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

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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.



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

Amsterdam butter.

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,

turn grasshopper!

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!

Here you are, Pip; and there's the windlass-bitts; up you mount! Now,



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.



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!


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.
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

the ring?
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

the hunters.
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,

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