Part 3 out of 12
I wonder he don't wake."
Queequeg removed himself to just beyond the head of the sleeper,
and lighted his tomahawk pipe. I sat at the feet.
We kept the pipe passing over the sleeper, from one to the other.
Meanwhile, upon questioning him in his broken fashion, Queequeg gave
me to understand that, in his land, owing to the absence of settees
and sofas of all sorts, the king, chiefs, and great people generally,
were in the custom of fattening some of the lower orders for ottomans;
and to furnish a house comfortably in that respect, you had only
to buy up eight or ten lazy fellows, and lay them round in the piers
and alcoves. Besides, it was very convenient on an excursion;
much better than those garden-chairs which are convertible into
walking sticks; upon occasion, a chief calling his attendant,
and desiring him to make a settee of himself under a spreading tree,
perhaps in some damp marshy place.
While narrating these things, every time Queequeg received the tomahawk
from me, he flourished the hatchet-side of it over the sleeper's head.
"What's that for, Queequeg?"
"Perry easy, kill-e; oh! perry easy!
He was going on with some wild reminiscences about his tomahawk-pipe
which, it seemed, had in its two uses both brained his foes and soothed
his soul, when we were directly attracted to the sleeping rigger.
The strong vapor now completely filling the contracted hole,
it began to tell upon him. He breathed with a sort of muffledness;
then seemed troubled in the nose; then revolved over once or twice;
then sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Holloa!" he breathed at last, "who be ye smokers?"
"Shipped men," answered I, "when does she sail?"
"Aye, aye, ye are going in her, be ye? She sails to-day. The Captain
came aboard last night."
"Who but him indeed?"
I was going to ask him some further questions concerning Ahab,
when we heard a noise on deck.
"Holloa! Starbuck's astir," said the rigger. "He's a lively chief
mate that; good man, and a pious; but all alive now, I must turn to."
And so saying he went on deck, and we followed.
It was now clear sunrise. Soon the crew came on board in twos and threes;
the riggers bestirred themselves; the mates were actively engaged;
and several of the shore people were busy in bringing various last
things on board. Meanwhile Captain Ahab remained invisibly enshrined
within his cabin.
At length, towards noon, upon the final dismissal of the ship's riggers,
and after the Pequod had been hauled out from the wharf, and after the
ever-thoughtful Charity had come off in a whale-boat, with her last gift--
a nightcap for Stubb, the second mate, her brother-in-law, and a spare
Bible for the steward--after all this, the two Captains, Peleg and Bildad,
issued from the cabin, and turning to the chief mate, Peleg said:
"Now, Mr. Starbuck, are you sure everything is right?
Captain Ahab is all ready--just spoke to him--nothing more
to be got from shore, eh? Well, call all hands, then.
Muster 'em aft here--blast 'em!"
"No need of profane words, however great the hurry, Peleg," said Bildad,
"but away with thee, friend Starbuck, and do our bidding."
How now! Here upon the very point of starting for the voyage,
Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad were going it with a high hand on
the quarter-deck, just as if they were to be joint-commanders at sea,
as well as to all appearances in port. And, as for Captain Ahab,
no sign of him was yet to be seen; Only, they said he was in the cabin.
But then, the idea was, that his presence was by no means necessary
in getting the ship under weigh, and steering her well out to sea.
Indeed, as that was not at all his proper business, but the pilot's;
and as he was not yet completely recovered--so they said--therefore,
Captain Ahab stayed below. And all this seemed natural enough;
especially as in the merchant service many captains never show
themselves on deck for a considerable time after heaving up the anchor,
but remain over the cabin table, having a farewell merry-making with
their shore friends, before they quit the ship for good with the pilot.
But there was not much chance to think over the matter, for Captain Peleg
was now all alive. He seemed to do most of the talking and commanding,
and not Bildad.
"Aft here, ye sons of bachelors," he cried, as the sailors lingered
at the main-mast. "Mr. Starbuck, drive aft."
"Strike the tent there!"--was the next order. As I hinted before,
this whalebone marquee was never pitched except in port;
and on board the Pequod, for thirty years, the order to strike
the tent was well known to be the next thing to heaving
up the anchor.
"Man the capstan! Blood and thunder!--jump!"--was the next command,
and the crew sprang for the handspikes.
Now in getting under weigh, the station generally occupied
by the pilot is the forward part of the ship. And here Bildad,
who, with Peleg, be it known, in addition to his other offices,
was one of the licensed pilots of the port--he being suspected
to have got himself made a pilot in order to save the Nantucket
pilot-fee to all the ships he was concerned in, for he never
piloted any other craft--Bildad, I say, might now be seen actively
engaged in looking over the bows for the approaching anchor,
and at intervals singing what seemed a dismal stave of psalmody,
to cheer the hands at the windlass, who roared forth some sort
of a chorus about the girls in Booble Alley, with hearty good will.
Nevertheless, not three days previous, Bildad had told them
that no profane songs would be allowed on board the Pequod,
particularly in getting under weigh; and Charity, his sister,
had placed a small choice copy of Watts in each seaman's berth.
Meantime, overseeing the other part of the ship, Captain Peleg
ripped and swore astern in the most frightful manner.
I almost thought he would sink the ship before the anchor could
be got up; involuntarily I paused on my handspike, and told
Queequeg to do the same, thinking of the perils we both ran,
in starting on the voyage with such a devil for a pilot.
I was comforting myself, however, with the thought that in pious
Bildad might be found some salvation, spite of his seven hundred
and seventy-seventh lay; when I felt a sudden sharp poke in my rear,
and turning round, was horrified at the apparition of Captain Peleg
in the act of withdrawing his leg from my immediate vicinity.
That was my first kick.
"Is that the way they heave in the marchant service?" he roared.
"Spring, thou sheep-head; spring, and break thy backbone! Why don't
ye spring, I say, all of ye--spring! Quohog! spring, thou chap with
the red whiskers; spring there, Scotch-cap; spring, thou green pants.
Spring, I say, all of ye, and spring your eyes out!" And so saying,
he moved along the windlass, here and there using his leg very freely,
while imperturbable Bildad kept leading off with his psalmody.
Thinks I, Captain Peleg must have been drinking something to-day.
At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided.
It was a short, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged
into night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean,
whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor.
The long rows of teeth on the bulwarks glistened in the moonlight;
and like the white ivory tusks of some huge elephant, vast curving
icicles depended from the bows.
Lank Bildad, as pilot, headed the first watch, and ever and anon,
as the old craft deep dived into the green seas, and sent the shivering
frost all over her, and the winds howled, and the cordage rang,
his steady notes were heard,--
"Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,
Stand dressed in living green.
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between."
Never did those sweet words sound more sweetly to me than then.
They were full of hope and fruition. Spite of this frigid winter night
in the boisterous Atlantic, spite of my wet feet and wetter jacket,
there was yet, it then seemed to me, many a pleasant haven in store;
and meads and glades so eternally vernal, that the grass shot up
by the spring, untrodden, unwilted, remains at midsummer.
At last we gained such an offing, that the two pilots were
needed no longer. The stout sail-boat that had accompanied us
began ranging alongside.
It was curious and not unpleasing, how Peleg and Bildad were
affected at this juncture, especially Captain Bildad. For loath
to depart, yet; very loath to leave, for good, a ship bound
on so long and perilous a voyage--beyond both stormy Capes;
a ship in which some thousands of his hardearned dollars
were invested; a ship, in which an old shipmate sailed as captain;
a man almost as old as he, once more starting to encounter
all the terrors of the pitiless jaw; loath to say good-bye
to a thing so every way brimful of every interest to him,--
poor old Bildad lingered long; paced the deck with anxious strides;
ran down into the cabin to speak another farewell word there;
again came on deck, and looked to windward; looked towards
the wide and endless waters, only bounded by the far-off unseen
Eastern Continents; looked towards the land; looked aloft;
looked right and left; looked everywhere and nowhere;
and at last, mechanically coiling a rope upon its pin,
convulsively grasped stout Peleg by the hand, and holding up
a lantern, for a moment stood gazing heroically in his face,
as much as to say, "Nevertheless, friend Peleg, I can stand it;
yes, I can."
As for Peleg himself, he took it more like a philosopher;
but for all his philosophy, there was a tear twinkling in his eye,
when the lantern came too near. And he, too, did not a little
run from the cabin to deck--now a word below, and now a word
with Starbuck, the chief mate.
But, at last, he turned to his comrade, with a final sort of look
about him,--"Captain Bildad--come, old shipmate, we must go.
Back the mainyard there! Boat ahoy! Stand by to come
close alongside, now! Careful, careful!--come, Bildad, boy--
say your last. Luck to ye, Starbuck--luck to ye, Mr. Stubb--
luck to ye, Mr. Flask--good-bye and good luck to ye all--
and this day three years I'll have a hot supper smoking for ye
in old Nantucket. Hurrah and away!"
"God bless ye, and have ye in His holy keeping, men," murmured old Bildad,
almost incoherently. "I hope ye'll have fine weather now, so that
Captain Ahab may soon be moving among ye--a pleasant sun is all he needs,
and ye'll have plenty of them in the tropic voyage ye go. Be careful
in the hunt, ye mates. Don't stave the boats needlessly, ye harpooneers;
good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent within the year.
Don't forget your prayers, either. Mr. Starbuck, mind that cooper don't
waste the spare staves. Oh! the sail-needles are in the green locker.
Don't whale it too much a' Lord's days, men; but don't miss a fair
chance either, that's rejecting Heaven's good gifts. Have an eye
to the molasses tierce, Mr. Stubb; it was a little leaky, I thought.
If ye touch at the islands, Mr. Flask, beware of fornication.
Good-bye, good-bye! Don't keep that cheese too long down in the hold,
Mr. Starbuck; it'll spoil. Be careful with the butter--twenty cents
the pound it was, and mind ye, if--"
"Come, come, Captain Bildad; stop palavering,--away!" and with that,
Peleg hurried him over the side, and both dropt into the boat.
Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between;
a screaming gull flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled;
we gave three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate
into the lone Atlantic.
The Lee Shore
Some chapters back, one Bulkington was spoken of, a tall,
newlanded mariner, encountered in New Bedford at the inn.
When on that shivering winter's night, the Pequod thrust her vindictive
bows into the cold malicious waves, who should I see standing at her
helm but Bulkington! I looked with sympathetic awe and fearfulness
upon the man, who in mid-winter just landed from a four years'
dangerous voyage, could so unrestingly push off again for still
another tempestuous term. The land seemed scorching to his feet.
Wonderfullest things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories
yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave
of Bulkington. Let me only say that it fared with him as with
the storm-tossed ship, that miserably drives along the leeward land.
The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful;
in the port is safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper,
warm blankets, friends, all that's kind to our mortalities.
But in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship's direst jeopardy;
she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land, though it
but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through.
With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing,
fights 'gainst the very winds that fain would blow her homeward;
seeks all the lashed sea's landlessness again; for refuge's sake
forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her bitterest foe!
Know ye now, Bulkington? Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally
intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid
effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea;
while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on
the treacherous, slavish shore?
But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless,
indefinite as God--so better is it to perish in that howling infinite,
than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety!
For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land!
Terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain?
Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod!
Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing--straight up,
leaps thy apotheosis!
As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of whaling;
and as this business of whaling has somehow come to be regarded among
landsmen as a rather unpoetical and disreputable pursuit; therefore, I am
all anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby done
to us hunters of whales.
In the first place, it may be deemed almost superfluous to establish
the fact, that among people at large, the business of whaling is not
accounted on a level with what are called the liberal professions.
If a stranger were introduced into any miscellaneous metropolitan society,
it would but slightly advance the general opinion of his merits, were he
presented to the company as a harpooneer, say; and if in emulation of the
naval officers he should append the initials S.W.F. (Sperm Whale Fishery)
to his visiting card, such a procedure would be deemed preeminently
presuming and ridiculous.
Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honoring
us whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation
amounts to a butchering sort of business; and that when actively
engaged therein, we are surrounded by all manner of defilements.
Butchers we are, that is true. But butchers, also, and butchers
of the bloodiest badge have been all Martial Commanders whom
the world invariably delights to honor. And as for the matter
of the alleged uncleanliness of our business, ye shall soon be
initiated into certain facts hitherto pretty generally unknown,
and which, upon the whole, will triumphantly plant the sperm
whale-ship at least among the cleanliest things of this tidy earth.
But even granting the charge in question to be true; what disordered
slippery decks of a whale-ship are comparable to the unspeakable
carrion of those battle-fields from which so many soldiers return
to drink in all ladies' plaudits? And if the idea of peril
so much enhances the popular conceit of the soldier's profession;
let me assure ye that many a veteran who has freely marched up
to a battery, would quickly recoil at the apparition of the sperm
whale's vast tail, fanning into eddies the air over his head.
For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with
the interlinked terrors and wonders of God!
But, though the world scouts at us whale hunters, yet does it
unwittingly pay us the profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding
adoration! for almost all the tapers, lamps, and candles
that burn round the globe, burn, as before so many shrines,
to our glory!
But look at this matter in other lights; weigh it in all sorts of scales;
see what we whalemen are, and have been.
Why did the Dutch in De Witt's time have admirals of their
whaling fleets? Why did Louis XVI of France, at his own
personal expense, fit out whaling ships from Dunkirk, and politely
invite to that town some score or two of families from our own island
of Nantucket? Why did Britain between the years 1750 and 1788
pay to her whalemen in bounties upwards of 1,000,000 pounds?
And lastly, how comes it that we whalemen of America now outnumber
all the rest of the banded whalemen in the world; sail a navy of
upwards of seven hundred vessels; manned by eighteen thousand men;
yearly consuming 00824,000,000 of dollars; the ships worth,
at the time of sailing, 20,000,000 dollars; and every year importing
into our harbors a well reaped harvest of 00847,000,000 dollars.
How comes all this, if there be not something puissant in whaling?
But this is not the half; look again.
I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosopher cannot,
for his life, point out one single peaceful influence,
which within the last sixty years has operated more potentially
upon the whole broad world, taken in one aggregate,
than the high and mighty business of whaling. One way
and another, it has begotten events so remarkable in themselves,
and so continuously momentous in their sequential issues,
that whaling may well be regarded as that Egyptian mother,
who bore offspring themselves pregnant from her womb.
It would be a hopeless, endless task to catalogue all these things.
Let a handful suffice. For many years past the whale-ship has
been the pioneer in ferreting out the remotest and least known
parts of the earth. She has explored seas and archipelagoes
which had no chart, where no Cooke or Vancouver had ever sailed.
If American and European men-of-war now peacefully ride
in once savage harbors, let them fire salutes to the honor
and glory of the whale-ship, which originally showed them
the way, and first interpreted between them and the savages.
They may celebrate as they will the heroes of Exploring Expeditions,
your Cookes, Your Krusensterns; but I say that scores of anonymous
Captains have sailed out of Nantucket, that were as great,
and greater, than your Cooke and your Krusenstern. For in
their succorless empty-handedness, they, in the heathenish
sharked waters, and by the beaches of unrecorded, javelin islands,
battled with virgin wonders and terrors that Cooke with all his
marines and muskets would not willingly have willingly dared.
All that is made such a flourish of in the old South Sea Voyages,
those things were but the life-time commonplaces of our
heroic Nantucketers. Often, adventures which Vancouver
dedicates three chapters to, these men accounted unworthy
of being set down in the ship's common log. Ah, the world!
Oh, the world!
Until the whale fishery rounded Cape Horn, no commerce but colonial,
scarcely any intercourse but colonial, was carried on between Europe
and the long line of the opulent Spanish provinces on the Pacific coast.
It was the whalemen who first broke through the jealous policy of
the Spanish crown, touching those colonies; and, if space permitted,
it might be distinctly shown how from those whalemen at last eventuated
the liberation of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the yoke of Old Spain,
and the establishment of the eternal democracy in those parts.
That great America on the other side of the sphere, Australia,
was given to the enlightened world by the whaleman.
After its first blunder-born discovery by a Dutchman, all other ships,
long shunned those shores as pestiferously barbarous;
but the whale-ship touched there. The whale-ship is the true
mother of that now mighty colony. Moreover, in the infancy
of the first Australian settlement, the emigrants were several
times saved from starvation by the benevolent biscuit of
the whale-ship luckily dropping an anchor in their waters.
The uncounted isles of all Polynesia confess the same truth,
and do commercial homage to the whale-ship, that cleared the way
for the missionary and the merchant, and in many cases carried
the primitive missionaries to their first destinations.
If that double-bolted land, Japan, is ever to become hospitable,
it is the whale-ship alone to whom the credit will be due;
for already she is on the threshold.
But if, in the face of all this, you still declare that whaling
has no aesthetically noble associations connected with it,
then am I ready to shiver fifty lances with you there,
and unhorse you with a split helmet every time.
The whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler,
you will say.
The whale no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler?
Who wrote the first account of our Leviathan? Who but mighty Job?
And who composed the first narrative of a whaling-voyage? Who,
but no less a prince than Alfred the Great, who, with his own
royal pen, took down the words from Other, the Norwegian
whale-hunter of those times! And who pronounced our glowing
eulogy in Parliament? Who, but Edmund Burke!
True enough, but then whalemen themselves are poor devils;
they have no good blood in their veins.
No good blood in their veins? They have something better
than royal blood there. The grandmother of Benjamin Franklin
was Mary Morrel; afterwards, by marriage, Mary Folger, one of
the old settlers of Nantucket, and the ancestress to a long line
of Folgers and harpooneers--all kith and kin to noble Benjamin--
this day darting the barbed iron from one side of the world
to the other.
Good again; but then all confess that somehow whaling is not respectable.
Whaling not respectable? Whaling is imperial! By old English
statutory law, the whale is declared "a royal fish."
Oh, that's only nominal! The whale himself has never figured
in any grand imposing way.
The whale never figured in any grand imposing way? In one of the mighty
triumphs given to a Roman general upon his entering the world's capital,
the bones of a whale, brought all the way from the Syrian coast,
were the most conspicuous object in the cymballed procession.*
*See subsequent chapters for something more on this head.
Grant it, since you cite it; but say what you will, there is no real
dignity in whaling.
No dignity in whaling? The dignity of our calling the very
heavens attest. Cetus is a constellation in the South! No more!
Drive down your hat in presence of the Czar, and take it off
to Queequeg! No more! I know a man that, in his lifetime
has taken three hundred and fifty whales. I account that man
more honorable than that great captain of antiquity who boasted
of taking as many walled towns.
And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet undiscovered
prime thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small
but high hushed world which I might not be unreasonably ambitious of;
if hereafter I shall do anything that, upon the whole, a man might rather
have done than to have left undone; if, at my death, my executors,
or more properly my creditors, find any precious MSS. in my desk,
then here I prospectively ascribe all the honor and the glory to whaling;
for a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.
In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught
but substantiated facts. But after embattling his facts,
an advocate who should wholly suppress a not unreasonable surmise,
which might tell eloquently upon his cause--such an advocate,
would he not be blame-worthy?
It is well known that at the coronation of kings and queens,
even modern ones, a certain curious process of seasoning them
for their functions is gone through. There is a saltcellar
of state, so called, and there may be a caster of state.
How they use the salt, precisely--who knows? Certain I am,
however, that a king's head is solemnly oiled at his coronation,
even as a head of salad. Can it be, though, that they
anoint it with a view of making its interior run well,
as they anoint machinery? Much might be ruminated here,
concerning the essential dignity of this regal process,
because in common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow
who anoints his hair, and palpably smells of that anointing.
In truth, a mature man who uses hairoil, unless medicinally,
that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere.
As a general rule, he can't amount to much in his totality.
But the only thing to be considered here is this--what kind of oil is used
at coronations? Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar oil,
nor castor oil, nor bear's oil, nor train oil, nor cod-liver oil.
What then can it possibly be, but the sperm oil in its unmanufactured,
unpolluted state, the sweetest of all oils?
Think of that, ye loyal Britons! we whalemen supply your kings
and queens with coronation stuff!
Knights and Squires
The chief mate of the Pequod was Starbuck, a native of Nantucket,
and a Quaker by descent. He was a long, earnest man,
and though born on an icy coast, seemed well adapted to endure
hot latitudes, his flesh being hard as twice-baked biscuit.
Transported to the Indies, his live blood would not spoil like
bottled ale. He must have been born in some time of general
drought and famine, or upon one of those fast days for which his
state is famous. Only some thirty arid summers had he seen;
those summers had dried up all his physical superfluousness.
But this, his thinness, so to speak, seemed no more the token
of wasting anxieties and cares, than it seemed the indication
of any bodily blight. It was merely the condensation of the man.
He was by no means ill-looking; quite the contrary.
His pure tight skin was an excellent fit; and closely wrapped
up in it, and embalmed with inner health and strength,
like a revivified Egyptian, this Starbuck seemed prepared
to endure for long ages to come, and to endure always, as now;
for be it Polar snow or torrid sun, like a patent chronometer,
his interior vitality was warranted to do well in all climates.
Looking into his eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering
images of those thousand-fold perils he had calmly confronted
through life. A staid, steadfast man, whose life for the most
part was a telling pantomime of action, and not a tame chapter
of sounds. Yet, for all his hardy sobriety and fortitude,
there were certain qualities in him which at times affected,
and in some cases seemed well nigh to overbalance all the rest.
Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep
natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did
therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort
of superstition, which in some organizations seems rather
to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance.
Outward portents and inward presentiments were his.
And if at times these things bent the welded iron of his soul,
much more did his far-away domestic memories of his young Cape
wife and child, tend to bend him still more from the original
ruggedness of his nature, and open him still further to those latent
influences which, in some honest-hearted men, restrain the gush
of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in the more
perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. "I will have no man
in my boat," said Starbuck, "who is not afraid of a whale."
By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable
and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation
of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man
is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.
"Aye, aye," said Stubb, the second mate, "Starbuck, there,
is as careful a man as you'll find anywhere in this fishery."
But we shall ere long see what that word "careful" precisely means
when used by a man like Stubb, or almost any other whale hunter.
Starbuck was no crusader after perils; in him courage was not a sentiment;
but a thing simply useful to him, and always at hand upon all mortally
practical occasions. Besides, he thought, perhaps, that in this business
of whaling, courage was one of the great staple outfits of the ship,
like her beef and her bread, and not to be foolishly wasted.
Wherefore he had no fancy for lowering for whales after sun-down;
nor for persisting in fighting a fish that too much persisted in
fighting him. For, thought Starbuck, I am here in this critical ocean
to kill whales for my living, and not to be killed by them for theirs;
and that hundreds of men had been so killed Starbuck well knew.
What doom was his own father's? Where, in the bottomless deeps,
could he find the torn limbs of his brother?
With memories like these in him, and, moreover, given to a certain
superstitiousness, as has been said; the courage of this Starbuck,
which could, nevertheless, still flourish, must indeed have been extreme.
But it was not in reasonable nature that a man so organized,
and with such terrible experiences and remembrances as he had;
it was not in nature that these things should fail in latently
engendering an element in him, which, under suitable circumstances,
would break out from its confinement, and burn all his courage up.
And brave as he might be, it was that sort of bravery chiefly,
visible in some intrepid men, which, while generally abiding firm
in the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the ordinary
irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those more terrific,
because more spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace you from
the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man.
But were the coming narrative to reveal in any instance,
the complete abasement of poor Starbuck's fortitude, scarce might
I have the heart to write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful,
nay shocking, to expose the fall of valor in the soul.
Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations;
knaves, fools, and murderers there may be; men may have mean and
meagre faces; but, man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling,
such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish
in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes.
That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, so far within us,
that it remains intact though all the outer character seem gone;
bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a
valor-ruined man. Nor can piety itself, at such a shameful sight,
completely stifle her upbraidings against the permitting stars.
But this august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings
and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture.
Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields a pick or
drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands,
radiates without end from God; Himself! The great God absolute!
The centre and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence,
our divine equality!
If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and castaways,
I shall hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark;
weave round them tragic graces; if even the most mournful,
perchance the most abased, among them all, shall at times lift
himself to the exalted mounts; if I shall touch that workman's
arm with some ethereal light; if I shall spread a rainbow
over his disastrous set of sun; then against all mortal
critics bear me out in it, thou just Spirit of Equality,
which hast spread one royal mantle of humanity over all my kind!
Bear me out in it, thou great democratic God! who didst not
refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the pale, poetic pearl;
Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold,
the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst
pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him
upon a war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne!
Thou who, in all Thy mighty, earthly marchings, ever cullest
Thy selectest champions from the kingly commoners; bear me
out in it, O God!
Knights and Squires
Stubb was the second mate. He was a native of Cape Cod;
and hence, according to local usage, was called a
Cape-Cod-man. A happy-go-lucky; neither craven nor valiant;
taking perils as they came with an indifferent air; and while
engaged in the most imminent crisis of the chase, toiling away,
calm and collected as a journeyman joiner engaged for the year.
Good-humored, easy, and careless, he presided over his
whaleboat as if the most deadly encounter were but a dinner,
and his crew all invited guests. He was as particular
about the comfortable arrangements of his part of the boat,
as an old stage-driver is about the snugness of his box.
When close to the whale, in the very death-lock of the fight,
he handled his unpitying lance coolly and off-handedly, as a
whistling tinker his hammer. He would hum over his old rigadig
tunes while flank and flank with the most exasperated monster.
Long usage had, for this Stubb, converted the jaws of death
into an easy chair. What he thought of death itself,
there is no telling. Whether he ever thought of it at all,
might be a question; but, if he ever did chance to cast his mind
that way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor,
he took it to be a sort of call of the watch to tumble aloft,
and bestir themselves there, about something which he would
find out when he obeyed the order, and not sooner.
What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going,
unfearing man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a
world full of grave peddlers, all bowed to the ground with their packs;
what helped to bring about that almost impious good-humor of his;
that thing must have been his pipe. For, like his nose, his short,
black little pipe was one of the regular features of his face.
You would almost as soon have expected him to turn out of his bunk
without his nose as without his pipe. He kept a whole row of pipes
there ready loaded, stuck in a rack, within easy reach of his hand;
and, whenever he turned in, he smoked them all out in succession,
lighting one from the other to the end of the chapter; then loading
them again to be in readiness anew. For, when Stubb dressed,
instead of first putting his legs into his trowsers, he put his pipe
into his mouth.
I say this continual smoking must have been one cause, at least of
his peculiar disposition; for every one knows that this earthly air,
whether ashore or afloat, is terribly infected with the nameless
miseries of the numberless mortals who have died exhaling it;
and as in time of the cholera, some people go about with a
camphorated handkerchief to their mouths; so, likewise, against all
mortal tribulations, Stubb's tobacco smoke might have operated
as a sort of disinfecting agent.
The third mate was Flask, a native of Tisbury, in Martha's Vineyard.
A short, stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning whales,
who somehow seemed to think that the great Leviathans had personally
and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort
of point of honor with him, to destroy them whenever encountered.
So utterly lost was he to all sense of reverence for the many marvels
of their majestic bulk and mystic ways; and so dead to anything
like an apprehension of any possible danger from encountering them;
that in his poor opinion, the wondrous whale was but a species
of magnified mouse, or at least water-rat, requiring only a little
circumvention and some small application of time and trouble in order
to kill and boil. This ignorant, unconscious fearlessness of his
made him a little waggish in the matter of whales; he followed
these fish for the fun of it; and a three years' voyage round
Cape Horn was only a jolly joke that lasted that length of time.
As a carpenter's nails are divided into wrought nails and cut nails;
so mankind may be similarly divided. Little Flask was one
of the wrought ones; made to clinch tight and last long.
They called him King-Post on board of the Pequod; because, in form,
he could be well likened to the short, square timber known by that name
in Arctic whalers; and which by the means of many radiating side
timbers inserted into it, serves to brace the ship against the icy
concussions of those battering seas.
Now these three mates--Starbuck, Stubb and Flask, were momentous men.
They it was who by universal prescription commanded three of the Pequod's
boats as headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which Captain Ahab
would probably marshal his forces to descend on the whales, these three
headsmen were as captains of companies. Or, being armed with their
long keen whaling spears, they were as a picked trio of lancers;
even as the harpooneers were flingers of javelins.
And since in this famous fishery, each mate or headsman,
like a Gothic Knight of old, is always accompanied by his
boat-steerer or harpooneer, who in certain conjunctures provides
him with a fresh lance, when the former one has been badly twisted,
or elbowed in the assault; and moreover, as there generally
subsists between the two, a close intimacy and friendliness;
it is therefore but meet, that in this place we set down
who the Pequod's harpooneers were, and to what headsman each
of them belonged.
First of all was Queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate,
had selected for his squire. But Queequeg is already known.
Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly
promontory of Martha's Vineyard, where there still exists the last
remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring
island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers.
In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of
Gay-Headers. Tashtego's long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones,
and black rounding eyes--for an Indian, Oriental in their largeness,
but Antarctic in their glittering expression--all this sufficiently
proclaimed him an inheritor of the unvitiated blood of those proud
warrior hunters, who, in quest of the great New England moose,
had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests of the main.
But no longer snuffing in the trail of the wild beasts of the woodland,
Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great whales of the sea;
the unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the infallible arrow
of the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe snaky limbs,
you would almost have credited the superstitions of some of the earlier
Puritans and half-believed this wild Indian to be a son of the Prince
of the Powers of the Air. Tashtego was Stubb the second mate's squire.
Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black
negro-savage, with a lion-like tread--an Ahasuerus to behold.
Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the sailors
called them ringbolts, and would talk of securing the top-sail
halyards to them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily shipped
on board of a whaler, lying in a lonely bay on his native coast.
And never having been anywhere in the world but in Africa, Nantucket,
and the pagan harbors most frequented by the whalemen; and having
now led for many years the bold life of the fishery in the ships
of owners uncommonly heedful of what manner of men they shipped;
Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues, and erect as a giraffe,
moved about the decks in all the pomp of six feet five in his socks.
There was a corporeal humility in looking up at him; and a white man
standing before him seemed a white flag come to beg truce of a fortress.
Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus Daggoo, was the
Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man beside him.
As for the residue of the Pequod's company, be it said,
that at the present day not one in two of the many thousand
men before the mast employed in the American whale fishery,
are Americans born, though pretty nearly all the officers are.
Herein it is the same with the American whale fishery as with the
American army and military and merchant navies, and the engineering
forces employed in the construction of the American Canals
and Railroads. The same, I say, because in all these cases
the native American literally provides the brains, the rest
of the world as generously supplying the muscles. No small number
of these whaling seamen belong to the Azores, where the outward
bound Nantucket whalers frequently touch to augment their crews
from the hardy peasants of those rocky shores. In like manner,
the Greenland whalers sailing out of Hull or London, put in at
the Shetland Islands, to receive the full complement of their crew.
Upon the passage homewards, they drop them there again. How it is,
there is no telling, but Islanders seem to make the best whalemen.
They were nearly all Islanders in the Pequod, Isolatoes too,
I call such, not acknowledging the common continent of men,
but each Isolato living on a separate continent of his own.
Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were!
An Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea,
and all the ends of the earth, accompanying Old Ahab in
the Pequod to lay the world's grievances before that bar from
which not very many of them ever come back. Black Little Pip--
he never did--oh, no! he went before. Poor Alabama boy!
On the grim Pequod's forecastle, ye shall ere long see him,
beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time, when sent for,
to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid strike in with angels,
and beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here,
hailed a hero there!
For several days after leaving Nantucket, nothing above hatches
was seen of Captain Ahab. The mates regularly relieved each other
at the watches, and for aught that could be seen to the contrary,
they seemed to be the only commanders of the ship; only they
sometimes issued from the cabin with orders so sudden and peremptory,
that after all it was plain they but commanded vicariously.
Yes, their supreme lord and dictator was there, though hitherto
unseen by any eyes not permitted to penetrate into the now sacred
retreat of the cabin.
Every time I ascended to the deck from my watches below,
I instantly gazed aft to mark if any strange face were visible;
for my first vague disquietude touching the unknown captain,
now in the seclusion of the sea became almost a perturbation.
This was strangely heightened at times by the ragged Elijah's
diabolical incoherences uninvitedly recurring to me,
with a subtle energy I could not have before conceived of.
But poorly could I withstand them, much as in other moods
I was almost ready to smile at the solemn whimsicalities
of that outlandish prophet of the wharves. But whatever
it was of apprehensiveness or uneasiness--to call it so--
which I felt, yet whenever I came to look about me in the ship,
it seemed against all warranty to cherish such emotions.
For though the harpooneers, with the great body of the crew,
were a far more barbaric, heathenish, and motley set than any
of the tame merchant-ship companies which my previous experiences
had made me acquainted with, still I ascribed this--and rightly
ascribed it--to the fierce uniqueness of the very nature of that wild
Scandinavian vocation in which I had so abandonedly embarked.
But it was especially the aspect of the three chief officers
of the ship, the mates, which was most forcibly calculated
to allay these colorless misgivings, and induce confidence
and cheerfulness in every presentment of the voyage.
Three better, more likely sea-officers and men, each in his
own different way, could not readily be found, and they were
every one of them Americans; a Nantucketer, a Vineyarder,
a Cape man. Now, it being Christmas when the ship shot
from out her harbor, for a space we had biting Polar weather,
though all the time running away from it to the southward;
and by every degree and minute of latitude which we sailed,
gradually leaving that merciless winter, and all its intolerable
weather behind us. It was one of those less lowering,
but still grey and gloomy enough mornings of the transition,
when with a fair wind the ship was rushing through the water
with a vindictive sort of leaping and melancholy rapidity,
that as I mounted to the deck at the call of the forenoon watch,
so soon as I levelled my glance towards the taffrail,
foreboding shivers ran over me. Reality outran apprehension;
Captain Ahab stood upon his quarter-deck.
There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him,
nor of the recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away
from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all
the limbs without consuming them, or taking away one particle
from their compacted aged robustness. His whole high, broad form,
seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an unalterable mould,
like Cellini's cast Perseus. Threading its way out from among
his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny
scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing,
you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish.
It resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight,
lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly
darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and
grooves out the bark from top to bottom ere running off into
the soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded.
Whether that mark was born with him, or whether it was the scar
left by some desperate wound, no one could certainly say.
By some tacit consent, throughout the voyage little
or no allusion was made to it, especially by the mates.
But once Tashtego's senior, an old Gay-Head Indian among the crew,
superstitiously asserted that not till he was full forty years
old did Ahab become that way branded, and then it came upon him,
not in the fury of any mortal fray, but in an elemental strife
at sea. Yet, this wild hint seemed inferentially negatived,
by what a grey Manxman insinuated, an old sepulchral man,
who, having never before sailed out of Nantucket, had never
ere this laid eye upon wild Ahab. Nevertheless, the old
sea-traditions, the immemorial credulities, popularly invested
this old Manxman with preternatural powers of discernment.
So that no white sailor seriously contradicted him when he said
that if ever Captain Ahab should be tranquilly laid out--
which might hardly come to pass, so he muttered--then, whoever should
do that last office for the dead, would find a birth-mark on him
from crown to sole.
So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me,
and the livid brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments
I hardly noted that not a little of this overbearing grimness
was owing to the barbaric white leg upon which he partly stood.
It had previously come to me that this ivory leg had at sea been
fashioned from the polished bone of the sperm whale's jaw.
"Aye, he was dismasted off Japan," said the old Gay-Head Indian once;
"but like his dismasted craft, he shipped another mast without
coming home for it. He has a quiver of 'em."
I was struck with the singular posture he maintained.
Upon each side of the Pequod's quarter deck, and pretty close
to the mizzen shrouds, there was an auger hole, bored about half
an inch or so, into the plank. His bone leg steadied in that hole;
one arm elevated, and holding by a shroud; Captain Ahab stood erect,
looking straight out beyond the ship's ever-pitching prow.
There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate,
unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless,
forward dedication of that glance. Not a word he spoke;
nor did his officers say aught to him; though by all their
minutest gestures and expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy,
if not painful, consciousness of being under a troubled
master-eye. And not only that, but moody stricken Ahab stood
before them with a crucifixion in his face; in all the nameless
regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.
Ere long, from his first visit in the air, he withdrew into his cabin.
But after that morning, he was every day visible to the crew;
either standing in his pivot-hole, or seated upon an ivory stool he had;
or heavily walking the deck. As the sky grew less gloomy; indeed, began
to grow a little genial, he became still less and less a recluse;
as if, when the ship had sailed from home, nothing but the dead wintry
bleakness of the sea had then kept him so secluded. And, by and by,
it came to pass, that he was almost continually in the air;
but, as yet, for all that he said, or perceptibly did, on the at
last sunny deck, he seemed as unnecessary there as another mast.
But the Pequod was only making a passage now; not regularly cruising;
nearly all whaling preparatives needing supervision the mates were fully
competent to, so that there was little or nothing, out of himself,
to employ or excite Ahab, now; and thus chase away, for that one interval,
the clouds that layer upon layer were piled upon his brow, as ever
all clouds choose the loftiest peaks to pile themselves upon.
Nevertheless, ere long, the warm, warbling persuasiveness of the pleasant,
holiday weather we came to, seemed gradually to charm him from his mood.
For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May, trip home
to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest, most
thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green sprouts,
to welcome such gladhearted visitants; so Ahab did, in the end,
a little respond to the playful allurings of that girlish air.
More than once did he put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any
other man, would have soon flowered out in a smile.
Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb
Some days elapsed, and ice and icebergs all astern, the Pequod
now went rolling through the bright Quito spring, which at sea,
almost perpetually reigns on the threshold of the eternal August
of the Tropic. The warmly cool, clear, ringing perfumed, overflowing,
redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up--
flaked up, with rose-water snow. The starred and stately nights seemed
haughty dames in jewelled velvets, nursing at home in lonely pride,
the memory of their absent conquering Earls, the golden helmeted suns!
For sleeping man, 'twas hard to choose between such winsome days and
such seducing nights. But all the witcheries of that unwaning weather
did not merely lend new spells and potencies to the outward world.
Inward they turned upon the soul, especially when the still mild
hours of eve came on; then, memory shot her crystals as the clear ice
most forms of noiseless twilights. And all these subtle agencies,
more and more they wrought on Ahab's texture.
Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life,
the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.
Among sea-commanders, the old greybeards will oftenest
leave their berths to visit the night-cloaked deck.
It was so with Ahab; only that now, of late, he seemed so much
to live in the open air, that truly speaking, his visits
were more to the cabin, than from the cabin to the planks.
"It feels like going down into one's tomb,"--he would mutter
to himself--"for an old captain like me to be descending this
narrow scuttle, to go to my grave-dug berth."
So, almost every twenty-four hours, when the watches of the night
were set, and the band on deck sentinelled the slumbers of the band below;
and when if a rope was to be hauled upon the forecastle, the sailors
flung it not rudely down, as by day, but with some cautiousness dropt it
to its place for fear of disturbing their slumbering shipmates; when this
sort of steady quietude would begin to prevail, habitually, the silent
steersman would watch the cabin-scuttle; and ere long the old man
would emerge, gripping at the iron banister, to help his crippled way.
Some considering touch of humanity was in him; for at times like these,
he usually abstained from patrolling the quarter-deck; because to his
wearied mates, seeking repose within six inches of his ivory heel,
such would have been the reverberating crack and din of that bony step,
that their dreams would have been of the crunching teeth of sharks.
But once, the mood was on him too deep for common regardings;
and as with heavy, lumber-like pace he was measuring the ship from
taffrail to mainmast, Stubb, the old second mate, came up from below,
and with a certain unassured, deprecating humorousness, hinted that if
Captain Ahab was pleased to walk the planks, then, no one could say nay;
but there might be some way of muffling the noise; hinting something
indistinctly and hesitatingly about a globe of tow, and the insertion
into it, of the ivory heel. Ah! Stubb, thou didst not know Ahab then.
"Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb," said Ahab, "that thou wouldst
wad me that fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot.
Below to thy nightly grave; where such as ye sleep between shrouds,
to use ye to the filling one at last.--Down, dog, and kennel!"
Starting at the unforeseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly
scornful old man, Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly,
"I am not used to be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half
like it, sir."
"Avast! gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving away,
as if to avoid some passionate temptation.
"No, sir; not yet," said Stubb, emboldened, "I will not tamely
be called a dog, sir."
"Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass,
and begone, or I'll clear the world of thee!"
As he said this, Ahab advanced upon him with such overbearing
terrors in his aspect, that Stubb involuntarily retreated.
"I was never served so before without giving a hard blow for it,"
muttered Stubb, as he found himself descending the cabin-scuttle.
"It's very queer. Stop, Stubb; somehow, now, I don't well
know whether to go back and strike him, or--what's that?--
down here on my knees and pray for him? Yes, that was the thought
coming up in me; but it would be the first time I ever did pray.
It's queer; very queer; and he's queer too; aye, take him fore
and aft, he's about the queerest old man Stubb ever sailed with.
How he flashed at me!--his eyes like powder-pans! is he mad!
Anyway there's something's on his mind, as sure as there
must be something on a deck when it cracks. He aint in his
bed now, either, more than three hours out of the twenty-four;
and he don't sleep then. Didn't that Dough-Boy, the steward,
tell me that of a morning he always finds the old man's hammock
clothes all rumpled and tumbled, and the sheets down at the foot,
and the coverlid almost tied into knots, and the pillow a sort
of frightful hot, as though a baked brick had been on it?
A hot old man! I guess he's got what some folks ashore
call a conscience; it's a kind of Tic-Dolly-row they say--
worse nor a toothache. Well, well; I don't know what it is,
but the Lord keep me from catching it. He's full of riddles;
I wonder what he goes into the after hold for, every night,
as Dough-Boy tells me he suspects; what's that for, I should
like to know? Who's made appointments with him in the hold?
Ain't that queer, now? But there's no telling, it's the old game--
Here goes for a snooze. Damn me, it's worth a fellow's
while to be born into the world, if only to fall right asleep.
And now that I think of it, that's about the first thing
babies do, and that's a sort of queer, too. Damn me,
but all things are queer, come to think of 'em. But that's
against my principles. Think not, is my eleventh commandment;
and sleep when you can, is my twelfth--So here goes again.
But how's that? didn't he call me a dog? blazes! he called me ten
times a donkey, and piled a lot of jackasses on top of that!
He might as well have kicked me, and done with it.
Maybe he did kick me, and I didn't observe it, I was so taken all
aback with his brow, somehow. It flashed like a bleached bone.
What the devil's the matter with me? I don't stand right on my legs.
Coming afoul of that old man has a sort of turned me wrong side out.
By the Lord, I must have been dreaming, though--How? how? how?--
but the only way's to stash it; so here goes to hammock again;
and in the morning, I'll see how this plaguey juggling thinks
over by daylight."
When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the bulwarks;
and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a sailor of
the watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also his pipe.
Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the stool on
the weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked.
In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings
were fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale.
How could one look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones,
without bethinking him of the royalty it symbolized?
For a Khan of the plank, and a king of the sea and a great lord
of Leviathans was Ahab.
Some moments passed, during which the thick vapor came
from his mouth in quick and constant puffs, which blew back
again into his face. "How now," he soliloquized at last,
withdrawing the tube, "this smoking no longer soothes.
Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be gone!
Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring--
aye, and ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward,
and with such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale,
my final jets were the strongest and fullest of trouble.
What business have I with this pipe? This thing that is
meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors among
mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine.
I'll smoke no more-"
He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed
in the waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble
the sinking pipe made. With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly
paced the planks.
Next morning Stubb accosted Flask.
"Such a queer dream, King-Post, I never had. You know the old man's
ivory leg, well I dreamed he kicked me with it; and when I tried
to kick back, upon my soul, my little man, I kicked my leg right off!
And then, presto! Ahab seemed a pyramid, and I like a blazing fool,
kept kicking at it. But what was still more curious, Flask--you know
how curious all dreams are--through all this rage that I was in,
I somehow seemed to be thinking to myself, that after all,
it was not much of an insult, that kick from Ahab. 'Why,' thinks I,
'what's the row? It's not a real leg, only a false one.'
And there's a mighty difference between a living thump and a dead thump.
That's what makes a blow from the hand, Flask, fifty times
more savage to bear than a blow from a cane. The living member--
that makes the living insult, my little man. And thinks I to myself
all the while, mind, while I was stubbing my silly toes against
that cursed pyramid--so confoundedly contradictory was it all,
all the while, I say, I was thinking to myself, 'what's his leg now,
but a cane-. a whale-bone cane. Yes,' thinks I, 'it was only
a playful cudgelling--in fact, only a whaleboning that he gave me--
not a base kick. Besides,' thinks I, 'look at it once; why, the end
of it--the foot part--what a small sort of end it is; whereas, if a
broad footed farmer kicked me, there's a devilish broad insult.
But this insult is whittled down to a point only.' But now comes
the greatest joke of the dream, Flask. While I was battering away
at the pyramid, a sort of badger-haired old merman, with a hump
on his back, takes me by the shoulders, and slews me round.
'What are you 'bout?' says he. Slid! man, but I was frightened.
Such a phiz! But, somehow, next moment I was over the fright.
'What am I about?' says I at last. 'And what business is that of yours,
I should like to know, Mr. Humpback? Do you want a kick?'
By the lord, Flask, I had no sooner said that, than he turned
round his stern to me, bent over, and dragging up a lot of seaweed
he had for a clout--what do you think, I saw?--why thunder alive,
man, his stern was stuck full of marlinspikes, with the points out.
Says I on second thought, 'I guess I won't kick you, old fellow.'
'Wise Stubb,' said he, 'wise Stubb;' and kept muttering it all
the time, a sort of eating of his own gums like a chimney hag.
Seeing he wasn't going to stop saying over his 'wise Stubb,
wise Stubb,' I thought I might as well fall to kicking the pyramid again.
But I had only just lifted my foot for it, when he roared out,
'Stop that kicking!' 'Halloa,' says I, 'what's the matter now,
old fellow?' 'Look ye here,' says he; 'let's argue the insult.
Captain Ahab kicked ye, didn't he?' 'Yes, he did,' says I--'right here
it was.' 'Very good,' says he--'he used his ivory leg, didn't he?'
'Yes, he did,' says I. 'Well then,' says he, 'wise Stubb, what have
you to complain of? Didn't he kick with right good will? it wasn't
a common pitch pine leg he kicked with, was it? No, you were kicked
by a great man, and with a beautiful ivory leg, Stubb. It's an honor;
I consider it an honor. Listen, wise Stubb. In old England
the greatest lords think it great glory to be slapped by a queen,
and made garter-knights of; but, be your boast, Stubb, that ye were
kicked by old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say;
be kicked by him; account his kicks honors; and on no account kick back;
for you can't help yourself, wise Stubb. Don't you see that pyramid?'
With that, he all of a sudden seemed somehow, in some queer fashion,
to swim off into the air. I snored; rolled over; and there I was
in my hammock! Now, what do you think of that dream, Flask?"
"I don't know; it seems a sort of foolish to me, tho.'"
"May be; may be. But it's made a wise man of me, Flask. D'ye see Ahab
standing there, sideways looking over the stern? Well, the best thing
you can do, Flask, is to let the old man alone; never speak to him,
whatever he says. Halloa! What's that he shouts? Hark!"
"Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales hereabouts!
If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him!
"What do you think of that now, Flask? ain't there a small
drop of something queer about that, eh? A white whale--did ye
mark that, man? Look ye--there's something special in the wind.
Stand by for it, Flask. Ahab has that that's bloody on his mind.
But, mum; he comes this way."
Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we
shall be lost in its unshored harborless immensities.
Ere that come to pass; ere the Pequod's weedy hull rolls
side by side with the barnacled hulls of the leviathan;
at the outset it is but well to attend to a matter almost
indispensable to a thorough appreciative understanding of the more
special leviathanic revelations and allusions of all sorts
which are to follow.
It is some systematized exhibition of the whale in his broad genera,
that I would now fain put before you. Yet is it no easy task.
The classification of the constituents of a chaos, nothing less
is here essayed. Listen to what the best and latest authorities
have laid down.
"No branch of Zoology is so much involved as that which is
entitled Cetology," says Captain Scoresby, A.D. 1820.
"It is not my intention, were it in my power, to enter into the inquiry
as to the true method of dividing the cetacea into groups and
families.... Utter confusion exists among the historians of this animal"
(sperm whale), says Surgeon Beale, A.D. 1839.
"Unfitness to pursue our research in the unfathomable waters."
"Impenetrable veil covering our knowledge of the cetacea."
"A field strewn with thorns." "All these incomplete indications
but serve to torture us naturalists."
Thus speak of the whale, the great Cuvier, and John Hunter, and Lesson,
those lights of zoology and anatomy. Nevertheless, though of real
knowledge there be little, yet of books there are a plenty;
and so in some small degree, with cetology, or the science of whales.
Many are the men, small and great, old and new, landsmen and seamen,
who have at large or in little, written of the whale. Run over a few:--
The Authors of the Bible; Aristotle; Pliny; Aldrovandi; Sir Thomas Browne;
Gesner; Ray; Linnaeus; Rondeletius; Willoughby; Green; Artedi; Sibbald;
Brisson; Marten; Lacepede; Bonneterre; Desmarest; Baron Cuvier; Frederick
Cuvier; John Hunter; Owen; Scoresby; Beale; Bennett; J. Ross Browne;
the Author of Miriam Coffin; Olmstead; and the Rev. T. Cheever. But to
what ultimate generalizing purpose all these have written, the above
cited extracts will show.
Of the names in this list of whale authors only those following Owen ever
saw living whales; and but one of them was a real professional harpooneer
and whaleman. I mean Captain Scoresby. On the separate subject
of the Greenland or right-whale, he is the best existing authority.
But Scoresby knew nothing and says nothing of the great sperm whale,
compared with which the Greenland whale is almost unworthy mentioning.
And here be it said, that the Greenland whale is an usurper upon
the throne of the seas. He is not even by any means the largest
of the whales. Yet, owing to the long priority of his claims,
and the profound ignorance which till some seventy years back,
invested the then fabulous and utterly unknown sperm-whale, and which
ignorance to this present day still reigns in all but some few scientific
retreats and whale-ports; this usurpation has been every way complete.
Reference to nearly all the leviathanic allusions in the great
poets of past days, will satisfy you that the Greenland whale,
without one rival, was to them the monarch of the seas. But the time
has at last come for a new proclamation. This is Charing Cross;
hear ye! good people all,--the Greenland whale is deposed,--
the great sperm whale now reigneth!
There are only two books in being which at all pretend to put the living
sperm whale before you, and at the same time, in the remotest degree
succeed in the attempt. Those books are Beale's and Bennett's;
both in their time surgeons to the English South-Sea whale-ships,
and both exact and reliable men. The original matter touching
the sperm whale to be found in their volumes is necessarily small;
but so far as it goes, it is of excellent quality, though mostly
confined to scientific description. As yet, however, the sperm whale,
scientific or poetic, lives not complete in any literature.
Far above all other hunted whales, his is an unwritten life.
Now the various species of whales need some sort of popular
comprehensive classification, if only an easy outline one for
the present, hereafter to be filled in all-outward its departments
by subsequent laborers. As no better man advances to take
this matter in hand, I hereupon offer my own poor endeavors.
I promise nothing complete; because any human thing supposed
to be complete must for that very reason infallibly be faulty.
I shall not pretend to a minute anatomical description
of the various species, or--in this space at least--
to much of any description. My object here is simply
to project the draught of a systematization of cetology.
I am the architect, not the builder.
But it is a ponderous task; no ordinary letter-sorter in the Post-Office
is equal to it. To grope down into the bottom of the sea after them;
to have one's hands among the unspeakable foundations, ribs,
and very pelvis of the world; this is a fearful thing.
What am I that I should essay to hook the nose of this leviathan!
The awful tauntings in Job might well appal me. "Will he (the leviathan)
make a covenant with thee? Behold the hope of him is vain!
But I have swam through libraries and sailed through oceans;
I have had to do with whales with these visible hands; I am in earnest;
and I will try. There are some preliminaries to settle.
First: The uncertain, unsettled condition of this science
of Cetology is in the very vestibule attested by the fact,
that in some quarters it still remains a moot point whether
a whale be a fish. In his System of Nature, A.D. 1776,
Linnaeus declares, "I hereby separate the whales from the fish."
But of my own knowledge, I know that down to the year 1850,
sharks and shad, alewives and herring, against Linnaeus's
express edict, were still found dividing the possession
of the same seas with the Leviathan.
The grounds upon which Linnaeus would fain have banished
the whales from the waters, he states as follows: "On account
of their warm bilocular heart, their lungs, their movable eyelids,
their hollow ears, penem intrantem feminam mammis lactantem,"
and finally, "ex lege naturae jure meritoque." I submitted all
this to my friends Simeon Macey and Charley Coffin, of Nantucket,
both messmates of mine in a certain voyage, and they united in
the opinion that the reasons set forth were altogether insufficient.
Charley profanely hinted they were humbug.
Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old fashioned
ground that the whale is a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me.
This fundamental thing settled, the next point is, in what internal
respect does the whale differ from other fish. Above, Linnaeus has given
you those items. But in brief they are these: lungs and warm blood;
whereas, all other fish are lungless and cold blooded.
Next: how shall we define the whale, by his obvious externals,
so as conspicuously to label him for all time to come.
To be short, then, a whale is a spouting fish with a horizontal tail.
There you have him. However contracted, that definition is the result
of expanded meditation. A walrus spouts much like a whale,
but the walrus is not a fish, because he is amphibious.
But the last term of the definition is still more cogent,
as coupled with the first. Almost any one must have noticed
that all the fish familiar to landsmen have not a flat,
but a vertical, or up-and-down tail. Whereas, among spouting fish
the tail, though it may be similarly shaped, invariably assumes
a horizontal position.
By the above definition of what a whale is, I do by no means exclude
from the leviathanic brotherhood any sea creature hitherto identified
with the whale by the best informed Nantucketers; nor, on the other hand,
link with it any fish hitherto authoritatively regarded as alien.* Hence,
all the smaller, spouting and horizontal tailed fish must be included
in this ground-plan of Cetology. Now, then, come the grand divisions
of the entire whale host.
*I am aware that down to the present time, the fish styled
Lamatins and Dugongs (Pig-fish and Sow-fish of the Coffins
of Nantucket) are included by many naturalists among the whales.
But as these pig-fish are a noisy, contemptible set,
mostly lurking in the mouths of rivers, and feeding on wet hay,
and especially as they do not spout, I deny their credentials
as whales; and have presented them with their passports to quit
the Kingdom of Cetology.
First: According to magnitude I divide the whales into three primary BOOKS
(subdivisible into CHAPTERS), and these shall comprehend them all,
both small and large.
I. THE FOLIO WHALE; II. the OCTAVO WHALE; III. the DUODECIMO WHALE.
As the type of the FOLIO I present the Sperm Whale; of the OCTAVO,
the Grampus; of the DUODECIMO, the Porpoise.
FOLIOS. Among these I here include the following chapters:--
I. The Sperm Whale; II. the Right Whale; III. the Fin Back Whale; IV.
the Humpbacked Whale; V. the Razor Back Whale; VI.
the Sulphur Bottom Whale.
BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER I. (Sperm Whale).--This whale,
among the English of old vaguely known as the Trumpa whale and
the Physeter whale, and the Anvil Headed whale, is the present
Cachalot of the French, and the Pottsfich of the Germans,
and the Macrocephalus of the Long Words. He is, without doubt,
the largest inhabitant of the globe; the most formidable of all
whales to encounter; the most majestic in aspect; and lastly,
by far the most valuable in commerce; he being the only creature
from which that valuable substance, spermaceti, is obtained.
All his peculiarities will, in many other places, be enlarged upon.
It is chiefly with his name that I now have to do.
Philologically considered, it is absurd. Some centuries ago,
when the Sperm whale was almost wholly unknown in his own
proper individuality, and when his oil was only accidentally
obtained from the stranded fish; in those days spermaceti,
it would seem, was popularly supposed to be derived from
a creature identical with the one then known in England as
the Greenland or Right Whale. It was the idea also, that this
same spermaceti was that quickening humor of the Greenland Whale
which the first syllable of the word literally expresses.
In those times, also, spermaceti was exceedingly scarce,
not being used for light, but only as an ointment and medicament.
It was only to be had from the druggists as you nowadays buy
an ounce of rhubarb. When, as I opine, in the course of time,
the true nature of spermaceti became known, its original name
was still retained by the dealers; no doubt to enhance its
value by a notion so strangely significant of its scarcity.
And so the appellation must at last have come to be bestowed
upon the whale from which this spermaceti was really derived.
BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER II. (Right Whale).--In one respect this
is the most venerable of the leviathans, being the one first
regularly hunted by man. It yields the article commonly known
as whalebone or baleen; and the oil specially known as "whale oil,"
an inferior article in commerce. Among the fishermen,
he is indiscriminately designated by all the following titles:
The Whale; the Greenland Whale; the Black Whale; the Great Whale;
the True Whale; the Right Whale. There is a deal of obscurity
concerning the Identity of the species thus multitudinously baptized.
What then is the whale, which I include in the second species of
my Folios? It is the Great Mysticetus of the English naturalists;
the Greenland Whale of the English Whalemen; the Baliene Ordinaire
of the French whalemen; the Growlands Walfish of the Swedes. It is
the whale which for more than two centuries past has been hunted
by the Dutch and English in the Arctic seas; it is the whale
which the American fishermen have long pursued in the Indian ocean,
on the Brazil Banks, on the Nor' West Coast, and various other parts
of the world, designated by them Right Whale Cruising Grounds.
Some pretend to see a difference between the Greenland whale
of the English and the right whale of the Americans. But they
precisely agree in all their grand features; nor has there yet
been presented a single determinate fact upon which to ground
a radical distinction. It is by endless subdivisions based
upon the most inconclusive differences, that some departments
of natural history become so repellingly intricate.
The right whale will be elsewhere treated of at some length,
with reference to elucidating the sperm whale.
BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER III. (Fin-Back).--Under this head I reckon
a monster which, by the various names of Fin-Back, Tall-Spout,
and Long-John, has been seen almost in every sea and is commonly
the whale whose distant jet is so often descried by passengers
crossing the Atlantic, in the New York packet-tracks. In
the length he attains, and in his baleen, the Fin-back
resembles the right whale, but is of a less portly girth,
and a lighter color, approaching to olive. His great lips present
a cable-like aspect, formed by the intertwisting, slanting folds
of large wrinkles. His grand distinguishing feature, the fin,
from which he derives his name, is often a conspicuous object.
This fin is some three or four feet long, growing vertically
from the hinder part of the back, of an angular shape,
and with a very sharp pointed end. Even if not the slightest
other part of the creature be visible, this isolated fin will,
at times, be seen plainly projecting from the surface.
When the sea is moderately calm, and slightly marked with
spherical ripples, and this gnomon-like fin stands up and casts
shadows upon the wrinkled surface, it may well be supposed
that the watery circle surrounding it somewhat resembles a dial,
with its style and wavy hour-lines graved on it. On that Ahaz-dial
the shadow often goes back. The Fin-Back is not gregarious.
He seems a whale-hater, as some men are man-haters. Very shy;
always going solitary; unexpectedly rising to the surface
in the remotest and most sullen waters; his straight and
single lofty jet rising like a tall misanthropic spear upon
a barren plain; gifted with such wondrous power and velocity
in swimming, as to defy all present pursuit from man;
this leviathan seems the banished and unconquerable Cain
of his race, bearing for his mark that style upon his back.
From having the baleen in his mouth, the Fin-Back is sometimes
included with the right whale, among a theoretic species
denominated Whalebone whales, that is, whales with baleen.
Of these so-called Whalebone whales, there would seem to be
several varieties, most of which, however, are little known.
Broad-nosed whales and beaked whales; pike-headed whales;
bunched whales; under-jawed whales and rostrated whales,
are the fisherman's names for a few sorts.
In connexion with this appellative of "Whalebone whales,"
it is of great importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature
may be convenient in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales,
yet it is in vain to attempt a clear classification of the Leviathan,
founded upon either his baleen, or hump, or fin, or teeth;
notwithstanding that those marked parts or features very obviously
seem better adapted to afford the basis for a regular system
of Cetology than any other detached bodily distinctions,
which the whale, in his kinds, presents. How then?
The baleen, hump, back-fin, and teeth; these are things whose
peculiarities are indiscriminately dispersed among all sorts of whales,
without any regard to what may be the nature of their structure
in other and more essential particulars. Thus, the sperm whale and
the humpbacked whale, each has a hump; but there the similitude ceases.
Then this same humpbacked whale and the Greenland whale,
each of these has baleen; but there again the similitude ceases.
And it is just the same with the other parts above mentioned.
In various sorts of whales, they form such irregular combinations;
or, in the case of any one of them detached, such an irregular isolation;
as utterly to defy all general methodization formed upon such a basis.
On this rock every one of the whale-naturalists has split.
But it may possibly be conceived that, in the internal parts
of the whale, in his anatomy--there, at least, we shall
be able to hit the right classification. Nay; what thing,
for example, is there in the Greenland whale's anatomy more
striking than his baleen? Yet we have seen that by his baleen
it is impossible correctly to classify the Greenland whale.
And if you descend into the bowels of the various leviathans,
why there you will not find distinctions a fiftieth part as available
to the systematizer as those external ones already enumerated.
What then remains? nothing but to take hold of the whales bodily,
in their entire liberal volume, and boldly sort them that way.
And this is the Bibliographical system here adopted;
and it is the only one that can possibly succeed, for it alone
is practicable. To proceed.
BOOK I. (Folio) CHAPTER IV. (Hump Back).--This whale is often seen
on the northern American coast. He has been frequently captured there,
and towed into harbor. He has a great pack on him like a peddler;
or you might call him the Elephant and Castle whale. At any rate,
the popular name for him does not sufficiently distinguish him,
since the sperm whale also has a hump though a smaller one.
His oil is not very valuable. He has baleen. He is the most gamesome
and light-hearted of all the whales, making more gay foam and white
water generally than any other of them.
BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER V. ( Razor Back).--Of this whale
little is known but his name. I have seen him at a distance
off Cape Horn. Of a retiring nature, he eludes both hunters
and philosophers. Though no coward, he has never yet shown any
part of him but his back, which rises in a long sharp ridge.
Let him go. I know little more of him, nor does anybody else.
BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER VI. (Sulphur Bottom).--Another retiring
gentleman, with a brimstone belly, doubtless got by scraping along
the Tartarian tiles in some of his profounder divings. He is seldom seen;
at least I have never seen him except in the remoter southern seas,
and then always at too great a distance to study his countenance.
He is never chased; he would run away with rope-walks of line.
Prodigies are told of him. Adieu, Sulphur Bottom! I can say nothing
more that is true of ye, nor can the oldest Nantucketer.
Thus ends BOOK I. (Folio), and now begins BOOK II. (Octavo).
OCTAVOES.* These embrace the whales of middling magnitude,
among which at present may be numbered:--I., the Grampus; II., the
Black Fish; III., the Narwhale; IV., the Thrasher; V., the Killer.
*Why this book of whales is not denominated the Quarto is very plain.
Because, while the whales of this order, though smaller than those
of the former order, nevertheless retain a proportionate likeness
to them in figure, yet the bookbinder's Quarto volume in its
dimensioned form does not preserve the shape of the Folio volume,
but the Octavo volume does.
BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER I. (Grampus).--Though this fish,
whose loud sonorous breathing, or rather blowing,
has furnished a proverb to landsmen, is so well known a denizen
of the deep, yet is he not popularly classed among whales.
But possessing all the grand distinctive features of
the leviathan, most naturalists have recognised him for one.
He is of moderate octavo size, varying from fifteen to twenty-five
feet in length, and of corresponding dimensions round the waist.
He swims in herds; he is never regularly hunted, though his
oil is considerable in quantity, and pretty good for light.
By some fishermen his approach is regarded as premonitory
of the advance of the great sperm whale.
BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER II. (Black Fish).--I give the popular
fishermen's names for all these fish, for generally they are the best.
Where any name happens to be vague or inexpressive, I shall say so,
and suggest another. I do so now touching the Black Fish,
so called because blackness is the rule among almost
all whales. So, call him the Hyena Whale, if you please.
His voracity is well known and from the circumstance
that the inner angles of his lips are curved upwards,
he carries an everlasting Mephistophelean grin on his face.
This whale averages some sixteen or eighteen feet in length.
He is found in almost all latitudes. He has a peculiar way
of showing his dorsal hooked fin in swimming, which looks
something like a Roman nose. When not more profitably employed,
the sperm whale hunters sometimes capture the Hyena whale,
to keep up the supply of cheap oil for domestic employment--
as some frugal housekeepers, in the absence of company, and quite
alone by themselves, burn unsavory tallow instead of odorous wax.
Though their blubber is very thin, some of these whales will
yield you upwards of thirty gallons of oil.
BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER III. (Narwhale), that is, Nostril whale.--
Another instance of a curiously named whale, so named I suppose
from his peculiar horn being originally mistaken for a peaked nose.
The creature is some sixteen feet in length, while its horn averages
five feet, though some exceed ten, and even attain to fifteen feet.
Strictly speaking, this horn is but a lengthened tusk, growing out
from the jaw in a line a little depressed from the horizontal.
But it is only found on the sinister side, which has an ill effect,
giving its owner something analogous to the aspect of a clumsy
left-handed man. What precise purpose this ivory horn or lance answers,
it would be hard to say. It does not seem to be used like the blade
of the sword-fish and bill-fish; though some sailors tell me that
the Narwhale employs it for a rake in turning over the bottom of
the sea for food. Charley Coffin said it was used for an ice-piercer;
for the Narwhale, rising to the surface of the Polar Sea, and finding
it sheeted with ice, thrusts his horn up, and so breaks through.
But you cannot prove either of these surmises to be correct.
My own opinion is, that however this one-sided horn may really
be used by the Narwhale--however that may be--it would certainly
be very convenient to him for a folder in reading pamphlets.
The Narwhale I have heard called the Tusked whale, the Horned whale,
and the Unicorn whale. He is certainly a curious example of the
Unicornism to be found in almost every kingdom of animated nature.
From certain cloistered old authors I have gathered that this same
sea-unicorn's horn was in ancient days regarded as the great antidote
against poison, and as such, preparations of it brought immense prices.
It was also distilled to a volatile salts for fainting ladies the same
way that the horns of the male deer are manufactured into hartshorn.
Originally it was in itself accounted an object of great curiosity.
Black Letter tells me that Sir Martin Frobisher on his return from that
voyage, when Queen Bess did gallantly wave her jewelled hand to him from
a window of Greenwich Palace, as his bold ship sailed down the Thames;
"when Sir Martin returned from that voyage," saith Black Letter,
"on bended knees he presented to her highness a prodigious long horn
of the Narwhale, which for a long period after hung in the castle
at Windsor." An Irish author avers that the Earl of Leicester,
on bended knees, did likewise present to her highness another horn,
pertaining to a land beast of the unicorn nature.
The Narwhale has a very picturesque, leopard-like look, being of a
milk-white ground color, dotted with round and oblong spots of black.
His oil is very superior, clear and fine; but there is little of it,
and he is seldom hunted. He is mostly found in the circumpolar seas.
BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER IV. (Killer).--Of this whale
little is precisely known to the Nantucketer, and nothing
at all to the professed naturalists. From what I have seen
of him at a distance, I should say that he was about the bigness
of a grampus. He is very savage--a sort of Feegee fish.
He sometimes takes the great Folio whales by the lip, and hangs
there like a leech, till the mighty brute is worried to death.
The Killer is never hunted. I never heard what sort of oil he has.
Exception might be taken to the name bestowed upon this whale,
on the ground of its indistinctness. For we are all killers,
on land and on sea; Bonapartes and Sharks included.
BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER V. (Thrasher).--This gentleman is famous for
his tail which he uses for a ferule in thrashing his foes. He mounts the
Folio whale's back, and as he swims, he works his passage by flogging him;
as some schoolmasters get along in the world by a similar process.
Still less is known of the Thrasher than of the Killer. Both are outlaws,
even in the lawless seas.
Thus ends BOOK II. (Octavo), and begins BOOK III, (Duodecimo.)
DUODECIMOES.--These include the smaller whales. I. The Huzza Porpoise.
II. The Algerine Porpoise. III. The Mealy-mouthed Porpoise.
To those who have not chanced specially to study the subject,
it may possibly seem strange, that fishes not commonly exceeding
four or five feet should be marshalled among WHALES--a word,
which, in the popular sense, always conveys an idea of hugeness.
But the creatures set down above as Duodecimoes are infallibly whales,
by the terms of my definition of what a whale is--i.e. a spouting fish,
with a horizontal tail.
BOOK III. (Duodecimo), CHAPTER 1. (Huzza Porpoise).--This is
the common porpoise found almost all over the globe. The name is
of my own bestowal; for there are more than one sort of porpoises,
and something must be done to distinguish them. I call him thus,
because he always swims in hilarious shoals, which upon the broad sea
keep tossing themselves to heaven like caps in a Fourth-of-July crowd.
Their appearance is generally hailed with delight by the mariner.
Full of fine spirits, they invariably come from the breezy billows
to windward. They are the lads that always live before the wind.
They are accounted a lucky omen. If you yourself can withstand
three cheers at beholding these vivacious fish, then heaven help ye;
the spirit of godly gamesomeness is not in ye. A well-fed, plump
Huzza Porpoise will yield you one good gallon of good oil.
But the fine and delicate fluid extracted from his jaws is
exceedingly valuable. It is in request among jewellers and watchmakers.
Sailors put it on their hones. Porpoise meat is good eating, you know.
It may never have occurred to you that a porpoise spouts.
Indeed, his spout is so small that it is not very readily discernible.
But the next time you have a chance, watch him; and you will then
see the great Sperm whale himself in miniature.
BOOK III. (Duodecimo), CHAPTER II. (Algerine Porpoise).--A pirate.
Very savage. He is only found, I think, in the Pacific. He is somewhat
larger than the Huzza Porpoise, but much of the same general make.
Provoke him, and he will buckle to a shark. I have lowered for him
many times, but never yet saw him captured.
BOOK III. (Duodecimo), CHAPTER III. (Mealy-mouthed Porpoise).--The
largest kind of Porpoise; and only found in the Pacific, so far
as it is known. The only English name, by which he has hitherto
been designated, is that of the fisher--Right-Whale Porpoise,
from the circumstance that he is chiefly found in the vicinity of
that Folio. In shape, he differs in some degree from the Huzza Porpoise,
being of a less rotund and jolly girth; indeed, he is of quite
a neat and gentleman-like figure. He has no fins on his back
(most other porpoises have), he has a lovely tail, and sentimental
Indian eyes of a hazel hue. But his mealy-mouth spoils all.
Though his entire back down to his side fins is of a deep sable,
yet a boundary line, distinct as the mark in a ship's hull,
called the "bright waist," that line streaks him from stem
to stern, with two separate colors, black above and white below.
The white comprises part of his head, and the whole of his mouth,
which makes him look as if he had just escaped from a
felonious visit to a meal-bag. A most mean and mealy aspect!
His oil is much like that of the common porpoise.
Beyond the DUODECIMO, this system does not proceed,
inasmuch as the Porpoise is the smallest of the whales.
Above, you have all the Leviathans of note. But there are a rabble
of uncertain, fugitive, half-fabulous whales, which, as an
American whaleman, I know by reputation, but not personally.
I shall enumerate them by their fore-castle appellations;
for possibly such a list may be valuable to future investigators,
who may complete what I have here but begun. If any of
the following whales, shall hereafter be caught and marked,
then he can readily be incorporated into this System,
according to his Folio, Octavo, or Duodecimo magnitude:--
The Bottle-Nose Whale; the Junk Whale; the Pudding-Headed Whale;
the Cape Whale; the Leading Whale; the Cannon Whale; the Scragg Whale;
the Coppered Whale; the Elephant Whale; the Iceberg Whale;
the Quog Whale; the Blue Whale; &c. From Icelandic, Dutch,
and old English authorities, there might be quoted other lists
of uncertain whales, blessed with all manner of uncouth names.
But I omit them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly help
suspecting them for mere sounds, full of Leviathanism,
but signifying nothing.
Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this system would not
be here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I
have kept my word. But I now leave my cetological System standing
thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left,
with the cranes still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower.
For small erections may be finished by their first architects;
grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity.
God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole
book is but a draught--nay, but the draught of a draught.
Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!
Concerning the officers of the whale-craft, this seems as good a place
as any to set down a little domestic peculiarity on ship-board,
arising from the existence of the harpooneer class of officers,
a class unknown of course in any other marine than the whale-fleet.
The large importance attached to the harpooneer's vocation is
evinced by the fact, that originally in the old Dutch Fishery,
two centuries and more ago, the command of a whale-ship was not
wholly lodged in the person now called the captain, but was divided
between him and an officer called the Specksynder. Literally this
word means Fat-Cutter; usage, however, in time made it equivalent
to Chief Harpooneer. In those days, the captain's authority was
restricted to the navigation and general management of the vessel;
while over the whale-hunting department and all its concerns,
the Specksynder or Chief Harpooneer reigned supreme.
In the British Greenland Fishery, under the corrupted title
of Specksioneer, this old Dutch official is still retained,
but his former dignity is sadly abridged. At present he ranks simply
as senior Harpooneer; and as such, is but one of the captain's
more inferior subalterns. Nevertheless, as upon the good conduct
of the harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely depends,
and since in the American Fishery he is not only an important
officer in the boat, but under certain circumstances (night watches
on a whaling ground) the command of the ship's deck is also his;
therefore the grand political maxim of the sea demands,
that he should nominally live apart from the men before the mast,
and be in some way distinguished as their professional superior;
though always, by them, familiarly regarded as their social equal.
Now, the grand distinction drawn between officer and man
at sea, is this--the first lives aft, the last forward.
Hence, in whale-ships and merchantmen alike, the mates have their
quarters with the captain; and so, too, in most of the American
whalers the harpooneers are lodged in the after part of the ship.
That is to say, they take their meals in the captain's cabin,
and sleep in a place indirectly communicating with it.
Though the long period of a Southern whaling voyage
(by far the longest of all voyages now or ever made by man),
the peculiar perils of it, and the community of interest
prevailing among a company, all of whom, high or low, depend for
their profits, not upon fixed wages, but upon their common luck,
together with their common vigilance, intrepidity, and hard work;
though all these things do in some cases tend to beget a less
rigorous discipline than in merchantmen generally; yet, never mind
how much like an old Mesopotamian family these whalemen may,
in some primitive instances, live together; for all that,
the punctilious externals, at least, of the quarter-deck
are seldom materially relaxed, and in no instance done away.
Indeed, many are the Nantucket ships in which you will see
the skipper parading his quarter-deck with an elated grandeur
not surpassed in any military navy; nay, extorting almost
as much outward homage as if he wore the imperial purple,
and not the shabbiest of pilot-cloth.
And though of all men the moody captain of the Pequod
was the least given to that sort of shallowest assumption;
and though the only homage he ever exacted, was implicit,
instantaneous obedience; though he required no man to remove
the shoes from his feet ere stepping upon the quarter-deck;
and though there were times when, owing to peculiar circumstances
connected with events hereafter to be detailed, he addressed
them in unusual terms, whether of condescension or in terrorem,
or otherwise; yet even Captain Ahab was by no means unobservant
of the paramount forms and usages of the sea.
Nor, perhaps, will it fail to be eventually perceived, that behind
those forms and usages, as it were, he sometimes masked himself;
incidentally making use of them for other and more private
ends than they were legitimately intended to subserve.
That certain sultanism of his brain, which had otherwise in a
good degree remained unmanifested; through those forms that same
sultanism became incarnate in an irresistible dictatorship.
For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will, it can
never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men,
without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments,
always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base.
This it is, that for ever keeps God's true princes of the Empire
from the world's hustings; and leaves the highest honors that this
air can give, to those men who become famous more through their
infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert,
than through their undoubted superiority over the dead level
of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when
extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal
instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency.
But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown
of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian
herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization.
Nor, will the tragic dramatist who would depict mortal indomitableness
in its fullest sweep and direct swing, ever forget a hint,
incidentally so important in his art, as the one now alluded to.
But Ahab, my Captain, still moves before me in all his Nantucket
grimness and shagginess; and in this episode touching Emperors
and Kings, I must not conceal that I have only to do with a poor old
whale-hunter like him; and, therefore, all outward majestical trappings
and housings are denied me. Oh, Ahab! what shall be grand in thee,
it must needs be plucked at from the skies, and dived for in the deep,
and featured in the unbodied air!
It is noon; and Dough-Boy, the steward, thrusting his pale loaf-of-bread
face from the cabin-scuttle, announces dinner to his lord and master who,
sitting in the lee quarter-boat, has just been taking an observation
of the sun; and is now mutely reckoning the latitude on the smooth,
medallion-shaped tablet, reserved for that daily purpose on the upper
part of his ivory leg. From his complete inattention to the tidings,
you would think that moody Ahab had not heard his menial. But presently,
catching hold of the mizen shrouds, he swings himself to the deck,
and in an even, unexhilarated voice, saying, "Dinner, Mr. Starbuck,"
disappears into the cabin.
When the last echo of his sultan's step has died away, and Starbuck,
the first Emir, has every reason to suppose that he is seated,
then Starbuck rouses from his quietude, takes a few turns along
the planks, and, after a grave peep into the binnacle, says, with some
touch of pleasantness, "Dinner, Mr. Stubb," and descends the scuttle.
The second Emir lounges about the rigging awhile, and then slightly
shaking the main brace, to see whether it will be all right with that
important rope, he likewise takes up the old burden, and with a rapid
"Dinner, Mr. Flask," follows after his predecessors.
But the third Emir, now seeing himself all alone on the quarter-deck,
seems to feel relieved from some curious restraint; for, tipping all
sorts of knowing winks in all sorts of directions, and kicking off
his shoes, he strikes into a sharp but noiseless squall of a hornpipe
right over the Grand Turk's head; and then, by a dexterous sleight,
pitching his cap up into the mizentop for a shelf, he goes down
rollicking so far at least as he remains visible from the deck,
reversing all other processions, by bringing up the rear with music.
But ere stepping into the cabin doorway below, he pauses,
ships a new face altogether, and, then, independent, hilarious little
Flask enters King Ahab's presence, in the character of Abjectus,
or the Slave.
It is not the least among the strange things bred by the intense
artificialness of sea-usages, that while in the open air of the deck
some officers will, upon provocation, bear themselves boldly
and defyingly enough towards their commander; yet, ten to one,
let those very officers the next moment go down to their
customary dinner in that same commander's cabin, and straightway
their inoffensive, not to say deprecatory and humble air towards him,
as he sits at the head of the table; this is marvellous,
sometimes most comical. Wherefore this difference? A problem?
Perhaps not. To have been Belshazzar, King of Babylon;
and to have been Belshazzar, not haughtily but courteously,
therein certainly must have been some touch of mundane grandeur.
But he who in the rightly regal and intelligent spirit presides
over his own private dinner-table of invited guests, that man's
unchallenged power and dominion of individual influence for the time;
that man's royalty of state transcends Belshazzar's, for Belshazzar
was not the greatest. Who has but once dined his friends, has tasted
what it is to be Caesar. It is a witchery of social czarship
which there is no withstanding. Now, if to this consideration
you super-add the official supremacy of a ship-master, then,
by inference, you will derive the cause of that peculiarity
of sea-life just mentioned.
Over his ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned sea-lion
on the white coral beach, surrounded by his war-like but still
deferential cubs. In his own proper turn, each officer waited
to be served. They were as little children before Ahab; and yet,
in Ahab, there seemed not to lurk the smallest social arrogance.
With one mind, their intent eyes all fastened upon the old man's knife,
as he carved the chief dish before him. I do not suppose that for the
world they would have profaned that moment with the slightest observation,
even upon so neutral a topic as the weather. No! And when reaching
out his knife and fork, between which the slice of beef was locked,
Ahab thereby motioned Starbuck's plate towards him, the mate
received his meat as though receiving alms; and cut it tenderly;
and a little started if, perchance, the knife grazed against the plate;
and chewed it noiselessly; and swallowed it, not without circumspection.
For, like the Coronation banquet at Frankfort, where the German Emperor
profoundly dines with the seven Imperial Electors, so these cabin
meals were somehow solemn meals, eaten in awful silence; and yet at
table old Ahab forbade not conversation; only he himself was dumb.
What a relief it was to choking Stubb, when a rat made a sudden
racket in the hold below. And poor little Flask, he was
the youngest son, and little boy of this weary family party.
His were the shin-bones of the saline beef; his would have been
the drumsticks. For Flask to have presumed to help himself,
this must have seemed to him tantamount to larceny in the first degree.
Had he helped himself at that table, doubtless, never more would
he have been able to hold his head up in this honest world;
nevertheless, strange to say, Ahab never forbade him. And had Flask
helped himself, the chances were Ahab had never so much as noticed it.
Least of all, did Flask presume to help himself to butter.
Whether he thought the owners of the ship denied it to him,
on account of its clotting his clear, sunny complexion; or whether
he deemed that, on so long a voyage in such marketless waters,
butter was at a premium, and therefore was not for him, a subaltern;
however it was, Flask, alas! was a butterless man!
Another thing. Flask was the last person down at the dinner,
and Flask is the first man up. Consider! For hereby Flask's
dinner was badly jammed in point of time. Starbuck and Stubb
both had the start of him; and yet they also have the privilege
of lounging in the rear. If Stubb even, who is but a peg higher
than Flask, happens to have but a small appetite, and soon shows
symptoms of concluding his repast, then Flask must bestir himself,
he will not get more than three mouthfuls that day; for it
is against holy usage for Stubb to precede Flask to the deck.
Therefore it was that Flask once admitted in private,
that ever since he had arisen to the dignity of an officer,
from that moment he had never known what it was to be otherwise
than hungry, more or less. For what he ate did not so much relieve
his hunger, as keep it immortal in him. Peace and satisfaction,
thought Flask, have for ever departed from my stomach.
I am an officer; but, how I wish I could fist a bit of old-fashioned
beef in the fore-castle, as I used to when I was before the mast.
There's the fruits of promotion now; there's the vanity of glory:
there's the insanity of life! Besides, if it were so that
any mere sailor of the Pequod had a grudge against Flask
in Flask's official capacity, all that sailor had to do,
in order to obtain ample vengeance, was to go aft at dinnertime,
and get a peep at Flask through the cabin sky-light, sitting
silly and dumfoundered before awful Ahab.
Now, Ahab and his three mates formed what may be called the first
table in the Pequod's cabin. After their departure, taking place
in inverted order to their arrival, the canvas cloth was cleared,
or rather was restored to some hurried order by the pallid steward.
And then the three harpooneers were bidden to the feast, they being
its residuary legatees. They made a sort of temporary servants'
hall of the high and mighty cabin.
In strange contrast to the hardly tolerable constraint
and nameless invisible domineerings of the captain's table,
was the entire care-free license and ease, the almost frantic
democracy of those inferior fellows the harpooneers.
While their masters, the mates, seemed afraid of the sound
of the hinges of their own jaws, the harpooneers chewed
their food with such a relish that there was a report to it.
They dined like lords; they filled their bellies like Indian
ships all day loading with spices. Such portentous appetites
had Queequeg and Tashtego, that to fill out the vacancies made
by the previous repast, often the pale Dough-Boy was fain to bring
on a great baron of salt-junk, seemingly quarried out of the solid ox.
And if he were not lively about it, if he did not go with a
nimble hop-skip-and-jump, then Tashtego had an ungentlemanly
way of accelerating him by darting a fork at his back,
harpoon-wise. And once Daggoo, seized with a sudden humor,
assisted Dough-Boy's memory by snatching him up bodily,
and thrusting his head into a great empty wooden trencher,
while Tashtego, knife in hand, began laying out the circle
preliminary to scalping him. He was naturally a very nervous,
shuddering sort of little fellow, this bread-faced steward;