Part 11 out of 12
the deck, shouted out--"To the braces! Up helm!--square in!"
In an instant the yards swung round; and as the ship half-wheeled
upon her heel, her three firm-seated graceful masts erectly poised
upon her long, ribbed hull, seemed as the three Horatii pirouetting
on one sufficient steed.
Standing between the knight-heads, Starbuck watched the Pequod's
tumultuous way, and Ahab's also, as he went lurching along the deck.
"I have sat before the dense coal fire and watched it all aglow, full
of its tormented flaming life; and I have seen it wane at last, down,
down, to dumbest dust. Old man of oceans! of all this fiery life of
thine, what will at length remain but one little heap of ashes!"
"Aye," cried Stubb, "but sea-coal ashes--mind ye that, Mr.
Starbuck--sea-coal, not your common charcoal. Well, well; I heard
Ahab mutter, 'Here some one thrusts these cards into these old hands
of mine; swears that I must play them, and no others.' And damn me,
Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die in it!"
Warmest climes but nurse the cruellest fangs: the tiger of Bengal
crouches in spiced groves of ceaseless verdure. Skies the most
effulgent but basket the deadliest thunders: gorgeous Cuba knows
tornadoes that never swept tame northern lands. So, too, it is, that
in these resplendent Japanese seas the mariner encounters the direst
of all storms, the Typhoon. It will sometimes burst from out that
cloudless sky, like an exploding bomb upon a dazed and sleepy town.
Towards evening of that day, the Pequod was torn of her canvas, and
bare-poled was left to fight a Typhoon which had struck her directly
ahead. When darkness came on, sky and sea roared and split with the
thunder, and blazed with the lightning, that showed the disabled
masts fluttering here and there with the rags which the first fury of
the tempest had left for its after sport.
Holding by a shroud, Starbuck was standing on the quarter-deck; at
every flash of the lightning glancing aloft, to see what additional
disaster might have befallen the intricate hamper there; while Stubb
and Flask were directing the men in the higher hoisting and firmer
lashing of the boats. But all their pains seemed naught. Though
lifted to the very top of the cranes, the windward quarter boat
(Ahab's) did not escape. A great rolling sea, dashing high up
against the reeling ship's high teetering side, stove in the boat's
bottom at the stern, and left it again, all dripping through like a
"Bad work, bad work! Mr. Starbuck," said Stubb, regarding the wreck,
"but the sea will have its way. Stubb, for one, can't fight it. You
see, Mr. Starbuck, a wave has such a great long start before it
leaps, all round the world it runs, and then comes the spring! But
as for me, all the start I have to meet it, is just across the deck
here. But never mind; it's all in fun: so the old song
Oh! jolly is the gale,
And a joker is the whale,
A' flourishin' his tail,--
Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty, joky, hoky-poky lad, is the Ocean, oh!
The scud all a flyin',
That's his flip only foamin';
When he stirs in the spicin',--
Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty, joky, hoky-poky lad, is the Ocean, oh!
Thunder splits the ships,
But he only smacks his lips,
A tastin' of this flip,--
Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty, joky, hoky-poky lad, is the Ocean, oh!
"Avast Stubb," cried Starbuck, "let the Typhoon sing, and strike his
harp here in our rigging; but if thou art a brave man thou wilt hold
"But I am not a brave man; never said I was a brave man; I am a
coward; and I sing to keep up my spirits. And I tell you what it is,
Mr. Starbuck, there's no way to stop my singing in this world but to
cut my throat. And when that's done, ten to one I sing ye the
doxology for a wind-up."
"Madman! look through my eyes if thou hast none of thine own."
"What! how can you see better of a dark night than anybody else,
never mind how foolish?"
"Here!" cried Starbuck, seizing Stubb by the shoulder, and pointing
his hand towards the weather bow, "markest thou not that the gale
comes from the eastward, the very course Ahab is to run for Moby
Dick? the very course he swung to this day noon? now mark his boat
there; where is that stove? In the stern-sheets, man; where he is
wont to stand--his stand-point is stove, man! Now jump overboard,
and sing away, if thou must!
"I don't half understand ye: what's in the wind?"
"Yes, yes, round the Cape of Good Hope is the shortest way to
Nantucket," soliloquized Starbuck suddenly, heedless of Stubb's
question. "The gale that now hammers at us to stave us, we can turn
it into a fair wind that will drive us towards home. Yonder, to
windward, all is blackness of doom; but to leeward, homeward--I see
it lightens up there; but not with the lightning."
At that moment in one of the intervals of profound darkness,
following the flashes, a voice was heard at his side; and almost at
the same instant a volley of thunder peals rolled overhead.
"Old Thunder!" said Ahab, groping his way along the bulwarks to his
pivot-hole; but suddenly finding his path made plain to him by
elbowed lances of fire.
Now, as the lightning rod to a spire on shore is intended to carry
off the perilous fluid into the soil; so the kindred rod which at sea
some ships carry to each mast, is intended to conduct it into the
water. But as this conductor must descend to considerable depth,
that its end may avoid all contact with the hull; and as moreover, if
kept constantly towing there, it would be liable to many mishaps,
besides interfering not a little with some of the rigging, and more
or less impeding the vessel's way in the water; because of all this,
the lower parts of a ship's lightning-rods are not always overboard;
but are generally made in long slender links, so as to be the more
readily hauled up into the chains outside, or thrown down into the
sea, as occasion may require.
"The rods! the rods!" cried Starbuck to the crew, suddenly admonished
to vigilance by the vivid lightning that had just been darting
flambeaux, to light Ahab to his post. "Are they overboard? drop them
over, fore and aft. Quick!"
"Avast!" cried Ahab; "let's have fair play here, though we be the
weaker side. Yet I'll contribute to raise rods on the Himmalehs and
Andes, that all the world may be secured; but out on privileges! Let
them be, sir."
"Look aloft!" cried Starbuck. "The corpusants! the corpusants!
All the yard-arms were tipped with a pallid fire; and touched at each
tri-pointed lightning-rod-end with three tapering white flames, each
of the three tall masts was silently burning in that sulphurous air,
like three gigantic wax tapers before an altar.
"Blast the boat! let it go!" cried Stubb at this instant, as a
swashing sea heaved up under his own little craft, so that its
gunwale violently jammed his hand, as he was passing a lashing.
"Blast it!"--but slipping backward on the deck, his uplifted eyes
caught the flames; and immediately shifting his tone he cried--"The
corpusants have mercy on us all!"
To sailors, oaths are household words; they will swear in the trance
of the calm, and in the teeth of the tempest; they will imprecate
curses from the topsail-yard-arms, when most they teeter over to a
seething sea; but in all my voyagings, seldom have I heard a common
oath when God's burning finger has been laid on the ship; when His
"Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin" has been woven into the shrouds and the
While this pallidness was burning aloft, few words were heard from
the enchanted crew; who in one thick cluster stood on the forecastle,
all their eyes gleaming in that pale phosphorescence, like a far away
constellation of stars. Relieved against the ghostly light, the
gigantic jet negro, Daggoo, loomed up to thrice his real stature, and
seemed the black cloud from which the thunder had come. The parted
mouth of Tashtego revealed his shark-white teeth, which strangely
gleamed as if they too had been tipped by corpusants; while lit up by
the preternatural light, Queequeg's tattooing burned like Satanic
blue flames on his body.
The tableau all waned at last with the pallidness aloft; and once
more the Pequod and every soul on her decks were wrapped in a pall.
A moment or two passed, when Starbuck, going forward, pushed against
some one. It was Stubb. "What thinkest thou now, man; I heard thy
cry; it was not the same in the song."
"No, no, it wasn't; I said the corpusants have mercy on us all; and I
hope they will, still. But do they only have mercy on long
faces?--have they no bowels for a laugh? And look ye, Mr.
Starbuck--but it's too dark to look. Hear me, then: I take that
mast-head flame we saw for a sign of good luck; for those masts are
rooted in a hold that is going to be chock a' block with sperm-oil,
d'ye see; and so, all that sperm will work up into the masts, like
sap in a tree. Yes, our three masts will yet be as three spermaceti
candles--that's the good promise we saw."
At that moment Starbuck caught sight of Stubb's face slowly beginning
to glimmer into sight. Glancing upwards, he cried: "See! see!" and
once more the high tapering flames were beheld with what seemed
redoubled supernaturalness in their pallor.
"The corpusants have mercy on us all," cried Stubb, again.
At the base of the mainmast, full beneath the doubloon and the
flame, the Parsee was kneeling in Ahab's front, but with his head
bowed away from him; while near by, from the arched and overhanging
rigging, where they had just been engaged securing a spar, a number
of the seamen, arrested by the glare, now cohered together, and hung
pendulous, like a knot of numbed wasps from a drooping, orchard twig.
In various enchanted attitudes, like the standing, or stepping, or
running skeletons in Herculaneum, others remained rooted to the deck;
but all their eyes upcast.
"Aye, aye, men!" cried Ahab. "Look up at it; mark it well; the white
flame but lights the way to the White Whale! Hand me those mainmast
links there; I would fain feel this pulse, and let mine beat against
it; blood against fire! So."
Then turning--the last link held fast in his left hand, he put his
foot upon the Parsee; and with fixed upward eye, and high-flung right
arm, he stood erect before the lofty tri-pointed trinity of flames.
"Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian
once did worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that
to this hour I bear the scar; I now know thee, thou clear spirit, and
I now know that thy right worship is defiance. To neither love nor
reverence wilt thou be kind; and e'en for hate thou canst but kill;
and all are killed. No fearless fool now fronts thee. I own thy
speechless, placeless power; but to the last gasp of my earthquake
life will dispute its unconditional, unintegral mastery in me. In the
midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here.
Though but a point at best; whencesoe'er I came; wheresoe'er I go;
yet while I earthly live, the queenly personality lives in me, and
feels her royal rights. But war is pain, and hate is woe. Come in
thy lowest form of love, and I will kneel and kiss thee; but at thy
highest, come as mere supernal power; and though thou launchest
navies of full-freighted worlds, there's that in here that still
remains indifferent. Oh, thou clear spirit, of thy fire thou madest
me, and like a true child of fire, I breathe it back to thee."
[SUDDEN, REPEATED FLASHES OF LIGHTNING; THE NINE FLAMES LEAP
LENGTHWISE TO THRICE THEIR PREVIOUS HEIGHT; AHAB, WITH THE REST,
CLOSES HIS EYES, HIS RIGHT HAND PRESSED HARD UPON THEM.]
"I own thy speechless, placeless power; said I not so? Nor was it
wrung from me; nor do I now drop these links. Thou canst blind; but
I can then grope. Thou canst consume; but I can then be ashes. Take
the homage of these poor eyes, and shutter-hands. I would not take
it. The lightning flashes through my skull; mine eye-balls ache and
ache; my whole beaten brain seems as beheaded, and rolling on some
stunning ground. Oh, oh! Yet blindfold, yet will I talk to thee.
Light though thou be, thou leapest out of darkness; but I am darkness
leaping out of light, leaping out of thee! The javelins cease; open
eyes; see, or not? There burn the flames! Oh, thou magnanimous! now
I do glory in my genealogy. But thou art but my fiery father; my
sweet mother, I know not. Oh, cruel! what hast thou done with her?
There lies my puzzle; but thine is greater. Thou knowest not how
came ye, hence callest thyself unbegotten; certainly knowest not thy
beginning, hence callest thyself unbegun. I know that of me, which
thou knowest not of thyself, oh, thou omnipotent. There is some
unsuffusing thing beyond thee, thou clear spirit, to whom all thy
eternity is but time, all thy creativeness mechanical. Through thee,
thy flaming self, my scorched eyes do dimly see it. Oh, thou
foundling fire, thou hermit immemorial, thou too hast thy
incommunicable riddle, thy unparticipated grief. Here again with
haughty agony, I read my sire. Leap! leap up, and lick the sky! I
leap with thee; I burn with thee; would fain be welded with thee;
defyingly I worship thee!"
"The boat! the boat!" cried Starbuck, "look at thy boat, old man!"
Ahab's harpoon, the one forged at Perth's fire, remained firmly
lashed in its conspicuous crotch, so that it projected beyond his
whale-boat's bow; but the sea that had stove its bottom had caused
the loose leather sheath to drop off; and from the keen steel barb
there now came a levelled flame of pale, forked fire. As the silent
harpoon burned there like a serpent's tongue, Starbuck grasped Ahab
by the arm--"God, God is against thee, old man; forbear! 'tis an
ill voyage! ill begun, ill continued; let me square the yards, while
we may, old man, and make a fair wind of it homewards, to go on a
better voyage than this."
Overhearing Starbuck, the panic-stricken crew instantly ran to the
braces--though not a sail was left aloft. For the moment all the
aghast mate's thoughts seemed theirs; they raised a half mutinous
cry. But dashing the rattling lightning links to the deck, and
snatching the burning harpoon, Ahab waved it like a torch among them;
swearing to transfix with it the first sailor that but cast loose a
rope's end. Petrified by his aspect, and still more shrinking from
the fiery dart that he held, the men fell back in dismay, and Ahab
"All your oaths to hunt the White Whale are as binding as mine; and
heart, soul, and body, lungs and life, old Ahab is bound. And that
ye may know to what tune this heart beats; look ye here; thus I blow
out the last fear!" And with one blast of his breath he extinguished
As in the hurricane that sweeps the plain, men fly the neighborhood
of some lone, gigantic elm, whose very height and strength but render
it so much the more unsafe, because so much the more a mark for
thunderbolts; so at those last words of Ahab's many of the mariners
did run from him in a terror of dismay.
The Deck Towards the End of the First Night Watch.
AHAB STANDING BY THE HELM. STARBUCK APPROACHING HIM.
We must send down the main-top-sail yard, sir. The band is working
loose and the lee lift is half-stranded. Shall I strike it, sir?"
"Strike nothing; lash it. If I had sky-sail poles, I'd sway them up
"Sir!--in God's name!--sir?"
"The anchors are working, sir. Shall I get them inboard?"
"Strike nothing, and stir nothing, but lash everything. The wind
rises, but it has not got up to my table-lands yet. Quick, and see
to it.--By masts and keels! he takes me for the hunch-backed skipper
of some coasting smack. Send down my main-top-sail yard! Ho,
gluepots! Loftiest trucks were made for wildest winds, and this
brain-truck of mine now sails amid the cloud-scud. Shall I strike
that? Oh, none but cowards send down their brain-trucks in tempest
time. What a hooroosh aloft there! I would e'en take it for
sublime, did I not know that the colic is a noisy malady. Oh, take
medicine, take medicine!"
Midnight.--The Forecastle Bulwarks.
STUBB AND FLASK MOUNTED ON THEM, AND PASSING ADDITIONAL LASHINGS OVER
THE ANCHORS THERE HANGING.
No, Stubb; you may pound that knot there as much as you please, but
you will never pound into me what you were just now saying. And how
long ago is it since you said the very contrary? Didn't you once say
that whatever ship Ahab sails in, that ship should pay something
extra on its insurance policy, just as though it were loaded with
powder barrels aft and boxes of lucifers forward? Stop, now; didn't
you say so?"
"Well, suppose I did? What then? I've part changed my flesh since
that time, why not my mind? Besides, supposing we ARE loaded with
powder barrels aft and lucifers forward; how the devil could the
lucifers get afire in this drenching spray here? Why, my little man,
you have pretty red hair, but you couldn't get afire now. Shake
yourself; you're Aquarius, or the water-bearer, Flask; might fill
pitchers at your coat collar. Don't you see, then, that for these
extra risks the Marine Insurance companies have extra guarantees?
Here are hydrants, Flask. But hark, again, and I'll answer ye the
other thing. First take your leg off from the crown of the anchor
here, though, so I can pass the rope; now listen. What's the mighty
difference between holding a mast's lightning-rod in the storm, and
standing close by a mast that hasn't got any lightning-rod at all in
a storm? Don't you see, you timber-head, that no harm can come to
the holder of the rod, unless the mast is first struck? What are you
talking about, then? Not one ship in a hundred carries rods, and
Ahab,--aye, man, and all of us,--were in no more danger then, in my
poor opinion, than all the crews in ten thousand ships now sailing
the seas. Why, you King-Post, you, I suppose you would have every
man in the world go about with a small lightning-rod running up the
corner of his hat, like a militia officer's skewered feather, and
trailing behind like his sash. Why don't ye be sensible, Flask? it's
easy to be sensible; why don't ye, then? any man with half an eye can
"I don't know that, Stubb. You sometimes find it rather hard."
"Yes, when a fellow's soaked through, it's hard to be sensible,
that's a fact. And I am about drenched with this spray. Never mind;
catch the turn there, and pass it. Seems to me we are lashing down
these anchors now as if they were never going to be used again.
Tying these two anchors here, Flask, seems like tying a man's hands
behind him. And what big generous hands they are, to be sure. These
are your iron fists, hey? What a hold they have, too! I wonder,
Flask, whether the world is anchored anywhere; if she is, she swings
with an uncommon long cable, though. There, hammer that knot down,
and we've done. So; next to touching land, lighting on deck is the
most satisfactory. I say, just wring out my jacket skirts, will ye?
Thank ye. They laugh at long-togs so, Flask; but seems to me, a
Long tailed coat ought always to be worn in all storms afloat. The
tails tapering down that way, serve to carry off the water, d'ye see.
Same with cocked hats; the cocks form gable-end eave-troughs, Flask.
No more monkey-jackets and tarpaulins for me; I must mount a
swallow-tail, and drive down a beaver; so. Halloa! whew! there goes
my tarpaulin overboard; Lord, Lord, that the winds that come from
heaven should be so unmannerly! This is a nasty night, lad."
Midnight Aloft.--Thunder and Lightning.
THE MAIN-TOP-SAIL YARD.--TASHTEGO PASSING NEW LASHINGS AROUND IT.
"Um, um, um. Stop that thunder! Plenty too much thunder up here.
What's the use of thunder? Um, um, um. We don't want thunder; we
want rum; give us a glass of rum. Um, um, um!"
During the most violent shocks of the Typhoon, the man at the
Pequod's jaw-bone tiller had several times been reelingly hurled to
the deck by its spasmodic motions, even though preventer tackles had
been attached to it--for they were slack--because some play to the
tiller was indispensable.
In a severe gale like this, while the ship is but a tossed
shuttlecock to the blast, it is by no means uncommon to see the
needles in the compasses, at intervals, go round and round. It was
thus with the Pequod's; at almost every shock the helmsman had not
failed to notice the whirling velocity with which they revolved upon
the cards; it is a sight that hardly anyone can behold without some
sort of unwonted emotion.
Some hours after midnight, the Typhoon abated so much, that through
the strenuous exertions of Starbuck and Stubb--one engaged forward
and the other aft--the shivered remnants of the jib and fore and
main-top-sails were cut adrift from the spars, and went eddying away
to leeward, like the feathers of an albatross, which sometimes are
cast to the winds when that storm-tossed bird is on the wing.
The three corresponding new sails were now bent and reefed, and a
storm-trysail was set further aft; so that the ship soon went through
the water with some precision again; and the course--for the present,
East-south-east--which he was to steer, if practicable, was once more
given to the helmsman. For during the violence of the gale, he had
only steered according to its vicissitudes. But as he was now
bringing the ship as near her course as possible, watching the
compass meanwhile, lo! a good sign! the wind seemed coming round
astern; aye, the foul breeze became fair!
Instantly the yards were squared, to the lively song of "HO! THE FAIR
WIND! OH-YE-HO, CHEERLY MEN!" the crew singing for joy, that so
promising an event should so soon have falsified the evil portents
In compliance with the standing order of his commander--to report
immediately, and at any one of the twenty-four hours, any decided
change in the affairs of the deck,--Starbuck had no sooner trimmed
the yards to the breeze--however reluctantly and gloomily,--than he
mechanically went below to apprise Captain Ahab of the circumstance.
Ere knocking at his state-room, he involuntarily paused before it a
moment. The cabin lamp--taking long swings this way and that--was
burning fitfully, and casting fitful shadows upon the old man's
bolted door,--a thin one, with fixed blinds inserted, in place of
upper panels. The isolated subterraneousness of the cabin made a
certain humming silence to reign there, though it was hooped round by
all the roar of the elements. The loaded muskets in the rack were
shiningly revealed, as they stood upright against the forward
bulkhead. Starbuck was an honest, upright man; but out of Starbuck's
heart, at that instant when he saw the muskets, there strangely
evolved an evil thought; but so blent with its neutral or good
accompaniments that for the instant he hardly knew it for itself.
"He would have shot me once," he murmured, "yes, there's the very
musket that he pointed at me;--that one with the studded stock; let
me touch it--lift it. Strange, that I, who have handled so many
deadly lances, strange, that I should shake so now. Loaded? I must
see. Aye, aye; and powder in the pan;--that's not good. Best spill
it?--wait. I'll cure myself of this. I'll hold the musket boldly
while I think.--I come to report a fair wind to him. But how fair?
Fair for death and doom,--THAT'S fair for Moby Dick. It's a fair
wind that's only fair for that accursed fish.--The very tube he
pointed at me!--the very one; THIS one--I hold it here; he would have
killed me with the very thing I handle now.--Aye and he would fain
kill all his crew. Does he not say he will not strike his spars to
any gale? Has he not dashed his heavenly quadrant? and in these same
perilous seas, gropes he not his way by mere dead reckoning of the
error-abounding log? and in this very Typhoon, did he not swear that
he would have no lightning-rods? But shall this crazed old man be
tamely suffered to drag a whole ship's company down to doom with
him?--Yes, it would make him the wilful murderer of thirty men and
more, if this ship come to any deadly harm; and come to deadly harm,
my soul swears this ship will, if Ahab have his way. If, then, he
were this instant--put aside, that crime would not be his. Ha! is he
muttering in his sleep? Yes, just there,--in there, he's sleeping.
Sleeping? aye, but still alive, and soon awake again. I can't
withstand thee, then, old man. Not reasoning; not remonstrance; not
entreaty wilt thou hearken to; all this thou scornest. Flat
obedience to thy own flat commands, this is all thou breathest. Aye,
and say'st the men have vow'd thy vow; say'st all of us are Ahabs.
Great God forbid!--But is there no other way? no lawful way?--Make
him a prisoner to be taken home? What! hope to wrest this old man's
living power from his own living hands? Only a fool would try it.
Say he were pinioned even; knotted all over with ropes and hawsers;
chained down to ring-bolts on this cabin floor; he would be more
hideous than a caged tiger, then. I could not endure the sight;
could not possibly fly his howlings; all comfort, sleep itself,
inestimable reason would leave me on the long intolerable voyage.
What, then, remains? The land is hundreds of leagues away, and
locked Japan the nearest. I stand alone here upon an open sea, with
two oceans and a whole continent between me and law.--Aye, aye, 'tis
so.--Is heaven a murderer when its lightning strikes a would-be
murderer in his bed, tindering sheets and skin together?--And would I
be a murderer, then, if"--and slowly, stealthily, and half sideways
looking, he placed the loaded musket's end against the door.
"On this level, Ahab's hammock swings within; his head this way. A
touch, and Starbuck may survive to hug his wife and child again.--Oh
Mary! Mary!--boy! boy! boy!--But if I wake thee not to death, old
man, who can tell to what unsounded deeps Starbuck's body this day
week may sink, with all the crew! Great God, where art Thou? Shall
I? shall I?--The wind has gone down and shifted, sir; the fore and
main topsails are reefed and set; she heads her course."
"Stern all! Oh Moby Dick, I clutch thy heart at last!"
Such were the sounds that now came hurtling from out the old man's
tormented sleep, as if Starbuck's voice had caused the long dumb
dream to speak.
The yet levelled musket shook like a drunkard's arm against the
panel; Starbuck seemed wrestling with an angel; but turning from the
door, he placed the death-tube in its rack, and left the place.
"He's too sound asleep, Mr. Stubb; go thou down, and wake him, and
tell him. I must see to the deck here. Thou know'st what to say."
Next morning the not-yet-subsided sea rolled in long slow billows of
mighty bulk, and striving in the Pequod's gurgling track, pushed her
on like giants' palms outspread. The strong, unstaggering breeze
abounded so, that sky and air seemed vast outbellying sails; the
whole world boomed before the wind. Muffled in the full morning
light, the invisible sun was only known by the spread intensity of
his place; where his bayonet rays moved on in stacks. Emblazonings,
as of crowned Babylonian kings and queens, reigned over everything.
The sea was as a crucible of molten gold, that bubblingly leaps with
light and heat.
Long maintaining an enchanted silence, Ahab stood apart; and every
time the tetering ship loweringly pitched down her bowsprit, he
turned to eye the bright sun's rays produced ahead; and when she
profoundly settled by the stern, he turned behind, and saw the sun's
rearward place, and how the same yellow rays were blending with his
"Ha, ha, my ship! thou mightest well be taken now for the sea-chariot
of the sun. Ho, ho! all ye nations before my prow, I bring the sun
to ye! Yoke on the further billows; hallo! a tandem, I drive the
But suddenly reined back by some counter thought, he hurried towards
the helm, huskily demanding how the ship was heading.
"East-sou-east, sir," said the frightened steersman.
"Thou liest!" smiting him with his clenched fist. "Heading East at
this hour in the morning, and the sun astern?"
Upon this every soul was confounded; for the phenomenon just then
observed by Ahab had unaccountably escaped every one else; but its
very blinding palpableness must have been the cause.
Thrusting his head half way into the binnacle, Ahab caught one
glimpse of the compasses; his uplifted arm slowly fell; for a moment
he almost seemed to stagger. Standing behind him Starbuck looked,
and lo! the two compasses pointed East, and the Pequod was as
infallibly going West.
But ere the first wild alarm could get out abroad among the crew, the
old man with a rigid laugh exclaimed, "I have it! It has happened
before. Mr. Starbuck, last night's thunder turned our
compasses--that's all. Thou hast before now heard of such a thing, I
"Aye; but never before has it happened to me, sir," said the pale
Here, it must needs be said, that accidents like this have in more
than one case occurred to ships in violent storms. The magnetic
energy, as developed in the mariner's needle, is, as all know,
essentially one with the electricity beheld in heaven; hence it is
not to be much marvelled at, that such things should be. Instances
where the lightning has actually struck the vessel, so as to smite
down some of the spars and rigging, the effect upon the needle has at
times been still more fatal; all its loadstone virtue being
annihilated, so that the before magnetic steel was of no more use
than an old wife's knitting needle. But in either case, the needle
never again, of itself, recovers the original virtue thus marred or
lost; and if the binnacle compasses be affected, the same fate
reaches all the others that may be in the ship; even were the
lowermost one inserted into the kelson.
Deliberately standing before the binnacle, and eyeing the
transpointed compasses, the old man, with the sharp of his extended
hand, now took the precise bearing of the sun, and satisfied that the
needles were exactly inverted, shouted out his orders for the ship's
course to be changed accordingly. The yards were hard up; and once
more the Pequod thrust her undaunted bows into the opposing wind, for
the supposed fair one had only been juggling her.
Meanwhile, whatever were his own secret thoughts, Starbuck said
nothing, but quietly he issued all requisite orders; while Stubb and
Flask--who in some small degree seemed then to be sharing his
feelings--likewise unmurmuringly acquiesced. As for the men, though
some of them lowly rumbled, their fear of Ahab was greater than their
fear of Fate. But as ever before, the pagan harpooneers remained
almost wholly unimpressed; or if impressed, it was only with a
certain magnetism shot into their congenial hearts from inflexible
For a space the old man walked the deck in rolling reveries. But
chancing to slip with his ivory heel, he saw the crushed copper
sight-tubes of the quadrant he had the day before dashed to the deck.
"Thou poor, proud heaven-gazer and sun's pilot! yesterday I wrecked
thee, and to-day the compasses would fain have wrecked me. So, so.
But Ahab is lord over the level loadstone yet. Mr. Starbuck--a lance
without a pole; a top-maul, and the smallest of the sail-maker's
Accessory, perhaps, to the impulse dictating the thing he was now
about to do, were certain prudential motives, whose object might have
been to revive the spirits of his crew by a stroke of his subtile
skill, in a matter so wondrous as that of the inverted compasses.
Besides, the old man well knew that to steer by transpointed needles,
though clumsily practicable, was not a thing to be passed over by
superstitious sailors, without some shudderings and evil portents.
"Men," said he, steadily turning upon the crew, as the mate handed
him the things he had demanded, "my men, the thunder turned old
Ahab's needles; but out of this bit of steel Ahab can make one of his
own, that will point as true as any."
Abashed glances of servile wonder were exchanged by the sailors, as
this was said; and with fascinated eyes they awaited whatever magic
might follow. But Starbuck looked away.
With a blow from the top-maul Ahab knocked off the steel head of the
lance, and then handing to the mate the long iron rod remaining, bade
him hold it upright, without its touching the deck. Then, with the
maul, after repeatedly smiting the upper end of this iron rod, he
placed the blunted needle endwise on the top of it, and less strongly
hammered that, several times, the mate still holding the rod as
before. Then going through some small strange motions with
it--whether indispensable to the magnetizing of the steel, or merely
intended to augment the awe of the crew, is uncertain--he called for
linen thread; and moving to the binnacle, slipped out the two
reversed needles there, and horizontally suspended the sail-needle by
its middle, over one of the compass-cards. At first, the steel went
round and round, quivering and vibrating at either end; but at last
it settled to its place, when Ahab, who had been intently watching
for this result, stepped frankly back from the binnacle, and pointing
his stretched arm towards it, exclaimed,--"Look ye, for yourselves,
if Ahab be not lord of the level loadstone! The sun is East, and
that compass swears it!"
One after another they peered in, for nothing but their own eyes
could persuade such ignorance as theirs, and one after another they
In his fiery eyes of scorn and triumph, you then saw Ahab in all his
The Log and Line.
While now the fated Pequod had been so long afloat this voyage, the
log and line had but very seldom been in use. Owing to a confident
reliance upon other means of determining the vessel's place, some
merchantmen, and many whalemen, especially when cruising, wholly
neglect to heave the log; though at the same time, and frequently
more for form's sake than anything else, regularly putting down upon
the customary slate the course steered by the ship, as well as the
presumed average rate of progression every hour. It had been thus
with the Pequod. The wooden reel and angular log attached hung, long
untouched, just beneath the railing of the after bulwarks. Rains and
spray had damped it; sun and wind had warped it; all the elements
had combined to rot a thing that hung so idly. But heedless of all
this, his mood seized Ahab, as he happened to glance upon the reel,
not many hours after the magnet scene, and he remembered how his
quadrant was no more, and recalled his frantic oath about the level
log and line. The ship was sailing plungingly; astern the billows
rolled in riots.
"Forward, there! Heave the log!"
Two seamen came. The golden-hued Tahitian and the grizzly Manxman.
"Take the reel, one of ye, I'll heave."
They went towards the extreme stern, on the ship's lee side, where
the deck, with the oblique energy of the wind, was now almost dipping
into the creamy, sidelong-rushing sea.
The Manxman took the reel, and holding it high up, by the projecting
handle-ends of the spindle, round which the spool of line revolved,
so stood with the angular log hanging downwards, till Ahab advanced
Ahab stood before him, and was lightly unwinding some thirty or forty
turns to form a preliminary hand-coil to toss overboard, when the old
Manxman, who was intently eyeing both him and the line, made bold to
"Sir, I mistrust it; this line looks far gone, long heat and wet have
"'Twill hold, old gentleman. Long heat and wet, have they spoiled
thee? Thou seem'st to hold. Or, truer perhaps, life holds thee;
not thou it."
"I hold the spool, sir. But just as my captain says. With these
grey hairs of mine 'tis not worth while disputing, 'specially with a
superior, who'll ne'er confess."
"What's that? There now's a patched professor in Queen Nature's
granite-founded College; but methinks he's too subservient. Where
wert thou born?"
"In the little rocky Isle of Man, sir."
"Excellent! Thou'st hit the world by that."
"I know not, sir, but I was born there."
"In the Isle of Man, hey? Well, the other way, it's good. Here's a
man from Man; a man born in once independent Man, and now unmanned of
Man; which is sucked in--by what? Up with the reel! The dead, blind
wall butts all inquiring heads at last. Up with it! So."
The log was heaved. The loose coils rapidly straightened out in a
long dragging line astern, and then, instantly, the reel began to
whirl. In turn, jerkingly raised and lowered by the rolling billows,
the towing resistance of the log caused the old reelman to stagger
Snap! the overstrained line sagged down in one long festoon; the
tugging log was gone.
"I crush the quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad
sea parts the log-line. But Ahab can mend all. Haul in here,
Tahitian; reel up, Manxman. And look ye, let the carpenter make
another log, and mend thou the line. See to it."
"There he goes now; to him nothing's happened; but to me, the skewer
seems loosening out of the middle of the world. Haul in, haul in,
Tahitian! These lines run whole, and whirling out: come in broken,
and dragging slow. Ha, Pip? come to help; eh, Pip?"
"Pip? whom call ye Pip? Pip jumped from the whale-boat. Pip's
missing. Let's see now if ye haven't fished him up here, fisherman.
It drags hard; I guess he's holding on. Jerk him, Tahiti! Jerk him
off; we haul in no cowards here. Ho! there's his arm just breaking
water. A hatchet! a hatchet! cut it off--we haul in no cowards here.
Captain Ahab! sir, sir! here's Pip, trying to get on board again."
"Peace, thou crazy loon," cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm.
"Away from the quarter-deck!"
"The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser," muttered Ahab, advancing.
"Hands off from that holiness! Where sayest thou Pip was, boy?
"Astern there, sir, astern! Lo! lo!"
"And who art thou, boy? I see not my reflection in the vacant pupils
of thy eyes. Oh God! that man should be a thing for immortal souls
to sieve through! Who art thou, boy?"
"Bell-boy, sir; ship's-crier; ding, dong, ding! Pip! Pip! Pip! One
hundred pounds of clay reward for Pip; five feet high--looks
cowardly--quickest known by that! Ding, dong, ding! Who's seen Pip
"There can be no hearts above the snow-line. Oh, ye frozen heavens!
look down here. Ye did beget this luckless child, and have abandoned
him, ye creative libertines. Here, boy; Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's
home henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou touchest my inmost centre,
boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my heart-strings. Come,
"What's this? here's velvet shark-skin," intently gazing at Ahab's
hand, and feeling it. "Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a
thing as this, perhaps he had ne'er been lost! This seems to me,
sir, as a man-rope; something that weak souls may hold by. Oh, sir,
let old Perth now come and rivet these two hands together; the black
one with the white, for I will not let this go."
"Oh, boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse
horrors than are here. Come, then, to my cabin. Lo! ye believers in
gods all goodness, and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient
gods oblivious of suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing
not what he does, yet full of the sweet things of love and gratitude.
Come! I feel prouder leading thee by thy black hand, than though I
grasped an Emperor's!"
"There go two daft ones now," muttered the old Manxman. "One daft
with strength, the other daft with weakness. But here's the end of
the rotten line--all dripping, too. Mend it, eh? I think we had
best have a new line altogether. I'll see Mr. Stubb about it."
Steering now south-eastward by Ahab's levelled steel, and her
progress solely determined by Ahab's level log and line; the Pequod
held on her path towards the Equator. Making so long a passage
through such unfrequented waters, descrying no ships, and ere long,
sideways impelled by unvarying trade winds, over waves monotonously
mild; all these seemed the strange calm things preluding some riotous
and desperate scene.
At last, when the ship drew near to the outskirts, as it were, of the
Equatorial fishing-ground, and in the deep darkness that goes before
the dawn, was sailing by a cluster of rocky islets; the watch--then
headed by Flask--was startled by a cry so plaintively wild and
unearthly--like half-articulated wailings of the ghosts of all
Herod's murdered Innocents--that one and all, they started from their
reveries, and for the space of some moments stood, or sat, or leaned
all transfixedly listening, like the carved Roman slave, while that
wild cry remained within hearing. The Christian or civilized part of
the crew said it was mermaids, and shuddered; but the pagan
harpooneers remained unappalled. Yet the grey Manxman--the oldest
mariner of all--declared that the wild thrilling sounds that were
heard, were the voices of newly drowned men in the sea.
Below in his hammock, Ahab did not hear of this till grey dawn, when
he came to the deck; it was then recounted to him by Flask, not
unaccompanied with hinted dark meanings. He hollowly laughed, and
thus explained the wonder.
Those rocky islands the ship had passed were the resort of great
numbers of seals, and some young seals that had lost their dams, or
some dams that had lost their cubs, must have risen nigh the ship and
kept company with her, crying and sobbing with their human sort of
wail. But this only the more affected some of them, because most
mariners cherish a very superstitious feeling about seals, arising
not only from their peculiar tones when in distress, but also from
the human look of their round heads and semi-intelligent faces, seen
peeringly uprising from the water alongside. In the sea, under
certain circumstances, seals have more than once been mistaken for
But the bodings of the crew were destined to receive a most plausible
confirmation in the fate of one of their number that morning. At
sun-rise this man went from his hammock to his mast-head at the fore;
and whether it was that he was not yet half waked from his sleep (for
sailors sometimes go aloft in a transition state), whether it was
thus with the man, there is now no telling; but, be that as it may,
he had not been long at his perch, when a cry was heard--a cry and a
rushing--and looking up, they saw a falling phantom in the air; and
looking down, a little tossed heap of white bubbles in the blue of
The life-buoy--a long slender cask--was dropped from the stern, where
it always hung obedient to a cunning spring; but no hand rose to
seize it, and the sun having long beat upon this cask it had
shrunken, so that it slowly filled, and that parched wood also
filled at its every pore; and the studded iron-bound cask followed
the sailor to the bottom, as if to yield him his pillow, though in
sooth but a hard one.
And thus the first man of the Pequod that mounted the mast to look
out for the White Whale, on the White Whale's own peculiar ground;
that man was swallowed up in the deep. But few, perhaps, thought of
that at the time. Indeed, in some sort, they were not grieved at
this event, at least as a portent; for they regarded it, not as a
foreshadowing of evil in the future, but as the fulfilment of an
evil already presaged. They declared that now they knew the reason
of those wild shrieks they had heard the night before. But again the
old Manxman said nay.
The lost life-buoy was now to be replaced; Starbuck was directed to
see to it; but as no cask of sufficient lightness could be found, and
as in the feverish eagerness of what seemed the approaching crisis of
the voyage, all hands were impatient of any toil but what was
directly connected with its final end, whatever that might prove to
be; therefore, they were going to leave the ship's stern unprovided
with a buoy, when by certain strange signs and inuendoes Queequeg
hinted a hint concerning his coffin.
"A life-buoy of a coffin!" cried Starbuck, starting.
"Rather queer, that, I should say," said Stubb.
"It will make a good enough one," said Flask, "the carpenter here can
arrange it easily."
"Bring it up; there's nothing else for it," said Starbuck, after a
melancholy pause. "Rig it, carpenter; do not look at me so--the
coffin, I mean. Dost thou hear me? Rig it."
"And shall I nail down the lid, sir?" moving his hand as with a
"And shall I caulk the seams, sir?" moving his hand as with a
"And shall I then pay over the same with pitch, sir?" moving his hand
as with a pitch-pot.
"Away! what possesses thee to this? Make a life-buoy of the coffin,
and no more.--Mr. Stubb, Mr. Flask, come forward with me."
"He goes off in a huff. The whole he can endure; at the parts he
baulks. Now I don't like this. I make a leg for Captain Ahab, and
he wears it like a gentleman; but I make a bandbox for Queequeg, and
he won't put his head into it. Are all my pains to go for nothing
with that coffin? And now I'm ordered to make a life-buoy of it.
It's like turning an old coat; going to bring the flesh on the other
side now. I don't like this cobbling sort of business--I don't like
it at all; it's undignified; it's not my place. Let tinkers' brats
do tinkerings; we are their betters. I like to take in hand none but
clean, virgin, fair-and-square mathematical jobs, something that
regularly begins at the beginning, and is at the middle when midway,
and comes to an end at the conclusion; not a cobbler's job, that's at
an end in the middle, and at the beginning at the end. It's the old
woman's tricks to be giving cobbling jobs. Lord! what an affection
all old women have for tinkers. I know an old woman of sixty-five
who ran away with a bald-headed young tinker once. And that's the
reason I never would work for lonely widow old women ashore, when I
kept my job-shop in the Vineyard; they might have taken it into their
lonely old heads to run off with me. But heigh-ho! there are no caps
at sea but snow-caps. Let me see. Nail down the lid; caulk the
seams; pay over the same with pitch; batten them down tight, and hang
it with the snap-spring over the ship's stern. Were ever such things
done before with a coffin? Some superstitious old carpenters, now,
would be tied up in the rigging, ere they would do the job. But I'm
made of knotty Aroostook hemlock; I don't budge. Cruppered with a
coffin! Sailing about with a grave-yard tray! But never mind. We
workers in woods make bridal-bedsteads and card-tables, as well as
coffins and hearses. We work by the month, or by the job, or by the
profit; not for us to ask the why and wherefore of our work, unless
it be too confounded cobbling, and then we stash it if we can. Hem!
I'll do the job, now, tenderly. I'll have me--let's see--how many in
the ship's company, all told? But I've forgotten. Any way, I'll
have me thirty separate, Turk's-headed life-lines, each three feet
long hanging all round to the coffin. Then, if the hull go down,
there'll be thirty lively fellows all fighting for one coffin, a
sight not seen very often beneath the sun! Come hammer,
caulking-iron, pitch-pot, and marling-spike! Let's to it."
THE COFFIN LAID UPON TWO LINE-TUBS, BETWEEN THE VICE-BENCH AND THE
OPEN HATCHWAY; THE CARPENTER CAULKING ITS SEAMS; THE STRING OF
TWISTED OAKUM SLOWLY UNWINDING FROM A LARGE ROLL OF IT PLACED IN THE
BOSOM OF HIS FROCK.--AHAB COMES SLOWLY FROM THE CABIN-GANGWAY, AND
HEARS PIP FOLLOWING HIM.
Back, lad; I will be with ye again presently. He goes! Not this
hand complies with my humor more genially than that boy.--Middle
aisle of a church! What's here?"
"Life-buoy, sir. Mr. Starbuck's orders. Oh, look, sir! Beware the
"Thank ye, man. Thy coffin lies handy to the vault."
"Sir? The hatchway? oh! So it does, sir, so it does."
"Art not thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump come from thy
"I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?"
"Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?"
"Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg; but
they've set me now to turning it into something else."
"Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling,
monopolising, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and
the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of
those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as
much of a jack-of-all-trades."
"But I do not mean anything, sir. I do as I do."
"The gods again. Hark ye, dost thou not ever sing working about a
coffin? The Titans, they say, hummed snatches when chipping out the
craters for volcanoes; and the grave-digger in the play sings, spade
in hand. Dost thou never?"
"Sing, sir? Do I sing? Oh, I'm indifferent enough, sir, for that;
but the reason why the grave-digger made music must have been because
there was none in his spade, sir. But the caulking mallet is full of
it. Hark to it."
"Aye, and that's because the lid there's a sounding-board; and what
in all things makes the sounding-board is this--there's naught
beneath. And yet, a coffin with a body in it rings pretty much the
same, Carpenter. Hast thou ever helped carry a bier, and heard the
coffin knock against the churchyard gate, going in?
"Faith, sir, I've--"
"Faith? What's that?"
"Why, faith, sir, it's only a sort of exclamation-like--that's all,
"Um, um; go on."
"I was about to say, sir, that--"
"Art thou a silk-worm? Dost thou spin thy own shroud out of thyself?
Look at thy bosom! Despatch! and get these traps out of sight."
"He goes aft. That was sudden, now; but squalls come sudden in hot
latitudes. I've heard that the Isle of Albemarle, one of the
Gallipagos, is cut by the Equator right in the middle. Seems to me
some sort of Equator cuts yon old man, too, right in his middle.
He's always under the Line--fiery hot, I tell ye! He's looking this
way--come, oakum; quick. Here we go again. This wooden mallet is
the cork, and I'm the professor of musical glasses--tap, tap!"
(AHAB TO HIMSELF.)
"There's a sight! There's a sound! The grey-headed woodpecker
tapping the hollow tree! Blind and dumb might well be envied now.
See! that thing rests on two line-tubs, full of tow-lines. A most
malicious wag, that fellow. Rat-tat! So man's seconds tick! Oh!
how immaterial are all materials! What things real are there, but
imponderable thoughts? Here now's the very dreaded symbol of grim
death, by a mere hap, made the expressive sign of the help and hope
of most endangered life. A life-buoy of a coffin! Does it go
further? Can it be that in some spiritual sense the coffin is, after
all, but an immortality-preserver! I'll think of that. But no. So
far gone am I in the dark side of earth, that its other side, the
theoretic bright one, seems but uncertain twilight to me. Will ye
never have done, Carpenter, with that accursed sound? I go below;
let me not see that thing here when I return again. Now, then, Pip,
we'll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous philosophies from thee!
Some unknown conduits from the unknown worlds must empty into thee!"
The Pequod Meets The Rachel.
Next day, a large ship, the Rachel, was descried, bearing directly
down upon the Pequod, all her spars thickly clustering with men. At
the time the Pequod was making good speed through the water; but as
the broad-winged windward stranger shot nigh to her, the boastful
sails all fell together as blank bladders that are burst, and all
life fled from the smitten hull.
"Bad news; she brings bad news," muttered the old Manxman. But ere
her commander, who, with trumpet to mouth, stood up in his boat; ere
he could hopefully hail, Ahab's voice was heard.
"Hast seen the White Whale?"
"Aye, yesterday. Have ye seen a whale-boat adrift?"
Throttling his joy, Ahab negatively answered this unexpected
question; and would then have fain boarded the stranger, when the
stranger captain himself, having stopped his vessel's way, was seen
descending her side. A few keen pulls, and his boat-hook soon
clinched the Pequod's main-chains, and he sprang to the deck.
Immediately he was recognised by Ahab for a Nantucketer he knew. But
no formal salutation was exchanged.
"Where was he?--not killed!--not killed!" cried Ahab, closely
advancing. "How was it?"
It seemed that somewhat late on the afternoon of the day previous,
while three of the stranger's boats were engaged with a shoal of
whales, which had led them some four or five miles from the ship; and
while they were yet in swift chase to windward, the white hump and
head of Moby Dick had suddenly loomed up out of the water, not very
far to leeward; whereupon, the fourth rigged boat--a reserved
one--had been instantly lowered in chase. After a keen sail before
the wind, this fourth boat--the swiftest keeled of all--seemed to
have succeeded in fastening--at least, as well as the man at the
mast-head could tell anything about it. In the distance he saw the
diminished dotted boat; and then a swift gleam of bubbling white
water; and after that nothing more; whence it was concluded that the
stricken whale must have indefinitely run away with his pursuers, as
often happens. There was some apprehension, but no positive alarm,
as yet. The recall signals were placed in the rigging; darkness came
on; and forced to pick up her three far to windward boats--ere going
in quest of the fourth one in the precisely opposite direction--the
ship had not only been necessitated to leave that boat to its fate
till near midnight, but, for the time, to increase her distance from
it. But the rest of her crew being at last safe aboard, she crowded
all sail--stunsail on stunsail--after the missing boat; kindling a
fire in her try-pots for a beacon; and every other man aloft on the
look-out. But though when she had thus sailed a sufficient distance
to gain the presumed place of the absent ones when last seen; though
she then paused to lower her spare boats to pull all around her; and
not finding anything, had again dashed on; again paused, and lowered
her boats; and though she had thus continued doing till daylight;
yet not the least glimpse of the missing keel had been seen.
The story told, the stranger Captain immediately went on to reveal
his object in boarding the Pequod. He desired that ship to unite
with his own in the search; by sailing over the sea some four or five
miles apart, on parallel lines, and so sweeping a double horizon, as
"I will wager something now," whispered Stubb to Flask, "that some
one in that missing boat wore off that Captain's best coat; mayhap,
his watch--he's so cursed anxious to get it back. Who ever heard of
two pious whale-ships cruising after one missing whale-boat in the
height of the whaling season? See, Flask, only see how pale he
looks--pale in the very buttons of his eyes--look--it wasn't the
coat--it must have been the--"
"My boy, my own boy is among them. For God's sake--I beg, I
conjure"--here exclaimed the stranger Captain to Ahab, who thus far
had but icily received his petition. "For eight-and-forty hours let
me charter your ship--I will gladly pay for it, and roundly pay for
it--if there be no other way--for eight-and-forty hours only--only
that--you must, oh, you must, and you SHALL do this thing."
"His son!" cried Stubb, "oh, it's his son he's lost! I take back the
coat and watch--what says Ahab? We must save that boy."
"He's drowned with the rest on 'em, last night," said the old Manx
sailor standing behind them; "I heard; all of ye heard their
Now, as it shortly turned out, what made this incident of the
Rachel's the more melancholy, was the circumstance, that not only was
one of the Captain's sons among the number of the missing boat's
crew; but among the number of the other boat's crews, at the same
time, but on the other hand, separated from the ship during the dark
vicissitudes of the chase, there had been still another son; as that
for a time, the wretched father was plunged to the bottom of the
cruellest perplexity; which was only solved for him by his chief
mate's instinctively adopting the ordinary procedure of a whale-ship
in such emergencies, that is, when placed between jeopardized but
divided boats, always to pick up the majority first. But the
captain, for some unknown constitutional reason, had refrained from
mentioning all this, and not till forced to it by Ahab's iciness did
he allude to his one yet missing boy; a little lad, but twelve years
old, whose father with the earnest but unmisgiving hardihood of a
Nantucketer's paternal love, had thus early sought to initiate him in
the perils and wonders of a vocation almost immemorially the destiny
of all his race. Nor does it unfrequently occur, that Nantucket
captains will send a son of such tender age away from them, for a
protracted three or four years' voyage in some other ship than their
own; so that their first knowledge of a whaleman's career shall be
unenervated by any chance display of a father's natural but untimely
partiality, or undue apprehensiveness and concern.
Meantime, now the stranger was still beseeching his poor boon of
Ahab; and Ahab still stood like an anvil, receiving every shock, but
without the least quivering of his own.
"I will not go," said the stranger, "till you say aye to me. Do to
me as you would have me do to you in the like case. For YOU too have
a boy, Captain Ahab--though but a child, and nestling safely at home
now--a child of your old age too--Yes, yes, you relent; I see
it--run, run, men, now, and stand by to square in the yards."
"Avast," cried Ahab--"touch not a rope-yarn"; then in a voice that
prolongingly moulded every word--"Captain Gardiner, I will not do it.
Even now I lose time. Good-bye, good-bye. God bless ye, man, and
may I forgive myself, but I must go. Mr. Starbuck, look at the
binnacle watch, and in three minutes from this present instant warn
off all strangers: then brace forward again, and let the ship sail
Hurriedly turning, with averted face, he descended into his cabin,
leaving the strange captain transfixed at this unconditional and
utter rejection of his so earnest suit. But starting from his
enchantment, Gardiner silently hurried to the side; more fell than
stepped into his boat, and returned to his ship.
Soon the two ships diverged their wakes; and long as the strange
vessel was in view, she was seen to yaw hither and thither at every
dark spot, however small, on the sea. This way and that her yards
were swung round; starboard and larboard, she continued to tack;
now she beat against a head sea; and again it pushed her before it;
while all the while, her masts and yards were thickly clustered with
men, as three tall cherry trees, when the boys are cherrying among
But by her still halting course and winding, woeful way, you plainly
saw that this ship that so wept with spray, still remained without
comfort. She was Rachel, weeping for her children, because they were
(AHAB MOVING TO GO ON DECK; PIP CATCHES HIM BY THE HAND TO FOLLOW.)
Lad, lad, I tell thee thou must not follow Ahab now. The hour is
coming when Ahab would not scare thee from him, yet would not have
thee by him. There is that in thee, poor lad, which I feel too
curing to my malady. Like cures like; and for this hunt, my malady
becomes my most desired health. Do thou abide below here, where they
shall serve thee, as if thou wert the captain. Aye, lad, thou shalt
sit here in my own screwed chair; another screw to it, thou must be."
"No, no, no! ye have not a whole body, sir; do ye but use poor me for
your one lost leg; only tread upon me, sir; I ask no more, so I
remain a part of ye."
"Oh! spite of million villains, this makes me a bigot in the fadeless
fidelity of man!--and a black! and crazy!--but methinks
like-cures-like applies to him too; he grows so sane again."
"They tell me, sir, that Stubb did once desert poor little Pip, whose
drowned bones now show white, for all the blackness of his living
skin. But I will never desert ye, sir, as Stubb did him. Sir, I
must go with ye."
"If thou speakest thus to me much more, Ahab's purpose keels up in
him. I tell thee no; it cannot be."
"Oh good master, master, master!
"Weep so, and I will murder thee! have a care, for Ahab too is mad.
Listen, and thou wilt often hear my ivory foot upon the deck, and
still know that I am there. And now I quit thee. Thy hand!--Met!
True art thou, lad, as the circumference to its centre. So: God for
ever bless thee; and if it come to that,--God for ever save thee, let
what will befall."
(AHAB GOES; PIP STEPS ONE STEP FORWARD.)
"Here he this instant stood; I stand in his air,--but I'm alone.
Now were even poor Pip here I could endure it, but he's missing.
Pip! Pip! Ding, dong, ding! Who's seen Pip? He must be up here;
let's try the door. What? neither lock, nor bolt, nor bar; and yet
there's no opening it. It must be the spell; he told me to stay
here: Aye, and told me this screwed chair was mine. Here, then, I'll
seat me, against the transom, in the ship's full middle, all her keel
and her three masts before me. Here, our old sailors say, in their
black seventy-fours great admirals sometimes sit at table, and lord
it over rows of captains and lieutenants. Ha! what's this? epaulets!
epaulets! the epaulets all come crowding! Pass round the decanters;
glad to see ye; fill up, monsieurs! What an odd feeling, now, when a
black boy's host to white men with gold lace upon their
coats!--Monsieurs, have ye seen one Pip?--a little negro lad, five
feet high, hang-dog look, and cowardly! Jumped from a whale-boat
once;--seen him? No! Well then, fill up again, captains, and let's
drink shame upon all cowards! I name no names. Shame upon them!
Put one foot upon the table. Shame upon all cowards.--Hist! above
there, I hear ivory--Oh, master! master! I am indeed down-hearted
when you walk over me. But here I'll stay, though this stern
strikes rocks; and they bulge through; and oysters come to join me."
And now that at the proper time and place, after so long and wide a
preliminary cruise, Ahab,--all other whaling waters swept--seemed to
have chased his foe into an ocean-fold, to slay him the more securely
there; now, that he found himself hard by the very latitude and
longitude where his tormenting wound had been inflicted; now that a
vessel had been spoken which on the very day preceding had actually
encountered Moby Dick;--and now that all his successive meetings with
various ships contrastingly concurred to show the demoniac
indifference with which the white whale tore his hunters, whether
sinning or sinned against; now it was that there lurked a something
in the old man's eyes, which it was hardly sufferable for feeble
souls to see. As the unsetting polar star, which through the
livelong, arctic, six months' night sustains its piercing, steady,
central gaze; so Ahab's purpose now fixedly gleamed down upon the
constant midnight of the gloomy crew. It domineered above them so,
that all their bodings, doubts, misgivings, fears, were fain to hide
beneath their souls, and not sprout forth a single spear or leaf.
In this foreshadowing interval too, all humor, forced or natural,
vanished. Stubb no more strove to raise a smile; Starbuck no more
strove to check one. Alike, joy and sorrow, hope and fear, seemed
ground to finest dust, and powdered, for the time, in the clamped
mortar of Ahab's iron soul. Like machines, they dumbly moved about
the deck, ever conscious that the old man's despot eye was on them.
But did you deeply scan him in his more secret confidential hours;
when he thought no glance but one was on him; then you would have
seen that even as Ahab's eyes so awed the crew's, the inscrutable
Parsee's glance awed his; or somehow, at least, in some wild way, at
times affected it. Such an added, gliding strangeness began to
invest the thin Fedallah now; such ceaseless shudderings shook him;
that the men looked dubious at him; half uncertain, as it seemed,
whether indeed he were a mortal substance, or else a tremulous shadow
cast upon the deck by some unseen being's body. And that shadow was
always hovering there. For not by night, even, had Fedallah ever
certainly been known to slumber, or go below. He would stand still
for hours: but never sat or leaned; his wan but wondrous eyes did
plainly say--We two watchmen never rest.
Nor, at any time, by night or day could the mariners now step upon
the deck, unless Ahab was before them; either standing in his
pivot-hole, or exactly pacing the planks between two undeviating
limits,--the main-mast and the mizen; or else they saw him standing
in the cabin-scuttle,--his living foot advanced upon the deck, as if
to step; his hat slouched heavily over his eyes; so that however
motionless he stood, however the days and nights were added on, that
he had not swung in his hammock; yet hidden beneath that slouching
hat, they could never tell unerringly whether, for all this, his eyes
were really closed at times; or whether he was still intently
scanning them; no matter, though he stood so in the scuttle for a
whole hour on the stretch, and the unheeded night-damp gathered in
beads of dew upon that stone-carved coat and hat. The clothes that
the night had wet, the next day's sunshine dried upon him; and so,
day after day, and night after night; he went no more beneath the
planks; whatever he wanted from the cabin that thing he sent for.
He ate in the same open air; that is, his two only meals,--breakfast
and dinner: supper he never touched; nor reaped his beard; which
darkly grew all gnarled, as unearthed roots of trees blown over,
which still grow idly on at naked base, though perished in the upper
verdure. But though his whole life was now become one watch on deck;
and though the Parsee's mystic watch was without intermission as his
own; yet these two never seemed to speak--one man to the
other--unless at long intervals some passing unmomentous matter made
it necessary. Though such a potent spell seemed secretly to join the
twain; openly, and to the awe-struck crew, they seemed pole-like
asunder. If by day they chanced to speak one word; by night, dumb
men were both, so far as concerned the slightest verbal interchange.
At times, for longest hours, without a single hail, they stood far
parted in the starlight; Ahab in his scuttle, the Parsee by the
mainmast; but still fixedly gazing upon each other; as if in the
Parsee Ahab saw his forethrown shadow, in Ahab the Parsee his
And yet, somehow, did Ahab--in his own proper self, as daily, hourly,
and every instant, commandingly revealed to his subordinates,--Ahab
seemed an independent lord; the Parsee but his slave. Still again
both seemed yoked together, and an unseen tyrant driving them; the
lean shade siding the solid rib. For be this Parsee what he may, all
rib and keel was solid Ahab.
At the first faintest glimmering of the dawn, his iron voice was
heard from aft,--"Man the mast-heads!"--and all through the day,
till after sunset and after twilight, the same voice every hour, at
the striking of the helmsman's bell, was heard--"What d'ye
But when three or four days had slided by, after meeting the
children-seeking Rachel; and no spout had yet been seen; the
monomaniac old man seemed distrustful of his crew's fidelity; at
least, of nearly all except the Pagan harpooneers; he seemed to
doubt, even, whether Stubb and Flask might not willingly overlook the
sight he sought. But if these suspicions were really his, he
sagaciously refrained from verbally expressing them, however his
actions might seem to hint them.
"I will have the first sight of the whale myself,"--he said. "Aye!
Ahab must have the doubloon! and with his own hands he rigged a nest
of basketed bowlines; and sending a hand aloft, with a single sheaved
block, to secure to the main-mast head, he received the two ends of
the downward-reeved rope; and attaching one to his basket prepared a
pin for the other end, in order to fasten it at the rail. This done,
with that end yet in his hand and standing beside the pin, he looked
round upon his crew, sweeping from one to the other; pausing his
glance long upon Daggoo, Queequeg, Tashtego; but shunning Fedallah;
and then settling his firm relying eye upon the chief mate,
said,--"Take the rope, sir--I give it into thy hands, Starbuck."
Then arranging his person in the basket, he gave the word for them to
hoist him to his perch, Starbuck being the one who secured the rope
at last; and afterwards stood near it. And thus, with one hand
clinging round the royal mast, Ahab gazed abroad upon the sea for
miles and miles,--ahead, astern, this side, and that,--within the
wide expanded circle commanded at so great a height.
When in working with his hands at some lofty almost isolated place in
the rigging, which chances to afford no foothold, the sailor at sea
is hoisted up to that spot, and sustained there by the rope; under
these circumstances, its fastened end on deck is always given in
strict charge to some one man who has the special watch of it.
Because in such a wilderness of running rigging, whose various
different relations aloft cannot always be infallibly discerned by
what is seen of them at the deck; and when the deck-ends of these
ropes are being every few minutes cast down from the fastenings, it
would be but a natural fatality, if, unprovided with a constant
watchman, the hoisted sailor should by some carelessness of the crew
be cast adrift and fall all swooping to the sea. So Ahab's
proceedings in this matter were not unusual; the only strange thing
about them seemed to be, that Starbuck, almost the one only man who
had ever ventured to oppose him with anything in the slightest degree
approaching to decision--one of those too, whose faithfulness on the
look-out he had seemed to doubt somewhat;--it was strange, that this
was the very man he should select for his watchman; freely giving his
whole life into such an otherwise distrusted person's hands.
Now, the first time Ahab was perched aloft; ere he had been there ten
minutes; one of those red-billed savage sea-hawks which so often fly
incommodiously close round the manned mast-heads of whalemen in these
latitudes; one of these birds came wheeling and screaming round his
head in a maze of untrackably swift circlings. Then it darted a
thousand feet straight up into the air; then spiralized downwards,
and went eddying again round his head.
But with his gaze fixed upon the dim and distant horizon, Ahab seemed
not to mark this wild bird; nor, indeed, would any one else have
marked it much, it being no uncommon circumstance; only now almost
the least heedful eye seemed to see some sort of cunning meaning in
almost every sight.
"Your hat, your hat, sir!" suddenly cried the Sicilian seaman, who
being posted at the mizen-mast-head, stood directly behind Ahab,
though somewhat lower than his level, and with a deep gulf of air
But already the sable wing was before the old man's eyes; the long
hooked bill at his head: with a scream, the black hawk darted away
with his prize.
An eagle flew thrice round Tarquin's head, removing his cap to
replace it, and thereupon Tanaquil, his wife, declared that Tarquin
would be king of Rome. But only by the replacing of the cap was that
omen accounted good. Ahab's hat was never restored; the wild hawk
flew on and on with it; far in advance of the prow: and at last
disappeared; while from the point of that disappearance, a minute
black spot was dimly discerned, falling from that vast height into
The Pequod Meets The Delight.
The intense Pequod sailed on; the rolling waves and days went by; the
life-buoy-coffin still lightly swung; and another ship, most
miserably misnamed the Delight, was descried. As she drew nigh, all
eyes were fixed upon her broad beams, called shears, which, in some
whaling-ships, cross the quarter-deck at the height of eight or nine
feet; serving to carry the spare, unrigged, or disabled boats.
Upon the stranger's shears were beheld the shattered, white ribs, and
some few splintered planks, of what had once been a whale-boat; but
you now saw through this wreck, as plainly as you see through the
peeled, half-unhinged, and bleaching skeleton of a horse.
"Hast seen the White Whale?"
"Look!" replied the hollow-cheeked captain from his taffrail; and
with his trumpet he pointed to the wreck.
"Hast killed him?"
"The harpoon is not yet forged that ever will do that," answered the
other, sadly glancing upon a rounded hammock on the deck, whose
gathered sides some noiseless sailors were busy in sewing together.
"Not forged!" and snatching Perth's levelled iron from the crotch,
Ahab held it out, exclaiming--"Look ye, Nantucketer; here in this
hand I hold his death! Tempered in blood, and tempered by lightning
are these barbs; and I swear to temper them triply in that hot place
behind the fin, where the White Whale most feels his accursed life!"
"Then God keep thee, old man--see'st thou that"--pointing to the
hammock--"I bury but one of five stout men, who were alive only
yesterday; but were dead ere night. Only THAT one I bury; the rest
were buried before they died; you sail upon their tomb." Then
turning to his crew--"Are ye ready there? place the plank then on the
rail, and lift the body; so, then--Oh! God"--advancing towards the
hammock with uplifted hands--"may the resurrection and the life--"
"Brace forward! Up helm!" cried Ahab like lightning to his men.
But the suddenly started Pequod was not quick enough to escape the
sound of the splash that the corpse soon made as it struck the sea;
not so quick, indeed, but that some of the flying bubbles might have
sprinkled her hull with their ghostly baptism.
As Ahab now glided from the dejected Delight, the strange life-buoy
hanging at the Pequod's stern came into conspicuous relief.
"Ha! yonder! look yonder, men!" cried a foreboding voice in her wake.
"In vain, oh, ye strangers, ye fly our sad burial; ye but turn us
your taffrail to show us your coffin!"
It was a clear steel-blue day. The firmaments of air and sea were
hardly separable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air
was transparently pure and soft, with a woman's look, and the robust
and man-like sea heaved with long, strong, lingering swells, as
Samson's chest in his sleep.
Hither, and thither, on high, glided the snow-white wings of small,
unspeckled birds; these were the gentle thoughts of the feminine air;
but to and fro in the deeps, far down in the bottomless blue, rushed
mighty leviathans, sword-fish, and sharks; and these were the strong,
troubled, murderous thinkings of the masculine sea.
But though thus contrasting within, the contrast was only in shades
and shadows without; those two seemed one; it was only the sex, as it
were, that distinguished them.
Aloft, like a royal czar and king, the sun seemed giving this gentle
air to this bold and rolling sea; even as bride to groom. And at the
girdling line of the horizon, a soft and tremulous motion--most seen
here at the Equator--denoted the fond, throbbing trust, the loving
alarms, with which the poor bride gave her bosom away.
Tied up and twisted; gnarled and knotted with wrinkles; haggardly
firm and unyielding; his eyes glowing like coals, that still glow in
the ashes of ruin; untottering Ahab stood forth in the clearness of
the morn; lifting his splintered helmet of a brow to the fair girl's
forehead of heaven.
Oh, immortal infancy, and innocency of the azure! Invisible winged
creatures that frolic all round us! Sweet childhood of air and sky!
how oblivious were ye of old Ahab's close-coiled woe! But so have I
seen little Miriam and Martha, laughing-eyed elves, heedlessly gambol
around their old sire; sporting with the circle of singed locks which
grew on the marge of that burnt-out crater of his brain.
Slowly crossing the deck from the scuttle, Ahab leaned over the side
and watched how his shadow in the water sank and sank to his gaze,
the more and the more that he strove to pierce the profundity. But
the lovely aromas in that enchanted air did at last seem to dispel,
for a moment, the cankerous thing in his soul. That glad, happy air,
that winsome sky, did at last stroke and caress him; the step-mother
world, so long cruel--forbidding--now threw affectionate arms round
his stubborn neck, and did seem to joyously sob over him, as if over
one, that however wilful and erring, she could yet find it in her
heart to save and to bless. From beneath his slouched hat Ahab
dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such
wealth as that one wee drop.
Starbuck saw the old man; saw him, how he heavily leaned over the
side; and he seemed to hear in his own true heart the measureless
sobbing that stole out of the centre of the serenity around. Careful
not to touch him, or be noticed by him, he yet drew near to him, and
"Oh, Starbuck! it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky. On
such a day--very much such a sweetness as this--I struck my first
whale--a boy-harpooneer of eighteen! Forty--forty--forty years
ago!--ago! Forty years of continual whaling! forty years of
privation, and peril, and storm-time! forty years on the pitiless
sea! for forty years has Ahab forsaken the peaceful land, for forty
years to make war on the horrors of the deep! Aye and yes, Starbuck,
out of those forty years I have not spent three ashore. When I think
of this life I have led; the desolation of solitude it has been; the
masoned, walled-town of a Captain's exclusiveness, which admits but
small entrance to any sympathy from the green country without--oh,
weariness! heaviness! Guinea-coast slavery of solitary
command!--when I think of all this; only half-suspected, not so
keenly known to me before--and how for forty years I have fed upon
dry salted fare--fit emblem of the dry nourishment of my soil!--when
the poorest landsman has had fresh fruit to his daily hand, and
broken the world's fresh bread to my mouldy crusts--away, whole
oceans away, from that young girl-wife I wedded past fifty, and
sailed for Cape Horn the next day, leaving but one dent in my
marriage pillow--wife? wife?--rather a widow with her husband alive!
Aye, I widowed that poor girl when I married her, Starbuck; and
then, the madness, the frenzy, the boiling blood and the smoking
brow, with which, for a thousand lowerings old Ahab has furiously,
foamingly chased his prey--more a demon than a man!--aye, aye! what a
forty years' fool--fool--old fool, has old Ahab been! Why this
strife of the chase? why weary, and palsy the arm at the oar, and the
iron, and the lance? how the richer or better is Ahab now? Behold.
Oh, Starbuck! is it not hard, that with this weary load I bear, one
poor leg should have been snatched from under me? Here, brush this
old hair aside; it blinds me, that I seem to weep. Locks so grey did
never grow but from out some ashes! But do I look very old, so very,
very old, Starbuck? I feel deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as
though I were Adam, staggering beneath the piled centuries since
Paradise. God! God! God!--crack my heart!--stave my
brain!--mockery! mockery! bitter, biting mockery of grey hairs, have
I lived enough joy to wear ye; and seem and feel thus intolerably
old? Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human
eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze
upon God. By the green land; by the bright hearth-stone! this is the
magic glass, man; I see my wife and my child in thine eye. No, no;
stay on board, on board!--lower not when I do; when branded Ahab
gives chase to Moby Dick. That hazard shall not be thine. No, no!
not with the far away home I see in that eye!"
"Oh, my Captain! my Captain! noble soul! grand old heart, after all!
why should any one give chase to that hated fish! Away with me! let
us fly these deadly waters! let us home! Wife and child, too, are
Starbuck's--wife and child of his brotherly, sisterly, play-fellow
youth; even as thine, sir, are the wife and child of thy loving,
longing, paternal old age! Away! let us away!--this instant let me
alter the course! How cheerily, how hilariously, O my Captain, would
we bowl on our way to see old Nantucket again! I think, sir, they
have some such mild blue days, even as this, in Nantucket."
"They have, they have. I have seen them--some summer days in the
morning. About this time--yes, it is his noon nap now--the boy
vivaciously wakes; sits up in bed; and his mother tells him of me, of
cannibal old me; how I am abroad upon the deep, but will yet come
back to dance him again."
"'Tis my Mary, my Mary herself! She promised that my boy, every
morning, should be carried to the hill to catch the first glimpse of
his father's sail! Yes, yes! no more! it is done! we head for
Nantucket! Come, my Captain, study out the course, and let us away!
See, see! the boy's face from the window! the boy's hand on the
But Ahab's glance was averted; like a blighted fruit tree he shook,
and cast his last, cindered apple to the soil.
"What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what
cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor
commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep
pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly
making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst
not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that
lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an
errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some
invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one
small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that
thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned
round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the
handspike. And all the time, lo! that smiling sky, and this
unsounded sea! Look! see yon Albicore! who put it into him to chase
and fang that flying-fish? Where do murderers go, man! Who's to
doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? But it is a
mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as
if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay
somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are
sleeping among the new-mown hay. Sleeping? Aye, toil we how we may,
we all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid
greenness; as last year's scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut
But blanched to a corpse's hue with despair, the Mate had stolen
Ahab crossed the deck to gaze over on the other side; but started at
two reflected, fixed eyes in the water there. Fedallah was
motionlessly leaning over the same rail.
The Chase--First Day.
That night, in the mid-watch, when the old man--as his wont at
intervals--stepped forth from the scuttle in which he leaned, and
went to his pivot-hole, he suddenly thrust out his face fiercely,
snuffing up the sea air as a sagacious ship's dog will, in drawing
nigh to some barbarous isle. He declared that a whale must be near.
Soon that peculiar odor, sometimes to a great distance given forth by
the living sperm whale, was palpable to all the watch; nor was any
mariner surprised when, after inspecting the compass, and then the
dog-vane, and then ascertaining the precise bearing of the odor as
nearly as possible, Ahab rapidly ordered the ship's course to be
slightly altered, and the sail to be shortened.
The acute policy dictating these movements was sufficiently
vindicated at daybreak, by the sight of a long sleek on the sea
directly and lengthwise ahead, smooth as oil, and resembling in the
pleated watery wrinkles bordering it, the polished metallic-like
marks of some swift tide-rip, at the mouth of a deep, rapid stream.
"Man the mast-heads! Call all hands!"
Thundering with the butts of three clubbed handspikes on the
forecastle deck, Daggoo roused the sleepers with such judgment claps
that they seemed to exhale from the scuttle, so instantaneously did
they appear with their clothes in their hands.
"What d'ye see?" cried Ahab, flattening his face to the sky.
"Nothing, nothing sir!" was the sound hailing down in reply.
"T'gallant sails!--stunsails! alow and aloft, and on both sides!"
All sail being set, he now cast loose the life-line, reserved for
swaying him to the main royal-mast head; and in a few moments they
were hoisting him thither, when, while but two thirds of the way
aloft, and while peering ahead through the horizontal vacancy between
the main-top-sail and top-gallant-sail, he raised a gull-like cry in
the air. "There she blows!--there she blows! A hump like a
snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!"
Fired by the cry which seemed simultaneously taken up by the three
look-outs, the men on deck rushed to the rigging to behold the famous
whale they had so long been pursuing. Ahab had now gained his final
perch, some feet above the other look-outs, Tashtego standing just
beneath him on the cap of the top-gallant-mast, so that the Indian's
head was almost on a level with Ahab's heel. From this height the
whale was now seen some mile or so ahead, at every roll of the sea
revealing his high sparkling hump, and regularly jetting his silent
spout into the air. To the credulous mariners it seemed the same
silent spout they had so long ago beheld in the moonlit Atlantic and
"And did none of ye see it before?" cried Ahab, hailing the perched
men all around him.
"I saw him almost that same instant, sir, that Captain Ahab did, and
I cried out," said Tashtego.
"Not the same instant; not the same--no, the doubloon is mine, Fate
reserved the doubloon for me. I only; none of ye could have raised
the White Whale first. There she blows!--there she blows!--there
she blows! There again!--there again!" he cried, in long-drawn,
lingering, methodic tones, attuned to the gradual prolongings of the
whale's visible jets. "He's going to sound! In stunsails! Down
top-gallant-sails! Stand by three boats. Mr. Starbuck, remember,
stay on board, and keep the ship. Helm there! Luff, luff a point!
So; steady, man, steady! There go flukes! No, no; only black water!
All ready the boats there? Stand by, stand by! Lower me, Mr.
Starbuck; lower, lower,--quick, quicker!" and he slid through the air
to the deck.
"He is heading straight to leeward, sir," cried Stubb, "right away
from us; cannot have seen the ship yet."
"Be dumb, man! Stand by the braces! Hard down the helm!--brace up!
Shiver her!--shiver her!--So; well that! Boats, boats!"
Soon all the boats but Starbuck's were dropped; all the boat-sails
set--all the paddles plying; with rippling swiftness, shooting to
leeward; and Ahab heading the onset. A pale, death-glimmer lit up
Fedallah's sunken eyes; a hideous motion gnawed his mouth.
Like noiseless nautilus shells, their light prows sped through the
sea; but only slowly they neared the foe. As they neared him, the
ocean grew still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over its waves;
seemed a noon-meadow, so serenely it spread. At length the
breathless hunter came so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that his
entire dazzling hump was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as
if an isolated thing, and continually set in a revolving ring of
finest, fleecy, greenish foam. He saw the vast, involved wrinkles of
the slightly projecting head beyond. Before it, far out on the soft
Turkish-rugged waters, went the glistening white shadow from his
broad, milky forehead, a musical rippling playfully accompanying the
shade; and behind, the blue waters interchangeably flowed over into
the moving valley of his steady wake; and on either hand bright
bubbles arose and danced by his side. But these were broken again by
the light toes of hundreds of gay fowl softly feathering the sea,
alternate with their fitful flight; and like to some flag-staff
rising from the painted hull of an argosy, the tall but shattered
pole of a recent lance projected from the white whale's back; and at
intervals one of the cloud of soft-toed fowls hovering, and to and
fro skimming like a canopy over the fish, silently perched and rocked
on this pole, the long tail feathers streaming like pennons.
A gentle joyousness--a mighty mildness of repose in swiftness,
invested the gliding whale. Not the white bull Jupiter swimming away
with ravished Europa clinging to his graceful horns; his lovely,
leering eyes sideways intent upon the maid; with smooth bewitching
fleetness, rippling straight for the nuptial bower in Crete; not
Jove, not that great majesty Supreme! did surpass the glorified White
Whale as he so divinely swam.
On each soft side--coincident with the parted swell, that but once
leaving him, then flowed so wide away--on each bright side, the whale
shed off enticings. No wonder there had been some among the hunters
who namelessly transported and allured by all this serenity, had
ventured to assail it; but had fatally found that quietude but the
vesture of tornadoes. Yet calm, enticing calm, oh, whale! thou
glidest on, to all who for the first time eye thee, no matter how
many in that same way thou may'st have bejuggled and destroyed
And thus, through the serene tranquillities of the tropical sea,
among waves whose hand-clappings were suspended by exceeding rapture,
Moby Dick moved on, still withholding from sight the full terrors of
his submerged trunk, entirely hiding the wrenched hideousness of his
jaw. But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for
an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like
Virginia's Natural Bridge, and warningly waving his bannered flukes
in the air, the grand god revealed himself, sounded, and went out of
sight. Hoveringly halting, and dipping on the wing, the white
sea-fowls longingly lingered over the agitated pool that he left.
With oars apeak, and paddles down, the sheets of their sails adrift,
the three boats now stilly floated, awaiting Moby Dick's
"An hour," said Ahab, standing rooted in his boat's stern; and he
gazed beyond the whale's place, towards the dim blue spaces and wide
wooing vacancies to leeward. It was only an instant; for again his
eyes seemed whirling round in his head as he swept the watery circle.
The breeze now freshened; the sea began to swell.
"The birds!--the birds!" cried Tashtego.
In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were
now all flying towards Ahab's boat; and when within a few yards began
fluttering over the water there, wheeling round and round, with
joyous, expectant cries. Their vision was keener than man's; Ahab
could discover no sign in the sea. But suddenly as he peered down
and down into its depths, he profoundly saw a white living spot no
bigger than a white weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and
magnifying as it rose, till it turned, and then there were plainly
revealed two long crooked rows of white, glistening teeth, floating
up from the undiscoverable bottom. It was Moby Dick's open mouth and
scrolled jaw; his vast, shadowed bulk still half blending with the
blue of the sea. The glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like
an open-doored marble tomb; and giving one sidelong sweep with his
steering oar, Ahab whirled the craft aside from this tremendous
apparition. Then, calling upon Fedallah to change places with him,
went forward to the bows, and seizing Perth's harpoon, commanded his
crew to grasp their oars and stand by to stern.
Now, by reason of this timely spinning round the boat upon its axis,
its bow, by anticipation, was made to face the whale's head while yet
under water. But as if perceiving this stratagem, Moby Dick, with
that malicious intelligence ascribed to him, sidelingly transplanted
himself, as it were, in an instant, shooting his pleated head
lengthwise beneath the boat.
Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled
for an instant, the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner
of a biting shark, slowly and feelingly taking its bows full within
his mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high
up into the open air, and one of the teeth caught in a row-lock. The
bluish pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of
Ahab's head, and reached higher than that. In this attitude the
White Whale now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her
mouse. With unastonished eyes Fedallah gazed, and crossed his arms;
but the tiger-yellow crew were tumbling over each other's heads to
gain the uttermost stern.
And now, while both elastic gunwales were springing in and out, as
the whale dallied with the doomed craft in this devilish way; and
from his body being submerged beneath the boat, he could not be
darted at from the bows, for the bows were almost inside of him, as
it were; and while the other boats involuntarily paused, as before a
quick crisis impossible to withstand, then it was that monomaniac
Ahab, furious with this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed
him all alive and helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with
all this, he seized the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly
strove to wrench it from its gripe. As now he thus vainly strove,
the jaw slipped from him; the frail gunwales bent in, collapsed, and
snapped, as both jaws, like an enormous shears, sliding further aft,
bit the craft completely in twain, and locked themselves fast again
in the sea, midway between the two floating wrecks. These floated
aside, the broken ends drooping, the crew at the stern-wreck clinging
to the gunwales, and striving to hold fast to the oars to lash them
At that preluding moment, ere the boat was yet snapped, Ahab, the
first to perceive the whale's intent, by the crafty upraising of his
head, a movement that loosed his hold for the time; at that moment
his hand had made one final effort to push the boat out of the bite.
But only slipping further into the whale's mouth, and tilting over
sideways as it slipped, the boat had shaken off his hold on the jaw;
spilled him out of it, as he leaned to the push; and so he fell
flat-faced upon the sea.
Ripplingly withdrawing from his prey, Moby Dick now lay at a little
distance, vertically thrusting his oblong white head up and down in
the billows; and at the same time slowly revolving his whole spindled
body; so that when his vast wrinkled forehead rose--some twenty or
more feet out of the water--the now rising swells, with all their
confluent waves, dazzlingly broke against it; vindictively tossing
their shivered spray still higher into the air.* So, in a gale, the
but half baffled Channel billows only recoil from the base of the
Eddystone, triumphantly to overleap its summit with their scud.
*This motion is peculiar to the sperm whale. It receives its
designation (pitchpoling) from its being likened to that preliminary
up-and-down poise of the whale-lance, in the exercise called
pitchpoling, previously described. By this motion the whale must
best and most comprehensively view whatever objects may be encircling
But soon resuming his horizontal attitude, Moby Dick swam swiftly
round and round the wrecked crew; sideways churning the water in his
vengeful wake, as if lashing himself up to still another and more
deadly assault. The sight of the splintered boat seemed to madden
him, as the blood of grapes and mulberries cast before Antiochus's
elephants in the book of Maccabees. Meanwhile Ahab half smothered in
the foam of the whale's insolent tail, and too much of a cripple to
swim,--though he could still keep afloat, even in the heart of such a
whirlpool as that; helpless Ahab's head was seen, like a tossed
bubble which the least chance shock might burst. From the boat's
fragmentary stern, Fedallah incuriously and mildly eyed him; the
clinging crew, at the other drifting end, could not succor him; more
than enough was it for them to look to themselves. For so
revolvingly appalling was the White Whale's aspect, and so
planetarily swift the ever-contracting circles he made, that he
seemed horizontally swooping upon them. And though the other boats,
unharmed, still hovered hard by; still they dared not pull into the
eddy to strike, lest that should be the signal for the instant
destruction of the jeopardized castaways, Ahab and all; nor in that
case could they themselves hope to escape. With straining eyes,
then, they remained on the outer edge of the direful zone, whose
centre had now become the old man's head.
Meantime, from the beginning all this had been descried from the
ship's mast heads; and squaring her yards, she had borne down upon
the scene; and was now so nigh, that Ahab in the water hailed
her!--"Sail on the"--but that moment a breaking sea dashed on him
from Moby Dick, and whelmed him for the time. But struggling out of
it again, and chancing to rise on a towering crest, he
shouted,--"Sail on the whale!--Drive him off!"
The Pequod's prows were pointed; and breaking up the charmed circle,
she effectually parted the white whale from his victim. As he
sullenly swam off, the boats flew to the rescue.
Dragged into Stubb's boat with blood-shot, blinded eyes, the white
brine caking in his wrinkles; the long tension of Ahab's bodily
strength did crack, and helplessly he yielded to his body's doom: for
a time, lying all crushed in the bottom of Stubb's boat, like one
trodden under foot of herds of elephants. Far inland, nameless wails
came from him, as desolate sounds from out ravines.
But this intensity of his physical prostration did but so much the
more abbreviate it. In an instant's compass, great hearts sometimes
condense to one deep pang, the sum total of those shallow pains
kindly diffused through feebler men's whole lives. And so, such
hearts, though summary in each one suffering; still, if the gods
decree it, in their life-time aggregate a whole age of woe, wholly
made up of instantaneous intensities; for even in their pointless
centres, those noble natures contain the entire circumferences of
"The harpoon," said Ahab, half way rising, and draggingly leaning on
one bended arm--"is it safe?"
"Aye, sir, for it was not darted; this is it," said Stubb, showing
"Lay it before me;--any missing men?"
"One, two, three, four, five;--there were five oars, sir, and here
are five men."
"That's good.--Help me, man; I wish to stand. So, so, I see him!
there! there! going to leeward still; what a leaping spout!--Hands
off from me! The eternal sap runs up in Ahab's bones again! Set the
sail; out oars; the helm!"
It is often the case that when a boat is stove, its crew, being
picked up by another boat, help to work that second boat; and the
chase is thus continued with what is called double-banked oars. It
was thus now. But the added power of the boat did not equal the
added power of the whale, for he seemed to have treble-banked his
every fin; swimming with a velocity which plainly showed, that if
now, under these circumstances, pushed on, the chase would prove an
indefinitely prolonged, if not a hopeless one; nor could any crew