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

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recently startled by the unfamiliar spectacle.

Furthermore: concerning these last mentioned Leviathans, they have two

firm fortresses, which, in all human probability, will for ever remain

impregnable. And as upon the invasion of their valleys, the frosty Swiss

have retreated to their mountains; so, hunted from the savannas and

glades of the middle seas, the whale-bone whales can at last resort to

their Polar citadels, and diving under the ultimate glassy barriers and

walls there, come up among icy fields and floes; and in a charmed circle

of everlasting December, bid defiance to all pursuit from man.

But as perhaps fifty of these whale-bone whales are harpooned for one

cachalot, some philosophers of the forecastle have concluded that this

positive havoc has already very seriously diminished their battalions.

But though for some time past a number of these whales, not less than

13,000, have been annually slain on the nor'-west coast by the Americans

alone; yet there are considerations which render even this circumstance

of little or no account as an opposing argument in this matter.
Natural as it is to be somewhat incredulous concerning the populousness

of the more enormous creatures of the globe, yet what shall we say to

Harto, the historian of Goa, when he tells us that at one hunting the

King of Siam took 4,000 elephants; that in those regions elephants are

numerous as droves of cattle in the temperate climes. And there seems no

reason to doubt that if these elephants, which have now been hunted for

thousands of years, by Semiramis, by Porus, by Hannibal, and by all the

successive monarchs of the East--if they still survive there in great

numbers, much more may the great whale outlast all hunting, since he

has a pasture to expatiate in, which is precisely twice as large as all

Asia, both Americas, Europe and Africa, New Holland, and all the Isles

of the sea combined.

Moreover: we are to consider, that from the presumed great longevity

of whales, their probably attaining the age of a century and more,

therefore at any one period of time, several distinct adult generations

must be contemporary. And what that is, we may soon gain some idea

of, by imagining all the grave-yards, cemeteries, and family vaults of

creation yielding up the live bodies of all the men, women, and children

who were alive seventy-five years ago; and adding this countless host to

the present human population of the globe.

Wherefore, for all these things, we account the whale immortal in his

species, however perishable in his individuality. He swam the seas

before the continents broke water; he once swam over the site of the

Tuileries, and Windsor Castle, and the Kremlin. In Noah's flood he

despised Noah's Ark; and if ever the world is to be again flooded, like

the Netherlands, to kill off its rats, then the eternal whale will still

survive, and rearing upon the topmost crest of the equatorial flood,

spout his frothed defiance to the skies.

CHAPTER 106. Ahab's Leg.

The precipitating manner in which Captain Ahab had quitted the Samuel

Enderby of London, had not been unattended with some small violence to

his own person. He had lighted with such energy upon a thwart of his

boat that his ivory leg had received a half-splintering shock. And

when after gaining his own deck, and his own pivot-hole there, he so

vehemently wheeled round with an urgent command to the steersman (it

was, as ever, something about his not steering inflexibly enough); then,

the already shaken ivory received such an additional twist and wrench,

that though it still remained entire, and to all appearances lusty, yet

Ahab did not deem it entirely trustworthy.

And, indeed, it seemed small matter for wonder, that for all his

pervading, mad recklessness, Ahab did at times give careful heed to the

condition of that dead bone upon which he partly stood. For it had not

been very long prior to the Pequod's sailing from Nantucket, that he

had been found one night lying prone upon the ground, and insensible;

by some unknown, and seemingly inexplicable, unimaginable casualty, his

ivory limb having been so violently displaced, that it had stake-wise

smitten, and all but pierced his groin; nor was it without extreme

difficulty that the agonizing wound was entirely cured.
Nor, at the time, had it failed to enter his monomaniac mind, that all

the anguish of that then present suffering was but the direct issue of a

former woe; and he too plainly seemed to see, that as the most poisonous

reptile of the marsh perpetuates his kind as inevitably as the sweetest

songster of the grove; so, equally with every felicity, all miserable

events do naturally beget their like. Yea, more than equally, thought

Ahab; since both the ancestry and posterity of Grief go further than the

ancestry and posterity of Joy. For, not to hint of this: that it is

an inference from certain canonic teachings, that while some natural

enjoyments here shall have no children born to them for the other world,

but, on the contrary, shall be followed by the joy-childlessness of

all hell's despair; whereas, some guilty mortal miseries shall still

fertilely beget to themselves an eternally progressive progeny of griefs

beyond the grave; not at all to hint of this, there still seems an

inequality in the deeper analysis of the thing. For, thought Ahab, while

even the highest earthly felicities ever have a certain unsignifying

pettiness lurking in them, but, at bottom, all heartwoes, a mystic

significance, and, in some men, an archangelic grandeur; so do their

diligent tracings-out not belie the obvious deduction. To trail the

genealogies of these high mortal miseries, carries us at last among the

sourceless primogenitures of the gods; so that, in the face of all the

glad, hay-making suns, and soft cymballing, round harvest-moons, we must

needs give in to this: that the gods themselves are not for ever glad.

The ineffaceable, sad birth-mark in the brow of man, is but the stamp of

sorrow in the signers.
Unwittingly here a secret has been divulged, which perhaps might more

properly, in set way, have been disclosed before. With many other

particulars concerning Ahab, always had it remained a mystery to some,

why it was, that for a certain period, both before and after the sailing

of the Pequod, he had hidden himself away with such Grand-Lama-like

exclusiveness; and, for that one interval, sought speechless refuge, as

it were, among the marble senate of the dead. Captain Peleg's bruited

reason for this thing appeared by no means adequate; though, indeed,

as touching all Ahab's deeper part, every revelation partook more of

significant darkness than of explanatory light. But, in the end, it all

came out; this one matter did, at least. That direful mishap was at

the bottom of his temporary recluseness. And not only this, but to that

ever-contracting, dropping circle ashore, who, for any reason, possessed

the privilege of a less banned approach to him; to that timid circle the

above hinted casualty--remaining, as it did, moodily unaccounted for by

Ahab--invested itself with terrors, not entirely underived from the land

of spirits and of wails. So that, through their zeal for him, they had

all conspired, so far as in them lay, to muffle up the knowledge of

this thing from others; and hence it was, that not till a considerable

interval had elapsed, did it transpire upon the Pequod's decks.

But be all this as it may; let the unseen, ambiguous synod in the air,

or the vindictive princes and potentates of fire, have to do or not

with earthly Ahab, yet, in this present matter of his leg, he took plain

practical procedures;--he called the carpenter.

And when that functionary appeared before him, he bade him without delay

set about making a new leg, and directed the mates to see him supplied

with all the studs and joists of jaw-ivory (Sperm Whale) which had thus

far been accumulated on the voyage, in order that a careful selection

of the stoutest, clearest-grained stuff might be secured. This done, the

carpenter received orders to have the leg completed that night; and to

provide all the fittings for it, independent of those pertaining to

the distrusted one in use. Moreover, the ship's forge was ordered to be

hoisted out of its temporary idleness in the hold; and, to accelerate

the affair, the blacksmith was commanded to proceed at once to the

forging of whatever iron contrivances might be needed.

CHAPTER 107. The Carpenter.

Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn, and take high

abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe. But

from the same point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they

seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and hereditary.

But most humble though he was, and far from furnishing an example of

the high, humane abstraction; the Pequod's carpenter was no duplicate;

hence, he now comes in person on this stage.
Like all sea-going ship carpenters, and more especially those belonging

to whaling vessels, he was, to a certain off-handed, practical extent,

alike experienced in numerous trades and callings collateral to his own;

the carpenter's pursuit being the ancient and outbranching trunk of all

those numerous handicrafts which more or less have to do with wood as an

auxiliary material. But, besides the application to him of the generic

remark above, this carpenter of the Pequod was singularly efficient in

those thousand nameless mechanical emergencies continually recurring

in a large ship, upon a three or four years' voyage, in uncivilized

and far-distant seas. For not to speak of his readiness in ordinary

duties:--repairing stove boats, sprung spars, reforming the shape of

clumsy-bladed oars, inserting bull's eyes in the deck, or new tree-nails

in the side planks, and other miscellaneous matters more directly

pertaining to his special business; he was moreover unhesitatingly

expert in all manner of conflicting aptitudes, both useful and


The one grand stage where he enacted all his various parts so manifold,

was his vice-bench; a long rude ponderous table furnished with several

vices, of different sizes, and both of iron and of wood. At all times

except when whales were alongside, this bench was securely lashed

athwartships against the rear of the Try-works.
A belaying pin is found too large to be easily inserted into its hole:

the carpenter claps it into one of his ever-ready vices, and straightway

files it smaller. A lost land-bird of strange plumage strays on board,

and is made a captive: out of clean shaved rods of right-whale bone, and

cross-beams of sperm whale ivory, the carpenter makes a pagoda-looking

cage for it. An oarsman sprains his wrist: the carpenter concocts a

soothing lotion. Stubb longed for vermillion stars to be painted upon

the blade of his every oar; screwing each oar in his big vice of wood,

the carpenter symmetrically supplies the constellation. A sailor takes

a fancy to wear shark-bone ear-rings: the carpenter drills his ears.

Another has the toothache: the carpenter out pincers, and clapping

one hand upon his bench bids him be seated there; but the poor fellow

unmanageably winces under the unconcluded operation; whirling round the

handle of his wooden vice, the carpenter signs him to clap his jaw in

that, if he would have him draw the tooth.
Thus, this carpenter was prepared at all points, and alike indifferent

and without respect in all. Teeth he accounted bits of ivory; heads he

deemed but top-blocks; men themselves he lightly held for capstans. But

while now upon so wide a field thus variously accomplished and with such

liveliness of expertness in him, too; all this would seem to argue some

uncommon vivacity of intelligence. But not precisely so. For nothing was

this man more remarkable, than for a certain impersonal stolidity as

it were; impersonal, I say; for it so shaded off into the surrounding

infinite of things, that it seemed one with the general stolidity

discernible in the whole visible world; which while pauselessly active

in uncounted modes, still eternally holds its peace, and ignores you,

though you dig foundations for cathedrals. Yet was this half-horrible

stolidity in him, involving, too, as it appeared, an all-ramifying

heartlessness;--yet was it oddly dashed at times, with an old,

crutch-like, antediluvian, wheezing humorousness, not unstreaked now

and then with a certain grizzled wittiness; such as might have served

to pass the time during the midnight watch on the bearded forecastle

of Noah's ark. Was it that this old carpenter had been a life-long

wanderer, whose much rolling, to and fro, not only had gathered no moss;

but what is more, had rubbed off whatever small outward clingings

might have originally pertained to him? He was a stript abstract; an

unfractioned integral; uncompromised as a new-born babe; living without

premeditated reference to this world or the next. You might almost

say, that this strange uncompromisedness in him involved a sort of

unintelligence; for in his numerous trades, he did not seem to work so

much by reason or by instinct, or simply because he had been tutored to

it, or by any intermixture of all these, even or uneven; but merely by

a kind of deaf and dumb, spontaneous literal process. He was a pure

manipulator; his brain, if he had ever had one, must have early

oozed along into the muscles of his fingers. He was like one of

those unreasoning but still highly useful, MULTUM IN PARVO, Sheffield

contrivances, assuming the exterior--though a little swelled--of a

common pocket knife; but containing, not only blades of various sizes,

but also screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls, pens, rulers,

nail-filers, countersinkers. So, if his superiors wanted to use the

carpenter for a screw-driver, all they had to do was to open that part

of him, and the screw was fast: or if for tweezers, take him up by the

legs, and there they were.

Yet, as previously hinted, this omnitooled, open-and-shut carpenter,

was, after all, no mere machine of an automaton. If he did not have a

common soul in him, he had a subtle something that somehow anomalously

did its duty. What that was, whether essence of quicksilver, or a few

drops of hartshorn, there is no telling. But there it was; and there it

had abided for now some sixty years or more. And this it was, this same

unaccountable, cunning life-principle in him; this it was, that kept

him a great part of the time soliloquizing; but only like an unreasoning

wheel, which also hummingly soliloquizes; or rather, his body was a

sentry-box and this soliloquizer on guard there, and talking all the

time to keep himself awake.

CHAPTER 108. Ahab and the Carpenter.

The Deck--First Night Watch.






Drat the file, and drat the bone! That is hard which should be soft,

and that is soft which should be hard. So we go, who file old jaws and

shinbones. Let's try another. Aye, now, this works better (SNEEZES).

Halloa, this bone dust is (SNEEZES)--why it's (SNEEZES)--yes it's

(SNEEZES)--bless my soul, it won't let me speak! This is what an old

fellow gets now for working in dead lumber. Saw a live tree, and

you don't get this dust; amputate a live bone, and you don't get it

(SNEEZES). Come, come, you old Smut, there, bear a hand, and let's have

that ferule and buckle-screw; I'll be ready for them presently. Lucky

now (SNEEZES) there's no knee-joint to make; that might puzzle a little;

but a mere shinbone--why it's easy as making hop-poles; only I should

like to put a good finish on. Time, time; if I but only had the time, I

could turn him out as neat a leg now as ever (SNEEZES) scraped to a lady

in a parlor. Those buckskin legs and calves of legs I've seen in shop

windows wouldn't compare at all. They soak water, they do; and of

course get rheumatic, and have to be doctored (SNEEZES) with washes and

lotions, just like live legs. There; before I saw it off, now, I must

call his old Mogulship, and see whether the length will be all right;

too short, if anything, I guess. Ha! that's the heel; we are in luck;

here he comes, or it's somebody else, that's certain.


Well, manmaker!

Just in time, sir. If the captain pleases, I will now mark the length.

Let me measure, sir.

Measured for a leg! good. Well, it's not the first time. About it!

There; keep thy finger on it. This is a cogent vice thou hast here,

carpenter; let me feel its grip once. So, so; it does pinch some.
Oh, sir, it will break bones--beware, beware!
No fear; I like a good grip; I like to feel something in this

slippery world that can hold, man. What's Prometheus about there?--the

blacksmith, I mean--what's he about?
He must be forging the buckle-screw, sir, now.
Right. It's a partnership; he supplies the muscle part. He makes a

fierce red flame there!

Aye, sir; he must have the white heat for this kind of fine work.
Um-m. So he must. I do deem it now a most meaning thing, that that

old Greek, Prometheus, who made men, they say, should have been a

blacksmith, and animated them with fire; for what's made in fire must

properly belong to fire; and so hell's probable. How the soot flies!

This must be the remainder the Greek made the Africans of. Carpenter,

when he's through with that buckle, tell him to forge a pair of steel

shoulder-blades; there's a pedlar aboard with a crushing pack.
Hold; while Prometheus is about it, I'll order a complete man after a

desirable pattern. Imprimis, fifty feet high in his socks; then, chest

modelled after the Thames Tunnel; then, legs with roots to 'em, to stay

in one place; then, arms three feet through the wrist; no heart at all,

brass forehead, and about a quarter of an acre of fine brains; and let

me see--shall I order eyes to see outwards? No, but put a sky-light on

top of his head to illuminate inwards. There, take the order, and away.
Now, what's he speaking about, and who's he speaking to, I should like

to know? Shall I keep standing here? (ASIDE).

'Tis but indifferent architecture to make a blind dome; here's one. No,

no, no; I must have a lantern.

Ho, ho! That's it, hey? Here are two, sir; one will serve my turn.
What art thou thrusting that thief-catcher into my face for, man?

Thrusted light is worse than presented pistols.

I thought, sir, that you spoke to carpenter.

Carpenter? why that's--but no;--a very tidy, and, I may say,

an extremely gentlemanlike sort of business thou art in here,

carpenter;--or would'st thou rather work in clay?

Sir?--Clay? clay, sir? That's mud; we leave clay to ditchers, sir.
The fellow's impious! What art thou sneezing about?
Bone is rather dusty, sir.
Take the hint, then; and when thou art dead, never bury thyself under

living people's noses.

Sir?--oh! ah!--I guess so;--yes--dear!
Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good

workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak thoroughly well

for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg thou makest, I shall

nevertheless feel another leg in the same identical place with it; that

is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst

thou not drive that old Adam away?

Truly, sir, I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I have heard

something curious on that score, sir; how that a dismasted man never

entirely loses the feeling of his old spar, but it will be still

pricking him at times. May I humbly ask if it be really so, sir?

It is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where mine once

was; so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye, yet two to the

soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there to a

hair, do I. Is't a riddle?

I should humbly call it a poser, sir.
Hist, then. How dost thou know that some entire, living, thinking thing

may not be invisibly and uninterpenetratingly standing precisely where

thou now standest; aye, and standing there in thy spite? In thy most

solitary hours, then, dost thou not fear eavesdroppers? Hold, don't

speak! And if I still feel the smart of my crushed leg, though it be now

so long dissolved; then, why mayst not thou, carpenter, feel the fiery

pains of hell for ever, and without a body? Hah!
Good Lord! Truly, sir, if it comes to that, I must calculate over again;

I think I didn't carry a small figure, sir.

Look ye, pudding-heads should never grant premises.--How long before the

leg is done?

Perhaps an hour, sir.
Bungle away at it then, and bring it to me (TURNS TO GO). Oh, Life! Here

I am, proud as Greek god, and yet standing debtor to this blockhead for

a bone to stand on! Cursed be that mortal inter-indebtedness which will

not do away with ledgers. I would be free as air; and I'm down in the

whole world's books. I am so rich, I could have given bid for bid with

the wealthiest Praetorians at the auction of the Roman empire (which was

the world's); and yet I owe for the flesh in the tongue I brag with. By

heavens! I'll get a crucible, and into it, and dissolve myself down to

one small, compendious vertebra. So.

Well, well, well! Stubb knows him best of all, and Stubb always says

he's queer; says nothing but that one sufficient little word queer; he's

queer, says Stubb; he's queer--queer, queer; and keeps dinning it into

Mr. Starbuck all the time--queer--sir--queer, queer, very queer. And

here's his leg! Yes, now that I think of it, here's his bedfellow! has

a stick of whale's jaw-bone for a wife! And this is his leg; he'll stand

on this. What was that now about one leg standing in three places, and

all three places standing in one hell--how was that? Oh! I don't wonder

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