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

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It signifies--"God: done this day by my hand." But in most creatures,

nay in man himself, very often the brow is but a mere strip of alpine

land lying along the snow line. Few are the foreheads which like

Shakespeare's or Melancthon's rise so high, and descend so low, that the

eyes themselves seem clear, eternal, tideless mountain lakes; and all

above them in the forehead's wrinkles, you seem to track the antlered

thoughts descending there to drink, as the Highland hunters track the

snow prints of the deer. But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and

mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified,

that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the

dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living

nature. For you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is

revealed; no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper;

nothing but that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with

riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men.

Nor, in profile, does this wondrous brow diminish; though that way

viewed its grandeur does not domineer upon you so. In profile, you

plainly perceive that horizontal, semi-crescentic depression in the

forehead's middle, which, in man, is Lavater's mark of genius.

But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has the Sperm Whale ever written

a book, spoken a speech? No, his great genius is declared in his

doing nothing particular to prove it. It is moreover declared in his

pyramidical silence. And this reminds me that had the great Sperm Whale

been known to the young Orient World, he would have been deified by

their child-magian thoughts. They deified the crocodile of the Nile,

because the crocodile is tongueless; and the Sperm Whale has no

tongue, or at least it is so exceedingly small, as to be incapable of

protrusion. If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure

back to their birth-right, the merry May-day gods of old; and livingly

enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky; in the now unhaunted

hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove's high seat, the great Sperm Whale

shall lord it.
Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics. But there is

no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man's and every being's

face. Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a passing

fable. If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, could

not read the simplest peasant's face in its profounder and more subtle

meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of

the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow before you. Read it if you


CHAPTER 80. The Nut.

If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist his

brain seems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to square.
In the full-grown creature the skull will measure at least twenty feet

in length. Unhinge the lower jaw, and the side view of this skull is as

the side of a moderately inclined plane resting throughout on a level

base. But in life--as we have elsewhere seen--this inclined plane is

angularly filled up, and almost squared by the enormous superincumbent

mass of the junk and sperm. At the high end the skull forms a crater to

bed that part of the mass; while under the long floor of this crater--in

another cavity seldom exceeding ten inches in length and as many in

depth--reposes the mere handful of this monster's brain. The brain is at

least twenty feet from his apparent forehead in life; it is hidden

away behind its vast outworks, like the innermost citadel within the

amplified fortifications of Quebec. So like a choice casket is it

secreted in him, that I have known some whalemen who peremptorily deny

that the Sperm Whale has any other brain than that palpable semblance

of one formed by the cubic-yards of his sperm magazine. Lying in strange

folds, courses, and convolutions, to their apprehensions, it seems more

in keeping with the idea of his general might to regard that mystic part

of him as the seat of his intelligence.

It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan, in

the creature's living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for his

true brain, you can then see no indications of it, nor feel any. The

whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common

If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view

of its rear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its

resemblance to the human skull, beheld in the same situation, and from

the same point of view. Indeed, place this reversed skull (scaled down

to the human magnitude) among a plate of men's skulls, and you would

involuntarily confound it with them; and remarking the depressions on

one part of its summit, in phrenological phrase you would say--This

man had no self-esteem, and no veneration. And by those negations,

considered along with the affirmative fact of his prodigious bulk and

power, you can best form to yourself the truest, though not the most

exhilarating conception of what the most exalted potency is.
But if from the comparative dimensions of the whale's proper brain, you

deem it incapable of being adequately charted, then I have another idea

for you. If you attentively regard almost any quadruped's spine,

you will be struck with the resemblance of its vertebrae to a strung

necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bearing rudimental resemblance to the

skull proper. It is a German conceit, that the vertebrae are absolutely

undeveloped skulls. But the curious external resemblance, I take it

the Germans were not the first men to perceive. A foreign friend once

pointed it out to me, in the skeleton of a foe he had slain, and with

the vertebrae of which he was inlaying, in a sort of basso-relievo, the

beaked prow of his canoe. Now, I consider that the phrenologists have

omitted an important thing in not pushing their investigations from the

cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a man's

character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel

your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine

never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the

firm audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world.
Apply this spinal branch of phrenology to the Sperm Whale. His cranial

cavity is continuous with the first neck-vertebra; and in that vertebra

the bottom of the spinal canal will measure ten inches across, being

eight in height, and of a triangular figure with the base downwards. As

it passes through the remaining vertebrae the canal tapers in size, but

for a considerable distance remains of large capacity. Now, of course,

this canal is filled with much the same strangely fibrous substance--the

spinal cord--as the brain; and directly communicates with the brain.

And what is still more, for many feet after emerging from the brain's

cavity, the spinal cord remains of an undecreasing girth, almost

equal to that of the brain. Under all these circumstances, would it be

unreasonable to survey and map out the whale's spine phrenologically?

For, viewed in this light, the wonderful comparative smallness of his

brain proper is more than compensated by the wonderful comparative

magnitude of his spinal cord.
But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the phrenologists, I

would merely assume the spinal theory for a moment, in reference to the

Sperm Whale's hump. This august hump, if I mistake not, rises over one

of the larger vertebrae, and is, therefore, in some sort, the outer

convex mould of it. From its relative situation then, I should call this

high hump the organ of firmness or indomitableness in the Sperm Whale.

And that the great monster is indomitable, you will yet have reason to


CHAPTER 81. The Pequod Meets The Virgin.

The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship Jungfrau, Derick

De Deer, master, of Bremen.
At one time the greatest whaling people in the world, the Dutch and

Germans are now among the least; but here and there at very wide

intervals of latitude and longitude, you still occasionally meet with

their flag in the Pacific.

For some reason, the Jungfrau seemed quite eager to pay her respects.

While yet some distance from the Pequod, she rounded to, and dropping a

boat, her captain was impelled towards us, impatiently standing in the

bows instead of the stern.

"What has he in his hand there?" cried Starbuck, pointing to something

wavingly held by the German. "Impossible!--a lamp-feeder!"

"Not that," said Stubb, "no, no, it's a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck; he's

coming off to make us our coffee, is the Yarman; don't you see that big

tin can there alongside of him?--that's his boiling water. Oh! he's all

right, is the Yarman."

"Go along with you," cried Flask, "it's a lamp-feeder and an oil-can.

He's out of oil, and has come a-begging."

However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing oil on the

whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict the old

proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such a thing

really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer did

indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare.
As he mounted the deck, Ahab abruptly accosted him, without at all

heeding what he had in his hand; but in his broken lingo, the German

soon evinced his complete ignorance of the White Whale; immediately

turning the conversation to his lamp-feeder and oil can, with some

remarks touching his having to turn into his hammock at night in

profound darkness--his last drop of Bremen oil being gone, and not a

single flying-fish yet captured to supply the deficiency; concluding

by hinting that his ship was indeed what in the Fishery is technically

called a CLEAN one (that is, an empty one), well deserving the name of

Jungfrau or the Virgin.

His necessities supplied, Derick departed; but he had not gained his

ship's side, when whales were almost simultaneously raised from the

mast-heads of both vessels; and so eager for the chase was Derick, that

without pausing to put his oil-can and lamp-feeder aboard, he slewed

round his boat and made after the leviathan lamp-feeders.
Now, the game having risen to leeward, he and the other three German

boats that soon followed him, had considerably the start of the Pequod's

keels. There were eight whales, an average pod. Aware of their danger,

they were going all abreast with great speed straight before the wind,

rubbing their flanks as closely as so many spans of horses in harness.

They left a great, wide wake, as though continually unrolling a great

wide parchment upon the sea.
Full in this rapid wake, and many fathoms in the rear, swam a huge,

humped old bull, which by his comparatively slow progress, as well as

by the unusual yellowish incrustations overgrowing him, seemed afflicted

with the jaundice, or some other infirmity. Whether this whale belonged

to the pod in advance, seemed questionable; for it is not customary for

such venerable leviathans to be at all social. Nevertheless, he stuck

to their wake, though indeed their back water must have retarded him,

because the white-bone or swell at his broad muzzle was a dashed one,

like the swell formed when two hostile currents meet. His spout was

short, slow, and laborious; coming forth with a choking sort of gush,

and spending itself in torn shreds, followed by strange subterranean

commotions in him, which seemed to have egress at his other buried

extremity, causing the waters behind him to upbubble.
"Who's got some paregoric?" said Stubb, "he has the stomach-ache, I'm

afraid. Lord, think of having half an acre of stomach-ache! Adverse

winds are holding mad Christmas in him, boys. It's the first foul wind

I ever knew to blow from astern; but look, did ever whale yaw so before?

it must be, he's lost his tiller."
As an overladen Indiaman bearing down the Hindostan coast with a deck

load of frightened horses, careens, buries, rolls, and wallows on her

way; so did this old whale heave his aged bulk, and now and then partly

turning over on his cumbrous rib-ends, expose the cause of his devious

wake in the unnatural stump of his starboard fin. Whether he had lost

that fin in battle, or had been born without it, it were hard to say.

"Only wait a bit, old chap, and I'll give ye a sling for that wounded

arm," cried cruel Flask, pointing to the whale-line near him.

"Mind he don't sling thee with it," cried Starbuck. "Give way, or the

German will have him."

With one intent all the combined rival boats were pointed for this

one fish, because not only was he the largest, and therefore the most

valuable whale, but he was nearest to them, and the other whales were

going with such great velocity, moreover, as almost to defy pursuit

for the time. At this juncture the Pequod's keels had shot by the three

German boats last lowered; but from the great start he had had, Derick's

boat still led the chase, though every moment neared by his foreign

rivals. The only thing they feared, was, that from being already so

nigh to his mark, he would be enabled to dart his iron before they

could completely overtake and pass him. As for Derick, he seemed quite

confident that this would be the case, and occasionally with a deriding

gesture shook his lamp-feeder at the other boats.

"The ungracious and ungrateful dog!" cried Starbuck; "he mocks and dares

me with the very poor-box I filled for him not five minutes ago!"--then

in his old intense whisper--"Give way, greyhounds! Dog to it!"
"I tell ye what it is, men"--cried Stubb to his crew--"it's against

my religion to get mad; but I'd like to eat that villainous

Yarman--Pull--won't ye? Are ye going to let that rascal beat ye? Do

ye love brandy? A hogshead of brandy, then, to the best man. Come,

why don't some of ye burst a blood-vessel? Who's that been dropping an

anchor overboard--we don't budge an inch--we're becalmed. Halloo, here's

grass growing in the boat's bottom--and by the Lord, the mast there's

budding. This won't do, boys. Look at that Yarman! The short and long of

it is, men, will ye spit fire or not?"
"Oh! see the suds he makes!" cried Flask, dancing up and down--"What

a hump--Oh, DO pile on the beef--lays like a log! Oh! my lads, DO

spring--slap-jacks and quahogs for supper, you know, my lads--baked

clams and muffins--oh, DO, DO, spring,--he's a hundred barreller--don't

lose him now--don't oh, DON'T!--see that Yarman--Oh, won't ye pull for

your duff, my lads--such a sog! such a sogger! Don't ye love sperm?

There goes three thousand dollars, men!--a bank!--a whole bank! The bank

of England!--Oh, DO, DO, DO!--What's that Yarman about now?"

At this moment Derick was in the act of pitching his lamp-feeder at the

advancing boats, and also his oil-can; perhaps with the double view

of retarding his rivals' way, and at the same time economically

accelerating his own by the momentary impetus of the backward toss.

"The unmannerly Dutch dogger!" cried Stubb. "Pull now, men, like fifty

thousand line-of-battle-ship loads of red-haired devils. What d'ye say,

Tashtego; are you the man to snap your spine in two-and-twenty pieces

for the honour of old Gayhead? What d'ye say?"

"I say, pull like god-dam,"--cried the Indian.
Fiercely, but evenly incited by the taunts of the German, the Pequod's

three boats now began ranging almost abreast; and, so disposed,

momentarily neared him. In that fine, loose, chivalrous attitude of

the headsman when drawing near to his prey, the three mates stood up

proudly, occasionally backing the after oarsman with an exhilarating cry

of, "There she slides, now! Hurrah for the white-ash breeze! Down with

the Yarman! Sail over him!"
But so decided an original start had Derick had, that spite of all

their gallantry, he would have proved the victor in this race, had not

a righteous judgment descended upon him in a crab which caught the blade

of his midship oarsman. While this clumsy lubber was striving to free

his white-ash, and while, in consequence, Derick's boat was nigh to

capsizing, and he thundering away at his men in a mighty rage;--that was

a good time for Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. With a shout, they took a

mortal start forwards, and slantingly ranged up on the German's quarter.

An instant more, and all four boats were diagonically in the whale's

immediate wake, while stretching from them, on both sides, was the

foaming swell that he made.
It was a terrific, most pitiable, and maddening sight. The whale was

now going head out, and sending his spout before him in a continual

tormented jet; while his one poor fin beat his side in an agony of

fright. Now to this hand, now to that, he yawed in his faltering flight,

and still at every billow that he broke, he spasmodically sank in the

sea, or sideways rolled towards the sky his one beating fin. So have I

seen a bird with clipped wing making affrighted broken circles in the

air, vainly striving to escape the piratical hawks. But the bird has a

voice, and with plaintive cries will make known her fear; but the fear

of this vast dumb brute of the sea, was chained up and enchanted in him;

he had no voice, save that choking respiration through his spiracle,

and this made the sight of him unspeakably pitiable; while still, in his

amazing bulk, portcullis jaw, and omnipotent tail, there was enough to

appal the stoutest man who so pitied.

Seeing now that but a very few moments more would give the Pequod's

boats the advantage, and rather than be thus foiled of his game, Derick

chose to hazard what to him must have seemed a most unusually long dart,

ere the last chance would for ever escape.

But no sooner did his harpooneer stand up for the stroke, than all three

tigers--Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo--instinctively sprang to their feet,

and standing in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed their barbs; and

darted over the head of the German harpooneer, their three Nantucket

irons entered the whale. Blinding vapours of foam and white-fire! The

three boats, in the first fury of the whale's headlong rush, bumped

the German's aside with such force, that both Derick and his baffled

harpooneer were spilled out, and sailed over by the three flying keels.

"Don't be afraid, my butter-boxes," cried Stubb, casting a passing

glance upon them as he shot by; "ye'll be picked up presently--all

right--I saw some sharks astern--St. Bernard's dogs, you know--relieve

distressed travellers. Hurrah! this is the way to sail now. Every keel a

sunbeam! Hurrah!--Here we go like three tin kettles at the tail of a mad

cougar! This puts me in mind of fastening to an elephant in a tilbury on

a plain--makes the wheel-spokes fly, boys, when you fasten to him that

way; and there's danger of being pitched out too, when you strike a

hill. Hurrah! this is the way a fellow feels when he's going to Davy

Jones--all a rush down an endless inclined plane! Hurrah! this whale

carries the everlasting mail!"
But the monster's run was a brief one. Giving a sudden gasp, he

tumultuously sounded. With a grating rush, the three lines flew round

the loggerheads with such a force as to gouge deep grooves in them;

while so fearful were the harpooneers that this rapid sounding would

soon exhaust the lines, that using all their dexterous might, they

caught repeated smoking turns with the rope to hold on; till at

last--owing to the perpendicular strain from the lead-lined chocks of

the boats, whence the three ropes went straight down into the blue--the

gunwales of the bows were almost even with the water, while the three

sterns tilted high in the air. And the whale soon ceasing to sound,

for some time they remained in that attitude, fearful of expending more

line, though the position was a little ticklish. But though boats have

been taken down and lost in this way, yet it is this "holding on," as it

is called; this hooking up by the sharp barbs of his live flesh from

the back; this it is that often torments the Leviathan into soon rising

again to meet the sharp lance of his foes. Yet not to speak of the peril

of the thing, it is to be doubted whether this course is always the

best; for it is but reasonable to presume, that the longer the stricken

whale stays under water, the more he is exhausted. Because, owing to the

enormous surface of him--in a full grown sperm whale something less than

2000 square feet--the pressure of the water is immense. We all know

what an astonishing atmospheric weight we ourselves stand up under; even

here, above-ground, in the air; how vast, then, the burden of a whale,

bearing on his back a column of two hundred fathoms of ocean! It must at

least equal the weight of fifty atmospheres. One whaleman has estimated

it at the weight of twenty line-of-battle ships, with all their guns,

and stores, and men on board.
As the three boats lay there on that gently rolling sea, gazing down

into its eternal blue noon; and as not a single groan or cry of any

sort, nay, not so much as a ripple or a bubble came up from its depths;

what landsman would have thought, that beneath all that silence and

placidity, the utmost monster of the seas was writhing and wrenching in

agony! Not eight inches of perpendicular rope were visible at the bows.

Seems it credible that by three such thin threads the great Leviathan

was suspended like the big weight to an eight day clock. Suspended? and

to what? To three bits of board. Is this the creature of whom it was

once so triumphantly said--"Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons?

or his head with fish-spears? The sword of him that layeth at him cannot

hold, the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon: he esteemeth iron as

straw; the arrow cannot make him flee; darts are counted as stubble;

he laugheth at the shaking of a spear!" This the creature? this he? Oh!

that unfulfilments should follow the prophets. For with the strength

of a thousand thighs in his tail, Leviathan had run his head under the

mountains of the sea, to hide him from the Pequod's fish-spears!

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