Part 9 out of 12
whaling laws previously quoted, and applied and elucidated
by Lord Ellenborough in the above cited case; these two laws
touching Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish, I say, will on reflection,
be found the fundamentals of all human jurisprudence;
For notwithstanding its complicated tracery of sculpture,
the Temple of the Law, like the Temple of the Philistines,
has but two props to stand on.
Is it not a saying in every one's mouth, Possession is half of the law:
that is, regardless of how the thing came into possession?
But often possession is the whole of the law. What are the sinews
and souls of Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish,
whereof possession is the whole of the law? What to the rapacious
landlord is the widow's last mite but a Fast-Fish? What is yonder
undetected villain's marble mansion with a doorplate for a waif;
what is that but a Fast-Fish? What is the ruinous discount
which Mordecai, the broker, gets from the poor Woebegone,
the bankrupt, on a loan to keep Woebegone's family from starvation;
what is that ruinous discount but a Fast-Fish? What is the Archbishop
of Savesoul's income of 100,000 pounds seized from the scant bread
and cheese of hundreds of thousands of broken-backed laborers
(all sure of heaven without any of Savesoul's help) what is that globular
100,000 but a Fast-Fish. What are the Duke of Dunder's hereditary towns
and hamlets but Fast-Fish? What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull,
is poor Ireland, but a Fast-Fish? What to that apostolic lancer,
Brother Jonathan, is Texas but a Fast-Fish? And concerning all these,
is not Possession the whole of the law?
But if the doctrine of Fast-Fish be pretty generally applicable,
the kindred doctrine of Loose-Fish is still more widely so.
That is internationally and universally applicable.
What was America in 1492 but a Loose-Fish, in which Columbus
struck the Spanish standard by way of wailing it for his royal
master and mistress? What was Poland to the Czar? What Greece
to the Turk? What India to England? What at last will Mexico
be to the United States? All Loose-Fish.
What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but
Loose-Fish? What all men's minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What
is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What
to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers
but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And
what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?
Heads or Tails
"De balena vero sufficit, si rex habeat caput, et regina caudam."
BRACTON, L. 3, C. 3.
Latin from the books of the Laws of England, which taken along with
the context, means, that of all whales captured by anybody on the coast
of that land, the King, as Honorary Grand Harpooneer, must have
the head, and the Queen be respectfully presented with the tail.
A division which, in the whale, is much like halving an apple; there is
no intermediate remainder. Now as this law, under a modified form,
is to this day in force in England; and as it offers in various respects
a strange anomaly touching the general law of Fast--and Loose-Fish,
it is here treated of in a separate chapter, on the same courteous
principle that prompts the English railways to be at the expense of a
separate car, specially reserved for the accommodation of royalty.
In the first place, in curious proof of the fact that the above-mentioned
law is still in force, I proceed to lay before you a circumstance-that
happened within the last two years.
It seems that some honest mariners of Dover, or Sandwich,
or some one of the Cinque Ports, had after a hard chase succeeded
in killing and beaching a fine whale which they had originally
descried afar off from the shore. Now the Cinque Ports are
partially or somehow under the jurisdiction of a sort of policeman
or beadle, called a Lord Warden. Holding the office directly
from the crown, I believe, all the royal emoluments incident
to the Cinque Port territories become by assignment his.
By some writers this office is called a sinecure. But not so.
Because the Lord Warden is busily employed at times in fobbing
his perquisites; which are his chiefly by virtue of that same
fobbing of them.
Now when these poor sun-burnt mariners, bare-footed, and with their
trowsers rolled high up on their eely legs, had wearily hauled
their fat fish high and dry, promising themselves a good 150 pounds
from the precious oil and bone; and in fantasy sipping rare tea
with their wives, and good ale with their cronies, upon the strength
of their respective shares; up steps a very learned and most Christian
and charitable gentleman, with a copy of Blackstone under his arm;
and laying it upon the whale's head, he says--"Hands off! this fish,
my masters, is a Fast-Fish. I seize it as the Lord Warden's." Upon this
the poor mariners in their respectful consternation--so truly English--
knowing not what to say, fall to vigorously scratching their heads
all round; meanwhile ruefully glancing from the whale to the stranger.
But that did in nowise mend the matter, or at all soften the hard heart
of the learned gentleman with the copy of Blackstone. At length one
of them, after long scratching about for his ideas, made bold to speak,
"Please, sir, who is the Lord Warden?"
"But the duke had nothing to do with taking this fish?"
"It is his."
"We have been at great trouble, and peril, and some expense,
and is all that to go to the Duke's benefit; we getting nothing
at all for our pains but our blisters?"
"It is his."
"Is the Duke so very poor as to be forced to this desperate mode
of getting a livelihood?"
"It is his."
"I thought to relieve my old bed-ridden mother by part of my share
of this whale."
"It is his."
"Won't the Duke be content with a quarter or a half?"
"It is his."
In a word, the whale was seized and sold, and his Grace the Duke of
Wellington received the money. Thinking that viewed in some particular
lights, the case might by a bare possibility in some small degree
be deemed, under the circumstances, a rather hard one, an honest clergyman
of the town respectfully addressed a note to his Grace, begging him
to take the case of those unfortunate mariners into full consideration.
To which my Lord Duke in substance replied (both letters were published)
that he had already done so, and received the money, and would be obliged
to the reverend gentleman if for the future he (the reverend gentleman)
would decline meddling with other people's business. Is this the still
militant old man, standing at the corners of the three kingdoms,
on all hands coercing alms of beggars?
It will readily be seen that in this case the alleged right of the Duke
to the whale was a delegated one from the Sovereign. We must needs
inquire then on what principle the Sovereign is originally invested
with that right. The law itself has already been set forth.
But Plowdon gives us the reason for it. Says Plowdon, the whale so caught
belongs to the King and Queen, "because of its superior excellence."
And by the soundest commentators this has ever been held a cogent
argument in such matters.
But why should the King have the head, and the Queen the tail?
A reason for that, ye lawyers!
In his treatise on "Queen-Gold," or Queen-pin-money, an old
King's Bench author, one William Prynne, thus discourseth:
"Ye tail is ye Queen's, that ye Queen's wardrobe may be supplied
with ye whalebone." Now this was written at a time when the black
limber bone of the Greenland or Right whale was largely used
in ladies' bodices. But this same bone is not in the tail;
it is in the head, which is a sad mistake for a sagacious lawyer
like Prynne. But is the Queen a mermaid, to be presented with a tail?
An allegorical meaning may lurk here.
There are two royal fish so styled by the English law writers--
the whale and the sturgeon; both royal property under certain limitations,
and nominally supplying the tenth branch of the crown's ordinary revenue.
I know not that any other author has hinted of the matter;
but by inference it seems to me that the sturgeon must be divided
in the same way as the whale, the King receiving the highly dense
and elastic head peculiar to that fish, which, symbolically regarded,
may possibly be humorously grounded upon some presumed congeniality.
And thus there seems a reason in all things, even in law.
The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud
"In vain it was to rake for Ambergriese in the paunch
of this Leviathan, insufferable fetor denying not inquiry."
SIR T. BROWNE, V. E.
It was a week or two after the last whaling scene recounted,
and when we were slowly sailing over a sleepy, vapory,
mid-day sea, that the many noses on the Pequod's deck proved
more vigilant discoverers than the three pairs of eyes aloft.
A peculiar and not very pleasant smell was smelt in the sea.
"I will bet something now," said Stubb, "that somewhere hereabouts
are some of those drugged whales we tickled the other day.
I thought they would keel up before long."
Presently, the vapors in advance slid aside; and there in the distance
lay a ship, whose furled sails betokened that some sort of whale must
be alongside. As we glided nearer, the stranger showed French colors
from his peak; and by the eddying cloud of vulture sea-fowl that circled,
and hovered, and swooped around him, it was plain that the whale alongside
must be what the fishermen call a blasted whale, that is, a whale that has
died unmolested on the sea, and so floated an unappropriated corpse.
It may well be conceived, what an unsavory odor such a mass must exhale;
worse than an Assyrian city in the plague, when the living are incompetent
to bury the departed. So intolerable indeed is it regarded by some,
that no cupidity could persuade them to moor alongside of it.
Yet are there those who will still do it; notwithstanding the fact
that the oil obtained from such subjects is of a very inferior quality,
and by no means of the nature of attar-of-rose.
Coming still nearer with the expiring breeze, we saw
that the Frenchman had a second whale alongside; and this
second whale seemed even more of a nosegay than the first.
In truth, it turned out to be one of those problematical whales
that seem to dry up and die with a sort of prodigious dyspepsia,
or indigestion; leaving their defunct bodies almost entirely
bankrupt of anything like oil. Nevertheless, in the proper
place we shall see that no knowing fisherman will ever turn
up his nose at such a whale as this, however much he may shun
blasted whales in general.
The Pequod had now swept so nigh to the stranger, that Stubb
vowed he recognized his cutting spade-pole entangled in the lines
that were knotted round the tail of one of these whales.
"There's a pretty fellow, now," he banteringly laughed,
standing in the ship's bows, "there's a jackal for ye!
I well know that these Crappoes of Frenchmen are but poor devils
in the fishery; sometimes lowering their boats for breakers,
mistaking them for Sperm Whale spouts; yes, and sometimes sailing
from their port with their hold full of boxes of tallow candles,
and cases of snuffers, foreseeing that all the oil they will get won't
be enough to dip the Captain's wick into; aye, we all know these things;
but look ye, here's a Crappo that is content with our leavings,
the drugged whale there, I mean; aye, and is content too with
scraping the dry bones of that other precious fish he has there.
Poor devil! I say, pass round a hat, some one, and let's
make him a present of a little oil for dear charity's sake.
For what oil he'll get from that drugged whale there,
wouldn't be fit to burn in a jail; no, not in a condemned cell.
And as for the other whale, why, I'll agree to get more oil by
chopping up and trying out these three masts of ours, than he'll
get from that bundle of bones; though, now that I think of it,
it may contain something worth a good deal more than oil;
yes, ambergris. I wonder now if our old man has thought of that.
It's worth trying. Yes, I'm for it;" and so saying he started
for the quarter-deck.
By this time the faint air had become a complete calm; so that
whether or no, the Pequod was now fairly entrapped in the smell,
with no hope of escaping except by its breezing up again.
Issuing from the cabin, Stubb now called his boat's crew,
and pulled off for the stranger. Drawing across her bow,
he perceived that in accordance with the fanciful French taste,
the upper part of her stem-piece was carved in the likeness
of a huge drooping stalk, was painted green, and for thorns
had copper spikes projecting from it here and there; the whole
terminating in a symmetrical folded bulb of a bright red color.
Upon her head boards, in large gilt letters, he read "Bouton
de Rose,"--Rose-button, or Rose-bud; and this was the romantic
name of this aromatic ship.
Though Stubb did not understand the Bouton part of the inscription,
yet the word rose, and the bulbous figure-head put together,
sufficiently explained the whole to him.
"A wooden rose-bud, eh?" he cried with his hand to his nose,
"that will do very well; but how like all creation it smells!"
Now in order to hold direct communication with the people on deck,
he had to pull round the bows to the starboard side, and thus come
close to the blasted whale; and so talk over it.
Arrived then at this spot, with one hand still to his nose,
he bawled--"Bouton-de-Rose, ahoy! are there any of you
Bouton-de-Roses that speak English?"
"Yes," rejoined a Guernsey-man from the bulwarks, who turned
out to be the chief-mate.
"Well, then, my Bouton-de-Rose-bud, have you seen the White Whale?"
"The White Whale--a Sperm Whale--Moby Dick, have ye seen him?
"Never heard of such a whale. Cachalot Blanche! White Whale--no."
"Very good, then; good bye now, and I'll call again in a minute."
Then rapidly pulling back towards the Pequod, and seeing Ahab leaning
over the quarter-deck rail awaiting his report, he moulded his two hands
into a trumpet and shouted--"No, Sir! No!" Upon which Ahab retired,
and Stubb returned to the Frenchman.
He now perceived that the Guernsey-man, who had just got into the chains,
and was using a cutting-spade, had slung his nose in a sort of bag.
"What's the matter with your nose, there?" said Stubb. "Broke it?"
"I wish it was broken, or that I didn't have any nose at all!"
answered the Guernsey-man, who did not seem to relish the job
he was at very much. "But what are you holding yours for?"
"Oh, nothing! It's a wax nose; I have to hold it on.
Fine day, ain't it? Air rather gardenny, I should say;
throw us a bunch of posies, will ye, Bouton-de-Rose?"
"What in the devil's name do you want here?" roared the Guernseyman,
flying into a sudden passion.
"Oh! keep cool--cool? yes, that's the word! why don't you
pack those whales in ice while you're working at 'em?
But joking aside, though; do you know, Rose-bud, that it's
all nonsense trying to get any oil out of such whales?
As for that dried up one, there, he hasn't a gill in
his whole carcase."
"I know that well enough; but, d'ye see, the Captain here won't believe
it; this is his first voyage; he was a Cologne manufacturer before.
But come aboard, and mayhap he'll believe you, if he won't me;
and so I'll get out of this dirty scrape."
"Anything to oblige ye, my sweet and pleasant fellow,"
rejoined Stubb, and with that he soon mounted to the deck.
There a queer scene presented itself. The sailors,
in tasselled caps of red worsted, were getting the heavy tackles
in readiness for the whales. But they worked rather slow
and talked very fast, and seemed in anything but a good humor.
All their noses upwardly projected from their faces like
so many jibbooms. Now and then pairs of them would drop
their work, and run up to the mast-head to get some fresh air.
Some thinking they would catch the plague, dipped oakum
in coal-tar, and at intervals held it to their nostrils.
Others having broken the stems of their pipes almost short off
at the bowl, were vigorously puffing tobacco-smoke, so that it
constantly filled their olfactories.
Stubb was struck by a shower of outcries and anathemas proceeding
from the Captain's round-house abaft; and looking in that direction
saw a fiery face thrust from behind the door, which was held ajar
from within. This was the tormented surgeon, who, after in vain
remonstrating against the proceedings of the day, had betaken
himself to the Captain's round-house (cabinet he called it)
to avoid the pest; but still, could not help yelling out his
entreaties and indignations at times.
Marking all this, Stubb argued well for his scheme, and turning to
the Guernsey-man had a little chat with him, during which the stranger
mate expressed his detestation of his Captain as a conceited ignoramus,
who had brought them all into so unsavory and unprofitable a pickle.
Sounding him carefully, Stubb further perceived that the Guernsey-man
had not the slightest suspicion concerning the ambergris.
He therefore held his peace on that head, but otherwise was quite
frank and confidential with him, so that the two quickly concocted
a little plan for both circumventing and satirizing the Captain,
without his at all dreaming of distrusting their sincerity.
According to this little plan of theirs, the Guernsey-man, under cover
of an interpreter's office, was to tell the Captain what he pleased,
but as coming from Stubb; and as for Stubb, he was to utter any nonsense
that should come uppermost in him during the interview.
By this time their destined victim appeared from his cabin.
He was a small and dark, but rather delicate looking man
for a sea-captain, with large whiskers and moustache, however;
and wore a red cotton velvet vest with watch-seals at his side.
To this gentleman, Stubb was now politely introduced by
the Guernsey-man, who at once ostentatiously put on the aspect
of interpreting between them.
"What shall I say to him first?" said he.
"Why," said Stubb, eyeing the velvet vest and the watch and seals,
"you may as well begin by telling him that he looks a sort of babyish
to me, though I don't pretend to be a judge."
"He says, Monsieur," said the Guernsey-man, in French,
turning to his captain, "that only yesterday his ship spoke
a vessel, whose captain and chief-mate, with six sailors,
had all died of a fever caught from a blasted whale they
had brought alongside."
Upon this the captain started, and eagerly desired to know more.
"What now?" said the Guernsey-man to Stubb.
"Why, since he takes it so easy, tell him that now I
have eyed him carefully, I'm quite certain that he's no
more fit to command a whale-ship than a St. Jago monkey.
In fact, tell him from me he's a baboon."
"He vows and declares, Monsieur, that the other whale,
the dried one, is far more deadly than the blasted one;
in fine, Monsieur, he conjures us, as we value our lives,
to cut loose from these fish."
Instantly the captain ran forward, and in a loud voice commanded
his crew to desist from hoisting the cutting-tackles, and at once
cast loose the cables and chains confining the whales to the ship.
"What now?" said the Guernsey-man, when the Captain had returned to them.
"Why, let me see; yes, you may as well tell him now that--that--in fact,
tell him I've diddled him, and (aside to himself) perhaps somebody else."
"He says, Monsieur, that he's very happy to have been of any
service to us."
Hearing this, the captain vowed that they were the grateful parties
(meaning himself and mate), and concluded by inviting Stubb down into
his cabin to drink a bottle of Bordeaux.
"He wants you to take a glass of wine with him," said the interpreter.
"Thank him heartily; but tell him it's against my principles to drink
with the man I've diddled. In fact, tell him I must go."
"He says, Monsieur, that his principles won't admit of his drinking;
but that if Monsieur wants to live another day to drink, then Monsieur
had best drop all four boats, and pull the ship away from these whales,
for it's so calm they won't drift."
By this time Stubb was over the side, and getting into his boat,
hailed the Guernsey-man to this effect,--that having a long
tow-line in his boat, he would do what he could to help them,
by pulling out the lighter whale of the two from the ship's side.
While the Frenchman's boats, then, were engaged in towing the ship
one way, Stubb benevolently towed away at his whale the other way,
ostentatiously slacking out a most unusually long tow-line.
Presently a breeze sprang up; Stubb feigned to cast off from the whale;
hoisting his boats, the Frenchman soon increased his distance,
while the Pequod slid in between him and Stubb's whale.
Whereupon Stubb quickly pulled to the floating body, and hailing
the Pequod to give notice of his intentions, at once proceeded to reap
the fruit of his unrighteous cunning. Seizing his sharp boat-spade,
he commenced an excavation in the body, a little behind the side fin.
You would almost have thought he was digging a cellar there in the sea;
and when at length his spade struck against the gaunt ribs, it was
like turning up old Roman tiles and pottery buried in fat English loam.
His boat's crew were all in high excitement, eagerly helping their chief,
and looking as anxious as gold-hunters.
And all the time numberless fowls were diving, and ducking,
and screaming, and yelling, and fighting around them.
Stubb was beginning to look disappointed, especially as the horrible
nosegay increased, when suddenly from out the very heart of
this plague, there stole a faint stream of perfume, which flowed
through the tide of bad smells without being absorbed by it,
as one river will flow into and then along with another,
without at all blending with it for a time.
"I have it, I have it," cried Stubb, with delight, striking something
in the subterranean regions, "a purse! a purse!"
Dropping his spade, he thrust both hands in, and drew out
handfuls of something that looked like ripe Windsor soap,
or rich mottled old cheese; very unctuous and savory withal.
You might easily dent it with your thumb; it is of a hue
between yellow and ash color. And this, good friends,
is ambergris, worth a gold guinea an ounce to any druggist.
Some six handfuls were obtained; but more was unavoidably lost
in the sea, and still more, perhaps, might have been secured
were it not for impatient Ahab's loud command to Stubb to desist,
and come on board, else the ship would bid them good-bye.
Now this ambergris is a very curious substance, and so important as an
article of commerce, that in 1791 a certain Nantucket-born Captain Coffin
was examined at the bar of the English House of Commons on that subject.
For at that time, and indeed until a comparatively late day,
the precise origin of ambergris remained, like amber itself,
a problem to the learned. Though the word ambergris is but the French
compound for grey amber, yet the two substances are quite distinct.
For amber, though at times found on the sea-coast, is also dug up in some
far inland soils, whereas ambergris is never found except upon the sea.
Besides, amber is a hard, transparent, brittle, odorless substance,
used for mouth-pieces to pipes, for beads and ornaments; but ambergris
is soft, waxy, and so highly fragrant and spicy, that it is largely used
in perfumery, in pastiles, precious candles, hair-powders, and pomatum.
The Turks use it in cooking, and also carry it to Mecca, for the same
purpose that frankincense is carried to St. Peter's in Rome. Some wine
merchants drop a few grains into claret, to flavor it.
Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen should
regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels
of a sick whale! Yet so it is. By some, ambergris is supposed to be
the cause, and by others the effect, of the dyspepsia in the whale.
How to cure such a dyspepsia it were hard to say, unless by administering
three or four boat loads of Brandreth's pills, and then running out
of harm's way, as laborers do in blasting rocks.
I have forgotten to say that there were found in this ambergris,
certain hard, round, bony plates, which at first Stubb thought
might be sailors' trousers buttons; but it afterwards turned
out that they were nothing, more than pieces of small squid
bones embalmed in that manner.
Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris
should be found in the heart of such decay; is this nothing?
Bethink thee of that saying of St. Paul in Corinthians,
about corruption and incorruption; how that we are sown in dishonor,
but raised in glory. And likewise call to mind that saying
of Paracelsus about what it is that maketh the best musk.
Also forget not the strange fact that of all things of ill-savor,
Cologne-water, in its rudimental manufacturing stages,
is the worst.
I should like to conclude the chapter with the above appeal,
but cannot, owing to my anxiety to repel a charge often made
against whalemen, and which, in the estimation of some already
biased minds, might be considered as indirectly substantiated
by what has been said of the Frenchman's two whales.
Elsewhere in this volume the slanderous aspersion has been disproved,
that the vocation of whaling is throughout a slatternly,
untidy business. But there is another thing to rebut.
They hint that all whales always smell bad. Now how did this
odious stigma originate?
I opine, that it is plainly traceable to the first arrival of
the Greenland whaling ships in London, more than two centuries ago.
Because those whalemen did not then, and do not now, try out
their oil at sea as the Southern ships have always done;
but cutting up the fresh blubber in small bits, thrust it through
the bung holes of large casks, and carry it home in that manner;
the shortness of the season in those Icy Seas, and the sudden and
violent storms to which they are exposed, forbidding any other course.
The consequence is, that upon breaking into the hold, and unloading
one of these whale cemeteries, in the Greenland dock, a savor is
given forth somewhat similar to that arising from excavating an old
city graveyard, for the foundations of a Lying-in Hospital.
I partly surmise also, that this wicked charge against
whalers may be likewise imputed to the existence on the coast
of Greenland, in former times, of a Dutch village called
Schmerenburgh or Smeerenberg, which latter name is the one used
by the learned Fogo Von Slack, in his great work on Smells,
a text-book on that subject. As its name imports (smeer, fat;
berg, to put up), this village was founded in order to afford
a place for the blubber of the Dutch whale fleet to be tried out,
without being taken home to Holland for that purpose.
It was a collection of furnaces, fat-kettles, and oil sheds;
and when the works were in full operation certainly gave forth
no very pleasant savor. But all this is quite different
from a South Sea Sperm Whaler; which in a voyage of four
years perhaps, after completely filling her hold with oil,
does not, perhaps, consume fifty days in the business of boiling out;
and in the state that it is casked, the oil is nearly scentless.
The truth is, that living or dead, if but decently treated,
whales as a species are by no means creatures of ill odor;
nor can whalemen be recognised, as the people of the middle
ages affected to detect a Jew in the company, by the nose.
Nor indeed can the whale possibly be otherwise than fragrant,
when, as a general thing, he enjoys such high health;
taking abundance of exercise; always out of doors; though, it is true,
seldom in the open air. I say, that the motion of a Sperm Whale's
flukes above water dispenses a perfume, as when a musk-scented
lady rustles her dress in a warm parlor. What then shall I liken
the Sperm Whale to for fragrance, considering his magnitude?
Must it not be to that famous elephant, with jewelled tusks,
and redolent with myrrh, which was led out of an Indian town
to do honor to Alexander the Great?
It was but some few days after encountering the Frenchman, that a most
significant event befell the most insignificant of the Pequod's crew;
an event most lamentable; and which ended in providing the sometimes
madly merry and predestinated craft with a living and ever accompanying
prophecy of whatever shattered sequel might prove her own.
Now, in the whale ship, it is not every one that goes in the boats.
Some few hands are reserved called shipkeepers, whose province it
is to work the vessel while the boats are pursuing the whale.
As a general thing, these shipkeepers are as hardy fellows
as the men comprising the boats' crews. But if there happen
to be an unduly slender, clumsy, or timorous wight in the ship,
that wight is certain to be made a ship-keeper. It was so in the Pequod
with the little negro Pippin by nick-name, Pip by abbreviation.
Poor Pip! ye have heard of him before; ye must remember his tambourine
on that dramatic midnight, so gloomy-jolly.
In outer aspect, Pip and Dough-Boy made a match, like a black pony
and a white one, of equal developments, though of dissimilar color,
driven in one eccentric span. But while hapless Dough-Boy was by nature
dull and torpid in his intellects, Pip, though over tender-hearted,
was at bottom very bright, with that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness
peculiar to his tribe; a tribe, which ever enjoy all holidays
and festivities with finer, freer relish than any other race.
For blacks, the year's calendar should show naught but three hundred
and sixty-five Fourth of Julys and New Year's Days. Nor smile so,
while I write that this little black was brilliant, for even blackness has
its brilliancy; behold yon lustrous ebony, panelled in king's cabinets.
But Pip loved life, and all life's peaceable securities; so that
the panic-striking business in which he had somehow unaccountably
become entrapped, had most sadly blurred his brightness; though, as ere
long will be seen, what was thus temporarily subdued in him,
in the end was destined to be luridly illumined by strange wild fires,
that fictitiously showed him off to ten times the natural lustre
with which in his native Tolland County in Connecticut, he had once
enlivened many a fiddler's frolic on the green; and at melodious
even-tide, with his gay ha-ha! had turned the round horizon into
one star-belled tambourine. So, though in the clear air of day,
suspended against a blue-veined neck, the pure-watered diamond drop will
healthful glow; yet, when the cunning jeweller would show you the diamond
in its most impressive lustre, he lays it against a gloomy ground,
and then lights it up, not by the sun, but by some unnatural gases.
Then come out those fiery effulgences, infernally superb; then the
evil-blazing diamond, once the divinest symbol of the crystal skies,
looks like some crown-jewel stolen from the King of Hell. But let
us to the story.
It came to pass, that in the ambergris affair Stubb's after-oarsman
chanced so to sprain his hand, as for a time to become quite maimed;
and, temporarily, Pip was put into his place.
The first time Stubb lowered with him, Pip evinced much nervousness;
but happily, for that time, escaped close contact with the whale;
and therefore came off not altogether discreditably; though Stubb
observing him, took care, afterwards, to exhort him to cherish his
courageousness to the utmost, for he might often find it needful.
Now upon the second lowering, the boat paddled upon the whale;
and as the fish received the darted iron, it gave its customary rap,
which happened, in this instance, to be right under poor Pip's seat.
The involuntary consternation of the moment caused him to leap,
paddle in hand, out of the boat; and in such a way, that part of the slack
whale line coming against his chest, he breasted it overboard with him,
so as to become entangled in it, when at last plumping into the water.
That instant the stricken whale started on a fierce run, the line
swiftly straightened; and presto! poor Pip came all foaming up
to the chocks of the boat, remorselessly dragged there by the line,
which had taken several turns around his chest and neck.
Tashtego stood in the bows. He was full of the fire of the hunt.
He hated Pip for a poltroon. Snatching the boat-knife from its sheath,
he suspended its sharp edge over the line, and turning towards Stubb,
exclaimed interrogatively, "Cut?" Meantime Pip's blue, choked face
plainly looked, Do, for God's sake! All passed in a flash.
In less than half a minute, this entire thing happened.
"Damn him, cut!" roared Stubb; and so the whale was lost
and Pip was saved.
So soon as he recovered himself, the poor little negro was assailed
by yells and execrations from the crew. Tranquilly permitting
these irregular cursings to evaporate, Stubb then in a plain,
business-like, but still half humorous manner, cursed Pip officially;
and that done, unofficially gave him much wholesome advice.
The substance was, Never jump from a boat, Pip, except--but all
the rest was indefinite, as the soundest advice ever is.
Now, in general, Stick to the boat, is your true motto in whaling;
but cases will sometimes happen when Leap from the boat, is still better.
Moreover, as if perceiving at last that if he should give undiluted
conscientious advice to Pip, he would be leaving him too wide a margin
to jump in for the future; Stubb suddenly dropped all advice,
and concluded with a peremptory command "Stick to the boat, Pip,
or by the Lord, I won't pick you up if you jump; mind that.
We can't afford to lose whales by the likes of you; a whale would sell
for thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama. Bear that in mind,
and don't jump any more." Hereby perhaps Stubb indirectly hinted,
that though man loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal,
which propensity too often interferes with his benevolence.
But we are all in the hands of the Gods; and Pip jumped again.
It was under very similar circumstances to the first performance;
but this time he did not breast out the line; and hence, when the whale
started to run, Pip was left behind on the sea, like a hurried
traveller's trunk. Alas! Stubb was but too true to his word.
It was a beautiful, bounteous, blue day! the spangled sea calm
and cool, and flatly stretching away, all round, to the horizon,
like gold-beater's skin hammered out to the extremest. Bobbing up
and down in that sea, Pip's ebon head showed like a head of cloves.
No boat-knife was lifted when he fell so rapidly astern.
Stubb's inexorable back was turned upon him; and the whale was winged.
In three minutes, a whole mile of shoreless ocean was between
Pip and Stubb. Out from the centre of the sea, poor Pip turned
his crisp, curling, black head to the sun, another lonely castaway,
though the loftiest and the brightest.
Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open ocean is as easy
to the practised swimmer as to ride in a spring-carriage ashore.
But the awful lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration
of self in the middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can
tell it? Mark, how when sailors in a dead calm bathe in the open sea--
mark how closely they hug their ship and only coast along her sides.
But had Stubb really abandoned the poor little negro
to his fate? No; he did not mean to, at least.
Because there were two boats in his wake, and he supposed,
no doubt, that they would of course come up to Pip very quickly,
and pick him up; though, indeed, such considerations towards
oarsmen jeopardized through their own timidity, is not
always manifested by the hunters in all similar instances;
and such instances not unfrequently occur; almost invariably
in the fishery, a coward, so called, is marked with the same
ruthless detestation peculiar to military navies and armies.
But it so happened, that those boats, without seeing Pip,
suddenly spying whales close to them on one side, turned,
and gave chase; and Stubb's boat was now so far away,
and he and all his crew so intent upon his fish, that Pip's
ringed horizon began to expand around him miserably.
By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him;
but from that hour the little negro went about the deck an idiot;
such, at least, they said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept
his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul.
Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive
to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped
primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes;
and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps;
and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities,
Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects,
that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs.
He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it;
and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man's insanity
is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason,
man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason,
is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised,
indifferent as his God.
For the rest blame not Stubb too hardly. The thing is common
in that fishery; and in the sequel of the narrative, it will then
be seen what like abandonment befell myself.
A Squeeze of the Hand
That whale of Stubb's, so dearly purchased, was duly brought
to the Pequod's side, where all those cutting and hoisting
operations previously detailed, were regularly gone through,
even to the baling of the Heidelburgh Tun, or Case.
While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were employed
in dragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled with the sperm;
and when the proper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully
manipulated ere going to the try-works, of which anon.
It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when,
with several others, I sat down before a large Constantine's
bath of it, I found it strangely concreted into lumps,
here and there rolling about in the liquid part.
It was our business to squeeze these lumps back into fluid.
A sweet and unctuous duty! No wonder that in old times this
sperm was such a favorite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such
a sweetener! such a softener; such a delicious mollifier!
After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt
like eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralize.
As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter
exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship
under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed
my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues,
woven almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers,
and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes
their wine; as. I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma,--
literally and truly, like the smell of spring violets;
I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky meadow;
I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm,
I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit
the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue
in allaying the heat of anger; while bathing in that bath,
I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulance, or malice,
of any sort whatsoever.
Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed
that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed
that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me;
and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers'
hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules.
Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did
this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing
their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally;
as much as to say,--Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer
cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor
or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us
all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves
universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.
Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever!
For now, since by many prolonged, repeated experiences,
I have perceived that in all cases man must eventually lower,
or at least shift, his conceit of attainable felicity;
not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy;
but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle,
the fire-side; the country; now that I have perceived all this,
I am ready to squeeze case eternally. In thoughts of the
visions of the night, I saw long rows of angels in paradise,
each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.
Now, while discoursing of sperm it behooves to speak of other things akin
to it, in the business of preparing the sperm whale for the try-works.
First comes white-horse, so called, which is obtained from the tapering
part of the fish, and also from the thicker portions of his flukes.
It is tough with congealed tendons--a wad of muscle--but still contains
some oil. After being severed from the whale, the white-horse
is first cut into portable oblongs ere going to the mincer.
They look much like blocks of Berkshire marble.
Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmentary parts of
the whale's flesh, here and there adhering to the blanket of blubber,
and often participating to a considerable degree in its unctuousness.
It is a most refreshing, convivial, beautiful object to behold.
As its name imports, it is of an exceedingly rich, mottled tint, with a
bestreaked snowy and golden ground, dotted with spots of the deepest
crimson and purple. It is plums of rubies, in pictures of citron.
Spite of reason, it is hard to keep yourself from eating it.
I confess, that once I stole behind the foremast to try it.
It tasted something as I should conceive a royal cutlet from
the thigh of Louis le Gros might have tasted, supposing him
to have been killed the first day after the venison season,
and that particular venison season contemporary with an unusually
fine vintage of the vineyards of Champagne.
There is another substance, and a very singular one, which turns
up in the course of this business, but which I feel it to be
very puzzling adequately to describe. It is called slobgollion;
an appellation original with the whalemen, and even so is
the nature of the substance. It is an ineffably oozy,
stringy affair, most frequently found in the tubs of sperm,
after a prolonged squeezing, and subsequent decanting.
I hold it to be the wondrously thin, ruptured membranes
of the case, coalescing.
Gurry, so called, is a term properly belonging to right whalemen,
but sometimes incidentally used by the sperm fishermen.
It designates the dark, glutinous substance which is scraped off
the back of the Greenland or right whale, and much of which covers
the decks of those inferior souls who hunt that ignoble Leviathan.
Nippers. Strictly this word is not indigenous to the whale's vocabulary.
But as applied by whalemen, it becomes so. A whaleman's nipper
is a short firm strip of tendinous stuff cut from the tapering
part of Leviathan's tail: it averages an inch in thickness,
and for the rest, is about the size of the iron part of a hoe.
Edgewise moved along the oily deck, it operates like a leathern squilgee;
and by nameless blandishments, as of magic, allures along with
it all impurities.
But to learn all about these recondite matters, your best way is at once
to descend into the blubber-room, and have a long talk with its inmates.
This place has previously been mentioned as the receptacle
for the blanket-pieces, when stript and hoisted from the whale.
When the proper time arrives for cutting up its contents, this apartment
is a scene of terror to all tyros, especially by night. On one side,
lit by a dull lantern, a space has been left clear for the workmen.
They generally go in pairs,--a pike-and-gaffman and a spade-man. The
whaling-pike is similar to a frigate's boarding-weapon of the same name.
The gaff is something like a boat-hook. With his gaff, the gaffman
hooks on to a sheet of blubber, and strives to hold it from slipping,
as the ship pitches and lurches about. Meanwhile, the spade-man stands
on the sheet itself, perpendicularly chopping it into the portable
horse-pieces. This spade is sharp as hone can make it; the spademan's
feet are shoeless; the thing he stands on will sometimes irresistibly
slide away from him, like a sledge. If he cuts off one of his own toes,
or one of his assistants', would you be very much astonished?
Toes are scarce among veteran blubber-room men.
Had you stepped on board the Pequod at a certain juncture of this
post-mortemizing of the whale; and had you strolled forward nigh
the windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no
small curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would
have seen there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers.
Not the wondrous cistern in the whale's huge head; not the prodigy
of his unhinged lower jaw; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail;
none of these would so surprise you, as half a glimpse of
that unaccountable cone,--longer than a Kentuckian is tall,
nigh a foot in diameter at the base, and jet-black as Yojo,
the ebony idol of Queequeg. And an idol, indeed, it is;
or rather, in old times, its likeness was. Such an idol
as that found in the secret groves of Queen Maachah in Judea;
and for worshipping which, King Asa, her son, did depose her,
and destroyed the idol, and burnt it for an abomination
at the brook Kedron, as darkly set forth in the 15th chapter
of the First Book of Kings.
Look at the sailor, called the mincer, who now comes along,
and assisted by two allies, heavily backs the grandissimus,
as the mariners call it, and with bowed shoulders, staggers off with it
as if he were a grenadier carrying a dead comrade from the field.
Extending it upon the forecastle deck, he now proceeds cylindrically
to remove its dark pelt, as an African hunter the pelt of a boa.
This done he turns the pelt inside out, like a pantaloon leg;
gives it a good stretching, so as almost to double its diameter;
and at last hangs it, well spread, in the rigging, to dry.
Ere long, it is taken down; when removing some three feet of it,
towards the pointed extremity, and then cutting two slits for arm-holes
at the other end, he lengthwise slips himself bodily into it.
The mincer now stands before you invested in the full canonicals
of his calling. Immemorial to all his order, this investiture
alone will adequately protect him, while employed in the peculiar
functions of his office.
That office consists in mincing the horse-pieces of blubber
for the pots; an operation which is conducted at a curious
wooden horse, planted endwise against the bulwarks,
and with a capacious tub beneath it, into which the minced
pieces drop, fast as the sheets from a rapt orator's desk.
Arrayed in decent black; occupying a conspicuous pulpit;
intent on bible leaves; what a candidate for an archbishopric,
what a lad for a Pope were this mincer!*
* Bible leaves! Bible leaves! This is the invariable cry
from the mates to the mincer. It enjoins him to be careful,
and cut his work into as thin slices as possible, inasmuch as by
so doing the business of boiling out the oil is much accelerated,
and its quantity considerably increased, besides perhaps improving
it in quality.
Besides her hoisted boats, an American whaler is outwardly distinguished
by her try-works. She presents the curious anomaly of the most solid
masonry joining with oak and hemp in constituting the completed ship.
It is as if from the open field a brick-kiln were transported
to her planks.
The try-works are planted between the foremast and mainmast,
the most roomy part of the deck. The timbers beneath are of a
peculiar strength, fitted to sustain the weight of an almost
solid mass of brick and mortar, some ten feet by eight square,
and five in height. The foundation does not penetrate the deck,
but the masonry is firmly secured to the surface by ponderous
knees of iron bracing it on all sides, and screwing it down
to the timbers. On the flanks it is cased with wood, and at top
completely covered by a large, sloping, battened hatchway.
Removing this hatch we expose the great try-pots, two in number,
and each of several barrels' capacity. When not in use,
they are kept remarkably clean. Sometimes they are polished with
soapstone and sand, till they shine within like silver punchbowls.
During the night-watches some cynical old sailors will
crawl into them and coil themselves away there for a nap.
While employed in polishing them--one man in each pot, side by side--
many confidential communications are carried on, over the iron lips.
It is a place also for profound mathematical meditation.
It was in the left hand try-pot of the Pequod, with the soapstone
diligently circling round me, that I was first indirectly struck
by the remarkable fact, that in geometry all bodies gliding
along the cycloid, my soapstone for example, will descend
from any point in precisely the same time.
Removing the fire-board from the front of the try-works,
the bare masonry of that side is exposed, penetrated by the two
iron mouths of the furnaces, directly underneath the pots.
These mouths are fitted with heavy doors of iron. The intense heat
of the fire is prevented from communicating itself to the deck,
by means of a shallow reservoir extending under the entire
inclosed surface of the works. By a tunnel inserted at the rear,
this reservoir is kept replenished with water as fast as it evaporates.
There are no external chimneys; they open direct from the rear wall.
And here let us go back for a moment.
It was about nine o'clock at night that the Pequod's
try-works were first started on this present voyage.
It belonged to Stubb to oversee the business.
"All ready there? Off hatch, then, and start her. You cook,
fire the works." This was an easy thing, for the carpenter had been
thrusting his shavings into the furnace throughout the passage.
Here be it said that in a whaling voyage the first fire in the
try-works has to be fed for a time with wood. After that no wood
is used, except as a means of quick ignition to the staple fuel.
In a word, after being tried out, the crisp, shrivelled blubber,
now called scraps or fritters, still contains considerable
of its unctuous properties. These fritters feed the flames.
Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope,
once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body.
Would that he consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is horrible
to inhale, and inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must
live in it for the time. It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor
about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres.
It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment; it is an argument
for the pit.
By midnight the works were in full operation.
We were clear from the carcass; sail had been made;
the wind was freshening; the wild ocean darkness was intense.
But that darkness was licked up by the fierce flames, which at
intervals forked forth from the sooty flues, and illuminated
every lofty rope in the rigging, as with the famed Greek fire.
The burning ship drove on, as if remorselessly commissioned
to some vengeful deed. So the pitch and sulphur-freighted brigs
of the bold Hydriote, Canaris, issuing from their midnight harbors,
with broad sheets of flame for sails, bore down upon
the Turkish frigates, and folded them in conflagrations.
The hatch, removed from the top of the works, now afforded a wide
hearth in front of them. Standing on this were the Tartarean
shapes of the pagan harpooneers, always the whale-ship's stokers.
With huge pronged poles they pitched hissing masses of blubber into
the scalding pots, or stirred up the fires beneath, till the snaky
flames darted, curling, out of the doors to catch them by the feet.
The smoke rolled away in sullen heaps. To every pitch of the ship
there was a pitch of the boiling oil, which seemed all eagerness
to leap into their faces. Opposite the mouth of the works,
on the further side of the wide wooden hearth, was the windlass.
This served for a sea-sofa. Here lounged the watch, when not
otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire,
till their eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawny features,
now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards,
and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were
strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works.
As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales
of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter
forked upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace;
as to and fro, in their front, the harpooneers wildly gesticulated
with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on,
and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly
shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea
and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth,
and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod,
freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse,
and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material
counterpart of her monomaniac commander's soul.
So seemed it to me, as I stood at her helm, and for long
hours silently guided the way of this fire-ship on the sea.
Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better
saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others.
The continual sight of the fiend shapes before me, capering half
in smoke and half in fire, these at last begat kindred visions
in my soul, so soon as I began to yield to that unaccountable
drowsiness which ever would come over me at a midnight helm.
But that night, in particular, a strange (and ever since inexplicable)
thing occurred to me. Starting from a brief standing sleep,
I was horribly conscious of something fatally wrong.
The jaw-bone tiller smote my side, which leaned against it; in my
ears was the low hum of sails, just beginning to shake in the wind;
I thought my eyes were open; I was half conscious of putting
my fingers to the lids and mechanically stretching them still
further apart. But, spite of all this, I could see no compass
before me to steer by; though it seemed but a minute since I had been
watching the card, by the steady binnacle lamp illuminating it.
Nothing seemed before me but a jet gloom, now and then made
ghastly by flashes of redness. Uppermost was the impression,
that whatever swift, rushing thing I stood on was not so much
bound to any haven ahead as rushing from all havens astern.
A stark, bewildered feeling, as of death, came over me.
Convulsively my hands grasped the tiller, but with the crazy conceit
that the tiller was, somehow, in some enchanted way, inverted.
My God! what is the matter with me? thought I. Lo! in my
brief sleep I had turned myself about, and was fronting
the ship's stern, with my back to her prow and the compass.
In an instant I faced back, just in time to prevent the vessel
from flying up into the wind, and very probably capsizing her.
How glad and how grateful the relief from this unnatural
hallucination of the night, and the fatal contingency of being
brought by the lee!
Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream
with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass;
accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the
artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly.
To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright;
those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn
will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious,
golden, glad sun, the only true lamp--all others but liars!
Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal Swamp,
nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the
millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon.
The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth,
and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal
man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man
cannot be true--not true, or undeveloped. With books the same.
The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest
of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine
hammered steel of woe. "All is vanity." ALL. This wilful
world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's wisdom yet.
But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast
crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell;
calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men;
and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais
as passing wise, and therefore jolly;--not that man is fitted
to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould
with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.
But even Solomon, he says, "the man that wandereth out of
the way of understanding shall remain" (i.e. even while living)
"in the congregation of the dead." Give not thyself up, then, to fire,
lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me.
There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness.
And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike
dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again
and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for
ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains;
so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still
higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.
Had you descended from the Pequod's try-works to the Pequod's forecastle,
where the off duty watch were sleeping, for one single moment you
would have almost thought you were standing in some illuminated
shrine of canonized kings and counsellors. There they lay in
their triangular oaken vaults, each mariner a chiselled muteness;
a score of lamps flashing upon his hooded eyes.
In merchantmen, oil for the sailor is more scarce than the milk
of queens. To dress in the dark, and eat in the dark,
and stumble in darkness to his pallet, this is his usual lot.
But the whaleman, as he seeks the food of light, so he lives in light.
He makes his berth an Aladdin's lamp, and lays him down in it;
so that in the pitchiest night the ship's black hull still
houses an illumination.
See with what entire freedom the whaleman takes his handful
of lamps--often but old bottles and vials, though--to the
copper cooler at the tryworks, and replenishes them there,
as mugs of ale at a vat. He burns, too, the purest of oil,
in its unmanufactured, and, therefore, unvitiated state;
a fluid unknown to solar, lunar, or astral contrivances ashore.
It is sweet as early grass butter in April. He goes and hunts
for his oil, so as to be sure of its freshness and genuineness,
even as the traveller on the prairie hunts up his own
supper of game.
Stowing Down and Clearing Up
Already has it been related how the great leviathan is afar off
descried from the mast-head; how he is chased over the watery moors,
and slaughtered in the valleys of the deep; how he is then towed alongside
and beheaded; and how (on the principle which entitled the headsman
of old to the garments in which the beheaded was killed) his great padded
surtout becomes the property of his executioner; how, in due time,
he is condemned to the pots, and, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
his spermaceti, oil, and bone pass unscathed through the fire;--but now
it remains to conclude the last chapter of this part of the description
by rehearsing--singing, if I may--the romantic proceeding of decanting
off his oil into the casks and striking them down into the hold,
where once again leviathan returns to his native profundities,
sliding along beneath the surface :is before; but, alas! never more
to rise and blow.
While still warm, the oil, like hot punch, is received into
the six-barrel casks; and while, perhaps, the ship is pitching
and rolling this way and that in the midnight sea, the enormous
casks are slewed round and headed over, end for end, and sometimes
perilously scoot across the slippery deck, like so many land slides,
till at last man-handled and stayed in their course; and all round
the hoops, rap, rap, go as many hammers as can play upon them,
for now, ex officio, every sailor is a cooper.
At length, when the last pint is casked, and all is cool,
then the great hatchways are unsealed, the bowels of the ship are
thrown open, and down go the casks to their final rest in the sea.
This done, the hatches are replaced, and hermetically closed,
like a closet walled up.
In the sperm fishery, this is perhaps one of the most
remarkable incidents in all the business of whaling.
One day the planks stream with freshets of blood and oil;
on the sacred quarter-deck enormous masses of the whale's head are
profanely piled; great rusty casks lie about, as in a brewery yard;
the smoke from the try-works has besooted all the bulwarks;
the mariners go about suffused with unctuousness; the entire
ship seems great leviathan himself; while on all hands
the din is deafening.
But a day or two after, you look about you, and prick your ears
in this self-same ship! and were it not for the tell-tale boats
and try-works, you would all but swear you trod some silent
merchant vessel, with a most scrupulously neat commander.
The unmanufactured sperm oil possesses a singularly cleansing virtue.
This is the reason why the decks never look so white as just
after what they call an affair of oil. Besides, from the ashes
of the burned scraps of the whale, a potent lye is readily made;
and whenever any adhesiveness from the back of the whale remains
clinging to the side, that lye quickly exterminates it.
Hands go diligently along the bulwarks, and with buckets
of water and rags restore them to their full tidiness.
The soot is brushed from the lower rigging. All the numerous
implements which have been in use are likewise faithfully
cleansed and put away. The great hatch is scrubbed and placed
upon the try-works, completely hiding the pots; every cask
is out of sight; all tackles are coiled in unseen nooks;
and when by the combined and, simultaneous industry of almost
the entire ship's company, the whole of this conscientious
duty is at last concluded, then the crew themselves proceed
to their own ablutions; shift themselves from top to toe;
and finally issue to the immaculate deck, fresh and all aglow
as bridegrooms new-leaped from out the daintiest Holland.
Now, with elated step, they pace the planks in twos and threes,
and humorously discourse of parlors, sofas, carpets, and fine cambrics;
propose to mat the deck; think of having hangings to the top;
object not to taking tea by moonlight on the piazza of the forecastle.
To hint to such musked mariners of oil, and bone, and blubber,
were little short of audacity. They know not the thing you distantly
allude to. Away, and bring us napkins!
But mark: aloft there, at the three mast heads, stand three
men intent on spying out more whales, which, if caught,
infallibly will again soil the old oaken furniture, and drop
at least one small grease-spot somewhere. Yes; and many is
the time, when, after the severest uninterrupted labors, which know
no night; continuing straight through for ninety-six hours;
when from the boat, where they have swelled their wrists
with all day rowing on the Line,--they only step to the deck
to carry vast chains, and heave the heavy windlass, and cut
and slash, yea, and in their very sweatings to be smoked
and burned anew by the combined fires of the equatorial sun
and the equatorial try-works; when, on the heel of all this,
they have finally bestirred themselves to cleanse the ship, and make
a spotless dairy room of it; many is the time the poor fellows,
just buttoning the necks of their clean frocks, are startled
by the cry of "There she blows!" and away they fly to fight
another whale, and go through the whole weary thing again.
Oh! my friends, but this is man-killing! Yet this is life.
For hardly have we mortals by long toilings extracted from this
world's vast bulk its small but valuable sperm; and then,
with weary patience, cleansed ourselves from its defilements,
and learned to live here in clean tabernacles of the soul;
hardly is this done, when--There she blows!--the ghost
is spouted up, and away we sail to fight some other world,
and go through young life's old routine again.
Oh! the metempsychosis! Oh! Pythagoras, that in bright Greece,
two thousand years ago, did die, so good, so wise, so mild; I sailed
with thee along the Peruvian coast last voyage--and, foolish as I am,
taught thee, a green simple boy, how to splice a rope.
Ere now it has been related how Ahab was wont to pace his quarter-deck,
taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle and mainmast;
but in the multiplicity of other things requiring narration it
has not been added how that sometimes in these walks, when most
plunged in his mood, he was wont to pause in turn at each spot,
and stand there strangely eyeing the particular object before him.
When he halted before the binnacle, with his glance fastened on
the pointed needle in the compass, that glance shot like a javelin
with the pointed intensity of his purpose; and when resuming his walk
he again paused before the mainmast, then, as the same riveted glance
fastened upon the riveted gold coin there, he still wore the same
aspect of nailed firmness, only dashed with a certain wild longing,
if not hopefulness.
But one morning, turning to pass the doubloon, he seemed to be newly
attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions stamped on it,
as though now for the first time beginning to interpret for himself
in some monomaniac way whatever significance might lurk in them.
And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things
are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher,
except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston,
to fill up some morass in the Milky Way.
Now this doubloon was of purest, virgin gold, raked somewhere
out of the heart of gorgeous hills, whence, east and west,
over golden sands, the head-waters of many a Pactolus flows.
And though now nailed amidst all the rustiness of iron bolts
and the verdigris of copper spikes, yet, untouchable and immaculate
to any foulness, it still preserved its Quito glow. Nor, though placed
amongst a ruthless crew and every hour passed by ruthless hands,
and through the livelong nights shrouded with thick darkness
which might cover any pilfering approach, nevertheless every
sunrise found the doubloon where the sunset last left it last.
For it was set apart and sanctified to one awe-striking end;
and however wanton in their sailor ways, one and all,
the mariners revered it as the white whale's talisman.
Sometimes they talked it over in the weary watch by night,
wondering whose it was to be at last, and whether he would ever
live to spend it.
Now those noble golden coins of South America are as medals of the sun
and tropic token-pieces. Here palms, alpacas, and volcanoes; sun's disks
and stars, ecliptics, horns-of-plenty, and rich banners waving,
are in luxuriant profusion stamped; so that the precious gold seems
almost to derive an added preciousness and enhancing glories,
by passing through those fancy mints, so Spanishly poetic.
It so chanced that the doubloon of the Pequod was a most wealthy
example of these things. On its round border it bore the letters,
REPUBLICA DEL ECUADOR: QUITO. So this bright coin came from a country
planted in the middle of the world, and beneath the great equator,
and named after it; and it had been cast midway up the Andes,
in the unwaning clime that knows no autumn. Zoned by those letters
you saw the likeness of three Andes' summits; from one a flame;
a tower on another; on the third a crowing cock; while arching
over all was a segment of the partitioned zodiac, the signs all
marked with their usual cabalistics, and the keystone sun entering
the equinoctial point at Libra.
Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others,
was now pausing.
"There's something ever egotistical in mountain-tops
and towers, and all other grand and lofty things; look here,--
three peaks as proud as Lucifer. The firm tower, that is Ahab;
the volcano, that is Ahab; the courageous, the undaunted,
and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all are Ahab;
and this round gold is but the image of the rounder globe,
which, like a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn
but mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains,
small gains for those who ask the world to solve them; it cannot
solve itself. Methinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face;
but see! aye, he enters the sign of storms, the equinox!
and but six months before he wheeled out of a former equinox
at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in throes,
't is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs!
So be it, then! Here's stout stuff for woe to work on.
So be it, then."
"No fairy fingers can have pressed the gold, but devil's
claws must have left their mouldings there since yesterday,"
murmured Starbuck to himself, leaning against the bulwarks.
"The old man seems to read Belshazzar's awful writing.
I have never marked the coin inspectingly. He goes below; let me read.
A dark valley between three mighty, heaven-abiding peaks,
that almost seem the Trinity, in some faint earthly symbol.
So in this vale of Death, God girds us round; and over all our gloom,
the sun of Righteousness still shines a beacon and a hope.
If we bend down our eyes, the dark vale shows her mouldy soil;
but if we lift them, the bright sun meets our glance half way, to cheer.
Yet, oh, the great sun is no fixture; and if, at midnight, we would
fain snatch some sweet solace from him, we gaze for him in vain!
This coin speaks wisely, mildly, truly, but still sadly to me.
I will quit it, lest Truth shake me falsely."
"There now's the old Mogul," soliloquized Stubb by the try-works,
"he's been twigging it; and there goes Starbuck from the same,
and both with faces which I should say might be somewhere
within nine fathoms long. And all from looking at a piece
of gold, which did I have it now on Negro Hill or in
Corlaer's Hook, I'd not look at it very long ere spending it.
Humph! in my poor, insignificant opinion, I regard this as queer.
I have seen doubloons before now in my voyagings; your doubloons
of old Spain, your doubloons of Peru, your doubloons of Chili,
your doubloons of Bolivia, your doubloons of Popayan;
with plenty of gold moidores and pistoles, and joes,
and half joes, and quarter joes. What then should there be
in this doubloon of the Equator that is so killing wonderful?
By Golconda! let me read it once. Halloa! here's signs and
wonders truly! That, now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome
calls the zodiac, and what my almanack below calls ditto.
I'll get the almanack; and as I have heard devils can be raised
with Daboll's arithmetic, I'll try my hand at raising a meaning
out of these queer curvicues here with the Massachusetts calendar.
Here's the book. Let's see now. Signs and wonders;
and the sun, he's always among 'em. Hem, hem, hem; here they are--
here they go--all alive: Aries, or the Ram; Taurus, or the Bull
and Jimimi! here's Gemini himself, or the Twins. Well; the sun
he wheels among 'em. Aye, here on the coin he's just crossing
the threshold between two of twelve sitting-rooms all in a ring.
Book! you lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places.
You'll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come
in to supply the thoughts. That's my small experience,
so far as the Massachusetts calendar, and Bowditch's navigator,
and Daboll's arithmetic go. Signs and wonders, eh? Pity if there
is nothing wonderful in signs, and significant in wonders!
There's a clue somewhere; wait a bit; hist--hark! By Jove, I have it!
Look you, Doubloon, your zodiac here is the life of man in one
round chapter; and now I'll read it off, straight out of the book.
Come, Almanack! To begin: there's Aries, or the Ram--
lecherous dog, he begets us; then, Taurus, or the Bull--
he bumps us the first thing; then Gemini, or the Twins--
that is, Virtue and Vice; we try to reach Virtue,
when lo! comes Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here,
going from Virtue, Leo, a roaring Lion, lies in the path--
he gives a few fierce bites and surly dabs with his paw;
we escape, and hail Virgo, the Virgin! that's our first love;
we marry and think to be happy for aye, when pop comes Libra,
or the Scales--happiness weighed and found wanting; and while we
are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly jump, as Scorpio,
or the Scorpion, stings us in the rear; we are curing the wound,
when whang comes the arrows all round; Sagittarius, or the Archer,
is amusing himself. As we pluck out the shafts, stand aside!
here's the battering-ram, Capricornus, or the Goat; full tilt,
he comes rushing, and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius,
or the Waterbearer, pours out his whole deluge and drowns us;
and to wind up with Pisces, or the Fishes, we sleep.
There's a sermon now, writ in high heaven, and the sun goes through
it every year, and yet comes out of it all alive and hearty.
Jollily he, aloft there, wheels through toil and trouble; and so,
alow here, does jolly Stubb. Oh, jolly's the word for aye!
Adieu, Doubloon! But stop; here comes little King-Post;
dodge round the try-works, now, and let's hear what he'll have
to say. There; he's before it; he'll out with something presently.
So, so; he's beginning."
"I see nothing here, but a round thing made of gold, and whoever raises
a certain whale, this round thing belongs to him. So, what's all
this staring been about? It is worth sixteen dollars, that's true;
and at two cents the cigar, that's nine hundred and sixty cigars.
I won't smoke dirty pipes like Stubb, but I like cigars, and here's nine
hundred and sixty of them; so here goes Flask aloft to spy 'em out."
"Shall I call that Wise or foolish, now; if it be really wise it has
a foolish look to it; yet, if it be really foolish, then has it a sort
of wiseish look to it. But, avast; here comes our old Manxman--the old
hearse-driver, he must have been, that is, before he took to the sea.
He luffs up before the doubloon; halloa, and goes round on the other
side of the mast; why, there's a horse-shoe nailed on that side;
and now he's back again; what does that mean? Hark! he's muttering--
voice like an old worn-out coffee-mill. Prick ears, and listen!"
"If the White Whale be raised, it must be in a month and a day,
when the sun stands in some one of these signs. I've studied signs,
and know their marks; they were taught me two score years ago,
by the old witch in Copenhagen. Now, in what sign will the sun then be?
The horse-shoe sign; for there it is, right opposite the gold.
And what's the horse-shoe sign? The lion is the horse-shoe sign--
the roaring and devouring lion. Ship, old ship! my old head shakes
to think of thee."
"There's another rendering now; but still one text. All sorts of men
in one kind of world, you see. Dodge again! here comes Queequeg--
all tattooing--looks like the signs of the Zodiac himself. What says
the Cannibal? As I live he's comparing notes; looking at his thigh bone;
thinks the sun is in the thigh, or in the calf, or in the bowels,
I suppose, as the old women talk Surgeon's Astronomy in the back country.
And by Jove, he's found something there in the vicinity of his thigh--
I guess it's Sagittarius, or the Archer. No: he don't know what to make
of the doubloon; he takes it for an old button off some king's trowsers.
But, aside again! here comes that ghost-devil, Fedallah; tail coiled
out of sight as usual, oakum in the toes of his pumps as usual.
What does he say, with that look of his? Ah, only makes a sign
to the sign and bows himself; there is a sun on the coin--
fire worshipper, depend upon it. Ho! more and more. This way comes Pip--
poor boy! would he had died, or I; he's half horrible to me.
He too has been watching all of these interpreters myself included--
and look now, he comes to read, with that unearthly idiot face.
Stand away again and hear him. Hark!"
"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."
"Upon my soul, he's been studying Murray's Grammar! Improving his mind,
poor fellow! But what's that he says now--hist!"
"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."
"Why, he's getting it by heart--hist! again."
"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look."
"Well, that's funny."
"And I, you, and he; and we, ye, and they, are all bats;
and I'm a crow, especially when I stand a'top of this pine
tree here. Caw! caw! caw! caw! caw! caw! Ain't I a crow?
And where's the scare-crow? There he stands; two bones stuck
into a pair of old trowsers, and two more poked into the sleeves
of an old jacket."
"Wonder if he means me?--complimentary--poor lad!--I could go
hang myself. Any way, for the present, I'll quit Pip's vicinity.
I can stand the rest, for they have plain wits; but he's too
crazy-witty for my sanity. So, so, I leave him muttering."
"Here's the ship's navel, this doubloon here, and they are all one fire
to unscrew it. But, unscrew your navel, and what's the consequence?
Then again, if it stays here, that is ugly, too, for when aught's
nailed to the mast it's a sign that things grow desperate.
Ha! ha! old Ahab! the White Whale; he'll nail ye! This is a pine tree.
My father, in old Tolland county, cut down a pine tree once, and found
a silver ring grown over in it; some old darkey's wedding ring.
How did it get there? And so they'll say in the resurrection,
when they come to fish up this old mast, and find a doubloon lodged in it,
with bedded oysters for the shaggy bark. Oh, the gold! the precious,
precious gold!--the green miser'll hoard ye soon! Hish! hish!
God goes 'mong the worlds blackberrying. Cook! ho, cook! and cook us!
Jenny! hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, Jenny, Jenny! and get your hoe-cake done!"
Leg and Arm
The Pequod of Nantucket, Meets the Samuel Enderby, of London
"Ship, ahoy! Hast seen the White Whale?"
So cried Ahab, once more hailing a ship showing English colors,
bearing down under the stern. Trumpet to mouth, the old man was standing
in his hoisted quarter-deck, his ivory leg plainly revealed to the
stranger captain, who was carelessly reclining in his own boat's bow.
He was a darkly-tanned, burly, goodnatured, fine-looking man, of sixty
or thereabouts, dressed in a spacious roundabout, that hung round him
in festoons of blue pilot-cloth; and one empty arm of this jacket
streamed behind him like the broidered arm of a huzzar's surcoat.
"Hast seen the White Whale!"
"See you this?" and withdrawing it from the folds that had hidden it,
he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone, terminating in a wooden
head like a mallet.
"Man my boat!" cried Ahab, impetuously, and tossing about the oars
near him--"Stand by to lower!"
In less than a minute, without quitting his little craft,
he and his crew were dropped to the water, and were soon alongside
of the stranger. But here a curious difficulty presented itself.
In the excitement of the moment, Ahab had forgotten that since
the loss of his leg he had never once stepped on board of any
vessel at sea but his own, and then it was always by an ingenious
and very handy mechanical contrivance peculiar to the Pequod,
and a thing not to be rigged and shipped in any other vessel at
a moment's warning. Now, it is no very easy matter for anybody--
except those who are almost hourly used to it, like whalemen--
to clamber up a ship's side from a boat on the open sea;
for the great swells now lift the boat high up towards the bulwarks,
and then instantaneously drop it half way down to the kelson.
So, deprived of one leg, and the strange ship of course being
altogether unsupplied with the kindly invention, Ahab now
found himself abjectly reduced to a clumsy landsman again;
hopelessly eyeing the uncertain changeful height he could hardly
hope to attain.
It has before been hinted, perhaps, that every little untoward
circumstance that befell him, and which indirectly sprang
from his luckless mishap, almost invariably irritated or
exasperated Ahab. And in the present instance, all this was heightened
by the sight of the two officers of the strange ship, leaning over
the side, by the perpendicular ladder of nailed cleets there,
and swinging towards him a pair of tastefully-ornamented man-ropes;
for at first they did not seem to bethink them that a one-legged
man must be too much of a cripple to use their sea bannisters.
But this awkwardness only lasted a minute, because the strange captain,
observing at a glance how affairs stood, cried out, "I see, I see!--
avast heaving there! Jump, boys, and swing over the cutting-tackle."
As good luck would have it, they had had a whale alongside a day or
two previous, and the great tackles were still aloft, and the massive
curved blubber-hook, now clean and dry, was still attached to the end.
This was quickly lowered to Ahab, who at once comprehending it all,
slid his solitary thigh into the curve of the hook (it was like
sitting in the fluke of an anchor, or the crotch of an apple tree),
and then giving the word, held himself fast, and at the same time
also helped to hoist his own weight, by pulling hand-over-hand upon
one of the running parts of the tackle. Soon he was carefully swung
inside the high bulwarks, and gently landed upon the capstan head.
With his ivory arm frankly thrust forth in welcome, the other
captain advanced, and Ahab, putting out his ivory leg, and crossing
the ivory arm (like two sword-fish blades) cried out in his walrus way,
"Aye, aye, hearty! let us shake bones together!--an arm and a leg!--
an arm that never can shrink, d'ye see; and a leg that never can run.
Where did'st thou see the White Whale?--how long ago?"
"The White Whale," said the Englishman, pointing his ivory arm
towards the East, and taking a rueful sight along it, as if it
had been a telescope; There I saw him, on the Line, last season."
"And he took that arm off, did he?" asked Ahab, now sliding
down from the capstan, and resting on the Englishman's shoulder,
as he did so.
"Aye, he was the cause of it, at least; and that leg, too?"
"Spin me the yarn," said Ahab; "how was it?"
"It was the first time in my life that I ever cruised on the Line,"
began the Englishman. "I was ignorant of the White Whale at that time.
Well, one day we lowered for a pod of four or five whales, and my
boat fastened to one of them; a regular circus horse he was, too,
that went milling and milling round so that my boat's crew could
only trim dish, by sitting all their sterns on the outer gunwale.
Presently up breaches from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale,
with a milky-white head and hump, all crows' feet and wrinkles."
"It was he, it was he!" cried Ahab, suddenly letting out
his suspended breath.
"And harpoons sticking in near his starboard fin. Aye, aye--
they were mine--my irons," cried Ahab, exultingly--"but on!"
"Give me a chance, then," said the Englishman, good-humoredly. "Well,
this old great-grandfather, with the white head and hump, runs all afoam
into the pod, and goes to snapping furiously at my fast-line!
"Aye, I see!--wanted to part it; free the fast-fish--an old trick--
I know him."
"How it was exactly," continued the one-armed commander,
"I do not know; but in biting the line, it got foul of his teeth,
caught there somehow; but we didn't know it then; so that when we
afterwards pulled on the line, bounce we came plump on to his hump!
instead of the other whale's; that went off to windward, all fluking.
Seeing how matters stood, and what a noble great whale it was--
the noblest and biggest I ever saw, sir, in my life--I resolved
to capture him, spite of the boiling rage he seemed to be in.
And thinking the hap-hazard line would get loose, or the tooth
it was tangled to might draw (for I have a devil of a boat's
crew for a pull on a whale-line); seeing all this, I say,
I jumped into my first mate's boat--Mr. Mounttop's here
(by the way, Captain--Mounttop; Mounttop--the captain);--
as I was saying, I jumped into Mounttop's boat, which, d'ye see,
was gunwale and gunwale with mine, then; and snatching the
first harpoon, let this old great-grandfather have it. But, Lord,
look you, sir--hearts and souls alive, man--the next instant,
in a jiff, I was blind as a bat--both eyes out--all befogged
and bedeadened with black foam--the whale's tail looming straight
up out of it, perpendicular in the air, like a marble steeple.
No use sterning all, then; but as I was groping at midday,
with a blinding sun, all crown-jewels; as I was groping, I say,
after the second iron, to toss it overboard--down comes the tail
like a Lima tower, cutting my boat in two, leaving each half
in splinters; and, flukes first, the white hump backed through
the wreck, as though it was all chips. We all struck out.
To escape his terrible flailings, I seized hold of my harpoon-pole
sticking in him, and for a moment clung to that like a sucking fish.
But a combing sea dashed me off, and at the same instant,
the fish, taking one good dart forwards, went down like a flash;
and the barb of that cursed second iron towing along near me
caught me here" (clapping his hand just below his shoulder);
"yes, caught me just here, I say, and bore me down to
Hell's flames, I was thinking; when, when, all of a sudden,
thank the good God, the barb ript its way along the flesh--
clear along the whole length of my arm--came out nigh my wrist,
and up I floated;--and that gentleman there will tell you the rest
(by the way, captain--Dr. Bunger, ship's surgeon: Bunger, my lad,--
the captain). Now, Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn."
The professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out,
had been all the time standing near them, with nothing
specific visible, to denote his gentlemanly rank on board.
His face was an exceedingly round but sober one; he was dressed
in a faded blue woollen frock or shirt, and patched trowsers;
and had thus far been dividing his attention between a marlingspike
he held in one hand, and a pill-box held in the other,
occasionally casting a critical glance at the ivory limbs of
the two crippled captains. But, at his superior's introduction
of him to Ahab, he politely bowed, and straightway went on
to do his captain's bidding.
"It was a shocking bad wound," began the whale-surgeon;
"and, taking my advice, Captain Boomer here, stood our old Sammy-"
"Samuel Enderby is the name of my ship," interrupted the
one-armed captain, addressing Ahab; "go on, boy."
"Stood our old Sammy off to the northward, to get out of the blazing
hot weather there on the Line. But it was no use--I did all I could;
sat up with him nights; was very severe with him in the matter of diet-"
"Oh, very severe!" chimed in the patient himself; then suddenly
altering his voice, "Drinking hot rum toddies with me every night,
till he couldn't see to put on the bandages; and sending me
to bed, half seas over, about three o'clock in the morning.
Oh, ye stars! he sat up with me indeed, and was very severe
in my diet. Oh! a great watcher, and very dietetically severe,
is Dr. Bunger. (Bunger, you dog, laugh out! why don't ye?
You know you're a precious jolly rascal.) But, heave ahead, boy,
I'd rather be killed by you than kept alive by any other man."
"My captain, you must have ere this perceived, respected sir"--
said the imperturbable godly-looking Bunger, slightly bowing
to Ahab--"is apt to be facetious at times; he spins us many
clever things of that sort. But I may as well say--en passant,
as the French remark--that I myself--that is to say, Jack Bunger,
late of the reverend clergy--am a strict total abstinence man;
I never drink-"
"Water!" cried the captain; "he never drinks it; it's a sort
of fits to him; fresh water throws him into the hydrophobia;
but go on--go on with the arm story."
"Yes, I may as well," said the surgeon, coolly. "I was about
observing, sir, before Captain Boomer's facetious interruption,
that spite of my best and severest endeavors, the wound kept getting
worse and worse; the truth was, sir, it was as ugly gaping wound
as surgeon ever saw; more than two feet and several inches long.
I measured it with the lead line. In short, it grew black;
I knew what was threatened, and off it came. But I had no hand
in shipping that ivory arm there; that thing is against all rule"--
pointing at it with the marlingspike--"that is the captain's work,
not mine; he ordered the carpenter to make it; he had that club-hammer
there put to the end, to knock some one's brains out with, I suppose,
as he tried mine once. He flies into diabolical passions sometimes.
Do ye see this dent, sir"--removing his hat, and brushing aside his hair,
and exposing a bowl-like cavity in his skull, but which bore not
the slightest scarry trace, or any token of ever having been a wound--
"Well, the captain there will tell you how that came there; he knows."
"No, I don't," said the captain, "but his mother did;
he was born with it. Oh, you solemn rogue, you--you Bunger!
was there ever such another Bunger in the watery world?
Bunger, when you die, you ought to die in pickle, you dog;
you should be preserved to future ages, you rascal."
"What became of the White Whale?" now cried Ahab, who thus far had been
impatiently listening to this byeplay between the two Englishmen.
"Oh!" cried the one-armed captain, Oh, yes! Well; after he sounded,
we didn't see him again for some time; in fact, as I before hinted,
I didn't then know what whale it was that had served me such a trick,
till some time afterwards, when coming back to the Line, we heard
about Moby Dick--as some call him--and then I knew it was he."
"Did'st thou cross his wake again?"
"But could not fasten?"
"Didn't want to try to; ain't one limb enough? What should I
do without this other arm? And I'm thinking Moby Dick doesn't
bite so much as he swallows."
"Well, then," interrupted Bunger, "give him your left arm for
bait to get the right. Do you know, gentlemen"--very gravely
and mathematically bowing to each Captain in succession--"Do
you know, gentlemen, that the digestive organs of the whale
are so inscrutably constructed by Divine Providence, that it is
quite impossible for him to completely digest even a man's arm?
And he knows it too. So that what you take for the White Whale's
malice is only his awkwardness. For he never means to
swallow a single limb; he only thinks to terrify by feints.
But sometimes he is like the old juggling fellow, formerly a patient
of mine in Ceylon, that making believe swallow jack-knives,
once upon a time let one drop into him in good earnest,
and there it stayed for a twelvemonth or more; when I gave
him an emetic, and he heaved it up in small tacks, d'ye see?
No possible way for him to digest that jack-knife, and fully
incorporate it into his general bodily system. Yes, Captain Boomer,
if you are quick enough about it, and have a mind to pawn
one arm for the sake of the privilege of giving decent burial
to the other, why, in that case the arm is yours; only let
the whale have another chance at you shortly, that's all."
"No, thank you, Bunger," said the English Captain, "he's welcome
to the arm he has, since I can't help it, and didn't know
him then; but not to another one. No more White Whales for me;
I've lowered for him once, and that has satisfied me.
There would be great glory in killing him, I know that;
and there is a ship-load of precious sperm in him, but, hark ye,
he's best let alone; don't you think so, Captain?"--glancing at
the ivory leg.
"He is. But he will still be hunted, for all that. What is best
let alone, that accursed thing is not always what least allures.
He's all a magnet! How long since thou saw'st him last?
Which way heading?"
"Bless my soul, and curse the foul fiend's," cried Bunger,
stoopingly walking round Ahab, and like a dog, strangely snuffing;
"this man's blood--bring the thermometer!--it's at the boiling point!--
his pulse makes these planks beat!--sir!"--taking a lancet from
his pocket, and drawing near to Ahab's arm.
"Avast!" roared Ahab, dashing him against the bulwarks--"Man the boat!
Which way heading?"
"Good God!" cried the English Captain, to whom the question was put.
"What's the matter? He was heading east, I think.--Is your
Captain crazy?" whispering Fedallah.
But Fedallah, putting a finger on his lip, slid over the bulwarks
to take the boat's steering oar, and Ahab, swinging the cutting-tackle
towards him commanded the ship's sailors to stand by to lower.
In a moment he was standing in the boat's stern, and the Manilla men
were springing to their oars. In vain the English Captain hailed him.
With back to the stranger ship, and face set like a flint to his own,
Ahab stood upright till alongside of the Pequod.
Ere the English ship fades from sight be it set down here, that she
hailed from London, and was named after the late Samuel Enderby,
merchant of that city, the original of the famous whaling house
of enderby and sons; a house which in my poor whaleman's opinion,
comes not far behind the united royal houses of the Tudors and Bourbons,
in point of real historical interest. How long, prior to the year
of our Lord 1775, this great whaling house was in existence,
my numerous fish-documents do not make plain; but in that year
(1775) it fitted out the first English ships that ever regularly
hunted the Sperm Whale; though for some score of years previous
(ever since 1726) our valiant Coffins and Maceys of Nantucket
and the Vineyard had in large fleets pursued the Leviathan,
but only in the North and South Atlantic: not elsewhere.
Be it distinctly recorded here, that the Nantucketers were the first
among mankind to harpoon with civilized steel the great Sperm Whale;
and that for half a century they were the only people of the whole
globe who so harpooned him.
In 1778, a fine ship, the Amelia, fitted out for the express purpose,
and at the sole charge of the vigorous Enderbys, boldly rounded
Cape Horn, and was the first among the nations to lower a whale-boat
of any sort in the great South Sea. The voyage was a skilful
and lucky one; and returning to her berth with her hold full
of the precious sperm, the Amelia's example was soon followed
by other ships, English and American, and thus the vast Sperm Whale
grounds of the Pacific were thrown open. But not content with this
good deed, the indefatigable house again bestirred itself:
Samuel and all his Sons--how many, their mother only knows--and under
their immediate auspices, and partly, I think, at their expense,
the British government was induced to send the sloop-of-war Rattler
on a whaling voyage of discovery into the South Sea. Commanded by
a naval Post-Captain, the Rattler made a rattling voyage of it,
and did some service; how much does not appear. But this is not all.
In 1819, the same house fitted out a discovery whale ship of their own,
to go on a tasting cruise to the remote waters of Japan. That ship--
well called the "Syren"--made a noble experimental cruise;
and it was thus that the great Japanese Whaling Ground first became
generally known. The Syren in this famous voyage was commanded
by a Captain Coffin, a Nantucketer.
All honor to the Enderbies, therefore, whose house, I think,
exists to the present day; though doubtless the original Samuel
must long ago have slipped his cable for the great South Sea
of the other world.
The ship named after him was worthy of the honor, being a very fast sailer
and a noble craft every way. I boarded her once at midnight somewhere
off the Patagonian coast, and drank good flip down in the forecastle.
It was a fine gam we had, and they were all trumps--every soul on board.
A short life to them, and a jolly death. And that fine gam I had--
long, very long after old Ahab touched her planks with his ivory heel--
it minds me of the noble, solid, Saxon hospitality of that ship;
and may my parson forget me, and the devil remember me, if I ever
lose sight of it. Flip? Did I say we had flip? Yes, and we flipped
it at the rate of ten gallons the hour; and when the squall came
(for it's squally off there by Patagonia), and all hands--
visitors and all--were called to reef topsails, we were so top-heavy
that we had to swing each other aloft in bowlines; and we ignorantly
furled the skirts of our jackets into the sails, so that we hung there,
reefed fast in the howling gale, a warning example to all drunken tars.
However, the masts did not go overboard; and by and by we scrambled down,
so sober, that we had to pass the flip again, though the savage salt
spray bursting down the forecastle scuttle, rather too much diluted
and pickled it for my taste.
The beef was fine--tough, but with body in it.
They said it was bullbeef; others, that it was dromedary beef;
but I do not know, for certain, how that was. They had
dumplings too; small, but substantial, symmetrically globular,
and indestructible dumplings. I fancied that you could feel them,
and roll them about in you after they were swallowed.
If you stooped over too far forward, you risked their
pitching out of you like billiard-balls. The bread--
but that couldn't be helped; besides, it was an anti-scorbutic,
in short, the bread contained the only fresh fare they had.
But the forecastle was not very light, and it was very easy
to step over into a dark corner when you ate it. But all in all,
taking her from truck to helm, considering the dimensions
of the cook's boilers, including his own live parchment boilers;
fore and aft, I say, the Samuel Enderby was a jolly ship;
of good fare and plenty; fine flip and strong; crack fellows all,
and capital from boot heels to hat-band.
But why was it, think ye, that the Samuel Enderby, and some other
English whalers I know of--not all though--were such famous,
hospitable ships; that passed round the beef, and the bread,
and the can, and the joke; and were not soon weary of eating,
and drinking, and laughing? I will tell you. The abounding good
cheer of these English whalers is matter for historical research.
Nor have I been at all sparing of historical whale research,
when it has seemed needed.
The English were preceded in the whale fishery by
the Hollanders, Zealanders, and Danes; from whom they derived
many terms still extant in the fishery; and what is yet more,
their fat old fashions, touching plenty to eat and drink.
For, as a general thing, the English merchant-ship scrimps her crew;
but not so the English whaler. Hence, in the English, this thing
of whaling good cheer is not normal and natural, but incidental
and particular; and, therefore, must have some special origin,
which is here pointed out, and will be still further elucidated.
During my researches in the Leviathanic histories, I stumbled upon
an ancient Dutch volume, which, by the musty whaling smell of it,
I knew must be about whalers. The title was, "Dan Coopman,"
wherefore I concluded that this must be the invaluable memoirs
of some Amsterdam cooper in the fishery, as every whale ship must
carry its cooper. I was reinforced in this opinion by seeing
that it was the production of one "Fitz Swackhammer." But my
friend Dr. Snodhead, a very learned man, professor of Low Dutch
and High German in the college of Santa Claus and St. Potts,
to whom I handed the work for translation, giving him a box of sperm
candles for his trouble--this same Dr. Snodhead, so soon as he spied
the book, assured me that "Dan Coopman" did not mean "The Cooper,"
but "The Merchant." In short, this ancient and learned Low Dutch
book treated of the commerce of Holland; and, among other subjects,
contained a very interesting account of its whale fishery.
And in this chapter it was, headed, "Smeer," or "Fat," that I
found a long detailed list of the outfits for the larders
and cellars of 180 sail of Dutch whalemen; from which list,
as translated by Dr. Snodhead, I transcribe the following:
0084400,000 lbs. of beef.
60,000 lbs. Friesland pork.
150,000 lbs. of stock fish.
550,000 lbs. of biscuit.
72,000 lbs. of soft bread.
2,800 firkins of butter.
20,000 lbs. of Texel and Leyden cheese.
144,000 lbs. cheese (probably an inferior article).
550 ankers of Geneva.
10,800 barrels of beer.
Most statistical tables are parchingly dry in the reading;
not so in the present case, however, where the reader is flooded
with whole pipes, barrels, quarts, and gills of good gin
and good cheer.
At the time, I devoted three days to the studious digesting of all
this beer, beef, and bread, during which many profound thoughts
were incidentally suggested to me, capable of a transcendental
and Platonic application; and, furthermore, I compiled supplementary
tables of my own, touching the probable quantity of stock-fish, &c.,
consumed by every Low Dutch harpooneer in that ancient Greenland
and Spitzbergen whale fishery. In the first place, the amount
of butter, and Texel and Leyden cheese consumed, seems amazing.
I impute it, though, to their naturally unctuous natures,
being rendered still more unctuous by the nature of their vocation,
and especially by their pursuing their game in those frigid Polar Seas,
on the very coasts of that Esquimaux country where the convivial
natives pledge each other in bumpers of train oil.
The quantity of the beer, too, is very large, 10,800 barrels.
Now, as those polar fisheries could only be prosecuted in the short
summer of that climate, so that the whole cruise of one of these Dutch
whalemen, including the short voyage to and from the Spitzbergen sea,
did not much exceed three months, say, and reckoning 30 men
to each of their fleet of 180 sail, we have 5,400 Low Dutch seamen
in all; therefore, I say, we have precisely two barrels of beer
per man, for a twelve weeks' allowance, exclusive of his fair
proportion of that 550 ankers of gin. Now, whether these gin and
beer harpooneers, so fuddled as one might fancy them to have been,
were the right sort of men to stand up in a boat's head, and take
good aim at flying whales; this would seem somewhat improbable.
Yet they did aim at them, and hit them too. But this was very far North,
be it remembered, where beer agrees well with the constitution;
upon the Equator, in our southern fishery, beer would be apt to make
the harpooneer sleepy at the mast-head and boozy in his boat;
and grievous loss might ensue to Nantucket and New Bedford.
But no more; enough has been said to show that the old Dutch
whalers of two or three centuries ago were high livers; and that
the English whalers have not neglected so excellent an example.
For, say they, when cruising in an empty ship, if you can get nothing
better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least.
And this empties the decanter.
A Bower in the Arsacides
Hitherto, in descriptively treating of the Sperm Whale, I have
chiefly dwelt upon the marvels of his outer aspect; or separately
and in detail upon some few interior structural features.