The Project Gutenberg ebook of Moby Dick; or The Whale, by Herman Melville

Download 4.14 Mb.
Date conversion29.04.2016
Size4.14 Mb.
1   ...   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   ...   56

sharp ridge. Let him go. I know little more of him, nor does anybody


gentleman, with a brimstone belly, doubtless got by scraping along the

Tartarian tiles in some of his profounder divings. He is seldom seen;

at least I have never seen him except in the remoter southern seas,

and then always at too great a distance to study his countenance. He is

never chased; he would run away with rope-walks of line. Prodigies are

told of him. Adieu, Sulphur Bottom! I can say nothing more that is true

of ye, nor can the oldest Nantucketer.
Thus ends BOOK I. (FOLIO), and now begins BOOK II. (OCTAVO).
OCTAVOES.*--These embrace the whales of middling magnitude, among which

present may be numbered:--I., the GRAMPUS; II., the BLACK FISH; III.,


*Why this book of whales is not denominated the Quarto is very plain.

Because, while the whales of this order, though smaller than those of

the former order, nevertheless retain a proportionate likeness to them

in figure, yet the bookbinder's Quarto volume in its dimensioned form

does not preserve the shape of the Folio volume, but the Octavo volume


BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER I. (GRAMPUS).--Though this fish, whose

loud sonorous breathing, or rather blowing, has furnished a proverb

to landsmen, is so well known a denizen of the deep, yet is he not

popularly classed among whales. But possessing all the grand distinctive

features of the leviathan, most naturalists have recognised him for one.

He is of moderate octavo size, varying from fifteen to twenty-five feet

in length, and of corresponding dimensions round the waist. He swims in

herds; he is never regularly hunted, though his oil is considerable in

quantity, and pretty good for light. By some fishermen his approach is

regarded as premonitory of the advance of the great sperm whale.
BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER II. (BLACK FISH).--I give the popular

fishermen's names for all these fish, for generally they are the best.

Where any name happens to be vague or inexpressive, I shall say so,

and suggest another. I do so now, touching the Black Fish, so-called,

because blackness is the rule among almost all whales. So, call him the

Hyena Whale, if you please. His voracity is well known, and from the

circumstance that the inner angles of his lips are curved upwards, he

carries an everlasting Mephistophelean grin on his face. This whale

averages some sixteen or eighteen feet in length. He is found in almost

all latitudes. He has a peculiar way of showing his dorsal hooked fin

in swimming, which looks something like a Roman nose. When not more

profitably employed, the sperm whale hunters sometimes capture the Hyena

whale, to keep up the supply of cheap oil for domestic employment--as

some frugal housekeepers, in the absence of company, and quite alone by

themselves, burn unsavory tallow instead of odorous wax. Though their

blubber is very thin, some of these whales will yield you upwards of

thirty gallons of oil.

WHALE.--Another instance of a curiously named whale, so named I suppose

from his peculiar horn being originally mistaken for a peaked nose. The

creature is some sixteen feet in length, while its horn averages five

feet, though some exceed ten, and even attain to fifteen feet. Strictly

speaking, this horn is but a lengthened tusk, growing out from the jaw

in a line a little depressed from the horizontal. But it is only

found on the sinister side, which has an ill effect, giving its owner

something analogous to the aspect of a clumsy left-handed man. What

precise purpose this ivory horn or lance answers, it would be hard to

say. It does not seem to be used like the blade of the sword-fish and

bill-fish; though some sailors tell me that the Narwhale employs it for

a rake in turning over the bottom of the sea for food. Charley Coffin

said it was used for an ice-piercer; for the Narwhale, rising to the

surface of the Polar Sea, and finding it sheeted with ice, thrusts his

horn up, and so breaks through. But you cannot prove either of these

surmises to be correct. My own opinion is, that however this one-sided

horn may really be used by the Narwhale--however that may be--it would

certainly be very convenient to him for a folder in reading pamphlets.

The Narwhale I have heard called the Tusked whale, the Horned whale, and

the Unicorn whale. He is certainly a curious example of the Unicornism

to be found in almost every kingdom of animated nature. From certain

cloistered old authors I have gathered that this same sea-unicorn's horn

was in ancient days regarded as the great antidote against poison,

and as such, preparations of it brought immense prices. It was also

distilled to a volatile salts for fainting ladies, the same way that the

horns of the male deer are manufactured into hartshorn. Originally it

was in itself accounted an object of great curiosity. Black Letter tells

me that Sir Martin Frobisher on his return from that voyage, when

Queen Bess did gallantly wave her jewelled hand to him from a window

of Greenwich Palace, as his bold ship sailed down the Thames; "when Sir

Martin returned from that voyage," saith Black Letter, "on bended knees

he presented to her highness a prodigious long horn of the Narwhale,

which for a long period after hung in the castle at Windsor." An Irish

author avers that the Earl of Leicester, on bended knees, did likewise

present to her highness another horn, pertaining to a land beast of the

unicorn nature.
The Narwhale has a very picturesque, leopard-like look, being of a

milk-white ground colour, dotted with round and oblong spots of black.

His oil is very superior, clear and fine; but there is little of it, and

he is seldom hunted. He is mostly found in the circumpolar seas.

BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER IV. (KILLER).--Of this whale little is

precisely known to the Nantucketer, and nothing at all to the professed

naturalist. From what I have seen of him at a distance, I should say

that he was about the bigness of a grampus. He is very savage--a sort of

Feegee fish. He sometimes takes the great Folio whales by the lip, and

hangs there like a leech, till the mighty brute is worried to death. The

Killer is never hunted. I never heard what sort of oil he has. Exception

might be taken to the name bestowed upon this whale, on the ground

of its indistinctness. For we are all killers, on land and on sea;

Bonapartes and Sharks included.

BOOK II. (OCTAVO), CHAPTER V. (THRASHER).--This gentleman is famous for

his tail, which he uses for a ferule in thrashing his foes. He mounts

the Folio whale's back, and as he swims, he works his passage by

flogging him; as some schoolmasters get along in the world by a similar

process. Still less is known of the Thrasher than of the Killer. Both

are outlaws, even in the lawless seas.

Thus ends BOOK II. (OCTAVO), and begins BOOK III. (DUODECIMO).
DUODECIMOES.--These include the smaller whales. I. The Huzza Porpoise.

II. The Algerine Porpoise. III. The Mealy-mouthed Porpoise.

To those who have not chanced specially to study the subject, it may

possibly seem strange, that fishes not commonly exceeding four or five

feet should be marshalled among WHALES--a word, which, in the popular

sense, always conveys an idea of hugeness. But the creatures set

down above as Duodecimoes are infallibly whales, by the terms of my

definition of what a whale is--i.e. a spouting fish, with a horizontal


common porpoise found almost all over the globe. The name is of my own

bestowal; for there are more than one sort of porpoises, and something

must be done to distinguish them. I call him thus, because he always

swims in hilarious shoals, which upon the broad sea keep tossing

themselves to heaven like caps in a Fourth-of-July crowd. Their

appearance is generally hailed with delight by the mariner. Full of fine

spirits, they invariably come from the breezy billows to windward. They

are the lads that always live before the wind. They are accounted a

lucky omen. If you yourself can withstand three cheers at beholding

these vivacious fish, then heaven help ye; the spirit of godly

gamesomeness is not in ye. A well-fed, plump Huzza Porpoise will

yield you one good gallon of good oil. But the fine and delicate fluid

extracted from his jaws is exceedingly valuable. It is in request among

jewellers and watchmakers. Sailors put it on their hones. Porpoise

meat is good eating, you know. It may never have occurred to you that

a porpoise spouts. Indeed, his spout is so small that it is not very

readily discernible. But the next time you have a chance, watch him; and

you will then see the great Sperm whale himself in miniature.

savage. He is only found, I think, in the Pacific. He is somewhat larger

than the Huzza Porpoise, but much of the same general make. Provoke him,

and he will buckle to a shark. I have lowered for him many times, but

never yet saw him captured.

largest kind of Porpoise; and only found in the Pacific, so far as it is

known. The only English name, by which he has hitherto been designated,

is that of the fishers--Right-Whale Porpoise, from the circumstance that

he is chiefly found in the vicinity of that Folio. In shape, he differs

in some degree from the Huzza Porpoise, being of a less rotund and jolly

girth; indeed, he is of quite a neat and gentleman-like figure. He has

no fins on his back (most other porpoises have), he has a lovely tail,

and sentimental Indian eyes of a hazel hue. But his mealy-mouth spoils

all. Though his entire back down to his side fins is of a deep sable,

yet a boundary line, distinct as the mark in a ship's hull, called

the "bright waist," that line streaks him from stem to stern, with two

separate colours, black above and white below. The white comprises part

of his head, and the whole of his mouth, which makes him look as if he

had just escaped from a felonious visit to a meal-bag. A most mean and

mealy aspect! His oil is much like that of the common porpoise.

Beyond the DUODECIMO, this system does not proceed, inasmuch as

the Porpoise is the smallest of the whales. Above, you have all the

Leviathans of note. But there are a rabble of uncertain, fugitive,

half-fabulous whales, which, as an American whaleman, I know by

reputation, but not personally. I shall enumerate them by their

fore-castle appellations; for possibly such a list may be valuable to

future investigators, who may complete what I have here but begun. If

any of the following whales, shall hereafter be caught and marked, then

he can readily be incorporated into this System, according to his Folio,

Octavo, or Duodecimo magnitude:--The Bottle-Nose Whale; the Junk Whale;

the Pudding-Headed Whale; the Cape Whale; the Leading Whale; the Cannon

Whale; the Scragg Whale; the Coppered Whale; the Elephant Whale; the

Iceberg Whale; the Quog Whale; the Blue Whale; etc. From Icelandic,

Dutch, and old English authorities, there might be quoted other lists of

uncertain whales, blessed with all manner of uncouth names. But I omit

them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly help suspecting them for

mere sounds, full of Leviathanism, but signifying nothing.
Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this system would not be

here, and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I have

kept my word. But I now leave my cetological System standing thus

unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the

crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small

erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true

ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever

completing anything. This whole book is but a draught--nay, but the

draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!

CHAPTER 33. The Specksnyder.

Concerning the officers of the whale-craft, this seems as good a place

as any to set down a little domestic peculiarity on ship-board, arising

from the existence of the harpooneer class of officers, a class unknown

of course in any other marine than the whale-fleet.

The large importance attached to the harpooneer's vocation is evinced

by the fact, that originally in the old Dutch Fishery, two centuries

and more ago, the command of a whale ship was not wholly lodged in

the person now called the captain, but was divided between him and an

officer called the Specksnyder. Literally this word means Fat-Cutter;

usage, however, in time made it equivalent to Chief Harpooneer. In

those days, the captain's authority was restricted to the navigation

and general management of the vessel; while over the whale-hunting

department and all its concerns, the Specksnyder or Chief Harpooneer

reigned supreme. In the British Greenland Fishery, under the corrupted

title of Specksioneer, this old Dutch official is still retained, but

his former dignity is sadly abridged. At present he ranks simply

as senior Harpooneer; and as such, is but one of the captain's more

inferior subalterns. Nevertheless, as upon the good conduct of the

harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely depends, and since

in the American Fishery he is not only an important officer in the boat,

but under certain circumstances (night watches on a whaling ground) the

command of the ship's deck is also his; therefore the grand political

maxim of the sea demands, that he should nominally live apart from

the men before the mast, and be in some way distinguished as their

professional superior; though always, by them, familiarly regarded as

their social equal.

Now, the grand distinction drawn between officer and man at sea, is

this--the first lives aft, the last forward. Hence, in whale-ships and

merchantmen alike, the mates have their quarters with the captain; and

so, too, in most of the American whalers the harpooneers are lodged in

the after part of the ship. That is to say, they take their meals in the

captain's cabin, and sleep in a place indirectly communicating with it.

Though the long period of a Southern whaling voyage (by far the longest

of all voyages now or ever made by man), the peculiar perils of it, and

the community of interest prevailing among a company, all of whom, high

or low, depend for their profits, not upon fixed wages, but upon their

common luck, together with their common vigilance, intrepidity, and

hard work; though all these things do in some cases tend to beget a less

rigorous discipline than in merchantmen generally; yet, never mind

how much like an old Mesopotamian family these whalemen may, in some

primitive instances, live together; for all that, the punctilious

externals, at least, of the quarter-deck are seldom materially relaxed,

and in no instance done away. Indeed, many are the Nantucket ships in

which you will see the skipper parading his quarter-deck with an elated

grandeur not surpassed in any military navy; nay, extorting almost

as much outward homage as if he wore the imperial purple, and not the

shabbiest of pilot-cloth.
And though of all men the moody captain of the Pequod was the least

given to that sort of shallowest assumption; and though the only homage

he ever exacted, was implicit, instantaneous obedience; though he

required no man to remove the shoes from his feet ere stepping upon

the quarter-deck; and though there were times when, owing to peculiar

circumstances connected with events hereafter to be detailed, he

addressed them in unusual terms, whether of condescension or IN

TERROREM, or otherwise; yet even Captain Ahab was by no means

unobservant of the paramount forms and usages of the sea.
Nor, perhaps, will it fail to be eventually perceived, that behind those

forms and usages, as it were, he sometimes masked himself; incidentally

making use of them for other and more private ends than they were

legitimately intended to subserve. That certain sultanism of his brain,

which had otherwise in a good degree remained unmanifested; through

those forms that same sultanism became incarnate in an irresistible

dictatorship. For be a man's intellectual superiority what it will,

it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men,

without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always,

in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever

keeps God's true princes of the Empire from the world's hustings; and

leaves the highest honours that this air can give, to those men who

become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice

hidden handful of the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted

superiority over the dead level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks

in these small things when extreme political superstitions invest them,

that in some royal instances even to idiot imbecility they have imparted

potency. But when, as in the case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown

of geographical empire encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian

herds crouch abased before the tremendous centralization. Nor, will the

tragic dramatist who would depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest

sweep and direct swing, ever forget a hint, incidentally so important in

his art, as the one now alluded to.
But Ahab, my Captain, still moves before me in all his Nantucket

grimness and shagginess; and in this episode touching Emperors and

Kings, I must not conceal that I have only to do with a poor old

whale-hunter like him; and, therefore, all outward majestical trappings

and housings are denied me. Oh, Ahab! what shall be grand in thee, it

must needs be plucked at from the skies, and dived for in the deep, and

featured in the unbodied air!

CHAPTER 34. The Cabin-Table.

It is noon; and Dough-Boy, the steward, thrusting his pale loaf-of-bread

face from the cabin-scuttle, announces dinner to his lord and

master; who, sitting in the lee quarter-boat, has just been taking an

observation of the sun; and is now mutely reckoning the latitude on the

smooth, medallion-shaped tablet, reserved for that daily purpose on

the upper part of his ivory leg. From his complete inattention to the

tidings, you would think that moody Ahab had not heard his menial. But

presently, catching hold of the mizen shrouds, he swings himself to

the deck, and in an even, unexhilarated voice, saying, "Dinner, Mr.

Starbuck," disappears into the cabin.

When the last echo of his sultan's step has died away, and Starbuck, the

first Emir, has every reason to suppose that he is seated, then Starbuck

rouses from his quietude, takes a few turns along the planks, and, after

a grave peep into the binnacle, says, with some touch of pleasantness,

"Dinner, Mr. Stubb," and descends the scuttle. The second Emir lounges

about the rigging awhile, and then slightly shaking the main brace, to

see whether it will be all right with that important rope, he likewise

takes up the old burden, and with a rapid "Dinner, Mr. Flask," follows

after his predecessors.
But the third Emir, now seeing himself all alone on the quarter-deck,

seems to feel relieved from some curious restraint; for, tipping all

sorts of knowing winks in all sorts of directions, and kicking off his

shoes, he strikes into a sharp but noiseless squall of a hornpipe right

over the Grand Turk's head; and then, by a dexterous sleight, pitching

his cap up into the mizentop for a shelf, he goes down rollicking so

far at least as he remains visible from the deck, reversing all other

processions, by bringing up the rear with music. But ere stepping into

the cabin doorway below, he pauses, ships a new face altogether, and,

then, independent, hilarious little Flask enters King Ahab's presence,

in the character of Abjectus, or the Slave.
It is not the least among the strange things bred by the intense

artificialness of sea-usages, that while in the open air of the deck

some officers will, upon provocation, bear themselves boldly and

defyingly enough towards their commander; yet, ten to one, let those

very officers the next moment go down to their customary dinner in that

same commander's cabin, and straightway their inoffensive, not to say

deprecatory and humble air towards him, as he sits at the head of

the table; this is marvellous, sometimes most comical. Wherefore this

difference? A problem? Perhaps not. To have been Belshazzar, King of

Babylon; and to have been Belshazzar, not haughtily but courteously,

therein certainly must have been some touch of mundane grandeur. But he

who in the rightly regal and intelligent spirit presides over his own

private dinner-table of invited guests, that man's unchallenged power

and dominion of individual influence for the time; that man's royalty of

state transcends Belshazzar's, for Belshazzar was not the greatest. Who

has but once dined his friends, has tasted what it is to be Caesar. It

is a witchery of social czarship which there is no withstanding. Now,

if to this consideration you superadd the official supremacy of a

ship-master, then, by inference, you will derive the cause of that

peculiarity of sea-life just mentioned.

Over his ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned

sea-lion on the white coral beach, surrounded by his warlike but still

deferential cubs. In his own proper turn, each officer waited to be

served. They were as little children before Ahab; and yet, in Ahab,

there seemed not to lurk the smallest social arrogance. With one mind,

their intent eyes all fastened upon the old man's knife, as he carved

the chief dish before him. I do not suppose that for the world they

would have profaned that moment with the slightest observation, even

upon so neutral a topic as the weather. No! And when reaching out his

knife and fork, between which the slice of beef was locked, Ahab thereby

motioned Starbuck's plate towards him, the mate received his meat as

1   ...   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   ...   56

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page