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

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I lived enough joy to wear ye; and seem and feel thus intolerably old?

Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is

better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God. By

the green land; by the bright hearth-stone! this is the magic glass,

man; I see my wife and my child in thine eye. No, no; stay on board, on

board!--lower not when I do; when branded Ahab gives chase to Moby Dick.

That hazard shall not be thine. No, no! not with the far away home I see

in that eye!"
"Oh, my Captain! my Captain! noble soul! grand old heart, after all! why

should any one give chase to that hated fish! Away with me! let us

fly these deadly waters! let us home! Wife and child, too, are

Starbuck's--wife and child of his brotherly, sisterly, play-fellow

youth; even as thine, sir, are the wife and child of thy loving,

longing, paternal old age! Away! let us away!--this instant let me alter

the course! How cheerily, how hilariously, O my Captain, would we bowl

on our way to see old Nantucket again! I think, sir, they have some such

mild blue days, even as this, in Nantucket."
"They have, they have. I have seen them--some summer days in the

morning. About this time--yes, it is his noon nap now--the boy

vivaciously wakes; sits up in bed; and his mother tells him of me, of

cannibal old me; how I am abroad upon the deep, but will yet come back

to dance him again."
"'Tis my Mary, my Mary herself! She promised that my boy, every morning,

should be carried to the hill to catch the first glimpse of his father's

sail! Yes, yes! no more! it is done! we head for Nantucket! Come, my

Captain, study out the course, and let us away! See, see! the boy's face

from the window! the boy's hand on the hill!"
But Ahab's glance was averted; like a blighted fruit tree he shook, and

cast his last, cindered apple to the soil.

"What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what

cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor

commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep

pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly

making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not

so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this

arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy

in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power;

how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think

thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that

living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in

this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike. And all

the time, lo! that smiling sky, and this unsounded sea! Look! see yon

Albicore! who put it into him to chase and fang that flying-fish? Where

do murderers go, man! Who's to doom, when the judge himself is dragged

to the bar? But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and

the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been

making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the

mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay. Sleeping? Aye, toil we how

we may, we all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid

greenness; as last year's scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut


But blanched to a corpse's hue with despair, the Mate had stolen away.
Ahab crossed the deck to gaze over on the other side; but started at

two reflected, fixed eyes in the water there. Fedallah was motionlessly

leaning over the same rail.

CHAPTER 133. The Chase--First Day.

That night, in the mid-watch, when the old man--as his wont at

intervals--stepped forth from the scuttle in which he leaned, and went

to his pivot-hole, he suddenly thrust out his face fiercely, snuffing

up the sea air as a sagacious ship's dog will, in drawing nigh to

some barbarous isle. He declared that a whale must be near. Soon that

peculiar odor, sometimes to a great distance given forth by the

living sperm whale, was palpable to all the watch; nor was any mariner

surprised when, after inspecting the compass, and then the dog-vane, and

then ascertaining the precise bearing of the odor as nearly as possible,

Ahab rapidly ordered the ship's course to be slightly altered, and the

sail to be shortened.
The acute policy dictating these movements was sufficiently vindicated

at daybreak, by the sight of a long sleek on the sea directly and

lengthwise ahead, smooth as oil, and resembling in the pleated watery

wrinkles bordering it, the polished metallic-like marks of some swift

tide-rip, at the mouth of a deep, rapid stream.
"Man the mast-heads! Call all hands!"
Thundering with the butts of three clubbed handspikes on the forecastle

deck, Daggoo roused the sleepers with such judgment claps that they

seemed to exhale from the scuttle, so instantaneously did they appear

with their clothes in their hands.

"What d'ye see?" cried Ahab, flattening his face to the sky.
"Nothing, nothing sir!" was the sound hailing down in reply.
"T'gallant sails!--stunsails! alow and aloft, and on both sides!"
All sail being set, he now cast loose the life-line, reserved for

swaying him to the main royal-mast head; and in a few moments they were

hoisting him thither, when, while but two thirds of the way aloft,

and while peering ahead through the horizontal vacancy between the

main-top-sail and top-gallant-sail, he raised a gull-like cry in the

air. "There she blows!--there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is

Moby Dick!"
Fired by the cry which seemed simultaneously taken up by the three

look-outs, the men on deck rushed to the rigging to behold the famous

whale they had so long been pursuing. Ahab had now gained his final

perch, some feet above the other look-outs, Tashtego standing just

beneath him on the cap of the top-gallant-mast, so that the Indian's

head was almost on a level with Ahab's heel. From this height the whale

was now seen some mile or so ahead, at every roll of the sea revealing

his high sparkling hump, and regularly jetting his silent spout into the

air. To the credulous mariners it seemed the same silent spout they had

so long ago beheld in the moonlit Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

"And did none of ye see it before?" cried Ahab, hailing the perched men

all around him.

"I saw him almost that same instant, sir, that Captain Ahab did, and I

cried out," said Tashtego.

"Not the same instant; not the same--no, the doubloon is mine, Fate

reserved the doubloon for me. I only; none of ye could have raised the

White Whale first. There she blows!--there she blows!--there she blows!

There again!--there again!" he cried, in long-drawn, lingering, methodic

tones, attuned to the gradual prolongings of the whale's visible jets.

"He's going to sound! In stunsails! Down top-gallant-sails! Stand by

three boats. Mr. Starbuck, remember, stay on board, and keep the ship.

Helm there! Luff, luff a point! So; steady, man, steady! There go

flukes! No, no; only black water! All ready the boats there? Stand by,

stand by! Lower me, Mr. Starbuck; lower, lower,--quick, quicker!" and he

slid through the air to the deck.
"He is heading straight to leeward, sir," cried Stubb, "right away from

us; cannot have seen the ship yet."

"Be dumb, man! Stand by the braces! Hard down the helm!--brace up!

Shiver her!--shiver her!--So; well that! Boats, boats!"

Soon all the boats but Starbuck's were dropped; all the boat-sails

set--all the paddles plying; with rippling swiftness, shooting to

leeward; and Ahab heading the onset. A pale, death-glimmer lit up

Fedallah's sunken eyes; a hideous motion gnawed his mouth.

Like noiseless nautilus shells, their light prows sped through the sea;

but only slowly they neared the foe. As they neared him, the ocean grew

still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over its waves; seemed a

noon-meadow, so serenely it spread. At length the breathless hunter came

so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that his entire dazzling hump

was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as if an isolated thing,

and continually set in a revolving ring of finest, fleecy, greenish

foam. He saw the vast, involved wrinkles of the slightly projecting head

beyond. Before it, far out on the soft Turkish-rugged waters, went

the glistening white shadow from his broad, milky forehead, a musical

rippling playfully accompanying the shade; and behind, the blue waters

interchangeably flowed over into the moving valley of his steady wake;

and on either hand bright bubbles arose and danced by his side. But

these were broken again by the light toes of hundreds of gay fowl softly

feathering the sea, alternate with their fitful flight; and like to

some flag-staff rising from the painted hull of an argosy, the tall but

shattered pole of a recent lance projected from the white whale's back;

and at intervals one of the cloud of soft-toed fowls hovering, and

to and fro skimming like a canopy over the fish, silently perched and

rocked on this pole, the long tail feathers streaming like pennons.

A gentle joyousness--a mighty mildness of repose in swiftness, invested

the gliding whale. Not the white bull Jupiter swimming away with

ravished Europa clinging to his graceful horns; his lovely, leering

eyes sideways intent upon the maid; with smooth bewitching fleetness,

rippling straight for the nuptial bower in Crete; not Jove, not that

great majesty Supreme! did surpass the glorified White Whale as he so

divinely swam.
On each soft side--coincident with the parted swell, that but once

leaving him, then flowed so wide away--on each bright side, the whale

shed off enticings. No wonder there had been some among the hunters who

namelessly transported and allured by all this serenity, had ventured

to assail it; but had fatally found that quietude but the vesture of

tornadoes. Yet calm, enticing calm, oh, whale! thou glidest on, to all

who for the first time eye thee, no matter how many in that same way

thou may'st have bejuggled and destroyed before.

And thus, through the serene tranquillities of the tropical sea, among

waves whose hand-clappings were suspended by exceeding rapture, Moby

Dick moved on, still withholding from sight the full terrors of his

submerged trunk, entirely hiding the wrenched hideousness of his jaw.

But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant

his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia's Natural

Bridge, and warningly waving his bannered flukes in the air, the

grand god revealed himself, sounded, and went out of sight. Hoveringly

halting, and dipping on the wing, the white sea-fowls longingly lingered

over the agitated pool that he left.

With oars apeak, and paddles down, the sheets of their sails adrift, the

three boats now stilly floated, awaiting Moby Dick's reappearance.

"An hour," said Ahab, standing rooted in his boat's stern; and he gazed

beyond the whale's place, towards the dim blue spaces and wide wooing

vacancies to leeward. It was only an instant; for again his eyes seemed

whirling round in his head as he swept the watery circle. The breeze now

freshened; the sea began to swell.
"The birds!--the birds!" cried Tashtego.
In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were

now all flying towards Ahab's boat; and when within a few yards began

fluttering over the water there, wheeling round and round, with joyous,

expectant cries. Their vision was keener than man's; Ahab could discover

no sign in the sea. But suddenly as he peered down and down into its

depths, he profoundly saw a white living spot no bigger than a white

weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and magnifying as it rose,

till it turned, and then there were plainly revealed two long crooked

rows of white, glistening teeth, floating up from the undiscoverable

bottom. It was Moby Dick's open mouth and scrolled jaw; his vast,

shadowed bulk still half blending with the blue of the sea. The

glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like an open-doored marble

tomb; and giving one sidelong sweep with his steering oar, Ahab whirled

the craft aside from this tremendous apparition. Then, calling upon

Fedallah to change places with him, went forward to the bows, and

seizing Perth's harpoon, commanded his crew to grasp their oars and

stand by to stern.
Now, by reason of this timely spinning round the boat upon its axis, its

bow, by anticipation, was made to face the whale's head while yet

under water. But as if perceiving this stratagem, Moby Dick, with that

malicious intelligence ascribed to him, sidelingly transplanted himself,

as it were, in an instant, shooting his pleated head lengthwise beneath

the boat.

Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled for

an instant, the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner of

a biting shark, slowly and feelingly taking its bows full within his

mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high up into

the open air, and one of the teeth caught in a row-lock. The bluish

pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of Ahab's

head, and reached higher than that. In this attitude the White Whale

now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her mouse. With

unastonished eyes Fedallah gazed, and crossed his arms; but the

tiger-yellow crew were tumbling over each other's heads to gain the

uttermost stern.
And now, while both elastic gunwales were springing in and out, as the

whale dallied with the doomed craft in this devilish way; and from his

body being submerged beneath the boat, he could not be darted at from

the bows, for the bows were almost inside of him, as it were; and

while the other boats involuntarily paused, as before a quick crisis

impossible to withstand, then it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with

this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and

helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized

the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from

its gripe. As now he thus vainly strove, the jaw slipped from him; the

frail gunwales bent in, collapsed, and snapped, as both jaws, like an

enormous shears, sliding further aft, bit the craft completely in twain,

and locked themselves fast again in the sea, midway between the two

floating wrecks. These floated aside, the broken ends drooping, the crew

at the stern-wreck clinging to the gunwales, and striving to hold fast

to the oars to lash them across.

At that preluding moment, ere the boat was yet snapped, Ahab, the first

to perceive the whale's intent, by the crafty upraising of his head, a

movement that loosed his hold for the time; at that moment his hand

had made one final effort to push the boat out of the bite. But only

slipping further into the whale's mouth, and tilting over sideways as it

slipped, the boat had shaken off his hold on the jaw; spilled him out of

it, as he leaned to the push; and so he fell flat-faced upon the sea.
Ripplingly withdrawing from his prey, Moby Dick now lay at a little

distance, vertically thrusting his oblong white head up and down in the

billows; and at the same time slowly revolving his whole spindled body;

so that when his vast wrinkled forehead rose--some twenty or more feet

out of the water--the now rising swells, with all their confluent waves,

dazzlingly broke against it; vindictively tossing their shivered spray

still higher into the air.* So, in a gale, the but half baffled Channel

billows only recoil from the base of the Eddystone, triumphantly to

overleap its summit with their scud.

*This motion is peculiar to the sperm whale. It receives its designation

(pitchpoling) from its being likened to that preliminary up-and-down

poise of the whale-lance, in the exercise called pitchpoling, previously

described. By this motion the whale must best and most comprehensively

view whatever objects may be encircling him.

But soon resuming his horizontal attitude, Moby Dick swam swiftly round

and round the wrecked crew; sideways churning the water in his vengeful

wake, as if lashing himself up to still another and more deadly assault.

The sight of the splintered boat seemed to madden him, as the blood of

grapes and mulberries cast before Antiochus's elephants in the book

of Maccabees. Meanwhile Ahab half smothered in the foam of the whale's

insolent tail, and too much of a cripple to swim,--though he could still

keep afloat, even in the heart of such a whirlpool as that; helpless

Ahab's head was seen, like a tossed bubble which the least chance shock

might burst. From the boat's fragmentary stern, Fedallah incuriously and

mildly eyed him; the clinging crew, at the other drifting end, could not

succor him; more than enough was it for them to look to themselves.

For so revolvingly appalling was the White Whale's aspect, and so

planetarily swift the ever-contracting circles he made, that he seemed

horizontally swooping upon them. And though the other boats, unharmed,

still hovered hard by; still they dared not pull into the eddy to

strike, lest that should be the signal for the instant destruction of

the jeopardized castaways, Ahab and all; nor in that case could they

themselves hope to escape. With straining eyes, then, they remained on

the outer edge of the direful zone, whose centre had now become the old

man's head.
Meantime, from the beginning all this had been descried from the ship's

mast heads; and squaring her yards, she had borne down upon the scene;

and was now so nigh, that Ahab in the water hailed her!--"Sail on

the"--but that moment a breaking sea dashed on him from Moby Dick, and

whelmed him for the time. But struggling out of it again, and chancing

to rise on a towering crest, he shouted,--"Sail on the whale!--Drive him

The Pequod's prows were pointed; and breaking up the charmed circle, she

effectually parted the white whale from his victim. As he sullenly swam

off, the boats flew to the rescue.
Dragged into Stubb's boat with blood-shot, blinded eyes, the white brine

caking in his wrinkles; the long tension of Ahab's bodily strength did

crack, and helplessly he yielded to his body's doom: for a time, lying

all crushed in the bottom of Stubb's boat, like one trodden under foot

of herds of elephants. Far inland, nameless wails came from him, as

desolate sounds from out ravines.

But this intensity of his physical prostration did but so much the more

abbreviate it. In an instant's compass, great hearts sometimes condense

to one deep pang, the sum total of those shallow pains kindly diffused

through feebler men's whole lives. And so, such hearts, though summary

in each one suffering; still, if the gods decree it, in their

life-time aggregate a whole age of woe, wholly made up of instantaneous

intensities; for even in their pointless centres, those noble natures

contain the entire circumferences of inferior souls.

"The harpoon," said Ahab, half way rising, and draggingly leaning on one

bended arm--"is it safe?"

"Aye, sir, for it was not darted; this is it," said Stubb, showing it.
"Lay it before me;--any missing men?"
"One, two, three, four, five;--there were five oars, sir, and here are

five men."

"That's good.--Help me, man; I wish to stand. So, so, I see him! there!

there! going to leeward still; what a leaping spout!--Hands off from me!

The eternal sap runs up in Ahab's bones again! Set the sail; out oars;

the helm!"

It is often the case that when a boat is stove, its crew, being picked

up by another boat, help to work that second boat; and the chase is thus

continued with what is called double-banked oars. It was thus now. But

the added power of the boat did not equal the added power of the whale,

for he seemed to have treble-banked his every fin; swimming with a

velocity which plainly showed, that if now, under these circumstances,

pushed on, the chase would prove an indefinitely prolonged, if not a

hopeless one; nor could any crew endure for so long a period, such an

unintermitted, intense straining at the oar; a thing barely tolerable

only in some one brief vicissitude. The ship itself, then, as it

sometimes happens, offered the most promising intermediate means of

overtaking the chase. Accordingly, the boats now made for her, and were

soon swayed up to their cranes--the two parts of the wrecked boat having

been previously secured by her--and then hoisting everything to her

side, and stacking her canvas high up, and sideways outstretching it

with stun-sails, like the double-jointed wings of an albatross; the

Pequod bore down in the leeward wake of Moby-Dick. At the well known,

methodic intervals, the whale's glittering spout was regularly announced

from the manned mast-heads; and when he would be reported as just gone

down, Ahab would take the time, and then pacing the deck, binnacle-watch

in hand, so soon as the last second of the allotted hour expired, his

voice was heard.--"Whose is the doubloon now? D'ye see him?" and if the

reply was, No, sir! straightway he commanded them to lift him to his

perch. In this way the day wore on; Ahab, now aloft and motionless;

anon, unrestingly pacing the planks.
As he was thus walking, uttering no sound, except to hail the men aloft,

or to bid them hoist a sail still higher, or to spread one to a still

greater breadth--thus to and fro pacing, beneath his slouched hat, at

every turn he passed his own wrecked boat, which had been dropped upon

the quarter-deck, and lay there reversed; broken bow to shattered stern.

At last he paused before it; and as in an already over-clouded sky fresh

troops of clouds will sometimes sail across, so over the old man's face

there now stole some such added gloom as this.

Stubb saw him pause; and perhaps intending, not vainly, though, to

evince his own unabated fortitude, and thus keep up a valiant place in

his Captain's mind, he advanced, and eyeing the wreck exclaimed--"The

thistle the ass refused; it pricked his mouth too keenly, sir; ha! ha!"

"What soulless thing is this that laughs before a wreck? Man, man! did

I not know thee brave as fearless fire (and as mechanical) I could swear

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