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.
(CARPENTER STANDING BEFORE HIS VICE-BENCH, AND BY THE LIGHT OF TWO
LANTERNS BUSILY FILING THE IVORY JOIST FOR THE LEG, WHICH JOIST IS
FIRMLY FIXED IN THE VICE. SLABS OF IVORY, LEATHER STRAPS, PADS, SCREWS,
AND VARIOUS TOOLS OF ALL SORTS LYING ABOUT THE BENCH. FORWARD, THE RED
FLAME OF THE FORGE IS SEEN, WHERE THE BLACKSMITH IS AT WORK.)
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.
(DURING THE ENSUING SCENE, THE CARPENTER CONTINUES SNEEZING AT TIMES)
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.
CARPENTER (RESUMING HIS WORK).
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