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

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cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity;

takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep,

blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every

strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every

dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form, seems to him

the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by

continually flitting through it. In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs

away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space; like

Crammer's sprinkled Pantheistic ashes, forming at last a part of every

shore the round globe over.

There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a

gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from

the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye,

move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity

comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps,

at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you

drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise

for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!

CHAPTER 36. The Quarter-Deck.


It was not a great while after the affair of the pipe, that one

morning shortly after breakfast, Ahab, as was his wont, ascended the

cabin-gangway to the deck. There most sea-captains usually walk at that

hour, as country gentlemen, after the same meal, take a few turns in the

Soon his steady, ivory stride was heard, as to and fro he paced his old

rounds, upon planks so familiar to his tread, that they were all over

dented, like geological stones, with the peculiar mark of his walk. Did

you fixedly gaze, too, upon that ribbed and dented brow; there also,

you would see still stranger foot-prints--the foot-prints of his one

unsleeping, ever-pacing thought.
But on the occasion in question, those dents looked deeper, even as

his nervous step that morning left a deeper mark. And, so full of his

thought was Ahab, that at every uniform turn that he made, now at the

main-mast and now at the binnacle, you could almost see that thought

turn in him as he turned, and pace in him as he paced; so completely

possessing him, indeed, that it all but seemed the inward mould of every

outer movement.
"D'ye mark him, Flask?" whispered Stubb; "the chick that's in him pecks

the shell. 'Twill soon be out."

The hours wore on;--Ahab now shut up within his cabin; anon, pacing the

deck, with the same intense bigotry of purpose in his aspect.

It drew near the close of day. Suddenly he came to a halt by the

bulwarks, and inserting his bone leg into the auger-hole there, and with

one hand grasping a shroud, he ordered Starbuck to send everybody aft.
"Sir!" said the mate, astonished at an order seldom or never given on

ship-board except in some extraordinary case.

"Send everybody aft," repeated Ahab. "Mast-heads, there! come down!"
When the entire ship's company were assembled, and with curious and not

wholly unapprehensive faces, were eyeing him, for he looked not unlike

the weather horizon when a storm is coming up, Ahab, after rapidly

glancing over the bulwarks, and then darting his eyes among the crew,

started from his standpoint; and as though not a soul were nigh him

resumed his heavy turns upon the deck. With bent head and half-slouched

hat he continued to pace, unmindful of the wondering whispering among

the men; till Stubb cautiously whispered to Flask, that Ahab must have

summoned them there for the purpose of witnessing a pedestrian feat. But

this did not last long. Vehemently pausing, he cried:--

"What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?"
"Sing out for him!" was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed

"Good!" cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the

hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so magnetically

thrown them.

"And what do ye next, men?"
"Lower away, and after him!"
"And what tune is it ye pull to, men?"
"A dead whale or a stove boat!"
More and more strangely and fiercely glad and approving, grew the

countenance of the old man at every shout; while the mariners began

to gaze curiously at each other, as if marvelling how it was that they

themselves became so excited at such seemingly purposeless questions.

But, they were all eagerness again, as Ahab, now half-revolving in his

pivot-hole, with one hand reaching high up a shroud, and tightly, almost

convulsively grasping it, addressed them thus:--
"All ye mast-headers have before now heard me give orders about a white

whale. Look ye! d'ye see this Spanish ounce of gold?"--holding up a

broad bright coin to the sun--"it is a sixteen dollar piece, men. D'ye

see it? Mr. Starbuck, hand me yon top-maul."

While the mate was getting the hammer, Ahab, without speaking, was

slowly rubbing the gold piece against the skirts of his jacket, as if

to heighten its lustre, and without using any words was meanwhile

lowly humming to himself, producing a sound so strangely muffled and

inarticulate that it seemed the mechanical humming of the wheels of his

vitality in him.

Receiving the top-maul from Starbuck, he advanced towards the main-mast

with the hammer uplifted in one hand, exhibiting the gold with the

other, and with a high raised voice exclaiming: "Whosoever of ye

raises me a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw;

whosoever of ye raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes

punctured in his starboard fluke--look ye, whosoever of ye raises me

that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!"
"Huzza! huzza!" cried the seamen, as with swinging tarpaulins they

hailed the act of nailing the gold to the mast.

"It's a white whale, I say," resumed Ahab, as he threw down the topmaul:

"a white whale. Skin your eyes for him, men; look sharp for white water;

if ye see but a bubble, sing out."
All this while Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg had looked on with even

more intense interest and surprise than the rest, and at the mention

of the wrinkled brow and crooked jaw they had started as if each was

separately touched by some specific recollection.

"Captain Ahab," said Tashtego, "that white whale must be the same that

some call Moby Dick."

"Moby Dick?" shouted Ahab. "Do ye know the white whale then, Tash?"
"Does he fan-tail a little curious, sir, before he goes down?" said the

Gay-Header deliberately.

"And has he a curious spout, too," said Daggoo, "very bushy, even for a

parmacetty, and mighty quick, Captain Ahab?"

"And he have one, two, three--oh! good many iron in him hide, too,

Captain," cried Queequeg disjointedly, "all twiske-tee be-twisk, like

him--him--" faltering hard for a word, and screwing his hand round and

round as though uncorking a bottle--"like him--him--"

"Corkscrew!" cried Ahab, "aye, Queequeg, the harpoons lie all twisted

and wrenched in him; aye, Daggoo, his spout is a big one, like a whole

shock of wheat, and white as a pile of our Nantucket wool after the

great annual sheep-shearing; aye, Tashtego, and he fan-tails like a

split jib in a squall. Death and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye have

seen--Moby Dick--Moby Dick!"

"Captain Ahab," said Starbuck, who, with Stubb and Flask, had thus far

been eyeing his superior with increasing surprise, but at last seemed

struck with a thought which somewhat explained all the wonder. "Captain

Ahab, I have heard of Moby Dick--but it was not Moby Dick that took off

thy leg?"
"Who told thee that?" cried Ahab; then pausing, "Aye, Starbuck; aye, my

hearties all round; it was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that

brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye," he shouted with

a terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose;

"Aye, aye! it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor

pegging lubber of me for ever and a day!" Then tossing both arms, with

measureless imprecations he shouted out: "Aye, aye! and I'll chase him

round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and

round perdition's flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have

shipped for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and

over all sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out.

What say ye, men, will ye splice hands on it, now? I think ye do look

"Aye, aye!" shouted the harpooneers and seamen, running closer to the

excited old man: "A sharp eye for the white whale; a sharp lance for

Moby Dick!"
"God bless ye," he seemed to half sob and half shout. "God bless ye,

men. Steward! go draw the great measure of grog. But what's this long

face about, Mr. Starbuck; wilt thou not chase the white whale? art not

game for Moby Dick?"

"I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain

Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I

came here to hunt whales, not my commander's vengeance. How many barrels

will thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it

will not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market."
"Nantucket market! Hoot! But come closer, Starbuck; thou requirest

a little lower layer. If money's to be the measurer, man, and the

accountants have computed their great counting-house the globe, by

girdling it with guineas, one to every three parts of an inch; then, let

me tell thee, that my vengeance will fetch a great premium HERE!"
"He smites his chest," whispered Stubb, "what's that for? methinks it

rings most vast, but hollow."

"Vengeance on a dumb brute!" cried Starbuck, "that simply smote thee

from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing,

Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous."
"Hark ye yet again--the little lower layer. All visible objects, man,

are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the

undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth

the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man

will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside

except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that

wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But

'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength,

with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is

chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale

principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy,

man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that,

then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play

herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man,

is even that fair play. Who's over me? Truth hath no confines. Take off

thine eye! more intolerable than fiends' glarings is a doltish

stare! So, so; thou reddenest and palest; my heat has melted thee to

anger-glow. But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat, that thing

unsays itself. There are men from whom warm words are small indignity. I

meant not to incense thee. Let it go. Look! see yonder Turkish cheeks of

spotted tawn--living, breathing pictures painted by the sun. The Pagan

leopards--the unrecking and unworshipping things, that live; and seek,

and give no reasons for the torrid life they feel! The crew, man, the

crew! Are they not one and all with Ahab, in this matter of the whale?

See Stubb! he laughs! See yonder Chilian! he snorts to think of it.

Stand up amid the general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot,

Starbuck! And what is it? Reckon it. 'Tis but to help strike a fin; no

wondrous feat for Starbuck. What is it more? From this one poor hunt,

then, the best lance out of all Nantucket, surely he will not hang back,

when every foremast-hand has clutched a whetstone? Ah! constrainings

seize thee; I see! the billow lifts thee! Speak, but speak!--Aye, aye!

thy silence, then, THAT voices thee. (ASIDE) Something shot from my

dilated nostrils, he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is mine;

cannot oppose me now, without rebellion."

"God keep me!--keep us all!" murmured Starbuck, lowly.
But in his joy at the enchanted, tacit acquiescence of the mate, Ahab

did not hear his foreboding invocation; nor yet the low laugh from the

hold; nor yet the presaging vibrations of the winds in the cordage;

nor yet the hollow flap of the sails against the masts, as for a moment

their hearts sank in. For again Starbuck's downcast eyes lighted up with

the stubbornness of life; the subterranean laugh died away; the winds

blew on; the sails filled out; the ship heaved and rolled as before. Ah,

ye admonitions and warnings! why stay ye not when ye come? But

rather are ye predictions than warnings, ye shadows! Yet not so much

predictions from without, as verifications of the foregoing things

within. For with little external to constrain us, the innermost

necessities in our being, these still drive us on.

"The measure! the measure!" cried Ahab.
Receiving the brimming pewter, and turning to the harpooneers, he

ordered them to produce their weapons. Then ranging them before him near

the capstan, with their harpoons in their hands, while his three mates

stood at his side with their lances, and the rest of the ship's company

formed a circle round the group; he stood for an instant searchingly

eyeing every man of his crew. But those wild eyes met his, as the

bloodshot eyes of the prairie wolves meet the eye of their leader, ere

he rushes on at their head in the trail of the bison; but, alas! only to

fall into the hidden snare of the Indian.
"Drink and pass!" he cried, handing the heavy charged flagon to the

nearest seaman. "The crew alone now drink. Round with it, round! Short

draughts--long swallows, men; 'tis hot as Satan's hoof. So, so; it

goes round excellently. It spiralizes in ye; forks out at the

serpent-snapping eye. Well done; almost drained. That way it went, this

way it comes. Hand it me--here's a hollow! Men, ye seem the years; so

brimming life is gulped and gone. Steward, refill!
"Attend now, my braves. I have mustered ye all round this capstan; and

ye mates, flank me with your lances; and ye harpooneers, stand there

with your irons; and ye, stout mariners, ring me in, that I may in some

sort revive a noble custom of my fisherman fathers before me. O men, you

will yet see that--Ha! boy, come back? bad pennies come not sooner. Hand

it me. Why, now, this pewter had run brimming again, were't not thou St.

Vitus' imp--away, thou ague!
"Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let

me touch the axis." So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the

three level, radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing,

suddenly and nervously twitched them; meanwhile, glancing intently from

Starbuck to Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some

nameless, interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the

same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic

life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic

aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of

Starbuck fell downright.

"In vain!" cried Ahab; "but, maybe, 'tis well. For did ye three but

once take the full-forced shock, then mine own electric thing, THAT had

perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too, it would have dropped ye

dead. Perchance ye need it not. Down lances! And now, ye mates, I do

appoint ye three cupbearers to my three pagan kinsmen there--yon three

most honourable gentlemen and noblemen, my valiant harpooneers. Disdain

the task? What, when the great Pope washes the feet of beggars, using

his tiara for ewer? Oh, my sweet cardinals! your own condescension, THAT

shall bend ye to it. I do not order ye; ye will it. Cut your seizings

and draw the poles, ye harpooneers!"

Silently obeying the order, the three harpooneers now stood with the

detached iron part of their harpoons, some three feet long, held, barbs

up, before him.
"Stab me not with that keen steel! Cant them; cant them over! know ye

not the goblet end? Turn up the socket! So, so; now, ye cup-bearers,

advance. The irons! take them; hold them while I fill!" Forthwith,

slowly going from one officer to the other, he brimmed the harpoon

sockets with the fiery waters from the pewter.
"Now, three to three, ye stand. Commend the murderous chalices! Bestow

them, ye who are now made parties to this indissoluble league. Ha!

Starbuck! but the deed is done! Yon ratifying sun now waits to sit upon

it. Drink, ye harpooneers! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful

whaleboat's bow--Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt

Moby Dick to his death!" The long, barbed steel goblets were lifted;

and to cries and maledictions against the white whale, the spirits were

simultaneously quaffed down with a hiss. Starbuck paled, and turned, and

shivered. Once more, and finally, the replenished pewter went the rounds

among the frantic crew; when, waving his free hand to them, they all

dispersed; and Ahab retired within his cabin.

CHAPTER 37. Sunset.


I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where'er I

sail. The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them;

but first I pass.

Yonder, by ever-brimming goblet's rim, the warm waves blush like wine.

The gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver sun--slow dived from noon--goes

down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her endless hill. Is, then,

the crown too heavy that I wear? this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is

it bright with many a gem; I the wearer, see not its far flashings; but

darkly feel that I wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. 'Tis iron--that

I know--not gold. 'Tis split, too--that I feel; the jagged edge galls

me so, my brain seems to beat against the solid metal; aye, steel skull,

mine; the sort that needs no helmet in the most brain-battering fight!
Dry heat upon my brow? Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred

me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me;

all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne'er enjoy. Gifted with

the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly

and most malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise! Good night--good


'Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least;

but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they

revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all

stand before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others, the

match itself must needs be wasting! What I've dared, I've willed; and

what I've willed, I'll do! They think me mad--Starbuck does; but I'm

demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that's only calm

to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered;

and--Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my

dismemberer. Now, then, be the prophet and the fulfiller one. That's

more than ye, ye great gods, ever were. I laugh and hoot at ye, ye

cricket-players, ye pugilists, ye deaf Burkes and blinded Bendigoes!

I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies--Take some one of your own

size; don't pommel ME! No, ye've knocked me down, and I am up again; but

YE have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags! I have

no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab's compliments to ye; come and see

if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve

yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is

laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded

gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents' beds,

unerringly I rush! Naught's an obstacle, naught's an angle to the iron


CHAPTER 38. Dusk.


My soul is more than matched; she's overmanned; and by a madman!

Insufferable sting, that sanity should ground arms on such a field! But

he drilled deep down, and blasted all my reason out of me! I think I see

his impious end; but feel that I must help him to it. Will I, nill I,

the ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no

knife to cut. Horrible old man! Who's over him, he cries;--aye, he would

be a democrat to all above; look, how he lords it over all below! Oh! I

plainly see my miserable office,--to obey, rebelling; and worse yet,

to hate with touch of pity! For in his eyes I read some lurid woe would

shrivel me up, had I it. Yet is there hope. Time and tide flow wide.

The hated whale has the round watery world to swim in, as the small

gold-fish has its glassy globe. His heaven-insulting purpose, God may

wedge aside. I would up heart, were it not like lead. But my whole

clock's run down; my heart the all-controlling weight, I have no key to

lift again.


Oh, God! to sail with such a heathen crew that have small touch of human

mothers in them! Whelped somewhere by the sharkish sea. The white whale

is their demigorgon. Hark! the infernal orgies! that revelry is forward!

mark the unfaltering silence aft! Methinks it pictures life. Foremost

through the sparkling sea shoots on the gay, embattled, bantering

bow, but only to drag dark Ahab after it, where he broods within his

sternward cabin, builded over the dead water of the wake, and further

on, hunted by its wolfish gurglings. The long howl thrills me through!

Peace! ye revellers, and set the watch! Oh, life! 'tis in an hour like

this, with soul beat down and held to knowledge,--as wild, untutored

things are forced to feed--Oh, life! 'tis now that I do feel the latent

horror in thee! but 'tis not me! that horror's out of me! and with the

soft feeling of the human in me, yet will I try to fight ye, ye grim,

phantom futures! Stand by me, hold me, bind me, O ye blessed influences!

CHAPTER 39. First Night Watch.

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