(STUBB SOLUS, AND MENDING A BRACE.)
Ha! ha! ha! ha! hem! clear my throat!--I've been thinking over it
ever since, and that ha, ha's the final consequence. Why so? Because a
laugh's the wisest, easiest answer to all that's queer; and come what
will, one comfort's always left--that unfailing comfort is, it's all
predestinated. I heard not all his talk with Starbuck; but to my poor
eye Starbuck then looked something as I the other evening felt. Be sure
the old Mogul has fixed him, too. I twigged it, knew it; had had the
gift, might readily have prophesied it--for when I clapped my eye upon
his skull I saw it. Well, Stubb, WISE Stubb--that's my title--well,
Stubb, what of it, Stubb? Here's a carcase. I know not all that may be
coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing. Such a waggish
leering as lurks in all your horribles! I feel funny. Fa, la! lirra,
skirra! What's my juicy little pear at home doing now? Crying its eyes
out?--Giving a party to the last arrived harpooneers, I dare say, gay as
a frigate's pennant, and so am I--fa, la! lirra, skirra! Oh--
We'll drink to-night with hearts as light, To love, as gay and fleeting
As bubbles that swim, on the beaker's brim, And break on the lips while
A brave stave that--who calls? Mr. Starbuck? Aye, aye, sir--(ASIDE) he's
my superior, he has his too, if I'm not mistaken.--Aye, aye, sir, just
through with this job--coming.
CHAPTER 40. Midnight, Forecastle.
HARPOONEERS AND SAILORS.
(FORESAIL RISES AND DISCOVERS THE WATCH STANDING, LOUNGING, LEANING, AND
LYING IN VARIOUS ATTITUDES, ALL SINGING IN CHORUS.)
Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies!
Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain!
Our captain's commanded.--
1ST NANTUCKET SAILOR. Oh, boys, don't be sentimental; it's bad for the
digestion! Take a tonic, follow me! (SINGS, AND ALL FOLLOW)
Our captain stood upon the deck,
A spy-glass in his hand,
A viewing of those gallant whales
That blew at every strand.
Oh, your tubs in your boats, my boys,
And by your braces stand,
And we'll have one of those fine whales,
Hand, boys, over hand!
So, be cheery, my lads! may your hearts never fail!
While the bold harpooner is striking the whale!
MATE'S VOICE FROM THE QUARTER-DECK. Eight bells there, forward!
2ND NANTUCKET SAILOR. Avast the chorus! Eight bells there! d'ye hear,
bell-boy? Strike the bell eight, thou Pip! thou blackling! and let me
call the watch. I've the sort of mouth for that--the hogshead mouth.
So, so, (THRUSTS HIS HEAD DOWN THE SCUTTLE,) Star-bo-l-e-e-n-s, a-h-o-y!
Eight bells there below! Tumble up!
DUTCH SAILOR. Grand snoozing to-night, maty; fat night for that. I
mark this in our old Mogul's wine; it's quite as deadening to some as
filliping to others. We sing; they sleep--aye, lie down there, like
ground-tier butts. At 'em again! There, take this copper-pump, and hail
'em through it. Tell 'em to avast dreaming of their lasses. Tell 'em
it's the resurrection; they must kiss their last, and come to judgment.
That's the way--THAT'S it; thy throat ain't spoiled with eating
FRENCH SAILOR. Hist, boys! let's have a jig or two before we ride to
anchor in Blanket Bay. What say ye? There comes the other watch. Stand
by all legs! Pip! little Pip! hurrah with your tambourine!
PIP. (SULKY AND SLEEPY) Don't know where it is.
FRENCH SAILOR. Beat thy belly, then, and wag thy ears. Jig it, men,
I say; merry's the word; hurrah! Damn me, won't you dance? Form, now,
Indian-file, and gallop into the double-shuffle? Throw yourselves! Legs!
ICELAND SAILOR. I don't like your floor, maty; it's too springy to my
taste. I'm used to ice-floors. I'm sorry to throw cold water on the
subject; but excuse me.
MALTESE SAILOR. Me too; where's your girls? Who but a fool would take
his left hand by his right, and say to himself, how d'ye do? Partners! I
must have partners!
SICILIAN SAILOR. Aye; girls and a green!--then I'll hop with ye; yea,
LONG-ISLAND SAILOR. Well, well, ye sulkies, there's plenty more of us.
Hoe corn when you may, say I. All legs go to harvest soon. Ah! here
comes the music; now for it!
AZORE SAILOR. (ASCENDING, AND PITCHING THE TAMBOURINE UP THE SCUTTLE.)
Here you are, Pip; and there's the windlass-bitts; up you mount! Now,
boys! (THE HALF OF THEM DANCE TO THE TAMBOURINE; SOME GO BELOW; SOME
SLEEP OR LIE AMONG THE COILS OF RIGGING. OATHS A-PLENTY.)
AZORE SAILOR. (DANCING) Go it, Pip! Bang it, bell-boy! Rig it, dig it,
stig it, quig it, bell-boy! Make fire-flies; break the jinglers!
PIP. Jinglers, you say?--there goes another, dropped off; I pound it so.
CHINA SAILOR. Rattle thy teeth, then, and pound away; make a pagoda of
FRENCH SAILOR. Merry-mad! Hold up thy hoop, Pip, till I jump through it!
Split jibs! tear yourselves!
TASHTEGO. (QUIETLY SMOKING) That's a white man; he calls that fun:
humph! I save my sweat.
OLD MANX SAILOR. I wonder whether those jolly lads bethink them of what
they are dancing over. I'll dance over your grave, I will--that's
the bitterest threat of your night-women, that beat head-winds round
corners. O Christ! to think of the green navies and the green-skulled
crews! Well, well; belike the whole world's a ball, as you scholars have
it; and so 'tis right to make one ballroom of it. Dance on, lads, you're
young; I was once.
3D NANTUCKET SAILOR. Spell oh!--whew! this is worse than pulling after
whales in a calm--give us a whiff, Tash.
(THEY CEASE DANCING, AND GATHER IN CLUSTERS. MEANTIME THE SKY
DARKENS--THE WIND RISES.)
LASCAR SAILOR. By Brahma! boys, it'll be douse sail soon. The sky-born,
high-tide Ganges turned to wind! Thou showest thy black brow, Seeva!
MALTESE SAILOR. (RECLINING AND SHAKING HIS CAP.) It's the waves--the
snow's caps turn to jig it now. They'll shake their tassels soon. Now
would all the waves were women, then I'd go drown, and chassee with them
evermore! There's naught so sweet on earth--heaven may not match
it!--as those swift glances of warm, wild bosoms in the dance, when the
over-arboring arms hide such ripe, bursting grapes.
SICILIAN SAILOR. (RECLINING.) Tell me not of it! Hark ye, lad--fleet
interlacings of the limbs--lithe swayings--coyings--flutterings! lip!
heart! hip! all graze: unceasing touch and go! not taste, observe ye,
else come satiety. Eh, Pagan? (NUDGING.)
TAHITAN SAILOR. (RECLINING ON A MAT.) Hail, holy nakedness of our
dancing girls!--the Heeva-Heeva! Ah! low veiled, high palmed Tahiti! I
still rest me on thy mat, but the soft soil has slid! I saw thee woven
in the wood, my mat! green the first day I brought ye thence; now worn
and wilted quite. Ah me!--not thou nor I can bear the change! How
then, if so be transplanted to yon sky? Hear I the roaring streams from
Pirohitee's peak of spears, when they leap down the crags and drown the
villages?--The blast! the blast! Up, spine, and meet it! (LEAPS TO HIS
PORTUGUESE SAILOR. How the sea rolls swashing 'gainst the side! Stand
by for reefing, hearties! the winds are just crossing swords, pell-mell
they'll go lunging presently.
DANISH SAILOR. Crack, crack, old ship! so long as thou crackest, thou
holdest! Well done! The mate there holds ye to it stiffly. He's no more
afraid than the isle fort at Cattegat, put there to fight the Baltic
with storm-lashed guns, on which the sea-salt cakes!
4TH NANTUCKET SAILOR. He has his orders, mind ye that. I heard old
Ahab tell him he must always kill a squall, something as they burst a
waterspout with a pistol--fire your ship right into it!
ENGLISH SAILOR. Blood! but that old man's a grand old cove! We are the
lads to hunt him up his whale!
ALL. Aye! aye!
OLD MANX SAILOR. How the three pines shake! Pines are the hardest sort
of tree to live when shifted to any other soil, and here there's none
but the crew's cursed clay. Steady, helmsman! steady. This is the sort
of weather when brave hearts snap ashore, and keeled hulls split at sea.
Our captain has his birthmark; look yonder, boys, there's another in the
sky--lurid-like, ye see, all else pitch black.
DAGGOO. What of that? Who's afraid of black's afraid of me! I'm quarried
out of it!
SPANISH SAILOR. (ASIDE.) He wants to bully, ah!--the old grudge makes
me touchy (ADVANCING.) Aye, harpooneer, thy race is the undeniable dark
side of mankind--devilish dark at that. No offence.
DAGGOO (GRIMLY). None.
ST. JAGO'S SAILOR. That Spaniard's mad or drunk. But that can't be, or
else in his one case our old Mogul's fire-waters are somewhat long in
5TH NANTUCKET SAILOR. What's that I saw--lightning? Yes.
SPANISH SAILOR. No; Daggoo showing his teeth.
DAGGOO (SPRINGING). Swallow thine, mannikin! White skin, white liver!
SPANISH SAILOR (MEETING HIM). Knife thee heartily! big frame, small
ALL. A row! a row! a row!
TASHTEGO (WITH A WHIFF). A row a'low, and a row aloft--Gods and
men--both brawlers! Humph!
BELFAST SAILOR. A row! arrah a row! The Virgin be blessed, a row! Plunge
in with ye!
ENGLISH SAILOR. Fair play! Snatch the Spaniard's knife! A ring, a ring!
OLD MANX SAILOR. Ready formed. There! the ringed horizon. In that ring
Cain struck Abel. Sweet work, right work! No? Why then, God, mad'st thou
MATE'S VOICE FROM THE QUARTER-DECK. Hands by the halyards! in
top-gallant sails! Stand by to reef topsails!
ALL. The squall! the squall! jump, my jollies! (THEY SCATTER.)
PIP (SHRINKING UNDER THE WINDLASS). Jollies? Lord help such jollies!
Crish, crash! there goes the jib-stay! Blang-whang! God! Duck lower,
Pip, here comes the royal yard! It's worse than being in the whirled
woods, the last day of the year! Who'd go climbing after chestnuts now?
But there they go, all cursing, and here I don't. Fine prospects to 'em;
they're on the road to heaven. Hold on hard! Jimmini, what a squall!
But those chaps there are worse yet--they are your white squalls, they.
White squalls? white whale, shirr! shirr! Here have I heard all their
chat just now, and the white whale--shirr! shirr!--but spoken of
once! and only this evening--it makes me jingle all over like my
tambourine--that anaconda of an old man swore 'em in to hunt him! Oh,
thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on
this small black boy down here; preserve him from all men that have no
bowels to feel fear!
CHAPTER 41. Moby Dick.
I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest;
my oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more
did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A
wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless feud
seemed mine. With greedy ears I learned the history of that murderous
monster against whom I and all the others had taken our oaths of
violence and revenge.
For some time past, though at intervals only, the unaccompanied,
secluded White Whale had haunted those uncivilized seas mostly
frequented by the Sperm Whale fishermen. But not all of them knew of his
existence; only a few of them, comparatively, had knowingly seen him;
while the number who as yet had actually and knowingly given battle to
him, was small indeed. For, owing to the large number of whale-cruisers;
the disorderly way they were sprinkled over the entire watery
circumference, many of them adventurously pushing their quest along
solitary latitudes, so as seldom or never for a whole twelvemonth or
more on a stretch, to encounter a single news-telling sail of any sort;
the inordinate length of each separate voyage; the irregularity of the
times of sailing from home; all these, with other circumstances, direct
and indirect, long obstructed the spread through the whole world-wide
whaling-fleet of the special individualizing tidings concerning Moby
Dick. It was hardly to be doubted, that several vessels reported to have
encountered, at such or such a time, or on such or such a meridian,
a Sperm Whale of uncommon magnitude and malignity, which whale, after
doing great mischief to his assailants, had completely escaped them; to
some minds it was not an unfair presumption, I say, that the whale in
question must have been no other than Moby Dick. Yet as of late the
Sperm Whale fishery had been marked by various and not unfrequent
instances of great ferocity, cunning, and malice in the monster
attacked; therefore it was, that those who by accident ignorantly gave
battle to Moby Dick; such hunters, perhaps, for the most part, were
content to ascribe the peculiar terror he bred, more, as it were, to
the perils of the Sperm Whale fishery at large, than to the individual
cause. In that way, mostly, the disastrous encounter between Ahab and
the whale had hitherto been popularly regarded.
And as for those who, previously hearing of the White Whale, by chance
caught sight of him; in the beginning of the thing they had every one of
them, almost, as boldly and fearlessly lowered for him, as for any other
whale of that species. But at length, such calamities did ensue in these
assaults--not restricted to sprained wrists and ankles, broken limbs, or
devouring amputations--but fatal to the last degree of fatality; those
repeated disastrous repulses, all accumulating and piling their terrors
upon Moby Dick; those things had gone far to shake the fortitude of many
brave hunters, to whom the story of the White Whale had eventually come.
Nor did wild rumors of all sorts fail to exaggerate, and still the more
horrify the true histories of these deadly encounters. For not only do
fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising
terrible events,--as the smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but, in
maritime life, far more than in that of terra firma, wild rumors abound,
wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to. And as the
sea surpasses the land in this matter, so the whale fishery surpasses
every other sort of maritime life, in the wonderfulness and fearfulness
of the rumors which sometimes circulate there. For not only are whalemen
as a body unexempt from that ignorance and superstitiousness hereditary
to all sailors; but of all sailors, they are by all odds the most
directly brought into contact with whatever is appallingly astonishing
in the sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest marvels, but,
hand to jaw, give battle to them. Alone, in such remotest waters, that
though you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a thousand shores, you
would not come to any chiseled hearth-stone, or aught hospitable beneath
that part of the sun; in such latitudes and longitudes, pursuing too
such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by influences all
tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty birth.
No wonder, then, that ever gathering volume from the mere transit over
the widest watery spaces, the outblown rumors of the White Whale did
in the end incorporate with themselves all manner of morbid hints,
and half-formed foetal suggestions of supernatural agencies, which
eventually invested Moby Dick with new terrors unborrowed from anything
that visibly appears. So that in many cases such a panic did he finally
strike, that few who by those rumors, at least, had heard of the White
Whale, few of those hunters were willing to encounter the perils of his
But there were still other and more vital practical influences at work.
Not even at the present day has the original prestige of the Sperm
Whale, as fearfully distinguished from all other species of the
leviathan, died out of the minds of the whalemen as a body. There are
those this day among them, who, though intelligent and courageous
enough in offering battle to the Greenland or Right whale, would
perhaps--either from professional inexperience, or incompetency, or
timidity, decline a contest with the Sperm Whale; at any rate, there are
plenty of whalemen, especially among those whaling nations not sailing
under the American flag, who have never hostilely encountered the Sperm
Whale, but whose sole knowledge of the leviathan is restricted to
the ignoble monster primitively pursued in the North; seated on their
hatches, these men will hearken with a childish fireside interest
and awe, to the wild, strange tales of Southern whaling. Nor is the
pre-eminent tremendousness of the great Sperm Whale anywhere more
feelingly comprehended, than on board of those prows which stem him.
And as if the now tested reality of his might had in former
legendary times thrown its shadow before it; we find some book
naturalists--Olassen and Povelson--declaring the Sperm Whale not only to
be a consternation to every other creature in the sea, but also to be so
incredibly ferocious as continually to be athirst for human blood. Nor
even down to so late a time as Cuvier's, were these or almost similar
impressions effaced. For in his Natural History, the Baron himself
affirms that at sight of the Sperm Whale, all fish (sharks included) are
"struck with the most lively terrors," and "often in the precipitancy of
their flight dash themselves against the rocks with such violence as to
cause instantaneous death." And however the general experiences in the
fishery may amend such reports as these; yet in their full terribleness,
even to the bloodthirsty item of Povelson, the superstitious belief in
them is, in some vicissitudes of their vocation, revived in the minds of
So that overawed by the rumors and portents concerning him, not a few of
the fishermen recalled, in reference to Moby Dick, the earlier days
of the Sperm Whale fishery, when it was oftentimes hard to induce long
practised Right whalemen to embark in the perils of this new and daring
warfare; such men protesting that although other leviathans might be
hopefully pursued, yet to chase and point lance at such an apparition
as the Sperm Whale was not for mortal man. That to attempt it, would
be inevitably to be torn into a quick eternity. On this head, there are
some remarkable documents that may be consulted.
Nevertheless, some there were, who even in the face of these things
were ready to give chase to Moby Dick; and a still greater number who,
chancing only to hear of him distantly and vaguely, without the
specific details of any certain calamity, and without superstitious
accompaniments, were sufficiently hardy not to flee from the battle if
One of the wild suggestions referred to, as at last coming to be linked
with the White Whale in the minds of the superstitiously inclined,
was the unearthly conceit that Moby Dick was ubiquitous; that he had
actually been encountered in opposite latitudes at one and the same
instant of time.
Nor, credulous as such minds must have been, was this conceit altogether
without some faint show of superstitious probability. For as the secrets
of the currents in the seas have never yet been divulged, even to
the most erudite research; so the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale
when beneath the surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his
pursuers; and from time to time have originated the most curious and
contradictory speculations regarding them, especially concerning the
mystic modes whereby, after sounding to a great depth, he transports
himself with such vast swiftness to the most widely distant points.
It is a thing well known to both American and English whale-ships, and
as well a thing placed upon authoritative record years ago by Scoresby,
that some whales have been captured far north in the Pacific, in whose
bodies have been found the barbs of harpoons darted in the Greenland
seas. Nor is it to be gainsaid, that in some of these instances it has
been declared that the interval of time between the two assaults could
not have exceeded very many days. Hence, by inference, it has been
believed by some whalemen, that the Nor' West Passage, so long a problem
to man, was never a problem to the whale. So that here, in the real
living experience of living men, the prodigies related in old times of
the inland Strello mountain in Portugal (near whose top there was said
to be a lake in which the wrecks of ships floated up to the surface);
and that still more wonderful story of the Arethusa fountain near
Syracuse (whose waters were believed to have come from the Holy Land
by an underground passage); these fabulous narrations are almost fully
equalled by the realities of the whalemen.
Forced into familiarity, then, with such prodigies as these; and knowing
that after repeated, intrepid assaults, the White Whale had escaped
alive; it cannot be much matter of surprise that some whalemen should
go still further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only
ubiquitous, but immortal (for immortality is but ubiquity in time); that
though groves of spears should be planted in his flanks, he would still
swim away unharmed; or if indeed he should ever be made to spout thick
blood, such a sight would be but a ghastly deception; for again in
unensanguined billows hundreds of leagues away, his unsullied jet would
once more be seen.
But even stripped of these supernatural surmisings, there was enough in
the earthly make and incontestable character of the monster to strike
the imagination with unwonted power. For, it was not so much his
uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales,
but, as was elsewhere thrown out--a peculiar snow-white wrinkled
forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent
features; the tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he
revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.
The rest of his body was so streaked, and spotted, and marbled with
the same shrouded hue, that, in the end, he had gained his distinctive
appellation of the White Whale; a name, indeed, literally justified by
his vivid aspect, when seen gliding at high noon through a dark blue
sea, leaving a milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden
Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable hue, nor yet his
deformed lower jaw, that so much invested the whale with natural terror,