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!