locker of the cabin. Of such a letter, Death
himself might well have been the post-boy.

“Can’st not read it?” cried Ahab. “Give it me, man. Aye, aye, it’s but
a dim scrawl;--what’s this?” As he was studying it out, Starbuck took a
long cutting-spade pole, and with his knife slightly split the end, to
insert the letter there, and in that way, hand it to the boat, without
its coming any closer to the ship.

Meantime, Ahab holding the letter, muttered, “Mr. Har--yes, Mr.
Harry--(a woman’s pinny hand,--the man’s wife, I’ll wager)--Aye--Mr.
Harry Macey, Ship Jeroboam;--why it’s Macey, and he’s dead!”

“Poor fellow! poor fellow! and from his wife,” sighed Mayhew; “but let
me have it.”

“Nay, keep it thyself,” cried Gabriel to Ahab; “thou art soon going that

“Curses throttle thee!” yelled Ahab. “Captain Mayhew, stand by now to
receive it”; and taking the fatal missive from Starbuck’s hands, he
caught it in the slit of the pole, and reached it over towards the boat.
But as he did so, the oarsmen expectantly desisted from rowing; the boat
drifted a little towards the ship’s stern; so that, as if by magic, the
letter suddenly ranged along with Gabriel’s eager hand. He clutched it
in an instant, seized the boat-knife, and impaling the letter on it,
sent it thus loaded back into the ship. It fell at Ahab’s feet. Then
Gabriel shrieked out to his comrades to give way with their oars, and in
that manner the mutinous boat rapidly shot away from the Pequod.

As, after this interlude, the seamen resumed their work upon the jacket
of the whale, many strange things were hinted in reference to this wild

CHAPTER 72. The Monkey-Rope.

In the tumultuous business of cutting-in and attending to a whale, there
is much running backwards and forwards among the crew. Now hands are
wanted here, and then again hands are wanted there. There is no staying
in any one place; for at one and the same time everything has to be done
everywhere. It is much the same with him who endeavors the description
of the scene. We must now retrace our way a little. It was mentioned
that upon first breaking ground in the whale’s back, the blubber-hook
was inserted into the original hole there cut by the spades of the
mates. But how did so clumsy and weighty a mass as that same hook
get fixed in that hole? It was inserted there by my particular friend
Queequeg, whose duty it was, as harpooneer, to descend upon the
monster’s back for the special purpose referred to. But in very many
cases, circumstances require that the harpooneer shall remain on the
whale till the whole flensing or stripping operation is concluded. The
whale, be it observed, lies almost entirely submerged, excepting the
immediate parts operated upon. So down there, some ten feet below the
level of the deck, the poor harpooneer flounders about, half on the
whale and half in the water, as the vast mass revolves like a tread-mill
beneath him. On the occasion in question, Queequeg figured in the
Highland costume--a shirt and socks--in which to my eyes, at least,
he appeared to uncommon advantage; and no one had a better chance to
observe him, as will presently be seen.

Being the savage’s bowsman, that is, the person who pulled the bow-oar
in his boat (the second one from forward), it was my cheerful duty to
attend upon him while taking that hard-scrabble scramble upon the dead
whale’s back. You have seen Italian organ-boys holding a dancing-ape by
a long cord. Just so, from the ship’s steep side, did I hold Queequeg
down there in the sea, by what is technically called in the fishery
a monkey-rope, attached to a strong strip of canvas belted round his

It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For, before we
proceed further, it must be said that the monkey-rope was fast at
both ends; fast to Queequeg’s broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow
leather one. So that for better or for worse, we two, for the time, were
wedded; and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more, then both usage
and honour demanded, that instead of cutting the cord, it should drag
me down in his wake. So, then, an elongated Siamese ligature united us.
Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother; nor could I any way get
rid of the dangerous liabilities which the hempen bond entailed.

So strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation then, that
while earnestly watching his motions, I seemed distinctly to perceive
that my own individuality was now merged in a joint stock company of
two; that my free will had received a mortal wound; and that another’s
mistake or misfortune might plunge innocent me into unmerited disaster
and death. Therefore, I saw that here was a sort of interregnum in
Providence; for its even-handed equity never could have so gross an
injustice. And yet still further pondering--while I jerked him now
and then from between the whale and ship, which would threaten to jam
him--still further pondering, I say, I saw that this situation of mine
was the precise situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in most
cases, he, one way or other, has this Siamese connexion with a plurality
of other mortals. If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by
mistake sends you poison in your pills, you die. True, you may say
that, by exceeding caution, you may possibly escape these and the
multitudinous other evil chances of life. But handle Queequeg’s
monkey-rope heedfully as I would, sometimes he jerked it so, that I came
very near sliding overboard. Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I
would, I only had the management of one end of it.*

*The monkey-rope is found in all whalers; but it was only in the Pequod
that the monkey and his holder were ever tied together. This improvement
upon the original usage was introduced by no less a man than Stubb,
in order to afford the imperilled harpooneer the strongest possible
guarantee for the faithfulness and vigilance of his monkey-rope holder.

I have hinted that I would often jerk poor Queequeg from between the
whale and the ship--where he would occasionally fall, from the incessant
rolling and swaying of both. But this was not the only jamming jeopardy
he was exposed to. Unappalled by the massacre made upon them during the
night, the sharks now freshly and more keenly allured by the before pent
blood which began to flow from the carcass--the rabid creatures swarmed
round it like bees in a beehive.

And right in among those sharks was Queequeg; who often pushed them
aside with his floundering feet. A thing altogether incredible were
it not that attracted by such prey as a dead whale, the otherwise
miscellaneously carnivorous shark will seldom touch a man.

Nevertheless, it may well be believed that since they have such a
ravenous finger in the pie, it is deemed but wise to look sharp to them.
Accordingly, besides the monkey-rope, with which I now and then jerked
the poor fellow from too close a vicinity to the maw of what seemed
a peculiarly ferocious shark--he was provided with still another
protection. Suspended over the side in one of the stages, Tashtego
and Daggoo continually flourished over his head a couple of keen
whale-spades, wherewith they slaughtered as many sharks as they could
reach. This procedure of theirs, to be sure, was very disinterested and
benevolent of them. They meant Queequeg’s best happiness, I admit; but
in their hasty zeal to befriend him, and from the circumstance that both
he and the sharks were at times half hidden by the blood-muddled water,
those indiscreet spades of theirs would come nearer amputating a leg
than a tail. But poor Queequeg, I suppose, straining and gasping there
with that great iron hook--poor Queequeg, I suppose, only prayed to his
Yojo, and gave up his life into the hands of his gods.

Well, well, my dear comrade and twin-brother, thought I, as I drew in
and then slacked off the rope to every swell of the sea--what matters
it, after all? Are you not the precious image of each and all of us men
in this whaling world? That unsounded ocean you gasp in, is Life; those
sharks, your foes; those spades, your friends; and what between sharks
and spades you are in a sad pickle and peril, poor lad.

But courage! there is good cheer in store for you, Queequeg. For now, as
with blue lips and blood-shot eyes the exhausted savage at last climbs
up the chains and stands all dripping and involuntarily trembling over
the side; the steward advances, and with a benevolent, consolatory
glance hands him--what? Some hot Cognac? No! hands him, ye gods! hands
him a cup of tepid ginger and water!

“Ginger? Do I smell ginger?” suspiciously asked Stubb, coming near.
“Yes, this must be ginger,” peering into the as yet untasted cup. Then
standing as if incredulous for a while, he calmly walked towards the
astonished steward slowly saying, “Ginger? ginger? and will you have
the goodness to tell me, Mr. Dough-Boy, where lies the virtue of ginger?
Ginger! is ginger the sort of fuel you use, Dough-boy, to kindle a fire
in this shivering cannibal? Ginger!--what the devil is ginger?
Sea-coal? firewood?--lucifer matches?--tinder?--gunpowder?--what the
devil is ginger, I say, that you offer this cup to our poor Queequeg

“There is some sneaking Temperance Society movement about this
business,” he suddenly added, now approaching Starbuck, who had just
come from forward. “Will you look at that kannakin, sir; smell of it,
if you please.” Then watching the mate’s countenance, he added, “The
steward, Mr. Starbuck, had the face to offer that calomel and jalap
to Queequeg, there, this instant off the whale. Is the steward an
apothecary, sir? and may I ask whether this is the sort of bitters by
which he blows back the life into a half-drowned man?”

“I trust not,” said Starbuck, “it is poor stuff enough.”

“Aye, aye, steward,” cried Stubb, “we’ll teach you to drug a
harpooneer; none of your apothecary’s medicine here; you want to poison
us, do ye? You have got out insurances on our lives and want to murder
us all, and pocket the proceeds, do ye?”

“It was not me,” cried Dough-Boy, “it was Aunt Charity that brought the
ginger on board; and bade me never give the harpooneers any spirits, but
only this ginger-jub--so she called it.”

“Ginger-jub! you gingerly rascal! take that! and run along with ye
to the lockers, and get something better. I hope I do no wrong, Mr.
Starbuck. It is the captain’s orders--grog for the harpooneer on a

“Enough,” replied Starbuck, “only don’t hit him again, but--”

“Oh, I never hurt when I hit, except when I hit a whale or something of
that sort; and this fellow’s a weazel. What were you about saying, sir?”

“Only this: go down with him, and get what thou wantest thyself.”

When Stubb reappeared, he came with a dark flask in one hand, and a sort
of tea-caddy in the other. The first contained strong spirits, and was
handed to Queequeg; the second was Aunt Charity’s gift, and that was
freely given to the waves.

CHAPTER 73. Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk
Over Him.

It must be borne in mind that all this time we have a Sperm Whale’s
prodigious head hanging to the Pequod’s side. But we must let it
continue hanging there a while till we can get a chance to attend to it.
For the present other matters press, and the best we can do now for the
head, is to pray heaven the tackles may hold.

Now, during the past night and forenoon, the Pequod had gradually
drifted into a sea, which, by its occasional patches of yellow brit,
gave unusual tokens of the vicinity of Right Whales, a species of the
Leviathan that but few supposed to be at this particular time lurking
anywhere near. And though all hands commonly disdained the capture of
those inferior creatures; and though the Pequod was not commissioned to
cruise for them at all, and though she had passed numbers of them near
the Crozetts without lowering a boat; yet now that a Sperm Whale
had been brought alongside and beheaded, to the surprise of all, the
announcement was made that a Right Whale should be captured that day, if
opportunity offered.

Nor was this long wanting. Tall spouts were seen to leeward; and two
boats, Stubb’s and Flask’s, were detached in pursuit. Pulling further
and further away, they at last became almost invisible to the men at
the mast-head. But suddenly in the distance, they saw a great heap of
tumultuous white water, and soon after news came from aloft that one or
both the boats must be fast. An interval passed and the boats were in
plain sight, in the act of being dragged right towards the ship by the
towing whale. So close did the monster come to the hull, that at
first it seemed as if he meant it malice; but suddenly going down in a
maelstrom, within three rods of the planks, he wholly disappeared from
view, as if diving under the keel. “Cut, cut!” was the cry from the
ship to the boats, which, for one instant, seemed on the point of being
brought with a deadly dash against the vessel’s side. But having plenty
of line yet in the tubs, and the whale not sounding very rapidly, they
paid out abundance of rope, and at the same time pulled with all their
might so as to get ahead of the ship. For a few minutes the struggle was
intensely critical; for while they still slacked out the tightened line
in one direction, and still plied their oars in another, the contending
strain threatened to take them under. But it was only a few feet advance
they sought to gain. And they stuck to it till they did gain it; when
instantly, a swift tremor was felt running like lightning along the
keel, as the strained line, scraping beneath the ship, suddenly rose
to view under her bows, snapping and quivering; and so flinging off its
drippings, that the drops fell like bits of broken glass on the water,
while the whale beyond also rose to sight, and once more the boats were
free to fly. But the fagged whale abated his speed, and blindly altering
his course, went round the stern of the ship towing the two boats after
him, so that they performed a complete circuit.

Meantime, they hauled more and more upon their lines, till close
flanking him on both sides, Stubb answered Flask with lance for
lance; and thus round and round the Pequod the battle went, while the
multitudes of sharks that had before swum round the Sperm Whale’s body,
rushed to the fresh blood that was spilled, thirstily drinking at every
new gash, as the eager Israelites did at the new bursting fountains that
poured from the smitten rock.

At last his spout grew thick, and with a frightful roll and vomit, he
turned upon his back a corpse.

While the two headsmen were engaged in making fast cords to his flukes,
and in other ways getting the mass in readiness for towing, some
conversation ensued between them.

“I wonder what the old man wants with this lump of foul lard,” said
Stubb, not without some disgust at the thought of having to do with so
ignoble a leviathan.

“Wants with it?” said Flask, coiling some spare line in the boat’s bow,
“did you never hear that the ship which but once has a Sperm Whale’s
head hoisted on her starboard side, and at the same time a Right Whale’s
on the larboard; did you never hear, Stubb, that that ship can never
afterwards capsize?”

“Why not?

“I don’t know, but I heard that gamboge ghost of a Fedallah saying so,
and he seems to know all about ships’ charms. But I sometimes think
he’ll charm the ship to no good at last. I don’t half like that chap,
Stubb. Did you ever notice how that tusk of his is a sort of carved into
a snake’s head, Stubb?”

“Sink him! I never look at him at all; but if ever I get a chance of a
dark night, and he standing hard by the bulwarks, and no one by; look
down there, Flask”--pointing into the sea with a peculiar motion of
both hands--“Aye, will I! Flask, I take that Fedallah to be the devil in
disguise. Do you believe that cock and bull story about his having been
stowed away on board ship? He’s the devil, I say. The reason why you
don’t see his tail, is because he tucks it up out of sight; he carries
it coiled away in his pocket, I guess. Blast him! now that I think of
it, he’s always wanting oakum to stuff into the toes of his boots.”

“He sleeps in his boots, don’t he? He hasn’t got any hammock; but I’ve
seen him lay of nights in a coil of rigging.”

“No doubt, and it’s because of his cursed tail; he coils it down, do ye
see, in the eye of the rigging.”

“What’s the old man have so much to do with him for?”

“Striking up a swap or a bargain, I suppose.”

“Bargain?--about what?”

“Why, do ye see, the old man is hard bent after that White Whale, and
the devil there is trying to come round him, and get him to swap away
his silver watch, or his soul, or something of that sort, and then he’ll
surrender Moby Dick.”

“Pooh! Stubb, you are skylarking; how can Fedallah do that?”

“I don’t know, Flask, but the devil is a curious chap, and a wicked
one, I tell ye. Why, they say as how he went a sauntering into the
old flag-ship once, switching his tail about devilish easy and
gentlemanlike, and inquiring if the old governor was at home. Well, he
was at home, and asked the devil what he wanted. The devil, switching
his hoofs, up and says, ‘I want John.’ ‘What for?’ says the old
governor. ‘What business is that of yours,’ says the devil, getting
mad,--‘I want to use him.’ ‘Take him,’ says the governor--and by the
Lord, Flask, if the devil didn’t give John the Asiatic cholera before
he got through with him, I’ll eat this whale in one mouthful. But look
sharp--ain’t you all ready there? Well, then, pull ahead, and let’s get
the whale alongside.”

“I think I remember some such story as you were telling,” said Flask,
when at last the two boats were slowly advancing with their burden
towards the ship, “but I can’t remember where.”

“Three Spaniards? Adventures of those three bloody-minded soladoes? Did
ye read it there, Flask? I guess ye did?”

“No: never saw such a book; heard of it, though. But now, tell me,
Stubb, do you suppose that that devil you was speaking of just now, was
the same you say is now on board the Pequod?”

“Am I the same man that helped kill this whale? Doesn’t the devil live
for ever; who ever heard that the devil was dead? Did you ever see
any parson a wearing mourning for the devil? And if the devil has a
latch-key to get into the admiral’s cabin, don’t you suppose he can
crawl into a porthole? Tell me that, Mr. Flask?”

“How old do you suppose Fedallah is, Stubb?”

“Do you see that mainmast there?” pointing to the ship; “well, that’s
the figure one; now take all the hoops in the Pequod’s hold, and string
along in a row with that mast, for oughts, do you see; well, that
wouldn’t begin to be Fedallah’s age. Nor all the coopers in creation
couldn’t show hoops enough to make oughts enough.”

“But see here, Stubb, I thought you a little boasted just now, that you
meant to give Fedallah a sea-toss, if you got a good chance. Now, if
he’s so old as all those hoops of yours come to, and if he is going
to live for ever, what good will it do to pitch him overboard--tell me

“Give him a good ducking, anyhow.”

“But he’d crawl back.”

“Duck him again; and keep ducking him.”

“Suppose he should take it into his head to duck you, though--yes, and
drown you--what then?”

“I should like to see him try it; I’d give him such a pair of black eyes
that he wouldn’t dare to show his face in the admiral’s cabin again for
a long while, let alone down in the orlop there, where he lives, and
hereabouts on the upper decks where he sneaks so much. Damn the devil,
Flask; so you suppose I’m afraid of the devil? Who’s afraid of
him, except the old governor who daresn’t catch him and put him in
double-darbies, as he deserves, but lets him go about kidnapping
people; aye, and signed a bond with him, that all the people the devil
kidnapped, he’d roast for him? There’s a governor!”

“Do you suppose Fedallah wants to kidnap Captain Ahab?”

“Do I suppose it? You’ll know it before long, Flask. But I am going now
to keep a sharp look-out on him; and if I see anything very suspicious
going on, I’ll just take him by the nape of his neck, and say--Look
here, Beelzebub, you don’t do it; and if he makes any fuss, by the Lord
I’ll make a grab into his pocket for his tail, take it to the capstan,
and give him such a wrenching and heaving, that his tail will come short
off at the stump--do you see; and then, I rather guess when he finds
himself docked in that queer fashion, he’ll sneak off without the poor
satisfaction of feeling his tail between his legs.”

“And what will you do with the tail, Stubb?”

“Do with it? Sell it for an ox whip when we get home;--what else?”

“Now, do you mean what you say, and have been saying all along, Stubb?”

“Mean or not mean, here we are at the ship.”

The boats were here hailed, to tow the whale on the larboard side, where
fluke chains and other necessaries were already prepared for securing

“Didn’t I tell you so?” said Flask; “yes, you’ll soon see this right
whale’s head hoisted up opposite that parmacetti’s.”

In good time, Flask’s saying proved true. As before, the Pequod steeply
leaned over towards the sperm whale’s head, now, by the counterpoise of
both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may
well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke’s head, you go
over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant’s and you come
back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep
trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard,
and then you will float light and right.

In disposing of the body of a right whale, when brought alongside the
ship, the same preliminary proceedings commonly take place as in the
case of a sperm whale; only, in the latter instance, the head is cut off
whole, but in the former the lips and tongue are separately removed and
hoisted on deck, with all the well known black bone attached to what is
called the crown-piece. But nothing like this, in the present case,
had been done. The carcases of both whales had dropped astern; and
the head-laden ship not a little resembled a mule carrying a pair of
overburdening panniers.

Meantime, Fedallah was calmly eyeing the right whale’s head, and ever
and anon glancing from the deep wrinkles there to the lines in his own
hand. And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow;
while, if the Parsee’s shadow was there at all it seemed only to
blend with, and lengthen Ahab’s. As the crew toiled on, Laplandish
speculations were bandied among them, concerning all these passing

CHAPTER 74. The Sperm Whale’s Head--Contrasted View.

Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let us
join them, and lay together our own.

Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right
Whale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only whales regularly
hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present the two extremes of all
the known varieties of the whale. As the external difference between
them is mainly observable in their heads; and as a head of each is this
moment hanging from the Pequod’s side; and as we may freely go from one
to the other, by merely stepping across the deck:--where, I should like
to know, will you obtain a better chance to study practical cetology
than here?

In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast between these
heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but there is a certain
mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale’s which the Right Whale’s sadly
lacks. There is more character in the Sperm Whale’s head. As you behold
it, you involuntarily yield the immense superiority to him, in point
of pervading dignity. In the present instance, too, this dignity is
heightened by the pepper and salt colour of his head at the summit,
giving token of advanced age and large experience. In short, he is what
the fishermen technically call a “grey-headed whale.”

Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these heads--namely, the two
most important organs, the eye and the ear. Far back on the side of
the head, and low down, near the angle of either whale’s jaw, if you
narrowly search, you will at last see a lashless eye, which you would
fancy to be a young colt’s eye; so out of all proportion is it to the
magnitude of the head.

Now, from this peculiar sideway position of the whale’s eyes, it is
plain that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more
than he can one exactly astern. In a word, the position of the whale’s
eyes corresponds to that of a man’s ears; and you may fancy, for
yourself, how it would fare with you, did you sideways survey objects
through your ears. You would find that you could only command some
thirty degrees of vision in advance of the straight side-line of sight;
and about thirty more behind it. If your bitterest foe were walking
straight towards you, with dagger uplifted in broad day, you would not
be able to see him, any more than if he were stealing upon you from
behind. In a word, you would have two backs, so to speak; but, at the
same time, also, two fronts (side fronts): for what is it that makes the
front of a man--what, indeed, but his eyes?

Moreover, while in most other animals that I can now think of, the eyes
are so planted as imperceptibly to blend their visual power, so as to
produce one picture and not two to the brain; the peculiar position of
the whale’s eyes, effectually divided as they are by many cubic feet of
solid head, which towers between them like a great mountain separating
two lakes in valleys; this, of course, must wholly separate the
impressions which each independent organ imparts. The whale, therefore,
must see one distinct picture on this side, and another distinct
picture on that side; while all between must be profound darkness and
nothingness to him. Man may, in effect, be said to look out on the world
from a sentry-box with two joined sashes for his window. But with the
whale, these two sashes are separately inserted, making two distinct
windows, but sadly impairing the view. This peculiarity of the whale’s
eyes is a thing always to be borne in mind in the fishery; and to be
remembered by the reader in some subsequent scenes.

A curious and most puzzling question might be started concerning this
visual matter as touching the Leviathan. But I must be content with a
hint. So long as a man’s eyes are open in the light, the act of seeing
is involuntary; that is, he cannot then help mechanically seeing
whatever objects are before him. Nevertheless, any one’s experience
will teach him, that though he can take in an undiscriminating sweep of
things at one glance, it is quite impossible for him, attentively,
and completely, to examine any two things--however large or however
small--at one and the same instant of time; never mind if they lie side
by side and touch each other. But if you now come to separate these two
objects, and surround each by a circle of profound darkness; then, in
order to see one of them, in such a manner as to bring your mind to
bear on it, the other will be utterly excluded from your contemporary
consciousness. How is it, then, with the whale? True, both his eyes,
in themselves, must simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more
comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man’s, that he can at the same
moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one
side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction? If he
can, then is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if a man were able
simultaneously to go through the demonstrations of two distinct problems
in Euclid. Nor, strictly investigated, is there any incongruity in this

It may be but an idle whim, but it has always seemed to me, that the
extraordinary vacillations of movement displayed by some whales when
beset by three or four boats; the timidity and liability to queer
frights, so common to such whales; I think that all this indirectly
proceeds from the helpless perplexity of volition, in which their
divided and diametrically opposite powers of vision must involve them.

But the ear of the whale is full as curious as the eye. If you are an
entire stranger to their race, you might hunt over these two heads
for hours, and never discover that organ. The ear has no external leaf
whatever; and into the hole itself you can hardly insert a quill, so
wondrously minute is it. It is lodged a little behind the eye. With
respect to their ears, this important difference is to be observed
between the sperm whale and the right. While the ear of the former has
an external opening, that of the latter is entirely and evenly covered
over with a membrane, so as to be quite imperceptible from without.

Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the
world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which
is smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of
Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of
cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of
hearing? Not at all.--Why then do you try to “enlarge” your mind?
Subtilize it.

Let us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand, cant
over the sperm whale’s head, that it may lie bottom up; then, ascending
by a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the mouth; and were it not
that the body is now completely separated from it, with a lantern we
might descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth Cave of his stomach. But
let us hold on here by this tooth, and look about us where we are. What
a really beautiful and chaste-looking mouth! from floor to ceiling,
lined, or rather papered with a glistening white membrane, glossy as
bridal satins.

But come out now, and look at this portentous lower jaw, which seems
like the long narrow lid of an immense snuff-box, with the hinge at one
end, instead of one side. If you pry it up, so as to get it overhead,
and expose its rows of teeth, it seems a terrific portcullis; and such,
alas! it proves to many a poor wight in the fishery, upon whom these
spikes fall with impaling force. But far more terrible is it to behold,
when fathoms down in the sea, you see some sulky whale, floating there
suspended, with his prodigious jaw, some fifteen feet long, hanging
straight down at right-angles with his body, for all the world like a
ship’s jib-boom. This whale is not dead; he is only dispirited; out of
sorts, perhaps; hypochondriac; and so supine, that the hinges of his
jaw have relaxed, leaving him there in that ungainly sort of plight, a
reproach to all his tribe, who must, no doubt, imprecate lock-jaws upon

In most cases this lower jaw--being easily unhinged by a practised
artist--is disengaged and hoisted on deck for the purpose of extracting
the ivory teeth, and furnishing a supply of that hard white whalebone
with which the fishermen fashion all sorts of curious articles,
including canes, umbrella-stocks, and handles to riding-whips.

With a long, weary hoist the jaw is dragged on board, as if it were an
anchor; and when the proper time comes--some few days after the other
work--Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego, being all accomplished dentists,
are set to drawing teeth. With a keen cutting-spade, Queequeg lances
the gums; then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts, and a tackle being
rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as Michigan oxen drag
stumps of old oaks out of wild wood lands. There are generally forty-two
teeth in all; in old whales, much worn down, but undecayed; nor filled
after our artificial fashion. The jaw is afterwards sawn into slabs, and
piled away like joists for building houses.

CHAPTER 75. The Right Whale’s Head--Contrasted View.

Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right Whale’s

As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale’s head may be compared to a
Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so broadly rounded);
so, at a broad view, the Right Whale’s head bears a rather inelegant
resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe. Two hundred years ago an
old Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a shoemaker’s last. And
in this same last or shoe, that old woman of the nursery tale, with
the swarming brood, might very comfortably be lodged, she and all her

But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume different
aspects, according to your point of view. If you stand on its summit and
look at these two F-shaped spoutholes, you would take the whole head
for an enormous bass-viol, and these spiracles, the apertures in its
sounding-board. Then, again, if you fix your eye upon this strange,
crested, comb-like incrustation on the top of the mass--this green,
barnacled thing, which the Greenlanders call the “crown,” and the
Southern fishers the “bonnet” of the Right Whale; fixing your eyes
solely on this, you would take the head for the trunk of some huge oak,
with a bird’s nest in its crotch. At any rate, when you watch those live
crabs that nestle here on this bonnet, such an idea will be almost
sure to occur to you; unless, indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the
technical term “crown” also bestowed upon it; in which case you will
take great interest in thinking how this mighty monster is actually a
diademed king of the sea, whose green crown has been put together for
him in this marvellous manner. But if this whale be a king, he is a very
sulky looking fellow to grace a diadem. Look at that hanging lower lip!
what a huge sulk and pout is there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter’s
measurement, about twenty feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and pout
that will yield you some 500 gallons of oil and more.

A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped.
The fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during an
important interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast, when earthquakes
caused the beach to gape. Over this lip, as over a slippery threshold,
we now slide into the mouth. Upon my word were I at Mackinaw, I should
take this to be the inside of an Indian wigwam. Good Lord! is this the
road that Jonah went? The roof is about twelve feet high, and runs to a
pretty sharp angle, as if there were a regular ridge-pole there; while
these ribbed, arched, hairy sides, present us with those wondrous, half
vertical, scimetar-shaped slats of whalebone, say three hundred on a
side, which depending from the upper part of the head or crown
bone, form those Venetian blinds which have elsewhere been cursorily
mentioned. The edges of these bones are fringed with hairy fibres,
through which the Right Whale strains the water, and in whose
intricacies he retains the small fish, when openmouthed he goes through
the seas of brit in feeding time. In the central blinds of bone, as they
stand in their natural order, there are certain curious marks, curves,
hollows, and ridges, whereby some whalemen calculate the creature’s age,
as the age of an oak by its circular rings. Though the certainty of this
criterion is far from demonstrable, yet it has the savor of analogical
probability. At any rate, if we yield to it, we must grant a far greater
age to the Right Whale than at first glance will seem reasonable.

In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies
concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the wondrous
“whiskers” inside of the whale’s mouth;* another, “hogs’ bristles”; a
third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following elegant language:
“There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing on each side of his
upper CHOP, which arch over his tongue on each side of his mouth.”

*This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker, or
rather a moustache, consisting of a few scattered white hairs on the
upper part of the outer end of the lower jaw. Sometimes these
tufts impart a rather brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn

As every one knows, these same “hogs’ bristles,” “fins,” “whiskers,”
 “blinds,” or whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks and
other stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the demand has
long been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne’s time that the bone was
in its glory, the farthingale being then all the fashion. And as those
ancient dames moved about gaily, though in the jaws of the whale, as
you may say; even so, in a shower, with the like thoughtlessness, do we
nowadays fly under the same jaws for protection; the umbrella being a
tent spread over the same bone.

But now forget all about blinds and whiskers for a moment, and, standing
in the Right Whale’s mouth, look around you afresh. Seeing all these
colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think
you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its
thousand pipes? For a carpet to the organ we have a rug of the softest
Turkey--the tongue, which is glued, as it were, to the floor of the
mouth. It is very fat and tender, and apt to tear in pieces in hoisting
it on deck. This particular tongue now before us; at a passing glance I
should say it was a six-barreler; that is, it will yield you about that
amount of oil.

Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started
with--that the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely
different heads. To sum up, then: in the Right Whale’s there is no great
well of sperm; no ivory teeth at all; no long, slender mandible of a
lower jaw, like the Sperm Whale’s. Nor in the Sperm Whale are there any
of those blinds of bone; no huge lower lip; and scarcely anything of a
tongue. Again, the Right Whale has two external spout-holes, the Sperm
Whale only one.

Look your last, now, on these venerable hooded heads, while they yet lie
together; for one will soon sink, unrecorded, in the sea; the other will
not be very long in following.

Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale’s there? It is the same
he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead seem
now faded away. I think his broad brow to be full of a prairie-like
placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to death. But mark the
other head’s expression. See that amazing lower lip, pressed by accident
against the vessel’s side, so as firmly to embrace the jaw. Does not
this whole head seem to speak of an enormous practical resolution in
facing death? This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm
Whale, a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.

CHAPTER 76. The Battering-Ram.

Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale’s head, I would have
you, as a sensible physiologist, simply--particularly remark its front
aspect, in all its compacted collectedness. I would have you investigate
it now with the sole view of forming to yourself some unexaggerated,
intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram power may be lodged
there. Here is a vital point; for you must either satisfactorily settle
this matter with yourself, or for ever remain an infidel as to one of
the most appalling, but not the less true events, perhaps anywhere to be
found in all recorded history.

You observe that in the ordinary swimming position of the Sperm Whale,
the front of his head presents an almost wholly vertical plane to the
water; you observe that the lower part of that front slopes considerably
backwards, so as to furnish more of a retreat for the long socket which
receives the boom-like lower jaw; you observe that the mouth is entirely
under the head, much in the same way, indeed, as though your own mouth
were entirely under your chin. Moreover you observe that the whale has
no external nose; and that what nose he has--his spout hole--is on the
top of his head; you observe that his eyes and ears are at the sides
of his head, nearly one third of his entire length from the front.
Wherefore, you must now have perceived that the front of the Sperm
Whale’s head is a dead, blind wall, without a single organ or tender
prominence of any sort whatsoever. Furthermore, you are now to consider
that only in the extreme, lower, backward sloping part of the front of
the head, is there the slightest vestige of bone; and not till you
get near twenty feet from the forehead do you come to the full cranial
development. So that this whole enormous boneless mass is as one wad.
Finally, though, as will soon be revealed, its contents partly comprise
the most delicate oil; yet, you are now to be apprised of the nature of
the substance which so impregnably invests all that apparent effeminacy.
In some previous place I have described to you how the blubber wraps the
body of the whale, as the rind wraps an orange. Just so with the head;
but with this difference: about the head this envelope, though not so
thick, is of a boneless toughness, inestimable by any man who has not
handled it. The severest pointed harpoon, the sharpest lance darted by
the strongest human arm, impotently rebounds from it. It is as though
the forehead of the Sperm Whale were paved with horses’ hoofs. I do not
think that any sensation lurks in it.

Bethink yourself also of another thing. When two large, loaded Indiamen
chance to crowd and crush towards each other in the docks, what do the
sailors do? They do not suspend between them, at the point of coming
contact, any merely hard substance, like iron or wood. No, they hold
there a large, round wad of tow and cork, enveloped in the thickest
and toughest of ox-hide. That bravely and uninjured takes the jam which
would have snapped all their oaken handspikes and iron crow-bars. By
itself this sufficiently illustrates the obvious fact I drive at. But
supplementary to this, it has hypothetically occurred to me, that
as ordinary fish possess what is called a swimming bladder in them,
capable, at will, of distension or contraction; and as the Sperm Whale,
as far as I know, has no such provision in him; considering, too,
the otherwise inexplicable manner in which he now depresses his head
altogether beneath the surface, and anon swims with it high elevated out
of the water; considering the unobstructed elasticity of its envelope;
considering the unique interior of his head; it has hypothetically
occurred to me, I say, that those mystical lung-celled honeycombs there
may possibly have some hitherto unknown and unsuspected connexion with
the outer air, so as to be susceptible to atmospheric distension and
contraction. If this be so, fancy the irresistibleness of that might, to
which the most impalpable and destructive of all elements contributes.

Now, mark. Unerringly impelling this dead, impregnable, uninjurable
wall, and this most buoyant thing within; there swims behind it all a
mass of tremendous life, only to be adequately estimated as piled wood
is--by the cord; and all obedient to one volition, as the smallest
insect. So that when I shall hereafter detail to you all the
specialities and concentrations of potency everywhere lurking in this
expansive monster; when I shall show you some of his more inconsiderable
braining feats; I trust you will have renounced all ignorant
incredulity, and be ready to abide by this; that though the Sperm Whale
stove a passage through the Isthmus of Darien, and mixed the Atlantic
with the Pacific, you would not elevate one hair of your eye-brow. For
unless you own the whale, you are but a provincial and sentimentalist
in Truth. But clear Truth is a thing for salamander giants only to
encounter; how small the chances for the provincials then? What befell
the weakling youth lifting the dread goddess’s veil at Lais?

CHAPTER 77. The Great Heidelburgh Tun.

Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you must
know something of the curious internal structure of the thing operated

Regarding the Sperm Whale’s head as a solid oblong, you may, on an
inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof the lower
is the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the upper an
unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end forming the
expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the middle of the
forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and then you have two
almost equal parts, which before were naturally divided by an internal
wall of a thick tendinous substance.

*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical
mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is a
solid which differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by the
steep inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of both

The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb
of oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing, into ten thousand
infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole
extent. The upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the great
Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous great tierce is
mystically carved in front, so the whale’s vast plaited forehead forms
innumerable strange devices for the emblematical adornment of his
wondrous tun. Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was always replenished
with the most excellent of the wines of the Rhenish valleys, so the tun
of the whale contains by far the most precious of all his oily vintages;
namely, the highly-prized spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid,
and odoriferous state. Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed
in any other part of the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly
fluid, yet, upon exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to
concrete; sending forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the
first thin delicate ice is just forming in water. A large whale’s
case generally yields about five hundred gallons of sperm, though from
unavoidable circumstances, considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and
dribbles away, or is otherwise irrevocably lost in the ticklish business
of securing what you can.

I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun
was coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not
possibly have compared with the silken pearl-coloured membrane, like the
lining of a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm Whale’s

It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale
embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and since--as
has been elsewhere set forth--the head embraces one third of the whole
length of the creature, then setting that length down at eighty feet for
a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth
of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship’s

As in decapitating the whale, the operator’s instrument is brought close
to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the spermaceti
magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful, lest a careless,
untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and wastingly let out its
invaluable contents. It is this decapitated end of the head, also, which
is at last elevated out of the water, and retained in that position by
the enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen combinations, on one side,
make quite a wilderness of ropes in that quarter.

Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous and--in
this particular instance--almost fatal operation whereby the Sperm
Whale’s great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.

CHAPTER 78. Cistern and Buckets.

Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his erect
posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging mainyard-arm, to the
part where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun. He has carried
with him a light tackle called a whip, consisting of only two parts,
travelling through a single-sheaved block. Securing this block, so that
it hangs down from the yard-arm, he swings one end of the rope, till it
is caught and firmly held by a hand on deck. Then, hand-over-hand, down
the other part, the Indian drops through the air, till dexterously he
lands on the summit of the head. There--still high elevated above the
rest of the company, to whom he vivaciously cries--he seems some Turkish
Muezzin calling the good people to prayers from the top of a tower. A
short-handled sharp spade being sent up to him, he diligently searches
for the proper place to begin breaking into the Tun. In this business
he proceeds very heedfully, like a treasure-hunter in some old house,
sounding the walls to find where the gold is masoned in. By the time
this cautious search is over, a stout iron-bound bucket, precisely like
a well-bucket, has been attached to one end of the whip; while the other
end, being stretched across the deck, is there held by two or three
alert hands. These last now hoist the bucket within grasp of the Indian,
to whom another person has reached up a very long pole. Inserting this
pole into the bucket, Tashtego downward guides the bucket into the Tun,
till it entirely disappears; then giving the word to the seamen at the
whip, up comes the bucket again, all bubbling like a dairy-maid’s pail
of new milk. Carefully lowered from its height, the full-freighted
vessel is caught by an appointed hand, and quickly emptied into a large
tub. Then remounting aloft, it again goes through the same round until
the deep cistern will yield no more. Towards the end, Tashtego has to
ram his long pole harder and harder, and deeper and deeper into the Tun,
until some twenty feet of the pole have gone down.

Now, the people of the Pequod had been baling some time in this way;
several tubs had been filled with the fragrant sperm; when all at once a
queer accident happened. Whether it was that Tashtego, that wild Indian,
was so heedless and reckless as to let go for a moment his one-handed
hold on the great cabled tackles suspending the head; or whether the
place where he stood was so treacherous and oozy; or whether the Evil
One himself would have it to fall out so, without stating his particular
reasons; how it was exactly, there is no telling now; but, on a sudden,
as the eightieth or ninetieth bucket came suckingly up--my God! poor
Tashtego--like the twin reciprocating bucket in a veritable well,
dropped head-foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with
a horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight!

“Man overboard!” cried Daggoo, who amid the general consternation first
came to his senses. “Swing the bucket this way!” and putting one foot
into it, so as the better to secure his slippery hand-hold on the whip
itself, the hoisters ran him high up to the top of the head, almost
before Tashtego could have reached its interior bottom. Meantime,
there was a terrible tumult. Looking over the side, they saw the before
lifeless head throbbing and heaving just below the surface of the sea,
as if that moment seized with some momentous idea; whereas it was only
the poor Indian unconsciously revealing by those struggles the perilous
depth to which he had sunk.

At this instant, while Daggoo, on the summit of the head, was clearing
the whip--which had somehow got foul of the great cutting tackles--a
sharp cracking noise was heard; and to the unspeakable horror of all,
one of the two enormous hooks suspending the head tore out, and with
a vast vibration the enormous mass sideways swung, till the drunk ship
reeled and shook as if smitten by an iceberg. The one remaining hook,
upon which the entire strain now depended, seemed every instant to be
on the point of giving way; an event still more likely from the violent
motions of the head.

“Come down, come down!” yelled the seamen to Daggoo, but with one hand
holding on to the heavy tackles, so that if the head should drop, he
would still remain suspended; the negro having cleared the foul line,
rammed down the bucket into the now collapsed well, meaning that the
buried harpooneer should grasp it, and so be hoisted out.

“In heaven’s name, man,” cried Stubb, “are you ramming home a cartridge
there?--Avast! How will that help him; jamming that iron-bound bucket on
top of his head? Avast, will ye!”

“Stand clear of the tackle!” cried a voice like the bursting of a

Almost in the same instant, with a thunder-boom, the enormous mass
dropped into the sea, like Niagara’s Table-Rock into the whirlpool; the
suddenly relieved hull rolled away from it, to far down her glittering
copper; and all caught their breath, as half swinging--now over the
sailors’ heads, and now over the water--Daggoo, through a thick mist of
spray, was dimly beheld clinging to the pendulous tackles, while poor,
buried-alive Tashtego was sinking utterly down to the bottom of the sea!
But hardly had the blinding vapour cleared away, when a naked figure
with a boarding-sword in his hand, was for one swift moment seen
hovering over the bulwarks. The next, a loud splash announced that my
brave Queequeg had dived to the rescue. One packed rush was made to the
side, and every eye counted every ripple, as moment followed moment, and
no sign of either the sinker or the diver could be seen. Some hands now
jumped into a boat alongside, and pushed a little off from the ship.

“Ha! ha!” cried Daggoo, all at once, from his now quiet, swinging perch
overhead; and looking further off from the side, we saw an arm thrust
upright from the blue waves; a sight strange to see, as an arm thrust
forth from the grass over a grave.

“Both! both!--it is both!”--cried Daggoo again with a joyful shout; and
soon after, Queequeg was seen boldly striking out with one hand, and
with the other clutching the long hair of the Indian. Drawn into the
waiting boat, they were quickly brought to the deck; but Tashtego was
long in coming to, and Queequeg did not look very brisk.

Now, how had this noble rescue been accomplished? Why, diving after
the slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen sword had made
side lunges near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large hole there; then
dropping his sword, had thrust his long arm far inwards and upwards,
and so hauled out poor Tash by the head. He averred, that upon first
thrusting in for him, a leg was presented; but well knowing that that
was not as it ought to be, and might occasion great trouble;--he had
thrust back the leg, and by a dexterous heave and toss, had wrought a
somerset upon the Indian; so that with the next trial, he came forth in
the good old way--head foremost. As for the great head itself, that was
doing as well as could be expected.

And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg,
the deliverance, or rather, delivery of Tashtego, was successfully
accomplished, in the teeth, too, of the most untoward and apparently
hopeless impediments; which is a lesson by no means to be forgotten.
Midwifery should be taught in the same course with fencing and boxing,
riding and rowing.

I know that this queer adventure of the Gay-Header’s will be sure to
seem incredible to some landsmen, though they themselves may have either
seen or heard of some one’s falling into a cistern ashore; an accident
which not seldom happens, and with much less reason too than the
Indian’s, considering the exceeding slipperiness of the curb of the
Sperm Whale’s well.

But, peradventure, it may be sagaciously urged, how is this? We thought
the tissued, infiltrated head of the Sperm Whale, was the lightest and
most corky part about him; and yet thou makest it sink in an element of
a far greater specific gravity than itself. We have thee there. Not at
all, but I have ye; for at the time poor Tash fell in, the case had been
nearly emptied of its lighter contents, leaving little but the dense
tendinous wall of the well--a double welded, hammered substance, as I
have before said, much heavier than the sea water, and a lump of which
sinks in it like lead almost. But the tendency to rapid sinking in this
substance was in the present instance materially counteracted by the
other parts of the head remaining undetached from it, so that it sank
very slowly and deliberately indeed, affording Queequeg a fair chance
for performing his agile obstetrics on the run, as you may say. Yes, it
was a running delivery, so it was.

Now, had Tashtego perished in that head, it had been a very precious
perishing; smothered in the very whitest and daintiest of fragrant
spermaceti; coffined, hearsed, and tombed in the secret inner chamber
and sanctum sanctorum of the whale. Only one sweeter end can readily be
recalled--the delicious death of an Ohio honey-hunter, who seeking honey
in the crotch of a hollow tree, found such exceeding store of it, that
leaning too far over, it sucked him in, so that he died embalmed.
How many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato’s honey head, and
sweetly perished there?

CHAPTER 79. The Prairie.

To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of this
Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist has as
yet undertaken. Such an enterprise would seem almost as hopeful as for
Lavater to have scrutinized the wrinkles on the Rock of Gibraltar,
or for Gall to have mounted a ladder and manipulated the Dome of the
Pantheon. Still, in that famous work of his, Lavater not only treats
of the various faces of men, but also attentively studies the faces
of horses, birds, serpents, and fish; and dwells in detail upon the
modifications of expression discernible therein. Nor have Gall and
his disciple Spurzheim failed to throw out some hints touching the
phrenological characteristics of other beings than man. Therefore,
though I am but ill qualified for a pioneer, in the application of these
two semi-sciences to the whale, I will do my endeavor. I try all things;
I achieve what I can.

Physiognomically regarded, the Sperm Whale is an anomalous creature.
He has no proper nose. And since the nose is the central and most
conspicuous of the features; and since it perhaps most modifies and
finally controls their combined expression; hence it would seem that its
entire absence, as an external appendage, must very largely affect
the countenance of the whale. For as in landscape gardening, a spire,
cupola, monument, or tower of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable
to the completion of the scene; so no face can be physiognomically in
keeping without the elevated open-work belfry of the nose. Dash the nose
from Phidias’s marble Jove, and what a sorry remainder! Nevertheless,
Leviathan is of so mighty a magnitude, all his proportions are so
stately, that the same deficiency which in the sculptured Jove were
hideous, in him is no blemish at all. Nay, it is an added grandeur. A
nose to the whale would have been impertinent. As on your physiognomical
voyage you sail round his vast head in your jolly-boat, your noble
conceptions of him are never insulted by the reflection that he has a
nose to be pulled. A pestilent conceit, which so often will insist upon
obtruding even when beholding the mightiest royal beadle on his throne.

In some particulars, perhaps the most imposing physiognomical view to
be had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full front of his head. This
aspect is sublime.

In thought, a fine human brow is like the East when troubled with the
morning. In the repose of the pasture, the curled brow of the bull has a
touch of the grand in it. Pushing heavy cannon up mountain defiles, the
elephant’s brow is majestic. Human or animal, the mystical brow is as
that great golden seal affixed by the German Emperors to their decrees.
It signifies--“God: done this day by my hand.” But in most creatures,
nay in man himself, very often the brow is but a mere strip of alpine
land lying along the snow line. Few are the foreheads which like
Shakespeare’s or Melancthon’s rise so high, and descend so low, that the
eyes themselves seem clear, eternal, tideless mountain lakes; and all
above them in the forehead’s wrinkles, you seem to track the antlered
thoughts descending there to drink, as the Highland hunters track the
snow prints of the deer. But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and
mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified,
that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the
dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living
nature. For you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is
revealed; no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper;
nothing but that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with
riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men.
Nor, in profile, does this wondrous brow diminish; though that way
viewed its grandeur does not domineer upon you so. In profile, you
plainly perceive that horizontal, semi-crescentic depression in the
forehead’s middle, which, in man, is Lavater’s mark of genius.

But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has the Sperm Whale ever written
a book, spoken a speech? No, his great genius is declared in his
doing nothing particular to prove it. It is moreover declared in his
pyramidical silence. And this reminds me that had the great Sperm Whale
been known to the young Orient World, he would have been deified by
their child-magian thoughts. They deified the crocodile of the Nile,
because the crocodile is tongueless; and the Sperm Whale has no
tongue, or at least it is so exceedingly small, as to be incapable of
protrusion. If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure
back to their birth-right, the merry May-day gods of old; and livingly
enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky; in the now unhaunted
hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove’s high seat, the great Sperm Whale
shall lord it.

Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics. But there is
no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man’s and every being’s
face. Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a passing
fable. If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, could
not read the simplest peasant’s face in its profounder and more subtle
meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of
the Sperm Whale’s brow? I but put that brow before you. Read it if you

CHAPTER 80. The Nut.

If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist his
brain seems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to square.

In the full-grown creature the skull will measure at least twenty feet
in length. Unhinge the lower jaw, and the side view of this skull is as
the side of a moderately inclined plane resting throughout on a level
base. But in life--as we have elsewhere seen--this inclined plane is
angularly filled up, and almost squared by the enormous superincumbent
mass of the junk and sperm. At the high end the skull forms a crater to
bed that part of the mass; while under the long floor of this crater--in
another cavity seldom exceeding ten inches in length and as many in
depth--reposes the mere handful of this monster’s brain. The brain is at
least twenty feet from his apparent forehead in life; it is hidden
away behind its vast outworks, like the innermost citadel within the
amplified fortifications of Quebec. So like a choice casket is it
secreted in him, that I have known some whalemen who peremptorily deny
that the Sperm Whale has any other brain than that palpable semblance
of one formed by the cubic-yards of his sperm magazine. Lying in strange
folds, courses, and convolutions, to their apprehensions, it seems more
in keeping with the idea of his general might to regard that mystic part
of him as the seat of his intelligence.

It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan, in
the creature’s living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for his
true brain, you can then see no indications of it, nor feel any. The
whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common

If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view
of its rear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its
resemblance to the human skull, beheld in the same situation, and from
the same point of view. Indeed, place this reversed skull (scaled down
to the human magnitude) among a plate of men’s skulls, and you would
involuntarily confound it with them; and remarking the depressions on
one part of its summit, in phrenological phrase you would say--This
man had no self-esteem, and no veneration. And by those negations,
considered along with the affirmative fact of his prodigious bulk and
power, you can best form to yourself the truest, though not the most
exhilarating conception of what the most exalted potency is.

But if from the comparative dimensions of the whale’s proper brain, you
deem it incapable of being adequately charted, then I have another idea
for you. If you attentively regard almost any quadruped’s spine,
you will be struck with the resemblance of its vertebrae to a strung
necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bearing rudimental resemblance to the
skull proper. It is a German conceit, that the vertebrae are absolutely
undeveloped skulls. But the curious external resemblance, I take it
the Germans were not the first men to perceive. A foreign friend once
pointed it out to me, in the skeleton of a foe he had slain, and with
the vertebrae of which he was inlaying, in a sort of basso-relievo, the
beaked prow of his canoe. Now, I consider that the phrenologists have
omitted an important thing in not pushing their investigations from the
cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a man’s
character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel
your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine
never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the
firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world.

Apply this spinal branch of phrenology to the Sperm Whale. His cranial
cavity is continuous with the first neck-vertebra; and in that vertebra
the bottom of the spinal canal will measure ten inches across, being
eight in height, and of a triangular figure with the base downwards. As
it passes through the remaining vertebrae the canal tapers in size, but
for a considerable distance remains of large capacity. Now, of course,
this canal is filled with much the same strangely fibrous substance--the
spinal cord--as the brain; and directly communicates with the brain.
And what is still more, for many feet after emerging from the brain’s
cavity, the spinal cord remains of an undecreasing girth, almost
equal to that of the brain. Under all these circumstances, would it be
unreasonable to survey and map out the whale’s spine phrenologically?
For, viewed in this light, the wonderful comparative smallness of his
brain proper is more than compensated by the wonderful comparative
magnitude of his spinal cord.

But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the phrenologists, I
would merely assume the spinal theory for a moment, in reference to the
Sperm Whale’s hump. This august hump, if I mistake not, rises over one
of the larger vertebrae, and is, therefore, in some sort, the outer
convex mould of it. From its relative situation then, I should call this
high hump the organ of firmness or indomitableness in the Sperm Whale.
And that the great monster is indomitable, you will yet have reason to

CHAPTER 81. The Pequod Meets The Virgin.

The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungfrau, Derick
De Deer, master, of Bremen.

At one time the greatest whaling people in the world, the Dutch and
Germans are now among the least; but here and there at very wide
intervals of latitude and longitude, you still occasionally meet with
their flag in the Pacific.

For some reason, the Jungfrau seemed quite eager to pay her respects.
While yet some distance from the Pequod, she rounded to, and dropping a
boat, her captain was impelled towards us, impatiently standing in the
bows instead of the stern.

“What has he in his hand there?” cried Starbuck, pointing to something
wavingly held by the German. “Impossible!--a lamp-feeder!”

“Not that,” said Stubb, “no, no, it’s a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck; he’s
coming off to make us our coffee, is the Yarman; don’t you see that big
tin can there alongside of him?--that’s his boiling water. Oh! he’s all
right, is the Yarman.”

“Go along with you,” cried Flask, “it’s a lamp-feeder and an oil-can.
He’s out of oil, and has come a-begging.”

However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing oil on the
whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict the old
proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such a thing
really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer did
indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare.

As he mounted the deck, Ahab abruptly accosted him, without at all
heeding what he had in his hand; but in his broken lingo, the German
soon evinced his complete ignorance of the White Whale; immediately
turning the conversation to his lamp-feeder and oil can, with some
remarks touching his having to turn into his hammock at night in
profound darkness--his last drop of Bremen oil being gone, and not a
single flying-fish yet captured to supply the deficiency; concluding
by hinting that his ship was indeed what in the Fishery is technically
called a CLEAN one (that is, an empty one), well deserving the name of
Jungfrau or the Virgin.

His necessities supplied, Derick departed; but he had not gained his
ship’s side, when whales were almost simultaneously raised from the
mast-heads of both vessels; and so eager for the chase was Derick, that
without pausing to put his oil-can and lamp-feeder aboard, he slewed
round his boat and made after the leviathan lamp-feeders.

Now, the game having risen to leeward, he and the other three German
boats that soon followed him, had considerably the start of the Pequod’s
keels. There were eight whales, an average pod. Aware of their danger,
they were going all abreast with great speed straight before the wind,
rubbing their flanks as closely as so many spans of horses in harness.
They left a great, wide wake, as though continually unrolling a great
wide parchment upon the sea.

Full in this rapid wake, and many fathoms in the rear, swam a huge,
humped old bull, which by his comparatively slow progress, as well as
by the unusual yellowish incrustations overgrowing him, seemed afflicted
with the jaundice, or some other infirmity. Whether this whale belonged
to the pod in advance, seemed questionable; for it is not customary for
such venerable leviathans to be at all social. Nevertheless, he stuck
to their wake, though indeed their back water must have retarded him,
because the white-bone or swell at his broad muzzle was a dashed one,
like the swell formed when two hostile currents meet. His spout was
short, slow, and laborious; coming forth with a choking sort of gush,
and spending itself in torn shreds, followed by strange subterranean
commotions in him, which seemed to have egress at his other buried
extremity, causing the waters behind him to upbubble.

“Who’s got some paregoric?” said Stubb, “he has the stomach-ache, I’m
afraid. Lord, think of having half an acre of stomach-ache! Adverse
winds are holding mad Christmas in him, boys. It’s the first foul wind
I ever knew to blow from astern; but look, did ever whale yaw so before?
it must be, he’s lost his tiller.”

As an overladen Indiaman bearing down the Hindostan coast with a deck
load of frightened horses, careens, buries, rolls, and wallows on her
way; so did this old whale heave his aged bulk, and now and then partly
turning over on his cumbrous rib-ends, expose the cause of his devious
wake in the unnatural stump of his starboard fin. Whether he had lost
that fin in battle, or had been born without it, it were hard to say.

“Only wait a bit, old chap, and I’ll give ye a sling for that wounded
arm,” cried cruel Flask, pointing to the whale-line near him.

“Mind he don’t sling thee with it,” cried Starbuck. “Give way, or the
German will have him.”

With one intent all the combined rival boats were pointed for this
one fish, because not only was he the largest, and therefore the most
valuable whale, but he was nearest to them, and the other whales were
going with such great velocity, moreover, as almost to defy pursuit
for the time. At this juncture the Pequod’s keels had shot by the three
German boats last lowered; but from the great start he had had, Derick’s
boat still led the chase, though every moment neared by his foreign
rivals. The only thing they feared, was, that from being already so
nigh to his mark, he would be enabled to dart his iron before they
could completely overtake and pass him. As for Derick, he seemed quite
confident that this would be the case, and occasionally with a deriding
gesture shook his lamp-feeder at the other boats.

“The ungracious and ungrateful dog!” cried Starbuck; “he mocks and dares
me with the very poor-box I filled for him not five minutes ago!”--then
in his old intense whisper--“Give way, greyhounds! Dog to it!”

“I tell ye what it is, men”--cried Stubb to his crew--“it’s against
my religion to get mad; but I’d like to eat that villainous
Yarman--Pull--won’t ye? Are ye going to let that rascal beat ye? Do
ye love brandy? A hogshead of brandy, then, to the best man. Come,
why don’t some of ye burst a blood-vessel? Who’s that been dropping an
anchor overboard--we don’t budge an inch--we’re becalmed. Halloo, here’s
grass growing in the boat’s bottom--and by the Lord, the mast there’s
budding. This won’t do, boys. Look at that Yarman! The short and long of
it is, men, will ye spit fire or not?”

“Oh! see the suds he makes!” cried Flask, dancing up and down--“What
a hump--Oh, DO pile on the beef--lays like a log! Oh! my lads, DO
spring--slap-jacks and quahogs for supper, you know, my lads--baked
clams and muffins--oh, DO, DO, spring,--he’s a hundred barreller--don’t
lose him now--don’t oh, DON’T!--see that Yarman--Oh, won’t ye pull for
your duff, my lads--such a sog! such a sogger! Don’t ye love sperm?
There goes three thousand dollars, men!--a bank!--a whole bank! The bank
of England!--Oh, DO, DO, DO!--What’s that Yarman about now?”

At this moment Derick was in the act of pitching his lamp-feeder at the
advancing boats, and also his oil-can; perhaps with the double view
of retarding his rivals’ way, and at the same time economically
accelerating his own by the momentary impetus of the backward toss.

“The unmannerly Dutch dogger!” cried Stubb. “Pull now, men, like fifty
thousand line-of-battle-ship loads of red-haired devils. What d’ye say,
Tashtego; are you the man to snap your spine in two-and-twenty pieces
for the honour of old Gayhead? What d’ye say?”

“I say, pull like god-dam,”--cried the Indian.

Fiercely, but evenly incited by the taunts of the German, the Pequod’s
three boats now began ranging almost abreast; and, so disposed,
momentarily neared him. In that fine, loose, chivalrous attitude of
the headsman when drawing near to his prey, the three mates stood up
proudly, occasionally backing the after oarsman with an exhilarating cry
of, “There she slides, now! Hurrah for the white-ash breeze! Down with
the Yarman! Sail over him!”

But so decided an original start had Derick had, that spite of all
their gallantry, he would have proved the victor in this race, had not
a righteous judgment descended upon him in a crab which caught the blade
of his midship oarsman. While this clumsy lubber was striving to free
his white-ash, and while, in consequence, Derick’s boat was nigh to
capsizing, and he thundering away at his men in a mighty rage;--that was
a good time for Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. With a shout, they took a
mortal start forwards, and slantingly ranged up on the German’s quarter.
An instant more, and all four boats were diagonically in the whale’s
immediate wake, while stretching from them, on both sides, was the
foaming swell that he made.

It was a terrific, most pitiable, and maddening sight. The whale was
now going head out, and sending his spout before him in a continual
tormented jet; while his one poor fin beat his side in an agony of
fright. Now to this hand, now to that, he yawed in his faltering flight,
and still at every billow that he broke, he spasmodically sank in the
sea, or sideways rolled towards the sky his one beating fin. So have I
seen a bird with clipped wing making affrighted broken circles in the
air, vainly striving to escape the piratical hawks. But the bird has a
voice, and with plaintive cries will make known her fear; but the fear
of this vast dumb brute of the sea, was chained up and enchanted in him;
he had no voice, save that choking respiration through his spiracle,
and this made the sight of him unspeakably pitiable; while still, in his
amazing bulk, portcullis jaw, and omnipotent tail, there was enough to
appal the stoutest man who so pitied.

Seeing now that but a very few moments more would give the Pequod’s
boats the advantage, and rather than be thus foiled of his game, Derick
chose to hazard what to him must have seemed a most unusually long dart,
ere the last chance would for ever escape.

But no sooner did his harpooneer stand up for the stroke, than all three
tigers--Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo--instinctively sprang to their feet,
and standing in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed their barbs; and
darted over the head of the German harpooneer, their three Nantucket
irons entered the whale. Blinding vapours of foam and white-fire! The
three boats, in the first fury of the whale’s headlong rush, bumped
the German’s aside with such force, that both Derick and his baffled
harpooneer were spilled out, and sailed over by the three flying keels.

“Don’t be afraid, my butter-boxes,” cried Stubb, casting a passing
glance upon them as he shot by; “ye’ll be picked up presently--all
right--I saw some sharks astern--St. Bernard’s dogs, you know--relieve
distressed travellers. Hurrah! this is the way to sail now. Every keel a
sunbeam! Hurrah!--Here we go like three tin kettles at the tail of a mad
cougar! This puts me in mind of fastening to an elephant in a tilbury on
a plain--makes the wheel-spokes fly, boys, when you fasten to him that
way; and there’s danger of being pitched out too, when you strike a
hill. Hurrah! this is the way a fellow feels when he’s going to Davy
Jones--all a rush down an endless inclined plane! Hurrah! this whale
carries the everlasting mail!”

But the monster’s run was a brief one. Giving a sudden gasp, he
tumultuously sounded. With a grating rush, the three lines flew round
the loggerheads with such a force as to gouge deep grooves in them;
while so fearful were the harpooneers that this rapid sounding would
soon exhaust the lines, that using all their dexterous might, they
caught repeated smoking turns with the rope to hold on; till at
last--owing to the perpendicular strain from the lead-lined chocks of
the boats, whence the three ropes went straight down into the blue--the
gunwales of the bows were almost even with the water, while the three
sterns tilted high in the air. And the whale soon ceasing to sound,
for some time they remained in that attitude, fearful of expending more
line, though the position was a little ticklish. But though boats have
been taken down and lost in this way, yet it is this “holding on,” as it
is called; this hooking up by the sharp barbs of his live flesh from
the back; this it is that often torments the Leviathan into soon rising
again to meet the sharp lance of his foes. Yet not to speak of the peril
of the thing, it is to be doubted whether this course is always the
best; for it is but reasonable to presume, that the longer the stricken
whale stays under water, the more he is exhausted. Because, owing to the
enormous surface of him--in a full grown sperm whale something less than
2000 square feet--the pressure of the water is immense. We all know
what an astonishing atmospheric weight we ourselves stand up under; even
here, above-ground, in the air; how vast, then, the burden of a whale,
bearing on his back a column of two hundred fathoms of ocean! It must at
least equal the weight of fifty atmospheres. One whaleman has estimated
it at the weight of twenty line-of-battle ships, with all their guns,
and stores, and men on board.

As the three boats lay there on that gently rolling sea, gazing down
into its eternal blue noon; and as not a single groan or cry of any
sort, nay, not so much as a ripple or a bubble came up from its depths;
what landsman would have thought, that beneath all that silence and
placidity, the utmost monster of the seas was writhing and wrenching in
agony! Not eight inches of perpendicular rope were visible at the bows.
Seems it credible that by three such thin threads the great Leviathan
was suspended like the big weight to an eight day clock. Suspended? and
to what? To three bits of board. Is this the creature of whom it was
once so triumphantly said--“Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons?
or his head with fish-spears? The sword of him that layeth at him cannot
hold, the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon: he esteemeth iron as
straw; the arrow cannot make him flee; darts are counted as stubble;
he laugheth at the shaking of a spear!” This the creature? this he? Oh!
that unfulfilments should follow the prophets. For with the strength
of a thousand thighs in his tail, Leviathan had run his head under the
mountains of the sea, to hide him from the Pequod’s fish-spears!

In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the three boats
sent down beneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad
enough to shade half Xerxes’ army. Who can tell how appalling to the
wounded whale must have been such huge phantoms flitting over his head!

“Stand by, men; he stirs,” cried Starbuck, as the three lines suddenly
vibrated in the water, distinctly conducting upwards to them, as by
magnetic wires, the life and death throbs of the whale, so that every
oarsman felt them in his seat. The next moment, relieved in great part
from the downward strain at the bows, the boats gave a sudden bounce
upwards, as a small icefield will, when a dense herd of white bears are
scared from it into the sea.

“Haul in! Haul in!” cried Starbuck again; “he’s rising.”

The lines, of which, hardly an instant before, not one hand’s breadth
could have been gained, were now in long quick coils flung back all
dripping into the boats, and soon the whale broke water within two
ship’s lengths of the hunters.

His motions plainly denoted his extreme exhaustion. In most land animals
there are certain valves or flood-gates in many of their veins, whereby
when wounded, the blood is in some degree at least instantly shut off in
certain directions. Not so with the whale; one of whose peculiarities
it is to have an entire non-valvular structure of the blood-vessels, so
that when pierced even by so small a point as a harpoon, a deadly
drain is at once begun upon his whole arterial system; and when this is
heightened by the extraordinary pressure of water at a great distance
below the surface, his life may be said to pour from him in incessant
streams. Yet so vast is the quantity of blood in him, and so distant
and numerous its interior fountains, that he will keep thus bleeding and
bleeding for a considerable period; even as in a drought a river will
flow, whose source is in the well-springs of far-off and undiscernible
hills. Even now, when the boats pulled upon this whale, and perilously
drew over his swaying flukes, and the lances were darted into him,
they were followed by steady jets from the new made wound, which kept
continually playing, while the natural spout-hole in his head was only
at intervals, however rapid, sending its affrighted moisture into the
air. From this last vent no blood yet came, because no vital part of him
had thus far been struck. His life, as they significantly call it, was

As the boats now more closely surrounded him, the whole upper part of
his form, with much of it that is ordinarily submerged, was plainly
revealed. His eyes, or rather the places where his eyes had been, were
beheld. As strange misgrown masses gather in the knot-holes of the
noblest oaks when prostrate, so from the points which the whale’s eyes
had once occupied, now protruded blind bulbs, horribly pitiable to see.
But pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one arm, and his
blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to light the
gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the
solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all.
Still rolling in his blood, at last he partially disclosed a strangely
discoloured bunch or protuberance, the size of a bushel, low down on the

“A nice spot,” cried Flask; “just let me prick him there once.”

“Avast!” cried Starbuck, “there’s no need of that!”

But humane Starbuck was too late. At the instant of the dart an
ulcerous jet shot from this cruel wound, and goaded by it into more than
sufferable anguish, the whale now spouting thick blood, with swift fury
blindly darted at the craft, bespattering them and their glorying crews
all over with showers of gore, capsizing Flask’s boat and marring the
bows. It was his death stroke. For, by this time, so spent was he by
loss of blood, that he helplessly rolled away from the wreck he had
made; lay panting on his side, impotently flapped with his stumped fin,
then over and over slowly revolved like a waning world; turned up
the white secrets of his belly; lay like a log, and died. It was most
piteous, that last expiring spout. As when by unseen hands the water
is gradually drawn off from some mighty fountain, and with half-stifled
melancholy gurglings the spray-column lowers and lowers to the
ground--so the last long dying spout of the whale.

Soon, while the crews were awaiting the arrival of the ship, the body
showed symptoms of sinking with all its treasures unrifled. Immediately,
by Starbuck’s orders, lines were secured to it at different points, so
that ere long every boat was a buoy; the sunken whale being suspended a
few inches beneath them by the cords. By very heedful management, when
the ship drew nigh, the whale was transferred to her side, and was
strongly secured there by the stiffest fluke-chains, for it was plain
that unless artificially upheld, the body would at once sink to the

It so chanced that almost upon first cutting into him with the spade,
the entire length of a corroded harpoon was found imbedded in his flesh,
on the lower part of the bunch before described. But as the stumps of
harpoons are frequently found in the dead bodies of captured whales,
with the flesh perfectly healed around them, and no prominence of any
kind to denote their place; therefore, there must needs have been
some other unknown reason in the present case fully to account for
the ulceration alluded to. But still more curious was the fact of a
lance-head of stone being found in him, not far from the buried iron,
the flesh perfectly firm about it. Who had darted that stone lance? And
when? It might have been darted by some Nor’ West Indian long before
America was discovered.

What other marvels might have been rummaged out of this monstrous
cabinet there is no telling. But a sudden stop was put to further
discoveries, by the ship’s being unprecedentedly dragged over sideways
to the sea, owing to the body’s immensely increasing tendency to sink.
However, Starbuck, who had the ordering of affairs, hung on to it to the
last; hung on to it so resolutely, indeed, that when at length the ship
would have been capsized, if still persisting in locking arms with the
body; then, when the command was given to break clear from it, such was
the immovable strain upon the timber-heads to which the fluke-chains and
cables were fastened, that it was impossible to cast them off. Meantime
everything in the Pequod was aslant. To cross to the other side of the
deck was like walking up the steep gabled roof of a house. The ship
groaned and gasped. Many of the ivory inlayings of her bulwarks and
cabins were started from their places, by the unnatural dislocation.
In vain handspikes and crows were brought to bear upon the immovable
fluke-chains, to pry them adrift from the timberheads; and so low
had the whale now settled that the submerged ends could not be at all
approached, while every moment whole tons of ponderosity seemed added to
the sinking bulk, and the ship seemed on the point of going over.

“Hold on, hold on, won’t ye?” cried Stubb to the body, “don’t be in such
a devil of a hurry to sink! By thunder, men, we must do something or go
for it. No use prying there; avast, I say with your handspikes, and run
one of ye for a prayer book and a pen-knife, and cut the big chains.”

“Knife? Aye, aye,” cried Queequeg, and seizing the carpenter’s heavy
hatchet, he leaned out of a porthole, and steel to iron, began slashing
at the largest fluke-chains. But a few strokes, full of sparks, were
given, when the exceeding strain effected the rest. With a terrific
snap, every fastening went adrift; the ship righted, the carcase sank.

Now, this occasional inevitable sinking of the recently killed Sperm
Whale is a very curious thing; nor has any fisherman yet adequately
accounted for it. Usually the dead Sperm Whale floats with great
buoyancy, with its side or belly considerably elevated above the
surface. If the only whales that thus sank were old, meagre, and
broken-hearted creatures, their pads of lard diminished and all their
bones heavy and rheumatic; then you might with some reason assert that
this sinking is caused by an uncommon specific gravity in the fish so
sinking, consequent upon this absence of buoyant matter in him. But it
is not so. For young whales, in the highest health, and swelling with
noble aspirations, prematurely cut off in the warm flush and May of
life, with all their panting lard about them; even these brawny, buoyant
heroes do sometimes sink.

Be it said, however, that the Sperm Whale is far less liable to this
accident than any other species. Where one of that sort go down, twenty
Right Whales do. This difference in the species is no doubt imputable in
no small degree to the greater quantity of bone in the Right Whale;
his Venetian blinds alone sometimes weighing more than a ton; from this
incumbrance the Sperm Whale is wholly free. But there are instances
where, after the lapse of many hours or several days, the sunken whale
again rises, more buoyant than in life. But the reason of this
is obvious. Gases are generated in him; he swells to a prodigious
magnitude; becomes a sort of animal balloon. A line-of-battle ship could
hardly keep him under then. In the Shore Whaling, on soundings, among
the Bays of New Zealand, when a Right Whale gives token of sinking, they
fasten buoys to him, with plenty of rope; so that when the body has gone
down, they know where to look for it when it shall have ascended again.

It was not long after the sinking of the body that a cry was heard from
the Pequod’s mast-heads, announcing that the Jungfrau was again lowering
her boats; though the only spout in sight was that of a Fin-Back,
belonging to the species of uncapturable whales, because of its
incredible power of swimming. Nevertheless, the Fin-Back’s spout is so
similar to the Sperm Whale’s, that by unskilful fishermen it is often
mistaken for it. And consequently Derick and all his host were now in
valiant chase of this unnearable brute. The Virgin crowding all sail,
made after her four young keels, and thus they all disappeared far to
leeward, still in bold, hopeful chase.

Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend.

CHAPTER 82. The Honour and Glory of Whaling.

There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true

The more I dive into this matter of whaling, and push my researches up
to the very spring-head of it so much the more am I impressed with its
great honourableness and antiquity; and especially when I find so many
great demi-gods and heroes, prophets of all sorts, who one way or other
have shed distinction upon it, I am transported with the reflection
that I myself belong, though but subordinately, to so emblazoned a

The gallant Perseus, a son of Jupiter, was the first whaleman; and
to the eternal honour of our calling be it said, that the first whale
attacked by our brotherhood was not killed with any sordid intent. Those
were the knightly days of our profession, when we only bore arms to
succor the distressed, and not to fill men’s lamp-feeders. Every one
knows the fine story of Perseus and Andromeda; how the lovely Andromeda,
the daughter of a king, was tied to a rock on the sea-coast, and as
Leviathan was in the very act of carrying her off, Perseus, the prince
of whalemen, intrepidly advancing, harpooned the monster, and delivered
and married the maid. It was an admirable artistic exploit, rarely
achieved by the best harpooneers of the present day; inasmuch as this
Leviathan was slain at the very first dart. And let no man doubt this
Arkite story; for in the ancient Joppa, now Jaffa, on the Syrian coast,
in one of the Pagan temples, there stood for many ages the vast skeleton
of a whale, which the city’s legends and all the inhabitants asserted to
be the identical bones of the monster that Perseus slew. When the Romans
took Joppa, the same skeleton was carried to Italy in triumph. What
seems most singular and suggestively important in this story, is this:
it was from Joppa that Jonah set sail.

Akin to the adventure of Perseus and Andromeda--indeed, by some supposed
to be indirectly derived from it--is that famous story of St. George and
the Dragon; which dragon I maintain to have been a whale; for in many
old chronicles whales and dragons are strangely jumbled together, and
often stand for each other. “Thou art as a lion of the waters, and as a
dragon of the sea,” saith Ezekiel; hereby, plainly meaning a whale;
in truth, some versions of the Bible use that word itself. Besides, it
would much subtract from the glory of the exploit had St. George but
encountered a crawling reptile of the land, instead of doing battle
with the great monster of the deep. Any man may kill a snake, but only a
Perseus, a St. George, a Coffin, have the heart in them to march boldly
up to a whale.

Let not the modern paintings of this scene mislead us; for though
the creature encountered by that valiant whaleman of old is vaguely
represented of a griffin-like shape, and though the battle is depicted
on land and the saint on horseback, yet considering the great ignorance
of those times, when the true form of the whale was unknown to artists;
and considering that as in Perseus’ case, St. George’s whale might have
crawled up out of the sea on the beach; and considering that the animal
ridden by St. George might have been only a large seal, or sea-horse;
bearing all this in mind, it will not appear altogether incompatible
with the sacred legend and the ancientest draughts of the scene, to
hold this so-called dragon no other than the great Leviathan himself. In
fact, placed before the strict and piercing truth, this whole story will
fare like that fish, flesh, and fowl idol of the Philistines, Dagon by
name; who being planted before the ark of Israel, his horse’s head and
both the palms of his hands fell off from him, and only the stump or
fishy part of him remained. Thus, then, one of our own noble stamp, even
a whaleman, is the tutelary guardian of England; and by good rights, we
harpooneers of Nantucket should be enrolled in the most noble order
of St. George. And therefore, let not the knights of that honourable
company (none of whom, I venture to say, have ever had to do with a
whale like their great patron), let them never eye a Nantucketer with
disdain, since even in our woollen frocks and tarred trowsers we are
much better entitled to St. George’s decoration than they.

Whether to admit Hercules among us or not, concerning this I long
remained dubious: for though according to the Greek mythologies, that
antique Crockett and Kit Carson--that brawny doer of rejoicing good
deeds, was swallowed down and thrown up by a whale; still, whether
that strictly makes a whaleman of him, that might be mooted. It nowhere
appears that he ever actually harpooned his fish, unless, indeed,
from the inside. Nevertheless, he may be deemed a sort of involuntary
whaleman; at any rate the whale caught him, if he did not the whale. I
claim him for one of our clan.

But, by the best contradictory authorities, this Grecian story of
Hercules and the whale is considered to be derived from the still more
ancient Hebrew story of Jonah and the whale; and vice versa; certainly
they are very similar. If I claim the demigod then, why not the prophet?

Nor do heroes, saints, demigods, and prophets alone comprise the whole
roll of our order. Our grand master is still to be named; for like royal
kings of old times, we find the head waters of our fraternity in nothing
short of the great gods themselves. That wondrous oriental story is now
to be rehearsed from the Shaster, which gives us the dread Vishnoo, one
of the three persons in the godhead of the Hindoos; gives us this divine
Vishnoo himself for our Lord;--Vishnoo, who, by the first of his ten
earthly incarnations, has for ever set apart and sanctified the whale.
When Brahma, or the God of Gods, saith the Shaster, resolved to recreate
the world after one of its periodical dissolutions, he gave birth to
Vishnoo, to preside over the work; but the Vedas, or mystical books,
whose perusal would seem to have been indispensable to Vishnoo before
beginning the creation, and which therefore must have contained
something in the shape of practical hints to young architects, these
Vedas were lying at the bottom of the waters; so Vishnoo became
incarnate in a whale, and sounding down in him to the uttermost depths,
rescued the sacred volumes. Was not this Vishnoo a whaleman, then? even
as a man who rides a horse is called a horseman?

Perseus, St. George, Hercules, Jonah, and Vishnoo! there’s a member-roll
for you! What club but the whaleman’s can head off like that?

CHAPTER 83. Jonah Historically Regarded.

Reference was made to the historical story of Jonah and the whale in the
preceding chapter. Now some Nantucketers rather distrust this historical
story of Jonah and the whale. But then there were some sceptical Greeks
and Romans, who, standing out from the orthodox pagans of their times,
equally doubted the story of Hercules and the whale, and Arion and the
dolphin; and yet their doubting those traditions did not make those
traditions one whit the less facts, for all that.

One old Sag-Harbor whaleman’s chief reason for questioning the Hebrew
story was this:--He had one of those quaint old-fashioned Bibles,
embellished with curious, unscientific plates; one of which represented
Jonah’s whale with two spouts in his head--a peculiarity only true
with respect to a species of the Leviathan (the Right Whale, and the
varieties of that order), concerning which the fishermen have this
saying, “A penny roll would choke him”; his swallow is so very small.
But, to this, Bishop Jebb’s anticipative answer is ready. It is not
necessary, hints the Bishop, that we consider Jonah as tombed in the
whale’s belly, but as temporarily lodged in some part of his mouth. And
this seems reasonable enough in the good Bishop. For truly, the
Right Whale’s mouth would accommodate a couple of whist-tables, and
comfortably seat all the players. Possibly, too, Jonah might have
ensconced himself in a hollow tooth; but, on second thoughts, the Right
Whale is toothless.

Another reason which Sag-Harbor (he went by that name) urged for his
want of faith in this matter of the prophet, was something obscurely in
reference to his incarcerated body and the whale’s gastric juices. But
this objection likewise falls to the ground, because a German exegetist
supposes that Jonah must have taken refuge in the floating body of a
DEAD whale--even as the French soldiers in the Russian campaign turned
their dead horses into tents, and crawled into them. Besides, it has
been divined by other continental commentators, that when Jonah was
thrown overboard from the Joppa ship, he straightway effected his escape
to another vessel near by, some vessel with a whale for a figure-head;
and, I would add, possibly called “The Whale,” as some craft are
nowadays christened the “Shark,” the “Gull,” the “Eagle.” Nor have there
been wanting learned exegetists who have opined that the whale mentioned
in the book of Jonah merely meant a life-preserver--an inflated bag
of wind--which the endangered prophet swam to, and so was saved from a
watery doom. Poor Sag-Harbor, therefore, seems worsted all round. But
he had still another reason for his want of faith. It was this, if I
remember right: Jonah was swallowed by the whale in the Mediterranean
Sea, and after three days he was vomited up somewhere within three days’
journey of Nineveh, a city on the Tigris, very much more than three
days’ journey across from the nearest point of the Mediterranean coast.
How is that?

But was there no other way for the whale to land the prophet within that
short distance of Nineveh? Yes. He might have carried him round by the
way of the Cape of Good Hope. But not to speak of the passage through
the whole length of the Mediterranean, and another passage up the
Persian Gulf and Red Sea, such a supposition would involve the complete
circumnavigation of all Africa in three days, not to speak of the Tigris
waters, near the site of Nineveh, being too shallow for any whale to
swim in. Besides, this idea of Jonah’s weathering the Cape of Good Hope
at so early a day would wrest the honour of the discovery of that great
headland from Bartholomew Diaz, its reputed discoverer, and so make
modern history a liar.

But all these foolish arguments of old Sag-Harbor only evinced his
foolish pride of reason--a thing still more reprehensible in him, seeing
that he had but little learning except what he had picked up from the
sun and the sea. I say it only shows his foolish, impious pride, and
abominable, devilish rebellion against the reverend clergy. For by a
Portuguese Catholic priest, this very idea of Jonah’s going to Nineveh
via the Cape of Good Hope was advanced as a signal magnification of
the general miracle. And so it was. Besides, to this day, the highly
enlightened Turks devoutly believe in the historical story of Jonah. And
some three centuries ago, an English traveller in old Harris’s Voyages,
speaks of a Turkish Mosque built in honour of Jonah, in which Mosque was
a miraculous lamp that burnt without any oil.

CHAPTER 84. Pitchpoling.

To make them run easily and swiftly, the axles of carriages are
anointed; and for much the same purpose, some whalers perform an
analogous operation upon their boat; they grease the bottom. Nor is it
to be doubted that as such a procedure can do no harm, it may possibly
be of no contemptible advantage; considering that oil and water are
hostile; that oil is a sliding thing, and that the object in view is to
make the boat slide bravely. Queequeg believed strongly in anointing
his boat, and one morning not long after the German ship Jungfrau
disappeared, took more than customary pains in that occupation; crawling
under its bottom, where it hung over the side, and rubbing in the
unctuousness as though diligently seeking to insure a crop of hair from
the craft’s bald keel. He seemed to be working in obedience to some
particular presentiment. Nor did it remain unwarranted by the event.

Towards noon whales were raised; but so soon as the ship sailed down to
them, they turned and fled with swift precipitancy; a disordered flight,
as of Cleopatra’s barges from Actium.

Nevertheless, the boats pursued, and Stubb’s was foremost. By great
exertion, Tashtego at last succeeded in planting one iron; but the
stricken whale, without at all sounding, still continued his horizontal
flight, with added fleetness. Such unintermitted strainings upon the
planted iron must sooner or later inevitably extract it. It became
imperative to lance the flying whale, or be content to lose him. But
to haul the boat up to his flank was impossible, he swam so fast and
furious. What then remained?

Of all the wondrous devices and dexterities, the sleights of hand and
countless subtleties, to which the veteran whaleman is so often forced,
none exceed that fine manoeuvre with the lance called pitchpoling. Small
sword, or broad sword, in all its exercises boasts nothing like it. It
is only indispensable with an inveterate running whale; its grand
fact and feature is the wonderful distance to which the long lance is
accurately darted from a violently rocking, jerking boat, under extreme
headway. Steel and wood included, the entire spear is some ten or twelve
feet in length; the staff is much slighter than that of the harpoon,
and also of a lighter material--pine. It is furnished with a small rope
called a warp, of considerable length, by which it can be hauled back to
the hand after darting.

But before going further, it is important to mention here, that though
the harpoon may be pitchpoled in the same way with the lance, yet it
is seldom done; and when done, is still less frequently successful,
on account of the greater weight and inferior length of the harpoon as
compared with the lance, which in effect become serious drawbacks. As a
general thing, therefore, you must first get fast to a whale, before any
pitchpoling comes into play.

Look now at Stubb; a man who from his humorous, deliberate coolness and
equanimity in the direst emergencies, was specially qualified to excel
in pitchpoling. Look at him; he stands upright in the tossed bow of the
flying boat; wrapt in fleecy foam, the towing whale is forty feet ahead.
Handling the long lance lightly, glancing twice or thrice along its
length to see if it be exactly straight, Stubb whistlingly gathers up
the coil of the warp in one hand, so as to secure its free end in his
grasp, leaving the rest unobstructed. Then holding the lance full before
his waistband’s middle, he levels it at the whale; when, covering
him with it, he steadily depresses the butt-end in his hand, thereby
elevating the point till the weapon stands fairly balanced upon his
palm, fifteen feet in the air. He minds you somewhat of a juggler,
balancing a long staff on his chin. Next moment with a rapid, nameless
impulse, in a superb lofty arch the bright steel spans the foaming
distance, and quivers in the life spot of the whale. Instead of
sparkling water, he now spouts red blood.

“That drove the spigot out of him!” cried Stubb. “‘Tis July’s immortal
Fourth; all fountains must run wine today! Would now, it were old
Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable old Monongahela! Then,
Tashtego, lad, I’d have ye hold a canakin to the jet, and we’d drink
round it! Yea, verily, hearts alive, we’d brew choice punch in the
spread of his spout-hole there, and from that live punch-bowl quaff the
living stuff.”

Again and again to such gamesome talk, the dexterous dart is repeated,
the spear returning to its master like a greyhound held in skilful
leash. The agonized whale goes into his flurry; the tow-line is
slackened, and the pitchpoler dropping astern, folds his hands, and
mutely watches the monster die.

CHAPTER 85. The Fountain.

That for six thousand years--and no one knows how many millions of ages
before--the great whales should have been spouting all over the sea,
and sprinkling and mistifying the gardens of the deep, as with so
many sprinkling or mistifying pots; and that for some centuries back,
thousands of hunters should have been close by the fountain of the
whale, watching these sprinklings and spoutings--that all this should
be, and yet, that down to this blessed minute (fifteen and a quarter
minutes past one o’clock P.M. of this sixteenth day of December, A.D.
1851), it should still remain a problem, whether these spoutings
are, after all, really water, or nothing but vapour--this is surely a
noteworthy thing.

Let us, then, look at this matter, along with some interesting items
contingent. Every one knows that by the peculiar cunning of their
gills, the finny tribes in general breathe the air which at all times is
combined with the element in which they swim; hence, a herring or a cod
might live a century, and never once raise its head above the surface.
But owing to his marked internal structure which gives him regular
lungs, like a human being’s, the whale can only live by inhaling the
disengaged air in the open atmosphere. Wherefore the necessity for
his periodical visits to the upper world. But he cannot in any degree
breathe through his mouth, for, in his ordinary attitude, the Sperm
Whale’s mouth is buried at least eight feet beneath the surface; and
what is still more, his windpipe has no connexion with his mouth. No, he
breathes through his spiracle alone; and this is on the top of his head.

If I say, that in any creature breathing is only a function
indispensable to vitality, inasmuch as it withdraws from the air a
certain element, which being subsequently brought into contact with the
blood imparts to the blood its vivifying principle, I do not think I
shall err; though I may possibly use some superfluous scientific words.
Assume it, and it follows that if all the blood in a man could be
aerated with one breath, he might then seal up his nostrils and not
fetch another for a considerable time. That is to say, he would then
live without breathing. Anomalous as it may seem, this is precisely the
case with the whale, who systematically lives, by intervals, his full
hour and more (when at the bottom) without drawing a single breath, or
so much as in any way inhaling a particle of air; for, remember, he has
no gills. How is this? Between his ribs and on each side of his spine
he is supplied with a remarkable involved Cretan labyrinth of
vermicelli-like vessels, which vessels, when he quits the surface, are
completely distended with oxygenated blood. So that for an hour or more,
a thousand fathoms in the sea, he carries a surplus stock of vitality in
him, just as the camel crossing the waterless desert carries a surplus
supply of drink for future use in its four supplementary stomachs.
The anatomical fact of this labyrinth is indisputable; and that the
supposition founded upon it is reasonable and true, seems the more
cogent to me, when I consider the otherwise inexplicable obstinacy of
that leviathan in HAVING HIS SPOUTINGS OUT, as the fishermen phrase
it. This is what I mean. If unmolested, upon rising to the surface, the
Sperm Whale will continue there for a period of time exactly uniform
with all his other unmolested risings. Say he stays eleven minutes, and
jets seventy times, that is, respires seventy breaths; then whenever he
rises again, he will be sure to have his seventy breaths over again, to
a minute. Now, if after he fetches a few breaths you alarm him, so that
he sounds, he will be always dodging up again to make good his regular
allowance of air. And not till those seventy breaths are told, will he
finally go down to stay out his full term below. Remark, however, that
in different individuals these rates are different; but in any one
they are alike. Now, why should the whale thus insist upon having his
spoutings out, unless it be to replenish his reservoir of air, ere
descending for good? How obvious is it, too, that this necessity for the
whale’s rising exposes him to all the fatal hazards of the chase. For
not by hook or by net could this vast leviathan be caught, when sailing
a thousand fathoms beneath the sunlight. Not so much thy skill, then, O
hunter, as the great necessities that strike the victory to thee!

In man, breathing is incessantly going on--one breath only serving
for two or three pulsations; so that whatever other business he has to
attend to, waking or sleeping, breathe he must, or die he will. But the
Sperm Whale only breathes about one seventh or Sunday of his time.

It has been said that the whale only breathes through his spout-hole; if
it could truthfully be added that his spouts are mixed with water, then
I opine we should be furnished with the reason why his sense of smell
seems obliterated in him; for the only thing about him that at all
answers to his nose is that identical spout-hole; and being so clogged
with two elements, it could not be expected to have the power of
smelling. But owing to the mystery of the spout--whether it be water or
whether it be vapour--no absolute certainty can as yet be arrived at on
this head. Sure it is, nevertheless, that the Sperm Whale has no proper
olfactories. But what does he want of them? No roses, no violets, no
Cologne-water in the sea.

Furthermore, as his windpipe solely opens into the tube of his spouting
canal, and as that long canal--like the grand Erie Canal--is furnished
with a sort of locks (that open and shut) for the downward retention of
air or the upward exclusion of water, therefore the whale has no voice;
unless you insult him by saying, that when he so strangely rumbles,
he talks through his nose. But then again, what has the whale to say?
Seldom have I known any profound being that had anything to say to
this world, unless forced to stammer out something by way of getting a
living. Oh! happy that the world is such an excellent listener!

Now, the spouting canal of the Sperm Whale, chiefly intended as it
is for the conveyance of air, and for several feet laid along,
horizontally, just beneath the upper surface of his head, and a little
to one side; this curious canal is very much like a gas-pipe laid down
in a city on one side of a street. But the question returns whether this
gas-pipe is also a water-pipe; in other words, whether the spout of the
Sperm Whale is the mere vapour of the exhaled breath, or whether that
exhaled breath is mixed with water taken in at the mouth, and
discharged through the spiracle. It is certain that the mouth indirectly
communicates with the spouting canal; but it cannot be proved that this
is for the purpose of discharging water through the spiracle. Because
the greatest necessity for so doing would seem to be, when in feeding he
accidentally takes in water. But the Sperm Whale’s food is far beneath
the surface, and there he cannot spout even if he would. Besides, if
you regard him very closely, and time him with your watch, you will find
that when unmolested, there is an undeviating rhyme between the periods
of his jets and the ordinary periods of respiration.

But why pester one with all this reasoning on the subject? Speak out!
You have seen him spout; then declare what the spout is; can you not
tell water from air? My dear sir, in this world it is not so easy to
settle these plain things. I have ever found your plain things the
knottiest of all. And as for this whale spout, you might almost stand in
it, and yet be undecided as to what it is precisely.

The central body of it is hidden in the snowy sparkling mist enveloping
it; and how can you certainly tell whether any water falls from it,
when, always, when you are close enough to a whale to get a close view
of his spout, he is in a prodigious commotion, the water cascading
all around him. And if at such times you should think that you really
perceived drops of moisture in the spout, how do you know that they are
not merely condensed from its vapour; or how do you know that they
are not those identical drops superficially lodged in the spout-hole
fissure, which is countersunk into the summit of the whale’s head? For
even when tranquilly swimming through the mid-day sea in a calm, with
his elevated hump sun-dried as a dromedary’s in the desert; even then,
the whale always carries a small basin of water on his head, as under
a blazing sun you will sometimes see a cavity in a rock filled up with

Nor is it at all prudent for the hunter to be over curious touching the
precise nature of the whale spout. It will not do for him to be peering
into it, and putting his face in it. You cannot go with your pitcher to
this fountain and fill it, and bring it away. For even when coming into
slight contact with the outer, vapoury shreds of the jet, which will
often happen, your skin will feverishly smart, from the acridness of
the thing so touching it. And I know one, who coming into still closer
contact with the spout, whether with some scientific object in view,
or otherwise, I cannot say, the skin peeled off from his cheek and arm.
Wherefore, among whalemen, the spout is deemed poisonous; they try to
evade it. Another thing; I have heard it said, and I do not much doubt
it, that if the jet is fairly spouted into your eyes, it will blind you.
The wisest thing the investigator can do then, it seems to me, is to let
this deadly spout alone.

Still, we can hypothesize, even if we cannot prove and establish. My
hypothesis is this: that the spout is nothing but mist. And besides
other reasons, to this conclusion I am impelled, by considerations
touching the great inherent dignity and sublimity of the Sperm Whale;
I account him no common, shallow being, inasmuch as it is an undisputed
fact that he is never found on soundings, or near shores; all other
whales sometimes are. He is both ponderous and profound. And I am
convinced that from the heads of all ponderous profound beings, such as
Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil, Jupiter, Dante, and so on, there always goes
up a certain semi-visible steam, while in the act of thinking deep
thoughts. While composing a little treatise on Eternity, I had the
curiosity to place a mirror before me; and ere long saw reflected there,
a curious involved worming and undulation in the atmosphere over my
head. The invariable moisture of my hair, while plunged in deep thought,
after six cups of hot tea in my thin shingled attic, of an August noon;
this seems an additional argument for the above supposition.

And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to
behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild
head overhung by a canopy of vapour, engendered by his incommunicable
contemplations, and that vapour--as you will sometimes see it--glorified
by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts.
For, d’ye see, rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate
vapour. And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my
mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a
heavenly ray. And for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny;
but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts
of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this
combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who
regards them both with equal eye.

CHAPTER 86. The Tail.

Other poets have warbled the praises of the soft eye of the antelope,
and the lovely plumage of the bird that never alights; less celestial, I
celebrate a tail.

Reckoning the largest sized Sperm Whale’s tail to begin at that point of
the trunk where it tapers to about the girth of a man, it comprises
upon its upper surface alone, an area of at least fifty square feet. The
compact round body of its root expands into two broad, firm, flat palms
or flukes, gradually shoaling away to less than an inch in thickness.
At the crotch or junction, these flukes slightly overlap, then sideways
recede from each other like wings, leaving a wide vacancy between. In
no living thing are the lines of beauty more exquisitely defined than in
the crescentic borders of these flukes. At its utmost expansion in the
full grown whale, the tail will considerably exceed twenty feet across.

The entire member seems a dense webbed bed of welded sinews; but cut
into it, and you find that three distinct strata compose it:--upper,
middle, and lower. The fibres in the upper and lower layers, are
long and horizontal; those of the middle one, very short, and running
crosswise between the outside layers. This triune structure, as much as
anything else, imparts power to the tail. To the student of old Roman
walls, the middle layer will furnish a curious parallel to the thin
course of tiles always alternating with the stone in those wonderful
relics of the antique, and which undoubtedly contribute so much to the
great strength of the masonry.

But as if this vast local power in the tendinous tail were not enough,
the whole bulk of the leviathan is knit over with a warp and woof of
muscular fibres and filaments, which passing on either side the loins
and running down into the flukes, insensibly blend with them, and
largely contribute to their might; so that in the tail the confluent
measureless force of the whole whale seems concentrated to a point.
Could annihilation occur to matter, this were the thing to do it.

Nor does this--its amazing strength, at all tend to cripple the graceful
flexion of its motions; where infantileness of ease undulates through
a Titanism of power. On the contrary, those motions derive their most
appalling beauty from it. Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony,
but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful,
strength has much to do with the magic. Take away the tied tendons that
all over seem bursting from the marble in the carved Hercules, and its
charm would be gone. As devout Eckerman lifted the linen sheet from the
naked corpse of Goethe, he was overwhelmed with the massive chest of the
man, that seemed as a Roman triumphal arch. When Angelo paints even God
the Father in human form, mark what robustness is there. And whatever
they may reveal of the divine love in the Son, the soft, curled,
hermaphroditical Italian pictures, in which his idea has been most
successfully embodied; these pictures, so destitute as they are of all
brawniness, hint nothing of any power, but the mere negative, feminine
one of submission and endurance, which on all hands it is conceded, form
the peculiar practical virtues of his teachings.

Such is the subtle elasticity of the organ I treat of, that whether
wielded in sport, or in earnest, or in anger, whatever be the mood it
be in, its flexions are invariably marked by exceeding grace. Therein no
fairy’s arm can transcend it.

Five great motions are peculiar to it. First, when used as a fin for
progression; Second, when used as a mace in battle; Third, in sweeping;
Fourth, in lobtailing; Fifth, in peaking flukes.

First: Being horizontal in its position, the Leviathan’s tail acts in
a different manner from the tails of all other sea creatures. It never
wriggles. In man or fish, wriggling is a sign of inferiority. To the
whale, his tail is the sole means of propulsion. Scroll-wise coiled
forwards beneath the body, and then rapidly sprung backwards, it is this
which gives that singular darting, leaping motion to the monster when
furiously swimming. His side-fins only serve to steer by.

Second: It is a little significant, that while one sperm whale only
fights another sperm whale with his head and jaw, nevertheless, in his
conflicts with man, he chiefly and contemptuously uses his tail. In
striking at a boat, he swiftly curves away his flukes from it, and the
blow is only inflicted by the recoil. If it be made in the unobstructed
air, especially if it descend to its mark, the stroke is then simply
irresistible. No ribs of man or boat can withstand it. Your only
salvation lies in eluding it; but if it comes sideways through the
opposing water, then partly owing to the light buoyancy of the whale
boat, and the elasticity of its materials, a cracked rib or a dashed
plank or two, a sort of stitch in the side, is generally the most
serious result. These submerged side blows are so often received in the
fishery, that they are accounted mere child’s play. Some one strips off
a frock, and the hole is stopped.

Third: I cannot demonstrate it, but it seems to me, that in the whale
the sense of touch is concentrated in the tail; for in this respect
there is a delicacy in it only equalled by the daintiness of the
elephant’s trunk. This delicacy is chiefly evinced in the action of
sweeping, when in maidenly gentleness the whale with a certain soft
slowness moves his immense flukes from side to side upon the surface
of the sea; and if he feel but a sailor’s whisker, woe to that sailor,
whiskers and all. What tenderness there is in that preliminary touch!
Had this tail any prehensile power, I should straightway bethink me of
Darmonodes’ elephant that so frequented the flower-market, and with
low salutations presented nosegays to damsels, and then caressed their
zones. On more accounts than one, a pity it is that the whale does not
possess this prehensile virtue in his tail; for I have heard of yet
another elephant, that when wounded in the fight, curved round his trunk
and extracted the dart.

Fourth: Stealing unawares upon the whale in the fancied security of the
middle of solitary seas, you find him unbent from the vast corpulence
of his dignity, and kitten-like, he plays on the ocean as if it were a
hearth. But still you see his power in his play. The broad palms of
his tail are flirted high into the air; then smiting the surface, the
thunderous concussion resounds for miles. You would almost think a great
gun had been discharged; and if you noticed the light wreath of vapour
from the spiracle at his other extremity, you would think that that was
the smoke from the touch-hole.

Fifth: As in the ordinary floating posture of the leviathan the flukes
lie considerably below the level of his back, they are then completely
out of sight beneath the surface; but when he is about to plunge into
the deeps, his entire flukes with at least thirty feet of his body are
tossed erect in the air, and so remain vibrating a moment, till they
downwards shoot out of view. Excepting the sublime BREACH--somewhere
else to be described--this peaking of the whale’s flukes is perhaps the
grandest sight to be seen in all animated nature. Out of the bottomless
profundities the gigantic tail seems spasmodically snatching at the
highest heaven. So in dreams, have I seen majestic Satan thrusting forth
his tormented colossal claw from the flame Baltic of Hell. But in
gazing at such scenes, it is all in all what mood you are in; if in
the Dantean, the devils will occur to you; if in that of Isaiah, the
archangels. Standing at the mast-head of my ship during a sunrise that
crimsoned sky and sea, I once saw a large herd of whales in the east,
all heading towards the sun, and for a moment vibrating in concert with
peaked flukes. As it seemed to me at the time, such a grand embodiment
of adoration of the gods was never beheld, even in Persia, the home of
the fire worshippers. As Ptolemy Philopater testified of the African
elephant, I then testified of the whale, pronouncing him the most devout
of all beings. For according to King Juba, the military elephants of
antiquity often hailed the morning with their trunks uplifted in the
profoundest silence.

The chance comparison in this chapter, between the whale and the
elephant, so far as some aspects of the tail of the one and the trunk
of the other are concerned, should not tend to place those two
opposite organs on an equality, much less the creatures to which they
respectively belong. For as the mightiest elephant is but a terrier
to Leviathan, so, compared with Leviathan’s tail, his trunk is but the
stalk of a lily. The most direful blow from the elephant’s trunk were as
the playful tap of a fan, compared with the measureless crush and crash
of the sperm whale’s ponderous flukes, which in repeated instances have
one after the other hurled entire boats with all their oars and crews
into the air, very much as an Indian juggler tosses his balls.*

*Though all comparison in the way of general bulk between the whale
and the elephant is preposterous, inasmuch as in that particular the
elephant stands in much the same respect to the whale that a dog does to
the elephant; nevertheless, there are not wanting some points of curious
similitude; among these is the spout. It is well known that the elephant
will often draw up water or dust in his trunk, and then elevating it,
jet it forth in a stream.

The more I consider this mighty tail, the more do I deplore my inability
to express it. At times there are gestures in it, which, though they
would well grace the hand of man, remain wholly inexplicable. In an
extensive herd, so remarkable, occasionally, are these mystic gestures,
that I have heard hunters who have declared them akin to Free-Mason
signs and symbols; that the whale, indeed, by these methods
intelligently conversed with the world. Nor are there wanting other
motions of the whale in his general body, full of strangeness, and
unaccountable to his most experienced assailant. Dissect him how I may,
then, I but go skin deep; I know him not, and never will. But if I know
not even the tail of this whale, how understand his head? much more,
how comprehend his face, when face he has none? Thou shalt see my back
parts, my tail, he seems to say, but my face shall not be seen. But I
cannot completely make out his back parts; and hint what he will about
his face, I say again he has no face.

CHAPTER 87. The Grand Armada.

The long and narrow peninsula of Malacca, extending south-eastward from
the territories of Birmah, forms the most southerly point of all Asia.
In a continuous line from that peninsula stretch the long islands of
Sumatra, Java, Bally, and Timor; which, with many others, form a
vast mole, or rampart, lengthwise connecting Asia with Australia,
and dividing the long unbroken Indian ocean from the thickly studded
oriental archipelagoes. This rampart is pierced by several sally-ports
for the convenience of ships and whales; conspicuous among which are the
straits of Sunda and Malacca. By the straits of Sunda, chiefly, vessels
bound to China from the west, emerge into the China seas.

Those narrow straits of Sunda divide Sumatra from Java; and standing
midway in that vast rampart of islands, buttressed by that bold green
promontory, known to seamen as Java Head; they not a little correspond
to the central gateway opening into some vast walled empire: and
considering the inexhaustible wealth of spices, and silks, and jewels,
and gold, and ivory, with which the thousand islands of that oriental
sea are enriched, it seems a significant provision of nature, that such
treasures, by the very formation of the land, should at least bear the
appearance, however ineffectual, of being guarded from the all-grasping
western world. The shores of the Straits of Sunda are unsupplied
with those domineering fortresses which guard the entrances to the
Mediterranean, the Baltic, and the Propontis. Unlike the Danes, these
Orientals do not demand the obsequious homage of lowered top-sails from
the endless procession of ships before the wind, which for centuries
past, by night and by day, have passed between the islands of Sumatra
and Java, freighted with the costliest cargoes of the east. But while
they freely waive a ceremonial like this, they do by no means renounce
their claim to more solid tribute.

Time out of mind the piratical proas of the Malays, lurking among
the low shaded coves and islets of Sumatra, have sallied out upon the
vessels sailing through the straits, fiercely demanding tribute at the
point of their spears. Though by the repeated bloody chastisements they
have received at the hands of European cruisers, the audacity of these
corsairs has of late been somewhat repressed; yet, even at the present
day, we occasionally hear of English and American vessels, which, in
those waters, have been remorselessly boarded and pillaged.

With a fair, fresh wind, the Pequod was now drawing nigh to these
straits; Ahab purposing to pass through them into the Javan sea, and
thence, cruising northwards, over waters known to be frequented here and
there by the Sperm Whale, sweep inshore by the Philippine Islands, and
gain the far coast of Japan, in time for the great whaling season there.
By these means, the circumnavigating Pequod would sweep almost all the
known Sperm Whale cruising grounds of the world, previous to descending
upon the Line in the Pacific; where Ahab, though everywhere else foiled
in his pursuit, firmly counted upon giving battle to Moby Dick, in the
sea he was most known to frequent; and at a season when he might most
reasonably be presumed to be haunting it.

But how now? in this zoned quest, does Ahab touch no land? does his crew
drink air? Surely, he will stop for water. Nay. For a long time, now,
the circus-running sun has raced within his fiery ring, and needs
no sustenance but what’s in himself. So Ahab. Mark this, too, in the
whaler. While other hulls are loaded down with alien stuff, to be
transferred to foreign wharves; the world-wandering whale-ship carries
no cargo but herself and crew, their weapons and their wants. She has a
whole lake’s contents bottled in her ample hold. She is ballasted with
utilities; not altogether with unusable pig-lead and kentledge. She
carries years’ water in her. Clear old prime Nantucket water; which,
when three years afloat, the Nantucketer, in the Pacific, prefers to
drink before the brackish fluid, but yesterday rafted off in casks, from
the Peruvian or Indian streams. Hence it is, that, while other ships may
have gone to China from New York, and back again, touching at a score
of ports, the whale-ship, in all that interval, may not have sighted
one grain of soil; her crew having seen no man but floating seamen like
themselves. So that did you carry them the news that another flood had
come; they would only answer--“Well, boys, here’s the ark!”

Now, as many Sperm Whales had been captured off the western coast of
Java, in the near vicinity of the Straits of Sunda; indeed, as most of
the ground, roundabout, was generally recognised by the fishermen as an
excellent spot for cruising; therefore, as the Pequod gained more
and more upon Java Head, the look-outs were repeatedly hailed, and
admonished to keep wide awake. But though the green palmy cliffs of the
land soon loomed on the starboard bow, and with delighted nostrils
the fresh cinnamon was snuffed in the air, yet not a single jet was
descried. Almost renouncing all thought of falling in with any game
hereabouts, the ship had well nigh entered the straits, when the
customary cheering cry was heard from aloft, and ere long a spectacle of
singular magnificence saluted us.

But here be it premised, that owing to the unwearied activity with which
of late they have been hunted over all four oceans, the Sperm Whales,
instead of almost invariably sailing in small detached companies, as in
former times, are now frequently met with in extensive herds, sometimes
embracing so great a multitude, that it would almost seem as if
numerous nations of them had sworn solemn league and covenant for mutual
assistance and protection. To this aggregation of the Sperm Whale into
such immense caravans, may be imputed the circumstance that even in the
best cruising grounds, you may now sometimes sail for weeks and months
together, without being greeted by a single spout; and then be suddenly
saluted by what sometimes seems thousands on thousands.

Broad on both bows, at the distance of some two or three miles, and
forming a great semicircle, embracing one half of the level horizon,
a continuous chain of whale-jets were up-playing and sparkling in the
noon-day air. Unlike the straight perpendicular twin-jets of the Right
Whale, which, dividing at top, fall over in two branches, like the cleft
drooping boughs of a willow, the single forward-slanting spout of the
Sperm Whale presents a thick curled bush of white mist, continually
rising and falling away to leeward.

Seen from the Pequod’s deck, then, as she would rise on a high hill of
the sea, this host of vapoury spouts, individually curling up into the
air, and beheld through a blending atmosphere of bluish haze, showed
like the thousand cheerful chimneys of some dense metropolis, descried
of a balmy autumnal morning, by some horseman on a height.

As marching armies approaching an unfriendly defile in the mountains,
accelerate their march, all eagerness to place that perilous passage in
their rear, and once more expand in comparative security upon the plain;
even so did this vast fleet of whales now seem hurrying forward through
the straits; gradually contracting the wings of their semicircle, and
swimming on, in one solid, but still crescentic centre.

Crowding all sail the Pequod pressed after them; the harpooneers
handling their weapons, and loudly cheering from the heads of their
yet suspended boats. If the wind only held, little doubt had they, that
chased through these Straits of Sunda, the vast host would only deploy
into the Oriental seas to witness the capture of not a few of their
number. And who could tell whether, in that congregated caravan, Moby
Dick himself might not temporarily be swimming, like the worshipped
white-elephant in the coronation procession of the Siamese! So with
stun-sail piled on stun-sail, we sailed along, driving these leviathans
before us; when, of a sudden, the voice of Tashtego was heard, loudly
directing attention to something in our wake.

Corresponding to the crescent in our van, we beheld another in our rear.
It seemed formed of detached white vapours, rising and falling something
like the spouts of the whales; only they did not so completely come and
go; for they constantly hovered, without finally disappearing. Levelling
his glass at this sight, Ahab quickly revolved in his pivot-hole,
crying, “Aloft there, and rig whips and buckets to wet the
sails;--Malays, sir, and after us!”

As if too long lurking behind the headlands, till the Pequod should
fairly have entered the straits, these rascally Asiatics were now in hot
pursuit, to make up for their over-cautious delay. But when the swift
Pequod, with a fresh leading wind, was herself in hot chase; how very
kind of these tawny philanthropists to assist in speeding her on to
her own chosen pursuit,--mere riding-whips and rowels to her, that they
were. As with glass under arm, Ahab to-and-fro paced the deck; in his
forward turn beholding the monsters he chased, and in the after one the
bloodthirsty pirates chasing him; some such fancy as the above seemed
his. And when he glanced upon the green walls of the watery defile in
which the ship was then sailing, and bethought him that through that
gate lay the route to his vengeance, and beheld, how that through that
same gate he was now both chasing and being chased to his deadly end;
and not only that, but a herd of remorseless wild pirates and
inhuman atheistical devils were infernally cheering him on with their
curses;--when all these conceits had passed through his brain, Ahab’s
brow was left gaunt and ribbed, like the black sand beach after some
stormy tide has been gnawing it, without being able to drag the firm
thing from its place.

But thoughts like these troubled very few of the reckless crew; and
when, after steadily dropping and dropping the pirates astern, the
Pequod at last shot by the vivid green Cockatoo Point on the Sumatra
side, emerging at last upon the broad waters beyond; then, the
harpooneers seemed more to grieve that the swift whales had been gaining
upon the ship, than to rejoice that the ship had so victoriously gained
upon the Malays. But still driving on in the wake of the whales, at
length they seemed abating their speed; gradually the ship neared them;
and the wind now dying away, word was passed to spring to the boats. But
no sooner did the herd, by some presumed wonderful instinct of the Sperm
Whale, become notified of the three keels that were after them,--though
as yet a mile in their rear,--than they rallied again, and forming
in close ranks and battalions, so that their spouts all looked like
flashing lines of stacked bayonets, moved on with redoubled velocity.

Stripped to our shirts and drawers, we sprang to the white-ash, and
after several hours’ pulling were almost disposed to renounce the chase,
when a general pausing commotion among the whales gave animating
token that they were now at last under the influence of that strange
perplexity of inert irresolution, which, when the fishermen perceive
it in the whale, they say he is gallied. The compact martial columns
in which they had been hitherto rapidly and steadily swimming, were now
broken up in one measureless rout; and like King Porus’ elephants in the
Indian battle with Alexander, they seemed going mad with consternation.
In all directions expanding in vast irregular circles, and aimlessly
swimming hither and thither, by their short thick spoutings, they
plainly betrayed their distraction of panic. This was still more
strangely evinced by those of their number, who, completely paralysed
as it were, helplessly floated like water-logged dismantled ships on the
sea. Had these Leviathans been but a flock of simple sheep, pursued over
the pasture by three fierce wolves, they could not possibly have evinced
such excessive dismay. But this occasional timidity is characteristic
of almost all herding creatures. Though banding together in tens of
thousands, the lion-maned buffaloes of the West have fled before a
solitary horseman. Witness, too, all human beings, how when herded
together in the sheepfold of a theatre’s pit, they will, at the
slightest alarm of fire, rush helter-skelter for the outlets, crowding,
trampling, jamming, and remorselessly dashing each other to death. Best,
therefore, withhold any amazement at the strangely gallied whales
before us, for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not
infinitely outdone by the madness of men.

Though many of the whales, as has been said, were in violent motion,
yet it is to be observed that as a whole the herd neither advanced nor
retreated, but collectively remained in one place. As is customary in
those cases, the boats at once separated, each making for some one
lone whale on the outskirts of the shoal. In about three minutes’ time,
Queequeg’s harpoon was flung; the stricken fish darted blinding spray
in our faces, and then running away with us like light, steered straight
for the heart of the herd. Though such a movement on the part of the
whale struck under such circumstances, is in no wise unprecedented; and
indeed is almost always more or less anticipated; yet does it present
one of the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. For as the swift
monster drags you deeper and deeper into the frantic shoal, you bid
adieu to circumspect life and only exist in a delirious throb.

As, blind and deaf, the whale plunged forward, as if by sheer power of
speed to rid himself of the iron leech that had fastened to him; as we
thus tore a white gash in the sea, on all sides menaced as we flew, by
the crazed creatures to and fro rushing about us; our beset boat was
like a ship mobbed by ice-isles in a tempest, and striving to steer
through their complicated channels and straits, knowing not at what
moment it may be locked in and crushed.

But not a bit daunted, Queequeg steered us manfully; now sheering off
from this monster directly across our route in advance; now edging away
from that, whose colossal flukes were suspended overhead, while all the
time, Starbuck stood up in the bows, lance in hand, pricking out of our
way whatever whales he could reach by short darts, for there was no time
to make long ones. Nor were the oarsmen quite idle, though their wonted
duty was now altogether dispensed with. They chiefly attended to the
shouting part of the business. “Out of the way, Commodore!” cried one,
to a great dromedary that of a sudden rose bodily to the surface,
and for an instant threatened to swamp us. “Hard down with your tail,
there!” cried a second to another, which, close to our gunwale, seemed
calmly cooling himself with his own fan-like extremity.

All whaleboats carry certain curious contrivances, originally invented
by the Nantucket Indians, called druggs. Two thick squares of wood
of equal size are stoutly clenched together, so that they cross each
other’s grain at right angles; a line of considerable length is then
attached to the middle of this block, and the other end of the line
being looped, it can in a moment be fastened to a harpoon. It is chiefly
among gallied whales that this drugg is used. For then, more whales
are close round you than you can possibly chase at one time. But sperm
whales are not every day encountered; while you may, then, you must
kill all you can. And if you cannot kill them all at once, you must wing
them, so that they can be afterwards killed at your leisure. Hence it
is, that at times like these the drugg, comes into requisition. Our boat
was furnished with three of them. The first and second were successfully
darted, and we saw the whales staggeringly running off, fettered by the
enormous sidelong resistance of the towing drugg. They were cramped like
malefactors with the chain and ball. But upon flinging the third, in the
act of tossing overboard the clumsy wooden block, it caught under one
of the seats of the boat, and in an instant tore it out and carried it
away, dropping the oarsman in the boat’s bottom as the seat slid from
under him. On both sides the sea came in at the wounded planks, but we
stuffed two or three drawers and shirts in, and so stopped the leaks for
the time.

It had been next to impossible to dart these drugged-harpoons, were
it not that as we advanced into the herd, our whale’s way greatly
diminished; moreover, that as we went still further and further from the
circumference of commotion, the direful disorders seemed waning. So that
when at last the jerking harpoon drew out, and the towing whale sideways
vanished; then, with the tapering force of his parting momentum, we
glided between two whales into the innermost heart of the shoal, as if
from some mountain torrent we had slid into a serene valley lake. Here
the storms in the roaring glens between the outermost whales, were heard
but not felt. In this central expanse the sea presented that smooth
satin-like surface, called a sleek, produced by the subtle moisture
thrown off by the whale in his more quiet moods. Yes, we were now
in that enchanted calm which they say lurks at the heart of every
commotion. And still in the distracted distance we beheld the tumults of
the outer concentric circles, and saw successive pods of whales, eight
or ten in each, swiftly going round and round, like multiplied spans of
horses in a ring; and so closely shoulder to shoulder, that a Titanic
circus-rider might easily have over-arched the middle ones, and so have
gone round on their backs. Owing to the density of the crowd of reposing
whales, more immediately surrounding the embayed axis of the herd, no
possible chance of escape was at present afforded us. We must watch for
a breach in the living wall that hemmed us in; the wall that had only
admitted us in order to shut us up. Keeping at the centre of the lake,
we were occasionally visited by small tame cows and calves; the women
and children of this routed host.

Now, inclusive of the occasional wide intervals between the revolving
outer circles, and inclusive of the spaces between the various pods in
any one of those circles, the entire area at this juncture, embraced by
the whole multitude, must have contained at least two or three square
miles. At any rate--though indeed such a test at such a time might be
deceptive--spoutings might be discovered from our low boat that
seemed playing up almost from the rim of the horizon. I mention this
circumstance, because, as if the cows and calves had been purposely
locked up in this innermost fold; and as if the wide extent of the
herd had hitherto prevented them from learning the precise cause of its
stopping; or, possibly, being so young, unsophisticated, and every way
innocent and inexperienced; however it may have been, these smaller
whales--now and then visiting our becalmed boat from the margin of the
lake--evinced a wondrous fearlessness and confidence, or else a still
becharmed panic which it was impossible not to marvel at. Like household
dogs they came snuffling round us, right up to our gunwales, and
touching them; till it almost seemed that some spell had suddenly
domesticated them. Queequeg patted their foreheads; Starbuck scratched
their backs with his lance; but fearful of the consequences, for the
time refrained from darting it.

But far beneath this wondrous world upon the surface, another and still
stranger world met our eyes as we gazed over the side. For, suspended
in those watery vaults, floated the forms of the nursing mothers of the
whales, and those that by their enormous girth seemed shortly to
become mothers. The lake, as I have hinted, was to a considerable depth
exceedingly transparent; and as human infants while suckling will calmly
and fixedly gaze away from the breast, as if leading two different
lives at the time; and while yet drawing mortal nourishment, be still
spiritually feasting upon some unearthly reminiscence;--even so did the
young of these whales seem looking up towards us, but not at us, as if
we were but a bit of Gulfweed in their new-born sight. Floating on their
sides, the mothers also seemed quietly eyeing us. One of these little
infants, that from certain queer tokens seemed hardly a day old, might
have measured some fourteen feet in length, and some six feet in
girth. He was a little frisky; though as yet his body seemed scarce yet
recovered from that irksome position it had so lately occupied in the
maternal reticule; where, tail to head, and all ready for the final
spring, the unborn whale lies bent like a Tartar’s bow. The delicate
side-fins, and the palms of his flukes, still freshly retained the
plaited crumpled appearance of a baby’s ears newly arrived from foreign

“Line! line!” cried Queequeg, looking over the gunwale; “him fast! him
fast!--Who line him! Who struck?--Two whale; one big, one little!”

“What ails ye, man?” cried Starbuck.

“Look-e here,” said Queequeg, pointing down.

As when the stricken whale, that from the tub has reeled out hundreds of
fathoms of rope; as, after deep sounding, he floats up again, and shows
the slackened curling line buoyantly rising and spiralling towards the
air; so now, Starbuck saw long coils of the umbilical cord of Madame
Leviathan, by which the young cub seemed still tethered to its dam. Not
seldom in the rapid vicissitudes of the chase, this natural line, with
the maternal end loose, becomes entangled with the hempen one, so that
the cub is thereby trapped. Some of the subtlest secrets of the seas
seemed divulged to us in this enchanted pond. We saw young Leviathan
amours in the deep.*

*The sperm whale, as with all other species of the Leviathan, but unlike
most other fish, breeds indifferently at all seasons; after a gestation
which may probably be set down at nine months, producing but one at a
time; though in some few known instances giving birth to an Esau and
Jacob:--a contingency provided for in suckling by two teats, curiously
situated, one on each side of the anus; but the breasts themselves
extend upwards from that. When by chance these precious parts in a
nursing whale are cut by the hunter’s lance, the mother’s pouring milk
and blood rivallingly discolour the sea for rods. The milk is very sweet
and rich; it has been tasted by man; it might do well with strawberries.
When overflowing with mutual esteem, the whales salute MORE HOMINUM.

And thus, though surrounded by circle upon circle of consternations
and affrights, did these inscrutable creatures at the centre freely and
fearlessly indulge in all peaceful concernments; yea, serenely revelled
in dalliance and delight. But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of
my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and
while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and
deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.

Meanwhile, as we thus lay entranced, the occasional sudden frantic
spectacles in the distance evinced the activity of the other boats,
still engaged in drugging the whales on the frontier of the host; or
possibly carrying on the war within the first circle, where abundance of
room and some convenient retreats were afforded them. But the sight
of the enraged drugged whales now and then blindly darting to and fro
across the circles, was nothing to what at last met our eyes. It is
sometimes the custom when fast to a whale more than commonly powerful
and alert, to seek to hamstring him, as it were, by sundering or
maiming his gigantic tail-tendon. It is done by darting a short-handled
cutting-spade, to which is attached a rope for hauling it back again.
A whale wounded (as we afterwards learned) in this part, but not
effectually, as it seemed, had broken away from the boat, carrying along
with him half of the harpoon line; and in the extraordinary agony of
the wound, he was now dashing among the revolving circles like the lone
mounted desperado Arnold, at the battle of Saratoga, carrying dismay
wherever he went.

But agonizing as was the wound of this whale, and an appalling spectacle
enough, any way; yet the peculiar horror with which he seemed to
inspire the rest of the herd, was owing to a cause which at first the
intervening distance obscured from us. But at length we perceived that
by one of the unimaginable accidents of the fishery, this whale had
become entangled in the harpoon-line that he towed; he had also run
away with the cutting-spade in him; and while the free end of the rope
attached to that weapon, had permanently caught in the coils of the
harpoon-line round his tail, the cutting-spade itself had worked loose
from his flesh. So that tormented to madness, he was now churning
through the water, violently flailing with his flexible tail, and
tossing the keen spade about him, wounding and murdering his own

This terrific object seemed to recall the whole herd from their
stationary fright. First, the whales forming the margin of our lake
began to crowd a little, and tumble against each other, as if lifted
by half spent billows from afar; then the lake itself began faintly to
heave and swell; the submarine bridal-chambers and nurseries vanished;
in more and more contracting orbits the whales in the more central
circles began to swim in thickening clusters. Yes, the long calm was
departing. A low advancing hum was soon heard; and then like to the
tumultuous masses of block-ice when the great river Hudson breaks up in
Spring, the entire host of whales came tumbling upon their inner centre,
as if to pile themselves up in one common mountain. Instantly Starbuck
and Queequeg changed places; Starbuck taking the stern.

“Oars! Oars!” he intensely whispered, seizing the helm--“gripe your
oars, and clutch your souls, now! My God, men, stand by! Shove him off,
you Queequeg--the whale there!--prick him!--hit him! Stand up--stand
up, and stay so! Spring, men--pull, men; never mind their backs--scrape
them!--scrape away!”

The boat was now all but jammed between two vast black bulks, leaving a
narrow Dardanelles between their long lengths. But by desperate endeavor
we at last shot into a temporary opening; then giving way rapidly,
and at the same time earnestly watching for another outlet. After many
similar hair-breadth escapes, we at last swiftly glided into what had
just been one of the outer circles, but now crossed by random whales,
all violently making for one centre. This lucky salvation was cheaply
purchased by the loss of Queequeg’s hat, who, while standing in the bows
to prick the fugitive whales, had his hat taken clean from his head by
the air-eddy made by the sudden tossing of a pair of broad flukes close

Riotous and disordered as the universal commotion now was, it soon
resolved itself into what seemed a systematic movement; for having
clumped together at last in one dense body, they then renewed their
onward flight with augmented fleetness. Further pursuit was useless; but
the boats still lingered in their wake to pick up what drugged whales
might be dropped astern, and likewise to secure one which Flask had
killed and waifed. The waif is a pennoned pole, two or three of which
are carried by every boat; and which, when additional game is at hand,
are inserted upright into the floating body of a dead whale, both to
mark its place on the sea, and also as token of prior possession, should
the boats of any other ship draw near.

The result of this lowering was somewhat illustrative of that sagacious
saying in the Fishery,--the more whales the less fish. Of all the
drugged whales only one was captured. The rest contrived to escape for
the time, but only to be taken, as will hereafter be seen, by some other
craft than the Pequod.

CHAPTER 88. Schools and Schoolmasters.

The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or herd of Sperm
Whales, and there was also then given the probable cause inducing those
vast aggregations.

Now, though such great bodies are at times encountered, yet, as must
have been seen, even at the present day, small detached bands are
occasionally observed, embracing from twenty to fifty individuals each.
Such bands are known as schools. They generally are of two sorts; those
composed almost entirely of females, and those mustering none but young
vigorous males, or bulls, as they are familiarly designated.

In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see a
male of full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm, evinces
his gallantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight of his
ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman, swimming about
over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces
and endearments of the harem. The contrast between this Ottoman and
his concubines is striking; because, while he is always of the largest
leviathanic proportions, the ladies, even at full growth, are not
more than one-third of the bulk of an average-sized male. They are
comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare say, not to exceed half a dozen
yards round the waist. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied, that upon the
whole they are hereditarily entitled to EMBONPOINT.

It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolent
ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in leisurely
search of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for the full flower
of the Equatorial feeding season, having just returned, perhaps, from
spending the summer in the Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all
unpleasant weariness and warmth. By the time they have lounged up and
down the promenade of the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental
waters in anticipation of the cool season there, and so evade the other
excessive temperature of the year.

When serenely advancing on one of these journeys, if any strange
suspicious sights are seen, my lord whale keeps a wary eye on his
interesting family. Should any unwarrantably pert young Leviathan coming
that way, presume to draw confidentially close to one of the ladies,
with what prodigious fury the Bashaw assails him, and chases him away!
High times, indeed, if unprincipled young rakes like him are to be
permitted to invade the sanctity of domestic bliss; though do what the
Bashaw will, he cannot keep the most notorious Lothario out of his bed;
for, alas! all fish bed in common. As ashore, the ladies often cause the
most terrible duels among their rival admirers; just so with the whales,
who sometimes come to deadly battle, and all for love. They fence with
their long lower jaws, sometimes locking them together, and so striving
for the supremacy like elks that warringly interweave their antlers. Not
a few are captured having the deep scars of these encounters,--furrowed
heads, broken teeth, scolloped fins; and in some instances, wrenched and
dislocated mouths.

But supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake himself away at
the first rush of the harem’s lord, then is it very diverting to watch
that lord. Gently he insinuates his vast bulk among them again and
revels there awhile, still in tantalizing vicinity to young Lothario,
like pious Solomon devoutly worshipping among his thousand concubines.
Granting other whales to be in sight, the fishermen will seldom give
chase to one of these Grand Turks; for these Grand Turks are too lavish
of their strength, and hence their unctuousness is small. As for the
sons and the daughters they beget, why, those sons and daughters must
take care of themselves; at least, with only the maternal help. For
like certain other omnivorous roving lovers that might be named, my Lord
Whale has no taste for the nursery, however much for the bower; and so,
being a great traveller, he leaves his anonymous babies all over the
world; every baby an exotic. In good time, nevertheless, as the ardour
of youth declines; as years and dumps increase; as reflection lends
her solemn pauses; in short, as a general lassitude overtakes the sated
Turk; then a love of ease and virtue supplants the love for maidens; our
Ottoman enters upon the impotent, repentant, admonitory stage of life,
forswears, disbands the harem, and grown to an exemplary, sulky old
soul, goes about all alone among the meridians and parallels saying his
prayers, and warning each young Leviathan from his amorous errors.

Now, as the harem of whales is called by the fishermen a school, so
is the lord and master of that school technically known as the
schoolmaster. It is therefore not in strict character, however admirably
satirical, that after going to school himself, he should then go abroad
inculcating not what he learned there, but the folly of it. His title,
schoolmaster, would very naturally seem derived from the name bestowed
upon the harem itself, but some have surmised that the man who first
thus entitled this sort of Ottoman whale, must have read the memoirs of
Vidocq, and informed himself what sort of a country-schoolmaster that
famous Frenchman was in his younger days, and what was the nature of
those occult lessons he inculcated into some of his pupils.

The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale
betakes himself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm
Whales. Almost universally, a lone whale--as a solitary Leviathan is
called--proves an ancient one. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel Boone,
he will have no one near him but Nature herself; and her he takes to
wife in the wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she is, though
she keeps so many moody secrets.

The schools composing none but young and vigorous males, previously
mentioned, offer a strong contrast to the harem schools. For while
those female whales are characteristically timid, the young males, or
forty-barrel-bulls, as they call them, are by far the most pugnacious
of all Leviathans, and proverbially the most dangerous to encounter;
excepting those wondrous grey-headed, grizzled whales, sometimes met,
and these will fight you like grim fiends exasperated by a penal gout.

The Forty-barrel-bull schools are larger than the harem schools. Like
a mob of young collegians, they are full of fight, fun, and wickedness,
tumbling round the world at such a reckless, rollicking rate, that no
prudent underwriter would insure them any more than he would a riotous
lad at Yale or Harvard. They soon relinquish this turbulence though,
and when about three-fourths grown, break up, and separately go about in
quest of settlements, that is, harems.

Another point of difference between the male and female schools is
still more characteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a
Forty-barrel-bull--poor devil! all his comrades quit him. But strike
a member of the harem school, and her companions swim around her with
every token of concern, sometimes lingering so near her and so long, as
themselves to fall a prey.

CHAPTER 89. Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish.

The allusion to the waif and waif-poles in the last chapter but one,
necessitates some account of the laws and regulations of the whale
fishery, of which the waif may be deemed the grand symbol and badge.

It frequently happens that when several ships are cruising in company,
a whale may be struck by one vessel, then escape, and be finally killed
and captured by another vessel; and herein are indirectly comprised
many minor contingencies, all partaking of this one grand feature. For
example,--after a weary and perilous chase and capture of a whale,
the body may get loose from the ship by reason of a violent storm; and
drifting far away to leeward, be retaken by a second whaler, who, in a
calm, snugly tows it alongside, without risk of life or line. Thus
the most vexatious and violent disputes would often arise between
the fishermen, were there not some written or unwritten, universal,
undisputed law applicable to all cases.

Perhaps the only formal whaling code authorized by legislative
enactment, was that of Holland. It was decreed by the States-General in
A.D. 1695. But though no other nation has ever had any written whaling
law, yet the American fishermen have been their own legislators and
lawyers in this matter. They have provided a system which for terse
comprehensiveness surpasses Justinian’s Pandects and the By-laws of
the Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling with other People’s
Business. Yes; these laws might be engraven on a Queen Anne’s farthing,
or the barb of a harpoon, and worn round the neck, so small are they.

I. A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it.

II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it.

But what plays the mischief with this masterly code is the admirable
brevity of it, which necessitates a vast volume of commentaries to
expound it.

First: What is a Fast-Fish? Alive or dead a fish is technically fast,
when it is connected with an occupied ship or boat, by any medium at all
controllable by the occupant or occupants,--a mast, an oar, a nine-inch
cable, a telegraph wire, or a strand of cobweb, it is all the same.
Likewise a fish is technically fast when it bears a waif, or any other
recognised symbol of possession; so long as the party waifing it plainly
evince their ability at any time to take it alongside, as well as their
intention so to do.

These are scientific commentaries; but the commentaries of the whalemen
themselves sometimes consist in hard words and harder knocks--the
Coke-upon-Littleton of the fist. True, among the more upright and
honourable whalemen allowances are always made for peculiar cases,
where it would be an outrageous moral injustice for one party to claim
possession of a whale previously chased or killed by another party. But
others are by no means so scrupulous.

Some fifty years ago there was a curious case of whale-trover litigated
in England, wherein the plaintiffs set forth that after a hard chase of
a whale in the Northern seas; and when indeed they (the plaintiffs) had
succeeded in harpooning the fish; they were at last, through peril of
their lives, obliged to forsake not only their lines, but their boat
itself. Ultimately the defendants (the crew of another ship) came up
with the whale, struck, killed, seized, and finally appropriated it
before the very eyes of the plaintiffs. And when those defendants were
remonstrated with, their captain snapped his fingers in the plaintiffs’
teeth, and assured them that by way of doxology to the deed he had done,
he would now retain their line, harpoons, and boat, which had remained
attached to the whale at the time of the seizure. Wherefore the
plaintiffs now sued for the recovery of the value of their whale, line,
harpoons, and boat.

Mr. Erskine was counsel for the defendants; Lord Ellenborough was
the judge. In the course of the defence, the witty Erskine went on
to illustrate his position, by alluding to a recent crim. con.
case, wherein a gentleman, after in vain trying to bridle his wife’s
viciousness, had at last abandoned her upon the seas of life; but in
the course of years, repenting of that step, he instituted an action to
recover possession of her. Erskine was on the other side; and he
then supported it by saying, that though the gentleman had originally
harpooned the lady, and had once had her fast, and only by reason of the
great stress of her plunging viciousness, had at last abandoned her; yet
abandon her he did, so that she became a loose-fish; and therefore
when a subsequent gentleman re-harpooned her, the lady then became that
subsequent gentleman’s property, along with whatever harpoon might have
been found sticking in her.

Now in the present case Erskine contended that the examples of the whale
and the lady were reciprocally illustrative of each other.

These pleadings, and the counter pleadings, being duly heard, the very
learned Judge in set terms decided, to wit,--That as for the boat, he
awarded it to the plaintiffs, because they had merely abandoned it
to save their lives; but that with regard to the controverted whale,
harpoons, and line, they belonged to the defendants; the whale, because
it was a Loose-Fish at the time of the final capture; and the harpoons
and line because when the fish made off with them, it (the fish)
acquired a property in those articles; and hence anybody who afterwards
took the fish had a right to them. Now the defendants afterwards took
the fish; ergo, the aforesaid articles were theirs.

A common man looking at this decision of the very learned Judge, might
possibly object to it. But ploughed up to the primary rock of the
matter, the two great principles laid down in the twin whaling laws
previously quoted, and applied and elucidated by Lord Ellenborough in
the above cited case; these two laws touching Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish,
I say, will, on reflection, be found the fundamentals of all human
jurisprudence; for notwithstanding its complicated tracery of sculpture,
the Temple of the Law, like the Temple of the Philistines, has but two
props to stand on.

Is it not a saying in every one’s mouth, Possession is half of the law:
that is, regardless of how the thing came into possession? But often
possession is the whole of the law. What are the sinews and souls of
Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish, whereof possession is
the whole of the law? What to the rapacious landlord is the widow’s last
mite but a Fast-Fish? What is yonder undetected villain’s marble mansion
with a door-plate for a waif; what is that but a Fast-Fish? What is the
ruinous discount which Mordecai, the broker, gets from poor Woebegone,
the bankrupt, on a loan to keep Woebegone’s family from starvation;
what is that ruinous discount but a Fast-Fish? What is the Archbishop of
Savesoul’s income of L100,000 seized from the scant bread and cheese
of hundreds of thousands of broken-backed laborers (all sure of heaven
without any of Savesoul’s help) what is that globular L100,000 but a
Fast-Fish? What are the Duke of Dunder’s hereditary towns and hamlets
but Fast-Fish? What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor
Ireland, but a Fast-Fish? What to that apostolic lancer, Brother
Jonathan, is Texas but a Fast-Fish? And concerning all these, is not
Possession the whole of the law?

But if the doctrine of Fast-Fish be pretty generally applicable,
the kindred doctrine of Loose-Fish is still more widely so. That is
internationally and universally applicable.

What was America in 1492 but a Loose-Fish, in which Columbus struck the
Spanish standard by way of waifing it for his royal master and mistress?
What was Poland to the Czar? What Greece to the Turk? What India
to England? What at last will Mexico be to the United States? All

What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but
Loose-Fish? What all men’s minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is
the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to
the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but
Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what
are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?

CHAPTER 90. Heads or Tails.

“De balena vero sufficit, si rex habeat caput, et regina caudam.”
 BRACTON, L. 3, C. 3.

Latin from the books of the Laws of England, which taken along with the
context, means, that of all whales captured by anybody on the coast of
that land, the King, as Honourary Grand Harpooneer, must have the head,
and the Queen be respectfully presented with the tail. A division which,
in the whale, is much like halving an apple; there is no intermediate
remainder. Now as this law, under a modified form, is to this day in
force in England; and as it offers in various respects a strange anomaly
touching the general law of Fast and Loose-Fish, it is here treated of
in a separate chapter, on the same courteous principle that prompts
the English railways to be at the expense of a separate car, specially
reserved for the accommodation of royalty. In the first place, in
curious proof of the fact that the above-mentioned law is still in
force, I proceed to lay before you a circumstance that happened within
the last two years.

It seems that some honest mariners of Dover, or Sandwich, or some one
of the Cinque Ports, had after a hard chase succeeded in killing and
beaching a fine whale which they had originally descried afar off from
the shore. Now the Cinque Ports are partially or somehow under the
jurisdiction of a sort of policeman or beadle, called a Lord Warden.
Holding the office directly from the crown, I believe, all the royal
emoluments incident to the Cinque Port territories become by assignment
his. By some writers this office is called a sinecure. But not so.
Because the Lord Warden is busily employed at times in fobbing his
perquisites; which are his chiefly by virtue of that same fobbing of

Now when these poor sun-burnt mariners, bare-footed, and with their
trowsers rolled high up on their eely legs, had wearily hauled their fat
fish high and dry, promising themselves a good L150 from the precious
oil and bone; and in fantasy sipping rare tea with their wives, and good
ale with their cronies, upon the strength of their respective shares; up
steps a very learned and most Christian and charitable gentleman, with
a copy of Blackstone under his arm; and laying it upon the whale’s head,
he says--“Hands off! this fish, my masters, is a Fast-Fish. I seize it
as the Lord Warden’s.” Upon this the poor mariners in their respectful
consternation--so truly English--knowing not what to say, fall to
vigorously scratching their heads all round; meanwhile ruefully glancing
from the whale to the stranger. But that did in nowise mend the matter,
or at all soften the hard heart of the learned gentleman with the copy
of Blackstone. At length one of them, after long scratching about for
his ideas, made bold to speak,

“Please, sir, who is the Lord Warden?”

“The Duke.”

“But the duke had nothing to do with taking this fish?”

“It is his.”

“We have been at great trouble, and peril, and some expense, and is
all that to go to the Duke’s benefit; we getting nothing at all for our
pains but our blisters?”

“It is his.”

“Is the Duke so very poor as to be forced to this desperate mode of
getting a livelihood?”

“It is his.”

“I thought to relieve my old bed-ridden mother by part of my share of
this whale.”

“It is his.”

“Won’t the Duke be content with a quarter or a half?”

“It is his.”

In a word, the whale was seized and sold, and his Grace the Duke of
Wellington received the money. Thinking that viewed in some particular
lights, the case might by a bare possibility in some small degree be
deemed, under the circumstances, a rather hard one, an honest clergyman
of the town respectfully addressed a note to his Grace, begging him to
take the case of those unfortunate mariners into full consideration. To
which my Lord Duke in substance replied (both letters were published)
that he had already done so, and received the money, and would be
obliged to the reverend gentleman if for the future he (the reverend
gentleman) would decline meddling with other people’s business. Is
this the still militant old man, standing at the corners of the three
kingdoms, on all hands coercing alms of beggars?

It will readily be seen that in this case the alleged right of the
Duke to the whale was a delegated one from the Sovereign. We must needs
inquire then on what principle the Sovereign is originally invested with
that right. The law itself has already been set forth. But Plowdon gives
us the reason for it. Says Plowdon, the whale so caught belongs to
the King and Queen, “because of its superior excellence.” And by the
soundest commentators this has ever been held a cogent argument in such

But why should the King have the head, and the Queen the tail? A reason
for that, ye lawyers!

In his treatise on “Queen-Gold,” or Queen-pinmoney, an old King’s Bench
author, one William Prynne, thus discourseth: “Ye tail is ye Queen’s,
that ye Queen’s wardrobe may be supplied with ye whalebone.” Now this
was written at a time when the black limber bone of the Greenland or
Right whale was largely used in ladies’ bodices. But this same bone
is not in the tail; it is in the head, which is a sad mistake for
a sagacious lawyer like Prynne. But is the Queen a mermaid, to be
presented with a tail? An allegorical meaning may lurk here.

There are two royal fish so styled by the English law writers--the whale
and the sturgeon; both royal property under certain limitations, and
nominally supplying the tenth branch of the crown’s ordinary revenue.
I know not that any other author has hinted of the matter; but by
inference it seems to me that the sturgeon must be divided in the same
way as the whale, the King receiving the highly dense and elastic head
peculiar to that fish, which, symbolically regarded, may possibly be
humorously grounded upon some presumed congeniality. And thus there
seems a reason in all things, even in law.

CHAPTER 91. The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud.

“In vain it was to rake for Ambergriese in the paunch of this Leviathan,
insufferable fetor denying not inquiry.” SIR T. BROWNE, V.E.

It was a week or two after the last whaling scene recounted, and when we
were slowly sailing over a sleepy, vapoury, mid-day sea, that the many
noses on the Pequod’s deck proved more vigilant discoverers than the
three pairs of eyes aloft. A peculiar and not very pleasant smell was
smelt in the sea.

“I will bet something now,” said Stubb, “that somewhere hereabouts are
some of those drugged whales we tickled the other day. I thought they
would keel up before long.”

Presently, the vapours in advance slid aside; and there in the distance
lay a ship, whose furled sails betokened that some sort of whale must be
alongside. As we glided nearer, the stranger showed French colours from
his peak; and by the eddying cloud of vulture sea-fowl that circled, and
hovered, and swooped around him, it was plain that the whale alongside
must be what the fishermen call a blasted whale, that is, a whale that
has died unmolested on the sea, and so floated an unappropriated corpse.
It may well be conceived, what an unsavory odor such a mass must
exhale; worse than an Assyrian city in the plague, when the living are
incompetent to bury the departed. So intolerable indeed is it regarded
by some, that no cupidity could persuade them to moor alongside of it.
Yet are there those who will still do it; notwithstanding the fact that
the oil obtained from such subjects is of a very inferior quality, and
by no means of the nature of attar-of-rose.

Coming still nearer with the expiring breeze, we saw that the Frenchman
had a second whale alongside; and this second whale seemed even more
of a nosegay than the first. In truth, it turned out to be one of
those problematical whales that seem to dry up and die with a sort
of prodigious dyspepsia, or indigestion; leaving their defunct bodies
almost entirely bankrupt of anything like oil. Nevertheless, in the
proper place we shall see that no knowing fisherman will ever turn
up his nose at such a whale as this, however much he may shun blasted
whales in general.

The Pequod had now swept so nigh to the stranger, that Stubb vowed
he recognised his cutting spade-pole entangled in the lines that were
knotted round the tail of one of these whales.

“There’s a pretty fellow, now,” he banteringly laughed, standing in the
ship’s bows, “there’s a jackal for ye! I well know that these Crappoes
of Frenchmen are but poor devils in the fishery; sometimes lowering
their boats for breakers, mistaking them for Sperm Whale spouts; yes,
and sometimes sailing from their port with their hold full of boxes of
tallow candles, and cases of snuffers, foreseeing that all the oil they
will get won’t be enough to dip the Captain’s wick into; aye, we all
know these things; but look ye, here’s a Crappo that is content with our
leavings, the drugged whale there, I mean; aye, and is content too with
scraping the dry bones of that other precious fish he has there. Poor
devil! I say, pass round a hat, some one, and let’s make him a present
of a little oil for dear charity’s sake. For what oil he’ll get from
that drugged whale there, wouldn’t be fit to burn in a jail; no, not
in a condemned cell. And as for the other whale, why, I’ll agree to get
more oil by chopping up and trying out these three masts of ours, than
he’ll get from that bundle of bones; though, now that I think of it, it
may contain something worth a good deal more than oil; yes, ambergris.
I wonder now if our old man has thought of that. It’s worth trying. Yes,
I’m for it;” and so saying he started for the quarter-deck.

By this time the faint air had become a complete calm; so that whether
or no, the Pequod was now fairly entrapped in the smell, with no hope of
escaping except by its breezing up again. Issuing from the cabin, Stubb
now called his boat’s crew, and pulled off for the stranger. Drawing
across her bow, he perceived that in accordance with the fanciful French
taste, the upper part of her stem-piece was carved in the likeness of a
huge drooping stalk, was painted green, and for thorns had copper
spikes projecting from it here and there; the whole terminating in a
symmetrical folded bulb of a bright red colour. Upon her head boards, in
large gilt letters, he read “Bouton de Rose,”--Rose-button, or Rose-bud;
and this was the romantic name of this aromatic ship.

Though Stubb did not understand the BOUTON part of the inscription, yet
the word ROSE, and the bulbous figure-head put together, sufficiently
explained the whole to him.

“A wooden rose-bud, eh?” he cried with his hand to his nose, “that will
do very well; but how like all creation it smells!”

Now in order to hold direct communication with the people on deck, he
had to pull round the bows to the starboard side, and thus come close to
the blasted whale; and so talk over it.

Arrived then at this spot, with one hand still to his nose, he
bawled--“Bouton-de-Rose, ahoy! are there any of you Bouton-de-Roses that
speak English?”

“Yes,” rejoined a Guernsey-man from the bulwarks, who turned out to be
the chief-mate.

“Well, then, my Bouton-de-Rose-bud, have you seen the White Whale?”

“WHAT whale?”

“The WHITE Whale--a Sperm Whale--Moby Dick, have ye seen him?

“Never heard of such a whale. Cachalot Blanche! White Whale--no.”

“Very good, then; good bye now, and I’ll call again in a minute.”

Then rapidly pulling back towards the Pequod, and seeing Ahab leaning
over the quarter-deck rail awaiting his report, he moulded his two hands
into a trumpet and shouted--“No, Sir! No!” Upon which Ahab retired, and
Stubb returned to the Frenchman.

He now perceived that the Guernsey-man, who had just got into the
chains, and was using a cutting-spade, had slung his nose in a sort of

“What’s the matter with your nose, there?” said Stubb. “Broke it?”

“I wish it was broken, or that I didn’t have any nose at all!” answered
the Guernsey-man, who did not seem to relish the job he was at very
much. “But what are you holding YOURS for?”

“Oh, nothing! It’s a wax nose; I have to hold it on. Fine day, ain’t it?
Air rather gardenny, I should say; throw us a bunch of posies, will ye,

“What in the devil’s name do you want here?” roared the Guernseyman,
flying into a sudden passion.

“Oh! keep cool--cool? yes, that’s the word! why don’t you pack those
whales in ice while you’re working at ‘em? But joking aside, though; do
you know, Rose-bud, that it’s all nonsense trying to get any oil out of
such whales? As for that dried up one, there, he hasn’t a gill in his
whole carcase.”

“I know that well enough; but, d’ye see, the Captain here won’t believe
it; this is his first voyage; he was a Cologne manufacturer before. But
come aboard, and mayhap he’ll believe you, if he won’t me; and so I’ll
get out of this dirty scrape.”

“Anything to oblige ye, my sweet and pleasant fellow,” rejoined Stubb,
and with that he soon mounted to the deck. There a queer scene presented
itself. The sailors, in tasselled caps of red worsted, were getting the
heavy tackles in readiness for the whales. But they worked rather slow
and talked very fast, and seemed in anything but a good humor. All their
noses upwardly projected from their faces like so many jib-booms.
Now and then pairs of them would drop their work, and run up to the
mast-head to get some fresh air. Some thinking they would catch the
plague, dipped oakum in coal-tar, and at intervals held it to their
nostrils. Others having broken the stems of their pipes almost short
off at the bowl, were vigorously puffing tobacco-smoke, so that it
constantly filled their olfactories.

Stubb was struck by a shower of outcries and anathemas proceeding from
the Captain’s round-house abaft; and looking in that direction saw a
fiery face thrust from behind the door, which was held ajar from within.
This was the tormented surgeon, who, after in vain remonstrating
against the proceedings of the day, had betaken himself to the Captain’s
round-house (CABINET he called it) to avoid the pest; but still, could
not help yelling out his entreaties and indignations at times.

Marking all this, Stubb argued well for his scheme, and turning to the
Guernsey-man had a little chat with him, during which the stranger mate
expressed his detestation of his Captain as a conceited ignoramus,
who had brought them all into so unsavory and unprofitable a pickle.
Sounding him carefully, Stubb further perceived that the Guernsey-man
had not the slightest suspicion concerning the ambergris. He therefore
held his peace on that head, but otherwise was quite frank and
confidential with him, so that the two quickly concocted a little plan
for both circumventing and satirizing the Captain, without his at all
dreaming of distrusting their sincerity. According to this little plan
of theirs, the Guernsey-man, under cover of an interpreter’s office, was
to tell the Captain what he pleased, but as coming from Stubb; and as
for Stubb, he was to utter any nonsense that should come uppermost in
him during the interview.

By this time their destined victim appeared from his cabin. He was a
small and dark, but rather delicate looking man for a sea-captain, with
large whiskers and moustache, however; and wore a red cotton velvet vest
with watch-seals at his side. To this gentleman, Stubb was now politely
introduced by the Guernsey-man, who at once ostentatiously put on the
aspect of interpreting between them.

“What shall I say to him first?” said he.

“Why,” said Stubb, eyeing the velvet vest and the watch and seals, “you
may as well begin by telling him that he looks a sort of babyish to me,
though I don’t pretend to be a judge.”

“He says, Monsieur,” said the Guernsey-man, in French, turning to his
captain, “that only yesterday his ship spoke a vessel, whose captain
and chief-mate, with six sailors, had all died of a fever caught from a
blasted whale they had brought alongside.”

Upon this the captain started, and eagerly desired to know more.

“What now?” said the Guernsey-man to Stubb.

“Why, since he takes it so easy, tell him that now I have eyed him
carefully, I’m quite certain that he’s no more fit to command a
whale-ship than a St. Jago monkey. In fact, tell him from me he’s a

“He vows and declares, Monsieur, that the other whale, the dried one, is
far more deadly than the blasted one; in fine, Monsieur, he conjures us,
as we value our lives, to cut loose from these fish.”

Instantly the captain ran forward, and in a loud voice commanded his
crew to desist from hoisting the cutting-tackles, and at once cast loose
the cables and chains confining the whales to the ship.

“What now?” said the Guernsey-man, when the Captain had returned to

“Why, let me see; yes, you may as well tell him now that--that--in
fact, tell him I’ve diddled him, and (aside to himself) perhaps somebody

“He says, Monsieur, that he’s very happy to have been of any service to

Hearing this, the captain vowed that they were the grateful parties
(meaning himself and mate) and concluded by inviting Stubb down into his
cabin to drink a bottle of Bordeaux.

“He wants you to take a glass of wine with him,” said the interpreter.

“Thank him heartily; but tell him it’s against my principles to drink
with the man I’ve diddled. In fact, tell him I must go.”

“He says, Monsieur, that his principles won’t admit of his drinking; but
that if Monsieur wants to live another day to drink, then Monsieur had
best drop all four boats, and pull the ship away from these whales, for
it’s so calm they won’t drift.”

By this time Stubb was over the side, and getting into his boat, hailed
the Guernsey-man to this effect,--that having a long tow-line in his
boat, he would do what he could to help them, by pulling out the lighter
whale of the two from the ship’s side. While the Frenchman’s boats,
then, were engaged in towing the ship one way, Stubb benevolently towed
away at his whale the other way, ostentatiously slacking out a most
unusually long tow-line.

Presently a breeze sprang up; Stubb feigned to cast off from the whale;
hoisting his boats, the Frenchman soon increased his distance, while the
Pequod slid in between him and Stubb’s whale. Whereupon Stubb quickly
pulled to the floating body, and hailing the Pequod to give notice of
his intentions, at once proceeded to reap the fruit of his unrighteous
cunning. Seizing his sharp boat-spade, he commenced an excavation in the
body, a little behind the side fin. You would almost have thought he was
digging a cellar there in the sea; and when at length his spade struck
against the gaunt ribs, it was like turning up old Roman tiles and
pottery buried in fat English loam. His boat’s crew were all in high
excitement, eagerly helping their chief, and looking as anxious as

And all the time numberless fowls were diving, and ducking, and
screaming, and yelling, and fighting around them. Stubb was beginning
to look disappointed, especially as the horrible nosegay increased, when
suddenly from out the very heart of this plague, there stole a faint
stream of perfume, which flowed through the tide of bad smells without
being absorbed by it, as one river will flow into and then along with
another, without at all blending with it for a time.

“I have it, I have it,” cried Stubb, with delight, striking something in
the subterranean regions, “a purse! a purse!”

Dropping his spade, he thrust both hands in, and drew out handfuls
of something that looked like ripe Windsor soap, or rich mottled old
cheese; very unctuous and savory withal. You might easily dent it with
your thumb; it is of a hue between yellow and ash colour. And this, good
friends, is ambergris, worth a gold guinea an ounce to any druggist.
Some six handfuls were obtained; but more was unavoidably lost in the
sea, and still more, perhaps, might have been secured were it not for
impatient Ahab’s loud command to Stubb to desist, and come on board,
else the ship would bid them good bye.

CHAPTER 92. Ambergris.

Now this ambergris is a very curious substance, and so important as
an article of commerce, that in 1791 a certain Nantucket-born Captain
Coffin was examined at the bar of the English House of Commons on that
subject. For at that time, and indeed until a comparatively late day,
the precise origin of ambergris remained, like amber itself, a problem
to the learned. Though the word ambergris is but the French compound for
grey amber, yet the two substances are quite distinct. For amber, though
at times found on the sea-coast, is also dug up in some far inland
soils, whereas ambergris is never found except upon the sea. Besides,
amber is a hard, transparent, brittle, odorless substance, used for
mouth-pieces to pipes, for beads and ornaments; but ambergris is soft,
waxy, and so highly fragrant and spicy, that it is largely used in
perfumery, in pastiles, precious candles, hair-powders, and pomatum.
The Turks use it in cooking, and also carry it to Mecca, for the same
purpose that frankincense is carried to St. Peter’s in Rome. Some wine
merchants drop a few grains into claret, to flavor it.

Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should regale
themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick
whale! Yet so it is. By some, ambergris is supposed to be the cause, and
by others the effect, of the dyspepsia in the whale. How to cure such
a dyspepsia it were hard to say, unless by administering three or four
boat loads of Brandreth’s pills, and then running out of harm’s way, as
laborers do in blasting rocks.

I have forgotten to say that there were found in this ambergris, certain
hard, round, bony plates, which at first Stubb thought might be sailors’
trowsers buttons; but it afterwards turned out that they were nothing
more than pieces of small squid bones embalmed in that manner.

Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris should be
found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing? Bethink thee of that
saying of St. Paul in Corinthians, about corruption and incorruption;
how that we are sown in dishonour, but raised in glory. And likewise
call to mind that saying of Paracelsus about what it is that maketh
the best musk. Also forget not the strange fact that of all things of
ill-savor, Cologne-water, in its rudimental manufacturing stages, is the

I should like to conclude the chapter with the above appeal, but cannot,
owing to my anxiety to repel a charge often made against whalemen,
and which, in the estimation of some already biased minds, might be
considered as indirectly substantiated by what has been said of
the Frenchman’s two whales. Elsewhere in this volume the slanderous
aspersion has been disproved, that the vocation of whaling is throughout
a slatternly, untidy business. But there is another thing to rebut. They
hint that all whales always smell bad. Now how did this odious stigma

I opine, that it is plainly traceable to the first arrival of the
Greenland whaling ships in London, more than two centuries ago. Because
those whalemen did not then, and do not now, try out their oil at sea as
the Southern ships have always done; but cutting up the fresh blubber in
small bits, thrust it through the bung holes of large casks, and carry
it home in that manner; the shortness of the season in those Icy Seas,
and the sudden and violent storms to which they are exposed, forbidding
any other course. The consequence is, that upon breaking into the hold,
and unloading one of these whale cemeteries, in the Greenland dock, a
savor is given forth somewhat similar to that arising from excavating an
old city grave-yard, for the foundations of a Lying-in-Hospital.

I partly surmise also, that this wicked charge against whalers may be
likewise imputed to the existence on the coast of Greenland, in former
times, of a Dutch village called Schmerenburgh or Smeerenberg, which
latter name is the one used by the learned Fogo Von Slack, in his great
work on Smells, a text-book on that subject. As its name imports (smeer,
fat; berg, to put up), this village was founded in order to afford a
place for the blubber of the Dutch whale fleet to be tried out, without
being taken home to Holland for that purpose. It was a collection of
furnaces, fat-kettles, and oil sheds; and when the works were in full
operation certainly gave forth no very pleasant savor. But all this is
quite different with a South Sea Sperm Whaler; which in a voyage of four
years perhaps, after completely filling her hold with oil, does not,
perhaps, consume fifty days in the business of boiling out; and in the
state that it is casked, the oil is nearly scentless. The truth is, that
living or dead, if but decently treated, whales as a species are by
no means creatures of ill odor; nor can whalemen be recognised, as the
people of the middle ages affected to detect a Jew in the company, by
the nose. Nor indeed can the whale possibly be otherwise than fragrant,
when, as a general thing, he enjoys such high health; taking abundance
of exercise; always out of doors; though, it is true, seldom in the
open air. I say, that the motion of a Sperm Whale’s flukes above water
dispenses a perfume, as when a musk-scented lady rustles her dress in a
warm parlor. What then shall I liken the Sperm Whale to for fragrance,
considering his magnitude? Must it not be to that famous elephant, with
jewelled tusks, and redolent with myrrh, which was led out of an Indian
town to do honour to Alexander the Great?

CHAPTER 93. The Castaway.

It was but some few days after encountering the Frenchman, that a most
significant event befell the most insignificant of the Pequod’s crew; an
event most lamentable; and which ended in providing the sometimes
madly merry and predestinated craft with a living and ever accompanying
prophecy of whatever shattered sequel might prove her own.

Now, in the whale ship, it is not every one that goes in the boats. Some
few hands are reserved called ship-keepers, whose province it is to work
the vessel while the boats are pursuing the whale. As a general thing,
these ship-keepers are as hardy fellows as the men comprising the boats’
crews. But if there happen to be an unduly slender, clumsy, or timorous
wight in the ship, that wight is certain to be made a ship-keeper. It
was so in the Pequod with the little negro Pippin by nick-name, Pip by
abbreviation. Poor Pip! ye have heard of him before; ye must remember
his tambourine on that dramatic midnight, so gloomy-jolly.

In outer aspect, Pip and Dough-Boy made a match, like a black pony and a
white one, of equal developments, though of dissimilar colour, driven in
one eccentric span. But while hapless Dough-Boy was by nature dull and
torpid in his intellects, Pip, though over tender-hearted, was at bottom
very bright, with that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness peculiar to
his tribe; a tribe, which ever enjoy all holidays and festivities with
finer, freer relish than any other race. For blacks, the year’s calendar
should show naught but three hundred and sixty-five Fourth of Julys and
New Year’s Days. Nor smile so, while I write that this little black was
brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy; behold yon lustrous
ebony, panelled in king’s cabinets. But Pip loved life, and all life’s
peaceable securities; so that the panic-striking business in which he
had somehow unaccountably become entrapped, had most sadly blurred his
brightness; though, as ere long will be seen, what was thus temporarily
subdued in him, in the end was destined to be luridly illumined by
strange wild fires, that fictitiously showed him off to ten times the
natural lustre with which in his native Tolland County in Connecticut,
he had once enlivened many a fiddler’s frolic on the green; and at
melodious even-tide, with his gay ha-ha! had turned the round horizon
into one star-belled tambourine. So, though in the clear air of day,
suspended against a blue-veined neck, the pure-watered diamond drop
will healthful glow; yet, when the cunning jeweller would show you
the diamond in its most impressive lustre, he lays it against a gloomy
ground, and then lights it up, not by the sun, but by some unnatural
gases. Then come out those fiery effulgences, infernally superb; then
the evil-blazing diamond, once the divinest symbol of the crystal skies,
looks like some crown-jewel stolen from the King of Hell. But let us to
the story.

It came to pass, that in the ambergris affair Stubb’s after-oarsman
chanced so to sprain his hand, as for a time to become quite maimed;
and, temporarily, Pip was put into his place.

The first time Stubb lowered with him, Pip evinced much nervousness;
but happily, for that time, escaped close contact with the whale; and
therefore came off not altogether discreditably; though Stubb observing
him, took care, afterwards, to exhort him to cherish his courageousness
to the utmost, for he might often find it needful.

Now upon the second lowering, the boat paddled upon the whale; and as
the fish received the darted iron, it gave its customary rap, which
happened, in this instance, to be right under poor Pip’s seat. The
involuntary consternation of the moment caused him to leap, paddle in
hand, out of the boat; and in such a way, that part of the slack whale
line coming against his chest, he breasted it overboard with him, so as
to become entangled in it, when at last plumping into the water. That
instant the stricken whale started on a fierce run, the line swiftly
straightened; and presto! poor Pip came all foaming up to the chocks
of the boat, remorselessly dragged there by the line, which had taken
several turns around his chest and neck.

Tashtego stood in the bows. He was full of the fire of the hunt. He
hated Pip for a poltroon. Snatching the boat-knife from its sheath,
he suspended its sharp edge over the line, and turning towards Stubb,
exclaimed interrogatively, “Cut?” Meantime Pip’s blue, choked face
plainly looked, Do, for God’s sake! All passed in a flash. In less than
half a minute, this entire thing happened.

“Damn him, cut!” roared Stubb; and so the whale was lost and Pip was

So soon as he recovered himself, the poor little negro was assailed
by yells and execrations from the crew. Tranquilly permitting these
irregular cursings to evaporate, Stubb then in a plain, business-like,
but still half humorous manner, cursed Pip officially; and that done,
unofficially gave him much wholesome advice. The substance was, Never
jump from a boat, Pip, except--but all the rest was indefinite, as the
soundest advice ever is. Now, in general, STICK TO THE BOAT, is your
true motto in whaling; but cases will sometimes happen when LEAP FROM
THE BOAT, is still better. Moreover, as if perceiving at last that if he
should give undiluted conscientious advice to Pip, he would be leaving
him too wide a margin to jump in for the future; Stubb suddenly dropped
all advice, and concluded with a peremptory command, “Stick to the boat,
Pip, or by the Lord, I won’t pick you up if you jump; mind that. We
can’t afford to lose whales by the likes of you; a whale would sell for
thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama. Bear that in mind, and
don’t jump any more.” Hereby perhaps Stubb indirectly hinted, that
though man loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which
propensity too often interferes with his benevolence.

But we are all in the hands of the Gods; and Pip jumped again. It was
under very similar circumstances to the first performance; but this time
he did not breast out the line; and hence, when the whale started to
run, Pip was left behind on the sea, like a hurried traveller’s trunk.
Alas! Stubb was but too true to his word. It was a beautiful, bounteous,
blue day; the spangled sea calm and cool, and flatly stretching away,
all round, to the horizon, like gold-beater’s skin hammered out to the
extremest. Bobbing up and down in that sea, Pip’s ebon head showed
like a head of cloves. No boat-knife was lifted when he fell so rapidly
astern. Stubb’s inexorable back was turned upon him; and the whale was
winged. In three minutes, a whole mile of shoreless ocean was between
Pip and Stubb. Out from the centre of the sea, poor Pip turned his
crisp, curling, black head to the sun, another lonely castaway, though
the loftiest and the brightest.

Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open ocean is as easy to the
practised swimmer as to ride in a spring-carriage ashore. But the awful
lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the
middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it? Mark, how
when sailors in a dead calm bathe in the open sea--mark how closely they
hug their ship and only coast along her sides.

But had Stubb really abandoned the poor little negro to his fate? No; he
did not mean to, at least. Because there were two boats in his wake,
and he supposed, no doubt, that they would of course come up to Pip very
quickly, and pick him up; though, indeed, such considerations towards
oarsmen jeopardized through their own timidity, is not always manifested
by the hunters in all similar instances; and such instances not
unfrequently occur; almost invariably in the fishery, a coward, so
called, is marked with the same ruthless detestation peculiar to
military navies and armies.

But it so happened, that those boats, without seeing Pip, suddenly
spying whales close to them on one side, turned, and gave chase; and
Stubb’s boat was now so far away, and he and all his crew so intent
upon his fish, that Pip’s ringed horizon began to expand around him
miserably. By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him; but
from that hour the little negro went about the deck an idiot; such, at
least, they said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body
up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though.
Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of
the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes;
and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the
joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous,
God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters
heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the
loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s
insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man
comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and
frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his

For the rest, blame not Stubb too hardly. The thing is common in that
fishery; and in the sequel of the narrative, it will then be seen what
like abandonment befell myself.

CHAPTER 94. A Squeeze of the Hand.

That whale of Stubb’s, so dearly purchased, was duly brought to
the Pequod’s side, where all those cutting and hoisting operations
previously detailed, were regularly gone through, even to the baling of
the Heidelburgh Tun, or Case.

While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were employed
in dragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled with the sperm; and
when the proper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully manipulated
ere going to the try-works, of which anon.

It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, with several
others, I sat down before a large Constantine’s bath of it, I found
it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about in the
liquid part. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back into fluid.
A sweet and unctuous duty! No wonder that in old times this sperm was
such a favourite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a sweetener! such a
softener! such a delicious molifier! After having my hands in it for
only a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, to
serpentine and spiralise.

As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter
exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under
indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among
those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within
the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their
opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as I snuffed up that
uncontaminated aroma,--literally and truly, like the smell of spring
violets; I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky
meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible
sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit
the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying
the heat of anger; while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from
all ill-will, or petulance, or malice, of any sort whatsoever.

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm
till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a
strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly
squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the
gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving
feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually
squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as
much as to say,--Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish
any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come;
let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into
each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and
sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now, since by
many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases
man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of attainable
felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in
the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fireside, the
country; now that I have perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case
eternally. In thoughts of the visions of the night, I saw long rows of
angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.

Now, while discoursing of sperm, it behooves to speak of other things
akin to it, in the business of preparing the sperm whale for the

First comes white-horse, so called, which is obtained from the tapering
part of the fish, and also from the thicker portions of his flukes. It
is tough with congealed tendons--a wad of muscle--but still contains
some oil. After being severed from the whale, the white-horse is first
cut into portable oblongs ere going to the mincer. They look much like
blocks of Berkshire marble.

Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmentary parts of the
whale’s flesh, here and there adhering to the blanket of blubber, and
often participating to a considerable degree in its unctuousness. It is
a most refreshing, convivial, beautiful object to behold. As its name
imports, it is of an exceedingly rich, mottled tint, with a bestreaked
snowy and golden ground, dotted with spots of the deepest crimson and
purple. It is plums of rubies, in pictures of citron. Spite of reason,
it is hard to keep yourself from eating it. I confess, that once I stole
behind the foremast to try it. It tasted something as I should conceive
a royal cutlet from the thigh of Louis le Gros might have tasted,
supposing him to have been killed the first day after the venison
season, and that particular venison season contemporary with an
unusually fine vintage of the vineyards of Champagne.

There is another substance, and a very singular one, which turns up in
the course of this business, but which I feel it to be very puzzling
adequately to describe. It is called slobgollion; an appellation
original with the whalemen, and even so is the nature of the substance.
It is an ineffably oozy, stringy affair, most frequently found in the
tubs of sperm, after a prolonged squeezing, and subsequent decanting.
I hold it to be the wondrously thin, ruptured membranes of the case,

Gurry, so called, is a term properly belonging to right whalemen, but
sometimes incidentally used by the sperm fishermen. It designates the
dark, glutinous substance which is scraped off the back of the Greenland
or right whale, and much of which covers the decks of those inferior
souls who hunt that ignoble Leviathan.

Nippers. Strictly this word is not indigenous to the whale’s vocabulary.
But as applied by whalemen, it becomes so. A whaleman’s nipper is
a short firm strip of tendinous stuff cut from the tapering part of
Leviathan’s tail: it averages an inch in thickness, and for the rest, is
about the size of the iron part of a hoe. Edgewise moved along the
oily deck, it operates like a leathern squilgee; and by nameless
blandishments, as of magic, allures along with it all impurities.

But to learn all about these recondite matters, your best way is at once
to descend into the blubber-room, and have a long talk with its inmates.
This place has previously been mentioned as the receptacle for the
blanket-pieces, when stript and hoisted from the whale. When the proper
time arrives for cutting up its contents, this apartment is a scene of
terror to all tyros, especially by night. On one side, lit by a dull
lantern, a space has been left clear for the workmen. They generally
go in pairs,--a pike-and-gaffman and a spade-man. The whaling-pike is
similar to a frigate’s boarding-weapon of the same name. The gaff is
something like a boat-hook. With his gaff, the gaffman hooks on to a
sheet of blubber, and strives to hold it from slipping, as the ship
pitches and lurches about. Meanwhile, the spade-man stands on the sheet
itself, perpendicularly chopping it into the portable horse-pieces. This
spade is sharp as hone can make it; the spademan’s feet are shoeless;
the thing he stands on will sometimes irresistibly slide away from
him, like a sledge. If he cuts off one of his own toes, or one of his
assistants’, would you be very much astonished? Toes are scarce among
veteran blubber-room men.

CHAPTER 95. The Cassock.

Had you stepped on board the Pequod at a certain juncture of this
post-mortemizing of the whale; and had you strolled forward nigh the
windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no small
curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would have seen
there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers. Not the wondrous
cistern in the whale’s huge head; not the prodigy of his unhinged lower
jaw; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail; none of these would so
surprise you, as half a glimpse of that unaccountable cone,--longer than
a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter at the base, and jet-black
as Yojo, the ebony idol of Queequeg. And an idol, indeed, it is; or,
rather, in old times, its likeness was. Such an idol as that found in
the secret groves of Queen Maachah in Judea; and for worshipping which,
King Asa, her son, did depose her, and destroyed the idol, and burnt it
for an abomination at the brook Kedron, as darkly set forth in the 15th
chapter of the First Book of Kings.

Look at the sailor, called the mincer, who now comes along, and assisted
by two allies, heavily backs the grandissimus, as the mariners call it,
and with bowed shoulders, staggers off with it as if he were a grenadier
carrying a dead comrade from the field. Extending it upon the forecastle
deck, he now proceeds cylindrically to remove its dark pelt, as an
African hunter the pelt of a boa. This done he turns the pelt inside
out, like a pantaloon leg; gives it a good stretching, so as almost to
double its diameter; and at last hangs it, well spread, in the rigging,
to dry. Ere long, it is taken down; when removing some three feet of it,
towards the pointed extremity, and then cutting two slits for arm-holes
at the other end, he lengthwise slips himself bodily into it. The mincer
now stands before you invested in the full canonicals of his calling.
Immemorial to all his order, this investiture alone will adequately
protect him, while employed in the peculiar functions of his office.

That office consists in mincing the horse-pieces of blubber for the
pots; an operation which is conducted at a curious wooden horse, planted
endwise against the bulwarks, and with a capacious tub beneath it, into
which the minced pieces drop, fast as the sheets from a rapt orator’s
desk. Arrayed in decent black; occupying a conspicuous pulpit; intent
on bible leaves; what a candidate for an archbishopric, what a lad for a
Pope were this mincer!*

*Bible leaves! Bible leaves! This is the invariable cry from the mates
to the mincer. It enjoins him to be careful, and cut his work into as
thin slices as possible, inasmuch as by so doing the business of
boiling out the oil is much accelerated, and its quantity considerably
increased, besides perhaps improving it in quality.

CHAPTER 96. The Try-Works.

Besides her hoisted boats, an American whaler is outwardly distinguished
by her try-works. She presents the curious anomaly of the most solid
masonry joining with oak and hemp in constituting the completed ship.
It is as if from the open field a brick-kiln were transported to her

The try-works are planted between the foremast and mainmast, the most
roomy part of the deck. The timbers beneath are of a peculiar strength,
fitted to sustain the weight of an almost solid mass of brick and
mortar, some ten feet by eight square, and five in height. The
foundation does not penetrate the deck, but the masonry is firmly
secured to the surface by ponderous knees of iron bracing it on all
sides, and screwing it down to the timbers. On the flanks it is cased
with wood, and at top completely covered by a large, sloping, battened
hatchway. Removing this hatch we expose the great try-pots, two in
number, and each of several barrels’ capacity. When not in use, they are
kept remarkably clean. Sometimes they are polished with soapstone
and sand, till they shine within like silver punch-bowls. During the
night-watches some cynical old sailors will crawl into them and coil
themselves away there for a nap. While employed in polishing them--one
man in each pot, side by side--many confidential communications
are carried on, over the iron lips. It is a place also for profound
mathematical meditation. It was in the left hand try-pot of the Pequod,
with the soapstone diligently circling round me, that I was first
indirectly struck by the remarkable fact, that in geometry all bodies
gliding along the cycloid, my soapstone for example, will descend from
any point in precisely the same time.

Removing the fire-board from the front of the try-works, the bare
masonry of that side is exposed, penetrated by the two iron mouths of
the furnaces, directly underneath the pots. These mouths are fitted
with heavy doors of iron. The intense heat of the fire is prevented
from communicating itself to the deck, by means of a shallow reservoir
extending under the entire inclosed surface of the works. By a tunnel
inserted at the rear, this reservoir is kept replenished with water as
fast as it evaporates. There are no external chimneys; they open direct
from the rear wall. And here let us go back for a moment.

It was about nine o’clock at night that the Pequod’s try-works were
first started on this present voyage. It belonged to Stubb to oversee
the business.

“All ready there? Off hatch, then, and start her. You cook, fire the
works.” This was an easy thing, for the carpenter had been thrusting his
shavings into the furnace throughout the passage. Here be it said that
in a whaling voyage the first fire in the try-works has to be fed for a
time with wood. After that no wood is used, except as a means of quick
ignition to the staple fuel. In a word, after being tried out, the
crisp, shrivelled blubber, now called scraps or fritters, still contains
considerable of its unctuous properties. These fritters feed the flames.
Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope, once
ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body.
Would that he consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is horrible to
inhale, and inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must live in
it for the time. It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such
as may lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left
wing of the day of judgment; it is an argument for the pit.

By midnight the works were in full operation. We were clear from the
carcase; sail had been made; the wind was freshening; the wild ocean
darkness was intense. But that darkness was licked up by the fierce
flames, which at intervals forked forth from the sooty flues, and
illuminated every lofty rope in the rigging, as with the famed Greek
fire. The burning ship drove on, as if remorselessly commissioned to
some vengeful deed. So the pitch and sulphur-freighted brigs of the
bold Hydriote, Canaris, issuing from their midnight harbors, with broad
sheets of flame for sails, bore down upon the Turkish frigates, and
folded them in conflagrations.

The hatch, removed from the top of the works, now afforded a wide hearth
in front of them. Standing on this were the Tartarean shapes of the
pagan harpooneers, always the whale-ship’s stokers. With huge pronged
poles they pitched hissing masses of blubber into the scalding pots, or
stirred up the fires beneath, till the snaky flames darted, curling, out
of the doors to catch them by the feet. The smoke rolled away in sullen
heaps. To every pitch of the ship there was a pitch of the boiling oil,
which seemed all eagerness to leap into their faces. Opposite the mouth
of the works, on the further side of the wide wooden hearth, was the
windlass. This served for a sea-sofa. Here lounged the watch, when not
otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till their
eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawny features, now all
begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting
barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in
the capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other
their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth;
as their uncivilized laughter forked upwards out of them, like the
flames from the furnace; as to and fro, in their front, the harpooneers
wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the
wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and
yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness
of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in
her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing
Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning
a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the
material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul.

So seemed it to me, as I stood at her helm, and for long hours silently
guided the way of this fire-ship on the sea. Wrapped, for that interval,
in darkness myself, I but the better saw the redness, the madness, the
ghastliness of others. The continual sight of the fiend shapes before
me, capering half in smoke and half in fire, these at last begat kindred
visions in my soul, so soon as I began to yield to that unaccountable
drowsiness which ever would come over me at a midnight helm.

But that night, in particular, a strange (and ever since inexplicable)
thing occurred to me. Starting from a brief standing sleep, I was
horribly conscious of something fatally wrong. The jaw-bone tiller smote
my side, which leaned against it; in my ears was the low hum of sails,
just beginning to shake in the wind; I thought my eyes were open; I
was half conscious of putting my fingers to the lids and mechanically
stretching them still further apart. But, spite of all this, I could see
no compass before me to steer by; though it seemed but a minute since I
had been watching the card, by the steady binnacle lamp illuminating it.
Nothing seemed before me but a jet gloom, now and then made ghastly by
flashes of redness. Uppermost was the impression, that whatever swift,
rushing thing I stood on was not so much bound to any haven ahead as
rushing from all havens astern. A stark, bewildered feeling, as of
death, came over me. Convulsively my hands grasped the tiller, but with
the crazy conceit that the tiller was, somehow, in some enchanted way,
inverted. My God! what is the matter with me? thought I. Lo! in my brief
sleep I had turned myself about, and was fronting the ship’s stern, with
my back to her prow and the compass. In an instant I faced back, just
in time to prevent the vessel from flying up into the wind, and very
probably capsizing her. How glad and how grateful the relief from this
unnatural hallucination of the night, and the fatal contingency of being
brought by the lee!

Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy
hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first
hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its
redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun,
the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking
flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the
glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp--all others but liars!

Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia’s Dismal Swamp, nor Rome’s
accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of
deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean,
which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this
earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow
in him, that mortal man cannot be true--not true, or undeveloped. With
books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the
truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered
steel of woe. “All is vanity.” ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold
of unchristian Solomon’s wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and
jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of
operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all
of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as
passing wise, and therefore jolly;--not that man is fitted to sit
down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably
wondrous Solomon.

But even Solomon, he says, “the man that wandereth out of the way
of understanding shall remain” (I.E., even while living) “in the
congregation of the dead.” Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it
invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom
that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill
eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges,
and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces.
And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the
mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still
higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.

CHAPTER 97. The Lamp.

Had you descended from the Pequod’s try-works to the Pequod’s
forecastle, where the off duty watch were sleeping, for one single
moment you would have almost thought you were standing in some
illuminated shrine of canonized kings and counsellors. There they lay
in their triangular oaken vaults, each mariner a chiselled muteness; a
score of lamps flashing upon his hooded eyes.

In merchantmen, oil for the sailor is more scarce than the milk of
queens. To dress in the dark, and eat in the dark, and stumble in
darkness to his pallet, this is his usual lot. But the whaleman, as he
seeks the food of light, so he lives in light. He makes his berth an
Aladdin’s lamp, and lays him down in it; so that in the pitchiest night
the ship’s black hull still houses an illumination.

See with what entire freedom the whaleman takes his handful of
lamps--often but old bottles and vials, though--to the copper cooler at
the try-works, and replenishes them there, as mugs of ale at a vat. He
burns, too, the purest of oil, in its unmanufactured, and, therefore,
unvitiated state; a fluid unknown to solar, lunar, or astral
contrivances ashore. It is sweet as early grass butter in April. He
goes and hunts for his oil, so as to be sure of its freshness and
genuineness, even as the traveller on the prairie hunts up his own
supper of game.

CHAPTER 98. Stowing Down and Clearing Up.

Already has it been related how the great leviathan is afar off
descried from the mast-head; how he is chased over the watery moors, and
slaughtered in the valleys of the deep; how he is then towed alongside
and beheaded; and how (on the principle which entitled the headsman of
old to the garments in which the beheaded was killed) his great padded
surtout becomes the property of his executioner; how, in due time, he
is condemned to the pots, and, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, his
spermaceti, oil, and bone pass unscathed through the fire;--but now it
remains to conclude the last chapter of this part of the description by
rehearsing--singing, if I may--the romantic proceeding of decanting off
his oil into the casks and striking them down into the hold, where
once again leviathan returns to his native profundities, sliding along
beneath the surface as before; but, alas! never more to rise and blow.

While still warm, the oil, like hot punch, is received into the
six-barrel casks; and while, perhaps, the ship is pitching and rolling
this way and that in the midnight sea, the enormous casks are slewed
round and headed over, end for end, and sometimes perilously scoot
across the slippery deck, like so many land slides, till at last
man-handled and stayed in their course; and all round the hoops, rap,
rap, go as many hammers as can play upon them, for now, EX OFFICIO,
every sailor is a cooper.

At length, when the last pint is casked, and all is cool, then the great
hatchways are unsealed, the bowels of the ship are thrown open, and down
go the casks to their final rest in the sea. This done, the hatches are
replaced, and hermetically closed, like a closet walled up.

In the sperm fishery, this is perhaps one of the most remarkable
incidents in all the business of whaling. One day the planks stream with
freshets of blood and oil; on the sacred quarter-deck enormous masses of
the whale’s head are profanely piled; great rusty casks lie about, as
in a brewery yard; the smoke from the try-works has besooted all the
bulwarks; the mariners go about suffused with unctuousness; the entire
ship seems great leviathan himself; while on all hands the din is

But a day or two after, you look about you, and prick your ears in this
self-same ship; and were it not for the tell-tale boats and try-works,
you would all but swear you trod some silent merchant vessel, with a
most scrupulously neat commander. The unmanufactured sperm oil possesses
a singularly cleansing virtue. This is the reason why the decks never
look so white as just after what they call an affair of oil. Besides,
from the ashes of the burned scraps of the whale, a potent lye is
readily made; and whenever any adhesiveness from the back of the whale
remains clinging to the side, that lye quickly exterminates it. Hands
go diligently along the bulwarks, and with buckets of water and rags
restore them to their full tidiness. The soot is brushed from the lower
rigging. All the numerous implements which have been in use are likewise
faithfully cleansed and put away. The great hatch is scrubbed and placed
upon the try-works, completely hiding the pots; every cask is out of
sight; all tackles are coiled in unseen nooks; and when by the combined
and simultaneous industry of almost the entire ship’s company, the
whole of this conscientious duty is at last concluded, then the crew
themselves proceed to their own ablutions; shift themselves from top to
toe; and finally issue to the immaculate deck, fresh and all aglow, as
bridegrooms new-leaped from out the daintiest Holland.

Now, with elated step, they pace the planks in twos and threes, and
humorously discourse of parlors, sofas, carpets, and fine cambrics;
propose to mat the deck; think of having hanging to the top; object not
to taking tea by moonlight on the piazza of the forecastle. To hint to
such musked mariners of oil, and bone, and blubber, were little short
of audacity. They know not the thing you distantly allude to. Away, and
bring us napkins!

But mark: aloft there, at the three mast heads, stand three men intent
on spying out more whales, which, if caught, infallibly will again
soil the old oaken furniture, and drop at least one small grease-spot
somewhere. Yes; and many is the time, when, after the severest
uninterrupted labors, which know no night; continuing straight through
for ninety-six hours; when from the boat, where they have swelled their
wrists with all day rowing on the Line,--they only step to the deck to
carry vast chains, and heave the heavy windlass, and cut and slash, yea,
and in their very sweatings to be smoked and burned anew by the combined
fires of the equatorial sun and the equatorial try-works; when, on the
heel of all this, they have finally bestirred themselves to cleanse the
ship, and make a spotless dairy room of it; many is the time the poor
fellows, just buttoning the necks of their clean frocks, are startled by
the cry of “There she blows!” and away they fly to fight another whale,
and go through the whole weary thing again. Oh! my friends, but this
is man-killing! Yet this is life. For hardly have we mortals by long
toilings extracted from this world’s vast bulk its small but valuable
sperm; and then, with weary patience, cleansed ourselves from its
defilements, and learned to live here in clean tabernacles of the soul;
hardly is this done, when--THERE SHE BLOWS!--the ghost is spouted up,
and away we sail to fight some other world, and go through young life’s
old routine again.

Oh! the metempsychosis! Oh! Pythagoras, that in bright Greece, two
thousand years ago, did die, so good, so wise, so mild; I sailed with
thee along the Peruvian coast last voyage--and, foolish as I am, taught
thee, a green simple boy, how to splice a rope!

CHAPTER 99. The Doubloon.

Ere now it has been related how Ahab was wont to pace his quarter-deck,
taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle and mainmast; but
in the multiplicity of other things requiring narration it has not been
added how that sometimes in these walks, when most plunged in his mood,
he was wont to pause in turn at each spot, and stand there strangely
eyeing the particular object before him. When he halted before the
binnacle, with his glance fastened on the pointed needle in the compass,
that glance shot like a javelin with the pointed intensity of his
purpose; and when resuming his walk he again paused before the mainmast,
then, as the same riveted glance fastened upon the riveted gold coin
there, he still wore the same aspect of nailed firmness, only dashed
with a certain wild longing, if not hopefulness.

But one morning, turning to pass the doubloon, he seemed to be newly
attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions stamped on it, as
though now for the first time beginning to interpret for himself in
some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in them. And some
certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little
worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by
the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in
the Milky Way.

Now this doubloon was of purest, virgin gold, raked somewhere out of the
heart of gorgeous hills, whence, east and west, over golden sands, the
head-waters of many a Pactolus flows. And though now nailed amidst all
the rustiness of iron bolts and the verdigris of copper spikes, yet,
untouchable and immaculate to any foulness, it still preserved its Quito
glow. Nor, though placed amongst a ruthless crew and every hour passed
by ruthless hands, and through the livelong nights shrouded with thick
darkness which might cover any pilfering approach, nevertheless every
sunrise found the doubloon where the sunset left it last. For it was
set apart and sanctified to one awe-striking end; and however wanton
in their sailor ways, one and all, the mariners revered it as the white
whale’s talisman. Sometimes they talked it over in the weary watch by
night, wondering whose it was to be at last, and whether he would ever
live to spend it.

Now those noble golden coins of South America are as medals of the sun
and tropic token-pieces. Here palms, alpacas, and volcanoes; sun’s disks
and stars; ecliptics, horns-of-plenty, and rich banners waving, are in
luxuriant profusion stamped; so that the precious gold seems almost to
derive an added preciousness and enhancing glories, by passing through
those fancy mints, so Spanishly poetic.

It so chanced that the doubloon of the Pequod was a most wealthy example
of these things. On its round border it bore the letters, REPUBLICA DEL
ECUADOR: QUITO. So this bright coin came from a country planted in the
middle of the world, and beneath the great equator, and named after it;
and it had been cast midway up the Andes, in the unwaning clime that
knows no autumn. Zoned by those letters you saw the likeness of three
Andes’ summits; from one a flame; a tower on another; on the third a
crowing cock; while arching over all was a segment of the partitioned
zodiac, the signs all marked with their usual cabalistics, and the
keystone sun entering the equinoctial point at Libra.

Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now

“There’s something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and towers, and
all other grand and lofty things; look here,--three peaks as proud as
Lucifer. The firm tower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the
courageous, the undaunted, and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all
are Ahab; and this round gold is but the image of the rounder globe,
which, like a magician’s glass, to each and every man in turn but
mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains, small gains for those
who ask the world to solve them; it cannot solve itself. Methinks now
this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! aye, he enters the sign
of storms, the equinox! and but six months before he wheeled out of a
former equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in
throes, ‘tis fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be
it, then! Here’s stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then.”

“No fairy fingers can have pressed the gold, but devil’s claws must
have left their mouldings there since yesterday,” murmured Starbuck
to himself, leaning against the bulwarks. “The old man seems to read
Belshazzar’s awful writing. I have never marked the coin inspectingly.
He goes below; let me read. A dark valley between three mighty,
heaven-abiding peaks, that almost seem the Trinity, in some faint
earthly symbol. So in this vale of Death, God girds us round; and over
all our gloom, the sun of Righteousness still shines a beacon and a
hope. If we bend down our eyes, the dark vale shows her mouldy soil;
but if we lift them, the bright sun meets our glance half way, to cheer.
Yet, oh, the great sun is no fixture; and if, at midnight, we would fain
snatch some sweet solace from him, we gaze for him in vain! This coin
speaks wisely, mildly, truly, but still sadly to me. I will quit it,
lest Truth shake me falsely.”

“There now’s the old Mogul,” soliloquized Stubb by the try-works, “he’s
been twigging it; and there goes Starbuck from the same, and both with
faces which I should say might be somewhere within nine fathoms long.
And all from looking at a piece of gold, which did I have it now on
Negro Hill or in Corlaer’s Hook, I’d not look at it very long ere
spending it. Humph! in my poor, insignificant opinion, I regard this as
queer. I have seen doubloons before now in my voyagings; your doubloons
of old Spain, your doubloons of Peru, your doubloons of Chili, your
doubloons of Bolivia, your doubloons of Popayan; with plenty of gold
moidores and pistoles, and joes, and half joes, and quarter joes. What
then should there be in this doubloon of the Equator that is so killing
wonderful? By Golconda! let me read it once. Halloa! here’s signs and
wonders truly! That, now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome calls the
zodiac, and what my almanac below calls ditto. I’ll get the almanac and
as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll’s arithmetic, I’ll try
my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here with
the Massachusetts calendar. Here’s the book. Let’s see now. Signs and
wonders; and the sun, he’s always among ‘em. Hem, hem, hem; here they
are--here they go--all alive:--Aries, or the Ram; Taurus, or the Bull
and Jimimi! here’s Gemini himself, or the Twins. Well; the sun he
wheels among ‘em. Aye, here on the coin he’s just crossing the threshold
between two of twelve sitting-rooms all in a ring. Book! you lie there;
the fact is, you books must know your places. You’ll do to give us the
bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts. That’s my
small experience, so far as the Massachusetts calendar, and Bowditch’s
navigator, and Daboll’s arithmetic go. Signs and wonders, eh? Pity if
there is nothing wonderful in signs, and significant in wonders! There’s
a clue somewhere; wait a bit; hist--hark! By Jove, I have it! Look you,
Doubloon, your zodiac here is the life of man in one round chapter;
and now I’ll read it off, straight out of the book. Come, Almanack! To
begin: there’s Aries, or the Ram--lecherous dog, he begets us; then,
Taurus, or the Bull--he bumps us the first thing; then Gemini, or the
Twins--that is, Virtue and Vice; we try to reach Virtue, when lo! comes
Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here, going from Virtue, Leo,
a roaring Lion, lies in the path--he gives a few fierce bites and surly
dabs with his paw; we escape, and hail Virgo, the Virgin! that’s our
first love; we marry and think to be happy for aye, when pop comes
Libra, or the Scales--happiness weighed and found wanting; and while we
are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly jump, as Scorpio, or the
Scorpion, stings us in the rear; we are curing the wound, when whang
come the arrows all round; Sagittarius, or the Archer, is amusing
himself. As we pluck out the shafts, stand aside! here’s the
battering-ram, Capricornus, or the Goat; full tilt, he comes rushing,
and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius, or the Water-bearer, pours
out his whole deluge and drowns us; and to wind up with Pisces, or the
Fishes, we sleep. There’s a sermon now, writ in high heaven, and the
sun goes through it every year, and yet comes out of it all alive and
hearty. Jollily he, aloft there, wheels through toil and trouble; and
so, alow here, does jolly Stubb. Oh, jolly’s the word for aye! Adieu,
Doubloon! But stop; here comes little King-Post; dodge round the
try-works, now, and let’s hear what he’ll have to say. There; he’s
before it; he’ll out with something presently. So, so; he’s beginning.”

“I see nothing here, but a round thing made of gold, and whoever raises
a certain whale, this round thing belongs to him. So, what’s all this
staring been about? It is worth sixteen dollars, that’s true; and at
two cents the cigar, that’s nine hundred and sixty cigars. I won’t smoke
dirty pipes like Stubb, but I like cigars, and here’s nine hundred and
sixty of them; so here goes Flask aloft to spy ‘em out.”

“Shall I call that wise or foolish, now; if it be really wise it has a
foolish look to it; yet, if it be really foolish, then has it a sort
of wiseish look to it. But, avast; here comes our old Manxman--the old
hearse-driver, he must have been, that is, before he took to the sea. He
luffs up before the doubloon; halloa, and goes round on the other side
of the mast; why, there’s a horse-shoe nailed on that side; and now he’s
back again; what does that mean? Hark! he’s muttering--voice like an old
worn-out coffee-mill. Prick ears, and listen!”

“If the White Whale be raised, it must be in a month and a day, when
the sun stands in some one of these signs. I’ve studied signs, and know
their marks; they were taught me two score years ago, by the old witch
in Copenhagen. Now, in what sign will the sun then be? The horse-shoe
sign; for there it is, right opposite the gold. And what’s the
horse-shoe sign? The lion is the horse-shoe sign--the roaring and
devouring lion. Ship, old ship! my old head shakes to think of thee.”

“There’s another rendering now; but still one text. All sorts of men
in one kind of world, you see. Dodge again! here comes Queequeg--all
tattooing--looks like the signs of the Zodiac himself. What says the
Cannibal? As I live he’s comparing notes; looking at his thigh bone;
thinks the sun is in the thigh, or in the calf, or in the bowels, I
suppose, as the old women talk Surgeon’s Astronomy in the back country.
And by Jove, he’s found something there in the vicinity of his thigh--I
guess it’s Sagittarius, or the Archer. No: he don’t know what to make
of the doubloon; he takes it for an old button off some king’s trowsers.
But, aside again! here comes that ghost-devil, Fedallah; tail coiled out
of sight as usual, oakum in the toes of his pumps as usual. What does he
say, with that look of his? Ah, only makes a sign to the sign and bows
himself; there is a sun on the coin--fire worshipper, depend upon it.
Ho! more and more. This way comes Pip--poor boy! would he had died,
or I; he’s half horrible to me. He too has been watching all of these
interpreters--myself included--and look now, he comes to read, with that
unearthly idiot face. Stand away again and hear him. Hark!”

“I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look.”

“Upon my soul, he’s been studying Murray’s Grammar! Improving his mind,
poor fellow! But what’s that he says now--hist!”

“I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look.”

“Why, he’s getting it by heart--hist! again.”

“I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look.”

“Well, that’s funny.”

“And I, you, and he; and we, ye, and they, are all bats; and I’m a crow,
especially when I stand a’top of this pine tree here. Caw! caw! caw!
caw! caw! caw! Ain’t I a crow? And where’s the scare-crow? There he
stands; two bones stuck into a pair of old trowsers, and two more poked
into the sleeves of an old jacket.”

“Wonder if he means me?--complimentary!--poor lad!--I could go hang
myself. Any way, for the present, I’ll quit Pip’s vicinity. I can stand
the rest, for they have plain wits; but he’s too crazy-witty for my
sanity. So, so, I leave him muttering.”

“Here’s the ship’s navel, this doubloon here, and they are all on fire
to unscrew it. But, unscrew your navel, and what’s the consequence? Then
again, if it stays here, that is ugly, too, for when aught’s nailed to
the mast it’s a sign that things grow desperate. Ha, ha! old Ahab!
the White Whale; he’ll nail ye! This is a pine tree. My father, in old
Tolland county, cut down a pine tree once, and found a silver ring grown
over in it; some old darkey’s wedding ring. How did it get there? And
so they’ll say in the resurrection, when they come to fish up this old
mast, and find a doubloon lodged in it, with bedded oysters for the
shaggy bark. Oh, the gold! the precious, precious, gold! the green
miser’ll hoard ye soon! Hish! hish! God goes ‘mong the worlds
blackberrying. Cook! ho, cook! and cook us! Jenny! hey, hey, hey, hey,
hey, Jenny, Jenny! and get your hoe-cake done!”

CHAPTER 100. Leg and Arm.

The Pequod, of Nantucket, Meets the Samuel Enderby, of London.

“Ship, ahoy! Hast seen the White Whale?”

So cried Ahab, once more hailing a ship showing English colours, bearing
down under the stern. Trumpet to mouth, the old man was standing in his
hoisted quarter-boat, his ivory leg plainly revealed to the stranger
captain, who was carelessly reclining in his own boat’s bow. He was
a darkly-tanned, burly, good-natured, fine-looking man, of sixty or
thereabouts, dressed in a spacious roundabout, that hung round him in
festoons of blue pilot-cloth; and one empty arm of this jacket streamed
behind him like the broidered arm of a hussar’s surcoat.

“Hast seen the White Whale!”

“See you this?” and withdrawing it from the folds that had hidden it,
he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone, terminating in a wooden head
like a mallet.

“Man my boat!” cried Ahab, impetuously, and tossing about the oars near
him--“Stand by to lower!”

In less than a minute, without quitting his little craft, he and his
crew were dropped to the water, and were soon alongside of the stranger.
But here a curious difficulty presented itself. In the excitement of the
moment, Ahab had forgotten that since the loss of his leg he had never
once stepped on board of any vessel at sea but his own, and then it was
always by an ingenious and very handy mechanical contrivance peculiar to
the Pequod, and a thing not to be rigged and shipped in any other
vessel at a moment’s warning. Now, it is no very easy matter
for anybody--except those who are almost hourly used to it, like
whalemen--to clamber up a ship’s side from a boat on the open sea; for
the great swells now lift the boat high up towards the bulwarks, and
then instantaneously drop it half way down to the kelson. So, deprived
of one leg, and the strange ship of course being altogether unsupplied
with the kindly invention, Ahab now found himself abjectly reduced to a
clumsy landsman again; hopelessly eyeing the uncertain changeful height
he could hardly hope to attain.

It has before been hinted, perhaps, that every little untoward
circumstance that befell him, and which indirectly sprang from his
luckless mishap, almost invariably irritated or exasperated Ahab. And
in the present instance, all this was heightened by the sight of the
two officers of the strange ship, leaning over the side, by the
perpendicular ladder of nailed cleets there, and swinging towards him a
pair of tastefully-ornamented man-ropes; for at first they did not seem
to bethink them that a one-legged man must be too much of a cripple to
use their sea bannisters. But this awkwardness only lasted a minute,
because the strange captain, observing at a glance how affairs stood,
cried out, “I see, I see!--avast heaving there! Jump, boys, and swing
over the cutting-tackle.”

As good luck would have it, they had had a whale alongside a day or two
previous, and the great tackles were still aloft, and the massive curved
blubber-hook, now clean and dry, was still attached to the end. This
was quickly lowered to Ahab, who at once comprehending it all, slid his
solitary thigh into the curve of the hook (it was like sitting in the
fluke of an anchor, or the crotch of an apple tree), and then giving the
word, held himself fast, and at the same time also helped to hoist his
own weight, by pulling hand-over-hand upon one of the running parts of
the tackle. Soon he was carefully swung inside the high bulwarks, and
gently landed upon the capstan head. With his ivory arm frankly thrust
forth in welcome, the other captain advanced, and Ahab, putting out his
ivory leg, and crossing the ivory arm (like two sword-fish blades)
cried out in his walrus way, “Aye, aye, hearty! let us shake bones
together!--an arm and a leg!--an arm that never can shrink, d’ye
see; and a leg that never can run. Where did’st thou see the White
Whale?--how long ago?”

“The White Whale,” said the Englishman, pointing his ivory arm towards
the East, and taking a rueful sight along it, as if it had been a
telescope; “there I saw him, on the Line, last season.”

“And he took that arm off, did he?” asked Ahab, now sliding down from
the capstan, and resting on the Englishman’s shoulder, as he did so.

“Aye, he was the cause of it, at least; and that leg, too?”

“Spin me the yarn,” said Ahab; “how was it?”

“It was the first time in my life that I ever cruised on the Line,”
 began the Englishman. “I was ignorant of the White Whale at that time.
Well, one day we lowered for a pod of four or five whales, and my boat
fastened to one of them; a regular circus horse he was, too, that went
milling and milling round so, that my boat’s crew could only trim dish,
by sitting all their sterns on the outer gunwale. Presently up breaches
from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale, with a milky-white
head and hump, all crows’ feet and wrinkles.”

“It was he, it was he!” cried Ahab, suddenly letting out his suspended

“And harpoons sticking in near his starboard fin.”

“Aye, aye--they were mine--MY irons,” cried Ahab, exultingly--“but on!”

“Give me a chance, then,” said the Englishman, good-humoredly. “Well,
this old great-grandfather, with the white head and hump, runs all afoam
into the pod, and goes to snapping furiously at my fast-line!

“Aye, I see!--wanted to part it; free the fast-fish--an old trick--I
know him.”

“How it was exactly,” continued the one-armed commander, “I do not know;
but in biting the line, it got foul of his teeth, caught there somehow;
but we didn’t know it then; so that when we afterwards pulled on the
line, bounce we came plump on to his hump! instead of the other whale’s;
that went off to windward, all fluking. Seeing how matters stood, and
what a noble great whale it was--the noblest and biggest I ever saw,
sir, in my life--I resolved to capture him, spite of the boiling rage
he seemed to be in. And thinking the hap-hazard line would get loose, or
the tooth it was tangled to might draw (for I have a devil of a boat’s
crew for a pull on a whale-line); seeing all this, I say, I jumped
into my first mate’s boat--Mr. Mounttop’s here (by the way,
Captain--Mounttop; Mounttop--the captain);--as I was saying, I jumped
into Mounttop’s boat, which, d’ye see, was gunwale and gunwale
with mine, then; and snatching the first harpoon, let this old
great-grandfather have it. But, Lord, look you, sir--hearts and souls
alive, man--the next instant, in a jiff, I was blind as a bat--both
eyes out--all befogged and bedeadened with black foam--the whale’s tail
looming straight up out of it, perpendicular in the air, like a marble
steeple. No use sterning all, then; but as I was groping at midday, with
a blinding sun, all crown-jewels; as I was groping, I say, after the
second iron, to toss it overboard--down comes the tail like a Lima
tower, cutting my boat in two, leaving each half in splinters; and,
flukes first, the white hump backed through the wreck, as though it was
all chips. We all struck out. To escape his terrible flailings, I seized
hold of my harpoon-pole sticking in him, and for a moment clung to that
like a sucking fish. But a combing sea dashed me off, and at the same
instant, the fish, taking one good dart forwards, went down like a
flash; and the barb of that cursed second iron towing along near me
caught me here” (clapping his hand just below his shoulder); “yes,
caught me just here, I say, and bore me down to Hell’s flames, I was
thinking; when, when, all of a sudden, thank the good God, the barb ript
its way along the flesh--clear along the whole length of my arm--came
out nigh my wrist, and up I floated;--and that gentleman there will tell
you the rest (by the way, captain--Dr. Bunger, ship’s surgeon: Bunger,
my lad,--the captain). Now, Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn.”

The professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out, had been all the
time standing near them, with nothing specific visible, to denote his
gentlemanly rank on board. His face was an exceedingly round but sober
one; he was dressed in a faded blue woollen frock or shirt, and patched
trowsers; and had thus far been dividing his attention between a
marlingspike he held in one hand, and a pill-box held in the other,
occasionally casting a critical glance at the ivory limbs of the two
crippled captains. But, at his superior’s introduction of him to Ahab,
he politely bowed, and straightway went on to do his captain’s bidding.

“It was a shocking bad wound,” began the whale-surgeon; “and, taking my
advice, Captain Boomer here, stood our old Sammy--”

“Samuel Enderby is the name of my ship,” interrupted the one-armed
captain, addressing Ahab; “go on, boy.”

“Stood our old Sammy off to the northward, to get out of the blazing hot
weather there on the Line. But it was no use--I did all I could; sat up
with him nights; was very severe with him in the matter of diet--”

“Oh, very severe!” chimed in the patient himself; then suddenly altering
his voice, “Drinking hot rum toddies with me every night, till he
couldn’t see to put on the bandages; and sending me to bed, half seas
over, about three o’clock in the morning. Oh, ye stars! he sat up with
me indeed, and was very severe in my diet. Oh! a great watcher, and very
dietetically severe, is Dr. Bunger. (Bunger, you dog, laugh out! why
don’t ye? You know you’re a precious jolly rascal.) But, heave ahead,
boy, I’d rather be killed by you than kept alive by any other man.”

“My captain, you must have ere this perceived, respected sir”--said the
imperturbable godly-looking Bunger, slightly bowing to Ahab--“is apt to
be facetious at times; he spins us many clever things of that sort. But
I may as well say--en passant, as the French remark--that I myself--that
is to say, Jack Bunger, late of the reverend clergy--am a strict total
abstinence man; I never drink--”

“Water!” cried the captain; “he never drinks it; it’s a sort of fits to
him; fresh water throws him into the hydrophobia; but go on--go on with
the arm story.”

“Yes, I may as well,” said the surgeon, coolly. “I was about observing,
sir, before Captain Boomer’s facetious interruption, that spite of my
best and severest endeavors, the wound kept getting worse and worse; the
truth was, sir, it was as ugly gaping wound as surgeon ever saw; more
than two feet and several inches long. I measured it with the lead line.
In short, it grew black; I knew what was threatened, and off it came.
But I had no hand in shipping that ivory arm there; that thing is
against all rule”--pointing at it with the marlingspike--“that is the
captain’s work, not mine; he ordered the carpenter to make it; he had
that club-hammer there put to the end, to knock some one’s brains
out with, I suppose, as he tried mine once. He flies into diabolical
passions sometimes. Do ye see this dent, sir”--removing his hat, and
brushing aside his hair, and exposing a bowl-like cavity in his skull,
but which bore not the slightest scarry trace, or any token of ever
having been a wound--“Well, the captain there will tell you how that
came here; he knows.”

“No, I don’t,” said the captain, “but his mother did; he was born with
it. Oh, you solemn rogue, you--you Bunger! was there ever such another
Bunger in the watery world? Bunger, when you die, you ought to die in
pickle, you dog; you should be preserved to future ages, you rascal.”

“What became of the White Whale?” now cried Ahab, who thus far had been
impatiently listening to this by-play between the two Englishmen.

“Oh!” cried the one-armed captain, “oh, yes! Well; after he sounded,
we didn’t see him again for some time; in fact, as I before hinted, I
didn’t then know what whale it was that had served me such a trick, till
some time afterwards, when coming back to the Line, we heard about Moby
Dick--as some call him--and then I knew it was he.”

“Did’st thou cross his wake again?”


“But could not fasten?”

“Didn’t want to try to: ain’t one limb enough? What should I do without
this other arm? And I’m thinking Moby Dick doesn’t bite so much as he

“Well, then,” interrupted Bunger, “give him your left arm for bait to
get the right. Do you know, gentlemen”--very gravely and mathematically
bowing to each Captain in succession--“Do you know, gentlemen, that the
digestive organs of the whale are so inscrutably constructed by Divine
Providence, that it is quite impossible for him to completely digest
even a man’s arm? And he knows it too. So that what you take for the
White Whale’s malice is only his awkwardness. For he never means
to swallow a single limb; he only thinks to terrify by feints. But
sometimes he is like the old juggling fellow, formerly a patient of mine
in Ceylon, that making believe swallow jack-knives, once upon a time let
one drop into him in good earnest, and there it stayed for a twelvemonth
or more; when I gave him an emetic, and he heaved it up in small tacks,
d’ye see. No possible way for him to digest that jack-knife, and fully
incorporate it into his general bodily system. Yes, Captain Boomer, if
you are quick enough about it, and have a mind to pawn one arm for the
sake of the privilege of giving decent burial to the other, why in that
case the arm is yours; only let the whale have another chance at you
shortly, that’s all.”

“No, thank ye, Bunger,” said the English Captain, “he’s welcome to the
arm he has, since I can’t help it, and didn’t know him then; but not to
another one. No more White Whales for me; I’ve lowered for him once, and
that has satisfied me. There would be great glory in killing him, I know
that; and there is a ship-load of precious sperm in him, but, hark ye,
he’s best let alone; don’t you think so, Captain?”--glancing at the
ivory leg.

“He is. But he will still be hunted, for all that. What is best let
alone, that accursed thing is not always what least allures. He’s all a
magnet! How long since thou saw’st him last? Which way heading?”

“Bless my soul, and curse the foul fiend’s,” cried Bunger, stoopingly
walking round Ahab, and like a dog, strangely snuffing; “this man’s
blood--bring the thermometer!--it’s at the boiling point!--his pulse
makes these planks beat!--sir!”--taking a lancet from his pocket, and
drawing near to Ahab’s arm.

“Avast!” roared Ahab, dashing him against the bulwarks--“Man the boat!
Which way heading?”

“Good God!” cried the English Captain, to whom the question was put.
“What’s the matter? He was heading east, I think.--Is your Captain
crazy?” whispering Fedallah.

But Fedallah, putting a finger on his lip, slid over the bulwarks to
take the boat’s steering oar, and Ahab, swinging the cutting-tackle
towards him, commanded the ship’s sailors to stand by to lower.

In a moment he was standing in the boat’s stern, and the Manilla men
were springing to their oars. In vain the English Captain hailed him.
With back to the stranger ship, and face set like a flint to his own,
Ahab stood upright till alongside of the Pequod.

CHAPTER 101. The Decanter.

Ere the English ship fades from sight, be it set down here, that
she hailed from London, and was named after the late Samuel Enderby,
merchant of that city, the original of the famous whaling house of
Enderby & Sons; a house which in my poor whaleman’s opinion, comes not
far behind the united royal houses of the Tudors and Bourbons, in point
of real historical interest. How long, prior to the year of our
Lord 1775, this great whaling house was in existence, my numerous
fish-documents do not make plain; but in that year (1775) it fitted
out the first English ships that ever regularly hunted the Sperm Whale;
though for some score of years previous (ever since 1726) our valiant
Coffins and Maceys of Nantucket and the Vineyard had in large fleets
pursued that Leviathan, but only in the North and South Atlantic: not
elsewhere. Be it distinctly recorded here, that the Nantucketers were
the first among mankind to harpoon with civilized steel the great Sperm
Whale; and that for half a century they were the only people of the
whole globe who so harpooned him.

In 1778, a fine ship, the Amelia, fitted out for the express purpose,
and at the sole charge of the vigorous Enderbys, boldly rounded Cape
Horn, and was the first among the nations to lower a whale-boat of any
sort in the great South Sea. The voyage was a skilful and lucky one;
and returning to her berth with her hold full of the precious sperm, the
Amelia’s example was soon followed by other ships, English and American,
and thus the vast Sperm Whale grounds of the Pacific were thrown open.
But not content with this good deed, the indefatigable house again
bestirred itself: Samuel and all his Sons--how many, their mother only
knows--and under their immediate auspices, and partly, I think, at their
expense, the British government was induced to send the sloop-of-war
Rattler on a whaling voyage of discovery into the South Sea. Commanded
by a naval Post-Captain, the Rattler made a rattling voyage of it, and
did some service; how much does not appear. But this is not all. In
1819, the same house fitted out a discovery whale ship of their own, to
go on a tasting cruise to the remote waters of Japan. That ship--well
called the “Syren”--made a noble experimental cruise; and it was thus
that the great Japanese Whaling Ground first became generally known.
The Syren in this famous voyage was commanded by a Captain Coffin, a

All honour to the Enderbies, therefore, whose house, I think, exists to
the present day; though doubtless the original Samuel must long ago have
slipped his cable for the great South Sea of the other world.

The ship named after him was worthy of the honour, being a very fast
sailer and a noble craft every way. I boarded her once at midnight
somewhere off the Patagonian coast, and drank good flip down in the
forecastle. It was a fine gam we had, and they were all trumps--every
soul on board. A short life to them, and a jolly death. And that fine
gam I had--long, very long after old Ahab touched her planks with his
ivory heel--it minds me of the noble, solid, Saxon hospitality of that
ship; and may my parson forget me, and the devil remember me, if I ever
lose sight of it. Flip? Did I say we had flip? Yes, and we flipped it
at the rate of ten gallons the hour; and when the squall came (for it’s
squally off there by Patagonia), and all hands--visitors and all--were
called to reef topsails, we were so top-heavy that we had to swing each
other aloft in bowlines; and we ignorantly furled the skirts of our
jackets into the sails, so that we hung there, reefed fast in the
howling gale, a warning example to all drunken tars. However, the masts
did not go overboard; and by and by we scrambled down, so sober, that we
had to pass the flip again, though the savage salt spray bursting down
the forecastle scuttle, rather too much diluted and pickled it to my

The beef was fine--tough, but with body in it. They said it was
bull-beef; others, that it was dromedary beef; but I do not know, for
certain, how that was. They had dumplings too; small, but substantial,
symmetrically globular, and indestructible dumplings. I fancied that you
could feel them, and roll them about in you after they were swallowed.
If you stooped over too far forward, you risked their pitching out
of you like billiard-balls. The bread--but that couldn’t be helped;
besides, it was an anti-scorbutic; in short, the bread contained the
only fresh fare they had. But the forecastle was not very light, and it
was very easy to step over into a dark corner when you ate it. But all
in all, taking her from truck to helm, considering the dimensions of the
cook’s boilers, including his own live parchment boilers; fore and aft,
I say, the Samuel Enderby was a jolly ship; of good fare and plenty;
fine flip and strong; crack fellows all, and capital from boot heels to

But why was it, think ye, that the Samuel Enderby, and some other
English whalers I know of--not all though--were such famous, hospitable
ships; that passed round the beef, and the bread, and the can, and the
joke; and were not soon weary of eating, and drinking, and laughing?
I will tell you. The abounding good cheer of these English whalers
is matter for historical research. Nor have I been at all sparing of
historical whale research, when it has seemed needed.

The English were preceded in the whale fishery by the Hollanders,
Zealanders, and Danes; from whom they derived many terms still extant
in the fishery; and what is yet more, their fat old fashions,
touching plenty to eat and drink. For, as a general thing, the English
merchant-ship scrimps her crew; but not so the English whaler. Hence, in
the English, this thing of whaling good cheer is not normal and natural,
but incidental and particular; and, therefore, must have some special
origin, which is here pointed out, and will be still further elucidated.

During my researches in the Leviathanic histories, I stumbled upon an
ancient Dutch volume, which, by the musty whaling smell of it, I
knew must be about whalers. The title was, “Dan Coopman,” wherefore I
concluded that this must be the invaluable memoirs of some Amsterdam
cooper in the fishery, as every whale ship must carry its cooper. I was
reinforced in this opinion by seeing that it was the production of one
“Fitz Swackhammer.” But my friend Dr. Snodhead, a very learned man,
professor of Low Dutch and High German in the college of Santa Claus and
St. Pott’s, to whom I handed the work for translation, giving him a box
of sperm candles for his trouble--this same Dr. Snodhead, so soon as he
spied the book, assured me that “Dan Coopman” did not mean “The Cooper,”
 but “The Merchant.” In short, this ancient and learned Low Dutch book
treated of the commerce of Holland; and, among other subjects, contained
a very interesting account of its whale fishery. And in this chapter it
was, headed, “Smeer,” or “Fat,” that I found a long detailed list of the
outfits for the larders and cellars of 180 sail of Dutch whalemen; from
which list, as translated by Dr. Snodhead, I transcribe the following:

400,000 lbs. of beef. 60,000 lbs. Friesland pork. 150,000 lbs. of stock
fish. 550,000 lbs. of biscuit. 72,000 lbs. of soft bread. 2,800 firkins
of butter. 20,000 lbs. Texel & Leyden cheese. 144,000 lbs. cheese
(probably an inferior article). 550 ankers of Geneva. 10,800 barrels of

Most statistical tables are parchingly dry in the reading; not so in
the present case, however, where the reader is flooded with whole pipes,
barrels, quarts, and gills of good gin and good cheer.

At the time, I devoted three days to the studious digesting of all
this beer, beef, and bread, during which many profound thoughts were
incidentally suggested to me, capable of a transcendental and Platonic
application; and, furthermore, I compiled supplementary tables of my
own, touching the probable quantity of stock-fish, etc., consumed by
every Low Dutch harpooneer in that ancient Greenland and Spitzbergen
whale fishery. In the first place, the amount of butter, and Texel and
Leyden cheese consumed, seems amazing. I impute it, though, to their
naturally unctuous natures, being rendered still more unctuous by the
nature of their vocation, and especially by their pursuing their game
in those frigid Polar Seas, on the very coasts of that Esquimaux country
where the convivial natives pledge each other in bumpers of train oil.

The quantity of beer, too, is very large, 10,800 barrels. Now, as those
polar fisheries could only be prosecuted in the short summer of that
climate, so that the whole cruise of one of these Dutch whalemen,
including the short voyage to and from the Spitzbergen sea, did not much
exceed three months, say, and reckoning 30 men to each of their fleet
of 180 sail, we have 5,400 Low Dutch seamen in all; therefore, I say,
we have precisely two barrels of beer per man, for a twelve weeks’
allowance, exclusive of his fair proportion of that 550 ankers of gin.
Now, whether these gin and beer harpooneers, so fuddled as one might
fancy them to have been, were the right sort of men to stand up in
a boat’s head, and take good aim at flying whales; this would seem
somewhat improbable. Yet they did aim at them, and hit them too. But
this was very far North, be it remembered, where beer agrees well with
the constitution; upon the Equator, in our southern fishery, beer would
be apt to make the harpooneer sleepy at the mast-head and boozy in his
boat; and grievous loss might ensue to Nantucket and New Bedford.

But no more; enough has been said to show that the old Dutch whalers
of two or three centuries ago were high livers; and that the English
whalers have not neglected so excellent an example. For, say they, when
cruising in an empty ship, if you can get nothing better out of the
world, get a good dinner out of it, at least. And this empties the

CHAPTER 102. A Bower in the Arsacides.

Hitherto, in descriptively treating of the Sperm Whale, I have chiefly
dwelt upon the marvels of his outer aspect; or separately and in detail
upon some few interior structural features. But to a large and thorough
sweeping comprehension of him, it behooves me now to unbutton him still
further, and untagging the points of his hose, unbuckling his garters,
and casting loose the hooks and the eyes of the joints of his innermost
bones, set him before you in his ultimatum; that is to say, in his
unconditional skeleton.

But how now, Ishmael? How is it, that you, a mere oarsman in the
fishery, pretend to know aught about the subterranean parts of the
whale? Did erudite Stubb, mounted upon your capstan, deliver lectures
on the anatomy of the Cetacea; and by help of the windlass, hold up a
specimen rib for exhibition? Explain thyself, Ishmael. Can you land
a full-grown whale on your deck for examination, as a cook dishes a
roast-pig? Surely not. A veritable witness have you hitherto been,
Ishmael; but have a care how you seize the privilege of Jonah alone;
the privilege of discoursing upon the joists and beams; the rafters,
ridge-pole, sleepers, and under-pinnings, making up the frame-work of
leviathan; and belike of the tallow-vats, dairy-rooms, butteries, and
cheeseries in his bowels.

I confess, that since Jonah, few whalemen have penetrated very far
beneath the skin of the adult whale; nevertheless, I have been blessed
with an opportunity to dissect him in miniature. In a ship I belonged
to, a small cub Sperm Whale was once bodily hoisted to the deck for his
poke or bag, to make sheaths for the barbs of the harpoons, and for the
heads of the lances. Think you I let that chance go, without using my
boat-hatchet and jack-knife, and breaking the seal and reading all the
contents of that young cub?

And as for my exact knowledge of the bones of the leviathan in their
gigantic, full grown development, for that rare knowledge I am indebted
to my late royal friend Tranquo, king of Tranque, one of the Arsacides.
For being at Tranque, years ago, when attached to the trading-ship Dey
of Algiers, I was invited to spend part of the Arsacidean holidays with
the lord of Tranque, at his retired palm villa at Pupella; a sea-side
glen not very far distant from what our sailors called Bamboo-Town, his

Among many other fine qualities, my royal friend Tranquo, being gifted
with a devout love for all matters of barbaric vertu, had brought
together in Pupella whatever rare things the more ingenious of his
people could invent; chiefly carved woods of wonderful devices,
chiselled shells, inlaid spears, costly paddles, aromatic canoes;
and all these distributed among whatever natural wonders, the
wonder-freighted, tribute-rendering waves had cast upon his shores.

Chief among these latter was a great Sperm Whale, which, after an
unusually long raging gale, had been found dead and stranded, with his
head against a cocoa-nut tree, whose plumage-like, tufted droopings
seemed his verdant jet. When the vast body had at last been stripped of
its fathom-deep enfoldings, and the bones become dust dry in the sun,
then the skeleton was carefully transported up the Pupella glen, where a
grand temple of lordly palms now sheltered it.

The ribs were hung with trophies; the vertebrae were carved with
Arsacidean annals, in strange hieroglyphics; in the skull, the priests
kept up an unextinguished aromatic flame, so that the mystic head
again sent forth its vapoury spout; while, suspended from a bough, the
terrific lower jaw vibrated over all the devotees, like the hair-hung
sword that so affrighted Damocles.

It was a wondrous sight. The wood was green as mosses of the Icy
Glen; the trees stood high and haughty, feeling their living sap; the
industrious earth beneath was as a weaver’s loom, with a gorgeous carpet
on it, whereof the ground-vine tendrils formed the warp and woof, and
the living flowers the figures. All the trees, with all their laden
branches; all the shrubs, and ferns, and grasses; the message-carrying
air; all these unceasingly were active. Through the lacings of the
leaves, the great sun seemed a flying shuttle weaving the unwearied
verdure. Oh, busy weaver! unseen weaver!--pause!--one word!--whither
flows the fabric? what palace may it deck? wherefore all these ceaseless
toilings? Speak, weaver!--stay thy hand!--but one single word with
thee! Nay--the shuttle flies--the figures float from forth the loom; the
freshet-rushing carpet for ever slides away. The weaver-god, he weaves;
and by that weaving is he deafened, that he hears no mortal voice; and
by that humming, we, too, who look on the loom are deafened; and only
when we escape it shall we hear the thousand voices that speak through
it. For even so it is in all material factories. The spoken words that
are inaudible among the flying spindles; those same words are plainly
heard without the walls, bursting from the opened casements. Thereby
have villainies been detected. Ah, mortal! then, be heedful; for so, in
all this din of the great world’s loom, thy subtlest thinkings may be
overheard afar.

Now, amid the green, life-restless loom of that Arsacidean wood, the
great, white, worshipped skeleton lay lounging--a gigantic idler! Yet,
as the ever-woven verdant warp and woof intermixed and hummed around
him, the mighty idler seemed the cunning weaver; himself all woven
over with the vines; every month assuming greener, fresher verdure; but
himself a skeleton. Life folded Death; Death trellised Life; the grim
god wived with youthful Life, and begat him curly-headed glories.

Now, when with royal Tranquo I visited this wondrous whale, and saw the
skull an altar, and the artificial smoke ascending from where the real
jet had issued, I marvelled that the king should regard a chapel as
an object of vertu. He laughed. But more I marvelled that the priests
should swear that smoky jet of his was genuine. To and fro I paced
before this skeleton--brushed the vines aside--broke through the
ribs--and with a ball of Arsacidean twine, wandered, eddied long amid
its many winding, shaded colonnades and arbours. But soon my line was
out; and following it back, I emerged from the opening where I entered.
I saw no living thing within; naught was there but bones.

Cutting me a green measuring-rod, I once more dived within the skeleton.
From their arrow-slit in the skull, the priests perceived me taking the
altitude of the final rib, “How now!” they shouted; “Dar’st thou measure
this our god! That’s for us.” “Aye, priests--well, how long do ye make
him, then?” But hereupon a fierce contest rose among them, concerning
feet and inches; they cracked each other’s sconces with their
yard-sticks--the great skull echoed--and seizing that lucky chance, I
quickly concluded my own admeasurements.

These admeasurements I now propose to set before you. But first, be
it recorded, that, in this matter, I am not free to utter any fancied
measurement I please. Because there are skeleton authorities you can
refer to, to test my accuracy. There is a Leviathanic Museum, they tell
me, in Hull, England, one of the whaling ports of that country, where
they have some fine specimens of fin-backs and other whales. Likewise, I
have heard that in the museum of Manchester, in New Hampshire, they have
what the proprietors call “the only perfect specimen of a Greenland or
River Whale in the United States.” Moreover, at a place in Yorkshire,
England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has
in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale, but of moderate size,
by no means of the full-grown magnitude of my friend King Tranquo’s.

In both cases, the stranded whales to which these two skeletons
belonged, were originally claimed by their proprietors upon similar
grounds. King Tranquo seizing his because he wanted it; and Sir
Clifford, because he was lord of the seignories of those parts. Sir
Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that, like a
great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his bony
cavities--spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan--and swing all day
upon his lower jaw. Locks are to be put upon some of his trap-doors and
shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of
keys at his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at
the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo
in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view
from his forehead.

The skeleton dimensions I shall now proceed to set down are copied
verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tattooed; as in my wild
wanderings at that period, there was no other secure way of preserving
such valuable statistics. But as I was crowded for space, and wished
the other parts of my body to remain a blank page for a poem I was
then composing--at least, what untattooed parts might remain--I did not
trouble myself with the odd inches; nor, indeed, should inches at all
enter into a congenial admeasurement of the whale.

CHAPTER 103. Measurement of The Whale’s Skeleton.

In the first place, I wish to lay before you a particular, plain
statement, touching the living bulk of this leviathan, whose skeleton we
are briefly to exhibit. Such a statement may prove useful here.

According to a careful calculation I have made, and which I partly base
upon Captain Scoresby’s estimate, of seventy tons for the largest
sized Greenland whale of sixty feet in length; according to my careful
calculation, I say, a Sperm Whale of the largest magnitude, between
eighty-five and ninety feet in length, and something less than forty
feet in its fullest circumference, such a whale will weigh at least
ninety tons; so that, reckoning thirteen men to a ton, he would
considerably outweigh the combined population of a whole village of one
thousand one hundred inhabitants.

Think you not then that brains, like yoked cattle, should be put to this
leviathan, to make him at all budge to any landsman’s imagination?

Having already in various ways put before you his skull, spout-hole,
jaw, teeth, tail, forehead, fins, and divers other parts, I shall now
simply point out what is most interesting in the general bulk of his
unobstructed bones. But as the colossal skull embraces so very large
a proportion of the entire extent of the skeleton; as it is by far the
most complicated part; and as nothing is to be repeated concerning it in
this chapter, you must not fail to carry it in your mind, or under your
arm, as we proceed, otherwise you will not gain a complete notion of the
general structure we are about to view.

In length, the Sperm Whale’s skeleton at Tranque measured seventy-two
Feet; so that when fully invested and extended in life, he must have
been ninety feet long; for in the whale, the skeleton loses about one
fifth in length compared with the living body. Of this seventy-two feet,
his skull and jaw comprised some twenty feet, leaving some fifty feet of
plain back-bone. Attached to this back-bone, for something less than a
third of its length, was the mighty circular basket of ribs which once
enclosed his vitals.

To me this vast ivory-ribbed chest, with the long, unrelieved spine,
extending far away from it in a straight line, not a little resembled
the hull of a great ship new-laid upon the stocks, when only some twenty
of her naked bow-ribs are inserted, and the keel is otherwise, for the
time, but a long, disconnected timber.

The ribs were ten on a side. The first, to begin from the neck,
was nearly six feet long; the second, third, and fourth were each
successively longer, till you came to the climax of the fifth, or one
of the middle ribs, which measured eight feet and some inches. From
that part, the remaining ribs diminished, till the tenth and last only
spanned five feet and some inches. In general thickness, they all bore
a seemly correspondence to their length. The middle ribs were the most
arched. In some of the Arsacides they are used for beams whereon to lay
footpath bridges over small streams.

In considering these ribs, I could not but be struck anew with the
circumstance, so variously repeated in this book, that the skeleton of
the whale is by no means the mould of his invested form. The largest of
the Tranque ribs, one of the middle ones, occupied that part of the fish
which, in life, is greatest in depth. Now, the greatest depth of the
invested body of this particular whale must have been at least sixteen
feet; whereas, the corresponding rib measured but little more than eight
feet. So that this rib only conveyed half of the true notion of the
living magnitude of that part. Besides, for some way, where I now saw
but a naked spine, all that had been once wrapped round with tons of
added bulk in flesh, muscle, blood, and bowels. Still more, for the
ample fins, I here saw but a few disordered joints; and in place of the
weighty and majestic, but boneless flukes, an utter blank!

How vain and foolish, then, thought I, for timid untravelled man to try
to comprehend aright this wondrous whale, by merely poring over his dead
attenuated skeleton, stretched in this peaceful wood. No. Only in the
heart of quickest perils; only when within the eddyings of his angry
flukes; only on the profound unbounded sea, can the fully invested whale
be truly and livingly found out.

But the spine. For that, the best way we can consider it is, with a
crane, to pile its bones high up on end. No speedy enterprise. But now
it’s done, it looks much like Pompey’s Pillar.

There are forty and odd vertebrae in all, which in the skeleton are
not locked together. They mostly lie like the great knobbed blocks on
a Gothic spire, forming solid courses of heavy masonry. The largest,
a middle one, is in width something less than three feet, and in depth
more than four. The smallest, where the spine tapers away into the
tail, is only two inches in width, and looks something like a white
billiard-ball. I was told that there were still smaller ones, but they
had been lost by some little cannibal urchins, the priest’s children,
who had stolen them to play marbles with. Thus we see how that the
spine of even the hugest of living things tapers off at last into simple
child’s play.

CHAPTER 104. The Fossil Whale.

From his mighty bulk the whale affords a most congenial theme whereon
to enlarge, amplify, and generally expatiate. Would you, you could not
compress him. By good rights he should only be treated of in imperial
folio. Not to tell over again his furlongs from spiracle to tail,
and the yards he measures about the waist; only think of the gigantic
involutions of his intestines, where they lie in him like great
cables and hawsers coiled away in the subterranean orlop-deck of a

Since I have undertaken to manhandle this Leviathan, it behooves me
to approve myself omnisciently exhaustive in the enterprise; not
overlooking the minutest seminal germs of his blood, and spinning him
out to the uttermost coil of his bowels. Having already described him
in most of his present habitatory and anatomical peculiarities, it
now remains to magnify him in an archaeological, fossiliferous, and
antediluvian point of view. Applied to any other creature than the
Leviathan--to an ant or a flea--such portly terms might justly be deemed
unwarrantably grandiloquent. But when Leviathan is the text, the case is
altered. Fain am I to stagger to this emprise under the weightiest
words of the dictionary. And here be it said, that whenever it has been
convenient to consult one in the course of these dissertations, I have
invariably used a huge quarto edition of Johnson, expressly purchased
for that purpose; because that famous lexicographer’s uncommon personal
bulk more fitted him to compile a lexicon to be used by a whale author
like me.

One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject,
though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing
of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard
capitals. Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an
inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my
thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their
outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole
circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and
mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas
of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its
suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal
theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose
a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the
flea, though many there be who have tried it.

Ere entering upon the subject of Fossil Whales, I present my credentials
as a geologist, by stating that in my miscellaneous time I have been
a stone-mason, and also a great digger of ditches, canals and wells,
wine-vaults, cellars, and cisterns of all sorts. Likewise, by way of
preliminary, I desire to remind the reader, that while in the earlier
geological strata there are found the fossils of monsters now almost
completely extinct; the subsequent relics discovered in what are called
the Tertiary formations seem the connecting, or at any rate intercepted
links, between the antichronical creatures, and those whose remote
posterity are said to have entered the Ark; all the Fossil Whales
hitherto discovered belong to the Tertiary period, which is the last
preceding the superficial formations. And though none of them
precisely answer to any known species of the present time, they are yet
sufficiently akin to them in general respects, to justify their taking
rank as Cetacean fossils.

Detached broken fossils of pre-adamite whales, fragments of their bones
and skeletons, have within thirty years past, at various intervals, been
found at the base of the Alps, in Lombardy, in France, in England, in
Scotland, and in the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Among the more curious of such remains is part of a skull, which in the
year 1779 was disinterred in the Rue Dauphine in Paris, a short street
opening almost directly upon the palace of the Tuileries; and bones
disinterred in excavating the great docks of Antwerp, in Napoleon’s
time. Cuvier pronounced these fragments to have belonged to some utterly
unknown Leviathanic species.

But by far the most wonderful of all Cetacean relics was the almost
complete vast skeleton of an extinct monster, found in the year 1842, on
the plantation of Judge Creagh, in Alabama. The awe-stricken credulous
slaves in the vicinity took it for the bones of one of the fallen
angels. The Alabama doctors declared it a huge reptile, and bestowed
upon it the name of Basilosaurus. But some specimen bones of it being
taken across the sea to Owen, the English Anatomist, it turned out
that this alleged reptile was a whale, though of a departed species. A
significant illustration of the fact, again and again repeated in this
book, that the skeleton of the whale furnishes but little clue to the
shape of his fully invested body. So Owen rechristened the monster
Zeuglodon; and in his paper read before the London Geological Society,
pronounced it, in substance, one of the most extraordinary creatures
which the mutations of the globe have blotted out of existence.

When I stand among these mighty Leviathan skeletons, skulls, tusks,
jaws, ribs, and vertebrae, all characterized by partial resemblances to
the existing breeds of sea-monsters; but at the same time bearing on
the other hand similar affinities to the annihilated antichronical
Leviathans, their incalculable seniors; I am, by a flood, borne back
to that wondrous period, ere time itself can be said to have begun;
for time began with man. Here Saturn’s grey chaos rolls over me, and I
obtain dim, shuddering glimpses into those Polar eternities; when wedged
bastions of ice pressed hard upon what are now the Tropics; and in
all the 25,000 miles of this world’s circumference, not an inhabitable
hand’s breadth of land was visible. Then the whole world was the
whale’s; and, king of creation, he left his wake along the present lines
of the Andes and the Himmalehs. Who can show a pedigree like Leviathan?
Ahab’s harpoon had shed older blood than the Pharaoh’s. Methuselah seems
a school-boy. I look round to shake hands with Shem. I am horror-struck
at this antemosaic, unsourced existence of the unspeakable terrors of
the whale, which, having been before all time, must needs exist after
all humane ages are over.

But not alone has this Leviathan left his pre-adamite traces in the
stereotype plates of nature, and in limestone and marl bequeathed his
ancient bust; but upon Egyptian tablets, whose antiquity seems to claim
for them an almost fossiliferous character, we find the unmistakable
print of his fin. In an apartment of the great temple of Denderah,
some fifty years ago, there was discovered upon the granite ceiling a
sculptured and painted planisphere, abounding in centaurs, griffins, and
dolphins, similar to the grotesque figures on the celestial globe of the
moderns. Gliding among them, old Leviathan swam as of yore; was there
swimming in that planisphere, centuries before Solomon was cradled.

Nor must there be omitted another strange attestation of the antiquity
of the whale, in his own osseous post-diluvian reality, as set down by
the venerable John Leo, the old Barbary traveller.

“Not far from the Sea-side, they have a Temple, the Rafters and Beams
of which are made of Whale-Bones; for Whales of a monstrous size are
oftentimes cast up dead upon that shore. The Common People imagine, that
by a secret Power bestowed by God upon the temple, no Whale can pass it
without immediate death. But the truth of the Matter is, that on either
side of the Temple, there are Rocks that shoot two Miles into the Sea,
and wound the Whales when they light upon ‘em. They keep a Whale’s Rib
of an incredible length for a Miracle, which lying upon the Ground with
its convex part uppermost, makes an Arch, the Head of which cannot be
reached by a Man upon a Camel’s Back. This Rib (says John Leo) is said
to have layn there a hundred Years before I saw it. Their Historians
affirm, that a Prophet who prophesy’d of Mahomet, came from this Temple,
and some do not stand to assert, that the Prophet Jonas was cast forth
by the Whale at the Base of the Temple.”

In this Afric Temple of the Whale I leave you, reader, and if you be a
Nantucketer, and a whaleman, you will silently worship there.

CHAPTER 105. Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?--Will He Perish?

Inasmuch, then, as this Leviathan comes floundering down upon us from
the head-waters of the Eternities, it may be fitly inquired, whether,
in the long course of his generations, he has not degenerated from the
original bulk of his sires.

But upon investigation we find, that not only are the whales of the
present day superior in magnitude to those whose fossil remains are
found in the Tertiary system (embracing a distinct geological period
prior to man), but of the whales found in that Tertiary system, those
belonging to its latter formations exceed in size those of its earlier

Of all the pre-adamite whales yet exhumed, by far the largest is the
Alabama one mentioned in the last chapter, and that was less than
seventy feet in length in the skeleton. Whereas, we have already seen,
that the tape-measure gives seventy-two feet for the skeleton of a large
sized modern whale. And I have heard, on whalemen’s authority, that
Sperm Whales have been captured near a hundred feet long at the time of

But may it not be, that while the whales of the present hour are an
advance in magnitude upon those of all previous geological periods; may
it not be, that since Adam’s time they have degenerated?

Assuredly, we must conclude so, if we are to credit the accounts of such
gentlemen as Pliny, and the ancient naturalists generally. For Pliny
tells us of Whales that embraced acres of living bulk, and Aldrovandus
of others which measured eight hundred feet in length--Rope Walks and
Thames Tunnels of Whales! And even in the days of Banks and Solander,
Cooke’s naturalists, we find a Danish member of the Academy of Sciences
setting down certain Iceland Whales (reydan-siskur, or Wrinkled Bellies)
at one hundred and twenty yards; that is, three hundred and sixty feet.
And Lacepede, the French naturalist, in his elaborate history of whales,
in the very beginning of his work (page 3), sets down the Right Whale at
one hundred metres, three hundred and twenty-eight feet. And this work
was published so late as A.D. 1825.

But will any whaleman believe these stories? No. The whale of to-day is
as big as his ancestors in Pliny’s time. And if ever I go where Pliny
is, I, a whaleman (more than he was), will make bold to tell him so.
Because I cannot understand how it is, that while the Egyptian mummies
that were buried thousands of years before even Pliny was born, do not
measure so much in their coffins as a modern Kentuckian in his socks;
and while the cattle and other animals sculptured on the oldest Egyptian
and Nineveh tablets, by the relative proportions in which they are
drawn, just as plainly prove that the high-bred, stall-fed, prize cattle
of Smithfield, not only equal, but far exceed in magnitude the fattest
of Pharaoh’s fat kine; in the face of all this, I will not admit that of
all animals the whale alone should have degenerated.

But still another inquiry remains; one often agitated by the more
recondite Nantucketers. Whether owing to the almost omniscient look-outs
at the mast-heads of the whaleships, now penetrating even through
Behring’s straits, and into the remotest secret drawers and lockers
of the world; and the thousand harpoons and lances darted along all
continental coasts; the moot point is, whether Leviathan can long endure
so wide a chase, and so remorseless a havoc; whether he must not at last
be exterminated from the waters, and the last whale, like the last man,
smoke his last pipe, and then himself evaporate in the final puff.

Comparing the humped herds of whales with the humped herds of buffalo,
which, not forty years ago, overspread by tens of thousands the prairies
of Illinois and Missouri, and shook their iron manes and scowled with
their thunder-clotted brows upon the sites of populous river-capitals,
where now the polite broker sells you land at a dollar an inch; in such
a comparison an irresistible argument would seem furnished, to show that
the hunted whale cannot now escape speedy extinction.

But you must look at this matter in every light. Though so short a
period ago--not a good lifetime--the census of the buffalo in Illinois
exceeded the census of men now in London, and though at the present day
not one horn or hoof of them remains in all that region; and though the
cause of this wondrous extermination was the spear of man; yet the far
different nature of the whale-hunt peremptorily forbids so inglorious an
end to the Leviathan. Forty men in one ship hunting the Sperm Whales for
forty-eight months think they have done extremely well, and thank God,
if at last they carry home the oil of forty fish. Whereas, in the days
of the old Canadian and Indian hunters and trappers of the West, when
the far west (in whose sunset suns still rise) was a wilderness and
a virgin, the same number of moccasined men, for the same number of
months, mounted on horse instead of sailing in ships, would have slain
not forty, but forty thousand and more buffaloes; a fact that, if need
were, could be statistically stated.

Nor, considered aright, does it seem any argument in favour of the
gradual extinction of the Sperm Whale, for example, that in former years
(the latter part of the last century, say) these Leviathans, in
small pods, were encountered much oftener than at present, and, in
consequence, the voyages were not so prolonged, and were also much more
remunerative. Because, as has been elsewhere noticed, those whales,
influenced by some views to safety, now swim the seas in immense
caravans, so that to a large degree the scattered solitaries, yokes, and
pods, and schools of other days are now aggregated into vast but widely
separated, unfrequent armies. That is all. And equally fallacious seems
the conceit, that because the so-called whale-bone whales no longer
haunt many grounds in former years abounding with them, hence that
species also is declining. For they are only being driven from
promontory to cape; and if one coast is no longer enlivened with
their jets, then, be sure, some other and remoter strand has been very
recently startled by the unfamiliar spectacle.

Furthermore: concerning these last mentioned Leviathans, they have two
firm fortresses, which, in all human probability, will for ever remain
impregnable. And as upon the invasion of their valleys, the frosty Swiss
have retreated to their mountains; so, hunted from the savannas and
glades of the middle seas, the whale-bone whales can at last resort to
their Polar citadels, and diving under the ultimate glassy barriers and
walls there, come up among icy fields and floes; and in a charmed circle
of everlasting December, bid defiance to all pursuit from man.

But as perhaps fifty of these whale-bone whales are harpooned for one
cachalot, some philosophers of the forecastle have concluded that this
positive havoc has already very seriously diminished their battalions.
But though for some time past a number of these whales, not less than
13,000, have been annually slain on the nor’-west coast by the Americans
alone; yet there are considerations which render even this circumstance
of little or no account as an opposing argument in this matter.

Natural as it is to be somewhat incredulous concerning the populousness
of the more enormous creatures of the globe, yet what shall we say to
Harto, the historian of Goa, when he tells us that at one hunting the
King of Siam took 4,000 elephants; that in those regions elephants are
numerous as droves of cattle in the temperate climes. And there seems no
reason to doubt that if these elephants, which have now been hunted for
thousands of years, by Semiramis, by Porus, by Hannibal, and by all the
successive monarchs of the East--if they still survive there in great
numbers, much more may the great whale outlast all hunting, since he
has a pasture to expatiate in, which is precisely twice as large as all
Asia, both Americas, Europe and Africa, New Holland, and all the Isles
of the sea combined.

Moreover: we are to consider, that from the presumed great longevity
of whales, their probably attaining the age of a century and more,
therefore at any one period of time, several distinct adult generations
must be contemporary. And what that is, we may soon gain some idea
of, by imagining all the grave-yards, cemeteries, and family vaults of
creation yielding up the live bodies of all the men, women, and children
who were alive seventy-five years ago; and adding this countless host to
the present human population of the globe.

Wherefore, for all these things, we account the whale immortal in his
species, however perishable in his individuality. He swam the seas
before the continents broke water; he once swam over the site of the
Tuileries, and Windsor Castle, and the Kremlin. In Noah’s flood he
despised Noah’s Ark; and if ever the world is to be again flooded, like
the Netherlands, to kill off its rats, then the eternal whale will still
survive, and rearing upon the topmost crest of the equatorial flood,
spout his frothed defiance to the skies.

CHAPTER 106. Ahab’s Leg.

The precipitating manner in which Captain Ahab had quitted the Samuel
Enderby of London, had not been unattended with some small violence to
his own person. He had lighted with such energy upon a thwart of his
boat that his ivory leg had received a half-splintering shock. And
when after gaining his own deck, and his own pivot-hole there, he so
vehemently wheeled round with an urgent command to the steersman (it
was, as ever, something about his not steering inflexibly enough); then,
the already shaken ivory received such an additional twist and wrench,
that though it still remained entire, and to all appearances lusty, yet
Ahab did not deem it entirely trustworthy.

And, indeed, it seemed small matter for wonder, that for all his
pervading, mad recklessness, Ahab did at times give careful heed to the
condition of that dead bone upon which he partly stood. For it had not
been very long prior to the Pequod’s sailing from Nantucket, that he
had been found one night lying prone upon the ground, and insensible;
by some unknown, and seemingly inexplicable, unimaginable casualty, his
ivory limb having been so violently displaced, that it had stake-wise
smitten, and all but pierced his groin; nor was it without extreme
difficulty that the agonizing wound was entirely cured.

Nor, at the time, had it failed to enter his monomaniac mind, that all
the anguish of that then present suffering was but the direct issue of a
former woe; and he too plainly seemed to see, that as the most poisonous
reptile of the marsh perpetuates his kind as inevitably as the sweetest
songster of the grove; so, equally with every felicity, all miserable
events do naturally beget their like. Yea, more than equally, thought
Ahab; since both the ancestry and posterity of Grief go further than the
ancestry and posterity of Joy. For, not to hint of this: that it is
an inference from certain canonic teachings, that while some natural
enjoyments here shall have no children born to them for the other world,
but, on the contrary, shall be followed by the joy-childlessness of
all hell’s despair; whereas, some guilty mortal miseries shall still
fertilely beget to themselves an eternally progressive progeny of griefs
beyond the grave; not at all to hint of this, there still seems an
inequality in the deeper analysis of the thing. For, thought Ahab, while
even the highest earthly felicities ever have a certain unsignifying
pettiness lurking in them, but, at bottom, all heartwoes, a mystic
significance, and, in some men, an archangelic grandeur; so do their
diligent tracings-out not belie the obvious deduction. To trail the
genealogies of these high mortal miseries, carries us at last among the
sourceless primogenitures of the gods; so that, in the face of all the
glad, hay-making suns, and soft cymballing, round harvest-moons, we must
needs give in to this: that the gods themselves are not for ever glad.
The ineffaceable, sad birth-mark in the brow of man, is but the stamp of
sorrow in the signers.

Unwittingly here a secret has been divulged, which perhaps might more
properly, in set way, have been disclosed before. With many other
particulars concerning Ahab, always had it remained a mystery to some,
why it was, that for a certain period, both before and after the sailing
of the Pequod, he had hidden himself away with such Grand-Lama-like
exclusiveness; and, for that one interval, sought speechless refuge, as
it were, among the marble senate of the dead. Captain Peleg’s bruited
reason for this thing appeared by no means adequate; though, indeed,
as touching all Ahab’s deeper part, every revelation partook more of
significant darkness than of explanatory light. But, in the end, it all
came out; this one matter did, at least. That direful mishap was at
the bottom of his temporary recluseness. And not only this, but to that
ever-contracting, dropping circle ashore, who, for any reason, possessed
the privilege of a less banned approach to him; to that timid circle the
above hinted casualty--remaining, as it did, moodily unaccounted for by
Ahab--invested itself with terrors, not entirely underived from the land
of spirits and of wails. So that, through their zeal for him, they had
all conspired, so far as in them lay, to muffle up the knowledge of
this thing from others; and hence it was, that not till a considerable
interval had elapsed, did it transpire upon the Pequod’s decks.

But be all this as it may; let the unseen, ambiguous synod in the air,
or the vindictive princes and potentates of fire, have to do or not
with earthly Ahab, yet, in this present matter of his leg, he took plain
practical procedures;--he called the carpenter.

And when that functionary appeared before him, he bade him without delay
set about making a new leg, and directed the mates to see him supplied
with all the studs and joists of jaw-ivory (Sperm Whale) which had thus
far been accumulated on the voyage, in order that a careful selection
of the stoutest, clearest-grained stuff might be secured. This done, the
carpenter received orders to have the leg completed that night; and to
provide all the fittings for it, independent of those pertaining to
the distrusted one in use. Moreover, the ship’s forge was ordered to be
hoisted out of its temporary idleness in the hold; and, to accelerate
the affair, the blacksmith was commanded to proceed at once to the
forging of whatever iron contrivances might be needed.

CHAPTER 107. The Carpenter.

Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn, and take high
abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe. But
from the same point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they
seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and hereditary.
But most humble though he was, and far from furnishing an example of
the high, humane abstraction; the Pequod’s carpenter was no duplicate;
hence, he now comes in person on this stage.

Like all sea-going ship carpenters, and more especially those belonging
to whaling vessels, he was, to a certain off-handed, practical extent,
alike experienced in numerous trades and callings collateral to his own;
the carpenter’s pursuit being the ancient and outbranching trunk of all
those numerous handicrafts which more or less have to do with wood as an
auxiliary material. But, besides the application to him of the generic
remark above, this carpenter of the Pequod was singularly efficient in
those thousand nameless mechanical emergencies continually recurring
in a large ship, upon a three or four years’ voyage, in uncivilized
and far-distant seas. For not to speak of his readiness in ordinary
duties:--repairing stove boats, sprung spars, reforming the shape of
clumsy-bladed oars, inserting bull’s eyes in the deck, or new tree-nails
in the side planks, and other miscellaneous matters more directly
pertaining to his special business; he was moreover unhesitatingly
expert in all manner of conflicting aptitudes, both useful and

The one grand stage where he enacted all his various parts so manifold,
was his vice-bench; a long rude ponderous table furnished with several
vices, of different sizes, and both of iron and of wood. At all times
except when whales were alongside, this bench was securely lashed
athwartships against the rear of the Try-works.

A belaying pin is found too large to be easily inserted into its hole:
the carpenter claps it into one of his ever-ready vices, and straightway
files it smaller. A lost land-bird of strange plumage strays on board,
and is made a captive: out of clean shaved rods of right-whale bone, and
cross-beams of sperm whale ivory, the carpenter makes a pagoda-looking
cage for it. An oarsman sprains his wrist: the carpenter concocts a
soothing lotion. Stubb longed for vermillion stars to be painted upon
the blade of his every oar; screwing each oar in his big vice of wood,
the carpenter symmetrically supplies the constellation. A sailor takes
a fancy to wear shark-bone ear-rings: the carpenter drills his ears.
Another has the toothache: the carpenter out pincers, and clapping
one hand upon his bench bids him be seated there; but the poor fellow
unmanageably winces under the unconcluded operation; whirling round the
handle of his wooden vice, the carpenter signs him to clap his jaw in
that, if he would have him draw the tooth.

Thus, this carpenter was prepared at all points, and alike indifferent
and without respect in all. Teeth he accounted bits of ivory; heads he
deemed but top-blocks; men themselves he lightly held for capstans. But
while now upon so wide a field thus variously accomplished and with such
liveliness of expertness in him, too; all this would seem to argue some
uncommon vivacity of intelligence. But not precisely so. For nothing was
this man more remarkable, than for a certain impersonal stolidity as
it were; impersonal, I say; for it so shaded off into the surrounding
infinite of things, that it seemed one with the general stolidity
discernible in the whole visible world; which while pauselessly active
in uncounted modes, still eternally holds its peace, and ignores you,
though you dig foundations for cathedrals. Yet was this half-horrible
stolidity in him, involving, too, as it appeared, an all-ramifying
heartlessness;--yet was it oddly dashed at times, with an old,
crutch-like, antediluvian, wheezing humorousness, not unstreaked now
and then with a certain grizzled wittiness; such as might have served
to pass the time during the midnight watch on the bearded forecastle
of Noah’s ark. Was it that this old carpenter had been a life-long
wanderer, whose much rolling, to and fro, not only had gathered no moss;
but what is more, had rubbed off whatever small outward clingings
might have originally pertained to him? He was a stript abstract; an
unfractioned integral; uncompromised as a new-born babe; living without
premeditated reference to this world or the next. You might almost
say, that this strange uncompromisedness in him involved a sort of
unintelligence; for in his numerous trades, he did not seem to work so
much by reason or by instinct, or simply because he had been tutored to
it, or by any intermixture of all these, even or uneven; but merely by
a kind of deaf and dumb, spontaneous literal process. He was a pure
manipulator; his brain, if he had ever had one, must have early
oozed along into the muscles of his fingers. He was like one of
those unreasoning but still highly useful, MULTUM IN PARVO, Sheffield
contrivances, assuming the exterior--though a little swelled--of a
common pocket knife; but containing, not only blades of various sizes,
but also screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls, pens, rulers,
nail-filers, countersinkers. So, if his superiors wanted to use the
carpenter for a screw-driver, all they had to do was to open that part
of him, and the screw was fast: or if for tweezers, take him up by the
legs, and there they were.

Yet, as previously hinted, this omnitooled, open-and-shut carpenter,
was, after all, no mere machine of an automaton. If he did not have a
common soul in him, he had a subtle something that somehow anomalously
did its duty. What that was, whether essence of quicksilver, or a few
drops of hartshorn, there is no telling. But there it was; and there it
had abided for now some sixty years or more. And this it was, this same
unaccountable, cunning life-principle in him; this it was, that kept
him a great part of the time soliloquizing; but only like an unreasoning
wheel, which also hummingly soliloquizes; or rather, his body was a
sentry-box and this soliloquizer on guard there, and talking all the
time to keep himself awake.

CHAPTER 108. Ahab and the Carpenter.

The Deck--First Night Watch.


Drat the file, and drat the bone! That is hard which should be soft,
and that is soft which should be hard. So we go, who file old jaws and
shinbones. Let’s try another. Aye, now, this works better (SNEEZES).
Halloa, this bone dust is (SNEEZES)--why it’s (SNEEZES)--yes it’s
(SNEEZES)--bless my soul, it won’t let me speak! This is what an old
fellow gets now for working in dead lumber. Saw a live tree, and
you don’t get this dust; amputate a live bone, and you don’t get it
(SNEEZES). Come, come, you old Smut, there, bear a hand, and let’s have
that ferule and buckle-screw; I’ll be ready for them presently. Lucky
now (SNEEZES) there’s no knee-joint to make; that might puzzle a little;
but a mere shinbone--why it’s easy as making hop-poles; only I should
like to put a good finish on. Time, time; if I but only had the time, I
could turn him out as neat a leg now as ever (SNEEZES) scraped to a lady
in a parlor. Those buckskin legs and calves of legs I’ve seen in shop
windows wouldn’t compare at all. They soak water, they do; and of
course get rheumatic, and have to be doctored (SNEEZES) with washes and
lotions, just like live legs. There; before I saw it off, now, I must
call his old Mogulship, and see whether the length will be all right;
too short, if anything, I guess. Ha! that’s the heel; we are in luck;
here he comes, or it’s somebody else, that’s certain.



Well, manmaker!

Just in time, sir. If the captain pleases, I will now mark the length.
Let me measure, sir.

Measured for a leg! good. Well, it’s not the first time. About it!
There; keep thy finger on it. This is a cogent vice thou hast here,
carpenter; let me feel its grip once. So, so; it does pinch some.

Oh, sir, it will break bones--beware, beware!

No fear; I like a good grip; I like to feel something in this
slippery world that can hold, man. What’s Prometheus about there?--the
blacksmith, I mean--what’s he about?

He must be forging the buckle-screw, sir, now.

Right. It’s a partnership; he supplies the muscle part. He makes a
fierce red flame there!

Aye, sir; he must have the white heat for this kind of fine work.

Um-m. So he must. I do deem it now a most meaning thing, that that
old Greek, Prometheus, who made men, they say, should have been a
blacksmith, and animated them with fire; for what’s made in fire must
properly belong to fire; and so hell’s probable. How the soot flies!
This must be the remainder the Greek made the Africans of. Carpenter,
when he’s through with that buckle, tell him to forge a pair of steel
shoulder-blades; there’s a pedlar aboard with a crushing pack.


Hold; while Prometheus is about it, I’ll order a complete man after a
desirable pattern. Imprimis, fifty feet high in his socks; then, chest
modelled after the Thames Tunnel; then, legs with roots to ‘em, to stay
in one place; then, arms three feet through the wrist; no heart at all,
brass forehead, and about a quarter of an acre of fine brains; and let
me see--shall I order eyes to see outwards? No, but put a sky-light on
top of his head to illuminate inwards. There, take the order, and away.

Now, what’s he speaking about, and who’s he speaking to, I should like
to know? Shall I keep standing here? (ASIDE).

‘Tis but indifferent architecture to make a blind dome; here’s one. No,
no, no; I must have a lantern.

Ho, ho! That’s it, hey? Here are two, sir; one will serve my turn.

What art thou thrusting that thief-catcher into my face for, man?
Thrusted light is worse than presented pistols.

I thought, sir, that you spoke to carpenter.

Carpenter? why that’s--but no;--a very tidy, and, I may say,
an extremely gentlemanlike sort of business thou art in here,
carpenter;--or would’st thou rather work in clay?

Sir?--Clay? clay, sir? That’s mud; we leave clay to ditchers, sir.

The fellow’s impious! What art thou sneezing about?

Bone is rather dusty, sir.

Take the hint, then; and when thou art dead, never bury thyself under
living people’s noses.

Sir?--oh! ah!--I guess so;--yes--dear!

Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good
workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak thoroughly well
for thy work, i