EXTRACTS (Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian).


CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

CHAPTER 2. The Carpet-Bag.

CHAPTER 3. The Spouter-Inn.

CHAPTER 4. The Counterpane.

CHAPTER 5. Breakfast.

CHAPTER 6. The Street.

CHAPTER 7. The Chapel.

CHAPTER 8. The Pulpit.

CHAPTER 9. The Sermon.

CHAPTER 10. A Bosom Friend.

CHAPTER 11. Nightgown.

CHAPTER 12. Biographical.

CHAPTER 13. Wheelbarrow.

CHAPTER 14. Nantucket.

CHAPTER 15. Chowder.

CHAPTER 16. The Ship.

CHAPTER 17. The Ramadan.

CHAPTER 18. His Mark.

CHAPTER 19. The Prophet.

CHAPTER 20. All Astir.

CHAPTER 21. Going Aboard.

CHAPTER 22. Merry Christmas.

CHAPTER 23. The Lee Shore.

CHAPTER 24. The Advocate.

CHAPTER 25. Postscript.

CHAPTER 26. Knights and Squires.

CHAPTER 27. Knights and Squires.

CHAPTER 28. Ahab.

CHAPTER 29. Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb.

CHAPTER 30. The Pipe.

CHAPTER 31. Queen Mab.

CHAPTER 32. Cetology.

CHAPTER 33. The Specksnyder.

CHAPTER 34. The Cabin-Table.

CHAPTER 35. The Mast-Head.

CHAPTER 36. The Quarter-Deck.

CHAPTER 37. Sunset.

CHAPTER 38. Dusk.

CHAPTER 39. First Night-Watch.

CHAPTER 40. Midnight, Forecastle.

CHAPTER 41. Moby Dick.

CHAPTER 42. The Whiteness of the Whale.

CHAPTER 43. Hark!

CHAPTER 44. The Chart.

CHAPTER 45. The Affidavit.

CHAPTER 46. Surmises.

CHAPTER 47. The Mat-Maker.

CHAPTER 48. The First Lowering.

CHAPTER 49. The Hyena.

CHAPTER 50. Ahab’s Boat and Crew. Fedallah.

CHAPTER 51. The Spirit-Spout.

CHAPTER 52. The Albatross.

CHAPTER 53. The Gam.

CHAPTER 54. The Town-Ho’s Story.

CHAPTER 55. Of the Monstrous Pictures of

CHAPTER 56. Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of
Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes.

CHAPTER 57. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in
Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars.

CHAPTER 58. Brit.

CHAPTER 59. Squid.

CHAPTER 60. The Line.

CHAPTER 61. Stubb Kills a Whale.

CHAPTER 62. The Dart.

CHAPTER 63. The Crotch.

CHAPTER 64. Stubb’s Supper.

CHAPTER 65. The Whale as a Dish.

CHAPTER 66. The Shark Massacre.

CHAPTER 67. Cutting In.

CHAPTER 68. The Blanket.

CHAPTER 69. The Funeral.

CHAPTER 70. The Sphynx.

CHAPTER 71. The Jeroboam’s Story.

CHAPTER 72. The Monkey-Rope.

CHAPTER 73. Stubb and Flask kill a Right Whale;
and Then Have a Talk over Him.

CHAPTER 74. The Sperm Whale’s Head—Contrasted

CHAPTER 75. The Right Whale’s Head—Contrasted

CHAPTER 76. The Battering-Ram.

CHAPTER 77. The Great Heidelburgh Tun.

CHAPTER 78. Cistern and Buckets.

CHAPTER 79. The Prairie.

CHAPTER 80. The Nut.

CHAPTER 81. The Pequod Meets The Virgin.

CHAPTER 82. The Honor and Glory of Whaling.

CHAPTER 83. Jonah Historically Regarded.

CHAPTER 84. Pitchpoling.

CHAPTER 85. The Fountain.

CHAPTER 86. The Tail.

CHAPTER 87. The Grand Armada.

CHAPTER 88. Schools and Schoolmasters.

CHAPTER 89. Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish.

CHAPTER 90. Heads or Tails.

CHAPTER 91. The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud.

CHAPTER 92. Ambergris.

CHAPTER 93. The Castaway.

CHAPTER 94. A Squeeze of the Hand.

CHAPTER 95. The Cassock.

CHAPTER 96. The Try-Works.

CHAPTER 97. The Lamp.

CHAPTER 98. Stowing Down and Clearing Up.

CHAPTER 99. The Doubloon.

CHAPTER 100. Leg and Arm.

CHAPTER 101. The Decanter.

CHAPTER 102. A Bower in the Arsacides.

CHAPTER 103. Measurement of The Whale’s

CHAPTER 104. The Fossil Whale.

CHAPTER 105. Does the Whale’s Magnitude
Diminish?—Will He Perish?

CHAPTER 106. Ahab’s Leg.

CHAPTER 107. The Carpenter.

CHAPTER 108. Ahab and the Carpenter.

CHAPTER 109. Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin.

CHAPTER 110. Queequeg in His Coffin.

CHAPTER 111. The Pacific.

CHAPTER 112. The Blacksmith.

CHAPTER 113. The Forge.

CHAPTER 114. The Gilder.

CHAPTER 115. The Pequod Meets The Bachelor.

CHAPTER 116. The Dying Whale.

CHAPTER 117. The Whale Watch.

CHAPTER 118. The Quadrant.

CHAPTER 119. The Candles.

CHAPTER 120. The Deck Towards the End of the
First Night Watch.

CHAPTER 121. Midnight.—The Forecastle

CHAPTER 122. Midnight Aloft.—Thunder and

CHAPTER 123. The Musket.

CHAPTER 124. The Needle.

CHAPTER 125. The Log and Line.

CHAPTER 126. The Life-Buoy.

CHAPTER 127. The Deck.

CHAPTER 128. The Pequod Meets The Rachel.

CHAPTER 129. The Cabin.

CHAPTER 130. The Hat.

CHAPTER 131. The Pequod Meets The Delight.

CHAPTER 132. The Symphony.

CHAPTER 133. The Chase—First Day.

CHAPTER 134. The Chase—Second Day.

CHAPTER 135. The Chase.—Third Day.



Original Transcriber’s Notes:

This text is a combination of etexts, one from the now-defunct ERIS
project at Virginia Tech and one from Project Gutenberg’s archives. The
proofreaders of this version are indebted to The University of Adelaide
Library for preserving the Virginia Tech version. The resulting etext
was compared with a public domain hard copy version of the text.



(Supplied by a Late Consumptive Usher to a Grammar School.)

The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see
him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer
handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the
known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it
somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality.

“While you take in hand to school others, and to teach them by what name
a whale-fish is to be called in our tongue, leaving out, through
ignorance, the letter H, which almost alone maketh up the signification of
the word, you deliver that which is not true.” —Hackluyt.

“WHALE. * * * Sw. and Dan. hval. This animal is named from roundness or
rolling; for in Dan. hvalt is arched or vaulted.” —Webster’s

“WHALE. * * * It is more immediately from the Dut. and Ger. Wallen; A.S.
Walw-ian, to roll, to wallow.” —Richardson’s Dictionary.

חו, Hebrew.
ϰητος, Greek.
CETUS, Latin.
WHŒL, Anglo-Saxon.
HVALT, Danish.
WAL, Dutch.
HWAL, Swedish.
HVALUR, Icelandic.
WHALE, English.
BALEINE, French.
BALLENA, Spanish.
PEHEE-NUEE-NUEE, Erromangoan.

EXTRACTS. (Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian).

It will be seen that this mere painstaking burrower and grub-worm of a
poor devil of a Sub-Sub appears to have gone through the long Vaticans
and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions to
whales he could anyways find in any book whatsoever, sacred or profane.
Therefore you must not, in every case at least, take the
higgledy-piggledy whale statements, however authentic, in these
extracts, for veritable gospel cetology. Far from it. As touching the
ancient authors generally, as well as the poets here appearing, these
extracts are solely valuable or entertaining, as affording a glancing
bird’s eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied,
and sung of Leviathan, by many nations and generations, including our

So fare thee well, poor devil of a Sub-Sub, whose commentator I am. Thou
belongest to that hopeless, sallow tribe which no wine of this world
will ever warm; and for whom even Pale Sherry would be too rosy-strong;
but with whom one sometimes loves to sit, and feel poor-devilish, too;
and grow convivial upon tears; and say to them bluntly, with full eyes
and empty glasses, and in not altogether unpleasant sadness—Give
it up, Sub-Subs! For by how much the more pains ye take to please the
world, by so much the more shall ye for ever go thankless! Would that I
could clear out Hampton Court and the Tuileries for ye! But gulp down
your tears and hie aloft to the royal-mast with your hearts; for your
friends who have gone before are clearing out the seven-storied heavens,
and making refugees of long-pampered Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael,
against your coming. Here ye strike but splintered hearts together—there,
ye shall strike unsplinterable glasses!


“And God created great whales.” —Genesis.

“Leviathan maketh a path to shine after him; One would think the deep to
be hoary.” —Job.

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” —Jonah.

“There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play
therein.” —Psalms.

“In that day, the Lord with his sore, and great, and strong sword, shall
punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked
serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” —Isaiah.

“And what thing soever besides cometh within the chaos of this monster’s
mouth, be it beast, boat, or stone, down it goes all incontinently that
foul great swallow of his, and perisheth in the bottomless gulf of his
paunch.” —Holland’s Plutarch’s Morals.

“The Indian Sea breedeth the most and the biggest fishes that are: among
which the Whales and Whirlpooles called Balaene, take up as much in
length as four acres or arpens of land.” —Holland’s Pliny.

“Scarcely had we proceeded two days on the sea, when about sunrise a
great many Whales and other monsters of the sea, appeared. Among the
former, one was of a most monstrous size…. This came towards us,
open-mouthed, raising the waves on all sides, and beating the sea before
him into a foam.” —Tooke’s Lucian. “The True History.”

“He visited this country also with a view of catching horse-whales,
which had bones of very great value for their teeth, of which he brought
some to the king…. The best whales were catched in his own country, of
which some were forty-eight, some fifty yards long. He said that he was
one of six who had killed sixty in two days.” —Other or Other’s
verbal narrative taken down from his mouth by King Alfred, A.D.

“And whereas all the other things, whether beast or vessel, that enter
into the dreadful gulf of this monster’s (whale’s) mouth, are
immediately lost and swallowed up, the sea-gudgeon retires into it in
great security, and there sleeps.” —MONTAIGNE. —Apology for
Raimond Sebond

“Let us fly, let us fly! Old Nick take me if it is not Leviathan described
by the noble prophet Moses in the life of patient Job.” —Rabelais.

“This whale’s liver was two cartloads.” —Stowe’s Annals.

“The great Leviathan that maketh the seas to seethe like boiling pan.”
Lord Bacon’s Version of the Psalms.

“Touching that monstrous bulk of the whale or ork we have received
nothing certain. They grow exceeding fat, insomuch that an incredible
quantity of oil will be extracted out of one whale.” —Ibid.
History of Life and Death.”

“The sovereignest thing on earth is parmacetti for an inward bruise.”
King Henry.

“Very like a whale.” —Hamlet.

     “Which to secure, no skill of leach’s art
     Mote him availle, but to returne againe
     To his wound’s worker, that with lowly dart,
     Dinting his breast, had bred his restless paine,
     Like as the wounded whale to shore flies thro’ the maine.”
      —The Fairie Queen.

“Immense as whales, the motion of whose vast bodies can in a peaceful
calm trouble the ocean till it boil.” —Sir William Davenant.
Preface to Gondibert

“What spermacetti is, men might justly doubt, since the learned
Hosmannus in his work of thirty years, saith plainly, Nescio quid sit.”
Sir T. Browne. Of Sperma Ceti and the Sperma Ceti Whale. Vide his
V. E.

     “Like Spencer’s Talus with his modern flail
     He threatens ruin with his ponderous tail.
     Their fixed jav’lins in his side he wears,
     And on his back a grove of pikes appears.”
      —Waller’s Battle of the Summer Islands.

“By art is created that great Leviathan, called a Commonwealth or State—(in
Latin, Civitas) which is but an artificial man.” —Opening sentence
of Hobbes’s Leviathan

“Silly Mansoul swallowed it without chewing, as if it had been a sprat
in the mouth of a whale.” —Pilgrim’s Progress.

     “That sea beast
     Leviathan, which God of all his works
     Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.” —Paradise Lost.

     —“There Leviathan,
     Hugest of living creatures, in the deep
     Stretched like a promontory sleeps or swims,
     And seems a moving land; and at his gills
     Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.” —Ibid.

“The mighty whales which swim in a sea of water, and have a sea of oil
swimming in them.” —Fuller’s Profane and Holy State.

     “So close behind some promontory lie
     The huge Leviathan to attend their prey,
     And give no chance, but swallow in the fry,
     Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way.”
      —Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis.

“While the whale is floating at the stern of the ship, they cut off his
head, and tow it with a boat as near the shore as it will come; but it
will be aground in twelve or thirteen feet water.” —Thomas Edge’s
Ten Voyages to Spitzbergen, in Purchas

“In their way they saw many whales sporting in the ocean, and in
wantonness fuzzing up the water through their pipes and vents, which
nature has placed on their shoulders.” —Sir T. Herbert’s Voyages
into Asia and Africa. Harris Coll

“Here they saw such huge troops of whales, that they were forced to
proceed with a great deal of caution for fear they should run their ship
upon them.” —Schouten’s Sixth Circumnavigation.

“We set sail from the Elbe, wind N.E. in the ship called The
Jonas-in-the-Whale…. Some say the whale can’t open his mouth, but that
is a fable…. They frequently climb up the masts to see whether they
can see a whale, for the first discoverer has a ducat for his pains….
I was told of a whale taken near Shetland, that had above a barrel of
herrings in his belly…. One of our harpooneers told me that he caught
once a whale in Spitzbergen that was white all over.” —A Voyage to
Greenland, A.D.
1671. Harris Coll.

“Several whales have come in upon this coast (Fife) Anno 1652, one
eighty feet in length of the whale-bone kind came in, which (as I was
informed), besides a vast quantity of oil, did afford 500 weight of
baleen. The jaws of it stand for a gate in the garden of Pitferren.”
Sibbald’s Fife and Kinross.

“Myself have agreed to try whether I can master and kill this
Sperma-ceti whale, for I could never hear of any of that sort that was
killed by any man, such is his fierceness and swiftness.” —Richard
Strafford’s Letter from the Bermudas. Phil. Trans. A.D.

“Whales in the sea God’s voice obey.” —N. E. Primer.

“We saw also abundance of large whales, there being more in those
southern seas, as I may say, by a hundred to one; than we have to the
northward of us.” —Captain Cowley’s Voyage round the Globe, A.D.

“… and the breath of the whale is frequently attended with such an
insupportable smell, as to bring on a disorder of the brain.” —Ulloa’s
South America

     “To fifty chosen sylphs of special note,
     We trust the important charge, the petticoat.
     Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail,
     Tho’ stuffed with hoops and armed with ribs of whale.”
      —Rape of the Lock.

“If we compare land animals in respect to magnitude, with those that
take up their abode in the deep, we shall find they will appear
contemptible in the comparison. The whale is doubtless the largest
animal in creation.” —Goldsmith, Nat. Hist.

“If you should write a fable for little fishes, you would make them
speak like great whales.” —Goldsmith to Johnson.

“In the afternoon we saw what was supposed to be a rock, but it was
found to be a dead whale, which some Asiatics had killed, and were then
towing ashore. They seemed to endeavor to conceal themselves behind the
whale, in order to avoid being seen by us.” —Cook’s Voyages.

“The larger whales, they seldom venture to attack. They stand in so
great dread of some of them, that when out at sea they are afraid to
mention even their names, and carry dung, lime-stone, juniper-wood, and
some other articles of the same nature in their boats, in order to
terrify and prevent their too near approach.” —Uno Von Troil’s
Letters on Banks’s and Solander’s Voyage to Iceland in

“The Spermacetti Whale found by the Nantuckois, is an active, fierce
animal, and requires vast address and boldness in the fishermen.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Whale Memorial to the French minister in 1778.

“And pray, sir, what in the world is equal to it?” —Edmund Burke’s
reference in Parliament to the Nantucket Whale-Fishery

“Spain—a great whale stranded on the shores of Europe.” —Edmund
. (somewhere.)

“A tenth branch of the king’s ordinary revenue, said to be grounded on
the consideration of his guarding and protecting the seas from pirates
and robbers, is the right to royal fish, which are whale and sturgeon.
And these, when either thrown ashore or caught near the coast, are the
property of the king.” —Blackstone.

     “Soon to the sport of death the crews repair:
     Rodmond unerring o’er his head suspends
     The barbed steel, and every turn attends.”
      —Falconer’s Shipwreck.

     “Bright shone the roofs, the domes, the spires,
     And rockets blew self driven,
     To hang their momentary fire
     Around the vault of heaven.

     “So fire with water to compare,
     The ocean serves on high,
     Up-spouted by a whale in air,
     To express unwieldy joy.”
      —Cowper, on the Queen’s Visit to London.

“Ten or fifteen gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at a
stroke, with immense velocity.” —John Hunter’s account of the
dissection of a whale
. (A small sized one.)

“The aorta of a whale is larger in the bore than the main pipe of the
water-works at London Bridge, and the water roaring in its passage
through that pipe is inferior in impetus and velocity to the blood
gushing from the whale’s heart.” —Paley’s Theology.

“The whale is a mammiferous animal without hind feet.” —Baron

“In 40 degrees south, we saw Spermacetti Whales, but did not take any
till the first of May, the sea being then covered with them.” —Colnett’s
Voyage for the Purpose of Extending the Spermaceti Whale Fishery

     “In the free element beneath me swam,
     Floundered and dived, in play, in chace, in battle,
     Fishes of every colour, form, and kind;
     Which language cannot paint, and mariner
     Had never seen; from dread Leviathan
     To insect millions peopling every wave:
     Gather’d in shoals immense, like floating islands,
     Led by mysterious instincts through that waste
     And trackless region, though on every side
     Assaulted by voracious enemies,
     Whales, sharks, and monsters, arm’d in front or jaw,
     With swords, saws, spiral horns, or hooked fangs.”
      —Montgomery’s World before the Flood.

     “Io!  Paean!  Io! sing.
     To the finny people’s king.
     Not a mightier whale than this
     In the vast Atlantic is;
     Not a fatter fish than he,
     Flounders round the Polar Sea.”
      —Charles Lamb’s Triumph of the Whale.

“In the year 1690 some persons were on a high hill observing the whales
spouting and sporting with each other, when one observed: there—pointing
to the sea—is a green pasture where our children’s grand-children
will go for bread.” —Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket.

“I built a cottage for Susan and myself and made a gateway in the form
of a Gothic Arch, by setting up a whale’s jaw bones.” —Hawthorne’s
Twice Told Tales

“She came to bespeak a monument for her first love, who had been killed
by a whale in the Pacific ocean, no less than forty years ago.” —Ibid.

“No, Sir, ’tis a Right Whale,” answered Tom; “I saw his sprout; he threw
up a pair of as pretty rainbows as a Christian would wish to look at.
He’s a raal oil-butt, that fellow!” —Cooper’s Pilot.

“The papers were brought in, and we saw in the Berlin Gazette that
whales had been introduced on the stage there.” —Eckermann’s
Conversations with Goethe

“My God! Mr. Chace, what is the matter?” I answered, “we have been stove
by a whale.” —“Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex
of Nantucket, which was attacked and finally destroyed by a large Sperm
Whale in the Pacific Ocean
.” By Owen Chace of Nantucket, first mate of
said vessel. New York
, 1821.

     “A mariner sat in the shrouds one night,
     The wind was piping free;
     Now bright, now dimmed, was the moonlight pale,
     And the phospher gleamed in the wake of the whale,
     As it floundered in the sea.”
      —Elizabeth Oakes Smith.

“The quantity of line withdrawn from the boats engaged in the capture of
this one whale, amounted altogether to 10,440 yards or nearly six
English miles….

“Sometimes the whale shakes its tremendous tail in the air, which,
cracking like a whip, resounds to the distance of three or four miles.”

“Mad with the agonies he endures from these fresh attacks, the
infuriated Sperm Whale rolls over and over; he rears his enormous head,
and with wide expanded jaws snaps at everything around him; he rushes at
the boats with his head; they are propelled before him with vast
swiftness, and sometimes utterly destroyed…. It is a matter of great
astonishment that the consideration of the habits of so interesting,
and, in a commercial point of view, so important an animal (as the Sperm
Whale) should have been so entirely neglected, or should have excited so
little curiosity among the numerous, and many of them competent
observers, that of late years, must have possessed the most abundant and
the most convenient opportunities of witnessing their habitudes.”
Thomas Beale’s History of the Sperm Whale, 1839.

“The Cachalot” (Sperm Whale) “is not only better armed than the True
Whale” (Greenland or Right Whale) “in possessing a formidable weapon at
either extremity of its body, but also more frequently displays a
disposition to employ these weapons offensively and in manner at once so
artful, bold, and mischievous, as to lead to its being regarded as the
most dangerous to attack of all the known species of the whale tribe.”
Frederick Debell Bennett’s Whaling Voyage Round the Globe, 1840.

     October 13.  “There she blows,” was sung out from the mast-head.
     “Where away?” demanded the captain.
     “Three points off the lee bow, sir.”
      “Raise up your wheel.  Steady!”  “Steady, sir.”
      “Mast-head ahoy!  Do you see that whale now?”
      “Ay ay, sir!  A shoal of Sperm Whales!  There she blows!  There she
      “Sing out! sing out every time!”
      “Ay Ay, sir!  There she blows! there—there—thar she
      “How far off?”
      “Two miles and a half.”
      “Thunder and lightning! so near!  Call all hands.”
      —J. Ross Browne’s Etchings of a Whaling Cruize.  1846.

“The Whale-ship Globe, on board of which vessel occurred the horrid
transactions we are about to relate, belonged to the island of
Nantucket.” —“Narrative of the Globe Mutiny,” by Lay and Hussey
survivors. A.D.

Being once pursued by a whale which he had wounded, he parried the
assault for some time with a lance; but the furious monster at length
rushed on the boat; himself and comrades only being preserved by leaping
into the water when they saw the onset was inevitable.” —Missionary
Journal of Tyerman and Bennett

“Nantucket itself,” said Mr. Webster, “is a very striking and peculiar
portion of the National interest. There is a population of eight or nine
thousand persons living here in the sea, adding largely every year to
the National wealth by the boldest and most persevering industry.”
Report of Daniel Webster’s Speech in the U. S. Senate, on the
application for the Erection of a Breakwater at Nantucket
. 1828.

“The whale fell directly over him, and probably killed him in a moment.”
—“The Whale and his Captors, or The Whaleman’s Adventures and the
Whale’s Biography, gathered on the Homeward Cruise of the Commodore
.” By Rev. Henry T. Cheever.

“If you make the least damn bit of noise,” replied Samuel, “I will send
you to hell.” —Life of Samuel Comstock (the mutineer), by his
brother, William Comstock. Another Version of the whale-ship Globe

“The voyages of the Dutch and English to the Northern Ocean, in order,
if possible, to discover a passage through it to India, though they
failed of their main object, laid-open the haunts of the whale.” —McCulloch’s
Commercial Dictionary

“These things are reciprocal; the ball rebounds, only to bound forward
again; for now in laying open the haunts of the whale, the whalemen seem
to have indirectly hit upon new clews to that same mystic North-West
Passage.” —FromSomethingunpublished.

“It is impossible to meet a whale-ship on the ocean without being struck
by her near appearance. The vessel under short sail, with look-outs at
the mast-heads, eagerly scanning the wide expanse around them, has a
totally different air from those engaged in regular voyage.” —Currents
and Whaling. U.S. Ex. Ex

“Pedestrians in the vicinity of London and elsewhere may recollect
having seen large curved bones set upright in the earth, either to form
arches over gateways, or entrances to alcoves, and they may perhaps have
been told that these were the ribs of whales.” —Tales of a Whale
Voyager to the Arctic Ocean

“It was not till the boats returned from the pursuit of these whales,
that the whites saw their ship in bloody possession of the savages
enrolled among the crew.” —Newspaper Account of the Taking and
Retaking of the Whale-Ship Hobomack

“It is generally well known that out of the crews of Whaling vessels
(American) few ever return in the ships on board of which they
departed.” —Cruise in a Whale Boat.

“Suddenly a mighty mass emerged from the water, and shot up
perpendicularly into the air. It was the whale.” —Miriam Coffin or
the Whale Fisherman

“The Whale is harpooned to be sure; but bethink you, how you would
manage a powerful unbroken colt, with the mere appliance of a rope tied
to the root of his tail.” —A Chapter on Whaling in Ribs and

“On one occasion I saw two of these monsters (whales) probably male and
female, slowly swimming, one after the other, within less than a stone’s
throw of the shore” (Terra Del Fuego), “over which the beech tree
extended its branches.” —Darwin’s Voyage of a Naturalist.

“‘Stern all!’ exclaimed the mate, as upon turning his head, he saw the
distended jaws of a large Sperm Whale close to the head of the boat,
threatening it with instant destruction;—‘Stern all, for your
lives!’” —Wharton the Whale Killer.

“So be cheery, my lads, let your hearts never fail, While the bold
harpooneer is striking the whale!” —Nantucket Song.

     “Oh, the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale
     In his ocean home will be
     A giant in might, where might is right,
     And King of the boundless sea.”
      —Whale Song.


CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having
little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on
shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of
the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the
circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever
it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself
involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear
of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an
upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me
from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking
people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon
as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical
flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.
There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men
in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings
towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves
as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf.
Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is
the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by
breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the
crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears
Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do
you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand
thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some
leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking
over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as
if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all
landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters,
nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green
fields gone? What do they here?

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and
seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the
extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder
warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as
they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand—miles of
them—leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys,
streets and avenues—north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all
unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses
of all those ships attract them thither?

Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take
almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale,
and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let
the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand
that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead
you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be
athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan
happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one
knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest,
quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of
the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees,
each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and
here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder
cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way,
reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue.
But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes
down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd’s head, yet all were vain,
unless the shepherd’s eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go
visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade
knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there
is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would
you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of
Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate
whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a
pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy
with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to
sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such
a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out
of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the
Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this
is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of
Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he
saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image,
we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the
ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.

Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to
grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do
not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger. For to
go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag
unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick—grow
quarrelsome—don’t sleep of nights—do not enjoy themselves
much, as a general thing;—no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though
I am something of a salt, do I ever go to sea as a Commodore, or a
Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to
those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable
toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as
much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships,
barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for going as cook,—though
I confess there is considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort of
officer on ship-board—yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls;—though
once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered,
there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say
reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous
dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse,
that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the

No, when I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast,
plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head. True,
they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to spar, like
a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort of thing is
unpleasant enough. It touches one’s sense of honor, particularly if you
come of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or
Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting
your hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country
schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition
is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires
a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear
it. But even this wears off in time.

What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom
and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I
mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel
Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and
respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t a
slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me
about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the
satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one
way or other served in much the same way—either in a physical or
metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed
round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and be

Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying
me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I
ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there
is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act
of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two
orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid,—what will compare
with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really
marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root
of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven.
Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!

Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise
and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world, head winds are
far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate
the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the
quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the
forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same
way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same
time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after
having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it
into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer
of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs
me, and influences me in some unaccountable way—he can better answer
than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed
part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time
ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more
extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run
something like this:

Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.

Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the
Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others
were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy
parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces—though I cannot
tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I
think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being
cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about
performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it
was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating

Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale
himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity.
Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the
undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending
marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to
my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been
inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for
things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous
coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and
could still be social with it—would they let me—since it is
but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one
lodges in.

By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great
flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that
swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul,
endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand
hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.

CHAPTER 2. The Carpet-Bag.

I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it under my arm,
and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific. Quitting the good city of old
Manhatto, I duly arrived in New Bedford. It was a Saturday night in
December. Much was I disappointed upon learning that the little packet for
Nantucket had already sailed, and that no way of reaching that place would
offer, till the following Monday.

As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of whaling stop at
this same New Bedford, thence to embark on their voyage, it may as well be
related that I, for one, had no idea of so doing. For my mind was made up
to sail in no other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a fine,
boisterous something about everything connected with that famous old
island, which amazingly pleased me. Besides though New Bedford has of late
been gradually monopolising the business of whaling, and though in this
matter poor old Nantucket is now much behind her, yet Nantucket was her
great original—the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where the
first dead American whale was stranded. Where else but from Nantucket did
those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in canoes to give
chase to the Leviathan? And where but from Nantucket, too, did that first
adventurous little sloop put forth, partly laden with imported
cobblestones—so goes the story—to throw at the whales, in
order to discover when they were nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the

Now having a night, a day, and still another night following before me in
New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined port, it became a matter
of concernment where I was to eat and sleep meanwhile. It was a very
dubious-looking, nay, a very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold and
cheerless. I knew no one in the place. With anxious grapnels I had sounded
my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver,—So, wherever
you go, Ishmael, said I to myself, as I stood in the middle of a dreary
street shouldering my bag, and comparing the gloom towards the north with
the darkness towards the south—wherever in your wisdom you may
conclude to lodge for the night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to inquire the
price, and don’t be too particular.

With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed the sign of “The
Crossed Harpoons”—but it looked too expensive and jolly there.
Further on, from the bright red windows of the “Sword-Fish Inn,” there
came such fervent rays, that it seemed to have melted the packed snow and
ice from before the house, for everywhere else the congealed frost lay ten
inches thick in a hard, asphaltic pavement,—rather weary for me,
when I struck my foot against the flinty projections, because from hard,
remorseless service the soles of my boots were in a most miserable plight.
Too expensive and jolly, again thought I, pausing one moment to watch the
broad glare in the street, and hear the sounds of the tinkling glasses
within. But go on, Ishmael, said I at last; don’t you hear? get away from
before the door; your patched boots are stopping the way. So on I went. I
now by instinct followed the streets that took me waterward, for there,
doubtless, were the cheapest, if not the cheeriest inns.

Such dreary streets! blocks of blackness, not houses, on either hand, and
here and there a candle, like a candle moving about in a tomb. At this
hour of the night, of the last day of the week, that quarter of the town
proved all but deserted. But presently I came to a smoky light proceeding
from a low, wide building, the door of which stood invitingly open. It had
a careless look, as if it were meant for the uses of the public; so,
entering, the first thing I did was to stumble over an ash-box in the
porch. Ha! thought I, ha, as the flying particles almost choked me, are
these ashes from that destroyed city, Gomorrah? But “The Crossed
Harpoons,” and “The Sword-Fish?”—this, then must needs be the sign
of “The Trap.” However, I picked myself up and hearing a loud voice
within, pushed on and opened a second, interior door.

It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A hundred black
faces turned round in their rows to peer; and beyond, a black Angel of
Doom was beating a book in a pulpit. It was a negro church; and the
preacher’s text was about the blackness of darkness, and the weeping and
wailing and teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing out,
Wretched entertainment at the sign of ‘The Trap!’

Moving on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far from the docks,
and heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking up, saw a swinging
sign over the door with a white painting upon it, faintly representing a
tall straight jet of misty spray, and these words underneath—“The
Spouter Inn:—Peter Coffin.”

Coffin?—Spouter?—Rather ominous in that particular connexion,
thought I. But it is a common name in Nantucket, they say, and I suppose
this Peter here is an emigrant from there. As the light looked so dim, and
the place, for the time, looked quiet enough, and the dilapidated little
wooden house itself looked as if it might have been carted here from the
ruins of some burnt district, and as the swinging sign had a
poverty-stricken sort of creak to it, I thought that here was the very
spot for cheap lodgings, and the best of pea coffee.

It was a queer sort of place—a gable-ended old house, one side
palsied as it were, and leaning over sadly. It stood on a sharp bleak
corner, where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling
than ever it did about poor Paul’s tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless,
is a mighty pleasant zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the hob
quietly toasting for bed. “In judging of that tempestuous wind called
Euroclydon,” says an old writer—of whose works I possess the only
copy extant—“it maketh a marvellous difference, whether thou lookest
out at it from a glass window where the frost is all on the outside, or
whether thou observest it from that sashless window, where the frost is on
both sides, and of which the wight Death is the only glazier.” True
enough, thought I, as this passage occurred to my mind—old
black-letter, thou reasonest well. Yes, these eyes are windows, and this
body of mine is the house. What a pity they didn’t stop up the chinks and
the crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there. But it’s
too late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the
copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago. Poor
Lazarus there, chattering his teeth against the curbstone for his pillow,
and shaking off his tatters with his shiverings, he might plug up both
ears with rags, and put a corn-cob into his mouth, and yet that would not
keep out the tempestuous Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives, in his
red silken wrapper—(he had a redder one afterwards) pooh, pooh! What
a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters; what northern lights! Let them
talk of their oriental summer climes of everlasting conservatories; give
me the privilege of making my own summer with my own coals.

But what thinks Lazarus? Can he warm his blue hands by holding them up to
the grand northern lights? Would not Lazarus rather be in Sumatra than
here? Would he not far rather lay him down lengthwise along the line of
the equator; yea, ye gods! go down to the fiery pit itself, in order to
keep out this frost?

Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstone before the
door of Dives, this is more wonderful than that an iceberg should be
moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives himself, he too lives like a Czar
in an ice palace made of frozen sighs, and being a president of a
temperance society, he only drinks the tepid tears of orphans.

But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling, and there is
plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the ice from our frosted feet,
and see what sort of a place this “Spouter” may be.

CHAPTER 3. The Spouter-Inn.

Entering that gable-ended Spouter-Inn, you found yourself in a wide, low,
straggling entry with old-fashioned wainscots, reminding one of the
bulwarks of some condemned old craft. On one side hung a very large
oilpainting so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in the
unequal crosslights by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent study
and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the
neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its
purpose. Such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, that at first
you almost thought some ambitious young artist, in the time of the New
England hags, had endeavored to delineate chaos bewitched. But by dint of
much and earnest contemplation, and oft repeated ponderings, and
especially by throwing open the little window towards the back of the
entry, you at last come to the conclusion that such an idea, however wild,
might not be altogether unwarranted.

But what most puzzled and confounded you was a long, limber, portentous,
black mass of something hovering in the centre of the picture over three
blue, dim, perpendicular lines floating in a nameless yeast. A boggy,
soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted.
Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity
about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath
with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant. Ever and
anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through.—It’s
the Black Sea in a midnight gale.—It’s the unnatural combat of the
four primal elements.—It’s a blasted heath.—It’s a Hyperborean
winter scene.—It’s the breaking-up of the icebound stream of Time.
But at last all these fancies yielded to that one portentous something in
the picture’s midst. That once found out, and all the rest were plain. But
stop; does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish? even the
great leviathan himself?

In fact, the artist’s design seemed this: a final theory of my own, partly
based upon the aggregated opinions of many aged persons with whom I
conversed upon the subject. The picture represents a Cape-Horner in a
great hurricane; the half-foundered ship weltering there with its three
dismantled masts alone visible; and an exasperated whale, purposing to
spring clean over the craft, is in the enormous act of impaling himself
upon the three mast-heads.

The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with a heathenish array
of monstrous clubs and spears. Some were thickly set with glittering teeth
resembling ivory saws; others were tufted with knots of human hair; and
one was sickle-shaped, with a vast handle sweeping round like the segment
made in the new-mown grass by a long-armed mower. You shuddered as you
gazed, and wondered what monstrous cannibal and savage could ever have
gone a death-harvesting with such a hacking, horrifying implement. Mixed
with these were rusty old whaling lances and harpoons all broken and
deformed. Some were storied weapons. With this once long lance, now wildly
elbowed, fifty years ago did Nathan Swain kill fifteen whales between a
sunrise and a sunset. And that harpoon—so like a corkscrew now—was
flung in Javan seas, and run away with by a whale, years afterwards slain
off the Cape of Blanco. The original iron entered nigh the tail, and, like
a restless needle sojourning in the body of a man, travelled full forty
feet, and at last was found imbedded in the hump.

Crossing this dusky entry, and on through yon low-arched way—cut
through what in old times must have been a great central chimney with
fireplaces all round—you enter the public room. A still duskier
place is this, with such low ponderous beams above, and such old wrinkled
planks beneath, that you would almost fancy you trod some old craft’s
cockpits, especially of such a howling night, when this corner-anchored
old ark rocked so furiously. On one side stood a long, low, shelf-like
table covered with cracked glass cases, filled with dusty rarities
gathered from this wide world’s remotest nooks. Projecting from the
further angle of the room stands a dark-looking den—the bar—a
rude attempt at a right whale’s head. Be that how it may, there stands the
vast arched bone of the whale’s jaw, so wide, a coach might almost drive
beneath it. Within are shabby shelves, ranged round with old decanters,
bottles, flasks; and in those jaws of swift destruction, like another
cursed Jonah (by which name indeed they called him), bustles a little
withered old man, who, for their money, dearly sells the sailors deliriums
and death.

Abominable are the tumblers into which he pours his poison. Though true
cylinders without—within, the villanous green goggling glasses
deceitfully tapered downwards to a cheating bottom. Parallel meridians
rudely pecked into the glass, surround these footpads’ goblets. Fill to
this mark, and your charge is but a penny; to this a penny more; and so on
to the full glass—the Cape Horn measure, which you may gulp down for
a shilling.

Upon entering the place I found a number of young seamen gathered about a
table, examining by a dim light divers specimens of skrimshander. I sought
the landlord, and telling him I desired to be accommodated with a room,
received for answer that his house was full—not a bed unoccupied.
“But avast,” he added, tapping his forehead, “you haint no objections to
sharing a harpooneer’s blanket, have ye? I s’pose you are goin’ a-whalin’,
so you’d better get used to that sort of thing.”

I told him that I never liked to sleep two in a bed; that if I should ever
do so, it would depend upon who the harpooneer might be, and that if he
(the landlord) really had no other place for me, and the harpooneer was
not decidedly objectionable, why rather than wander further about a
strange town on so bitter a night, I would put up with the half of any
decent man’s blanket.

“I thought so. All right; take a seat. Supper?—you want supper?
Supper’ll be ready directly.”

I sat down on an old wooden settle, carved all over like a bench on the
Battery. At one end a ruminating tar was still further adorning it with
his jack-knife, stooping over and diligently working away at the space
between his legs. He was trying his hand at a ship under full sail, but he
didn’t make much headway, I thought.

At last some four or five of us were summoned to our meal in an adjoining
room. It was cold as Iceland—no fire at all—the landlord said
he couldn’t afford it. Nothing but two dismal tallow candles, each in a
winding sheet. We were fain to button up our monkey jackets, and hold to
our lips cups of scalding tea with our half frozen fingers. But the fare
was of the most substantial kind—not only meat and potatoes, but
dumplings; good heavens! dumplings for supper! One young fellow in a green
box coat, addressed himself to these dumplings in a most direful manner.

“My boy,” said the landlord, “you’ll have the nightmare to a dead

“Landlord,” I whispered, “that aint the harpooneer is it?”

“Oh, no,” said he, looking a sort of diabolically funny, “the harpooneer
is a dark complexioned chap. He never eats dumplings, he don’t—he
eats nothing but steaks, and he likes ’em rare.”

“The devil he does,” says I. “Where is that harpooneer? Is he here?”

“He’ll be here afore long,” was the answer.

I could not help it, but I began to feel suspicious of this “dark
complexioned” harpooneer. At any rate, I made up my mind that if it so
turned out that we should sleep together, he must undress and get into bed
before I did.

Supper over, the company went back to the bar-room, when, knowing not what
else to do with myself, I resolved to spend the rest of the evening as a
looker on.

Presently a rioting noise was heard without. Starting up, the landlord
cried, “That’s the Grampus’s crew. I seed her reported in the offing this
morning; a three years’ voyage, and a full ship. Hurrah, boys; now we’ll
have the latest news from the Feegees.”

A tramping of sea boots was heard in the entry; the door was flung open,
and in rolled a wild set of mariners enough. Enveloped in their shaggy
watch coats, and with their heads muffled in woollen comforters, all
bedarned and ragged, and their beards stiff with icicles, they seemed an
eruption of bears from Labrador. They had just landed from their boat, and
this was the first house they entered. No wonder, then, that they made a
straight wake for the whale’s mouth—the bar—when the wrinkled
little old Jonah, there officiating, soon poured them out brimmers all
round. One complained of a bad cold in his head, upon which Jonah mixed
him a pitch-like potion of gin and molasses, which he swore was a
sovereign cure for all colds and catarrhs whatsoever, never mind of how
long standing, or whether caught off the coast of Labrador, or on the
weather side of an ice-island.

The liquor soon mounted into their heads, as it generally does even with
the arrantest topers newly landed from sea, and they began capering about
most obstreperously.

I observed, however, that one of them held somewhat aloof, and though he
seemed desirous not to spoil the hilarity of his shipmates by his own
sober face, yet upon the whole he refrained from making as much noise as
the rest. This man interested me at once; and since the sea-gods had
ordained that he should soon become my shipmate (though but a
sleeping-partner one, so far as this narrative is concerned), I will here
venture upon a little description of him. He stood full six feet in
height, with noble shoulders, and a chest like a coffer-dam. I have seldom
seen such brawn in a man. His face was deeply brown and burnt, making his
white teeth dazzling by the contrast; while in the deep shadows of his
eyes floated some reminiscences that did not seem to give him much joy.
His voice at once announced that he was a Southerner, and from his fine
stature, I thought he must be one of those tall mountaineers from the
Alleghanian Ridge in Virginia. When the revelry of his companions had
mounted to its height, this man slipped away unobserved, and I saw no more
of him till he became my comrade on the sea. In a few minutes, however, he
was missed by his shipmates, and being, it seems, for some reason a huge
favourite with them, they raised a cry of “Bulkington! Bulkington! where’s
Bulkington?” and darted out of the house in pursuit of him.

It was now about nine o’clock, and the room seeming almost supernaturally
quiet after these orgies, I began to congratulate myself upon a little
plan that had occurred to me just previous to the entrance of the seamen.

No man prefers to sleep two in a bed. In fact, you would a good deal
rather not sleep with your own brother. I don’t know how it is, but people
like to be private when they are sleeping. And when it comes to sleeping
with an unknown stranger, in a strange inn, in a strange town, and that
stranger a harpooneer, then your objections indefinitely multiply. Nor was
there any earthly reason why I as a sailor should sleep two in a bed, more
than anybody else; for sailors no more sleep two in a bed at sea, than
bachelor Kings do ashore. To be sure they all sleep together in one
apartment, but you have your own hammock, and cover yourself with your own
blanket, and sleep in your own skin.

The more I pondered over this harpooneer, the more I abominated the
thought of sleeping with him. It was fair to presume that being a
harpooneer, his linen or woollen, as the case might be, would not be of
the tidiest, certainly none of the finest. I began to twitch all over.
Besides, it was getting late, and my decent harpooneer ought to be home
and going bedwards. Suppose now, he should tumble in upon me at midnight—how
could I tell from what vile hole he had been coming?

“Landlord! I’ve changed my mind about that harpooneer.—I shan’t
sleep with him. I’ll try the bench here.”

“Just as you please; I’m sorry I can’t spare ye a tablecloth for a
mattress, and it’s a plaguy rough board here”—feeling of the knots
and notches. “But wait a bit, Skrimshander; I’ve got a carpenter’s plane
there in the bar—wait, I say, and I’ll make ye snug enough.” So
saying he procured the plane; and with his old silk handkerchief first
dusting the bench, vigorously set to planing away at my bed, the while
grinning like an ape. The shavings flew right and left; till at last the
plane-iron came bump against an indestructible knot. The landlord was near
spraining his wrist, and I told him for heaven’s sake to quit—the
bed was soft enough to suit me, and I did not know how all the planing in
the world could make eider down of a pine plank. So gathering up the
shavings with another grin, and throwing them into the great stove in the
middle of the room, he went about his business, and left me in a brown

I now took the measure of the bench, and found that it was a foot too
short; but that could be mended with a chair. But it was a foot too
narrow, and the other bench in the room was about four inches higher than
the planed one—so there was no yoking them. I then placed the first
bench lengthwise along the only clear space against the wall, leaving a
little interval between, for my back to settle down in. But I soon found
that there came such a draught of cold air over me from under the sill of
the window, that this plan would never do at all, especially as another
current from the rickety door met the one from the window, and both
together formed a series of small whirlwinds in the immediate vicinity of
the spot where I had thought to spend the night.

The devil fetch that harpooneer, thought I, but stop, couldn’t I steal a
march on him—bolt his door inside, and jump into his bed, not to be
wakened by the most violent knockings? It seemed no bad idea; but upon
second thoughts I dismissed it. For who could tell but what the next
morning, so soon as I popped out of the room, the harpooneer might be
standing in the entry, all ready to knock me down!

Still, looking round me again, and seeing no possible chance of spending a
sufferable night unless in some other person’s bed, I began to think that
after all I might be cherishing unwarrantable prejudices against this
unknown harpooneer. Thinks I, I’ll wait awhile; he must be dropping in
before long. I’ll have a good look at him then, and perhaps we may become
jolly good bedfellows after all—there’s no telling.

But though the other boarders kept coming in by ones, twos, and threes,
and going to bed, yet no sign of my harpooneer.

“Landlord!” said I, “what sort of a chap is he—does he always keep
such late hours?” It was now hard upon twelve o’clock.

The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and seemed to be
mightily tickled at something beyond my comprehension. “No,” he answered,
“generally he’s an early bird—airley to bed and airley to rise—yes,
he’s the bird what catches the worm. But to-night he went out a peddling,
you see, and I don’t see what on airth keeps him so late, unless, may be,
he can’t sell his head.”

“Can’t sell his head?—What sort of a bamboozingly story is this you
are telling me?” getting into a towering rage. “Do you pretend to say,
landlord, that this harpooneer is actually engaged this blessed Saturday
night, or rather Sunday morning, in peddling his head around this town?”

“That’s precisely it,” said the landlord, “and I told him he couldn’t sell
it here, the market’s overstocked.”

“With what?” shouted I.

“With heads to be sure; ain’t there too many heads in the world?”

“I tell you what it is, landlord,” said I quite calmly, “you’d better stop
spinning that yarn to me—I’m not green.”

“May be not,” taking out a stick and whittling a toothpick, “but I rayther
guess you’ll be done brown if that ere harpooneer hears you a slanderin’
his head.”

“I’ll break it for him,” said I, now flying into a passion again at this
unaccountable farrago of the landlord’s.

“It’s broke a’ready,” said he.

“Broke,” said I—“broke, do you mean?”

“Sartain, and that’s the very reason he can’t sell it, I guess.”

“Landlord,” said I, going up to him as cool as Mt. Hecla in a snow-storm—“landlord,
stop whittling. You and I must understand one another, and that too
without delay. I come to your house and want a bed; you tell me you can
only give me half a one; that the other half belongs to a certain
harpooneer. And about this harpooneer, whom I have not yet seen, you
persist in telling me the most mystifying and exasperating stories tending
to beget in me an uncomfortable feeling towards the man whom you design
for my bedfellow—a sort of connexion, landlord, which is an intimate
and confidential one in the highest degree. I now demand of you to speak
out and tell me who and what this harpooneer is, and whether I shall be in
all respects safe to spend the night with him. And in the first place, you
will be so good as to unsay that story about selling his head, which if
true I take to be good evidence that this harpooneer is stark mad, and
I’ve no idea of sleeping with a madman; and you, sir, you I mean,
landlord, you, sir, by trying to induce me to do so knowingly, would
thereby render yourself liable to a criminal prosecution.”

“Wall,” said the landlord, fetching a long breath, “that’s a purty long
sarmon for a chap that rips a little now and then. But be easy, be easy,
this here harpooneer I have been tellin’ you of has just arrived from the
south seas, where he bought up a lot of ’balmed New Zealand heads (great
curios, you know), and he’s sold all on ’em but one, and that one he’s
trying to sell to-night, cause to-morrow’s Sunday, and it would not do to
be sellin’ human heads about the streets when folks is goin’ to churches.
He wanted to, last Sunday, but I stopped him just as he was goin’ out of
the door with four heads strung on a string, for all the airth like a
string of inions.”

This account cleared up the otherwise unaccountable mystery, and showed
that the landlord, after all, had had no idea of fooling me—but at
the same time what could I think of a harpooneer who stayed out of a
Saturday night clean into the holy Sabbath, engaged in such a cannibal
business as selling the heads of dead idolators?

“Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a dangerous man.”

“He pays reg’lar,” was the rejoinder. “But come, it’s getting dreadful
late, you had better be turning flukes—it’s a nice bed; Sal and me
slept in that ere bed the night we were spliced. There’s plenty of room
for two to kick about in that bed; it’s an almighty big bed that. Why,
afore we give it up, Sal used to put our Sam and little Johnny in the foot
of it. But I got a dreaming and sprawling about one night, and somehow,
Sam got pitched on the floor, and came near breaking his arm. Arter that,
Sal said it wouldn’t do. Come along here, I’ll give ye a glim in a jiffy;”
and so saying he lighted a candle and held it towards me, offering to lead
the way. But I stood irresolute; when looking at a clock in the corner, he
exclaimed “I vum it’s Sunday—you won’t see that harpooneer to-night;
he’s come to anchor somewhere—come along then; do come; won’t ye

I considered the matter a moment, and then up stairs we went, and I was
ushered into a small room, cold as a clam, and furnished, sure enough,
with a prodigious bed, almost big enough indeed for any four harpooneers
to sleep abreast.

“There,” said the landlord, placing the candle on a crazy old sea chest
that did double duty as a wash-stand and centre table; “there, make
yourself comfortable now, and good night to ye.” I turned round from
eyeing the bed, but he had disappeared.

Folding back the counterpane, I stooped over the bed. Though none of the
most elegant, it yet stood the scrutiny tolerably well. I then glanced
round the room; and besides the bedstead and centre table, could see no
other furniture belonging to the place, but a rude shelf, the four walls,
and a papered fireboard representing a man striking a whale. Of things not
properly belonging to the room, there was a hammock lashed up, and thrown
upon the floor in one corner; also a large seaman’s bag, containing the
harpooneer’s wardrobe, no doubt in lieu of a land trunk. Likewise, there
was a parcel of outlandish bone fish hooks on the shelf over the
fire-place, and a tall harpoon standing at the head of the bed.

But what is this on the chest? I took it up, and held it close to the
light, and felt it, and smelt it, and tried every way possible to arrive
at some satisfactory conclusion concerning it. I can compare it to nothing
but a large door mat, ornamented at the edges with little tinkling tags
something like the stained porcupine quills round an Indian moccasin.
There was a hole or slit in the middle of this mat, as you see the same in
South American ponchos. But could it be possible that any sober harpooneer
would get into a door mat, and parade the streets of any Christian town in
that sort of guise? I put it on, to try it, and it weighed me down like a
hamper, being uncommonly shaggy and thick, and I thought a little damp, as
though this mysterious harpooneer had been wearing it of a rainy day. I
went up in it to a bit of glass stuck against the wall, and I never saw
such a sight in my life. I tore myself out of it in such a hurry that I
gave myself a kink in the neck.

I sat down on the side of the bed, and commenced thinking about this
head-peddling harpooneer, and his door mat. After thinking some time on
the bed-side, I got up and took off my monkey jacket, and then stood in
the middle of the room thinking. I then took off my coat, and thought a
little more in my shirt sleeves. But beginning to feel very cold now, half
undressed as I was, and remembering what the landlord said about the
harpooneer’s not coming home at all that night, it being so very late, I
made no more ado, but jumped out of my pantaloons and boots, and then
blowing out the light tumbled into bed, and commended myself to the care
of heaven.

Whether that mattress was stuffed with corn-cobs or broken crockery, there
is no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, and could not sleep for a
long time. At last I slid off into a light doze, and had pretty nearly
made a good offing towards the land of Nod, when I heard a heavy footfall
in the passage, and saw a glimmer of light come into the room from under
the door.

Lord save me, thinks I, that must be the harpooneer, the infernal
head-peddler. But I lay perfectly still, and resolved not to say a word
till spoken to. Holding a light in one hand, and that identical New
Zealand head in the other, the stranger entered the room, and without
looking towards the bed, placed his candle a good way off from me on the
floor in one corner, and then began working away at the knotted cords of
the large bag I before spoke of as being in the room. I was all eagerness
to see his face, but he kept it averted for some time while employed in
unlacing the bag’s mouth. This accomplished, however, he turned round—when,
good heavens! what a sight! Such a face! It was of a dark, purplish,
yellow colour, here and there stuck over with large blackish looking
squares. Yes, it’s just as I thought, he’s a terrible bedfellow; he’s been
in a fight, got dreadfully cut, and here he is, just from the surgeon. But
at that moment he chanced to turn his face so towards the light, that I
plainly saw they could not be sticking-plasters at all, those black
squares on his cheeks. They were stains of some sort or other. At first I
knew not what to make of this; but soon an inkling of the truth occurred
to me. I remembered a story of a white man—a whaleman too—who,
falling among the cannibals, had been tattooed by them. I concluded that
this harpooneer, in the course of his distant voyages, must have met with
a similar adventure. And what is it, thought I, after all! It’s only his
outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin. But then, what to make
of his unearthly complexion, that part of it, I mean, lying round about,
and completely independent of the squares of tattooing. To be sure, it
might be nothing but a good coat of tropical tanning; but I never heard of
a hot sun’s tanning a white man into a purplish yellow one. However, I had
never been in the South Seas; and perhaps the sun there produced these
extraordinary effects upon the skin. Now, while all these ideas were
passing through me like lightning, this harpooneer never noticed me at
all. But, after some difficulty having opened his bag, he commenced
fumbling in it, and presently pulled out a sort of tomahawk, and a
seal-skin wallet with the hair on. Placing these on the old chest in the
middle of the room, he then took the New Zealand head—a ghastly
thing enough—and crammed it down into the bag. He now took off his
hat—a new beaver hat—when I came nigh singing out with fresh
surprise. There was no hair on his head—none to speak of at least—nothing
but a small scalp-knot twisted up on his forehead. His bald purplish head
now looked for all the world like a mildewed skull. Had not the stranger
stood between me and the door, I would have bolted out of it quicker than
ever I bolted a dinner.

Even as it was, I thought something of slipping out of the window, but it
was the second floor back. I am no coward, but what to make of this
head-peddling purple rascal altogether passed my comprehension. Ignorance
is the parent of fear, and being completely nonplussed and confounded
about the stranger, I confess I was now as much afraid of him as if it was
the devil himself who had thus broken into my room at the dead of night.
In fact, I was so afraid of him that I was not game enough just then to
address him, and demand a satisfactory answer concerning what seemed
inexplicable in him.

Meanwhile, he continued the business of undressing, and at last showed his
chest and arms. As I live, these covered parts of him were checkered with
the same squares as his face; his back, too, was all over the same dark
squares; he seemed to have been in a Thirty Years’ War, and just escaped
from it with a sticking-plaster shirt. Still more, his very legs were
marked, as if a parcel of dark green frogs were running up the trunks of
young palms. It was now quite plain that he must be some abominable savage
or other shipped aboard of a whaleman in the South Seas, and so landed in
this Christian country. I quaked to think of it. A peddler of heads too—perhaps
the heads of his own brothers. He might take a fancy to mine—heavens!
look at that tomahawk!

But there was no time for shuddering, for now the savage went about
something that completely fascinated my attention, and convinced me that
he must indeed be a heathen. Going to his heavy grego, or wrapall, or
dreadnaught, which he had previously hung on a chair, he fumbled in the
pockets, and produced at length a curious little deformed image with a
hunch on its back, and exactly the colour of a three days’ old Congo baby.
Remembering the embalmed head, at first I almost thought that this black
manikin was a real baby preserved in some similar manner. But seeing that
it was not at all limber, and that it glistened a good deal like polished
ebony, I concluded that it must be nothing but a wooden idol, which indeed
it proved to be. For now the savage goes up to the empty fire-place, and
removing the papered fire-board, sets up this little hunch-backed image,
like a tenpin, between the andirons. The chimney jambs and all the bricks
inside were very sooty, so that I thought this fire-place made a very
appropriate little shrine or chapel for his Congo idol.

I now screwed my eyes hard towards the half hidden image, feeling but ill
at ease meantime—to see what was next to follow. First he takes
about a double handful of shavings out of his grego pocket, and places
them carefully before the idol; then laying a bit of ship biscuit on top
and applying the flame from the lamp, he kindled the shavings into a
sacrificial blaze. Presently, after many hasty snatches into the fire, and
still hastier withdrawals of his fingers (whereby he seemed to be
scorching them badly), he at last succeeded in drawing out the biscuit;
then blowing off the heat and ashes a little, he made a polite offer of it
to the little negro. But the little devil did not seem to fancy such dry
sort of fare at all; he never moved his lips. All these strange antics
were accompanied by still stranger guttural noises from the devotee, who
seemed to be praying in a sing-song or else singing some pagan psalmody or
other, during which his face twitched about in the most unnatural manner.
At last extinguishing the fire, he took the idol up very unceremoniously,
and bagged it again in his grego pocket as carelessly as if he were a
sportsman bagging a dead woodcock.

All these queer proceedings increased my uncomfortableness, and seeing him
now exhibiting strong symptoms of concluding his business operations, and
jumping into bed with me, I thought it was high time, now or never, before
the light was put out, to break the spell in which I had so long been

But the interval I spent in deliberating what to say, was a fatal one.
Taking up his tomahawk from the table, he examined the head of it for an
instant, and then holding it to the light, with his mouth at the handle,
he puffed out great clouds of tobacco smoke. The next moment the light was
extinguished, and this wild cannibal, tomahawk between his teeth, sprang
into bed with me. I sang out, I could not help it now; and giving a sudden
grunt of astonishment he began feeling me.

Stammering out something, I knew not what, I rolled away from him against
the wall, and then conjured him, whoever or whatever he might be, to keep
quiet, and let me get up and light the lamp again. But his guttural
responses satisfied me at once that he but ill comprehended my meaning.

“Who-e debel you?”—he at last said—“you no speak-e, dam-me, I
kill-e.” And so saying the lighted tomahawk began flourishing about me in
the dark.

“Landlord, for God’s sake, Peter Coffin!” shouted I. “Landlord! Watch!
Coffin! Angels! save me!”

“Speak-e! tell-ee me who-ee be, or dam-me, I kill-e!” again growled the
cannibal, while his horrid flourishings of the tomahawk scattered the hot
tobacco ashes about me till I thought my linen would get on fire. But
thank heaven, at that moment the landlord came into the room light in
hand, and leaping from the bed I ran up to him.

“Don’t be afraid now,” said he, grinning again, “Queequeg here wouldn’t
harm a hair of your head.”

“Stop your grinning,” shouted I, “and why didn’t you tell me that that
infernal harpooneer was a cannibal?”

“I thought ye know’d it;—didn’t I tell ye, he was a peddlin’ heads
around town?—but turn flukes again and go to sleep. Queequeg, look
here—you sabbee me, I sabbee—you this man sleepe you—you

“Me sabbee plenty”—grunted Queequeg, puffing away at his pipe and
sitting up in bed.

“You gettee in,” he added, motioning to me with his tomahawk, and throwing
the clothes to one side. He really did this in not only a civil but a
really kind and charitable way. I stood looking at him a moment. For all
his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal.
What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself—the
man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me,
as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a
drunken Christian.

“Landlord,” said I, “tell him to stash his tomahawk there, or pipe, or
whatever you call it; tell him to stop smoking, in short, and I will turn
in with him. But I don’t fancy having a man smoking in bed with me. It’s
dangerous. Besides, I ain’t insured.”

This being told to Queequeg, he at once complied, and again politely
motioned me to get into bed—rolling over to one side as much as to
say—“I won’t touch a leg of ye.”

“Good night, landlord,” said I, “you may go.”

I turned in, and never slept better in my life.

CHAPTER 4. The Counterpane.

Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown
over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought
I had been his wife. The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little
parti-coloured squares and triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all
over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no two parts of
which were of one precise shade—owing I suppose to his keeping his
arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt sleeves irregularly
rolled up at various times—this same arm of his, I say, looked for
all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt. Indeed, partly
lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I could hardly tell it from
the quilt, they so blended their hues together; and it was only by the
sense of weight and pressure that I could tell that Queequeg was hugging

My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When I was a
child, I well remember a somewhat similar circumstance that befell me;
whether it was a reality or a dream, I never could entirely settle. The
circumstance was this. I had been cutting up some caper or other—I
think it was trying to crawl up the chimney, as I had seen a little sweep
do a few days previous; and my stepmother who, somehow or other, was all
the time whipping me, or sending me to bed supperless,—my mother
dragged me by the legs out of the chimney and packed me off to bed, though
it was only two o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st June, the longest day
in the year in our hemisphere. I felt dreadfully. But there was no help
for it, so up stairs I went to my little room in the third floor,
undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to kill time, and with a
bitter sigh got between the sheets.

I lay there dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours must elapse
before I could hope for a resurrection. Sixteen hours in bed! the small of
my back ached to think of it. And it was so light too; the sun shining in
at the window, and a great rattling of coaches in the streets, and the
sound of gay voices all over the house. I felt worse and worse—at
last I got up, dressed, and softly going down in my stockinged feet,
sought out my stepmother, and suddenly threw myself at her feet,
beseeching her as a particular favour to give me a good slippering for my
misbehaviour; anything indeed but condemning me to lie abed such an
unendurable length of time. But she was the best and most conscientious of
stepmothers, and back I had to go to my room. For several hours I lay
there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than I have ever done since,
even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes. At last I must have fallen
into a troubled nightmare of a doze; and slowly waking from it—half
steeped in dreams—I opened my eyes, and the before sun-lit room was
now wrapped in outer darkness. Instantly I felt a shock running through
all my frame; nothing was to be seen, and nothing was to be heard; but a
supernatural hand seemed placed in mine. My arm hung over the counterpane,
and the nameless, unimaginable, silent form or phantom, to which the hand
belonged, seemed closely seated by my bed-side. For what seemed ages piled
on ages, I lay there, frozen with the most awful fears, not daring to drag
away my hand; yet ever thinking that if I could but stir it one single
inch, the horrid spell would be broken. I knew not how this consciousness
at last glided away from me; but waking in the morning, I shudderingly
remembered it all, and for days and weeks and months afterwards I lost
myself in confounding attempts to explain the mystery. Nay, to this very
hour, I often puzzle myself with it.

Now, take away the awful fear, and my sensations at feeling the
supernatural hand in mine were very similar, in their strangeness, to
those which I experienced on waking up and seeing Queequeg’s pagan arm
thrown round me. But at length all the past night’s events soberly
recurred, one by one, in fixed reality, and then I lay only alive to the
comical predicament. For though I tried to move his arm—unlock his
bridegroom clasp—yet, sleeping as he was, he still hugged me
tightly, as though naught but death should part us twain. I now strove to
rouse him—“Queequeg!”—but his only answer was a snore. I then
rolled over, my neck feeling as if it were in a horse-collar; and suddenly
felt a slight scratch. Throwing aside the counterpane, there lay the
tomahawk sleeping by the savage’s side, as if it were a hatchet-faced
baby. A pretty pickle, truly, thought I; abed here in a strange house in
the broad day, with a cannibal and a tomahawk! “Queequeg!—in the
name of goodness, Queequeg, wake!” At length, by dint of much wriggling,
and loud and incessant expostulations upon the unbecomingness of his
hugging a fellow male in that matrimonial sort of style, I succeeded in
extracting a grunt; and presently, he drew back his arm, shook himself all
over like a Newfoundland dog just from the water, and sat up in bed, stiff
as a pike-staff, looking at me, and rubbing his eyes as if he did not
altogether remember how I came to be there, though a dim consciousness of
knowing something about me seemed slowly dawning over him. Meanwhile, I
lay quietly eyeing him, having no serious misgivings now, and bent upon
narrowly observing so curious a creature. When, at last, his mind seemed
made up touching the character of his bedfellow, and he became, as it
were, reconciled to the fact; he jumped out upon the floor, and by certain
signs and sounds gave me to understand that, if it pleased me, he would
dress first and then leave me to dress afterwards, leaving the whole
apartment to myself. Thinks I, Queequeg, under the circumstances, this is
a very civilized overture; but, the truth is, these savages have an innate
sense of delicacy, say what you will; it is marvellous how essentially
polite they are. I pay this particular compliment to Queequeg, because he
treated me with so much civility and consideration, while I was guilty of
great rudeness; staring at him from the bed, and watching all his toilette
motions; for the time my curiosity getting the better of my breeding.
Nevertheless, a man like Queequeg you don’t see every day, he and his ways
were well worth unusual regarding.

He commenced dressing at top by donning his beaver hat, a very tall one,
by the by, and then—still minus his trowsers—he hunted up his
boots. What under the heavens he did it for, I cannot tell, but his next
movement was to crush himself—boots in hand, and hat on—under
the bed; when, from sundry violent gaspings and strainings, I inferred he
was hard at work booting himself; though by no law of propriety that I
ever heard of, is any man required to be private when putting on his
boots. But Queequeg, do you see, was a creature in the transition stage—neither
caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just enough civilized to show off his
outlandishness in the strangest possible manners. His education was not
yet completed. He was an undergraduate. If he had not been a small degree
civilized, he very probably would not have troubled himself with boots at
all; but then, if he had not been still a savage, he never would have
dreamt of getting under the bed to put them on. At last, he emerged with
his hat very much dented and crushed down over his eyes, and began
creaking and limping about the room, as if, not being much accustomed to
boots, his pair of damp, wrinkled cowhide ones—probably not made to
order either—rather pinched and tormented him at the first go off of
a bitter cold morning.

Seeing, now, that there were no curtains to the window, and that the
street being very narrow, the house opposite commanded a plain view into
the room, and observing more and more the indecorous figure that Queequeg
made, staving about with little else but his hat and boots on; I begged
him as well as I could, to accelerate his toilet somewhat, and
particularly to get into his pantaloons as soon as possible. He complied,
and then proceeded to wash himself. At that time in the morning any
Christian would have washed his face; but Queequeg, to my amazement,
contented himself with restricting his ablutions to his chest, arms, and
hands. He then donned his waistcoat, and taking up a piece of hard soap on
the wash-stand centre table, dipped it into water and commenced lathering
his face. I was watching to see where he kept his razor, when lo and
behold, he takes the harpoon from the bed corner, slips out the long
wooden stock, unsheathes the head, whets it a little on his boot, and
striding up to the bit of mirror against the wall, begins a vigorous
scraping, or rather harpooning of his cheeks. Thinks I, Queequeg, this is
using Rogers’s best cutlery with a vengeance. Afterwards I wondered the
less at this operation when I came to know of what fine steel the head of
a harpoon is made, and how exceedingly sharp the long straight edges are
always kept.

The rest of his toilet was soon achieved, and he proudly marched out of
the room, wrapped up in his great pilot monkey jacket, and sporting his
harpoon like a marshal’s baton.

CHAPTER 5. Breakfast.

I quickly followed suit, and descending into the bar-room accosted the
grinning landlord very pleasantly. I cherished no malice towards him,
though he had been skylarking with me not a little in the matter of my

However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good
thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person,
afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let
him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way. And the
man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is
more in that man than you perhaps think for.

The bar-room was now full of the boarders who had been dropping in the
night previous, and whom I had not as yet had a good look at. They were
nearly all whalemen; chief mates, and second mates, and third mates, and
sea carpenters, and sea coopers, and sea blacksmiths, and harpooneers, and
ship keepers; a brown and brawny company, with bosky beards; an unshorn,
shaggy set, all wearing monkey jackets for morning gowns.

You could pretty plainly tell how long each one had been ashore. This
young fellow’s healthy cheek is like a sun-toasted pear in hue, and would
seem to smell almost as musky; he cannot have been three days landed from
his Indian voyage. That man next him looks a few shades lighter; you might
say a touch of satin wood is in him. In the complexion of a third still
lingers a tropic tawn, but slightly bleached withal; he doubtless has
tarried whole weeks ashore. But who could show a cheek like Queequeg?
which, barred with various tints, seemed like the Andes’ western slope, to
show forth in one array, contrasting climates, zone by zone.

“Grub, ho!” now cried the landlord, flinging open a door, and in we went
to breakfast.

They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become quite at ease in
manner, quite self-possessed in company. Not always, though: Ledyard, the
great New England traveller, and Mungo Park, the Scotch one; of all men,
they possessed the least assurance in the parlor. But perhaps the mere
crossing of Siberia in a sledge drawn by dogs as Ledyard did, or the
taking a long solitary walk on an empty stomach, in the negro heart of
Africa, which was the sum of poor Mungo’s performances—this kind of
travel, I say, may not be the very best mode of attaining a high social
polish. Still, for the most part, that sort of thing is to be had

These reflections just here are occasioned by the circumstance that after
we were all seated at the table, and I was preparing to hear some good
stories about whaling; to my no small surprise, nearly every man
maintained a profound silence. And not only that, but they looked
embarrassed. Yes, here were a set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the
slightest bashfulness had boarded great whales on the high seas—entire
strangers to them—and duelled them dead without winking; and yet,
here they sat at a social breakfast table—all of the same calling,
all of kindred tastes—looking round as sheepishly at each other as
though they had never been out of sight of some sheepfold among the Green
Mountains. A curious sight; these bashful bears, these timid warrior

But as for Queequeg—why, Queequeg sat there among them—at the
head of the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an icicle. To be sure I
cannot say much for his breeding. His greatest admirer could not have
cordially justified his bringing his harpoon into breakfast with him, and
using it there without ceremony; reaching over the table with it, to the
imminent jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him.
But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and every one knows that
in most people’s estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly.

We will not speak of all Queequeg’s peculiarities here; how he eschewed
coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided attention to beefsteaks,
done rare. Enough, that when breakfast was over he withdrew like the rest
into the public room, lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was sitting there
quietly digesting and smoking with his inseparable hat on, when I sallied
out for a stroll.

CHAPTER 6. The Street.

If I had been astonished at first catching a glimpse of so outlandish an
individual as Queequeg circulating among the polite society of a civilized
town, that astonishment soon departed upon taking my first daylight stroll
through the streets of New Bedford.

In thoroughfares nigh the docks, any considerable seaport will frequently
offer to view the queerest looking nondescripts from foreign parts. Even
in Broadway and Chestnut streets, Mediterranean mariners will sometimes
jostle the affrighted ladies. Regent Street is not unknown to Lascars and
Malays; and at Bombay, in the Apollo Green, live Yankees have often scared
the natives. But New Bedford beats all Water Street and Wapping. In these
last-mentioned haunts you see only sailors; but in New Bedford, actual
cannibals stand chatting at street corners; savages outright; many of whom
yet carry on their bones unholy flesh. It makes a stranger stare.

But, besides the Feegeeans, Tongatobooarrs, Erromanggoans, Pannangians,
and Brighggians, and, besides the wild specimens of the whaling-craft
which unheeded reel about the streets, you will see other sights still
more curious, certainly more comical. There weekly arrive in this town
scores of green Vermonters and New Hampshire men, all athirst for gain and
glory in the fishery. They are mostly young, of stalwart frames; fellows
who have felled forests, and now seek to drop the axe and snatch the
whale-lance. Many are as green as the Green Mountains whence they came. In
some things you would think them but a few hours old. Look there! that
chap strutting round the corner. He wears a beaver hat and swallow-tailed
coat, girdled with a sailor-belt and sheath-knife. Here comes another with
a sou’-wester and a bombazine cloak.

No town-bred dandy will compare with a country-bred one—I mean a
downright bumpkin dandy—a fellow that, in the dog-days, will mow his
two acres in buckskin gloves for fear of tanning his hands. Now when a
country dandy like this takes it into his head to make a distinguished
reputation, and joins the great whale-fishery, you should see the comical
things he does upon reaching the seaport. In bespeaking his sea-outfit, he
orders bell-buttons to his waistcoats; straps to his canvas trowsers. Ah,
poor Hay-Seed! how bitterly will burst those straps in the first howling
gale, when thou art driven, straps, buttons, and all, down the throat of
the tempest.

But think not that this famous town has only harpooneers, cannibals, and
bumpkins to show her visitors. Not at all. Still New Bedford is a queer
place. Had it not been for us whalemen, that tract of land would this day
perhaps have been in as howling condition as the coast of Labrador. As it
is, parts of her back country are enough to frighten one, they look so
bony. The town itself is perhaps the dearest place to live in, in all New
England. It is a land of oil, true enough: but not like Canaan; a land,
also, of corn and wine. The streets do not run with milk; nor in the
spring-time do they pave them with fresh eggs. Yet, in spite of this,
nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses; parks and
gardens more opulent, than in New Bedford. Whence came they? how planted
upon this once scraggy scoria of a country?

Go and gaze upon the iron emblematical harpoons round yonder lofty
mansion, and your question will be answered. Yes; all these brave houses
and flowery gardens came from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
One and all, they were harpooned and dragged up hither from the bottom of
the sea. Can Herr Alexander perform a feat like that?

In New Bedford, fathers, they say, give whales for dowers to their
daughters, and portion off their nieces with a few porpoises a-piece. You
must go to New Bedford to see a brilliant wedding; for, they say, they
have reservoirs of oil in every house, and every night recklessly burn
their lengths in spermaceti candles.

In summer time, the town is sweet to see; full of fine maples—long
avenues of green and gold. And in August, high in air, the beautiful and
bountiful horse-chestnuts, candelabra-wise, proffer the passer-by their
tapering upright cones of congregated blossoms. So omnipotent is art;
which in many a district of New Bedford has superinduced bright terraces
of flowers upon the barren refuse rocks thrown aside at creation’s final

And the women of New Bedford, they bloom like their own red roses. But
roses only bloom in summer; whereas the fine carnation of their cheeks is
perennial as sunlight in the seventh heavens. Elsewhere match that bloom
of theirs, ye cannot, save in Salem, where they tell me the young girls
breathe such musk, their sailor sweethearts smell them miles off shore, as
though they were drawing nigh the odorous Moluccas instead of the
Puritanic sands.

CHAPTER 7. The Chapel.

In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, and few are the
moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail
to make a Sunday visit to the spot. I am sure that I did not.

Returning from my first morning stroll, I again sallied out upon this
special errand. The sky had changed from clear, sunny cold, to driving
sleet and mist. Wrapping myself in my shaggy jacket of the cloth called
bearskin, I fought my way against the stubborn storm. Entering, I found a
small scattered congregation of sailors, and sailors’ wives and widows. A
muffled silence reigned, only broken at times by the shrieks of the storm.
Each silent worshipper seemed purposely sitting apart from the other, as
if each silent grief were insular and incommunicable. The chaplain had not
yet arrived; and there these silent islands of men and women sat
steadfastly eyeing several marble tablets, with black borders, masoned
into the wall on either side the pulpit. Three of them ran something like
the following, but I do not pretend to quote:—

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN TALBOT, Who, at the age of eighteen, was lost
overboard, Near the Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia, November 1st, 1836.
THIS TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS SISTER.

CANNY, SETH MACY, AND SAMUEL GLEIG, Forming one of the boats’ crews OF THE
SHIP ELIZA Who were towed out of sight by a Whale, On the Off-shore Ground
in the PACIFIC, December 31st, 1839. THIS MARBLE Is here placed by their
surviving SHIPMATES.

his boat was killed by a Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan, August 3d,
1833. THIS TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS WIDOW.

Shaking off the sleet from my ice-glazed hat and jacket, I seated myself
near the door, and turning sideways was surprised to see Queequeg near me.
Affected by the solemnity of the scene, there was a wondering gaze of
incredulous curiosity in his countenance. This savage was the only person
present who seemed to notice my entrance; because he was the only one who
could not read, and, therefore, was not reading those frigid inscriptions
on the wall. Whether any of the relatives of the seamen whose names
appeared there were now among the congregation, I knew not; but so many
are the unrecorded accidents in the fishery, and so plainly did several
women present wear the countenance if not the trappings of some unceasing
grief, that I feel sure that here before me were assembled those, in whose
unhealing hearts the sight of those bleak tablets sympathetically caused
the old wounds to bleed afresh.

Oh! ye whose dead lie buried beneath the green grass; who standing among
flowers can say—here, here lies my beloved; ye know not the
desolation that broods in bosoms like these. What bitter blanks in those
black-bordered marbles which cover no ashes! What despair in those
immovable inscriptions! What deadly voids and unbidden infidelities in the
lines that seem to gnaw upon all Faith, and refuse resurrections to the
beings who have placelessly perished without a grave. As well might those
tablets stand in the cave of Elephanta as here.

In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included; why
it is that a universal proverb says of them, that they tell no tales,
though containing more secrets than the Goodwin Sands; how it is that to
his name who yesterday departed for the other world, we prefix so
significant and infidel a word, and yet do not thus entitle him, if he but
embarks for the remotest Indies of this living earth; why the Life
Insurance Companies pay death-forfeitures upon immortals; in what eternal,
unstirring paralysis, and deadly, hopeless trance, yet lies antique Adam
who died sixty round centuries ago; how it is that we still refuse to be
comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in
unspeakable bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all the dead;
wherefore but the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole city.
All these things are not without their meanings.

But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead
doubts she gathers her most vital hope.

It needs scarcely to be told, with what feelings, on the eve of a
Nantucket voyage, I regarded those marble tablets, and by the murky light
of that darkened, doleful day read the fate of the whalemen who had gone
before me. Yes, Ishmael, the same fate may be thine. But somehow I grew
merry again. Delightful inducements to embark, fine chance for promotion,
it seems—aye, a stove boat will make me an immortal by brevet. Yes,
there is death in this business of whaling—a speechlessly quick
chaotic bundling of a man into Eternity. But what then? Methinks we have
hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they
call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in
looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the
sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.
Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body
who will, take it I say, it is not me. And therefore three cheers for
Nantucket; and come a stove boat and stove body when they will, for stave
my soul, Jove himself cannot.

CHAPTER 8. The Pulpit.

I had not been seated very long ere a man of a certain venerable
robustness entered; immediately as the storm-pelted door flew back upon
admitting him, a quick regardful eyeing of him by all the congregation,
sufficiently attested that this fine old man was the chaplain. Yes, it was
the famous Father Mapple, so called by the whalemen, among whom he was a
very great favourite. He had been a sailor and a harpooneer in his youth,
but for many years past had dedicated his life to the ministry. At the
time I now write of, Father Mapple was in the hardy winter of a healthy
old age; that sort of old age which seems merging into a second flowering
youth, for among all the fissures of his wrinkles, there shone certain
mild gleams of a newly developing bloom—the spring verdure peeping
forth even beneath February’s snow. No one having previously heard his
history, could for the first time behold Father Mapple without the utmost
interest, because there were certain engrafted clerical peculiarities
about him, imputable to that adventurous maritime life he had led. When he
entered I observed that he carried no umbrella, and certainly had not come
in his carriage, for his tarpaulin hat ran down with melting sleet, and
his great pilot cloth jacket seemed almost to drag him to the floor with
the weight of the water it had absorbed. However, hat and coat and
overshoes were one by one removed, and hung up in a little space in an
adjacent corner; when, arrayed in a decent suit, he quietly approached the

Like most old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a
regular stairs to such a height would, by its long angle with the floor,
seriously contract the already small area of the chapel, the architect, it
seemed, had acted upon the hint of Father Mapple, and finished the pulpit
without a stairs, substituting a perpendicular side ladder, like those
used in mounting a ship from a boat at sea. The wife of a whaling captain
had provided the chapel with a handsome pair of red worsted man-ropes for
this ladder, which, being itself nicely headed, and stained with a
mahogany colour, the whole contrivance, considering what manner of chapel
it was, seemed by no means in bad taste. Halting for an instant at the
foot of the ladder, and with both hands grasping the ornamental knobs of
the man-ropes, Father Mapple cast a look upwards, and then with a truly
sailor-like but still reverential dexterity, hand over hand, mounted the
steps as if ascending the main-top of his vessel.

The perpendicular parts of this side ladder, as is usually the case with
swinging ones, were of cloth-covered rope, only the rounds were of wood,
so that at every step there was a joint. At my first glimpse of the
pulpit, it had not escaped me that however convenient for a ship, these
joints in the present instance seemed unnecessary. For I was not prepared
to see Father Mapple after gaining the height, slowly turn round, and
stooping over the pulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder step by step,
till the whole was deposited within, leaving him impregnable in his little

I pondered some time without fully comprehending the reason for this.
Father Mapple enjoyed such a wide reputation for sincerity and sanctity,
that I could not suspect him of courting notoriety by any mere tricks of
the stage. No, thought I, there must be some sober reason for this thing;
furthermore, it must symbolize something unseen. Can it be, then, that by
that act of physical isolation, he signifies his spiritual withdrawal for
the time, from all outward worldly ties and connexions? Yes, for
replenished with the meat and wine of the word, to the faithful man of
God, this pulpit, I see, is a self-containing stronghold—a lofty
Ehrenbreitstein, with a perennial well of water within the walls.

But the side ladder was not the only strange feature of the place,
borrowed from the chaplain’s former sea-farings. Between the marble
cenotaphs on either hand of the pulpit, the wall which formed its back was
adorned with a large painting representing a gallant ship beating against
a terrible storm off a lee coast of black rocks and snowy breakers. But
high above the flying scud and dark-rolling clouds, there floated a little
isle of sunlight, from which beamed forth an angel’s face; and this bright
face shed a distinct spot of radiance upon the ship’s tossed deck,
something like that silver plate now inserted into the Victory’s plank
where Nelson fell. “Ah, noble ship,” the angel seemed to say, “beat on,
beat on, thou noble ship, and bear a hardy helm; for lo! the sun is
breaking through; the clouds are rolling off—serenest azure is at

Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that had
achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in the
likeness of a ship’s bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on a projecting
piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship’s fiddle-headed beak.

What could be more full of meaning?—for the pulpit is ever this
earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads
the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first
descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the
God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favourable winds. Yes,
the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the
pulpit is its prow.

CHAPTER 9. The Sermon.

Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered
the scattered people to condense. “Starboard gangway, there! side away to
larboard—larboard gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!”

There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a still
slighter shuffling of women’s shoes, and all was quiet again, and every
eye on the preacher.

He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit’s bows, folded his large
brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered a
prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom
of the sea.

This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a
bell in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog—in such tones he
commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards the
concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy—

     “The ribs and terrors in the whale,
     Arched over me a dismal gloom,
     While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
     And lift me deepening down to doom.

     “I saw the opening maw of hell,
     With endless pains and sorrows there;
     Which none but they that feel can tell—
     Oh, I was plunging to despair.

     “In black distress, I called my God,
     When I could scarce believe him mine,
     He bowed his ear to my complaints—
     No more the whale did me confine.

     “With speed he flew to my relief,
     As on a radiant dolphin borne;
     Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone
     The face of my Deliverer God.

     “My song for ever shall record
     That terrible, that joyful hour;
     I give the glory to my God,
     His all the mercy and the power.”

Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the
howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned
over the leaves of the Bible, and at last, folding his hand down upon the
proper page, said: “Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the first
chapter of Jonah—‘And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up

“Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters—four yarns—is
one of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet
what depths of the soul does Jonah’s deep sealine sound! what a pregnant
lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the
fish’s belly! How billow-like and boisterously grand! We feel the floods
surging over us; we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters;
sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is about us! But what is this lesson
that the book of Jonah teaches? Shipmates, it is a two-stranded lesson; a
lesson to us all as sinful men, and a lesson to me as a pilot of the
living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson to us all, because it is a story
of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears, the swift
punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the deliverance and joy of
Jonah. As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of Amittai was
in his wilful disobedience of the command of God—never mind now what
that command was, or how conveyed—which he found a hard command. But
all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do—remember
that—and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade.
And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this
disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.

“With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at God,
by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men will carry
him into countries where God does not reign, but only the Captains of this
earth. He skulks about the wharves of Joppa, and seeks a ship that’s bound
for Tarshish. There lurks, perhaps, a hitherto unheeded meaning here. By
all accounts Tarshish could have been no other city than the modern Cadiz.
That’s the opinion of learned men. And where is Cadiz, shipmates? Cadiz is
in Spain; as far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed
in those ancient days, when the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea.
Because Joppa, the modern Jaffa, shipmates, is on the most easterly coast
of the Mediterranean, the Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more than two
thousand miles to the westward from that, just outside the Straits of
Gibraltar. See ye not then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee
world-wide from God? Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible and worthy of
all scorn; with slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God;
prowling among the shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the
seas. So disordered, self-condemning is his look, that had there been
policemen in those days, Jonah, on the mere suspicion of something wrong,
had been arrested ere he touched a deck. How plainly he’s a fugitive! no
baggage, not a hat-box, valise, or carpet-bag,—no friends accompany
him to the wharf with their adieux. At last, after much dodging search, he
finds the Tarshish ship receiving the last items of her cargo; and as he
steps on board to see its Captain in the cabin, all the sailors for the
moment desist from hoisting in the goods, to mark the stranger’s evil eye.
Jonah sees this; but in vain he tries to look all ease and confidence; in
vain essays his wretched smile. Strong intuitions of the man assure the
mariners he can be no innocent. In their gamesome but still serious way,
one whispers to the other—“Jack, he’s robbed a widow;” or, “Joe, do
you mark him; he’s a bigamist;” or, “Harry lad, I guess he’s the adulterer
that broke jail in old Gomorrah, or belike, one of the missing murderers
from Sodom.” Another runs to read the bill that’s stuck against the spile
upon the wharf to which the ship is moored, offering five hundred gold
coins for the apprehension of a parricide, and containing a description of
his person. He reads, and looks from Jonah to the bill; while all his
sympathetic shipmates now crowd round Jonah, prepared to lay their hands
upon him. Frighted Jonah trembles, and summoning all his boldness to his
face, only looks so much the more a coward. He will not confess himself
suspected; but that itself is strong suspicion. So he makes the best of
it; and when the sailors find him not to be the man that is advertised,
they let him pass, and he descends into the cabin.

“‘Who’s there?’ cries the Captain at his busy desk, hurriedly making out
his papers for the Customs—‘Who’s there?’ Oh! how that harmless
question mangles Jonah! For the instant he almost turns to flee again. But
he rallies. ‘I seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon sail ye,
sir?’ Thus far the busy Captain had not looked up to Jonah, though the man
now stands before him; but no sooner does he hear that hollow voice, than
he darts a scrutinizing glance. ‘We sail with the next coming tide,’ at
last he slowly answered, still intently eyeing him. ‘No sooner, sir?’—‘Soon
enough for any honest man that goes a passenger.’ Ha! Jonah, that’s
another stab. But he swiftly calls away the Captain from that scent. ‘I’ll
sail with ye,’—he says,—‘the passage money how much is that?—I’ll
pay now.’ For it is particularly written, shipmates, as if it were a thing
not to be overlooked in this history, ‘that he paid the fare thereof’ ere
the craft did sail. And taken with the context, this is full of meaning.

“Now Jonah’s Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime
in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this
world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a
passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers. So
Jonah’s Captain prepares to test the length of Jonah’s purse, ere he judge
him openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum; and it’s assented to.
Then the Captain knows that Jonah is a fugitive; but at the same time
resolves to help a flight that paves its rear with gold. Yet when Jonah
fairly takes out his purse, prudent suspicions still molest the Captain.
He rings every coin to find a counterfeit. Not a forger, any way, he
mutters; and Jonah is put down for his passage. ‘Point out my state-room,
Sir,’ says Jonah now, ‘I’m travel-weary; I need sleep.’ ‘Thou lookest like
it,’ says the Captain, ‘there’s thy room.’ Jonah enters, and would lock
the door, but the lock contains no key. Hearing him foolishly fumbling
there, the Captain laughs lowly to himself, and mutters something about
the doors of convicts’ cells being never allowed to be locked within. All
dressed and dusty as he is, Jonah throws himself into his berth, and finds
the little state-room ceiling almost resting on his forehead. The air is
close, and Jonah gasps. Then, in that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath
the ship’s water-line, Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that
stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his
bowels’ wards.

“Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly oscillates
in Jonah’s room; and the ship, heeling over towards the wharf with the
weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and all, though in
slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity with reference to the
room; though, in truth, infallibly straight itself, it but made obvious
the false, lying levels among which it hung. The lamp alarms and frightens
Jonah; as lying in his berth his tormented eyes roll round the place, and
this thus far successful fugitive finds no refuge for his restless glance.
But that contradiction in the lamp more and more appals him. The floor,
the ceiling, and the side, are all awry. ‘Oh! so my conscience hangs in
me!’ he groans, ‘straight upwards, so it burns; but the chambers of my
soul are all in crookedness!’

“Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still
reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the
Roman race-horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as
one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish,
praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed; and at last amid the
whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the man who
bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and there’s naught to
staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in his berth, Jonah’s prodigy of
ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep.

“And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and
from the deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening,
glides to sea. That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded smugglers!
the contraband was Jonah. But the sea rebels; he will not bear the wicked
burden. A dreadful storm comes on, the ship is like to break. But now when
the boatswain calls all hands to lighten her; when boxes, bales, and jars
are clattering overboard; when the wind is shrieking, and the men are
yelling, and every plank thunders with trampling feet right over Jonah’s
head; in all this raging tumult, Jonah sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees
no black sky and raging sea, feels not the reeling timbers, and little
hears he or heeds he the far rush of the mighty whale, which even now with
open mouth is cleaving the seas after him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone
down into the sides of the ship—a berth in the cabin as I have taken
it, and was fast asleep. But the frightened master comes to him, and
shrieks in his dead ear, ‘What meanest thou, O, sleeper! arise!’ Startled
from his lethargy by that direful cry, Jonah staggers to his feet, and
stumbling to the deck, grasps a shroud, to look out upon the sea. But at
that moment he is sprung upon by a panther billow leaping over the
bulwarks. Wave after wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding no speedy
vent runs roaring fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to drowning
while yet afloat. And ever, as the white moon shows her affrighted face
from the steep gullies in the blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the
rearing bowsprit pointing high upward, but soon beat downward again
towards the tormented deep.

“Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing
attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The sailors mark
him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him, and at last,
fully to test the truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven,
they fall to casting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was
upon them. The lot is Jonah’s; that discovered, then how furiously they
mob him with their questions. ‘What is thine occupation? Whence comest
thou? Thy country? What people? But mark now, my shipmates, the behavior
of poor Jonah. The eager mariners but ask him who he is, and where from;
whereas, they not only receive an answer to those questions, but likewise
another answer to a question not put by them, but the unsolicited answer
is forced from Jonah by the hard hand of God that is upon him.

“‘I am a Hebrew,’ he cries—and then—‘I fear the Lord the God
of Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!’ Fear him, O Jonah? Aye,
well mightest thou fear the Lord God then! Straightway, he now goes on to
make a full confession; whereupon the mariners became more and more
appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet supplicating God
for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness of his deserts,—when
wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him and cast him forth into the
sea, for he knew that for his sake this great tempest was upon them; they
mercifully turn from him, and seek by other means to save the ship. But
all in vain; the indignant gale howls louder; then, with one hand raised
invokingly to God, with the other they not unreluctantly lay hold of

“And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea; when
instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea is still,
as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth water behind. He
goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless commotion that he
scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into the yawning jaws
awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to all his ivory teeth, like so many
white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord out of the
fish’s belly. But observe his prayer, and learn a weighty lesson. For
sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and wail for direct deliverance. He
feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He leaves all his deliverance
to God, contenting himself with this, that spite of all his pains and
pangs, he will still look towards His holy temple. And here, shipmates, is
true and faithful repentance; not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for
punishment. And how pleasing to God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in
the eventual deliverance of him from the sea and the whale. Shipmates, I
do not place Jonah before you to be copied for his sin but I do place him
before you as a model for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, take heed to
repent of it like Jonah.”

While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking, slanting
storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who, when
describing Jonah’s sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself. His deep
chest heaved as with a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed the warring
elements at work; and the thunders that rolled away from off his swarthy
brow, and the light leaping from his eye, made all his simple hearers look
on him with a quick fear that was strange to them.

There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the leaves
of the Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with closed
eyes, for the moment, seemed communing with God and himself.

But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head lowly,
with an aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these words:

“Shipmates, God has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press upon
me. I have read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson that Jonah
teaches to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to me, for I
am a greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly would I come down from
this mast-head and sit on the hatches there where you sit, and listen as
you listen, while some one of you reads me that other and more awful
lesson which Jonah teaches to me, as a pilot of the living God. How being
an anointed pilot-prophet, or speaker of true things, and bidden by the
Lord to sound those unwelcome truths in the ears of a wicked Nineveh,
Jonah, appalled at the hostility he should raise, fled from his mission,
and sought to escape his duty and his God by taking ship at Joppa. But God
is everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As we have seen, God came upon
him in the whale, and swallowed him down to living gulfs of doom, and with
swift slantings tore him along ‘into the midst of the seas,’ where the
eddying depths sucked him ten thousand fathoms down, and ‘the weeds were
wrapped about his head,’ and all the watery world of woe bowled over him.
Yet even then beyond the reach of any plummet—‘out of the belly of
hell’—when the whale grounded upon the ocean’s utmost bones, even
then, God heard the engulphed, repenting prophet when he cried. Then God
spake unto the fish; and from the shuddering cold and blackness of the
sea, the whale came breeching up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and
all the delights of air and earth; and ‘vomited out Jonah upon the dry
land;’ when the word of the Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised
and beaten—his ears, like two sea-shells, still multitudinously
murmuring of the ocean—Jonah did the Almighty’s bidding. And what
was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood! That
was it!

“This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of the
living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms from Gospel
duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed
them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than to appal! Woe
to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe to him who, in
this world, courts not dishonor! Woe to him who would not be true, even
though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him who, as the great Pilot
Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway!”

He dropped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his face
to them again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out with a
heavenly enthusiasm,—“But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of
every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight,
than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than the
kelson is low? Delight is to him—a far, far upward, and inward
delight—who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth,
ever stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong
arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has
gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the
truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from
under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight,—top-gallant delight
is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is
only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the waves of the
billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake from this sure
Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness will be his, who
coming to lay him down, can say with his final breath—O Father!—chiefly
known to me by Thy rod—mortal or immortal, here I die. I have
striven to be Thine, more than to be this world’s, or mine own. Yet this
is nothing: I leave eternity to Thee; for what is man that he should live
out the lifetime of his God?”

He said no more, but slowly waving a benediction, covered his face with
his hands, and so remained kneeling, till all the people had departed, and
he was left alone in the place.

CHAPTER 10. A Bosom Friend.

Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there quite
alone; he having left the Chapel before the benediction some time. He was
sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the stove hearth, and
in one hand was holding close up to his face that little negro idol of
his; peering hard into its face, and with a jack-knife gently whittling
away at its nose, meanwhile humming to himself in his heathenish way.

But being now interrupted, he put up the image; and pretty soon, going to
the table, took up a large book there, and placing it on his lap began
counting the pages with deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth page—as
I fancied—stopping a moment, looking vacantly around him, and giving
utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment. He would then
begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number one each
time, as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was only by
such a large number of fifties being found together, that his astonishment
at the multitude of pages was excited.

With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and hideously
marred about the face—at least to my taste—his countenance yet
had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide
the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces
of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and
bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils.
And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan,
which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man
who had never cringed and never had had a creditor. Whether it was, too,
that his head being shaved, his forehead was drawn out in freer and
brighter relief, and looked more expansive than it otherwise would, this I
will not venture to decide; but certain it was his head was
phrenologically an excellent one. It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded
me of General Washington’s head, as seen in the popular busts of him. It
had the same long regularly graded retreating slope from above the brows,
which were likewise very projecting, like two long promontories thickly
wooded on top. Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed.

Whilst I was thus closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be
looking out at the storm from the casement, he never heeded my presence,
never troubled himself with so much as a single glance; but appeared
wholly occupied with counting the pages of the marvellous book.
Considering how sociably we had been sleeping together the night previous,
and especially considering the affectionate arm I had found thrown over me
upon waking in the morning, I thought this indifference of his very
strange. But savages are strange beings; at times you do not know exactly
how to take them. At first they are overawing; their calm
self-collectedness of simplicity seems a Socratic wisdom. I had noticed
also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little, with the
other seamen in the inn. He made no advances whatever; appeared to have no
desire to enlarge the circle of his acquaintances. All this struck me as
mighty singular; yet, upon second thoughts, there was something almost
sublime in it. Here was a man some twenty thousand miles from home, by the
way of Cape Horn, that is—which was the only way he could get there—thrown
among people as strange to him as though he were in the planet Jupiter;
and yet he seemed entirely at his ease; preserving the utmost serenity;
content with his own companionship; always equal to himself. Surely this
was a touch of fine philosophy; though no doubt he had never heard there
was such a thing as that. But, perhaps, to be true philosophers, we
mortals should not be conscious of so living or so striving. So soon as I
hear that such or such a man gives himself out for a philosopher, I
conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he must have “broken his

As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that mild
stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then only
glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms gathering round the
casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain; the storm
booming without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of strange
feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened
hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage had
redeemed it. There he sat, his very indifference speaking a nature in
which there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits. Wild he
was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel myself
mysteriously drawn towards him. And those same things that would have
repelled most others, they were the very magnets that thus drew me. I’ll
try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but
hollow courtesy. I drew my bench near him, and made some friendly signs
and hints, doing my best to talk with him meanwhile. At first he little
noticed these advances; but presently, upon my referring to his last
night’s hospitalities, he made out to ask me whether we were again to be
bedfellows. I told him yes; whereat I thought he looked pleased, perhaps a
little complimented.

We then turned over the book together, and I endeavored to explain to him
the purpose of the printing, and the meaning of the few pictures that were
in it. Thus I soon engaged his interest; and from that we went to
jabbering the best we could about the various outer sights to be seen in
this famous town. Soon I proposed a social smoke; and, producing his pouch
and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat exchanging
puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly passing between

If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan’s
breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left
us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I
to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine,
clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married;
meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would
gladly die for me, if need should be. In a countryman, this sudden flame
of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing to be much
distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would not apply.

After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our room
together. He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his enormous
tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco, drew out some thirty
dollars in silver; then spreading them on the table, and mechanically
dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one of them towards me, and
said it was mine. I was going to remonstrate; but he silenced me by
pouring them into my trowsers’ pockets. I let them stay. He then went
about his evening prayers, took out his idol, and removed the paper
fireboard. By certain signs and symptoms, I thought he seemed anxious for
me to join him; but well knowing what was to follow, I deliberated a
moment whether, in case he invited me, I would comply or otherwise.

I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible
Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in
worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you
suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans
and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of
black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God—that
is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what
I would have my fellow man to do to me—that is the will of God. Now,
Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do
to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship.
Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn
idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little
idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or
thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at
peace with our own consciences and all the world. But we did not go to
sleep without some little chat.

How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential
disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very
bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and
chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’
honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair.

CHAPTER 11. Nightgown.

We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and
Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs over
mine, and then drawing them back; so entirely sociable and free and easy
were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what little
nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt like getting
up again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.

Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position began
to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves sitting up;
the clothes well tucked around us, leaning against the head-board with our
four knees drawn up close together, and our two noses bending over them,
as if our kneepans were warming-pans. We felt very nice and snug, the more
so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bed-clothes too,
seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because
truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for
there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by
contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are
all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be
said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed,
the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why
then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and
unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be
furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the
rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but
the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air.
Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic

We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time, when all at
once I thought I would open my eyes; for when between sheets, whether by
day or by night, and whether asleep or awake, I have a way of always
keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to concentrate the snugness of
being in bed. Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except
his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our
essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part. Upon opening
my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant and self-created darkness
into the imposed and coarse outer gloom of the unilluminated
twelve-o’clock-at-night, I experienced a disagreeable revulsion. Nor did I
at all object to the hint from Queequeg that perhaps it were best to
strike a light, seeing that we were so wide awake; and besides he felt a
strong desire to have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk. Be it said,
that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the bed
the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love
once comes to bend them. For now I liked nothing better than to have
Queequeg smoking by me, even in bed, because he seemed to be full of such
serene household joy then. I no more felt unduly concerned for the
landlord’s policy of insurance. I was only alive to the condensed
confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real
friend. With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed
the Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew over us a blue
hanging tester of smoke, illuminated by the flame of the new-lit lamp.

Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled the savage away to far
distant scenes, I know not, but he now spoke of his native island; and,
eager to hear his history, I begged him to go on and tell it. He gladly
complied. Though at the time I but ill comprehended not a few of his
words, yet subsequent disclosures, when I had become more familiar with
his broken phraseology, now enable me to present the whole story such as
it may prove in the mere skeleton I give.

CHAPTER 12. Biographical.

Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and
South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.

When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in a
grass clout, followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green
sapling; even then, in Queequeg’s ambitious soul, lurked a strong desire
to see something more of Christendom than a specimen whaler or two. His
father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest; and on the
maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable
warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins—royal stuff; though
sadly vitiated, I fear, by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his
untutored youth.

A Sag Harbor ship visited his father’s bay, and Queequeg sought a passage
to Christian lands. But the ship, having her full complement of seamen,
spurned his suit; and not all the King his father’s influence could
prevail. But Queequeg vowed a vow. Alone in his canoe, he paddled off to a
distant strait, which he knew the ship must pass through when she quitted
the island. On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low tongue of
land, covered with mangrove thickets that grew out into the water. Hiding
his canoe, still afloat, among these thickets, with its prow seaward, he
sat down in the stern, paddle low in hand; and when the ship was gliding
by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash of
his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains; and throwing
himself at full length upon the deck, grappled a ring-bolt there, and
swore not to let it go, though hacked in pieces.

In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a cutlass
over his naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King, and Queequeg budged
not. Struck by his desperate dauntlessness, and his wild desire to visit
Christendom, the captain at last relented, and told him he might make
himself at home. But this fine young savage—this sea Prince of
Wales, never saw the Captain’s cabin. They put him down among the sailors,
and made a whaleman of him. But like Czar Peter content to toil in the
shipyards of foreign cities, Queequeg disdained no seeming ignominy, if
thereby he might happily gain the power of enlightening his untutored
countrymen. For at bottom—so he told me—he was actuated by a
profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby to make
his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better
than they were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him
that even Christians could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more
so, than all his father’s heathens. Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and
seeing what the sailors did there; and then going on to Nantucket, and
seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor Queequeg gave
it up for lost. Thought he, it’s a wicked world in all meridians; I’ll die
a pagan.

And thus an old idolator at heart, he yet lived among these Christians,
wore their clothes, and tried to talk their gibberish. Hence the queer
ways about him, though now some time from home.

By hints, I asked him whether he did not propose going back, and having a
coronation; since he might now consider his father dead and gone, he being
very old and feeble at the last accounts. He answered no, not yet; and
added that he was fearful Christianity, or rather Christians, had unfitted
him for ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan Kings
before him. But by and by, he said, he would return,—as soon as he
felt himself baptized again. For the nonce, however, he proposed to sail
about, and sow his wild oats in all four oceans. They had made a
harpooneer of him, and that barbed iron was in lieu of a sceptre now.

I asked him what might be his immediate purpose, touching his future
movements. He answered, to go to sea again, in his old vocation. Upon
this, I told him that whaling was my own design, and informed him of my
intention to sail out of Nantucket, as being the most promising port for
an adventurous whaleman to embark from. He at once resolved to accompany
me to that island, ship aboard the same vessel, get into the same watch,
the same boat, the same mess with me, in short to share my every hap; with
both my hands in his, boldly dip into the Potluck of both worlds. To all
this I joyously assented; for besides the affection I now felt for
Queequeg, he was an experienced harpooneer, and as such, could not fail to
be of great usefulness to one, who, like me, was wholly ignorant of the
mysteries of whaling, though well acquainted with the sea, as known to
merchant seamen.

His story being ended with his pipe’s last dying puff, Queequeg embraced
me, pressed his forehead against mine, and blowing out the light, we
rolled over from each other, this way and that, and very soon were

CHAPTER 13. Wheelbarrow.

Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber,
for a block, I settled my own and comrade’s bill; using, however, my
comrade’s money. The grinning landlord, as well as the boarders, seemed
amazingly tickled at the sudden friendship which had sprung up between me
and Queequeg—especially as Peter Coffin’s cock and bull stories
about him had previously so much alarmed me concerning the very person
whom I now companied with.

We borrowed a wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own poor
carpet-bag, and Queequeg’s canvas sack and hammock, away we went down to
“the Moss,” the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the wharf. As
we were going along the people stared; not at Queequeg so much—for
they were used to seeing cannibals like him in their streets,—but at
seeing him and me upon such confidential terms. But we heeded them not,
going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and Queequeg now and then
stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon barbs. I asked him why he
carried such a troublesome thing with him ashore, and whether all whaling
ships did not find their own harpoons. To this, in substance, he replied,
that though what I hinted was true enough, yet he had a particular
affection for his own harpoon, because it was of assured stuff, well tried
in many a mortal combat, and deeply intimate with the hearts of whales. In
short, like many inland reapers and mowers, who go into the farmers’
meadows armed with their own scythes—though in no wise obliged to
furnish them—even so, Queequeg, for his own private reasons,
preferred his own harpoon.

Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny story about
the first wheelbarrow he had ever seen. It was in Sag Harbor. The owners
of his ship, it seems, had lent him one, in which to carry his heavy chest
to his boarding house. Not to seem ignorant about the thing—though
in truth he was entirely so, concerning the precise way in which to manage
the barrow—Queequeg puts his chest upon it; lashes it fast; and then
shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf. “Why,” said I, “Queequeg,
you might have known better than that, one would think. Didn’t the people

Upon this, he told me another story. The people of his island of Rokovoko,
it seems, at their wedding feasts express the fragrant water of young
cocoanuts into a large stained calabash like a punchbowl; and this
punchbowl always forms the great central ornament on the braided mat where
the feast is held. Now a certain grand merchant ship once touched at
Rokovoko, and its commander—from all accounts, a very stately
punctilious gentleman, at least for a sea captain—this commander was
invited to the wedding feast of Queequeg’s sister, a pretty young princess
just turned of ten. Well; when all the wedding guests were assembled at
the bride’s bamboo cottage, this Captain marches in, and being assigned
the post of honor, placed himself over against the punchbowl, and between
the High Priest and his majesty the King, Queequeg’s father. Grace being
said,—for those people have their grace as well as we—though
Queequeg told me that unlike us, who at such times look downwards to our
platters, they, on the contrary, copying the ducks, glance upwards to the
great Giver of all feasts—Grace, I say, being said, the High Priest
opens the banquet by the immemorial ceremony of the island; that is,
dipping his consecrated and consecrating fingers into the bowl before the
blessed beverage circulates. Seeing himself placed next the Priest, and
noting the ceremony, and thinking himself—being Captain of a ship—as
having plain precedence over a mere island King, especially in the King’s
own house—the Captain coolly proceeds to wash his hands in the
punchbowl;—taking it I suppose for a huge finger-glass. “Now,” said
Queequeg, “what you tink now?—Didn’t our people laugh?”

At last, passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood on board the schooner.
Hoisting sail, it glided down the Acushnet river. On one side, New Bedford
rose in terraces of streets, their ice-covered trees all glittering in the
clear, cold air. Huge hills and mountains of casks on casks were piled
upon her wharves, and side by side the world-wandering whale ships lay
silent and safely moored at last; while from others came a sound of
carpenters and coopers, with blended noises of fires and forges to melt
the pitch, all betokening that new cruises were on the start; that one
most perilous and long voyage ended, only begins a second; and a second
ended, only begins a third, and so on, for ever and for aye. Such is the
endlessness, yea, the intolerableness of all earthly effort.

Gaining the more open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh; the little
Moss tossed the quick foam from her bows, as a young colt his snortings.
How I snuffed that Tartar air!—how I spurned that turnpike earth!—that
common highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and hoofs;
and turned me to admire the magnanimity of the sea which will permit no

At the same foam-fountain, Queequeg seemed to drink and reel with me. His
dusky nostrils swelled apart; he showed his filed and pointed teeth. On,
on we flew; and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to the blast;
ducked and dived her bows as a slave before the Sultan. Sideways leaning,
we sideways darted; every ropeyarn tingling like a wire; the two tall
masts buckling like Indian canes in land tornadoes. So full of this
reeling scene were we, as we stood by the plunging bowsprit, that for some
time we did not notice the jeering glances of the passengers, a
lubber-like assembly, who marvelled that two fellow beings should be so
companionable; as though a white man were anything more dignified than a
whitewashed negro. But there were some boobies and bumpkins there, who, by
their intense greenness, must have come from the heart and centre of all
verdure. Queequeg caught one of these young saplings mimicking him behind
his back. I thought the bumpkin’s hour of doom was come. Dropping his
harpoon, the brawny savage caught him in his arms, and by an almost
miraculous dexterity and strength, sent him high up bodily into the air;
then slightly tapping his stern in mid-somerset, the fellow landed with
bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg, turning his back upon him,
lighted his tomahawk pipe and passed it to me for a puff.

“Capting! Capting!” yelled the bumpkin, running towards that officer;
“Capting, Capting, here’s the devil.”

“Hallo, you sir,” cried the Captain, a gaunt rib of the sea,
stalking up to Queequeg, “what in thunder do you mean by that? Don’t you
know you might have killed that chap?”

“What him say?” said Queequeg, as he mildly turned to me.

“He say,” said I, “that you came near kill-e that man there,” pointing to
the still shivering greenhorn.

“Kill-e,” cried Queequeg, twisting his tattooed face into an unearthly
expression of disdain, “ah! him bevy small-e fish-e; Queequeg no kill-e so
small-e fish-e; Queequeg kill-e big whale!”

“Look you,” roared the Captain, “I’ll kill-e you, you cannibal, if you try
any more of your tricks aboard here; so mind your eye.”

But it so happened just then, that it was high time for the Captain to
mind his own eye. The prodigious strain upon the main-sail had parted the
weather-sheet, and the tremendous boom was now flying from side to side,
completely sweeping the entire after part of the deck. The poor fellow
whom Queequeg had handled so roughly, was swept overboard; all hands were
in a panic; and to attempt snatching at the boom to stay it, seemed
madness. It flew from right to left, and back again, almost in one ticking
of a watch, and every instant seemed on the point of snapping into
splinters. Nothing was done, and nothing seemed capable of being done;
those on deck rushed towards the bows, and stood eyeing the boom as if it
were the lower jaw of an exasperated whale. In the midst of this
consternation, Queequeg dropped deftly to his knees, and crawling under
the path of the boom, whipped hold of a rope, secured one end to the
bulwarks, and then flinging the other like a lasso, caught it round the
boom as it swept over his head, and at the next jerk, the spar was that
way trapped, and all was safe. The schooner was run into the wind, and
while the hands were clearing away the stern boat, Queequeg, stripped to
the waist, darted from the side with a long living arc of a leap. For
three minutes or more he was seen swimming like a dog, throwing his long
arms straight out before him, and by turns revealing his brawny shoulders
through the freezing foam. I looked at the grand and glorious fellow, but
saw no one to be saved. The greenhorn had gone down. Shooting himself
perpendicularly from the water, Queequeg, now took an instant’s glance
around him, and seeming to see just how matters were, dived down and
disappeared. A few minutes more, and he rose again, one arm still striking
out, and with the other dragging a lifeless form. The boat soon picked
them up. The poor bumpkin was restored. All hands voted Queequeg a noble
trump; the captain begged his pardon. From that hour I clove to Queequeg
like a barnacle; yea, till poor Queequeg took his last long dive.

Was there ever such unconsciousness? He did not seem to think that he at
all deserved a medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies. He only
asked for water—fresh water—something to wipe the brine off;
that done, he put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against
the bulwarks, and mildly eyeing those around him, seemed to be saying to
himself—“It’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We
cannibals must help these Christians.”

CHAPTER 14. Nantucket.

Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning; so, after a
fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket.

Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the
world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than
the Eddystone lighthouse. Look at it—a mere hillock, and elbow of
sand; all beach, without a background. There is more sand there than you
would use in twenty years as a substitute for blotting paper. Some
gamesome wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they
don’t grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have to
send beyond seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that pieces of
wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true cross in Rome;
that people there plant toadstools before their houses, to get under the
shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes an oasis, three blades
in a day’s walk a prairie; that they wear quicksand shoes, something like
Laplander snow-shoes; that they are so shut up, belted about, every way
inclosed, surrounded, and made an utter island of by the ocean, that to
their very chairs and tables small clams will sometimes be found adhering,
as to the backs of sea turtles. But these extravaganzas only show that
Nantucket is no Illinois.

Look now at the wondrous traditional story of how this island was settled
by the red-men. Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle swooped down
upon the New England coast, and carried off an infant Indian in his
talons. With loud lament the parents saw their child borne out of sight
over the wide waters. They resolved to follow in the same direction.
Setting out in their canoes, after a perilous passage they discovered the
island, and there they found an empty ivory casket,—the poor little
Indian’s skeleton.

What wonder, then, that these Nantucketers, born on a beach, should take
to the sea for a livelihood! They first caught crabs and quohogs in the
sand; grown bolder, they waded out with nets for mackerel; more
experienced, they pushed off in boats and captured cod; and at last,
launching a navy of great ships on the sea, explored this watery world;
put an incessant belt of circumnavigations round it; peeped in at
Behring’s Straits; and in all seasons and all oceans declared everlasting
war with the mightiest animated mass that has survived the flood; most
monstrous and most mountainous! That Himmalehan, salt-sea Mastodon,
clothed with such portentousness of unconscious power, that his very
panics are more to be dreaded than his most fearless and malicious

And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits, issuing from
their ant-hill in the sea, overrun and conquered the watery world like so
many Alexanders; parcelling out among them the Atlantic, Pacific, and
Indian oceans, as the three pirate powers did Poland. Let America add
Mexico to Texas, and pile Cuba upon Canada; let the English overswarm all
India, and hang out their blazing banner from the sun; two thirds of this
terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer’s. For the sea is his; he owns it,
as Emperors own empires; other seamen having but a right of way through
it. Merchant ships are but extension bridges; armed ones but floating
forts; even pirates and privateers, though following the sea as highwaymen
the road, they but plunder other ships, other fragments of the land like
themselves, without seeking to draw their living from the bottomless deep
itself. The Nantucketer, he alone resides and riots on the sea; he alone,
in Bible language, goes down to it in ships; to and fro ploughing it as
his own special plantation. There is his home; there lies his business,
which a Noah’s flood would not interrupt, though it overwhelmed all the
millions in China. He lives on the sea, as prairie cocks in the prairie;
he hides among the waves, he climbs them as chamois hunters climb the
Alps. For years he knows not the land; so that when he comes to it at
last, it smells like another world, more strangely than the moon would to
an Earthsman. With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and
is rocked to sleep between billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out
of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under
his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.

CHAPTER 15. Chowder.

It was quite late in the evening when the little Moss came snugly to
anchor, and Queequeg and I went ashore; so we could attend to no business
that day, at least none but a supper and a bed. The landlord of the
Spouter-Inn had recommended us to his cousin Hosea Hussey of the Try Pots,
whom he asserted to be the proprietor of one of the best kept hotels in
all Nantucket, and moreover he had assured us that Cousin Hosea, as he
called him, was famous for his chowders. In short, he plainly hinted that
we could not possibly do better than try pot-luck at the Try Pots. But the
directions he had given us about keeping a yellow warehouse on our
starboard hand till we opened a white church to the larboard, and then
keeping that on the larboard hand till we made a corner three points to
the starboard, and that done, then ask the first man we met where the
place was: these crooked directions of his very much puzzled us at first,
especially as, at the outset, Queequeg insisted that the yellow warehouse—our
first point of departure—must be left on the larboard hand, whereas
I had understood Peter Coffin to say it was on the starboard. However, by
dint of beating about a little in the dark, and now and then knocking up a
peaceable inhabitant to inquire the way, we at last came to something
which there was no mistaking.

Two enormous wooden pots painted black, and suspended by asses’ ears,
swung from the cross-trees of an old top-mast, planted in front of an old
doorway. The horns of the cross-trees were sawed off on the other side, so
that this old top-mast looked not a little like a gallows. Perhaps I was
over sensitive to such impressions at the time, but I could not help
staring at this gallows with a vague misgiving. A sort of crick was in my
neck as I gazed up to the two remaining horns; yes, two of them, one for
Queequeg, and one for me. It’s ominous, thinks I. A Coffin my Innkeeper
upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones staring at me in the
whalemen’s chapel; and here a gallows! and a pair of prodigious black pots
too! Are these last throwing out oblique hints touching Tophet?

I was called from these reflections by the sight of a freckled woman with
yellow hair and a yellow gown, standing in the porch of the inn, under a
dull red lamp swinging there, that looked much like an injured eye, and
carrying on a brisk scolding with a man in a purple woollen shirt.

“Get along with ye,” said she to the man, “or I’ll be combing ye!”

“Come on, Queequeg,” said I, “all right. There’s Mrs. Hussey.”

And so it turned out; Mr. Hosea Hussey being from home, but leaving Mrs.
Hussey entirely competent to attend to all his affairs. Upon making known
our desires for a supper and a bed, Mrs. Hussey, postponing further
scolding for the present, ushered us into a little room, and seating us at
a table spread with the relics of a recently concluded repast, turned
round to us and said—“Clam or Cod?”

“What’s that about Cods, ma’am?” said I, with much politeness.

“Clam or Cod?” she repeated.

“A clam for supper? a cold clam; is that what you mean, Mrs. Hussey?” says
I, “but that’s a rather cold and clammy reception in the winter time,
ain’t it, Mrs. Hussey?”

But being in a great hurry to resume scolding the man in the purple Shirt,
who was waiting for it in the entry, and seeming to hear nothing but the
word “clam,” Mrs. Hussey hurried towards an open door leading to the
kitchen, and bawling out “clam for two,” disappeared.

“Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make out a supper for us
both on one clam?”

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the
apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder
came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends!
hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than
hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into
little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned
with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage,
and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him,
and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great
expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s
clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment.
Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great
emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came
forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine
cod-chowder was placed before us.

We resumed business; and while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to
myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What’s that
stultifying saying about chowder-headed people? “But look, Queequeg, ain’t
that a live eel in your bowl? Where’s your harpoon?”

Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its
name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for
breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began
to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the
house was paved with clam-shells. Mrs. Hussey wore a polished necklace of
codfish vertebra; and Hosea Hussey had his account books bound in superior
old shark-skin. There was a fishy flavor to the milk, too, which I could
not at all account for, till one morning happening to take a stroll along
the beach among some fishermen’s boats, I saw Hosea’s brindled cow feeding
on fish remnants, and marching along the sand with each foot in a cod’s
decapitated head, looking very slip-shod, I assure ye.

Supper concluded, we received a lamp, and directions from Mrs. Hussey
concerning the nearest way to bed; but, as Queequeg was about to precede
me up the stairs, the lady reached forth her arm, and demanded his
harpoon; she allowed no harpoon in her chambers. “Why not?” said I; “every
true whaleman sleeps with his harpoon—but why not?” “Because it’s
dangerous,” says she. “Ever since young Stiggs coming from that unfort’nt
v’y’ge of his, when he was gone four years and a half, with only three
barrels of ile, was found dead in my first floor back, with his
harpoon in his side; ever since then I allow no boarders to take sich
dangerous weepons in their rooms at night. So, Mr. Queequeg” (for she had
learned his name), “I will just take this here iron, and keep it for you
till morning. But the chowder; clam or cod to-morrow for breakfast, men?”

“Both,” says I; “and let’s have a couple of smoked herring by way of

CHAPTER 16. The Ship.

In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise and no
small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had been
diligently consulting Yojo—the name of his black little god—and
Yojo had told him two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon it
everyway, that instead of our going together among the whaling-fleet in
harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I say, Yojo
earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship should rest wholly with
me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us; and, in order to do so, had
already pitched upon a vessel, which, if left to myself, I, Ishmael,
should infallibly light upon, for all the world as though it had turned
out by chance; and in that vessel I must immediately ship myself, for the
present irrespective of Queequeg.

I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great
confidence in the excellence of Yojo’s judgment and surprising forecast of
things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as a rather good sort
of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole, but in all cases did
not succeed in his benevolent designs.

Now, this plan of Queequeg’s, or rather Yojo’s, touching the selection of
our craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a little relied upon
Queequeg’s sagacity to point out the whaler best fitted to carry us and
our fortunes securely. But as all my remonstrances produced no effect upon
Queequeg, I was obliged to acquiesce; and accordingly prepared to set
about this business with a determined rushing sort of energy and vigor,
that should quickly settle that trifling little affair. Next morning
early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our little bedroom—for
it seemed that it was some sort of Lent or Ramadan, or day of fasting,
humiliation, and prayer with Queequeg and Yojo that day; how it was I
never could find out, for, though I applied myself to it several times, I
never could master his liturgies and XXXIX Articles—leaving
Queequeg, then, fasting on his tomahawk pipe, and Yojo warming himself at
his sacrificial fire of shavings, I sallied out among the shipping. After
much prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries, I learnt that there
were three ships up for three-years’ voyages—The Devil-dam, the
Tit-bit, and the Pequod. Devil-Dam, I do not know the origin of; Tit-bit
is obvious; Pequod, you will no doubt remember, was the name of a
celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians; now extinct as the ancient
Medes. I peered and pryed about the Devil-dam; from her, hopped over to
the Tit-bit; and finally, going on board the Pequod, looked around her for
a moment, and then decided that this was the very ship for us.

You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I know;—square-toed
luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box galliots, and what not;
but take my word for it, you never saw such a rare old craft as this same
rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old school, rather small if
anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed look about her. Long seasoned
and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms of all four oceans, her old
hull’s complexion was darkened like a French grenadier’s, who has alike
fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable bows looked bearded. Her masts—cut
somewhere on the coast of Japan, where her original ones were lost
overboard in a gale—her masts stood stiffly up like the spines of
the three old kings of Cologne. Her ancient decks were worn and wrinkled,
like the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where
Becket bled. But to all these her old antiquities, were added new and
marvellous features, pertaining to the wild business that for more than
half a century she had followed. Old Captain Peleg, many years her
chief-mate, before he commanded another vessel of his own, and now a
retired seaman, and one of the principal owners of the Pequod,—this
old Peleg, during the term of his chief-mateship, had built upon her
original grotesqueness, and inlaid it, all over, with a quaintness both of
material and device, unmatched by anything except it be Thorkill-Hake’s
carved buckler or bedstead. She was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian
emperor, his neck heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing
of trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased
bones of her enemies. All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were
garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the sperm
whale, inserted there for pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons
to. Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly
travelled over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her
reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in one
mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary
foe. The helmsman who steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the
Tartar, when he holds back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw. A noble
craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with

Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority,
in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I saw
nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of tent, or rather
wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It seemed only a temporary
erection used in port. It was of a conical shape, some ten feet high;
consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber black bone taken from the
middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-whale. Planted with their
broad ends on the deck, a circle of these slabs laced together, mutually
sloped towards each other, and at the apex united in a tufted point, where
the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro like the top-knot on some old
Pottowottamie Sachem’s head. A triangular opening faced towards the bows
of the ship, so that the insider commanded a complete view forward.

And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who by
his aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and the
ship’s work suspended, was now enjoying respite from the burden of
command. He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all over
with curious carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a stout
interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was constructed.

There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance of the
elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen, and
heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker style; only there
was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest wrinkles
interlacing round his eyes, which must have arisen from his continual
sailings in many hard gales, and always looking to windward;—for
this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed together. Such
eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.

“Is this the Captain of the Pequod?” said I, advancing to the door of the

“Supposing it be the captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?”
he demanded.

“I was thinking of shipping.”

“Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer—ever been in a
stove boat?”

“No, Sir, I never have.”

“Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say—eh?

“Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn. I’ve been several
voyages in the merchant service, and I think that—”

“Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me. Dost see that leg?—I’ll
take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of the marchant
service to me again. Marchant service indeed! I suppose now ye feel
considerable proud of having served in those marchant ships. But flukes!
man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?—it looks a little
suspicious, don’t it, eh?—Hast not been a pirate, hast thou?—Didst
not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?—Dost not think of murdering
the officers when thou gettest to sea?”

I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the mask of
these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman, as an insulated Quakerish
Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather distrustful of
all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the Vineyard.

“But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I think of
shipping ye.”

“Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world.”

“Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?”

“Who is Captain Ahab, sir?”

“Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of this ship.”

“I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the Captain himself.”

“Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg—that’s who ye are speaking to,
young man. It belongs to me and Captain Bildad to see the Pequod fitted
out for the voyage, and supplied with all her needs, including crew. We
are part owners and agents. But as I was going to say, if thou wantest to
know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way of
finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out. Clap eye
on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has only one leg.”

“What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?”

“Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured, chewed
up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat!—ah,

I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched at the
hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly as I could,
“What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could I know there was
any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale, though indeed I might have
inferred as much from the simple fact of the accident.”

“Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d’ye see; thou dost
not talk shark a bit. Sure, ye’ve been to sea before now; sure of that?”

“Sir,” said I, “I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in the

“Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant service—don’t
aggravate me—I won’t have it. But let us understand each other. I
have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye yet feel inclined for

“I do, sir.”

“Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live whale’s
throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!”

“I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to be
got rid of, that is; which I don’t take to be the fact.”

“Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find out
by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to see the
world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just step
forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back to me
and tell me what ye see there.”

For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not knowing
exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest. But
concentrating all his crow’s feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg started me
on the errand.

Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the ship
swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely pointing
towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly
monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I could see.

“Well, what’s the report?” said Peleg when I came back; “what did ye see?”

“Not much,” I replied—“nothing but water; considerable horizon
though, and there’s a squall coming up, I think.”

“Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go
round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can’t ye see the world where
you stand?”

I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the
Pequod was as good a ship as any—I thought the best—and all
this I now repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed his
willingness to ship me.

“And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off,” he added—“come
along with ye.” And so saying, he led the way below deck into the cabin.

Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and surprising
figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along with Captain Peleg
was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the other shares, as is
sometimes the case in these ports, being held by a crowd of old
annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards; each owning
about the value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a nail or two in
the ship. People in Nantucket invest their money in whaling vessels, the
same way that you do yours in approved state stocks bringing in good

Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a Quaker,
the island having been originally settled by that sect; and to this day
its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon measure the peculiarities
of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously modified by things
altogether alien and heterogeneous. For some of these same Quakers are the
most sanguinary of all sailors and whale-hunters. They are fighting
Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance.

So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with Scripture
names—a singularly common fashion on the island—and in
childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of the
Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless adventure
of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these unoutgrown
peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not unworthy a
Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things
unite in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular brain
and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion of many
long night-watches in the remotest waters, and beneath constellations
never seen here at the north, been led to think untraditionally and
independently; receiving all nature’s sweet or savage impressions fresh
from her own virgin voluntary and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly,
but with some help from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous
lofty language—that man makes one in a whole nation’s census—a
mighty pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies. Nor will it at all
detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by birth or other
circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful overruling morbidness at
the bottom of his nature. For all men tragically great are made so through
a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal
greatness is but disease. But, as yet we have not to do with such an one,
but with quite another; and still a man, who, if indeed peculiar, it only
results again from another phase of the Quaker, modified by individual

Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman. But
unlike Captain Peleg—who cared not a rush for what are called
serious things, and indeed deemed those self-same serious things the
veriest of all trifles—Captain Bildad had not only been originally
educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all
his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many unclad, lovely island
creatures, round the Horn—all that had not moved this native born
Quaker one single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his vest.
Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack of common
consistency about worthy Captain Bildad. Though refusing, from
conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet himself
had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe
to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns
upon tuns of leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his
days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do
not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably he
had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s
religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This world
pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in short clothes of the
drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied waistcoat; from
that becoming boat-header, chief-mate, and captain, and finally a ship
owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded his adventurous career by
wholly retiring from active life at the goodly age of sixty, and
dedicating his remaining days to the quiet receiving of his well-earned

Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an
incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard
task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a
curious story, that when he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his crew,
upon arriving home, were mostly all carried ashore to the hospital, sore
exhausted and worn out. For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was
certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used to swear,
though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate quantity
of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When Bildad was a chief-mate,
to have his drab-coloured eye intently looking at you, made you feel
completely nervous, till you could clutch something—a hammer or a
marling-spike, and go to work like mad, at something or other, never mind
what. Indolence and idleness perished before him. His own person was the
exact embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his long, gaunt body, he
carried no spare flesh, no superfluous beard, his chin having a soft,
economical nap to it, like the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat.

Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I
followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space between the decks
was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always sat so, and
never leaned, and this to save his coat tails. His broad-brim was placed
beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was buttoned
up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in reading from
a ponderous volume.

“Bildad,” cried Captain Peleg, “at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have been
studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my certain
knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?”

As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate, Bildad,
without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up, and seeing
me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.

“He says he’s our man, Bildad,” said Peleg, “he wants to ship.”

“Dost thee?” said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.

“I dost,” said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.

“What do ye think of him, Bildad?” said Peleg.

“He’ll do,” said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away at his
book in a mumbling tone quite audible.

I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg, his
friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I said nothing, only
looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a chest, and drawing forth
the ship’s articles, placed pen and ink before him, and seated himself at
a little table. I began to think it was high time to settle with myself at
what terms I would be willing to engage for the voyage. I was already
aware that in the whaling business they paid no wages; but all hands,
including the captain, received certain shares of the profits called lays,
and that these lays were proportioned to the degree of importance
pertaining to the respective duties of the ship’s company. I was also
aware that being a green hand at whaling, my own lay would not be very
large; but considering that I was used to the sea, could steer a ship,
splice a rope, and all that, I made no doubt that from all I had heard I
should be offered at least the 275th lay—that is, the 275th part of
the clear net proceeds of the voyage, whatever that might eventually
amount to. And though the 275th lay was what they call a rather long lay,
yet it was better than nothing; and if we had a lucky voyage, might pretty
nearly pay for the clothing I would wear out on it, not to speak of my
three years’ beef and board, for which I would not have to pay one stiver.

It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely
fortune—and so it was, a very poor way indeed. But I am one of those
that never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite content if the
world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am putting up at this grim
sign of the Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole, I thought that the 275th lay
would be about the fair thing, but would not have been surprised had I
been offered the 200th, considering I was of a broad-shouldered make.

But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about
receiving a generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had heard
something of both Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old crony Bildad;
how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod, therefore the
other and more inconsiderable and scattered owners, left nearly the whole
management of the ship’s affairs to these two. And I did not know but what
the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty deal to say about shipping
hands, especially as I now found him on board the Pequod, quite at home
there in the cabin, and reading his Bible as if at his own fireside. Now
while Peleg was vainly trying to mend a pen with his jack-knife, old
Bildad, to my no small surprise, considering that he was such an
interested party in these proceedings; Bildad never heeded us, but went on
mumbling to himself out of his book, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures
upon earth, where moth—”

“Well, Captain Bildad,” interrupted Peleg, “what d’ye say, what lay shall
we give this young man?”

“Thou knowest best,” was the sepulchral reply, “the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh wouldn’t be too much, would it?—‘where moth and rust
do corrupt, but lay—’”

Lay, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for one,
shall not lay up many lays here below, where moth and rust do corrupt. It
was an exceedingly long lay that, indeed; and though from the magnitude of
the figure it might at first deceive a landsman, yet the slightest
consideration will show that though seven hundred and seventy-seven is a
pretty large number, yet, when you come to make a teenth of it, you will
then see, I say, that the seven hundred and seventy-seventh part of a
farthing is a good deal less than seven hundred and seventy-seven gold
doubloons; and so I thought at the time.

“Why, blast your eyes, Bildad,” cried Peleg, “thou dost not want to
swindle this young man! he must have more than that.”

“Seven hundred and seventy-seventh,” again said Bildad, without lifting
his eyes; and then went on mumbling—“for where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also.”

“I am going to put him down for the three hundredth,” said Peleg, “do ye
hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say.”

Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him said, “Captain
Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou must consider the duty thou
owest to the other owners of this ship—widows and orphans, many of
them—and that if we too abundantly reward the labors of this young
man, we may be taking the bread from those widows and those orphans. The
seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, Captain Peleg.”

“Thou Bildad!” roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the cabin.
“Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these matters,
I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be heavy enough
to founder the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn.”

“Captain Peleg,” said Bildad steadily, “thy conscience may be drawing ten
inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can’t tell; but as thou art still an
impenitent man, Captain Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy conscience be but a
leaky one; and will in the end sink thee foundering down to the fiery pit,
Captain Peleg.”

“Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing, ye
insult me. It’s an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature that he’s
bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again to me, and start
my soul-bolts, but I’ll—I’ll—yes, I’ll swallow a live goat
with all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye canting,
drab-coloured son of a wooden gun—a straight wake with ye!”

As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a marvellous
oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded him.

Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and
responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up all
idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and temporarily
commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad, who, I
made no doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the awakened wrath
of Peleg. But to my astonishment, he sat down again on the transom very
quietly, and seemed to have not the slightest intention of withdrawing. He
seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg and his ways. As for Peleg, after
letting off his rage as he had, there seemed no more left in him, and he,
too, sat down like a lamb, though he twitched a little as if still
nervously agitated. “Whew!” he whistled at last—“the squall’s gone
off to leeward, I think. Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a
lance, mend that pen, will ye. My jack-knife here needs the grindstone.
That’s he; thank ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man, Ishmael’s thy name,
didn’t ye say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael, for the three
hundredth lay.”

“Captain Peleg,” said I, “I have a friend with me who wants to ship too—shall
I bring him down to-morrow?”

“To be sure,” said Peleg. “Fetch him along, and we’ll look at him.”

“What lay does he want?” groaned Bildad, glancing up from the book in
which he had again been burying himself.

“Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad,” said Peleg. “Has he ever whaled
it any?” turning to me.

“Killed more whales than I can count, Captain Peleg.”

“Well, bring him along then.”

And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that I had
done a good morning’s work, and that the Pequod was the identical ship
that Yojo had provided to carry Queequeg and me round the Cape.

But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the Captain
with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though, indeed, in many
cases, a whale-ship will be completely fitted out, and receive all her
crew on board, ere the captain makes himself visible by arriving to take
command; for sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the shore
intervals at home so exceedingly brief, that if the captain have a family,
or any absorbing concernment of that sort, he does not trouble himself
much about his ship in port, but leaves her to the owners till all is
ready for sea. However, it is always as well to have a look at him before
irrevocably committing yourself into his hands. Turning back I accosted
Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.

“And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It’s all right enough; thou art

“Yes, but I should like to see him.”

“But I don’t think thou wilt be able to at present. I don’t know exactly
what’s the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the house; a sort of
sick, and yet he don’t look so. In fact, he ain’t sick; but no, he isn’t
well either. Any how, young man, he won’t always see me, so I don’t
suppose he will thee. He’s a queer man, Captain Ahab—so some think—but
a good one. Oh, thou’lt like him well enough; no fear, no fear. He’s a
grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak much; but, when
he does speak, then you may well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab’s
above the common; Ahab’s been in colleges, as well as ’mong the cannibals;
been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery lance in
mightier, stranger foes than whales. His lance! aye, the keenest and the
surest that out of all our isle! Oh! he ain’t Captain Bildad; no, and he
ain’t Captain Peleg; he’s Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a
crowned king!”

“And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did they
not lick his blood?”

“Come hither to me—hither, hither,” said Peleg, with a significance
in his eye that almost startled me. “Look ye, lad; never say that on board
the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself.
’Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died when
he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old squaw Tistig, at Gayhead,
said that the name would somehow prove prophetic. And, perhaps, other
fools like her may tell thee the same. I wish to warn thee. It’s a lie. I
know Captain Ahab well; I’ve sailed with him as mate years ago; I know
what he is—a good man—not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but
a swearing good man—something like me—only there’s a good deal
more of him. Aye, aye, I know that he was never very jolly; and I know
that on the passage home, he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but
it was the sharp shooting pains in his bleeding stump that brought that
about, as any one might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost his leg
last voyage by that accursed whale, he’s been a kind of moody—desperate
moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass off. And once for all,
let me tell thee and assure thee, young man, it’s better to sail with a
moody good captain than a laughing bad one. So good-bye to thee—and
wrong not Captain Ahab, because he happens to have a wicked name. Besides,
my boy, he has a wife—not three voyages wedded—a sweet,
resigned girl. Think of that; by that sweet girl that old man has a child:
hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless harm in Ahab? No, no, my
lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his humanities!”

As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been incidentally
revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain wild vagueness of
painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy
and a sorrow for him, but for I don’t know what, unless it was the cruel
loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a strange awe of him; but that sort
of awe, which I cannot at all describe, was not exactly awe; I do not know
what it was. But I felt it; and it did not disincline me towards him;
though I felt impatience at what seemed like mystery in him, so
imperfectly as he was known to me then. However, my thoughts were at
length carried in other directions, so that for the present dark Ahab
slipped my mind.

CHAPTER 17. The Ramadan.

As Queequeg’s Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue all
day, I did not choose to disturb him till towards night-fall; for I
cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations,
never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart to undervalue
even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool; or those other
creatures in certain parts of our earth, who with a degree of footmanism
quite unprecedented in other planets, bow down before the torso of a
deceased landed proprietor merely on account of the inordinate possessions
yet owned and rented in his name.

I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these
things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals,
pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these
subjects. There was Queequeg, now, certainly entertaining the most absurd
notions about Yojo and his Ramadan;—but what of that? Queequeg
thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to be content; and
there let him rest. All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be,
I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all—Presbyterians and Pagans
alike—for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and
sadly need mending.

Towards evening, when I felt assured that all his performances and rituals
must be over, I went up to his room and knocked at the door; but no
answer. I tried to open it, but it was fastened inside. “Queequeg,” said I
softly through the key-hole:—all silent. “I say, Queequeg! why don’t
you speak? It’s I—Ishmael.” But all remained still as before. I
began to grow alarmed. I had allowed him such abundant time; I thought he
might have had an apoplectic fit. I looked through the key-hole; but the
door opening into an odd corner of the room, the key-hole prospect was but
a crooked and sinister one. I could only see part of the foot-board of the
bed and a line of the wall, but nothing more. I was surprised to behold
resting against the wall the wooden shaft of Queequeg’s harpoon, which the
landlady the evening previous had taken from him, before our mounting to
the chamber. That’s strange, thought I; but at any rate, since the harpoon
stands yonder, and he seldom or never goes abroad without it, therefore he
must be inside here, and no possible mistake.

“Queequeg!—Queequeg!”—all still. Something must have happened.
Apoplexy! I tried to burst open the door; but it stubbornly resisted.
Running down stairs, I quickly stated my suspicions to the first person I
met—the chamber-maid. “La! la!” she cried, “I thought something must
be the matter. I went to make the bed after breakfast, and the door was
locked; and not a mouse to be heard; and it’s been just so silent ever
since. But I thought, may be, you had both gone off and locked your
baggage in for safe keeping. La! la, ma’am!—Mistress! murder! Mrs.
Hussey! apoplexy!”—and with these cries, she ran towards the
kitchen, I following.

Mrs. Hussey soon appeared, with a mustard-pot in one hand and a
vinegar-cruet in the other, having just broken away from the occupation of
attending to the castors, and scolding her little black boy meantime.

“Wood-house!” cried I, “which way to it? Run for God’s sake, and fetch
something to pry open the door—the axe!—the axe! he’s had a
stroke; depend upon it!”—and so saying I was unmethodically rushing
up stairs again empty-handed, when Mrs. Hussey interposed the mustard-pot
and vinegar-cruet, and the entire castor of her countenance.

“What’s the matter with you, young man?”

“Get the axe! For God’s sake, run for the doctor, some one, while I pry it

“Look here,” said the landlady, quickly putting down the vinegar-cruet, so
as to have one hand free; “look here; are you talking about prying open
any of my doors?”—and with that she seized my arm. “What’s the
matter with you? What’s the matter with you, shipmate?”

In as calm, but rapid a manner as possible, I gave her to understand the
whole case. Unconsciously clapping the vinegar-cruet to one side of her
nose, she ruminated for an instant; then exclaimed—“No! I haven’t
seen it since I put it there.” Running to a little closet under the
landing of the stairs, she glanced in, and returning, told me that
Queequeg’s harpoon was missing. “He’s killed himself,” she cried. “It’s
unfort’nate Stiggs done over again—there goes another counterpane—God
pity his poor mother!—it will be the ruin of my house. Has the poor
lad a sister? Where’s that girl?—there, Betty, go to Snarles the
Painter, and tell him to paint me a sign, with—“no suicides
permitted here, and no smoking in the parlor;”—might as well kill
both birds at once. Kill? The Lord be merciful to his ghost! What’s that
noise there? You, young man, avast there!”

And running up after me, she caught me as I was again trying to force open
the door.

“I don’t allow it; I won’t have my premises spoiled. Go for the locksmith,
there’s one about a mile from here. But avast!” putting her hand in her
side-pocket, “here’s a key that’ll fit, I guess; let’s see.” And with
that, she turned it in the lock; but, alas! Queequeg’s supplemental bolt
remained unwithdrawn within.

“Have to burst it open,” said I, and was running down the entry a little,
for a good start, when the landlady caught at me, again vowing I should
not break down her premises; but I tore from her, and with a sudden bodily
rush dashed myself full against the mark.

With a prodigious noise the door flew open, and the knob slamming against
the wall, sent the plaster to the ceiling; and there, good heavens! there
sat Queequeg, altogether cool and self-collected; right in the middle of
the room; squatting on his hams, and holding Yojo on top of his head. He
looked neither one way nor the other way, but sat like a carved image with
scarce a sign of active life.

“Queequeg,” said I, going up to him, “Queequeg, what’s the matter with

“He hain’t been a sittin’ so all day, has he?” said the landlady.

But all we said, not a word could we drag out of him; I almost felt like
pushing him over, so as to change his position, for it was almost
intolerable, it seemed so painfully and unnaturally constrained;
especially, as in all probability he had been sitting so for upwards of
eight or ten hours, going too without his regular meals.

“Mrs. Hussey,” said I, “he’s alive at all events; so leave us, if you
please, and I will see to this strange affair myself.”

Closing the door upon the landlady, I endeavored to prevail upon Queequeg
to take a chair; but in vain. There he sat; and all he could do—for
all my polite arts and blandishments—he would not move a peg, nor
say a single word, nor even look at me, nor notice my presence in the
slightest way.

I wonder, thought I, if this can possibly be a part of his Ramadan; do
they fast on their hams that way in his native island. It must be so; yes,
it’s part of his creed, I suppose; well, then, let him rest; he’ll get up
sooner or later, no doubt. It can’t last for ever, thank God, and his
Ramadan only comes once a year; and I don’t believe it’s very punctual

I went down to supper. After sitting a long time listening to the long
stories of some sailors who had just come from a plum-pudding voyage, as
they called it (that is, a short whaling-voyage in a schooner or brig,
confined to the north of the line, in the Atlantic Ocean only); after
listening to these plum-puddingers till nearly eleven o’clock, I went up
stairs to go to bed, feeling quite sure by this time Queequeg must
certainly have brought his Ramadan to a termination. But no; there he was
just where I had left him; he had not stirred an inch. I began to grow
vexed with him; it seemed so downright senseless and insane to be sitting
there all day and half the night on his hams in a cold room, holding a
piece of wood on his head.

“For heaven’s sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; get up and have
some supper. You’ll starve; you’ll kill yourself, Queequeg.” But not a
word did he reply.

Despairing of him, therefore, I determined to go to bed and to sleep; and
no doubt, before a great while, he would follow me. But previous to
turning in, I took my heavy bearskin jacket, and threw it over him, as it
promised to be a very cold night; and he had nothing but his ordinary
round jacket on. For some time, do all I would, I could not get into the
faintest doze. I had blown out the candle; and the mere thought of
Queequeg—not four feet off—sitting there in that uneasy
position, stark alone in the cold and dark; this made me really wretched.
Think of it; sleeping all night in the same room with a wide awake pagan
on his hams in this dreary, unaccountable Ramadan!

But somehow I dropped off at last, and knew nothing more till break of
day; when, looking over the bedside, there squatted Queequeg, as if he had
been screwed down to the floor. But as soon as the first glimpse of sun
entered the window, up he got, with stiff and grating joints, but with a
cheerful look; limped towards me where I lay; pressed his forehead again
against mine; and said his Ramadan was over.

Now, as I before hinted, I have no objection to any person’s religion, be
it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other
person, because that other person don’t believe it also. But when a man’s
religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him;
and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in;
then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the
point with him.

And just so I now did with Queequeg. “Queequeg,” said I, “get into bed
now, and lie and listen to me.” I then went on, beginning with the rise
and progress of the primitive religions, and coming down to the various
religions of the present time, during which time I labored to show
Queequeg that all these Lents, Ramadans, and prolonged ham-squattings in
cold, cheerless rooms were stark nonsense; bad for the health; useless for
the soul; opposed, in short, to the obvious laws of Hygiene and common
sense. I told him, too, that he being in other things such an extremely
sensible and sagacious savage, it pained me, very badly pained me, to see
him now so deplorably foolish about this ridiculous Ramadan of his.
Besides, argued I, fasting makes the body cave in; hence the spirit caves
in; and all thoughts born of a fast must necessarily be half-starved. This
is the reason why most dyspeptic religionists cherish such melancholy
notions about their hereafters. In one word, Queequeg, said I, rather
digressively; hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling;
and since then perpetuated through the hereditary dyspepsias nurtured by

I then asked Queequeg whether he himself was ever troubled with dyspepsia;
expressing the idea very plainly, so that he could take it in. He said no;
only upon one memorable occasion. It was after a great feast given by his
father the king, on the gaining of a great battle wherein fifty of the
enemy had been killed by about two o’clock in the afternoon, and all
cooked and eaten that very evening.

“No more, Queequeg,” said I, shuddering; “that will do;” for I knew the
inferences without his further hinting them. I had seen a sailor who had
visited that very island, and he told me that it was the custom, when a
great battle had been gained there, to barbecue all the slain in the yard
or garden of the victor; and then, one by one, they were placed in great
wooden trenchers, and garnished round like a pilau, with breadfruit and
cocoanuts; and with some parsley in their mouths, were sent round with the
victor’s compliments to all his friends, just as though these presents
were so many Christmas turkeys.

After all, I do not think that my remarks about religion made much
impression upon Queequeg. Because, in the first place, he somehow seemed
dull of hearing on that important subject, unless considered from his own
point of view; and, in the second place, he did not more than one third
understand me, couch my ideas simply as I would; and, finally, he no doubt
thought he knew a good deal more about the true religion than I did. He
looked at me with a sort of condescending concern and compassion, as
though he thought it a great pity that such a sensible young man should be
so hopelessly lost to evangelical pagan piety.

At last we rose and dressed; and Queequeg, taking a prodigiously hearty
breakfast of chowders of all sorts, so that the landlady should not make
much profit by reason of his Ramadan, we sallied out to board the Pequod,
sauntering along, and picking our teeth with halibut bones.

CHAPTER 18. His Mark.

As we were walking down the end of the wharf towards the ship, Queequeg
carrying his harpoon, Captain Peleg in his gruff voice loudly hailed us
from his wigwam, saying he had not suspected my friend was a cannibal, and
furthermore announcing that he let no cannibals on board that craft,
unless they previously produced their papers.

“What do you mean by that, Captain Peleg?” said I, now jumping on the
bulwarks, and leaving my comrade standing on the wharf.

“I mean,” he replied, “he must show his papers.”

“Yes,” said Captain Bildad in his hollow voice, sticking his head from
behind Peleg’s, out of the wigwam. “He must show that he’s converted. Son
of darkness,” he added, turning to Queequeg, “art thou at present in
communion with any Christian church?”

“Why,” said I, “he’s a member of the first Congregational Church.” Here be
it said, that many tattooed savages sailing in Nantucket ships at last
come to be converted into the churches.

“First Congregational Church,” cried Bildad, “what! that worships in
Deacon Deuteronomy Coleman’s meeting-house?” and so saying, taking out his
spectacles, he rubbed them with his great yellow bandana handkerchief, and
putting them on very carefully, came out of the wigwam, and leaning
stiffly over the bulwarks, took a good long look at Queequeg.

“How long hath he been a member?” he then said, turning to me; “not very
long, I rather guess, young man.”

“No,” said Peleg, “and he hasn’t been baptized right either, or it would
have washed some of that devil’s blue off his face.”

“Do tell, now,” cried Bildad, “is this Philistine a regular member of
Deacon Deuteronomy’s meeting? I never saw him going there, and I pass it
every Lord’s day.”

“I don’t know anything about Deacon Deuteronomy or his meeting,” said I;
“all I know is, that Queequeg here is a born member of the First
Congregational Church. He is a deacon himself, Queequeg is.”

“Young man,” said Bildad sternly, “thou art skylarking with me—explain
thyself, thou young Hittite. What church dost thee mean? answer me.”

Finding myself thus hard pushed, I replied. “I mean, sir, the same ancient
Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there, and Queequeg
here, and all of us, and every mother’s son and soul of us belong; the
great and everlasting First Congregation of this whole worshipping world;
we all belong to that; only some of us cherish some queer crotchets no
ways touching the grand belief; in that we all join hands.”

“Splice, thou mean’st splice hands,” cried Peleg, drawing nearer. “Young
man, you’d better ship for a missionary, instead of a fore-mast hand; I
never heard a better sermon. Deacon Deuteronomy—why Father Mapple
himself couldn’t beat it, and he’s reckoned something. Come aboard, come
aboard; never mind about the papers. I say, tell Quohog there—what’s
that you call him? tell Quohog to step along. By the great anchor, what a
harpoon he’s got there! looks like good stuff that; and he handles it
about right. I say, Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand
in the head of a whale-boat? did you ever strike a fish?”

Without saying a word, Queequeg, in his wild sort of way, jumped upon the
bulwarks, from thence into the bows of one of the whale-boats hanging to
the side; and then bracing his left knee, and poising his harpoon, cried
out in some such way as this:—

“Cap’ain, you see him small drop tar on water dere? You see him? well,
spose him one whale eye, well, den!” and taking sharp aim at it, he darted
the iron right over old Bildad’s broad brim, clean across the ship’s
decks, and struck the glistening tar spot out of sight.

“Now,” said Queequeg, quietly hauling in the line, “spos-ee him whale-e
eye; why, dad whale dead.”

“Quick, Bildad,” said Peleg, his partner, who, aghast at the close
vicinity of the flying harpoon, had retreated towards the cabin gangway.
“Quick, I say, you Bildad, and get the ship’s papers. We must have
Hedgehog there, I mean Quohog, in one of our boats. Look ye, Quohog, we’ll
give ye the ninetieth lay, and that’s more than ever was given a
harpooneer yet out of Nantucket.”

So down we went into the cabin, and to my great joy Queequeg was soon
enrolled among the same ship’s company to which I myself belonged.

When all preliminaries were over and Peleg had got everything ready for
signing, he turned to me and said, “I guess, Quohog there don’t know how
to write, does he? I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign thy name or
make thy mark?”

But at this question, Queequeg, who had twice or thrice before taken part
in similar ceremonies, looked no ways abashed; but taking the offered pen,
copied upon the paper, in the proper place, an exact counterpart of a
queer round figure which was tattooed upon his arm; so that through
Captain Peleg’s obstinate mistake touching his appellative, it stood
something like this:—

Quohog. his X mark.

Meanwhile Captain Bildad sat earnestly and steadfastly eyeing Queequeg,
and at last rising solemnly and fumbling in the huge pockets of his
broad-skirted drab coat, took out a bundle of tracts, and selecting one
entitled “The Latter Day Coming; or No Time to Lose,” placed it in
Queequeg’s hands, and then grasping them and the book with both his,
looked earnestly into his eyes, and said, “Son of darkness, I must do my
duty by thee; I am part owner of this ship, and feel concerned for the
souls of all its crew; if thou still clingest to thy Pagan ways, which I
sadly fear, I beseech thee, remain not for aye a Belial bondsman. Spurn
the idol Bell, and the hideous dragon; turn from the wrath to come; mind
thine eye, I say; oh! goodness gracious! steer clear of the fiery pit!”

Something of the salt sea yet lingered in old Bildad’s language,
heterogeneously mixed with Scriptural and domestic phrases.

“Avast there, avast there, Bildad, avast now spoiling our harpooneer,”
cried Peleg. “Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers—it takes the shark out of ’em; no harpooneer is worth a straw who aint pretty sharkish.
There was young Nat Swaine, once the bravest boat-header out of all
Nantucket and the Vineyard; he joined the meeting, and never came to good.
He got so frightened about his plaguy soul, that he shrinked and sheered
away from whales, for fear of after-claps, in case he got stove and went
to Davy Jones.”

“Peleg! Peleg!” said Bildad, lifting his eyes and hands, “thou thyself, as
I myself, hast seen many a perilous time; thou knowest, Peleg, what it is
to have the fear of death; how, then, can’st thou prate in this ungodly
guise. Thou beliest thine own heart, Peleg. Tell me, when this same Pequod
here had her three masts overboard in that typhoon on Japan, that same
voyage when thou went mate with Captain Ahab, did’st thou not think of
Death and the Judgment then?”

“Hear him, hear him now,” cried Peleg, marching across the cabin, and
thrusting his hands far down into his pockets,—“hear him, all of ye.
Think of that! When every moment we thought the ship would sink! Death and
the Judgment then? What? With all three masts making such an everlasting
thundering against the side; and every sea breaking over us, fore and aft.
Think of Death and the Judgment then? No! no time to think about Death
then. Life was what Captain Ahab and I was thinking of; and how to save
all hands—how to rig jury-masts—how to get into the nearest
port; that was what I was thinking of.”

Bildad said no more, but buttoning up his coat, stalked on deck, where we
followed him. There he stood, very quietly overlooking some sailmakers who
were mending a top-sail in the waist. Now and then he stooped to pick up a
patch, or save an end of tarred twine, which otherwise might have been

CHAPTER 19. The Prophet.

“Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?”

Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away from the
water, for the moment each occupied with his own thoughts, when the above
words were put to us by a stranger, who, pausing before us, levelled his
massive forefinger at the vessel in question. He was but shabbily
apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a black
handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent small-pox had in all
directions flowed over his face, and left it like the complicated ribbed
bed of a torrent, when the rushing waters have been dried up.

“Have ye shipped in her?” he repeated.

“You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose,” said I, trying to gain a little
more time for an uninterrupted look at him.

“Aye, the Pequod—that ship there,” he said, drawing back his whole
arm, and then rapidly shoving it straight out from him, with the fixed
bayonet of his pointed finger darted full at the object.

“Yes,” said I, “we have just signed the articles.”

“Anything down there about your souls?”

“About what?”

“Oh, perhaps you hav’n’t got any,” he said quickly. “No matter though, I
know many chaps that hav’n’t got any,—good luck to ’em; and they are
all the better off for it. A soul’s a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon.”

“What are you jabbering about, shipmate?” said I.

He’s got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that sort in
other chaps,” abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous emphasis upon
the word he.

“Queequeg,” said I, “let’s go; this fellow has broken loose from
somewhere; he’s talking about something and somebody we don’t know.”

“Stop!” cried the stranger. “Ye said true—ye hav’n’t seen Old
Thunder yet, have ye?”

“Who’s Old Thunder?” said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness of
his manner.

“Captain Ahab.”

“What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?”

“Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name. Ye hav’n’t
seen him yet, have ye?”

“No, we hav’n’t. He’s sick they say, but is getting better, and will be
all right again before long.”

“All right again before long!” laughed the stranger, with a solemnly
derisive sort of laugh. “Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right, then
this left arm of mine will be all right; not before.”

“What do you know about him?”

“What did they tell you about him? Say that!”

“They didn’t tell much of anything about him; only I’ve heard that he’s a
good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his crew.”

“That’s true, that’s true—yes, both true enough. But you must jump
when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and go—that’s the word
with Captain Ahab. But nothing about that thing that happened to him off
Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days and nights;
nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in
Santa?—heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing about the silver
calabash he spat into? And nothing about his losing his leg last voyage,
according to the prophecy. Didn’t ye hear a word about them matters and
something more, eh? No, I don’t think ye did; how could ye? Who knows it?
Not all Nantucket, I guess. But hows’ever, mayhap, ye’ve heard tell about
the leg, and how he lost it; aye, ye have heard of that, I dare say. Oh
yes, that every one knows a’most—I mean they know he’s only one leg;
and that a parmacetti took the other off.”

“My friend,” said I, “what all this gibberish of yours is about, I don’t
know, and I don’t much care; for it seems to me that you must be a little
damaged in the head. But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab, of that ship
there, the Pequod, then let me tell you, that I know all about the loss of
his leg.”

All about it, eh—sure you do?—all?”

“Pretty sure.”

With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like
stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a
little, turned and said:—“Ye’ve shipped, have ye? Names down on the
papers? Well, well, what’s signed, is signed; and what’s to be, will be;
and then again, perhaps it won’t be, after all. Anyhow, it’s all fixed and
arranged a’ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose;
as well these as any other men, God pity ’em! Morning to ye, shipmates,
morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I’m sorry I stopped ye.”

“Look here, friend,” said I, “if you have anything important to tell us,
out with it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle us, you are mistaken
in your game; that’s all I have to say.”

“And it’s said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way; you
are just the man for him—the likes of ye. Morning to ye, shipmates,
morning! Oh! when ye get there, tell ’em I’ve concluded not to make one of

“Ah, my dear fellow, you can’t fool us that way—you can’t fool us.
It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a
great secret in him.”

“Morning to ye, shipmates, morning.”

“Morning it is,” said I. “Come along, Queequeg, let’s leave this crazy
man. But stop, tell me your name, will you?”


Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting, after each other’s
fashion, upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed that he was nothing but a
humbug, trying to be a bugbear. But we had not gone perhaps above a
hundred yards, when chancing to turn a corner, and looking back as I did
so, who should be seen but Elijah following us, though at a distance.
Somehow, the sight of him struck me so, that I said nothing to Queequeg of
his being behind, but passed on with my comrade, anxious to see whether
the stranger would turn the same corner that we did. He did; and then it
seemed to me that he was dogging us, but with what intent I could not for
the life of me imagine. This circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous,
half-hinting, half-revealing, shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all
kinds of vague wonderments and half-apprehensions, and all connected with
the Pequod; and Captain Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn
fit; and the silver calabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of him, when
I left the ship the day previous; and the prediction of the squaw Tistig;
and the voyage we had bound ourselves to sail; and a hundred other shadowy

I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was really
dogging us or not, and with that intent crossed the way with Queequeg, and
on that side of it retraced our steps. But Elijah passed on, without
seeming to notice us. This relieved me; and once more, and finally as it
seemed to me, I pronounced him in my heart, a humbug.

CHAPTER 20. All Astir.

A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the Pequod. Not
only were the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on board,
and bolts of canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything betokened
that the ship’s preparations were hurrying to a close. Captain Peleg
seldom or never went ashore, but sat in his wigwam keeping a sharp
look-out upon the hands: Bildad did all the purchasing and providing at
the stores; and the men employed in the hold and on the rigging were
working till long after night-fall.

On the day following Queequeg’s signing the articles, word was given at
all the inns where the ship’s company were stopping, that their chests
must be on board before night, for there was no telling how soon the
vessel might be sailing. So Queequeg and I got down our traps, resolving,
however, to sleep ashore till the last. But it seems they always give very
long notice in these cases, and the ship did not sail for several days.
But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and there is no telling
how many things to be thought of, before the Pequod was fully equipped.

Every one knows what a multitude of things—beds, sauce-pans, knives
and forks, shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not, are
indispensable to the business of housekeeping. Just so with whaling, which
necessitates a three-years’ housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all
grocers, costermongers, doctors, bakers, and bankers. And though this also
holds true of merchant vessels, yet not by any means to the same extent as
with whalemen. For besides the great length of the whaling voyage, the
numerous articles peculiar to the prosecution of the fishery, and the
impossibility of replacing them at the remote harbors usually frequented,
it must be remembered, that of all ships, whaling vessels are the most
exposed to accidents of all kinds, and especially to the destruction and
loss of the very things upon which the success of the voyage most depends.
Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare lines and harpoons, and
spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captain and duplicate ship.

At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage of the
Pequod had been almost completed; comprising her beef, bread, water, fuel,
and iron hoops and staves. But, as before hinted, for some time there was
a continual fetching and carrying on board of divers odds and ends of
things, both large and small.

Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was Captain Bildad’s
sister, a lean old lady of a most determined and indefatigable spirit, but
withal very kindhearted, who seemed resolved that, if she could help it,
nothing should be found wanting in the Pequod, after once fairly getting
to sea. At one time she would come on board with a jar of pickles for the
steward’s pantry; another time with a bunch of quills for the chief mate’s
desk, where he kept his log; a third time with a roll of flannel for the
small of some one’s rheumatic back. Never did any woman better deserve her
name, which was Charity—Aunt Charity, as everybody called her. And
like a sister of charity did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle about
hither and thither, ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that
promised to yield safety, comfort, and consolation to all on board a ship
in which her beloved brother Bildad was concerned, and in which she
herself owned a score or two of well-saved dollars.

But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress coming on
board, as she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle in one hand, and a
still longer whaling lance in the other. Nor was Bildad himself nor
Captain Peleg at all backward. As for Bildad, he carried about with him a
long list of the articles needed, and at every fresh arrival, down went
his mark opposite that article upon the paper. Every once in a while Peleg
came hobbling out of his whalebone den, roaring at the men down the
hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at the mast-head, and then concluded
by roaring back into his wigwam.

During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited the craft,
and as often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was, and when he was
going to come on board his ship. To these questions they would answer,
that he was getting better and better, and was expected aboard every day;
meantime, the two captains, Peleg and Bildad, could attend to everything
necessary to fit the vessel for the voyage. If I had been downright honest
with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but
half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once
laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so
soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any
wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter,
he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And
much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.

At last it was given out that some time next day the ship would certainly
sail. So next morning, Queequeg and I took a very early start.

CHAPTER 21. Going Aboard.

It was nearly six o’clock, but only grey imperfect misty dawn, when we
drew nigh the wharf.

“There are some sailors running ahead there, if I see right,” said I to
Queequeg, “it can’t be shadows; she’s off by sunrise, I guess; come on!”

“Avast!” cried a voice, whose owner at the same time coming close behind
us, laid a hand upon both our shoulders, and then insinuating himself
between us, stood stooping forward a little, in the uncertain twilight,
strangely peering from Queequeg to me. It was Elijah.

“Going aboard?”

“Hands off, will you,” said I.

“Lookee here,” said Queequeg, shaking himself, “go ’way!”

“Ain’t going aboard, then?”

“Yes, we are,” said I, “but what business is that of yours? Do you know,
Mr. Elijah, that I consider you a little impertinent?”

“No, no, no; I wasn’t aware of that,” said Elijah, slowly and wonderingly
looking from me to Queequeg, with the most unaccountable glances.

“Elijah,” said I, “you will oblige my friend and me by withdrawing. We are
going to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would prefer not to be

“Ye be, be ye? Coming back afore breakfast?”

“He’s cracked, Queequeg,” said I, “come on.”

“Holloa!” cried stationary Elijah, hailing us when we had removed a few

“Never mind him,” said I, “Queequeg, come on.”

But he stole up to us again, and suddenly clapping his hand on my
shoulder, said—“Did ye see anything looking like men going towards
that ship a while ago?”

Struck by this plain matter-of-fact question, I answered, saying, “Yes, I
thought I did see four or five men; but it was too dim to be sure.”

“Very dim, very dim,” said Elijah. “Morning to ye.”

Once more we quitted him; but once more he came softly after us; and
touching my shoulder again, said, “See if you can find ’em now, will ye?

“Find who?”

“Morning to ye! morning to ye!” he rejoined, again moving off. “Oh! I was
going to warn ye against—but never mind, never mind—it’s all
one, all in the family too;—sharp frost this morning, ain’t it?
Good-bye to ye. Shan’t see ye again very soon, I guess; unless it’s before
the Grand Jury.” And with these cracked words he finally departed, leaving
me, for the moment, in no small wonderment at his frantic impudence.

At last, stepping on board the Pequod, we found everything in profound
quiet, not a soul moving. The cabin entrance was locked within; the
hatches were all on, and lumbered with coils of rigging. Going forward to
the forecastle, we found the slide of the scuttle open. Seeing a light, we
went down, and found only an old rigger there, wrapped in a tattered
pea-jacket. He was thrown at whole length upon two chests, his face
downwards and inclosed in his folded arms. The profoundest slumber slept
upon him.

“Those sailors we saw, Queequeg, where can they have gone to?” said I,
looking dubiously at the sleeper. But it seemed that, when on the wharf,
Queequeg had not at all noticed what I now alluded to; hence I would have
thought myself to have been optically deceived in that matter, were it not
for Elijah’s otherwise inexplicable question. But I beat the thing down;
and again marking the sleeper, jocularly hinted to Queequeg that perhaps
we had best sit up with the body; telling him to establish himself
accordingly. He put his hand upon the sleeper’s rear, as though feeling if
it was soft enough; and then, without more ado, sat quietly down there.

“Gracious! Queequeg, don’t sit there,” said I.

“Oh! perry dood seat,” said Queequeg, “my country way; won’t hurt him

“Face!” said I, “call that his face? very benevolent countenance then; but
how hard he breathes, he’s heaving himself; get off, Queequeg, you are
heavy, it’s grinding the face of the poor. Get off, Queequeg! Look, he’ll
twitch you off soon. I wonder he don’t wake.”

Queequeg removed himself to just beyond the head of the sleeper, and
lighted his tomahawk pipe. I sat at the feet. We kept the pipe passing
over the sleeper, from one to the other. Meanwhile, upon questioning him
in his broken fashion, Queequeg gave me to understand that, in his land,
owing to the absence of settees and sofas of all sorts, the king, chiefs,
and great people generally, were in the custom of fattening some of the
lower orders for ottomans; and to furnish a house comfortably in that
respect, you had only to buy up eight or ten lazy fellows, and lay them
round in the piers and alcoves. Besides, it was very convenient on an
excursion; much better than those garden-chairs which are convertible into
walking-sticks; upon occasion, a chief calling his attendant, and desiring
him to make a settee of himself under a spreading tree, perhaps in some
damp marshy place.

While narrating these things, every time Queequeg received the tomahawk
from me, he flourished the hatchet-side of it over the sleeper’s head.

“What’s that for, Queequeg?”

“Perry easy, kill-e; oh! perry easy!”

He was going on with some wild reminiscences about his tomahawk-pipe,
which, it seemed, had in its two uses both brained his foes and soothed
his soul, when we were directly attracted to the sleeping rigger. The
strong vapor now completely filling the contracted hole, it began to tell
upon him. He breathed with a sort of muffledness; then seemed troubled in
the nose; then revolved over once or twice; then sat up and rubbed his

“Holloa!” he breathed at last, “who be ye smokers?”

“Shipped men,” answered I, “when does she sail?”

“Aye, aye, ye are going in her, be ye? She sails to-day. The Captain came
aboard last night.”

“What Captain?—Ahab?”

“Who but him indeed?”

I was going to ask him some further questions concerning Ahab, when we
heard a noise on deck.

“Holloa! Starbuck’s astir,” said the rigger. “He’s a lively chief mate,
that; good man, and a pious; but all alive now, I must turn to.” And so
saying he went on deck, and we followed.

It was now clear sunrise. Soon the crew came on board in twos and threes;
the riggers bestirred themselves; the mates were actively engaged; and
several of the shore people were busy in bringing various last things on
board. Meanwhile Captain Ahab remained invisibly enshrined within his

CHAPTER 22. Merry Christmas.

At length, towards noon, upon the final dismissal of the ship’s riggers,
and after the Pequod had been hauled out from the wharf, and after the
ever-thoughtful Charity had come off in a whale-boat, with her last gift—a
night-cap for Stubb, the second mate, her brother-in-law, and a spare
Bible for the steward—after all this, the two Captains, Peleg and
Bildad, issued from the cabin, and turning to the chief mate, Peleg said:

“Now, Mr. Starbuck, are you sure everything is right? Captain Ahab is all
ready—just spoke to him—nothing more to be got from shore, eh?
Well, call all hands, then. Muster ’em aft here—blast ’em!”

“No need of profane words, however great the hurry, Peleg,” said Bildad,
“but away with thee, friend Starbuck, and do our bidding.”

How now! Here upon the very point of starting for the voyage, Captain
Peleg and Captain Bildad were going it with a high hand on the
quarter-deck, just as if they were to be joint-commanders at sea, as well
as to all appearances in port. And, as for Captain Ahab, no sign of him
was yet to be seen; only, they said he was in the cabin. But then, the
idea was, that his presence was by no means necessary in getting the ship
under weigh, and steering her well out to sea. Indeed, as that was not at
all his proper business, but the pilot’s; and as he was not yet completely
recovered—so they said—therefore, Captain Ahab stayed below.
And all this seemed natural enough; especially as in the merchant service
many captains never show themselves on deck for a considerable time after
heaving up the anchor, but remain over the cabin table, having a farewell
merry-making with their shore friends, before they quit the ship for good
with the pilot.

But there was not much chance to think over the matter, for Captain Peleg
was now all alive. He seemed to do most of the talking and commanding, and
not Bildad.

“Aft here, ye sons of bachelors,” he cried, as the sailors lingered at the
main-mast. “Mr. Starbuck, drive ’em aft.”

“Strike the tent there!”—was the next order. As I hinted before,
this whalebone marquee was never pitched except in port; and on board the
Pequod, for thirty years, the order to strike the tent was well known to
be the next thing to heaving up the anchor.

“Man the capstan! Blood and thunder!—jump!”—was the next
command, and the crew sprang for the handspikes.

Now in getting under weigh, the station generally occupied by the pilot is
the forward part of the ship. And here Bildad, who, with Peleg, be it
known, in addition to his other officers, was one of the licensed pilots
of the port—he being suspected to have got himself made a pilot in
order to save the Nantucket pilot-fee to all the ships he was concerned
in, for he never piloted any other craft—Bildad, I say, might now be
seen actively engaged in looking over the bows for the approaching anchor,
and at intervals singing what seemed a dismal stave of psalmody, to cheer
the hands at the windlass, who roared forth some sort of a chorus about
the girls in Booble Alley, with hearty good will. Nevertheless, not three
days previous, Bildad had told them that no profane songs would be allowed
on board the Pequod, particularly in getting under weigh; and Charity, his
sister, had placed a small choice copy of Watts in each seaman’s berth.

Meantime, overseeing the other part of the ship, Captain Peleg ripped and
swore astern in the most frightful manner. I almost thought he would sink
the ship before the anchor could be got up; involuntarily I paused on my
handspike, and told Queequeg to do the same, thinking of the perils we
both ran, in starting on the voyage with such a devil for a pilot. I was
comforting myself, however, with the thought that in pious Bildad might be
found some salvation, spite of his seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay;
when I felt a sudden sharp poke in my rear, and turning round, was
horrified at the apparition of Captain Peleg in the act of withdrawing his
leg from my immediate vicinity. That was my first kick.

“Is that the way they heave in the marchant service?” he roared. “Spring,
thou sheep-head; spring, and break thy backbone! Why don’t ye spring, I
say, all of ye—spring! Quohog! spring, thou chap with the red
whiskers; spring there, Scotch-cap; spring, thou green pants. Spring, I
say, all of ye, and spring your eyes out!” And so saying, he moved along
the windlass, here and there using his leg very freely, while
imperturbable Bildad kept leading off with his psalmody. Thinks I, Captain
Peleg must have been drinking something to-day.

At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a
short, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we
found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray
cased us in ice, as in polished armor. The long rows of teeth on the
bulwarks glistened in the moonlight; and like the white ivory tusks of
some huge elephant, vast curving icicles depended from the bows.

Lank Bildad, as pilot, headed the first watch, and ever and anon, as the
old craft deep dived into the green seas, and sent the shivering frost all
over her, and the winds howled, and the cordage rang, his steady notes
were heard,—

      “Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,
         Stand dressed in living green.
      So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
         While Jordan rolled between.”

Never did those sweet words sound more sweetly to me than then. They were
full of hope and fruition. Spite of this frigid winter night in the
boisterous Atlantic, spite of my wet feet and wetter jacket, there was
yet, it then seemed to me, many a pleasant haven in store; and meads and
glades so eternally vernal, that the grass shot up by the spring,
untrodden, unwilted, remains at midsummer.

At last we gained such an offing, that the two pilots were needed no
longer. The stout sail-boat that had accompanied us began ranging

It was curious and not unpleasing, how Peleg and Bildad were affected at
this juncture, especially Captain Bildad. For loath to depart, yet; very
loath to leave, for good, a ship bound on so long and perilous a voyage—beyond
both stormy Capes; a ship in which some thousands of his hard earned
dollars were invested; a ship, in which an old shipmate sailed as captain;
a man almost as old as he, once more starting to encounter all the terrors
of the pitiless jaw; loath to say good-bye to a thing so every way brimful
of every interest to him,—poor old Bildad lingered long; paced the
deck with anxious strides; ran down into the cabin to speak another
farewell word there; again came on deck, and looked to windward; looked
towards the wide and endless waters, only bounded by the far-off unseen
Eastern Continents; looked towards the land; looked aloft; looked right
and left; looked everywhere and nowhere; and at last, mechanically coiling
a rope upon its pin, convulsively grasped stout Peleg by the hand, and
holding up a lantern, for a moment stood gazing heroically in his face, as
much as to say, “Nevertheless, friend Peleg, I can stand it; yes, I can.”

As for Peleg himself, he took it more like a philosopher; but for all his
philosophy, there was a tear twinkling in his eye, when the lantern came
too near. And he, too, did not a little run from cabin to deck—now a
word below, and now a word with Starbuck, the chief mate.

But, at last, he turned to his comrade, with a final sort of look about
him,—“Captain Bildad—come, old shipmate, we must go. Back the
main-yard there! Boat ahoy! Stand by to come close alongside, now!
Careful, careful!—come, Bildad, boy—say your last. Luck to ye,
Starbuck—luck to ye, Mr. Stubb—luck to ye, Mr. Flask—good-bye
and good luck to ye all—and this day three years I’ll have a hot
supper smoking for ye in old Nantucket. Hurrah and away!”

“God bless ye, and have ye in His holy keeping, men,” murmured old Bildad,
almost incoherently. “I hope ye’ll have fine weather now, so that Captain
Ahab may soon be moving among ye—a pleasant sun is all he needs, and
ye’ll have plenty of them in the tropic voyage ye go. Be careful in the
hunt, ye mates. Don’t stave the boats needlessly, ye harpooneers; good
white cedar plank is raised full three per cent. within the year. Don’t
forget your prayers, either. Mr. Starbuck, mind that cooper don’t waste
the spare staves. Oh! the sail-needles are in the green locker! Don’t
whale it too much a’ Lord’s days, men; but don’t miss a fair chance
either, that’s rejecting Heaven’s good gifts. Have an eye to the molasses
tierce, Mr. Stubb; it was a little leaky, I thought. If ye touch at the
islands, Mr. Flask, beware of fornication. Good-bye, good-bye! Don’t keep
that cheese too long down in the hold, Mr. Starbuck; it’ll spoil. Be
careful with the butter—twenty cents the pound it was, and mind ye,

“Come, come, Captain Bildad; stop palavering,—away!” and with that,
Peleg hurried him over the side, and both dropt into the boat.

Ship and boat diverged; the cold, damp night breeze blew between; a
screaming gull flew overhead; the two hulls wildly rolled; we gave three
heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like fate into the lone

CHAPTER 23. The Lee Shore.

Some chapters back, one Bulkington was spoken of, a tall, newlanded
mariner, encountered in New Bedford at the inn.

When on that shivering winter’s night, the Pequod thrust her vindictive
bows into the cold malicious waves, who should I see standing at her helm
but Bulkington! I looked with sympathetic awe and fearfulness upon the
man, who in mid-winter just landed from a four years’ dangerous voyage,
could so unrestingly push off again for still another tempestuous term.
The land seemed scorching to his feet. Wonderfullest things are ever the
unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is
the stoneless grave of Bulkington. Let me only say that it fared with him
as with the storm-tossed ship, that miserably drives along the leeward
land. The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is
safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all that’s
kind to our mortalities. But in that gale, the port, the land, is that
ship’s direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land,
though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through.
With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing, fights
’gainst the very winds that fain would blow her homeward; seeks all the
lashed sea’s landlessness again; for refuge’s sake forlornly rushing into
peril; her only friend her bitterest foe!

Know ye now, Bulkington? Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally
intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid
effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the
wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous,
slavish shore?

But as in landlessness alone resides highest truth, shoreless, indefinite
as God—so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be
ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like,
then, oh! who would craven crawl to land! Terrors of the terrible! is all
this agony so vain? Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee
grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing—straight
up, leaps thy apotheosis!

CHAPTER 24. The Advocate.

As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of whaling; and
as this business of whaling has somehow come to be regarded among landsmen
as a rather unpoetical and disreputable pursuit; therefore, I am all
anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby done to us
hunters of whales.

In the first place, it may be deemed almost superfluous to establish the
fact, that among people at large, the business of whaling is not accounted
on a level with what are called the liberal professions. If a stranger
were introduced into any miscellaneous metropolitan society, it would but
slightly advance the general opinion of his merits, were he presented to
the company as a harpooneer, say; and if in emulation of the naval
officers he should append the initials S.W.F. (Sperm Whale Fishery) to his
visiting card, such a procedure would be deemed pre-eminently presuming
and ridiculous.

Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honoring us whalemen,
is this: they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to a butchering
sort of business; and that when actively engaged therein, we are
surrounded by all manner of defilements. Butchers we are, that is true.
But butchers, also, and butchers of the bloodiest badge have been all
Martial Commanders whom the world invariably delights to honor. And as
for the matter of the alleged uncleanliness of our business, ye shall soon
be initiated into certain facts hitherto pretty generally unknown, and
which, upon the whole, will triumphantly plant the sperm whale-ship at
least among the cleanliest things of this tidy earth. But even granting
the charge in question to be true; what disordered slippery decks of a
whale-ship are comparable to the unspeakable carrion of those
battle-fields from which so many soldiers return to drink in all ladies’
plaudits? And if the idea of peril so much enhances the popular conceit of
the soldier’s profession; let me assure ye that many a veteran who has
freely marched up to a battery, would quickly recoil at the apparition of
the sperm whale’s vast tail, fanning into eddies the air over his head.
For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with the
interlinked terrors and wonders of God!

But, though the world scouts at us whale hunters, yet does it unwittingly
pay us the profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding adoration! for almost
all the tapers, lamps, and candles that burn round the globe, burn, as
before so many shrines, to our glory!

But look at this matter in other lights; weigh it in all sorts of scales;
see what we whalemen are, and have been.

Why did the Dutch in De Witt’s time have admirals of their whaling fleets?
Why did Louis XVI. of France, at his own personal expense, fit out whaling
ships from Dunkirk, and politely invite to that town some score or two of
families from our own island of Nantucket? Why did Britain between the
years 1750 and 1788 pay to her whalemen in bounties upwards of £1,000,000?
And lastly, how comes it that we whalemen of America now outnumber all the
rest of the banded whalemen in the world; sail a navy of upwards of seven
hundred vessels; manned by eighteen thousand men; yearly consuming
4,000,000 of dollars; the ships worth, at the time of sailing,
$20,000,000! and every year importing into our harbors a well reaped
harvest of $7,000,000. How comes all this, if there be not something
puissant in whaling?

But this is not the half; look again.

I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosopher cannot, for his life,
point out one single peaceful influence, which within the last sixty years
has operated more potentially upon the whole broad world, taken in one
aggregate, than the high and mighty business of whaling. One way and
another, it has begotten events so remarkable in themselves, and so
continuously momentous in their sequential issues, that whaling may well
be regarded as that Egyptian mother, who bore offspring themselves
pregnant from her womb. It would be a hopeless, endless task to catalogue
all these things. Let a handful suffice. For many years past the
whale-ship has been the pioneer in ferreting out the remotest and least
known parts of the earth. She has explored seas and archipelagoes which
had no chart, where no Cook or Vancouver had ever sailed. If American and
European men-of-war now peacefully ride in once savage harbors, let them
fire salutes to the honor and glory of the whale-ship, which originally
showed them the way, and first interpreted between them and the savages.
They may celebrate as they will the heroes of Exploring Expeditions, your
Cooks, your Krusensterns; but I say that scores of anonymous Captains have
sailed out of Nantucket, that were as great, and greater than your Cook
and your Krusenstern. For in their succourless empty-handedness, they, in
the heathenish sharked waters, and by the beaches of unrecorded, javelin
islands, battled with virgin wonders and terrors that Cook with all his
marines and muskets would not willingly have dared. All that is made such
a flourish of in the old South Sea Voyages, those things were but the
life-time commonplaces of our heroic Nantucketers. Often, adventures which
Vancouver dedicates three chapters to, these men accounted unworthy of
being set down in the ship’s common log. Ah, the world! Oh, the world!

Until the whale fishery rounded Cape Horn, no commerce but colonial,
scarcely any intercourse but colonial, was carried on between Europe and
the long line of the opulent Spanish provinces on the Pacific coast. It
was the whaleman who first broke through the jealous policy of the Spanish
crown, touching those colonies; and, if space permitted, it might be
distinctly shown how from those whalemen at last eventuated the liberation
of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the yoke of Old Spain, and the
establishment of the eternal democracy in those parts.

That great America on the other side of the sphere, Australia, was given
to the enlightened world by the whaleman. After its first blunder-born
discovery by a Dutchman, all other ships long shunned those shores as
pestiferously barbarous; but the whale-ship touched there. The whale-ship
is the true mother of that now mighty colony. Moreover, in the infancy of
the first Australian settlement, the emigrants were several times saved
from starvation by the benevolent biscuit of the whale-ship luckily
dropping an anchor in their waters. The uncounted isles of all Polynesia
confess the same truth, and do commercial homage to the whale-ship, that
cleared the way for the missionary and the merchant, and in many cases
carried the primitive missionaries to their first destinations. If that
double-bolted land, Japan, is ever to become hospitable, it is the
whale-ship alone to whom the credit will be due; for already she is on the

But if, in the face of all this, you still declare that whaling has no
æsthetically noble associations connected with it, then am I ready to
shiver fifty lances with you there, and unhorse you with a split helmet
every time.

The whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler, you will

The whale no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler? Who wrote
the first account of our Leviathan? Who but mighty Job! And who composed
the first narrative of a whaling-voyage? Who, but no less a prince than
Alfred the Great, who, with his own royal pen, took down the words from
Other, the Norwegian whale-hunter of those times! And who pronounced our
glowing eulogy in Parliament? Who, but Edmund Burke!

True enough, but then whalemen themselves are poor devils; they have no
good blood in their veins.

No good blood in their veins? They have something better than royal blood
there. The grandmother of Benjamin Franklin was Mary Morrel; afterwards,
by marriage, Mary Folger, one of the old settlers of Nantucket, and the
ancestress to a long line of Folgers and harpooneers—all kith and
kin to noble Benjamin—this day darting the barbed iron from one side
of the world to the other.

Good again; but then all confess that somehow whaling is not respectable.

Whaling not respectable? Whaling is imperial! By old English statutory
law, the whale is declared “a royal fish.” *

Oh, that’s only nominal! The whale himself has never figured in any grand
imposing way.

The whale never figured in any grand imposing way? In one of the mighty
triumphs given to a Roman general upon his entering the world’s capital,
the bones of a whale, brought all the way from the Syrian coast, were the
most conspicuous object in the cymballed procession.*

*See subsequent chapters for something more on this head.

Grant it, since you cite it; but, say what you will, there is no real
dignity in whaling.

No dignity in whaling? The dignity of our calling the very heavens attest.
Cetus is a constellation in the South! No more! Drive down your hat in
presence of the Czar, and take it off to Queequeg! No more! I know a man
that, in his lifetime, has taken three hundred and fifty whales. I account
that man more honorable than that great captain of antiquity who boasted
of taking as many walled towns.

And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet undiscovered
prime thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small
but high hushed world which I might not be unreasonably ambitious of; if
hereafter I shall do anything that, upon the whole, a man might rather
have done than to have left undone; if, at my death, my executors, or more
properly my creditors, find any precious MSS. in my desk, then here I
prospectively ascribe all the honor and the glory to whaling; for a
whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.

CHAPTER 25. Postscript.

In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught but
substantiated facts. But after embattling his facts, an advocate who
should wholly suppress a not unreasonable surmise, which might tell
eloquently upon his cause—such an advocate, would he not be

It is well known that at the coronation of kings and queens, even modern
ones, a certain curious process of seasoning them for their functions is
gone through. There is a saltcellar of state, so called, and there may be
a castor of state. How they use the salt, precisely—who knows?
Certain I am, however, that a king’s head is solemnly oiled at his
coronation, even as a head of salad. Can it be, though, that they anoint
it with a view of making its interior run well, as they anoint machinery?
Much might be ruminated here, concerning the essential dignity of this
regal process, because in common life we esteem but meanly and
contemptibly a fellow who anoints his hair, and palpably smells of that
anointing. In truth, a mature man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally,
that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere. As a general
rule, he can’t amount to much in his totality.

But the only thing to be considered here, is this—what kind of oil
is used at coronations? Certainly it cannot be olive oil, nor macassar
oil, nor castor oil, nor bear’s oil, nor train oil, nor cod-liver oil.
What then can it possibly be, but sperm oil in its unmanufactured,
unpolluted state, the sweetest of all oils?

Think of that, ye loyal Britons! we whalemen supply your kings and queens
with coronation stuff!

CHAPTER 26. Knights and Squires.

The chief mate of the Pequod was Starbuck, a native of Nantucket, and a
Quaker by descent. He was a long, earnest man, and though born on an icy
coast, seemed well adapted to endure hot latitudes, his flesh being hard
as twice-baked biscuit. Transported to the Indies, his live blood would
not spoil like bottled ale. He must have been born in some time of general
drought and famine, or upon one of those fast days for which his state is
famous. Only some thirty arid summers had he seen; those summers had dried
up all his physical superfluousness. But this, his thinness, so to speak,
seemed no more the token of wasting anxieties and cares, than it seemed
the indication of any bodily blight. It was merely the condensation of the
man. He was by no means ill-looking; quite the contrary. His pure tight
skin was an excellent fit; and closely wrapped up in it, and embalmed with
inner health and strength, like a revivified Egyptian, this Starbuck
seemed prepared to endure for long ages to come, and to endure always, as
now; for be it Polar snow or torrid sun, like a patent chronometer, his
interior vitality was warranted to do well in all climates. Looking into
his eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering images of those
thousand-fold perils he had calmly confronted through life. A staid,
steadfast man, whose life for the most part was a telling pantomime of
action, and not a tame chapter of sounds. Yet, for all his hardy sobriety
and fortitude, there were certain qualities in him which at times
affected, and in some cases seemed well nigh to overbalance all the rest.
Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep natural
reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly
incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in
some organizations seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than
from ignorance. Outward portents and inward presentiments were his. And if
at times these things bent the welded iron of his soul, much more did his
far-away domestic memories of his young Cape wife and child, tend to bend
him still more from the original ruggedness of his nature, and open him
still further to those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted
men, restrain the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in
the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. “I will have no man in my
boat,” said Starbuck, “who is not afraid of a whale.” By this, he seemed
to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which
arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an
utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.

“Aye, aye,” said Stubb, the second mate, “Starbuck, there, is as careful a
man as you’ll find anywhere in this fishery.” But we shall ere long see
what that word “careful” precisely means when used by a man like Stubb, or
almost any other whale hunter.

Starbuck was no crusader after perils; in him courage was not a sentiment;
but a thing simply useful to him, and always at hand upon all mortally
practical occasions. Besides, he thought, perhaps, that in this business
of whaling, courage was one of the great staple outfits of the ship, like
her beef and her bread, and not to be foolishly wasted. Wherefore he had
no fancy for lowering for whales after sun-down; nor for persisting in
fighting a fish that too much persisted in fighting him. For, thought
Starbuck, I am here in this critical ocean to kill whales for my living,
and not to be killed by them for theirs; and that hundreds of men had been
so killed Starbuck well knew. What doom was his own father’s? Where, in
the bottomless deeps, could he find the torn limbs of his brother?

With memories like these in him, and, moreover, given to a certain
superstitiousness, as has been said; the courage of this Starbuck which
could, nevertheless, still flourish, must indeed have been extreme. But it
was not in reasonable nature that a man so organized, and with such
terrible experiences and remembrances as he had; it was not in nature that
these things should fail in latently engendering an element in him, which,
under suitable circumstances, would break out from its confinement, and
burn all his courage up. And brave as he might be, it was that sort of
bravery chiefly, visible in some intrepid men, which, while generally
abiding firm in the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the
ordinary irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those more
terrific, because more spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace you from
the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man.

But were the coming narrative to reveal in any instance, the complete
abasement of poor Starbuck’s fortitude, scarce might I have the heart to
write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to expose the
fall of valour in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint
stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be;
men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal, is so noble and
so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious
blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes.
That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, so far within us, that
it remains intact though all the outer character seem gone; bleeds with
keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor-ruined man. Nor can
piety itself, at such a shameful sight, completely stifle her upbraidings
against the permitting stars. But this august dignity I treat of, is not
the dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no
robed investiture. Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields a pick
or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands, radiates
without end from God; Himself! The great God absolute! The centre and
circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our divine equality!

If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and castaways, I shall
hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave round them tragic
graces; if even the most mournful, perchance the most abased, among them
all, shall at times lift himself to the exalted mounts; if I shall touch
that workman’s arm with some ethereal light; if I shall spread a rainbow
over his disastrous set of sun; then against all mortal critics bear me
out in it, thou just Spirit of Equality, which hast spread one royal
mantle of humanity over all my kind! Bear me out in it, thou great
democratic God! who didst not refuse to the swart convict, Bunyan, the
pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of
finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old Cervantes; Thou who didst
pick up Andrew Jackson from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a
war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all
Thy mighty, earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from
the kingly commons; bear me out in it, O God!

CHAPTER 27. Knights and Squires.

Stubb was the second mate. He was a native of Cape Cod; and hence,
according to local usage, was called a Cape-Cod-man. A happy-go-lucky;
neither craven nor valiant; taking perils as they came with an indifferent
air; and while engaged in the most imminent crisis of the chase, toiling
away, calm and collected as a journeyman joiner engaged for the year.
Good-humored, easy, and careless, he presided over his whale-boat as if
the most deadly encounter were but a dinner, and his crew all invited
guests. He was as particular about the comfortable arrangement of his part
of the boat, as an old stage-driver is about the snugness of his box. When
close to the whale, in the very death-lock of the fight, he handled his
unpitying lance coolly and off-handedly, as a whistling tinker his hammer.
He would hum over his old rigadig tunes while flank and flank with the
most exasperated monster. Long usage had, for this Stubb, converted the
jaws of death into an easy chair. What he thought of death itself, there
is no telling. Whether he ever thought of it at all, might be a question;
but, if he ever did chance to cast his mind that way after a comfortable
dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor, he took it to be a sort of call of
the watch to tumble aloft, and bestir themselves there, about something
which he would find out when he obeyed the order, and not sooner.

What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going, unfearing
man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a world full of
grave pedlars, all bowed to the ground with their packs; what helped to
bring about that almost impious good-humor of his; that thing must have
been his pipe. For, like his nose, his short, black little pipe was one of
the regular features of his face. You would almost as soon have expected
him to turn out of his bunk without his nose as without his pipe. He kept
a whole row of pipes there ready loaded, stuck in a rack, within easy
reach of his hand; and, whenever he turned in, he smoked them all out in
succession, lighting one from the other to the end of the chapter; then
loading them again to be in readiness anew. For, when Stubb dressed,
instead of first putting his legs into his trowsers, he put his pipe into
his mouth.

I say this continual smoking must have been one cause, at least, of his
peculiar disposition; for every one knows that this earthly air, whether
ashore or afloat, is terribly infected with the nameless miseries of the
numberless mortals who have died exhaling it; and as in time of the
cholera, some people go about with a camphorated handkerchief to their
mouths; so, likewise, against all mortal tribulations, Stubb’s tobacco
smoke might have operated as a sort of disinfecting agent.

The third mate was Flask, a native of Tisbury, in Martha’s Vineyard. A
short, stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning whales, who
somehow seemed to think that the great leviathans had personally and
hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of honor
with him, to destroy them whenever encountered. So utterly lost was he to
all sense of reverence for the many marvels of their majestic bulk and
mystic ways; and so dead to anything like an apprehension of any possible
danger from encountering them; that in his poor opinion, the wondrous
whale was but a species of magnified mouse, or at least water-rat,
requiring only a little circumvention and some small application of time
and trouble in order to kill and boil. This ignorant, unconscious
fearlessness of his made him a little waggish in the matter of whales; he
followed these fish for the fun of it; and a three years’ voyage round
Cape Horn was only a jolly joke that lasted that length of time. As a
carpenter’s nails are divided into wrought nails and cut nails; so mankind
may be similarly divided. Little Flask was one of the wrought ones; made
to clinch tight and last long. They called him King-Post on board of the
Pequod; because, in form, he could be well likened to the short, square
timber known by that name in Arctic whalers; and which by the means of
many radiating side timbers inserted into it, serves to brace the ship
against the icy concussions of those battering seas.

Now these three mates—Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were momentous
men. They it was who by universal prescription commanded three of the
Pequod’s boats as headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which Captain
Ahab would probably marshal his forces to descend on the whales, these
three headsmen were as captains of companies. Or, being armed with their
long keen whaling spears, they were as a picked trio of lancers; even as
the harpooneers were flingers of javelins.

And since in this famous fishery, each mate or headsman, like a Gothic
Knight of old, is always accompanied by his boat-steerer or harpooneer,
who in certain conjunctures provides him with a fresh lance, when the
former one has been badly twisted, or elbowed in the assault; and
moreover, as there generally subsists between the two, a close intimacy
and friendliness; it is therefore but meet, that in this place we set down
who the Pequod’s harpooneers were, and to what headsman each of them

First of all was Queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate, had selected for
his squire. But Queequeg is already known.

Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly
promontory of Martha’s Vineyard, where there still exists the last remnant
of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring island of
Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the fishery, they
usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers. Tashtego’s long, lean,
sable hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding eyes—for an
Indian, Oriental in their largeness, but Antarctic in their glittering
expression—all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor of the
unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest of the
great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests
of the main. But no longer snuffing in the trail of the wild beasts of the
woodland, Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great whales of the sea;
the unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the infallible arrow of
the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe snaky limbs, you would
almost have credited the superstitions of some of the earlier Puritans,
and half-believed this wild Indian to be a son of the Prince of the Powers
of the Air. Tashtego was Stubb the second mate’s squire.

Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black
negro-savage, with a lion-like tread—an Ahasuerus to behold.
Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the sailors
called them ring-bolts, and would talk of securing the top-sail halyards
to them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily shipped on board of a whaler,
lying in a lonely bay on his native coast. And never having been anywhere
in the world but in Africa, Nantucket, and the pagan harbors most
frequented by whalemen; and having now led for many years the bold life of
the fishery in the ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what manner of
men they shipped; Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues, and erect as a
giraffe, moved about the decks in all the pomp of six feet five in his
socks. There was a corporeal humility in looking up at him; and a white
man standing before him seemed a white flag come to beg truce of a
fortress. Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus Daggoo, was the
Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man beside him. As for the
residue of the Pequod’s company, be it said, that at the present day not
one in two of the many thousand men before the mast employed in the
American whale fishery, are Americans born, though pretty nearly all the
officers are. Herein it is the same with the American whale fishery as
with the American army and military and merchant navies, and the
engineering forces employed in the construction of the American Canals and
Railroads. The same, I say, because in all these cases the native American
liberally provides the brains, the rest of the world as generously
supplying the muscles. No small number of these whaling seamen belong to
the Azores, where the outward bound Nantucket whalers frequently touch to
augment their crews from the hardy peasants of those rocky shores. In like
manner, the Greenland whalers sailing out of Hull or London, put in at the
Shetland Islands, to receive the full complement of their crew. Upon the
passage homewards, they drop them there again. How it is, there is no
telling, but Islanders seem to make the best whalemen. They were nearly
all Islanders in the Pequod, Isolatoes too, I call such, not acknowledging
the common continent of men, but each Isolato living on a separate
continent of his own. Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these
Isolatoes were! An Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the
sea, and all the ends of the earth, accompanying Old Ahab in the Pequod to
lay the world’s grievances before that bar from which not very many of
them ever come back. Black Little Pip—he never did—oh, no! he
went before. Poor Alabama boy! On the grim Pequod’s forecastle, ye shall
ere long see him, beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time,
when sent for, to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid strike in
with angels, and beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here,
hailed a hero there!

CHAPTER 28. Ahab.

For several days after leaving Nantucket, nothing above hatches was seen
of Captain Ahab. The mates regularly relieved each other at the watches,
and for aught that could be seen to the contrary, they seemed to be the
only commanders of the ship; only they sometimes issued from the cabin
with orders so sudden and peremptory, that after all it was plain they but
commanded vicariously. Yes, their supreme lord and dictator was there,
though hitherto unseen by any eyes not permitted to penetrate into the now
sacred retreat of the cabin.

Every time I ascended to the deck from my watches below, I instantly gazed
aft to mark if any strange face were visible; for my first vague
disquietude touching the unknown captain, now in the seclusion of the sea,
became almost a perturbation. This was strangely heightened at times by
the ragged Elijah’s diabolical incoherences uninvitedly recurring to me,
with a subtle energy I could not have before conceived of. But poorly
could I withstand them, much as in other moods I was almost ready to smile
at the solemn whimsicalities of that outlandish prophet of the wharves.
But whatever it was of apprehensiveness or uneasiness—to call it so—which
I felt, yet whenever I came to look about me in the ship, it seemed
against all warrantry to cherish such emotions. For though the
harpooneers, with the great body of the crew, were a far more barbaric,
heathenish, and motley set than any of the tame merchant-ship companies
which my previous experiences had made me acquainted with, still I
ascribed this—and rightly ascribed it—to the fierce uniqueness
of the very nature of that wild Scandinavian vocation in which I had so
abandonedly embarked. But it was especially the aspect of the three chief
officers of the ship, the mates, which was most forcibly calculated to
allay these colourless misgivings, and induce confidence and cheerfulness
in every presentment of the voyage. Three better, more likely sea-officers
and men, each in his own different way, could not readily be found, and
they were every one of them Americans; a Nantucketer, a Vineyarder, a Cape
man. Now, it being Christmas when the ship shot from out her harbor, for a
space we had biting Polar weather, though all the time running away from
it to the southward; and by every degree and minute of latitude which we
sailed, gradually leaving that merciless winter, and all its intolerable
weather behind us. It was one of those less lowering, but still grey and
gloomy enough mornings of the transition, when with a fair wind the ship
was rushing through the water with a vindictive sort of leaping and
melancholy rapidity, that as I mounted to the deck at the call of the
forenoon watch, so soon as I levelled my glance towards the taffrail,
foreboding shivers ran over me. Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab
stood upon his quarter-deck.

There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the
recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the
fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them, or
taking away one particle from their compacted aged robustness. His whole
high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an
unalterable mould, like Cellini’s cast Perseus. Threading its way out from
among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny
scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a
slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. It resembled that perpendicular
seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the
upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single
twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top to bottom, ere running off
into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded. Whether
that mark was born with him, or whether it was the scar left by some
desperate wound, no one could certainly say. By some tacit consent,
throughout the voyage little or no allusion was made to it, especially by
the mates. But once Tashtego’s senior, an old Gay-Head Indian among the
crew, superstitiously asserted that not till he was full forty years old
did Ahab become that way branded, and then it came upon him, not in the
fury of any mortal fray, but in an elemental strife at sea. Yet, this wild
hint seemed inferentially negatived, by what a grey Manxman insinuated, an
old sepulchral man, who, having never before sailed out of Nantucket, had
never ere this laid eye upon wild Ahab. Nevertheless, the old
sea-traditions, the immemorial credulities, popularly invested this old
Manxman with preternatural powers of discernment. So that no white sailor
seriously contradicted him when he said that if ever Captain Ahab should
be tranquilly laid out—which might hardly come to pass, so he
muttered—then, whoever should do that last office for the dead,
would find a birth-mark on him from crown to sole.

So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the livid
brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I hardly noted
that not a little of this overbearing grimness was owing to the barbaric
white leg upon which he partly stood. It had previously come to me that
this ivory leg had at sea been fashioned from the polished bone of the
sperm whale’s jaw. “Aye, he was dismasted off Japan,” said the old
Gay-Head Indian once; “but like his dismasted craft, he shipped another
mast without coming home for it. He has a quiver of ’em.”

I was struck with the singular posture he maintained. Upon each side of
the Pequod’s quarter deck, and pretty close to the mizzen shrouds, there
was an auger hole, bored about half an inch or so, into the plank. His
bone leg steadied in that hole; one arm elevated, and holding by a shroud;
Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out beyond the ship’s
ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a
determinate, unsurrenderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless,
forward dedication of that glance. Not a word he spoke; nor did his
officers say aught to him; though by all their minutest gestures and
expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy, if not painful, consciousness
of being under a troubled master-eye. And not only that, but moody
stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his face; in all the
nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.

Ere long, from his first visit in the air, he withdrew into his cabin. But
after that morning, he was every day visible to the crew; either standing
in his pivot-hole, or seated upon an ivory stool he had; or heavily
walking the deck. As the sky grew less gloomy; indeed, began to grow a
little genial, he became still less and less a recluse; as if, when the
ship had sailed from home, nothing but the dead wintry bleakness of the
sea had then kept him so secluded. And, by and by, it came to pass, that
he was almost continually in the air; but, as yet, for all that he said,
or perceptibly did, on the at last sunny deck, he seemed as unnecessary
there as another mast. But the Pequod was only making a passage now; not
regularly cruising; nearly all whaling preparatives needing supervision
the mates were fully competent to, so that there was little or nothing,
out of himself, to employ or excite Ahab, now; and thus chase away, for
that one interval, the clouds that layer upon layer were piled upon his
brow, as ever all clouds choose the loftiest peaks to pile themselves

Nevertheless, ere long, the warm, warbling persuasiveness of the pleasant,
holiday weather we came to, seemed gradually to charm him from his mood.
For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May, trip home to
the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest, most
thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green sprouts, to
welcome such glad-hearted visitants; so Ahab did, in the end, a little
respond to the playful allurings of that girlish air. More than once did
he put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any other man, would
have soon flowered out in a smile.

CHAPTER 29. Enter Ahab; to Him, Stubb.

Some days elapsed, and ice and icebergs all astern, the Pequod now went
rolling through the bright Quito spring, which, at sea, almost perpetually
reigns on the threshold of the eternal August of the Tropic. The warmly
cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days, were as
crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up—flaked up, with
rose-water snow. The starred and stately nights seemed haughty dames in
jewelled velvets, nursing at home in lonely pride, the memory of their
absent conquering Earls, the golden helmeted suns! For sleeping man, ’twas
hard to choose between such winsome days and such seducing nights. But all
the witcheries of that unwaning weather did not merely lend new spells and
potencies to the outward world. Inward they turned upon the soul,
especially when the still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory shot her
crystals as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights. And all these
subtle agencies, more and more they wrought on Ahab’s texture.

Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less
man has to do with aught that looks like death. Among sea-commanders, the
old greybeards will oftenest leave their berths to visit the night-cloaked
deck. It was so with Ahab; only that now, of late, he seemed so much to
live in the open air, that truly speaking, his visits were more to the
cabin, than from the cabin to the planks. “It feels like going down into
one’s tomb,”—he would mutter to himself—“for an old captain
like me to be descending this narrow scuttle, to go to my grave-dug

So, almost every twenty-four hours, when the watches of the night were
set, and the band on deck sentinelled the slumbers of the band below; and
when if a rope was to be hauled upon the forecastle, the sailors flung it
not rudely down, as by day, but with some cautiousness dropt it to its
place for fear of disturbing their slumbering shipmates; when this sort of
steady quietude would begin to prevail, habitually, the silent steersman
would watch the cabin-scuttle; and ere long the old man would emerge,
gripping at the iron banister, to help his crippled way. Some considering
touch of humanity was in him; for at times like these, he usually
abstained from patrolling the quarter-deck; because to his wearied mates,
seeking repose within six inches of his ivory heel, such would have been
the reverberating crack and din of that bony step, that their dreams would
have been on the crunching teeth of sharks. But once, the mood was on him
too deep for common regardings; and as with heavy, lumber-like pace he was
measuring the ship from taffrail to mainmast, Stubb, the old second mate,
came up from below, with a certain unassured, deprecating humorousness,
hinted that if Captain Ahab was pleased to walk the planks, then, no one
could say nay; but there might be some way of muffling the noise; hinting
something indistinctly and hesitatingly about a globe of tow, and the
insertion into it, of the ivory heel. Ah! Stubb, thou didst not know Ahab

“Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb,” said Ahab, “that thou wouldst wad me that
fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot. Below to thy nightly grave; where
such as ye sleep between shrouds, to use ye to the filling one at last.—Down,
dog, and kennel!”

Starting at the unforseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly
scornful old man, Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly, “I
am not used to be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half like
it, sir.”

“Avast! gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving away, as
if to avoid some passionate temptation.

“No, sir; not yet,” said Stubb, emboldened, “I will not tamely be called a
dog, sir.”

“Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and begone, or
I’ll clear the world of thee!”

As he said this, Ahab advanced upon him with such overbearing terrors in
his aspect, that Stubb involuntarily retreated.

“I was never served so before without giving a hard blow for it,” muttered
Stubb, as he found himself descending the cabin-scuttle. “It’s very queer.
Stop, Stubb; somehow, now, I don’t well know whether to go back and strike
him, or—what’s that?—down here on my knees and pray for him?
Yes, that was the thought coming up in me; but it would be the first time
I ever did pray. It’s queer; very queer; and he’s queer too; aye, take him
fore and aft, he’s about the queerest old man Stubb ever sailed with. How
he flashed at me!—his eyes like powder-pans! is he mad? Anyway
there’s something on his mind, as sure as there must be something on a
deck when it cracks. He aint in his bed now, either, more than three hours
out of the twenty-four; and he don’t sleep then. Didn’t that Dough-Boy,
the steward, tell me that of a morning he always finds the old man’s
hammock clothes all rumpled and tumbled, and the sheets down at the foot,
and the coverlid almost tied into knots, and the pillow a sort of
frightful hot, as though a baked brick had been on it? A hot old man! I
guess he’s got what some folks ashore call a conscience; it’s a kind of
Tic-Dolly-row they say—worse nor a toothache. Well, well; I don’t
know what it is, but the Lord keep me from catching it. He’s full of
riddles; I wonder what he goes into the after hold for, every night, as
Dough-Boy tells me he suspects; what’s that for, I should like to know?
Who’s made appointments with him in the hold? Ain’t that queer, now? But
there’s no telling, it’s the old game—Here goes for a snooze. Damn
me, it’s worth a fellow’s while to be born into the world, if only to fall
right asleep. And now that I think of it, that’s about the first thing
babies do, and that’s a sort of queer, too. Damn me, but all things are
queer, come to think of ’em. But that’s against my principles. Think not,
is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth—So
here goes again. But how’s that? didn’t he call me a dog? blazes! he
called me ten times a donkey, and piled a lot of jackasses on top of that!
He might as well have kicked me, and done with it. Maybe he did kick me,
and I didn’t observe it, I was so taken all aback with his brow, somehow.
It flashed like a bleached bone. What the devil’s the matter with me? I
don’t stand right on my legs. Coming afoul of that old man has a sort of
turned me wrong side out. By the Lord, I must have been dreaming, though—How?
how? how?—but the only way’s to stash it; so here goes to hammock
again; and in the morning, I’ll see how this plaguey juggling thinks over
by daylight.”

CHAPTER 30. The Pipe.

When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the bulwarks;
and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a sailor of the
watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also his pipe. Lighting
the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the stool on the weather side
of the deck, he sat and smoked.

In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were
fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could one
look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking him
of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of the
sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.

Some moments passed, during which the thick vapor came from his mouth in
quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face. “How now,”
he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, “this smoking no longer
soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be gone! Here
have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring—aye, and
ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with such
nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the
strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe?
This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors
among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I’ll
smoke no more—”

He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed in the
waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking pipe made.
With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly paced the planks.

CHAPTER 31. Queen Mab.

Next morning Stubb accosted Flask.

“Such a queer dream, King-Post, I never had. You know the old man’s ivory
leg, well I dreamed he kicked me with it; and when I tried to kick back,
upon my soul, my little man, I kicked my leg right off! And then, presto!
Ahab seemed a pyramid, and I, like a blazing fool, kept kicking at it. But
what was still more curious, Flask—you know how curious all dreams
are—through all this rage that I was in, I somehow seemed to be
thinking to myself, that after all, it was not much of an insult, that
kick from Ahab. ‘Why,’ thinks I, ‘what’s the row? It’s not a real leg,
only a false leg.’ And there’s a mighty difference between a living thump
and a dead thump. That’s what makes a blow from the hand, Flask, fifty
times more savage to bear than a blow from a cane. The living member—that
makes the living insult, my little man. And thinks I to myself all the
while, mind, while I was stubbing my silly toes against that cursed
pyramid—so confoundedly contradictory was it all, all the while, I
say, I was thinking to myself, ‘what’s his leg now, but a cane—a
whalebone cane. Yes,’ thinks I, ‘it was only a playful cudgelling—in
fact, only a whaleboning that he gave me—not a base kick. Besides,’
thinks I, ‘look at it once; why, the end of it—the foot part—what
a small sort of end it is; whereas, if a broad footed farmer kicked me,
there’s a devilish broad insult. But this insult is whittled down to a
point only.’ But now comes the greatest joke of the dream, Flask. While I
was battering away at the pyramid, a sort of badger-haired old merman,
with a hump on his back, takes me by the shoulders, and slews me round.
‘What are you ’bout?’ says he. Slid! man, but I was frightened. Such a
phiz! But, somehow, next moment I was over the fright. ‘What am I about?’
says I at last. ‘And what business is that of yours, I should like to
know, Mr. Humpback? Do you want a kick?’ By the lord, Flask, I had no
sooner said that, than he turned round his stern to me, bent over, and
dragging up a lot of seaweed he had for a clout—what do you think, I
saw?—why thunder alive, man, his stern was stuck full of
marlinspikes, with the points out. Says I, on second thoughts, ‘I guess I
won’t kick you, old fellow.’ ‘Wise Stubb,’ said he, ‘wise Stubb;’ and kept
muttering it all the time, a sort of eating of his own gums like a chimney
hag. Seeing he wasn’t going to stop saying over his ‘wise Stubb, wise
Stubb,’ I thought I might as well fall to kicking the pyramid again. But I
had only just lifted my foot for it, when he roared out, ‘Stop that
kicking!’ ‘Halloa,’ says I, ‘what’s the matter now, old fellow?’ ‘Look ye
here,’ says he; ‘let’s argue the insult. Captain Ahab kicked ye, didn’t
he?’ ‘Yes, he did,’ says I—‘right here it was.’ ‘Very good,’ says he—‘he
used his ivory leg, didn’t he?’ ‘Yes, he did,’ says I. ‘Well then,’ says
he, ‘wise Stubb, what have you to complain of? Didn’t he kick with right
good will? it wasn’t a common pitch pine leg he kicked with, was it? No,
you were kicked by a great man, and with a beautiful ivory leg, Stubb.
It’s an honor; I consider it an honor. Listen, wise Stubb. In old
England the greatest lords think it great glory to be slapped by a queen,
and made garter-knights of; but, be your boast, Stubb, that ye were kicked
by old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say; be kicked by
him; account his kicks honors; and on no account kick back; for you can’t
help yourself, wise Stubb. Don’t you see that pyramid?’ With that, he all
of a sudden seemed somehow, in some queer fashion, to swim off into the
air. I snored; rolled over; and there I was in my hammock! Now, what do
you think of that dream, Flask?”

“I don’t know; it seems a sort of foolish to me, tho.’”

“May be; may be. But it’s made a wise man of me, Flask. D’ye see Ahab
standing there, sideways looking over the stern? Well, the best thing you
can do, Flask, is to let the old man alone; never speak to him, whatever
he says. Halloa! What’s that he shouts? Hark!”

“Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales hereabouts!

“If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him!

“What do you think of that now, Flask? ain’t there a small drop of
something queer about that, eh? A white whale—did ye mark that, man?
Look ye—there’s something special in the wind. Stand by for it,
Flask. Ahab has that that’s bloody on his mind. But, mum; he comes this

CHAPTER 32. Cetology.

Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost in
its unshored, harbourless immensities. Ere that come to pass; ere the
Pequod’s weedy hull rolls side by side with the barnacled hulls of the
leviathan; at the outset it is but well to attend to a matter almost
indispensable to a thorough appreciative understanding of the more special
leviathanic revelations and allusions of all sorts which are to follow.

It is some systematized exhibition of the whale in his broad genera, that
I would now fain put before you. Yet is it no easy task. The
classification of the constituents of a chaos, nothing less is here
essayed. Listen to what the best and latest authorities have laid down.

“No branch of Zoology is so much involved as that which is entitled
Cetology,” says Captain Scoresby, A.D. 1820.

“It is not my intention, were it in my power, to enter into the inquiry as
to the true method of dividing the cetacea into groups and families. * * *
Utter confusion exists among the historians of this animal” (sperm whale),
says Surgeon Beale, A.D. 1839.

“Unfitness to pursue our research in the unfathomable waters.”
“Impenetrable veil covering our knowledge of the cetacea.” “A field strewn
with thorns.” “All these incomplete indications but serve to torture us

Thus speak of the whale, the great Cuvier, and John Hunter, and Lesson,
those lights of zoology and anatomy. Nevertheless, though of real
knowledge there be little, yet of books there are a plenty; and so in some
small degree, with cetology, or the science of whales. Many are the men,
small and great, old and new, landsmen and seamen, who have at large or in
little, written of the whale. Run over a few:—The Authors of the
Bible; Aristotle; Pliny; Aldrovandi; Sir Thomas Browne; Gesner; Ray;
Linnæus; Rondeletius; Willoughby; Green; Artedi; Sibbald; Brisson;
Marten; Lacépède; Bonneterre; Desmarest; Baron Cuvier; Frederick Cuvier;
John Hunter; Owen; Scoresby; Beale; Bennett; J. Ross Browne; the Author of
Miriam Coffin; Olmstead; and the Rev. T. Cheever. But to what ultimate
generalizing purpose all these have written, the above cited extracts will

Of the names in this list of whale authors, only those following Owen ever
saw living whales; and but one of them was a real professional harpooneer
and whaleman. I mean Captain Scoresby. On the separate subject of the
Greenland or right-whale, he is the best existing authority. But Scoresby
knew nothing and says nothing of the great sperm whale, compared with
which the Greenland whale is almost unworthy mentioning. And here be it
said, that the Greenland whale is an usurper upon the throne of the seas.
He is not even by any means the largest of the whales. Yet, owing to the
long priority of his claims, and the profound ignorance which, till some
seventy years back, invested the then fabulous or utterly unknown
sperm-whale, and which ignorance to this present day still reigns in all
but some few scientific retreats and whale-ports; this usurpation has been
every way complete. Reference to nearly all the leviathanic allusions in
the great poets of past days, will satisfy you that the Greenland whale,
without one rival, was to them the monarch of the seas. But the time has
at last come for a new proclamation. This is Charing Cross; hear ye! good
people all,—the Greenland whale is deposed,—the great sperm
whale now reigneth!

There are only two books in being which at all pretend to put the living
sperm whale before you, and at the same time, in the remotest degree
succeed in the attempt. Those books are Beale’s and Bennett’s; both in
their time surgeons to English South-Sea whale-ships, and both exact and
reliable men. The original matter touching the sperm whale to be found in
their volumes is necessarily small; but so far as it goes, it is of
excellent quality, though mostly confined to scientific description. As
yet, however, the sperm whale, scientific or poetic, lives not complete in
any literature. Far above all other hunted whales, his is an unwritten

Now the various species of whales need some sort of popular comprehensive
classification, if only an easy outline one for the present, hereafter to
be filled in all its departments by subsequent laborers. As no better man
advances to take this matter in hand, I hereupon offer my own poor
endeavors. I promise nothing complete; because any human thing supposed to
be complete, must for that very reason infallibly be faulty. I shall not
pretend to a minute anatomical description of the various species, or—in
this place at least—to much of any description. My object here is
simply to project the draught of a systematization of cetology. I am the
architect, not the builder.

But it is a ponderous task; no ordinary letter-sorter in the Post-Office
is equal to it. To grope down into the bottom of the sea after them; to
have one’s hands among the unspeakable foundations, ribs, and very pelvis
of the world; this is a fearful thing. What am I that I should essay to
hook the nose of this leviathan! The awful tauntings in Job might well
appal me. Will he (the leviathan) make a covenant with thee? Behold the
hope of him is vain! But I have swam through libraries and sailed through
oceans; I have had to do with whales with these visible hands; I am in
earnest; and I will try. There are some preliminaries to settle.

First: The uncertain, unsettled condition of this science of Cetology is
in the very vestibule attested by the fact, that in some quarters it still
remains a moot point whether a whale be a fish. In his System of Nature,
A.D. 1776, Linnæus declares, “I hereby separate the whales from the
fish.” But of my own knowledge, I know that down to the year 1850, sharks
and shad, alewives and herring, against Linnæus’s express edict, were
still found dividing the possession of the same seas with the Leviathan.

The grounds upon which Linnæus would fain have banished the whales from
the waters, he states as follows: “On account of their warm bilocular
heart, their lungs, their movable eyelids, their hollow ears, penem
intrantem feminam mammis lactantem,” and finally, “ex lege naturæ jure
meritoque.” I submitted all this to my friends Simeon Macey and Charley
Coffin, of Nantucket, both messmates of mine in a certain voyage, and they
united in the opinion that the reasons set forth were altogether
insufficient. Charley profanely hinted they were humbug.

Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old fashioned
ground that the whale is a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me. This
fundamental thing settled, the next point is, in what internal respect
does the whale differ from other fish. Above, Linnæus has given you those
items. But in brief, they are these: lungs and warm blood; whereas, all
other fish are lungless and cold blooded.

Next: how shall we define the whale, by his obvious externals, so as
conspicuously to label him for all time to come? To be short, then, a
whale is a spouting fish with a horizontal tail. There you have him.
However contracted, that definition is the result of expanded meditation.
A walrus spouts much like a whale, but the walrus is not a fish, because
he is amphibious. But the last term of the definition is still more
cogent, as coupled with the first. Almost any one must have noticed that
all the fish familiar to landsmen have not a flat, but a vertical, or
up-and-down tail. Whereas, among spouting fish the tail, though it may be
similarly shaped, invariably assumes a horizontal position.

By the above definition of what a whale is, I do by no means exclude from
the leviathanic brotherhood any sea creature hitherto identified with the
whale by the best informed Nantucketers; nor, on the other hand, link with
it any fish hitherto authoritatively regarded as alien.* Hence, all the
smaller, spouting, and horizontal tailed fish must be included in this
ground-plan of Cetology. Now, then, come the grand divisions of the entire
whale host.

*I am aware that down to the present time, the fish styled Lamatins and
Dugongs (Pig-fish and Sow-fish of the Coffins of Nantucket) are included
by many naturalists among the whales. But as these pig-fish are a noisy,
contemptible set, mostly lurking in the mouths of rivers, and feeding on
wet hay, and especially as they do not spout, I deny their credentials as
whales; and have presented them with their passports to quit the Kingdom
of Cetology.

First: According to magnitude I divide the whales into three primary BOOKS
(subdivisible into CHAPTERS), and these shall comprehend them all, both
small and large.


As the type of the FOLIO I present the Sperm Whale; of the OCTAVO, the
Grampus; of the DUODECIMO, the Porpoise.

FOLIOS. Among these I here include the following chapters:—I. The
Sperm Whale; II. the Right Whale; III. the Fin-Back Whale; IV. the
Hump-backed Whale; V. the Razor Back Whale; VI. the Sulphur Bottom Whale.

BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER I. (Sperm Whale).—This whale, among the
English of old vaguely known as the Trumpa whale, and the Physeter whale,
and the Anvil Headed whale, is the present Cachalot of the French, and the
Pottsfich of the Germans, and the Macrocephalus of the Long Words. He is,
without doubt, the largest inhabitant of the globe; the most formidable of
all whales to encounter; the most majestic in aspect; and lastly, by far
the most valuable in commerce; he being the only creature from which that
valuable substance, spermaceti, is obtained. All his peculiarities will,
in many other places, be enlarged upon. It is chiefly with his name that I
now have to do. Philologically considered, it is absurd. Some centuries
ago, when the Sperm whale was almost wholly unknown in his own proper
individuality, and when his oil was only accidentally obtained from the
stranded fish; in those days spermaceti, it would seem, was popularly
supposed to be derived from a creature identical with the one then known
in England as the Greenland or Right Whale. It was the idea also, that
this same spermaceti was that quickening humor of the Greenland Whale
which the first syllable of the word literally expresses. In those times,
also, spermaceti was exceedingly scarce, not being used for light, but
only as an ointment and medicament. It was only to be had from the
druggists as you nowadays buy an ounce of rhubarb. When, as I opine, in
the course of time, the true nature of spermaceti became known, its
original name was still retained by the dealers; no doubt to enhance its
value by a notion so strangely significant of its scarcity. And so the
appellation must at last have come to be bestowed upon the whale from
which this spermaceti was really derived.

BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER II. (Right Whale).—In one respect this is
the most venerable of the leviathans, being the one first regularly hunted
by man. It yields the article commonly known as whalebone or baleen; and
the oil specially known as “whale oil,” an inferior article in commerce.
Among the fishermen, he is indiscriminately designated by all the
following titles: The Whale; the Greenland Whale; the Black Whale; the
Great Whale; the True Whale; the Right Whale. There is a deal of obscurity
concerning the identity of the species thus multitudinously baptised. What
then is the whale, which I include in the second species of my Folios? It
is the Great Mysticetus of the English naturalists; the Greenland Whale of
the English whalemen; the Baleine Ordinaire of the French whalemen; the
Growlands Walfish of the Swedes. It is the whale which for more than two
centuries past has been hunted by the Dutch and English in the Arctic
seas; it is the whale which the American fishermen have long pursued in
the Indian ocean, on the Brazil Banks, on the Nor’ West Coast, and various
other parts of the world, designated by them Right Whale Cruising Grounds.

Some pretend to see a difference between the Greenland whale of the
English and the right whale of the Americans. But they precisely agree in
all their grand features; nor has there yet been presented a single
determinate fact upon which to ground a radical distinction. It is by
endless subdivisions based upon the most inconclusive differences, that
some departments of natural history become so repellingly intricate. The
right whale will be elsewhere treated of at some length, with reference to
elucidating the sperm whale.

BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER III. (Fin-Back).—Under this head I reckon a
monster which, by the various names of Fin-Back, Tall-Spout, and
Long-John, has been seen almost in every sea and is commonly the whale
whose distant jet is so often descried by passengers crossing the
Atlantic, in the New York packet-tracks. In the length he attains, and in
his baleen, the Fin-back resembles the right whale, but is of a less
portly girth, and a lighter colour, approaching to olive. His great lips
present a cable-like aspect, formed by the intertwisting, slanting folds
of large wrinkles. His grand distinguishing feature, the fin, from which
he derives his name, is often a conspicuous object. This fin is some three
or four feet long, growing vertically from the hinder part of the back, of
an angular shape, and with a very sharp pointed end. Even if not the
slightest other part of the creature be visible, this isolated fin will,
at times, be seen plainly projecting from the surface. When the sea is
moderately calm, and slightly marked with spherical ripples, and this
gnomon-like fin stands up and casts shadows upon the wrinkled surface, it
may well be supposed that the watery circle surrounding it somewhat
resembles a dial, with its style and wavy hour-lines graved on it. On that
Ahaz-dial the shadow often goes back. The Fin-Back is not gregarious. He
seems a whale-hater, as some men are man-haters. Very shy; always going
solitary; unexpectedly rising to the surface in the remotest and most
sullen waters; his straight and single lofty jet rising like a tall
misanthropic spear upon a barren plain; gifted with such wondrous power
and velocity in swimming, as to defy all present pursuit from man; this
leviathan seems the banished and unconquerable Cain of his race, bearing
for his mark that style upon his back. From having the baleen in his
mouth, the Fin-Back is sometimes included with the right whale, among a
theoretic species denominated Whalebone whales, that is, whales with
baleen. Of these so called Whalebone whales, there would seem to be
several varieties, most of which, however, are little known. Broad-nosed
whales and beaked whales; pike-headed whales; bunched whales; under-jawed
whales and rostrated whales, are the fishermen’s names for a few sorts.

In connection with this appellative of “Whalebone whales,” it is of great
importance to mention, that however such a nomenclature may be convenient
in facilitating allusions to some kind of whales, yet it is in vain to
attempt a clear classification of the Leviathan, founded upon either his
baleen, or hump, or fin, or teeth; notwithstanding that those marked parts
or features very obviously seem better adapted to afford the basis for a
regular system of Cetology than any other detached bodily distinctions,
which the whale, in his kinds, presents. How then? The baleen, hump,
back-fin, and teeth; these are things whose peculiarities are
indiscriminately dispersed among all sorts of whales, without any regard
to what may be the nature of their structure in other and more essential
particulars. Thus, the sperm whale and the humpbacked whale, each has a
hump; but there the similitude ceases. Then, this same humpbacked whale
and the Greenland whale, each of these has baleen; but there again the
similitude ceases. And it is just the same with the other parts above
mentioned. In various sorts of whales, they form such irregular
combinations; or, in the case of any one of them detached, such an
irregular isolation; as utterly to defy all general methodization formed
upon such a basis. On this rock every one of the whale-naturalists has

But it may possibly be conceived that, in the internal parts of the whale,
in his anatomy—there, at least, we shall be able to hit the right
classification. Nay; what thing, for example, is there in the Greenland
whale’s anatomy more striking than his baleen? Yet we have seen that by
his baleen it is impossible correctly to classify the Greenland whale. And
if you descend into the bowels of the various leviathans, why there you
will not find distinctions a fiftieth part as available to the
systematizer as those external ones already enumerated. What then remains?
nothing but to take hold of the whales bodily, in their entire liberal
volume, and boldly sort them that way. And this is the Bibliographical
system here adopted; and it is the only one that can possibly succeed, for
it alone is practicable. To proceed.

BOOK I. (Folio) CHAPTER IV. (Hump Back).—This whale is often seen on
the northern American coast. He has been frequently captured there, and
towed into harbor. He has a great pack on him like a peddler; or you might
call him the Elephant and Castle whale. At any rate, the popular name for
him does not sufficiently distinguish him, since the sperm whale also has
a hump though a smaller one. His oil is not very valuable. He has baleen.
He is the most gamesome and light-hearted of all the whales, making more
gay foam and white water generally than any other of them.

BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER V. (Razor Back).—Of this whale little is
known but his name. I have seen him at a distance off Cape Horn. Of a
retiring nature, he eludes both hunters and philosophers. Though no
coward, he has never yet shown any part of him but his back, which rises
in a long sharp ridge. Let him go. I know little more of him, nor does
anybody else.

BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER VI. (Sulphur Bottom).—Another retiring
gentleman, with a brimstone belly, doubtless got by scraping along the
Tartarian tiles in some of his profounder divings. He is seldom seen; at
least I have never seen him except in the remoter southern seas, and then
always at too great a distance to study his countenance. He is never
chased; he would run away with rope-walks of line. Prodigies are told of
him. Adieu, Sulphur Bottom! I can say nothing more that is true of ye, nor
can the oldest Nantucketer.

Thus ends BOOK I. (Folio), and now begins BOOK II. (Octavo).

OCTAVOES.*—These embrace the whales of middling magnitude, among
which present may be numbered:—I., the Grampus; II., the Black Fish;
III., the Narwhale; IV., the Thrasher; V., the Killer.

*Why this book of whales is not denominated the Quarto is very plain.
Because, while the whales of this order, though smaller than those of the
former order, nevertheless retain a proportionate likeness to them in
figure, yet the bookbinder’s Quarto volume in its dimensioned form does
not preserve the shape of the Folio volume, but the Octavo volume does.

BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER I. (Grampus).—Though this fish, whose
loud sonorous breathing, or rather blowing, has furnished a proverb to
landsmen, is so well known a denizen of the deep, yet is he not popularly
classed among whales. But possessing all the grand distinctive features of
the leviathan, most naturalists have recognised him for one. He is of
moderate octavo size, varying from fifteen to twenty-five feet in length,
and of corresponding dimensions round the waist. He swims in herds; he is
never regularly hunted, though his oil is considerable in quantity, and
pretty good for light. By some fishermen his approach is regarded as
premonitory of the advance of the great sperm whale.

BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER II. (Black Fish).—I give the popular
fishermen’s names for all these fish, for generally they are the best.
Where any name happens to be vague or inexpressive, I shall say so, and
suggest another. I do so now, touching the Black Fish, so-called, because
blackness is the rule among almost all whales. So, call him the Hyena
Whale, if you please. His voracity is well known, and from the
circumstance that the inner angles of his lips are curved upwards, he
carries an everlasting Mephistophelean grin on his face. This whale
averages some sixteen or eighteen feet in length. He is found in almost
all latitudes. He has a peculiar way of showing his dorsal hooked fin in
swimming, which looks something like a Roman nose. When not more
profitably employed, the sperm whale hunters sometimes capture the Hyena
whale, to keep up the supply of cheap oil for domestic employment—as
some frugal housekeepers, in the absence of company, and quite alone by
themselves, burn unsavory tallow instead of odorous wax. Though their
blubber is very thin, some of these whales will yield you upwards of
thirty gallons of oil.

BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER III. (Narwhale), that is, Nostril whale.—Another
instance of a curiously named whale, so named I suppose from his peculiar
horn being originally mistaken for a peaked nose. The creature is some
sixteen feet in length, while its horn averages five feet, though some
exceed ten, and even attain to fifteen feet. Strictly speaking, this horn
is but a lengthened tusk, growing out from the jaw in a line a little
depressed from the horizontal. But it is only found on the sinister side,
which has an ill effect, giving its owner something analogous to the
aspect of a clumsy left-handed man. What precise purpose this ivory horn
or lance answers, it would be hard to say. It does not seem to be used
like the blade of the sword-fish and bill-fish; though some sailors tell
me that the Narwhale employs it for a rake in turning over the bottom of
the sea for food. Charley Coffin said it was used for an ice-piercer; for
the Narwhale, rising to the surface of the Polar Sea, and finding it
sheeted with ice, thrusts his horn up, and so breaks through. But you
cannot prove either of these surmises to be correct. My own opinion is,
that however this one-sided horn may really be used by the Narwhale—however
that may be—it would certainly be very convenient to him for a
folder in reading pamphlets. The Narwhale I have heard called the Tusked
whale, the Horned whale, and the Unicorn whale. He is certainly a curious
example of the Unicornism to be found in almost every kingdom of animated
nature. From certain cloistered old authors I have gathered that this same
sea-unicorn’s horn was in ancient days regarded as the great antidote
against poison, and as such, preparations of it brought immense prices. It
was also distilled to a volatile salts for fainting ladies, the same way
that the horns of the male deer are manufactured into hartshorn.
Originally it was in itself accounted an object of great curiosity. Black
Letter tells me that Sir Martin Frobisher on his return from that voyage,
when Queen Bess did gallantly wave her jewelled hand to him from a window
of Greenwich Palace, as his bold ship sailed down the Thames; “when Sir
Martin returned from that voyage,” saith Black Letter, “on bended knees he
presented to her highness a prodigious long horn of the Narwhale, which
for a long period after hung in the castle at Windsor.” An Irish author
avers that the Earl of Leicester, on bended knees, did likewise present to
her highness another horn, pertaining to a land beast of the unicorn

The Narwhale has a very picturesque, leopard-like look, being of a
milk-white ground colour, dotted with round and oblong spots of black. His
oil is very superior, clear and fine; but there is little of it, and he is
seldom hunted. He is mostly found in the circumpolar seas.

BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER IV. (Killer).—Of this whale little is
precisely known to the Nantucketer, and nothing at all to the professed
naturalist. From what I have seen of him at a distance, I should say that
he was about the bigness of a grampus. He is very savage—a sort of
Feegee fish. He sometimes takes the great Folio whales by the lip, and
hangs there like a leech, till the mighty brute is worried to death. The
Killer is never hunted. I never heard what sort of oil he has. Exception
might be taken to the name bestowed upon this whale, on the ground of its
indistinctness. For we are all killers, on land and on sea; Bonapartes and
Sharks included.

BOOK II. (Octavo), CHAPTER V. (Thrasher).—This gentleman is famous
for his tail, which he uses for a ferule in thrashing his foes. He mounts
the Folio whale’s back, and as he swims, he works his passage by flogging
him; as some schoolmasters get along in the world by a similar process.
Still less is known of the Thrasher than of the Killer. Both are outlaws,
even in the lawless seas.

Thus ends BOOK II. (Octavo), and begins BOOK III. (Duodecimo).

DUODECIMOES.—These include the smaller whales. I. The Huzza
Porpoise. II. The Algerine Porpoise. III. The Mealy-mouthed Porpoise.

To those who have not chanced specially to study the subject, it may
possibly seem strange, that fishes not commonly exceeding four or five
feet should be marshalled among WHALES—a word, which, in the popular
sense, always conveys an idea of hugeness. But the creatures set down
above as Duodecimoes are infallibly whales, by the terms of my definition
of what a whale is—i.e. a spouting fish, with a horizontal tail.

BOOK III. (Duodecimo), CHAPTER 1. (Huzza Porpoise).—This is the
common porpoise found almost all over the globe. The name is of my own
bestowal; for there are more than one sort of porpoises, and something
must be done to distinguish them. I call him thus, because he always swims
in hilarious shoals, which upon the broad sea keep tossing themselves to
heaven like caps in a Fourth-of-July crowd. Their appearance is generally
hailed with delight by the mariner. Full of fine spirits, they invariably
come from the breezy billows to windward. They are the lads that always
live before the wind. They are accounted a lucky omen. If you yourself can
withstand three cheers at beholding these vivacious fish, then heaven help
ye; the spirit of godly gamesomeness is not in ye. A well-fed, plump Huzza
Porpoise will yield you one good gallon of good oil. But the fine and
delicate fluid extracted from his jaws is exceedingly valuable. It is in
request among jewellers and watchmakers. Sailors put it on their hones.
Porpoise meat is good eating, you know. It may never have occurred to you
that a porpoise spouts. Indeed, his spout is so small that it is not very
readily discernible. But the next time you have a chance, watch him; and
you will then see the great Sperm whale himself in miniature.

BOOK III. (Duodecimo), CHAPTER II. (Algerine Porpoise).—A pirate.
Very savage. He is only found, I think, in the Pacific. He is somewhat
larger than the Huzza Porpoise, but much of the same general make. Provoke
him, and he will buckle to a shark. I have lowered for him many times, but
never yet saw him captured.

BOOK III. (Duodecimo), CHAPTER III. (Mealy-mouthed Porpoise).—The
largest kind of Porpoise; and only found in the Pacific, so far as it is
known. The only English name, by which he has hitherto been designated, is
that of the fishers—Right-Whale Porpoise, from the circumstance that
he is chiefly found in the vicinity of that Folio. In shape, he differs in
some degree from the Huzza Porpoise, being of a less rotund and jolly
girth; indeed, he is of quite a neat and gentleman-like figure. He has no
fins on his back (most other porpoises have), he has a lovely tail, and
sentimental Indian eyes of a hazel hue. But his mealy-mouth spoils all.
Though his entire back down to his side fins is of a deep sable, yet a
boundary line, distinct as the mark in a ship’s hull, called the “bright
waist,” that line streaks him from stem to stern, with two separate
colours, black above and white below. The white comprises part of his
head, and the whole of his mouth, which makes him look as if he had just
escaped from a felonious visit to a meal-bag. A most mean and mealy
aspect! His oil is much like that of the common porpoise.

* * * * * *

Beyond the DUODECIMO, this system does not proceed, inasmuch as the
Porpoise is the smallest of the whales. Above, you have all the Leviathans
of note. But there are a rabble of uncertain, fugitive, half-fabulous
whales, which, as an American whaleman, I know by reputation, but not
personally. I shall enumerate them by their fore-castle appellations; for
possibly such a list may be valuable to future investigators, who may
complete what I have here but begun. If any of the following whales, shall
hereafter be caught and marked, then he can readily be incorporated into
this System, according to his Folio, Octavo, or Duodecimo magnitude:—The
Bottle-Nose Whale; the Junk Whale; the Pudding-Headed Whale; the Cape
Whale; the Leading Whale; the Cannon Whale; the Scragg Whale; the Coppered
Whale; the Elephant Whale; the Iceberg Whale; the Quog Whale; the Blue
Whale; etc. From Icelandic, Dutch, and old English authorities, there
might be quoted other lists of uncertain whales, blessed with all manner
of uncouth names. But I omit them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly
help suspecting them for mere sounds, full of Leviathanism, but signifying

Finally: It was stated at the outset, that this system would not be here,
and at once, perfected. You cannot but plainly see that I have kept my
word. But I now leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even
as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing
upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished
by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone
to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book
is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time,
Strength, Cash, and Patience!

CHAPTER 33. The Specksnyder.

Concerning the officers of the whale-craft, this seems as good a place as
any to set down a little domestic peculiarity on ship-board, arising from
the existence of the harpooneer class of officers, a class unknown of
course in any other marine than the whale-fleet.

The large importance attached to the harpooneer’s vocation is evinced by
the fact, that originally in the old Dutch Fishery, two centuries and more
ago, the command of a whale ship was not wholly lodged in the person now
called the captain, but was divided between him and an officer called the
Specksnyder. Literally this word means Fat-Cutter; usage, however, in time
made it equivalent to Chief Harpooneer. In those days, the captain’s
authority was restricted to the navigation and general management of the
vessel; while over the whale-hunting department and all its concerns, the
Specksnyder or Chief Harpooneer reigned supreme. In the British Greenland
Fishery, under the corrupted title of Specksioneer, this old Dutch
official is still retained, but his former dignity is sadly abridged. At
present he ranks simply as senior Harpooneer; and as such, is but one of
the captain’s more inferior subalterns. Nevertheless, as upon the good
conduct of the harpooneers the success of a whaling voyage largely
depends, and since in the American Fishery he is not only an important
officer in the boat, but under certain circumstances (night watches on a
whaling ground) the command of the ship’s deck is also his; therefore the
grand political maxim of the sea demands, that he should nominally live
apart from the men before the mast, and be in some way distinguished as
their professional superior; though always, by them, familiarly regarded
as their social equal.

Now, the grand distinction drawn between officer and man at sea, is this—the
first lives aft, the last forward. Hence, in whale-ships and merchantmen
alike, the mates have their quarters with the captain; and so, too, in
most of the American whalers the harpooneers are lodged in the after part
of the ship. That is to say, they take their meals in the captain’s cabin,
and sleep in a place indirectly communicating with it.

Though the long period of a Southern whaling voyage (by far the longest of
all voyages now or ever made by man), the peculiar perils of it, and the
community of interest prevailing among a company, all of whom, high or
low, depend for their profits, not upon fixed wages, but upon their common
luck, together with their common vigilance, intrepidity, and hard work;
though all these things do in some cases tend to beget a less rigorous
discipline than in merchantmen generally; yet, never mind how much like an
old Mesopotamian family these whalemen may, in some primitive instances,
live together; for all that, the punctilious externals, at least, of the
quarter-deck are seldom materially relaxed, and in no instance done away.
Indeed, many are the Nantucket ships in which you will see the skipper
parading his quarter-deck with an elated grandeur not surpassed in any
military navy; nay, extorting almost as much outward homage as if he wore
the imperial purple, and not the shabbiest of pilot-cloth.

And though of all men the moody captain of the Pequod was the least given
to that sort of shallowest assumption; and though the only homage he ever
exacted, was implicit, instantaneous obedience; though he required no man
to remove the shoes from his feet ere stepping upon the quarter-deck; and
though there were times when, owing to peculiar circumstances connected
with events hereafter to be detailed, he addressed them in unusual terms,
whether of condescension or in terrorem, or otherwise; yet even Captain
Ahab was by no means unobservant of the paramount forms and usages of the

Nor, perhaps, will it fail to be eventually perceived, that behind those
forms and usages, as it were, he sometimes masked himself; incidentally
making use of them for other and more private ends than they were
legitimately intended to subserve. That certain sultanism of his brain,
which had otherwise in a good degree remained unmanifested; through those
forms that same sultanism became incarnate in an irresistible
dictatorship. For be a man’s intellectual superiority what it will, it can
never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without
the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in
themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that for ever keeps
God’s true princes of the Empire from the world’s hustings; and leaves the
highest honors that this air can give, to those men who become famous
more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of
the Divine Inert, than through their undoubted superiority over the dead
level of the mass. Such large virtue lurks in these small things when
extreme political superstitions invest them, that in some royal instances
even to idiot imbecility they have imparted potency. But when, as in the
case of Nicholas the Czar, the ringed crown of geographical empire
encircles an imperial brain; then, the plebeian herds crouch abased before
the tremendous centralization. Nor, will the tragic dramatist who would
depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest sweep and direct swing, ever
forget a hint, incidentally so important in his art, as the one now
alluded to.

But Ahab, my Captain, still moves before me in all his Nantucket grimness
and shagginess; and in this episode touching Emperors and Kings, I must
not conceal that I have only to do with a poor old whale-hunter like him;
and, therefore, all outward majestical trappings and housings are denied
me. Oh, Ahab! what shall be grand in thee, it must needs be plucked at
from the skies, and dived for in the deep, and featured in the unbodied

CHAPTER 34. The Cabin-Table.

It is noon; and Dough-Boy, the steward, thrusting his pale loaf-of-bread
face from the cabin-scuttle, announces dinner to his lord and master; who,
sitting in the lee quarter-boat, has just been taking an observation of
the sun; and is now mutely reckoning the latitude on the smooth,
medallion-shaped tablet, reserved for that daily purpose on the upper part
of his ivory leg. From his complete inattention to the tidings, you would
think that moody Ahab had not heard his menial. But presently, catching
hold of the mizen shrouds, he swings himself to the deck, and in an even,
unexhilarated voice, saying, “Dinner, Mr. Starbuck,” disappears into the

When the last echo of his sultan’s step has died away, and Starbuck, the
first Emir, has every reason to suppose that he is seated, then Starbuck
rouses from his quietude, takes a few turns along the planks, and, after a
grave peep into the binnacle, says, with some touch of pleasantness,
“Dinner, Mr. Stubb,” and descends the scuttle. The second Emir lounges
about the rigging awhile, and then slightly shaking the main brace, to see
whether it will be all right with that important rope, he likewise takes
up the old burden, and with a rapid “Dinner, Mr. Flask,” follows after his

But the third Emir, now seeing himself all alone on the quarter-deck,
seems to feel relieved from some curious restraint; for, tipping all sorts
of knowing winks in all sorts of directions, and kicking off his shoes, he
strikes into a sharp but noiseless squall of a hornpipe right over the
Grand Turk’s head; and then, by a dexterous sleight, pitching his cap up
into the mizentop for a shelf, he goes down rollicking so far at least as
he remains visible from the deck, reversing all other processions, by
bringing up the rear with music. But ere stepping into the cabin doorway
below, he pauses, ships a new face altogether, and, then, independent,
hilarious little Flask enters King Ahab’s presence, in the character of
Abjectus, or the Slave.

It is not the least among the strange things bred by the intense
artificialness of sea-usages, that while in the open air of the deck some
officers will, upon provocation, bear themselves boldly and defyingly
enough towards their commander; yet, ten to one, let those very officers
the next moment go down to their customary dinner in that same commander’s
cabin, and straightway their inoffensive, not to say deprecatory and
humble air towards him, as he sits at the head of the table; this is
marvellous, sometimes most comical. Wherefore this difference? A problem?
Perhaps not. To have been Belshazzar, King of Babylon; and to have been
Belshazzar, not haughtily but courteously, therein certainly must have
been some touch of mundane grandeur. But he who in the rightly regal and
intelligent spirit presides over his own private dinner-table of invited
guests, that man’s unchallenged power and dominion of individual influence
for the time; that man’s royalty of state transcends Belshazzar’s, for
Belshazzar was not the greatest. Who has but once dined his friends, has
tasted what it is to be Cæsar. It is a witchery of social czarship which
there is no withstanding. Now, if to this consideration you superadd the
official supremacy of a ship-master, then, by inference, you will derive
the cause of that peculiarity of sea-life just mentioned.

Over his ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned sea-lion on
the white coral beach, surrounded by his warlike but still deferential
cubs. In his own proper turn, each officer waited to be served. They were
as little children before Ahab; and yet, in Ahab, there seemed not to lurk
the smallest social arrogance. With one mind, their intent eyes all
fastened upon the old man’s knife, as he carved the chief dish before him.
I do not suppose that for the world they would have profaned that moment
with the slightest observation, even upon so neutral a topic as the
weather. No! And when reaching out his knife and fork, between which the
slice of beef was locked, Ahab thereby motioned Starbuck’s plate towards
him, the mate received his meat as though receiving alms; and cut it
tenderly; and a little started if, perchance, the knife grazed against the
plate; and chewed it noiselessly; and swallowed it, not without
circumspection. For, like the Coronation banquet at Frankfort, where the
German Emperor profoundly dines with the seven Imperial Electors, so these
cabin meals were somehow solemn meals, eaten in awful silence; and yet at
table old Ahab forbade not conversation; only he himself was dumb. What a
relief it was to choking Stubb, when a rat made a sudden racket in the
hold below. And poor little Flask, he was the youngest son, and little boy
of this weary family party. His were the shinbones of the saline beef; his
would have been the drumsticks. For Flask to have presumed to help
himself, this must have seemed to him tantamount to larceny in the first
degree. Had he helped himself at that table, doubtless, never more would
he have been able to hold his head up in this honest world; nevertheless,
strange to say, Ahab never forbade him. And had Flask helped himself, the
chances were Ahab had never so much as noticed it. Least of all, did Flask
presume to help himself to butter. Whether he thought the owners of the
ship denied it to him, on account of its clotting his clear, sunny
complexion; or whether he deemed that, on so long a voyage in such
marketless waters, butter was at a premium, and therefore was not for him,
a subaltern; however it was, Flask, alas! was a butterless man!

Another thing. Flask was the last person down at the dinner, and Flask is
the first man up. Consider! For hereby Flask’s dinner was badly jammed in
point of time. Starbuck and Stubb both had the start of him; and yet they
also have the privilege of lounging in the rear. If Stubb even, who is but
a peg higher than Flask, happens to have but a small appetite, and soon
shows symptoms of concluding his repast, then Flask must bestir himself,
he will not get more than three mouthfuls that day; for it is against holy
usage for Stubb to precede Flask to the deck. Therefore it was that Flask
once admitted in private, that ever since he had arisen to the dignity of
an officer, from that moment he had never known what it was to be
otherwise than hungry, more or less. For what he ate did not so much
relieve his hunger, as keep it immortal in him. Peace and satisfaction,
thought Flask, have for ever departed from my stomach. I am an officer;
but, how I wish I could fish a bit of old-fashioned beef in the
forecastle, as I used to when I was before the mast. There’s the fruits of
promotion now; there’s the vanity of glory: there’s the insanity of life!
Besides, if it were so that any mere sailor of the Pequod had a grudge
against Flask in Flask’s official capacity, all that sailor had to do, in
order to obtain ample vengeance, was to go aft at dinner-time, and get a
peep at Flask through the cabin sky-light, sitting silly and dumfoundered
before awful Ahab.

Now, Ahab and his three mates formed what may be called the first table in
the Pequod’s cabin. After their departure, taking place in inverted order
to their arrival, the canvas cloth was cleared, or rather was restored to
some hurried order by the pallid steward. And then the three harpooneers
were bidden to the feast, they being its residuary legatees. They made a
sort of temporary servants’ hall of the high and mighty cabin.

In strange contrast to the hardly tolerable constraint and nameless
invisible domineerings of the captain’s table, was the entire care-free
license and ease, the almost frantic democracy of those inferior fellows
the harpooneers. While their masters, the mates, seemed afraid of the
sound of the hinges of their own jaws, the harpooneers chewed their food
with such a relish that there was a report to it. They dined like lords;
they filled their bellies like Indian ships all day loading with spices.
Such portentous appetites had Queequeg and Tashtego, that to fill out the
vacancies made by the previous repast, often the pale Dough-Boy was fain
to bring on a great baron of salt-junk, seemingly quarried out of the
solid ox. And if he were not lively about it, if he did not go with a
nimble hop-skip-and-jump, then Tashtego had an ungentlemanly way of
accelerating him by darting a fork at his back, harpoon-wise. And once
Daggoo, seized with a sudden humor, assisted Dough-Boy’s memory by
snatching him up bodily, and thrusting his head into a great empty wooden
trencher, while Tashtego, knife in hand, began laying out the circle
preliminary to scalping him. He was naturally a very nervous, shuddering
sort of little fellow, this bread-faced steward; the progeny of a bankrupt
baker and a hospital nurse. And what with the standing spectacle of the
black terrific Ahab, and the periodical tumultuous visitations of these
three savages, Dough-Boy’s whole life was one continual lip-quiver.
Commonly, after seeing the harpooneers furnished with all things they
demanded, he would escape from their clutches into his little pantry
adjoining, and fearfully peep out at them through the blinds of its door,
till all was over.

It was a sight to see Queequeg seated over against Tashtego, opposing his
filed teeth to the Indian’s: crosswise to them, Daggoo seated on the
floor, for a bench would have brought his hearse-plumed head to the low
carlines; at every motion of his colossal limbs, making the low cabin
framework to shake, as when an African elephant goes passenger in a ship.
But for all this, the great negro was wonderfully abstemious, not to say
dainty. It seemed hardly possible that by such comparatively small
mouthfuls he could keep up the vitality diffused through so broad,
baronial, and superb a person. But, doubtless, this noble savage fed
strong and drank deep of the abounding element of air; and through his
dilated nostrils snuffed in the sublime life of the worlds. Not by beef or
by bread, are giants made or nourished. But Queequeg, he had a mortal,
barbaric smack of the lip in eating—an ugly sound enough—so
much so, that the trembling Dough-Boy almost looked to see whether any
marks of teeth lurked in his own lean arms. And when he would hear
Tashtego singing out for him to produce himself, that his bones might be
picked, the simple-witted steward all but shattered the crockery hanging
round him in the pantry, by his sudden fits of the palsy. Nor did the
whetstone which the harpooneers carried in their pockets, for their lances
and other weapons; and with which whetstones, at dinner, they would
ostentatiously sharpen their knives; that grating sound did not at all
tend to tranquillize poor Dough-Boy. How could he forget that in his
Island days, Queequeg, for one, must certainly have been guilty of some
murderous, convivial indiscretions. Alas! Dough-Boy! hard fares the white
waiter who waits upon cannibals. Not a napkin should he carry on his arm,
but a buckler. In good time, though, to his great delight, the three
salt-sea warriors would rise and depart; to his credulous, fable-mongering
ears, all their martial bones jingling in them at every step, like Moorish
scimetars in scabbards.

But, though these barbarians dined in the cabin, and nominally lived
there; still, being anything but sedentary in their habits, they were
scarcely ever in it except at mealtimes, and just before sleeping-time,
when they passed through it to their own peculiar quarters.

In this one matter, Ahab seemed no exception to most American whale
captains, who, as a set, rather incline to the opinion that by rights the
ship’s cabin belongs to them; and that it is by courtesy alone that
anybody else is, at any time, permitted there. So that, in real truth, the
mates and harpooneers of the Pequod might more properly be said to have
lived out of the cabin than in it. For when they did enter it, it was
something as a street-door enters a house; turning inwards for a moment,
only to be turned out the next; and, as a permanent thing, residing in the
open air. Nor did they lose much hereby; in the cabin was no
companionship; socially, Ahab was inaccessible. Though nominally included
in the census of Christendom, he was still an alien to it. He lived in the
world, as the last of the Grisly Bears lived in settled Missouri. And as
when Spring and Summer had departed, that wild Logan of the woods, burying
himself in the hollow of a tree, lived out the winter there, sucking his
own paws; so, in his inclement, howling old age, Ahab’s soul, shut up in
the caved trunk of his body, there fed upon the sullen paws of its gloom!

CHAPTER 35. The Mast-Head.

It was during the more pleasant weather, that in due rotation with the
other seamen my first mast-head came round.

In most American whalemen the mast-heads are manned almost simultaneously
with the vessel’s leaving her port; even though she may have fifteen
thousand miles, and more, to sail ere reaching her proper cruising ground.
And if, after a three, four, or five years’ voyage she is drawing nigh
home with anything empty in her—say, an empty vial even—then,
her mast-heads are kept manned to the last; and not till her skysail-poles
sail in among the spires of the port, does she altogether relinquish the
hope of capturing one whale more.

Now, as the business of standing mast-heads, ashore or afloat, is a very
ancient and interesting one, let us in some measure expatiate here. I take
it, that the earliest standers of mast-heads were the old Egyptians;
because, in all my researches, I find none prior to them. For though their
progenitors, the builders of Babel, must doubtless, by their tower, have
intended to rear the loftiest mast-head in all Asia, or Africa either; yet
(ere the final truck was put to it) as that great stone mast of theirs may
be said to have gone by the board, in the dread gale of God’s wrath;
therefore, we cannot give these Babel builders priority over the
Egyptians. And that the Egyptians were a nation of mast-head standers, is
an assertion based upon the general belief among archæologists, that the
first pyramids were founded for astronomical purposes: a theory singularly
supported by the peculiar stair-like formation of all four sides of those
edifices; whereby, with prodigious long upliftings of their legs, those
old astronomers were wont to mount to the apex, and sing out for new
stars; even as the look-outs of a modern ship sing out for a sail, or a
whale just bearing in sight. In Saint Stylites, the famous Christian
hermit of old times, who built him a lofty stone pillar in the desert and
spent the whole latter portion of his life on its summit, hoisting his
food from the ground with a tackle; in him we have a remarkable instance
of a dauntless stander-of-mast-heads; who was not to be driven from his
place by fogs or frosts, rain, hail, or sleet; but valiantly facing
everything out to the last, literally died at his post. Of modern
standers-of-mast-heads we have but a lifeless set; mere stone, iron, and
bronze men; who, though well capable of facing out a stiff gale, are still
entirely incompetent to the business of singing out upon discovering any
strange sight. There is Napoleon; who, upon the top of the column of
Vendome, stands with arms folded, some one hundred and fifty feet in the
air; careless, now, who rules the decks below; whether Louis Philippe,
Louis Blanc, or Louis the Devil. Great Washington, too, stands high aloft
on his towering main-mast in Baltimore, and like one of Hercules’ pillars,
his column marks that point of human grandeur beyond which few mortals
will go. Admiral Nelson, also, on a capstan of gun-metal, stands his
mast-head in Trafalgar Square; and ever when most obscured by that London
smoke, token is yet given that a hidden hero is there; for where there is
smoke, must be fire. But neither great Washington, nor Napoleon, nor
Nelson, will answer a single hail from below, however madly invoked to
befriend by their counsels the distracted decks upon which they gaze;
however it may be surmised, that their spirits penetrate through the thick
haze of the future, and descry what shoals and what rocks must be shunned.

It may seem unwarrantable to couple in any respect the mast-head standers
of the land with those of the sea; but that in truth it is not so, is
plainly evinced by an item for which Obed Macy, the sole historian of
Nantucket, stands accountable. The worthy Obed tells us, that in the early
times of the whale fishery, ere ships were regularly launched in pursuit
of the game, the people of that island erected lofty spars along the
sea-coast, to which the look-outs ascended by means of nailed cleats,
something as fowls go upstairs in a hen-house. A few years ago this same
plan was adopted by the Bay whalemen of New Zealand, who, upon descrying
the game, gave notice to the ready-manned boats nigh the beach. But this
custom has now become obsolete; turn we then to the one proper mast-head,
that of a whale-ship at sea. The three mast-heads are kept manned from
sun-rise to sun-set; the seamen taking their regular turns (as at the
helm), and relieving each other every two hours. In the serene weather of
the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant the mast-head; nay, to a dreamy
meditative man it is delightful. There you stand, a hundred feet above the
silent decks, striding along the deep, as if the masts were gigantic
stilts, while beneath you and between your legs, as it were, swim the
hugest monsters of the sea, even as ships once sailed between the boots of
the famous Colossus at old Rhodes. There you stand, lost in the infinite
series of the sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves. The tranced ship
indolently rolls; the drowsy trade winds blow; everything resolves you
into languor. For the most part, in this tropic whaling life, a sublime
uneventfulness invests you; you hear no news; read no gazettes; extras
with startling accounts of commonplaces never delude you into unnecessary
excitements; you hear of no domestic afflictions; bankrupt securities;
fall of stocks; are never troubled with the thought of what you shall have
for dinner—for all your meals for three years and more are snugly
stowed in casks, and your bill of fare is immutable.

In one of those southern whalesmen, on a long three or four years’ voyage,
as often happens, the sum of the various hours you spend at the mast-head
would amount to several entire months. And it is much to be deplored that
the place to which you devote so considerable a portion of the whole term
of your natural life, should be so sadly destitute of anything approaching
to a cosy inhabitiveness, or adapted to breed a comfortable localness of
feeling, such as pertains to a bed, a hammock, a hearse, a sentry box, a
pulpit, a coach, or any other of those small and snug contrivances in
which men temporarily isolate themselves. Your most usual point of perch
is the head of the t’ gallant-mast, where you stand upon two thin parallel
sticks (almost peculiar to whalemen) called the t’ gallant cross-trees.
Here, tossed about by the sea, the beginner feels about as cosy as he
would standing on a bull’s horns. To be sure, in cold weather you may
carry your house aloft with you, in the shape of a watch-coat; but
properly speaking the thickest watch-coat is no more of a house than the
unclad body; for as the soul is glued inside of its fleshy tabernacle, and
cannot freely move about in it, nor even move out of it, without running
great risk of perishing (like an ignorant pilgrim crossing the snowy Alps
in winter); so a watch-coat is not so much of a house as it is a mere
envelope, or additional skin encasing you. You cannot put a shelf or chest
of drawers in your body, and no more can you make a convenient closet of
your watch-coat.

Concerning all this, it is much to be deplored that the mast-heads of a
southern whale ship are unprovided with those enviable little tents or
pulpits, called crow’s-nests, in which the look-outs of a Greenland whaler
are protected from the inclement weather of the frozen seas. In the
fireside narrative of Captain Sleet, entitled “A Voyage among the
Icebergs, in quest of the Greenland Whale, and incidentally for the
re-discovery of the Lost Icelandic Colonies of Old Greenland;” in this
admirable volume, all standers of mast-heads are furnished with a
charmingly circumstantial account of the then recently invented
crow’s-nest of the Glacier, which was the name of Captain Sleet’s good
craft. He called it the Sleet’s crow’s-nest, in honor of himself; he
being the original inventor and patentee, and free from all ridiculous
false delicacy, and holding that if we call our own children after our own
names (we fathers being the original inventors and patentees), so likewise
should we denominate after ourselves any other apparatus we may beget. In
shape, the Sleet’s crow’s-nest is something like a large tierce or pipe;
it is open above, however, where it is furnished with a movable
side-screen to keep to windward of your head in a hard gale. Being fixed
on the summit of the mast, you ascend into it through a little trap-hatch
in the bottom. On the after side, or side next the stern of the ship, is a
comfortable seat, with a locker underneath for umbrellas, comforters, and
coats. In front is a leather rack, in which to keep your speaking trumpet,
pipe, telescope, and other nautical conveniences. When Captain Sleet in
person stood his mast-head in this crow’s-nest of his, he tells us that he
always had a rifle with him (also fixed in the rack), together with a
powder flask and shot, for the purpose of popping off the stray narwhales,
or vagrant sea unicorns infesting those waters; for you cannot
successfully shoot at them from the deck owing to the resistance of the
water, but to shoot down upon them is a very different thing. Now, it was
plainly a labor of love for Captain Sleet to describe, as he does, all the
little detailed conveniences of his crow’s-nest; but though he so enlarges
upon many of these, and though he treats us to a very scientific account
of his experiments in this crow’s-nest, with a small compass he kept there
for the purpose of counteracting the errors resulting from what is called
the “local attraction” of all binnacle magnets; an error ascribable to the
horizontal vicinity of the iron in the ship’s planks, and in the Glacier’s
case, perhaps, to there having been so many broken-down blacksmiths among
her crew; I say, that though the Captain is very discreet and scientific
here, yet, for all his learned “binnacle deviations,” “azimuth compass
observations,” and “approximate errors,” he knows very well, Captain
Sleet, that he was not so much immersed in those profound magnetic
meditations, as to fail being attracted occasionally towards that well
replenished little case-bottle, so nicely tucked in on one side of his
crow’s nest, within easy reach of his hand. Though, upon the whole, I
greatly admire and even love the brave, the honest, and learned Captain;
yet I take it very ill of him that he should so utterly ignore that
case-bottle, seeing what a faithful friend and comforter it must have
been, while with mittened fingers and hooded head he was studying the
mathematics aloft there in that bird’s nest within three or four perches
of the pole.

But if we Southern whale-fishers are not so snugly housed aloft as Captain
Sleet and his Greenlandmen were; yet that disadvantage is greatly
counter-balanced by the widely contrasting serenity of those seductive
seas in which we South fishers mostly float. For one, I used to lounge up
the rigging very leisurely, resting in the top to have a chat with
Queequeg, or any one else off duty whom I might find there; then ascending
a little way further, and throwing a lazy leg over the top-sail yard, take
a preliminary view of the watery pastures, and so at last mount to my
ultimate destination.

Let me make a clean breast of it here, and frankly admit that I kept but
sorry guard. With the problem of the universe revolving in me, how could I—being
left completely to myself at such a thought-engendering altitude—how
could I but lightly hold my obligations to observe all whale-ships’
standing orders, “Keep your weather eye open, and sing out every time.”

And let me in this place movingly admonish you, ye ship-owners of
Nantucket! Beware of enlisting in your vigilant fisheries any lad with
lean brow and hollow eye; given to unseasonable meditativeness; and who
offers to ship with the Phædon instead of Bowditch in his head. Beware of
such an one, I say; your whales must be seen before they can be killed;
and this sunken-eyed young Platonist will tow you ten wakes round the
world, and never make you one pint of sperm the richer. Nor are these
monitions at all unneeded. For nowadays, the whale-fishery furnishes an
asylum for many romantic, melancholy, and absent-minded young men,
disgusted with the carking cares of earth, and seeking sentiment in tar
and blubber. Childe Harold not unfrequently perches himself upon the
mast-head of some luckless disappointed whale-ship, and in moody phrase

      “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!
      Ten thousand blubber-hunters sweep over thee in vain.”

Very often do the captains of such ships take those absent-minded young
philosophers to task, upbraiding them with not feeling sufficient
“interest” in the voyage; half-hinting that they are so hopelessly lost to
all honorable ambition, as that in their secret souls they would rather
not see whales than otherwise. But all in vain; those young Platonists
have a notion that their vision is imperfect; they are short-sighted; what
use, then, to strain the visual nerve? They have left their opera-glasses
at home.

“Why, thou monkey,” said a harpooneer to one of these lads, “we’ve been
cruising now hard upon three years, and thou hast not raised a whale yet.
Whales are scarce as hen’s teeth whenever thou art up here.” Perhaps they
were; or perhaps there might have been shoals of them in the far horizon;
but lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious
reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with
thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at
his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul,
pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding,
beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of
some undiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive
thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it. In
this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came; becomes
diffused through time and space; like Cranmer’s sprinkled Pantheistic
ashes, forming at last a part of every shore the round globe over.

There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a
gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the
inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move
your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes
back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at
mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop
through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for
ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!

CHAPTER 36. The Quarter-Deck.

(Enter Ahab: Then, all.)

It was not a great while after the affair of the pipe, that one morning
shortly after breakfast, Ahab, as was his wont, ascended the cabin-gangway
to the deck. There most sea-captains usually walk at that hour, as country
gentlemen, after the same meal, take a few turns in the garden.

Soon his steady, ivory stride was heard, as to and fro he paced his old
rounds, upon planks so familiar to his tread, that they were all over
dented, like geological stones, with the peculiar mark of his walk. Did
you fixedly gaze, too, upon that ribbed and dented brow; there also, you
would see still stranger foot-prints—the foot-prints of his one
unsleeping, ever-pacing thought.

But on the occasion in question, those dents looked deeper, even as his
nervous step that morning left a deeper mark. And, so full of his thought
was Ahab, that at every uniform turn that he made, now at the main-mast
and now at the binnacle, you could almost see that thought turn in him as
he turned, and pace in him as he paced; so completely possessing him,
indeed, that it all but seemed the inward mould of every outer movement.

“D’ye mark him, Flask?” whispered Stubb; “the chick that’s in him pecks
the shell. ’Twill soon be out.”

The hours wore on;—Ahab now shut up within his cabin; anon, pacing
the deck, with the same intense bigotry of purpose in his aspect.

It drew near the close of day. Suddenly he came to a halt by the bulwarks,
and inserting his bone leg into the auger-hole there, and with one hand
grasping a shroud, he ordered Starbuck to send everybody aft.

“Sir!” said the mate, astonished at an order seldom or never given on
ship-board except in some extraordinary case.

“Send everybody aft,” repeated Ahab. “Mast-heads, there! come down!”

When the entire ship’s company were assembled, and with curious and not
wholly unapprehensive faces, were eyeing him, for he looked not unlike the
weather horizon when a storm is coming up, Ahab, after rapidly glancing
over the bulwarks, and then darting his eyes among the crew, started from
his standpoint; and as though not a soul were nigh him resumed his heavy
turns upon the deck. With bent head and half-slouched hat he continued to
pace, unmindful of the wondering whispering among the men; till Stubb
cautiously whispered to Flask, that Ahab must have summoned them there for
the purpose of witnessing a pedestrian feat. But this did not last long.
Vehemently pausing, he cried:—

“What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?”

“Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed

“Good!” cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the
hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so magnetically
thrown them.

“And what do ye next, men?”

“Lower away, and after him!”

“And what tune is it ye pull to, men?”

“A dead whale or a stove boat!”

More and more strangely and fiercely glad and approving, grew the
countenance of the old man at every shout; while the mariners began to
gaze curiously at each other, as if marvelling how it was that they
themselves became so excited at such seemingly purposeless questions.

But, they were all eagerness again, as Ahab, now half-revolving in his
pivot-hole, with one hand reaching high up a shroud, and tightly, almost
convulsively grasping it, addressed them thus:—

“All ye mast-headers have before now heard me give orders about a white
whale. Look ye! d’ye see this Spanish ounce of gold?”—holding up a
broad bright coin to the sun—“it is a sixteen dollar piece, men.
D’ye see it? Mr. Starbuck, hand me yon top-maul.”

While the mate was getting the hammer, Ahab, without speaking, was slowly
rubbing the gold piece against the skirts of his jacket, as if to heighten
its lustre, and without using any words was meanwhile lowly humming to
himself, producing a sound so strangely muffled and inarticulate that it
seemed the mechanical humming of the wheels of his vitality in him.

Receiving the top-maul from Starbuck, he advanced towards the main-mast
with the hammer uplifted in one hand, exhibiting the gold with the other,
and with a high raised voice exclaiming: “Whosoever of ye raises me a
white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye
raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in his
starboard fluke—look ye, whosoever of ye raises me that same white
whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!”

“Huzza! huzza!” cried the seamen, as with swinging tarpaulins they hailed
the act of nailing the gold to the mast.

“It’s a white whale, I say,” resumed Ahab, as he threw down the topmaul:
“a white whale. Skin your eyes for him, men; look sharp for white water;
if ye see but a bubble, sing out.”

All this while Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg had looked on with even more
intense interest and surprise than the rest, and at the mention of the
wrinkled brow and crooked jaw they had started as if each was separately
touched by some specific recollection.

“Captain Ahab,” said Tashtego, “that white whale must be the same that
some call Moby Dick.”

“Moby Dick?” shouted Ahab. “Do ye know the white whale then, Tash?”

“Does he fan-tail a little curious, sir, before he goes down?” said the
Gay-Header deliberately.

“And has he a curious spout, too,” said Daggoo, “very bushy, even for a
parmacetty, and mighty quick, Captain Ahab?”

“And he have one, two, three—oh! good many iron in him hide, too,
Captain,” cried Queequeg disjointedly, “all twiske-tee be-twisk, like him—him—”
faltering hard for a word, and screwing his hand round and round as though
uncorking a bottle—“like him—him—”

“Corkscrew!” cried Ahab, “aye, Queequeg, the harpoons lie all twisted and
wrenched in him; aye, Daggoo, his spout is a big one, like a whole shock
of wheat, and white as a pile of our Nantucket wool after the great annual
sheep-shearing; aye, Tashtego, and he fan-tails like a split jib in a
squall. Death and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye have seen—Moby
Dick—Moby Dick!”

“Captain Ahab,” said Starbuck, who, with Stubb and Flask, had thus far
been eyeing his superior with increasing surprise, but at last seemed
struck with a thought which somewhat explained all the wonder. “Captain
Ahab, I have heard of Moby Dick—but it was not Moby Dick that took
off thy leg?”

“Who told thee that?” cried Ahab; then pausing, “Aye, Starbuck; aye, my
hearties all round; it was Moby Dick that dismasted me; Moby Dick that
brought me to this dead stump I stand on now. Aye, aye,” he shouted with a
terrific, loud, animal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose; “Aye,
aye! it was that accursed white whale that razed me; made a poor pegging
lubber of me for ever and a day!” Then tossing both arms, with measureless
imprecations he shouted out: “Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good
Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round
perdition’s flames before I give him up. And this is what ye have shipped
for, men! to chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all
sides of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out. What say ye,
men, will ye splice hands on it, now? I think ye do look brave.”

“Aye, aye!” shouted the harpooneers and seamen, running closer to the
excited old man: “A sharp eye for the white whale; a sharp lance for Moby

“God bless ye,” he seemed to half sob and half shout. “God bless ye, men.
Steward! go draw the great measure of grog. But what’s this long face
about, Mr. Starbuck; wilt thou not chase the white whale? art not game for
Moby Dick?”

“I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death too, Captain
Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business we follow; but I came
here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance. How many barrels will
thy vengeance yield thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it will
not fetch thee much in our Nantucket market.”

“Nantucket market! Hoot! But come closer, Starbuck; thou requirest a
little lower layer. If money’s to be the measurer, man, and the
accountants have computed their great counting-house the globe, by
girdling it with guineas, one to every three parts of an inch; then, let
me tell thee, that my vengeance will fetch a great premium here!

“He smites his chest,” whispered Stubb, “what’s that for? methinks it
rings most vast, but hollow.”

“Vengeance on a dumb brute!” cried Starbuck, “that simply smote thee from
blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab,
seems blasphemous.”

“Hark ye yet again—the little lower layer. All visible objects, man,
are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act,
the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing
puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.
If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach
outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is
that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But
’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength,
with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly
what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale
principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy,
man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then
could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein,
jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even
that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines. Take off thine eye!
more intolerable than fiends’ glarings is a doltish stare! So, so; thou
reddenest and palest; my heat has melted thee to anger-glow. But look ye,
Starbuck, what is said in heat, that thing unsays itself. There are men
from whom warm words are small indignity. I meant not to incense thee. Let
it go. Look! see yonder Turkish cheeks of spotted tawn—living,
breathing pictures painted by the sun. The Pagan leopards—the
unrecking and unworshipping things, that live; and seek, and give no
reasons for the torrid life they feel! The crew, man, the crew! Are they
not one and all with Ahab, in this matter of the whale? See Stubb! he
laughs! See yonder Chilian! he snorts to think of it. Stand up amid the
general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot, Starbuck! And what is it?
Reckon it. ’Tis but to help strike a fin; no wondrous feat for Starbuck.
What is it more? From this one poor hunt, then, the best lance out of all
Nantucket, surely he will not hang back, when every foremast-hand has
clutched a whetstone? Ah! constrainings seize thee; I see! the billow
lifts thee! Speak, but speak!—Aye, aye! thy silence, then, that
voices thee. (Aside) Something shot from my dilated nostrils, he has
inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck now is mine; cannot oppose me now,
without rebellion.”

“God keep me!—keep us all!” murmured Starbuck, lowly.

But in his joy at the enchanted, tacit acquiescence of the mate, Ahab did
not hear his foreboding invocation; nor yet the low laugh from the hold;
nor yet the presaging vibrations of the winds in the cordage; nor yet the
hollow flap of the sails against the masts, as for a moment their hearts
sank in. For again Starbuck’s downcast eyes lighted up with the
stubbornness of life; the subterranean laugh died away; the winds blew on;
the sails filled out; the ship heaved and rolled as before. Ah, ye
admonitions and warnings! why stay ye not when ye come? But rather are ye
predictions than warnings, ye shadows! Yet not so much predictions from
without, as verifications of the foregoing things within. For with little
external to constrain us, the innermost necessities in our being, these
still drive us on.

“The measure! the measure!” cried Ahab.

Receiving the brimming pewter, and turning to the harpooneers, he ordered
them to produce their weapons. Then ranging them before him near the
capstan, with their harpoons in their hands, while his three mates stood
at his side with their lances, and the rest of the ship’s company formed a
circle round the group; he stood for an instant searchingly eyeing every
man of his crew. But those wild eyes met his, as the bloodshot eyes of the
prairie wolves meet the eye of their leader, ere he rushes on at their
head in the trail of the bison; but, alas! only to fall into the hidden
snare of the Indian.

“Drink and pass!” he cried, handing the heavy charged flagon to the
nearest seaman. “The crew alone now drink. Round with it, round! Short
draughts—long swallows, men; ’tis hot as Satan’s hoof. So, so; it
goes round excellently. It spiralizes in ye; forks out at the
serpent-snapping eye. Well done; almost drained. That way it went, this
way it comes. Hand it me—here’s a hollow! Men, ye seem the years; so
brimming life is gulped and gone. Steward, refill!

“Attend now, my braves. I have mustered ye all round this capstan; and ye
mates, flank me with your lances; and ye harpooneers, stand there with
your irons; and ye, stout mariners, ring me in, that I may in some sort
revive a noble custom of my fisherman fathers before me. O men, you will
yet see that—Ha! boy, come back? bad pennies come not sooner. Hand
it me. Why, now, this pewter had run brimming again, wer’t not thou St.
Vitus’ imp—away, thou ague!

“Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let me
touch the axis.” So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the three level,
radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing, suddenly and
nervously twitched them; meanwhile, glancing intently from Starbuck to
Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some nameless,
interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery
emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life. The
three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic aspect. Stubb
and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of Starbuck fell

“In vain!” cried Ahab; “but, maybe, ’tis well. For did ye three but once
take the full-forced shock, then mine own electric thing, that had perhaps
expired from out me. Perchance, too, it would have dropped ye dead.
Perchance ye need it not. Down lances! And now, ye mates, I do appoint ye
three cupbearers to my three pagan kinsmen there—yon three most
honorable gentlemen and noblemen, my valiant harpooneers. Disdain the
task? What, when the great Pope washes the feet of beggars, using his
tiara for ewer? Oh, my sweet cardinals! your own condescension, that shall
bend ye to it. I do not order ye; ye will it. Cut your seizings and draw
the poles, ye harpooneers!”

Silently obeying the order, the three harpooneers now stood with the
detached iron part of their harpoons, some three feet long, held, barbs
up, before him.

“Stab me not with that keen steel! Cant them; cant them over! know ye not
the goblet end? Turn up the socket! So, so; now, ye cup-bearers, advance.
The irons! take them; hold them while I fill!” Forthwith, slowly going
from one officer to the other, he brimmed the harpoon sockets with the
fiery waters from the pewter.

“Now, three to three, ye stand. Commend the murderous chalices! Bestow
them, ye who are now made parties to this indissoluble league. Ha!
Starbuck! but the deed is done! Yon ratifying sun now waits to sit upon
it. Drink, ye harpooneers! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful
whaleboat’s bow—Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not
hunt Moby Dick to his death!” The long, barbed steel goblets were lifted;
and to cries and maledictions against the white whale, the spirits were
simultaneously quaffed down with a hiss. Starbuck paled, and turned, and
shivered. Once more, and finally, the replenished pewter went the rounds
among the frantic crew; when, waving his free hand to them, they all
dispersed; and Ahab retired within his cabin.

CHAPTER 37. Sunset.

The cabin; by the stern windows; Ahab sitting alone, and gazing out.

I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where’er I
sail. The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them; but
first I pass.

Yonder, by ever-brimming goblet’s rim, the warm waves blush like wine. The
gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver sun—slow dived from noon—goes
down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her endless hill. Is, then, the
crown too heavy that I wear? this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is it bright
with many a gem; I the wearer, see not its far flashings; but darkly feel
that I wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. ’Tis iron—that I know—not
gold. ’Tis split, too—that I feel; the jagged edge galls me so, my
brain seems to beat against the solid metal; aye, steel skull, mine; the
sort that needs no helmet in the most brain-battering fight!

Dry heat upon my brow? Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me,
so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all
loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne’er enjoy. Gifted with the high
perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly and most
malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise! Good night—good night!
(waving his hand, he moves from the window.)

’Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least;
but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they
revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all stand
before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others, the match
itself must needs be wasting! What I’ve dared, I’ve willed; and what I’ve
willed, I’ll do! They think me mad—Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac,
I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend
itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered; and—Aye! I
lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my dismemberer. Now,
then, be the prophet and the fulfiller one. That’s more than ye, ye great
gods, ever were. I laugh and hoot at ye, ye cricket-players, ye pugilists,
ye deaf Burkes and blinded Bendigoes! I will not say as schoolboys do to
bullies—Take some one of your own size; don’t pommel me! No, ye’ve
knocked me down, and I am up again; but ye have run and hidden. Come forth
from behind your cotton bags! I have no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab’s
compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot
swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The
path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is
grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of
mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle,
naught’s an angle to the iron way!

CHAPTER 38. Dusk.

By the Mainmast; Starbuck leaning against it.

My soul is more than matched; she’s overmanned; and by a madman!
Insufferable sting, that sanity should ground arms on such a field! But he
drilled deep down, and blasted all my reason out of me! I think I see his
impious end; but feel that I must help him to it. Will I, nill I, the
ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no knife
to cut. Horrible old man! Who’s over him, he cries;—aye, he would be
a democrat to all above; look, how he lords it over all below! Oh! I
plainly see my miserable office,—to obey, rebelling; and worse yet,
to hate with touch of pity! For in his eyes I read some lurid woe would
shrivel me up, had I it. Yet is there hope. Time and tide flow wide. The
hated whale has the round watery world to swim in, as the small gold-fish
has its glassy globe. His heaven-insulting purpose, God may wedge aside. I
would up heart, were it not like lead. But my whole clock’s run down; my
heart the all-controlling weight, I have no key to lift again.

[A burst of revelry from the forecastle.]

Oh, God! to sail with such a heathen crew that have small touch of human
mothers in them! Whelped somewhere by the sharkish sea. The white whale is
their demigorgon. Hark! the infernal orgies! that revelry is forward! mark
the unfaltering silence aft! Methinks it pictures life. Foremost through
the sparkling sea shoots on the gay, embattled, bantering bow, but only to
drag dark Ahab after it, where he broods within his sternward cabin,
builded over the dead water of the wake, and further on, hunted by its
wolfish gurglings. The long howl thrills me through! Peace! ye revellers,
and set the watch! Oh, life! ’tis in an hour like this, with soul beat
down and held to knowledge,—as wild, untutored things are forced to
feed—Oh, life! ’tis now that I do feel the latent horror in thee!
but ’tis not me! that horror’s out of me! and with the soft feeling of the
human in me, yet will I try to fight ye, ye grim, phantom futures! Stand
by me, hold me, bind me, O ye blessed influences!

CHAPTER 39. First Night-Watch.


(Stubb solus, and mending a brace.)

Ha! ha! ha! ha! hem! clear my throat!—I’ve been thinking over it
ever since, and that ha, ha’s the final consequence. Why so? Because a
laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer; and come what
will, one comfort’s always left—that unfailing comfort is, it’s all
predestinated. I heard not all his talk with Starbuck; but to my poor eye
Starbuck then looked something as I the other evening felt. Be sure the
old Mogul has fixed him, too. I twigged it, knew it; had had the gift,
might readily have prophesied it—for when I clapped my eye upon his
skull I saw it. Well, Stubb, wise Stubb—that’s my title—well,
Stubb, what of it, Stubb? Here’s a carcase. I know not all that may be
coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing. Such a waggish
leering as lurks in all your horribles! I feel funny. Fa, la! lirra,
skirra! What’s my juicy little pear at home doing now? Crying its eyes
out?—Giving a party to the last arrived harpooneers, I dare say, gay
as a frigate’s pennant, and so am I—fa, la! lirra, skirra! Oh—

      We’ll drink to-night with hearts as light,
         To love, as gay and fleeting
      As bubbles that swim, on the beaker’s brim,
         And break on the lips while meeting.

A brave stave that—who calls? Mr. Starbuck? Aye, aye, sir—(Aside)
he’s my superior, he has his too, if I’m not mistaken.—Aye, aye,
sir, just through with this job—coming.

CHAPTER 40. Midnight, Forecastle.


(Foresail rises and discovers the watch standing, lounging, leaning, and
lying in various attitudes, all singing in chorus

     Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies!
     Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain!
     Our captain’s commanded.—

1ST NANTUCKET SAILOR. Oh, boys, don’t be sentimental; it’s bad
for the digestion! Take a tonic, follow me!

(Sings, and all follow.)

    Our captain stood upon the deck,
    A spy-glass in his hand,
    A viewing of those gallant whales
    That blew at every strand.
    Oh, your tubs in your boats, my boys,
    And by your braces stand,
    And we’ll have one of those fine whales,
    Hand, boys, over hand!
    So, be cheery, my lads! may your hearts never fail!
    While the bold harpooner is striking the whale!

MATE’S VOICE FROM THE QUARTER-DECK. Eight bells there, forward!

2ND NANTUCKET SAILOR. Avast the chorus! Eight bells there! d’ye hear,
bell-boy? Strike the bell eight, thou Pip! thou blackling! and let me call
the watch. I’ve the sort of mouth for that—the hogshead mouth. So,
so, (thrusts his head down the scuttle,) Star-bo-l-e-e-n-s, a-h-o-y! Eight
bells there below! Tumble up!

DUTCH SAILOR. Grand snoozing to-night, maty; fat night for that. I mark
this in our old Mogul’s wine; it’s quite as deadening to some as filliping
to others. We sing; they sleep—aye, lie down there, like ground-tier
butts. At ’em again! There, take this copper-pump, and hail ’em through
it. Tell ’em to avast dreaming of their lasses. Tell ’em it’s the
resurrection; they must kiss their last, and come to judgment. That’s the
way—that’s it; thy throat ain’t spoiled with eating Amsterdam

FRENCH SAILOR. Hist, boys! let’s have a jig or two before we ride to
anchor in Blanket Bay. What say ye? There comes the other watch. Stand by
all legs! Pip! little Pip! hurrah with your tambourine!

PIP. (Sulky and sleepy.) Don’t know where it is.

FRENCH SAILOR. Beat thy belly, then, and wag thy ears. Jig it, men, I say;
merry’s the word; hurrah! Damn me, won’t you dance? Form, now,
Indian-file, and gallop into the double-shuffle? Throw yourselves! Legs!

ICELAND SAILOR. I don’t like your floor, maty; it’s too springy to my
taste. I’m used to ice-floors. I’m sorry to throw cold water on the
subject; but excuse me.

MALTESE SAILOR. Me too; where’s your girls? Who but a fool would take his
left hand by his right, and say to himself, how d’ye do? Partners! I must
have partners!

SICILIAN SAILOR. Aye; girls and a green!—then I’ll hop with ye; yea,
turn grasshopper!

LONG-ISLAND SAILOR. Well, well, ye sulkies, there’s plenty more of us. Hoe
corn when you may, say I. All legs go to harvest soon. Ah! here comes the
music; now for it!

AZORE SAILOR. (Ascending, and pitching the tambourine up the scuttle.)
Here you are, Pip; and there’s the windlass-bitts; up you mount! Now,
boys! (The half of them dance to the tambourine; some go below; some sleep
or lie among the coils of rigging. Oaths a-plenty

AZORE SAILOR. (Dancing) Go it, Pip! Bang it, bell-boy! Rig it, dig it,
stig it, quig it, bell-boy! Make fire-flies; break the jinglers!

PIP. Jinglers, you say?—there goes another, dropped off; I pound it

CHINA SAILOR. Rattle thy teeth, then, and pound away; make a pagoda of

FRENCH SAILOR. Merry-mad! Hold up thy hoop, Pip, till I jump through it!
Split jibs! tear yourselves!

TASHTEGO. (Quietly smoking.) That’s a white man; he calls that fun: humph!
I save my sweat.

OLD MANX SAILOR. I wonder whether those jolly lads bethink them of what
they are dancing over. I’ll dance over your grave, I will—that’s the
bitterest threat of your night-women, that beat head-winds round corners.
O Christ! to think of the green navies and the green-skulled crews! Well,
well; belike the whole world’s a ball, as you scholars have it; and so
’tis right to make one ballroom of it. Dance on, lads, you’re young; I was

3D NANTUCKET SAILOR. Spell oh!—whew! this is worse than pulling
after whales in a calm—give us a whiff, Tash.

(They cease dancing, and gather in clusters. Meantime the sky darkens—the
wind rises

LASCAR SAILOR. By Brahma! boys, it’ll be douse sail soon. The sky-born,
high-tide Ganges turned to wind! Thou showest thy black brow, Seeva!

MALTESE SAILOR. (Reclining and shaking his cap.) It’s the waves—the
snow’s caps turn to jig it now. They’ll shake their tassels soon. Now
would all the waves were women, then I’d go drown, and chassee with them
evermore! There’s naught so sweet on earth—heaven may not match it!—as
those swift glances of warm, wild bosoms in the dance, when the
over-arboring arms hide such ripe, bursting grapes.

SICILIAN SAILOR. (Reclining.) Tell me not of it! Hark ye, lad—fleet
interlacings of the limbs—lithe swayings—coyings—flutterings!
lip! heart! hip! all graze: unceasing touch and go! not taste, observe ye,
else come satiety. Eh, Pagan? (Nudging.)

TAHITAN SAILOR. (Reclining on a mat.) Hail, holy nakedness of our dancing
girls!—the Heeva-Heeva! Ah! low veiled, high palmed Tahiti! I still
rest me on thy mat, but the soft soil has slid! I saw thee woven in the
wood, my mat! green the first day I brought ye thence; now worn and wilted
quite. Ah me!—not thou nor I can bear the change! How then, if so be
transplanted to yon sky? Hear I the roaring streams from Pirohitee’s peak
of spears, when they leap down the crags and drown the villages?—The
blast! the blast! Up, spine, and meet it! (Leaps to his feet.)

PORTUGUESE SAILOR. How the sea rolls swashing ’gainst the side! Stand by
for reefing, hearties! the winds are just crossing swords, pell-mell
they’ll go lunging presently.

DANISH SAILOR. Crack, crack, old ship! so long as thou crackest, thou
holdest! Well done! The mate there holds ye to it stiffly. He’s no more
afraid than the isle fort at Cattegat, put there to fight the Baltic with
storm-lashed guns, on which the sea-salt cakes!

4TH NANTUCKET SAILOR. He has his orders, mind ye that. I heard old Ahab
tell him he must always kill a squall, something as they burst a
waterspout with a pistol—fire your ship right into it!

ENGLISH SAILOR. Blood! but that old man’s a grand old cove! We are the
lads to hunt him up his whale!

ALL. Aye! aye!

OLD MANX SAILOR. How the three pines shake! Pines are the hardest sort of
tree to live when shifted to any other soil, and here there’s none but the
crew’s cursed clay. Steady, helmsman! steady. This is the sort of weather
when brave hearts snap ashore, and keeled hulls split at sea. Our captain
has his birthmark; look yonder, boys, there’s another in the sky—lurid-like,
ye see, all else pitch black.

DAGGOO. What of that? Who’s afraid of black’s afraid of me! I’m quarried
out of it!

SPANISH SAILOR. (Aside.) He wants to bully, ah!—the old grudge makes
me touchy (Advancing.) Aye, harpooneer, thy race is the undeniable dark
side of mankind—devilish dark at that. No offence.

DAGGOO (grimly). None.

ST. JAGO’S SAILOR. That Spaniard’s mad or drunk. But that can’t be, or
else in his one case our old Mogul’s fire-waters are somewhat long in

5TH NANTUCKET SAILOR. What’s that I saw—lightning? Yes.

SPANISH SAILOR. No; Daggoo showing his teeth.

DAGGOO (springing). Swallow thine, mannikin! White skin, white liver!

SPANISH SAILOR (meeting him). Knife thee heartily! big frame, small

ALL. A row! a row! a row!

TASHTEGO (with a whiff). A row a’low, and a row aloft—Gods and men—both
brawlers! Humph!

BELFAST SAILOR. A row! arrah a row! The Virgin be blessed, a row! Plunge
in with ye!

ENGLISH SAILOR. Fair play! Snatch the Spaniard’s knife! A ring, a ring!

OLD MANX SAILOR. Ready formed. There! the ringed horizon. In that ring
Cain struck Abel. Sweet work, right work! No? Why then, God, mad’st thou
the ring?

MATE’S VOICE FROM THE QUARTER-DECK. Hands by the halyards! in top-gallant
sails! Stand by to reef topsails!

ALL. The squall! the squall! jump, my jollies! (They scatter.)

PIP (shrinking under the windlass). Jollies? Lord help such jollies!
Crish, crash! there goes the jib-stay! Blang-whang! God! Duck lower, Pip,
here comes the royal yard! It’s worse than being in the whirled woods, the
last day of the year! Who’d go climbing after chestnuts now? But there
they go, all cursing, and here I don’t. Fine prospects to ’em; they’re on
the road to heaven. Hold on hard! Jimmini, what a squall! But those chaps
there are worse yet—they are your white squalls, they. White
squalls? white whale, shirr! shirr! Here have I heard all their chat just
now, and the white whale—shirr! shirr!—but spoken of once! and
only this evening—it makes me jingle all over like my tambourine—that
anaconda of an old man swore ’em in to hunt him! Oh, thou big white God
aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on this small black boy
down here; preserve him from all men that have no bowels to feel fear!

CHAPTER 41. Moby Dick.

I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my
oath had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I
hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A wild,
mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab’s quenchless feud seemed
mine. With greedy ears I learned the history of that murderous monster
against whom I and all the others had taken our oaths of violence and

For some time past, though at intervals only, the unaccompanied, secluded
White Whale had haunted those uncivilized seas mostly frequented by the
Sperm Whale fishermen. But not all of them knew of his existence; only a
few of them, comparatively, had knowingly seen him; while the number who
as yet had actually and knowingly given battle to him, was small indeed.
For, owing to the large number of whale-cruisers; the disorderly way they
were sprinkled over the entire watery circumference, many of them
adventurously pushing their quest along solitary latitudes, so as seldom
or never for a whole twelvemonth or more on a stretch, to encounter a
single news-telling sail of any sort; the inordinate length of each
separate voyage; the irregularity of the times of sailing from home; all
these, with other circumstances, direct and indirect, long obstructed the
spread through the whole world-wide whaling-fleet of the special
individualizing tidings concerning Moby Dick. It was hardly to be doubted,
that several vessels reported to have encountered, at such or such a time,
or on such or such a meridian, a Sperm Whale of uncommon magnitude and
malignity, which whale, after doing great mischief to his assailants, had
completely escaped them; to some minds it was not an unfair presumption, I
say, that the whale in question must have been no other than Moby Dick.
Yet as of late the Sperm Whale fishery had been marked by various and not
unfrequent instances of great ferocity, cunning, and malice in the monster
attacked; therefore it was, that those who by accident ignorantly gave
battle to Moby Dick; such hunters, perhaps, for the most part, were
content to ascribe the peculiar terror he bred, more, as it were, to the
perils of the Sperm Whale fishery at large, than to the individual cause.
In that way, mostly, the disastrous encounter between Ahab and the whale
had hitherto been popularly regarded.

And as for those who, previously hearing of the White Whale, by chance
caught sight of him; in the beginning of the thing they had every one of
them, almost, as boldly and fearlessly lowered for him, as for any other
whale of that species. But at length, such calamities did ensue in these
assaults—not restricted to sprained wrists and ankles, broken limbs,
or devouring amputations—but fatal to the last degree of fatality;
those repeated disastrous repulses, all accumulating and piling their
terrors upon Moby Dick; those things had gone far to shake the fortitude
of many brave hunters, to whom the story of the White Whale had eventually

Nor did wild rumors of all sorts fail to exaggerate, and still the more
horrify the true histories of these deadly encounters. For not only do
fabulous rumors naturally grow out of the very body of all surprising
terrible events,—as the smitten tree gives birth to its fungi; but,
in maritime life, far more than in that of terra firma, wild rumors
abound, wherever there is any adequate reality for them to cling to. And
as the sea surpasses the land in this matter, so the whale fishery
surpasses every other sort of maritime life, in the wonderfulness and
fearfulness of the rumors which sometimes circulate there. For not only
are whalemen as a body unexempt from that ignorance and superstitiousness
hereditary to all sailors; but of all sailors, they are by all odds the
most directly brought into contact with whatever is appallingly
astonishing in the sea; face to face they not only eye its greatest
marvels, but, hand to jaw, give battle to them. Alone, in such remotest
waters, that though you sailed a thousand miles, and passed a thousand
shores, you would not come to any chiseled hearth-stone, or aught
hospitable beneath that part of the sun; in such latitudes and longitudes,
pursuing too such a calling as he does, the whaleman is wrapped by
influences all tending to make his fancy pregnant with many a mighty

No wonder, then, that ever gathering volume from the mere transit over the
widest watery spaces, the outblown rumors of the White Whale did in the
end incorporate with themselves all manner of morbid hints, and
half-formed fœtal suggestions of supernatural agencies, which eventually
invested Moby Dick with new terrors unborrowed from anything that visibly
appears. So that in many cases such a panic did he finally strike, that
few who by those rumors, at least, had heard of the White Whale, few of
those hunters were willing to encounter the perils of his jaw.

But there were still other and more vital practical influences at work.
Not even at the present day has the original prestige of the Sperm Whale,
as fearfully distinguished from all other species of the leviathan, died
out of the minds of the whalemen as a body. There are those this day among
them, who, though intelligent and courageous enough in offering battle to
the Greenland or Right whale, would perhaps—either from professional
inexperience, or incompetency, or timidity, decline a contest with the
Sperm Whale; at any rate, there are plenty of whalemen, especially among
those whaling nations not sailing under the American flag, who have never
hostilely encountered the Sperm Whale, but whose sole knowledge of the
leviathan is restricted to the ignoble monster primitively pursued in the
North; seated on their hatches, these men will hearken with a childish
fireside interest and awe, to the wild, strange tales of Southern whaling.
Nor is the pre-eminent tremendousness of the great Sperm Whale anywhere
more feelingly comprehended, than on board of those prows which stem him.

And as if the now tested reality of his might had in former legendary
times thrown its shadow before it; we find some book naturalists—Olassen
and Povelson—declaring the Sperm Whale not only to be a
consternation to every other creature in the sea, but also to be so
incredibly ferocious as continually to be athirst for human blood. Nor
even down to so late a time as Cuvier’s, were these or almost similar
impressions effaced. For in his Natural History, the Baron himself affirms
that at sight of the Sperm Whale, all fish (sharks included) are “struck
with the most lively terrors,” and “often in the precipitancy of their
flight dash themselves against the rocks with such violence as to cause
instantaneous death.” And however the general experiences in the fishery
may amend such reports as these; yet in their full terribleness, even to
the bloodthirsty item of Povelson, the superstitious belief in them is, in
some vicissitudes of their vocation, revived in the minds of the hunters.

So that overawed by the rumors and portents concerning him, not a few of
the fishermen recalled, in reference to Moby Dick, the earlier days of the
Sperm Whale fishery, when it was oftentimes hard to induce long practised
Right whalemen to embark in the perils of this new and daring warfare;
such men protesting that although other leviathans might be hopefully
pursued, yet to chase and point lance at such an apparition as the Sperm
Whale was not for mortal man. That to attempt it, would be inevitably to
be torn into a quick eternity. On this head, there are some remarkable
documents that may be consulted.

Nevertheless, some there were, who even in the face of these things were
ready to give chase to Moby Dick; and a still greater number who, chancing
only to hear of him distantly and vaguely, without the specific details of
any certain calamity, and without superstitious accompaniments, were
sufficiently hardy not to flee from the battle if offered.

One of the wild suggestions referred to, as at last coming to be linked
with the White Whale in the minds of the superstitiously inclined, was the
unearthly conceit that Moby Dick was ubiquitous; that he had actually been
encountered in opposite latitudes at one and the same instant of time.

Nor, credulous as such minds must have been, was this conceit altogether
without some faint show of superstitious probability. For as the secrets
of the currents in the seas have never yet been divulged, even to the most
erudite research; so the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale when beneath the
surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his pursuers; and from
time to time have originated the most curious and contradictory
speculations regarding them, especially concerning the mystic modes
whereby, after sounding to a great depth, he transports himself with such
vast swiftness to the most widely distant points.

It is a thing well known to both American and English whale-ships, and as
well a thing placed upon authoritative record years ago by Scoresby, that
some whales have been captured far north in the Pacific, in whose bodies
have been found the barbs of harpoons darted in the Greenland seas. Nor is
it to be gainsaid, that in some of these instances it has been declared
that the interval of time between the two assaults could not have exceeded
very many days. Hence, by inference, it has been believed by some
whalemen, that the Nor’ West Passage, so long a problem to man, was never
a problem to the whale. So that here, in the real living experience of
living men, the prodigies related in old times of the inland Strello
mountain in Portugal (near whose top there was said to be a lake in which
the wrecks of ships floated up to the surface); and that still more
wonderful story of the Arethusa fountain near Syracuse (whose waters were
believed to have come from the Holy Land by an underground passage); these
fabulous narrations are almost fully equalled by the realities of the

Forced into familiarity, then, with such prodigies as these; and knowing
that after repeated, intrepid assaults, the White Whale had escaped alive;
it cannot be much matter of surprise that some whalemen should go still
further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only ubiquitous,
but immortal (for immortality is but ubiquity in time); that though groves
of spears should be planted in his flanks, he would still swim away
unharmed; or if indeed he should ever be made to spout thick blood, such a
sight would be but a ghastly deception; for again in unensanguined billows
hundreds of leagues away, his unsullied jet would once more be seen.

But even stripped of these supernatural surmisings, there was enough in
the earthly make and incontestable character of the monster to strike the
imagination with unwonted power. For, it was not so much his uncommon bulk
that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales, but, as was
elsewhere thrown out—a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a
high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent features; the
tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he revealed his
identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.

The rest of his body was so streaked, and spotted, and marbled with the
same shrouded hue, that, in the end, he had gained his distinctive
appellation of the White Whale; a name, indeed, literally justified by his
vivid aspect, when seen gliding at high noon through a dark blue sea,
leaving a milky-way wake of creamy foam, all spangled with golden

Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable hue, nor yet his
deformed lower jaw, that so much invested the whale with natural terror,
as that unexampled, intelligent malignity which, according to specific
accounts, he had over and over again evinced in his assaults. More than
all, his treacherous retreats struck more of dismay than perhaps aught
else. For, when swimming before his exulting pursuers, with every apparent
symptom of alarm, he had several times been known to turn round suddenly,
and, bearing down upon them, either stave their boats to splinters, or
drive them back in consternation to their ship.

Already several fatalities had attended his chase. But though similar
disasters, however little bruited ashore, were by no means unusual in the
fishery; yet, in most instances, such seemed the White Whale’s infernal
aforethought of ferocity, that every dismembering or death that he caused,
was not wholly regarded as having been inflicted by an unintelligent

Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury the minds of his
more desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chips of chewed boats,
and the sinking limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of the white curds
of the whale’s direful wrath into the serene, exasperating sunlight, that
smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.

His three boats stove around him, and oars and men both whirling in the
eddies; one captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had
dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duellist at his foe, blindly seeking
with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale. That
captain was Ahab. And then it was, that suddenly sweeping his
sickle-shaped lower jaw beneath him, Moby Dick had reaped away Ahab’s leg,
as a mower a blade of grass in the field. No turbaned Turk, no hired
Venetian or Malay, could have smote him with more seeming malice. Small
reason was there to doubt, then, that ever since that almost fatal
encounter, Ahab had cherished a wild vindictiveness against the whale, all
the more fell for that in his frantic morbidness he at last came to
identify with him, not only all his bodily woes, but all his intellectual
and spiritual exasperations. The White Whale swam before him as the
monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men
feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and
half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning;
to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the
worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue
devil;—Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but
deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted
himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments;
all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all
that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of
life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and
made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white
hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from
Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot
heart’s shell upon it.

It is not probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at the
precise time of his bodily dismemberment. Then, in darting at the monster,
knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden, passionate, corporal
animosity; and when he received the stroke that tore him, he probably but
felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but nothing more. Yet, when by this
collision forced to turn towards home, and for long months of days and
weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock, rounding in
mid winter that dreary, howling Patagonian Cape; then it was, that his
torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made
him mad. That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the
encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from
the fact that, at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic;
and, though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength yet lurked in his
Egyptian chest, and was moreover intensified by his delirium, that his
mates were forced to lace him fast, even there, as he sailed, raving in
his hammock. In a strait-jacket, he swung to the mad rockings of the
gales. And, when running into more sufferable latitudes, the ship, with
mild stun’sails spread, floated across the tranquil tropics, and, to all
appearances, the old man’s delirium seemed left behind him with the Cape
Horn swells, and he came forth from his dark den into the blessed light
and air; even then, when he bore that firm, collected front, however pale,
and issued his calm orders once again; and his mates thanked God the
direful madness was now gone; even then, Ahab, in his hidden self, raved
on. Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you
think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler
form. Ahab’s full lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like
the unabated Hudson, when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but
unfathomably through the Highland gorge. But, as in his narrow-flowing
monomania, not one jot of Ahab’s broad madness had been left behind; so in
that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had
perished. That before living agent, now became the living instrument. If
such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general
sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentred cannon upon its own
mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one
end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely
brought to bear upon any one reasonable object.

This is much; yet Ahab’s larger, darker, deeper part remains unhinted. But
vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound. Winding far
down from within the very heart of this spiked Hotel de Cluny where we
here stand—however grand and wonderful, now quit it;—and take
your way, ye nobler, sadder souls, to those vast Roman halls of Thermes;
where far beneath the fantastic towers of man’s upper earth, his root of
grandeur, his whole awful essence sits in bearded state; an antique buried
beneath antiquities, and throned on torsoes! So with a broken throne, the
great gods mock that captive king; so like a Caryatid, he patient sits,
upholding on his frozen brow the piled entablatures of ages. Wind ye down
there, ye prouder, sadder souls! question that proud, sad king! A family
likeness! aye, he did beget ye, ye young exiled royalties; and from your
grim sire only will the old State-secret come.

Now, in his heart, Ahab had some glimpse of this, namely: all my means are
sane, my motive and my object mad. Yet without power to kill, or change,
or shun the fact; he likewise knew that to mankind he did long dissemble;
in some sort, did still. But that thing of his dissembling was only
subject to his perceptibility, not to his will determinate. Nevertheless,
so well did he succeed in that dissembling, that when with ivory leg he
stepped ashore at last, no Nantucketer thought him otherwise than but
naturally grieved, and that to the quick, with the terrible casualty which
had overtaken him.

The report of his undeniable delirium at sea was likewise popularly
ascribed to a kindred cause. And so too, all the added moodiness which
always afterwards, to the very day of sailing in the Pequod on the present
voyage, sat brooding on his brow. Nor is it so very unlikely, that far
from distrusting his fitness for another whaling voyage, on account of
such dark symptoms, the calculating people of that prudent isle were
inclined to harbor the conceit, that for those very reasons he was all the
better qualified and set on edge, for a pursuit so full of rage and
wildness as the bloody hunt of whales. Gnawed within and scorched without,
with the infixed, unrelenting fangs of some incurable idea; such an one,
could he be found, would seem the very man to dart his iron and lift his
lance against the most appalling of all brutes. Or, if for any reason
thought to be corporeally incapacitated for that, yet such an one would
seem superlatively competent to cheer and howl on his underlings to the
attack. But be all this as it may, certain it is, that with the mad secret
of his unabated rage bolted up and keyed in him, Ahab had purposely sailed
upon the present voyage with the one only and all-engrossing object of
hunting the White Whale. Had any one of his old acquaintances on shore but
half dreamed of what was lurking in him then, how soon would their aghast
and righteous souls have wrenched the ship from such a fiendish man! They
were bent on profitable cruises, the profit to be counted down in dollars
from the mint. He was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and
supernatural revenge.

Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses a
Job’s whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made up
of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals—morally enfeebled
also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in
Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in
Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask. Such a crew, so officered,
seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him
to his monomaniac revenge. How it was that they so aboundingly responded
to the old man’s ire—by what evil magic their souls were possessed,
that at times his hate seemed almost theirs; the White Whale as much their
insufferable foe as his; how all this came to be—what the White
Whale was to them, or how to their unconscious understandings, also, in
some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon of
the seas of life,—all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than
Ishmael can go. The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one
tell whither leads his shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his
pick? Who does not feel the irresistible arm drag? What skiff in tow of a
seventy-four can stand still? For one, I gave myself up to the abandonment
of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to encounter the
whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest ill.

CHAPTER 42. The Whiteness of the Whale.

What the white whale was to Ahab, has been hinted; what, at times, he was
to me, as yet remains unsaid.

Aside from those more obvious considerations touching Moby Dick, which
could not but occasionally awaken in any man’s soul some alarm, there was
another thought, or rather vague, nameless horror concerning him, which at
times by its intensity completely overpowered all the rest; and yet so
mystical and well nigh ineffable was it, that I almost despair of putting
it in a comprehensible form. It was the whiteness of the whale that above
all things appalled me. But how can I hope to explain myself here; and
yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these
chapters might be naught.

Though in many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as
if imparting some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and
pearls; and though various nations have in some way recognised a certain
royal preeminence in this hue; even the barbaric, grand old kings of Pegu
placing the title “Lord of the White Elephants” above all their other
magniloquent ascriptions of dominion; and the modern kings of Siam
unfurling the same snow-white quadruped in the royal standard; and the
Hanoverian flag bearing the one figure of a snow-white charger; and the
great Austrian Empire, Cæsarian, heir to overlording Rome, having for the
imperial colour the same imperial hue; and though this pre-eminence in it
applies to the human race itself, giving the white man ideal mastership
over every dusky tribe; and though, besides, all this, whiteness has been
even made significant of gladness, for among the Romans a white stone
marked a joyful day; and though in other mortal sympathies and
symbolizings, this same hue is made the emblem of many touching, noble
things—the innocence of brides, the benignity of age; though among
the Red Men of America the giving of the white belt of wampum was the
deepest pledge of honor; though in many climes, whiteness typifies the
majesty of Justice in the ermine of the Judge, and contributes to the
daily state of kings and queens drawn by milk-white steeds; though even in
the higher mysteries of the most august religions it has been made the
symbol of the divine spotlessness and power; by the Persian fire
worshippers, the white forked flame being held the holiest on the altar;
and in the Greek mythologies, Great Jove himself being made incarnate in a
snow-white bull; and though to the noble Iroquois, the midwinter sacrifice
of the sacred White Dog was by far the holiest festival of their theology,
that spotless, faithful creature being held the purest envoy they could
send to the Great Spirit with the annual tidings of their own fidelity;
and though directly from the Latin word for white, all Christian priests
derive the name of one part of their sacred vesture, the alb or tunic,
worn beneath the cassock; and though among the holy pomps of the Romish
faith, white is specially employed in the celebration of the Passion of
our Lord; though in the Vision of St. John, white robes are given to the
redeemed, and the four-and-twenty elders stand clothed in white before the
great white throne, and the Holy One that sitteth there white like wool;
yet for all these accumulated associations, with whatever is sweet, and
honorable, and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something in the
innermost idea of this hue, which strikes more of panic to the soul than
that redness which affrights in blood.

This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness, when
divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with any object
terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest bounds.
Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of the tropics;
what but their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the transcendent horrors
they are? That ghastly whiteness it is which imparts such an abhorrent
mildness, even more loathsome than terrific, to the dumb gloating of their
aspect. So that not the fierce-fanged tiger in his heraldic coat can so
stagger courage as the white-shrouded bear or shark.*

*With reference to the Polar bear, it may possibly be urged by him who
would fain go still deeper into this matter, that it is not the whiteness,
separately regarded, which heightens the intolerable hideousness of that
brute; for, analysed, that heightened hideousness, it might be said, only
rises from the circumstance, that the irresponsible ferociousness of the
creature stands invested in the fleece of celestial innocence and love;
and hence, by bringing together two such opposite emotions in our minds,
the Polar bear frightens us with so unnatural a contrast. But even
assuming all this to be true; yet, were it not for the whiteness, you
would not have that intensified terror.

As for the white shark, the white gliding ghostliness of repose in that
creature, when beheld in his ordinary moods, strangely tallies with the
same quality in the Polar quadruped. This peculiarity is most vividly hit
by the French in the name they bestow upon that fish. The Romish mass for
the dead begins with “Requiem eternam” (eternal rest), whence Requiem
denominating the mass itself, and any other funeral music. Now, in
allusion to the white, silent stillness of death in this shark, and the
mild deadliness of his habits, the French call him Requin.

Bethink thee of the albatross, whence come those clouds of spiritual
wonderment and pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in all
imaginations? Not Coleridge first threw that spell; but God’s great,
unflattering laureate, Nature.*

*I remember the first albatross I ever saw. It was during a prolonged
gale, in waters hard upon the Antarctic seas. From my forenoon watch
below, I ascended to the overclouded deck; and there, dashed upon the main
hatches, I saw a regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness, and with a
hooked, Roman bill sublime. At intervals, it arched forth its vast
archangel wings, as if to embrace some holy ark. Wondrous flutterings and
throbbings shook it. Though bodily unharmed, it uttered cries, as some
king’s ghost in supernatural distress. Through its inexpressible, strange
eyes, methought I peeped to secrets which took hold of God. As Abraham
before the angels, I bowed myself; the white thing was so white, its wings
so wide, and in those for ever exiled waters, I had lost the miserable
warping memories of traditions and of towns. Long I gazed at that prodigy
of plumage. I cannot tell, can only hint, the things that darted through
me then. But at last I awoke; and turning, asked a sailor what bird was
this. A goney, he replied. Goney! never had heard that name before; is it
conceivable that this glorious thing is utterly unknown to men ashore!
never! But some time after, I learned that goney was some seaman’s name
for albatross. So that by no possibility could Coleridge’s wild Rhyme have
had aught to do with those mystical impressions which were mine, when I
saw that bird upon our deck. For neither had I then read the Rhyme, nor
knew the bird to be an albatross. Yet, in saying this, I do but indirectly
burnish a little brighter the noble merit of the poem and the poet.

I assert, then, that in the wondrous bodily whiteness of the bird chiefly
lurks the secret of the spell; a truth the more evinced in this, that by a
solecism of terms there are birds called grey albatrosses; and these I
have frequently seen, but never with such emotions as when I beheld the
Antarctic fowl.

But how had the mystic thing been caught? Whisper it not, and I will tell;
with a treacherous hook and line, as the fowl floated on the sea. At last
the Captain made a postman of it; tying a lettered, leathern tally round
its neck, with the ship’s time and place; and then letting it escape. But
I doubt not, that leathern tally, meant for man, was taken off in Heaven,
when the white fowl flew to join the wing-folding, the invoking, and
adoring cherubim!

Most famous in our Western annals and Indian traditions is that of the
White Steed of the Prairies; a magnificent milk-white charger, large-eyed,
small-headed, bluff-chested, and with the dignity of a thousand monarchs
in his lofty, overscorning carriage. He was the elected Xerxes of vast
herds of wild horses, whose pastures in those days were only fenced by the
Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies. At their flaming head he westward
trooped it like that chosen star which every evening leads on the hosts of
light. The flashing cascade of his mane, the curving comet of his tail,
invested him with housings more resplendent than gold and silver-beaters
could have furnished him. A most imperial and archangelical apparition of
that unfallen, western world, which to the eyes of the old trappers and
hunters revived the glories of those primeval times when Adam walked
majestic as a god, bluff-browed and fearless as this mighty steed. Whether
marching amid his aides and marshals in the van of countless cohorts that
endlessly streamed it over the plains, like an Ohio; or whether with his
circumambient subjects browsing all around at the horizon, the White Steed
gallopingly reviewed them with warm nostrils reddening through his cool
milkiness; in whatever aspect he presented himself, always to the bravest
Indians he was the object of trembling reverence and awe. Nor can it be
questioned from what stands on legendary record of this noble horse, that
it was his spiritual whiteness chiefly, which so clothed him with
divineness; and that this divineness had that in it which, though
commanding worship, at the same time enforced a certain nameless terror.

But there are other instances where this whiteness loses all that
accessory and strange glory which invests it in the White Steed and

What is it that in the Albino man so peculiarly repels and often shocks
the eye, as that sometimes he is loathed by his own kith and kin! It is
that whiteness which invests him, a thing expressed by the name he bears.
The Albino is as well made as other men—has no substantive deformity—and
yet this mere aspect of all-pervading whiteness makes him more strangely
hideous than the ugliest abortion. Why should this be so?

Nor, in quite other aspects, does Nature in her least palpable but not the
less malicious agencies, fail to enlist among her forces this crowning
attribute of the terrible. From its snowy aspect, the gauntleted ghost of
the Southern Seas has been denominated the White Squall. Nor, in some
historic instances, has the art of human malice omitted so potent an
auxiliary. How wildly it heightens the effect of that passage in
Froissart, when, masked in the snowy symbol of their faction, the
desperate White Hoods of Ghent murder their bailiff in the market-place!

Nor, in some things, does the common, hereditary experience of all mankind
fail to bear witness to the supernaturalism of this hue. It cannot well be
doubted, that the one visible quality in the aspect of the dead which most
appals the gazer, is the marble pallor lingering there; as if indeed that
pallor were as much like the badge of consternation in the other world, as
of mortal trepidation here. And from that pallor of the dead, we borrow
the expressive hue of the shroud in which we wrap them. Nor even in our
superstitions do we fail to throw the same snowy mantle round our
phantoms; all ghosts rising in a milk-white fog—Yea, while these
terrors seize us, let us add, that even the king of terrors, when
personified by the evangelist, rides on his pallid horse.

Therefore, in his other moods, symbolize whatever grand or gracious thing
he will by whiteness, no man can deny that in its profoundest idealized
significance it calls up a peculiar apparition to the soul.

But though without dissent this point be fixed, how is mortal man to
account for it? To analyse it, would seem impossible. Can we, then, by the
citation of some of those instances wherein this thing of whiteness—though
for the time either wholly or in great part stripped of all direct
associations calculated to impart to it aught fearful, but nevertheless,
is found to exert over us the same sorcery, however modified;—can we
thus hope to light upon some chance clue to conduct us to the hidden cause
we seek?

Let us try. But in a matter like this, subtlety appeals to subtlety, and
without imagination no man can follow another into these halls. And
though, doubtless, some at least of the imaginative impressions about to
be presented may have been shared by most men, yet few perhaps were
entirely conscious of them at the time, and therefore may not be able to
recall them now.

Why to the man of untutored ideality, who happens to be but loosely
acquainted with the peculiar character of the day, does the bare mention
of Whitsuntide marshal in the fancy such long, dreary, speechless
processions of slow-pacing pilgrims, down-cast and hooded with new-fallen
snow? Or, to the unread, unsophisticated Protestant of the Middle American
States, why does the passing mention of a White Friar or a White Nun,
evoke such an eyeless statue in the soul?

Or what is there apart from the traditions of dungeoned warriors and kings
(which will not wholly account for it) that makes the White Tower of
London tell so much more strongly on the imagination of an untravelled
American, than those other storied structures, its neighbors—the
Byward Tower, or even the Bloody? And those sublimer towers, the White
Mountains of New Hampshire, whence, in peculiar moods, comes that gigantic
ghostliness over the soul at the bare mention of that name, while the
thought of Virginia’s Blue Ridge is full of a soft, dewy, distant
dreaminess? Or why, irrespective of all latitudes and longitudes, does the
name of the White Sea exert such a spectralness over the fancy, while that
of the Yellow Sea lulls us with mortal thoughts of long lacquered mild
afternoons on the waves, followed by the gaudiest and yet sleepiest of
sunsets? Or, to choose a wholly unsubstantial instance, purely addressed
to the fancy, why, in reading the old fairy tales of Central Europe, does
“the tall pale man” of the Hartz forests, whose changeless pallor
unrustlingly glides through the green of the groves—why is this
phantom more terrible than all the whooping imps of the Blocksburg?

Nor is it, altogether, the remembrance of her cathedral-toppling
earthquakes; nor the stampedoes of her frantic seas; nor the tearlessness
of arid skies that never rain; nor the sight of her wide field of leaning
spires, wrenched cope-stones, and crosses all adroop (like canted yards of
anchored fleets); and her suburban avenues of house-walls lying over upon
each other, as a tossed pack of cards;—it is not these things alone
which make tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can’st see. For
Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this
whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for
ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads
over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its
own distortions.

I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness is
not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of objects
otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there aught of terror
in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind almost solely
consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited under any form
at all approaching to muteness or universality. What I mean by these two
statements may perhaps be respectively elucidated by the following

First: The mariner, when drawing nigh the coasts of foreign lands, if by
night he hear the roar of breakers, starts to vigilance, and feels just
enough of trepidation to sharpen all his faculties; but under precisely
similar circumstances, let him be called from his hammock to view his ship
sailing through a midnight sea of milky whiteness—as if from
encircling headlands shoals of combed white bears were swimming round him,
then he feels a silent, superstitious dread; the shrouded phantom of the
whitened waters is horrible to him as a real ghost; in vain the lead
assures him he is still off soundings; heart and helm they both go down;
he never rests till blue water is under him again. Yet where is the
mariner who will tell thee, “Sir, it was not so much the fear of striking
hidden rocks, as the fear of that hideous whiteness that so stirred me?”

Second: To the native Indian of Peru, the continual sight of the
snow-howdahed Andes conveys naught of dread, except, perhaps, in the mere
fancying of the eternal frosted desolateness reigning at such vast
altitudes, and the natural conceit of what a fearfulness it would be to
lose oneself in such inhuman solitudes. Much the same is it with the
backwoodsman of the West, who with comparative indifference views an
unbounded prairie sheeted with driven snow, no shadow of tree or twig to
break the fixed trance of whiteness. Not so the sailor, beholding the
scenery of the Antarctic seas; where at times, by some infernal trick of
legerdemain in the powers of frost and air, he, shivering and half
shipwrecked, instead of rainbows speaking hope and solace to his misery,
views what seems a boundless churchyard grinning upon him with its lean
ice monuments and splintered crosses.

But thou sayest, methinks that white-lead chapter about whiteness is but a
white flag hung out from a craven soul; thou surrenderest to a hypo,

Tell me, why this strong young colt, foaled in some peaceful valley of
Vermont, far removed from all beasts of prey—why is it that upon the
sunniest day, if you but shake a fresh buffalo robe behind him, so that he
cannot even see it, but only smells its wild animal muskiness—why
will he start, snort, and with bursting eyes paw the ground in phrensies
of affright? There is no remembrance in him of any gorings of wild
creatures in his green northern home, so that the strange muskiness he
smells cannot recall to him anything associated with the experience of
former perils; for what knows he, this New England colt, of the black
bisons of distant Oregon?

No: but here thou beholdest even in a dumb brute, the instinct of the
knowledge of the demonism in the world. Though thousands of miles from
Oregon, still when he smells that savage musk, the rending, goring bison
herds are as present as to the deserted wild foal of the prairies, which
this instant they may be trampling into dust.

Thus, then, the muffled rollings of a milky sea; the bleak rustlings of
the festooned frosts of mountains; the desolate shiftings of the windrowed
snows of prairies; all these, to Ishmael, are as the shaking of that
buffalo robe to the frightened colt!

Though neither knows where lie the nameless things of which the mystic
sign gives forth such hints; yet with me, as with the colt, somewhere
those things must exist. Though in many of its aspects this visible world
seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright.

But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned
why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more
portentous—why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning
symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity;
and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most
appalling to mankind.

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and
immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the
thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way?
Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the
visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all
colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full
of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colourless, all-colour of
atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of
the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues—every stately
or lovely emblazoning—the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods;
yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of
young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in
substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature
absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the
charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the
mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great
principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if
operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips
and roses, with its own blank tinge—pondering all this, the palsied
universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland,
who refuse to wear coloured and colouring glasses upon their eyes, so the
wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that
wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino
whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?

CHAPTER 43. Hark!

“HIST! Did you hear that noise, Cabaco?”

It was the middle-watch: a fair moonlight; the seamen were standing in a
cordon, extending from one of the fresh-water butts in the waist, to the
scuttle-butt near the taffrail. In this manner, they passed the buckets to
fill the scuttle-butt. Standing, for the most part, on the hallowed
precincts of the quarter-deck, they were careful not to speak or rustle
their feet. From hand to hand, the buckets went in the deepest silence,
only broken by the occasional flap of a sail, and the steady hum of the
unceasingly advancing keel.

It was in the midst of this repose, that Archy, one of the cordon, whose
post was near the after-hatches, whispered to his neighbor, a Cholo, the
words above.

“Hist! did you hear that noise, Cabaco?”

“Take the bucket, will ye, Archy? what noise d’ye mean?”

“There it is again—under the hatches—don’t you hear it—a
cough—it sounded like a cough.”

“Cough be damned! Pass along that return bucket.”

“There again—there it is!—it sounds like two or three sleepers
turning over, now!”

“Caramba! have done, shipmate, will ye? It’s the three soaked biscuits ye
eat for supper turning over inside of ye—nothing else. Look to the

“Say what ye will, shipmate; I’ve sharp ears.”

“Aye, you are the chap, ain’t ye, that heard the hum of the old
Quakeress’s knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you’re the

“Grin away; we’ll see what turns up. Hark ye, Cabaco, there is somebody
down in the after-hold that has not yet been seen on deck; and I suspect
our old Mogul knows something of it too. I heard Stubb tell Flask, one
morning watch, that there was something of that sort in the wind.”

“Tish! the bucket!”

CHAPTER 44. The Chart.

Had you followed Captain Ahab down into his cabin after the squall that
took place on the night succeeding that wild ratification of his purpose
with his crew, you would have seen him go to a locker in the transom, and
bringing out a large wrinkled roll of yellowish sea charts, spread them
before him on his screwed-down table. Then seating himself before it, you
would have seen him intently study the various lines and shadings which
there met his eye; and with slow but steady pencil trace additional
courses over spaces that before were blank. At intervals, he would refer
to piles of old log-books beside him, wherein were set down the seasons
and places in which, on various former voyages of various ships, sperm
whales had been captured or seen.

While thus employed, the heavy pewter lamp suspended in chains over his
head, continually rocked with the motion of the ship, and for ever threw
shifting gleams and shadows of lines upon his wrinkled brow, till it
almost seemed that while he himself was marking out lines and courses on
the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and
courses upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead.

But it was not this night in particular that, in the solitude of his
cabin, Ahab thus pondered over his charts. Almost every night they were
brought out; almost every night some pencil marks were effaced, and others
were substituted. For with the charts of all four oceans before him, Ahab
was threading a maze of currents and eddies, with a view to the more
certain accomplishment of that monomaniac thought of his soul.

Now, to any one not fully acquainted with the ways of the leviathans, it
might seem an absurdly hopeless task thus to seek out one solitary
creature in the unhooped oceans of this planet. But not so did it seem to
Ahab, who knew the sets of all tides and currents; and thereby calculating
the driftings of the sperm whale’s food; and, also, calling to mind the
regular, ascertained seasons for hunting him in particular latitudes;
could arrive at reasonable surmises, almost approaching to certainties,
concerning the timeliest day to be upon this or that ground in search of
his prey.

So assured, indeed, is the fact concerning the periodicalness of the sperm
whale’s resorting to given waters, that many hunters believe that, could
he be closely observed and studied throughout the world; were the logs for
one voyage of the entire whale fleet carefully collated, then the
migrations of the sperm whale would be found to correspond in
invariability to those of the herring-shoals or the flights of swallows.
On this hint, attempts have been made to construct elaborate migratory
charts of the sperm whale.*

     *Since the above was written, the statement is happily borne
     out by an official circular, issued by Lieutenant Maury, of
     the National Observatory, Washington, April 16th, 1851. By
     that circular, it appears that precisely such a chart is in
     course of completion; and portions of it are presented in
     the circular. “This chart divides the ocean into districts
     of five degrees of latitude by five degrees of longitude;
     perpendicularly through each of which districts are twelve
     columns for the twelve months; and horizontally through each
     of which districts are three lines; one to show the number
     of days that have been spent in each month in every
     district, and the two others to show the number of days in
     which whales, sperm or right, have been seen.”

Besides, when making a passage from one feeding-ground to another, the
sperm whales, guided by some infallible instinct—say, rather, secret
intelligence from the Deity—mostly swim in veins, as they are
called; continuing their way along a given ocean-line with such
undeviating exactitude, that no ship ever sailed her course, by any chart,
with one tithe of such marvellous precision. Though, in these cases, the
direction taken by any one whale be straight as a surveyor’s parallel, and
though the line of advance be strictly confined to its own unavoidable,
straight wake, yet the arbitrary vein in which at these times he is said
to swim, generally embraces some few miles in width (more or less, as the
vein is presumed to expand or contract); but never exceeds the visual
sweep from the whale-ship’s mast-heads, when circumspectly gliding along
this magic zone. The sum is, that at particular seasons within that
breadth and along that path, migrating whales may with great confidence be
looked for.

And hence not only at substantiated times, upon well known separate
feeding-grounds, could Ahab hope to encounter his prey; but in crossing
the widest expanses of water between those grounds he could, by his art,
so place and time himself on his way, as even then not to be wholly
without prospect of a meeting.

There was a circumstance which at first sight seemed to entangle his
delirious but still methodical scheme. But not so in the reality, perhaps.
Though the gregarious sperm whales have their regular seasons for
particular grounds, yet in general you cannot conclude that the herds
which haunted such and such a latitude or longitude this year, say, will
turn out to be identically the same with those that were found there the
preceding season; though there are peculiar and unquestionable instances
where the contrary of this has proved true. In general, the same remark,
only within a less wide limit, applies to the solitaries and hermits among
the matured, aged sperm whales. So that though Moby Dick had in a former
year been seen, for example, on what is called the Seychelle ground in the
Indian ocean, or Volcano Bay on the Japanese Coast; yet it did not follow,
that were the Pequod to visit either of those spots at any subsequent
corresponding season, she would infallibly encounter him there. So, too,
with some other feeding grounds, where he had at times revealed himself.
But all these seemed only his casual stopping-places and ocean-inns, so to
speak, not his places of prolonged abode. And where Ahab’s chances of
accomplishing his object have hitherto been spoken of, allusion has only
been made to whatever way-side, antecedent, extra prospects were his, ere
a particular set time or place were attained, when all possibilities would
become probabilities, and, as Ahab fondly thought, every possibility the
next thing to a certainty. That particular set time and place were
conjoined in the one technical phrase—the Season-on-the-Line. For
there and then, for several consecutive years, Moby Dick had been
periodically descried, lingering in those waters for awhile, as the sun,
in its annual round, loiters for a predicted interval in any one sign of
the Zodiac. There it was, too, that most of the deadly encounters with the
white whale had taken place; there the waves were storied with his deeds;
there also was that tragic spot where the monomaniac old man had found the
awful motive to his vengeance. But in the cautious comprehensiveness and
unloitering vigilance with which Ahab threw his brooding soul into this
unfaltering hunt, he would not permit himself to rest all his hopes upon
the one crowning fact above mentioned, however flattering it might be to
those hopes; nor in the sleeplessness of his vow could he so tranquillize
his unquiet heart as to postpone all intervening quest.

Now, the Pequod had sailed from Nantucket at the very beginning of the
Season-on-the-Line. No possible endeavor then could enable her commander
to make the great passage southwards, double Cape Horn, and then running
down sixty degrees of latitude arrive in the equatorial Pacific in time to
cruise there. Therefore, he must wait for the next ensuing season. Yet the
premature hour of the Pequod’s sailing had, perhaps, been correctly
selected by Ahab, with a view to this very complexion of things. Because,
an interval of three hundred and sixty-five days and nights was before
him; an interval which, instead of impatiently enduring ashore, he would
spend in a miscellaneous hunt; if by chance the White Whale, spending his
vacation in seas far remote from his periodical feeding-grounds, should
turn up his wrinkled brow off the Persian Gulf, or in the Bengal Bay, or
China Seas, or in any other waters haunted by his race. So that Monsoons,
Pampas, Nor’-Westers, Harmattans, Trades; any wind but the Levanter and
Simoon, might blow Moby Dick into the devious zig-zag world-circle of the
Pequod’s circumnavigating wake.

But granting all this; yet, regarded discreetly and coolly, seems it not
but a mad idea, this; that in the broad boundless ocean, one solitary
whale, even if encountered, should be thought capable of individual
recognition from his hunter, even as a white-bearded Mufti in the thronged
thoroughfares of Constantinople? Yes. For the peculiar snow-white brow of
Moby Dick, and his snow-white hump, could not but be unmistakable. And
have I not tallied the whale, Ahab would mutter to himself, as after
poring over his charts till long after midnight he would throw himself
back in reveries—tallied him, and shall he escape? His broad fins
are bored, and scalloped out like a lost sheep’s ear! And here, his mad
mind would run on in a breathless race; till a weariness and faintness of
pondering came over him; and in the open air of the deck he would seek to
recover his strength. Ah, God! what trances of torments does that man
endure who is consumed with one unachieved revengeful desire. He sleeps
with clenched hands; and wakes with his own bloody nails in his palms.

Often, when forced from his hammock by exhausting and intolerably vivid
dreams of the night, which, resuming his own intense thoughts through the
day, carried them on amid a clashing of phrensies, and whirled them round
and round and round in his blazing brain, till the very throbbing of his
life-spot became insufferable anguish; and when, as was sometimes the
case, these spiritual throes in him heaved his being up from its base, and
a chasm seemed opening in him, from which forked flames and lightnings
shot up, and accursed fiends beckoned him to leap down among them; when
this hell in himself yawned beneath him, a wild cry would be heard through
the ship; and with glaring eyes Ahab would burst from his state room, as
though escaping from a bed that was on fire. Yet these, perhaps, instead
of being the unsuppressable symptoms of some latent weakness, or fright at
his own resolve, were but the plainest tokens of its intensity. For, at
such times, crazy Ahab, the scheming, unappeasedly steadfast hunter of the
white whale; this Ahab that had gone to his hammock, was not the agent
that so caused him to burst from it in horror again. The latter was the
eternal, living principle or soul in him; and in sleep, being for the time
dissociated from the characterizing mind, which at other times employed it
for its outer vehicle or agent, it spontaneously sought escape from the
scorching contiguity of the frantic thing, of which, for the time, it was
no longer an integral. But as the mind does not exist unless leagued with
the soul, therefore it must have been that, in Ahab’s case, yielding up
all his thoughts and fancies to his one supreme purpose; that purpose, by
its own sheer inveteracy of will, forced itself against gods and devils
into a kind of self-assumed, independent being of its own. Nay, could
grimly live and burn, while the common vitality to which it was conjoined,
fled horror-stricken from the unbidden and unfathered birth. Therefore,
the tormented spirit that glared out of bodily eyes, when what seemed Ahab
rushed from his room, was for the time but a vacated thing, a formless
somnambulistic being, a ray of living light, to be sure, but without an
object to colour, and therefore a blankness in itself. God help thee, old
man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense
thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon that heart for
ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.

CHAPTER 45. The Affidavit.

So far as what there may be of a narrative in this book; and, indeed, as
indirectly touching one or two very interesting and curious particulars in
the habits of sperm whales, the foregoing chapter, in its earlier part, is
as important a one as will be found in this volume; but the leading matter
of it requires to be still further and more familiarly enlarged upon, in
order to be adequately understood, and moreover to take away any
incredulity which a profound ignorance of the entire subject may induce in
some minds, as to the natural verity of the main points of this affair.

I care not to perform this part of my task methodically; but shall be
content to produce the desired impression by separate citations of items,
practically or reliably known to me as a whaleman; and from these
citations, I take it—the conclusion aimed at will naturally follow
of itself.

First: I have personally known three instances where a whale, after
receiving a harpoon, has effected a complete escape; and, after an
interval (in one instance of three years), has been again struck by the
same hand, and slain; when the two irons, both marked by the same private
cypher, have been taken from the body. In the instance where three years
intervened between the flinging of the two harpoons; and I think it may
have been something more than that; the man who darted them happening, in
the interval, to go in a trading ship on a voyage to Africa, went ashore
there, joined a discovery party, and penetrated far into the interior,
where he travelled for a period of nearly two years, often endangered by
serpents, savages, tigers, poisonous miasmas, with all the other common
perils incident to wandering in the heart of unknown regions. Meanwhile,
the whale he had struck must also have been on its travels; no doubt it
had thrice circumnavigated the globe, brushing with its flanks all the
coasts of Africa; but to no purpose. This man and this whale again came
together, and the one vanquished the other. I say I, myself, have known
three instances similar to this; that is in two of them I saw the whales
struck; and, upon the second attack, saw the two irons with the respective
marks cut in them, afterwards taken from the dead fish. In the three-year
instance, it so fell out that I was in the boat both times, first and
last, and the last time distinctly recognised a peculiar sort of huge mole
under the whale’s eye, which I had observed there three years previous. I
say three years, but I am pretty sure it was more than that. Here are
three instances, then, which I personally know the truth of; but I have
heard of many other instances from persons whose veracity in the matter
there is no good ground to impeach.

Secondly: It is well known in the Sperm Whale Fishery, however ignorant
the world ashore may be of it, that there have been several memorable
historical instances where a particular whale in the ocean has been at
distant times and places popularly cognisable. Why such a whale became
thus marked was not altogether and originally owing to his bodily
peculiarities as distinguished from other whales; for however peculiar in
that respect any chance whale may be, they soon put an end to his
peculiarities by killing him, and boiling him down into a peculiarly
valuable oil. No: the reason was this: that from the fatal experiences of
the fishery there hung a terrible prestige of perilousness about such a
whale as there did about Rinaldo Rinaldini, insomuch that most fishermen
were content to recognise him by merely touching their tarpaulins when he
would be discovered lounging by them on the sea, without seeking to
cultivate a more intimate acquaintance. Like some poor devils ashore that
happen to know an irascible great man, they make distant unobtrusive
salutations to him in the street, lest if they pursued the acquaintance
further, they might receive a summary thump for their presumption.

But not only did each of these famous whales enjoy great individual
celebrity—Nay, you may call it an ocean-wide renown; not only was he
famous in life and now is immortal in forecastle stories after death, but
he was admitted into all the rights, privileges, and distinctions of a
name; had as much a name indeed as Cambyses or Cæsar. Was it not so, O
Timor Tom! thou famed leviathan, scarred like an iceberg, who so long
did’st lurk in the Oriental straits of that name, whose spout was oft seen
from the palmy beach of Ombay? Was it not so, O New Zealand Jack! thou
terror of all cruisers that crossed their wakes in the vicinity of the
Tattoo Land? Was it not so, O Morquan! King of Japan, whose lofty jet they
say at times assumed the semblance of a snow-white cross against the sky?
Was it not so, O Don Miguel! thou Chilian whale, marked like an old
tortoise with mystic hieroglyphics upon the back! In plain prose, here are
four whales as well known to the students of Cetacean History as Marius or
Sylla to the classic scholar.

But this is not all. New Zealand Tom and Don Miguel, after at various
times creating great havoc among the boats of different vessels, were
finally gone in quest of, systematically hunted out, chased and killed by
valiant whaling captains, who heaved up their anchors with that express
object as much in view, as in setting out through the Narragansett Woods,
Captain Butler of old had it in his mind to capture that notorious
murderous savage Annawon, the headmost warrior of the Indian King Philip.

I do not know where I can find a better place than just here, to make
mention of one or two other things, which to me seem important, as in
printed form establishing in all respects the reasonableness of the whole
story of the White Whale, more especially the catastrophe. For this is one
of those disheartening instances where truth requires full as much
bolstering as error. So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest
and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching
the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might
scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more
detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.

First: Though most men have some vague flitting ideas of the general
perils of the grand fishery, yet they have nothing like a fixed, vivid
conception of those perils, and the frequency with which they recur. One
reason perhaps is, that not one in fifty of the actual disasters and
deaths by casualties in the fishery, ever finds a public record at home,
however transient and immediately forgotten that record. Do you suppose
that that poor fellow there, who this moment perhaps caught by the
whale-line off the coast of New Guinea, is being carried down to the
bottom of the sea by the sounding leviathan—do you suppose that that
poor fellow’s name will appear in the newspaper obituary you will read
to-morrow at your breakfast? No: because the mails are very irregular
between here and New Guinea. In fact, did you ever hear what might be
called regular news direct or indirect from New Guinea? Yet I tell you
that upon one particular voyage which I made to the Pacific, among many
others we spoke thirty different ships, every one of which had had a death
by a whale, some of them more than one, and three that had each lost a
boat’s crew. For God’s sake, be economical with your lamps and candles!
not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man’s blood was spilled
for it.

Secondly: People ashore have indeed some indefinite idea that a whale is
an enormous creature of enormous power; but I have ever found that when
narrating to them some specific example of this two-fold enormousness,
they have significantly complimented me upon my facetiousness; when, I
declare upon my soul, I had no more idea of being facetious than Moses,
when he wrote the history of the plagues of Egypt.

But fortunately the special point I here seek can be established upon
testimony entirely independent of my own. That point is this: The Sperm
Whale is in some cases sufficiently powerful, knowing, and judiciously
malicious, as with direct aforethought to stave in, utterly destroy, and
sink a large ship; and what is more, the Sperm Whale has done it.

First: In the year 1820 the ship Essex, Captain Pollard, of Nantucket, was
cruising in the Pacific Ocean. One day she saw spouts, lowered her boats,
and gave chase to a shoal of sperm whales. Ere long, several of the whales
were wounded; when, suddenly, a very large whale escaping from the boats,
issued from the shoal, and bore directly down upon the ship. Dashing his
forehead against her hull, he so stove her in, that in less than “ten
minutes” she settled down and fell over. Not a surviving plank of her has
been seen since. After the severest exposure, part of the crew reached the
land in their boats. Being returned home at last, Captain Pollard once
more sailed for the Pacific in command of another ship, but the gods
shipwrecked him again upon unknown rocks and breakers; for the second time
his ship was utterly lost, and forthwith forswearing the sea, he has never
tempted it since. At this day Captain Pollard is a resident of Nantucket.
I have seen Owen Chace, who was chief mate of the Essex at the time of the
tragedy; I have read his plain and faithful narrative; I have conversed
with his son; and all this within a few miles of the scene of the

*The following are extracts from Chace’s narrative: “Every fact seemed to
warrant me in concluding that it was anything but chance which directed
his operations; he made two several attacks upon the ship, at a short
interval between them, both of which, according to their direction, were
calculated to do us the most injury, by being made ahead, and thereby
combining the speed of the two objects for the shock; to effect which, the
exact manœuvres which he made were necessary. His aspect was most
horrible, and such as indicated resentment and fury. He came directly from
the shoal which we had just before entered, and in which we had struck
three of his companions, as if fired with revenge for their sufferings.”
Again: “At all events, the whole circumstances taken together, all
happening before my own eyes, and producing, at the time, impressions in
my mind of decided, calculating mischief, on the part of the whale (many
of which impressions I cannot now recall), induce me to be satisfied that
I am correct in my opinion.”

Here are his reflections some time after quitting the ship, during a black
night in an open boat, when almost despairing of reaching any hospitable
shore. “The dark ocean and swelling waters were nothing; the fears of
being swallowed up by some dreadful tempest, or dashed upon hidden rocks,
with all the other ordinary subjects of fearful contemplation, seemed
scarcely entitled to a moment’s thought; the dismal looking wreck, and the
horrid aspect and revenge of the whale
, wholly engrossed my reflections,
until day again made its appearance.”

In another place—p. 45,—he speaks of “the mysterious and
mortal attack of the animal

Secondly: The ship Union, also of Nantucket, was in the year 1807 totally
lost off the Azores by a similar onset, but the authentic particulars of
this catastrophe I have never chanced to encounter, though from the whale
hunters I have now and then heard casual allusions to it.

Thirdly: Some eighteen or twenty years ago Commodore J——, then
commanding an American sloop-of-war of the first class, happened to be
dining with a party of whaling captains, on board a Nantucket ship in the
harbor of Oahu, Sandwich Islands. Conversation turning upon whales, the
Commodore was pleased to be sceptical touching the amazing strength
ascribed to them by the professional gentlemen present. He peremptorily
denied for example, that any whale could so smite his stout sloop-of-war
as to cause her to leak so much as a thimbleful. Very good; but there is
more coming. Some weeks after, the Commodore set sail in this impregnable
craft for Valparaiso. But he was stopped on the way by a portly sperm
whale, that begged a few moments’ confidential business with him. That
business consisted in fetching the Commodore’s craft such a thwack, that
with all his pumps going he made straight for the nearest port to heave
down and repair. I am not superstitious, but I consider the Commodore’s
interview with that whale as providential. Was not Saul of Tarsus
converted from unbelief by a similar fright? I tell you, the sperm whale
will stand no nonsense.

I will now refer you to Langsdorff’s Voyages for a little circumstance in
point, peculiarly interesting to the writer hereof. Langsdorff, you must
know by the way, was attached to the Russian Admiral Krusenstern’s famous
Discovery Expedition in the beginning of the present century. Captain
Langsdorff thus begins his seventeenth chapter:

“By the thirteenth of May our ship was ready to sail, and the next day we
were out in the open sea, on our way to Ochotsh. The weather was very
clear and fine, but so intolerably cold that we were obliged to keep on
our fur clothing. For some days we had very little wind; it was not till
the nineteenth that a brisk gale from the northwest sprang up. An uncommon
large whale, the body of which was larger than the ship itself, lay almost
at the surface of the water, but was not perceived by any one on board
till the moment when the ship, which was in full sail, was almost upon
him, so that it was impossible to prevent its striking against him. We
were thus placed in the most imminent danger, as this gigantic creature,
setting up its back, raised the ship three feet at least out of the water.
The masts reeled, and the sails fell altogether, while we who were below
all sprang instantly upon the deck, concluding that we had struck upon
some rock; instead of this we saw the monster sailing off with the utmost
gravity and solemnity. Captain D’Wolf applied immediately to the pumps to
examine whether or not the vessel had received any damage from the shock,
but we found that very happily it had escaped entirely uninjured.”

Now, the Captain D’Wolf here alluded to as commanding the ship in
question, is a New Englander, who, after a long life of unusual adventures
as a sea-captain, this day resides in the village of Dorchester near
Boston. I have the honor of being a nephew of his. I have particularly
questioned him concerning this passage in Langsdorff. He substantiates
every word. The ship, however, was by no means a large one: a Russian
craft built on the Siberian coast, and purchased by my uncle after
bartering away the vessel in which he sailed from home.

In that up and down manly book of old-fashioned adventure, so full, too,
of honest wonders—the voyage of Lionel Wafer, one of ancient
Dampier’s old chums—I found a little matter set down so like that
just quoted from Langsdorff, that I cannot forbear inserting it here for a
corroborative example, if such be needed.

Lionel, it seems, was on his way to “John Ferdinando,” as he calls the
modern Juan Fernandes. “In our way thither,” he says, “about four o’clock
in the morning, when we were about one hundred and fifty leagues from the
Main of America, our ship felt a terrible shock, which put our men in such
consternation that they could hardly tell where they were or what to
think; but every one began to prepare for death. And, indeed, the shock
was so sudden and violent, that we took it for granted the ship had struck
against a rock; but when the amazement was a little over, we cast the
lead, and sounded, but found no ground. * * * * * The suddenness of the shock
made the guns leap in their carriages, and several of the men were shaken
out of their hammocks. Captain Davis, who lay with his head on a gun, was
thrown out of his cabin!” Lionel then goes on to impute the shock to an
earthquake, and seems to substantiate the imputation by stating that a
great earthquake, somewhere about that time, did actually do great
mischief along the Spanish land. But I should not much wonder if, in the
darkness of that early hour of the morning, the shock was after all caused
by an unseen whale vertically bumping the hull from beneath.

I might proceed with several more examples, one way or another known to
me, of the great power and malice at times of the sperm whale. In more
than one instance, he has been known, not only to chase the assailing
boats back to their ships, but to pursue the ship itself, and long
withstand all the lances hurled at him from its decks. The English ship
Pusie Hall can tell a story on that head; and, as for his strength, let me
say, that there have been examples where the lines attached to a running
sperm whale have, in a calm, been transferred to the ship, and secured
there; the whale towing her great hull through the water, as a horse walks
off with a cart. Again, it is very often observed that, if the sperm
whale, once struck, is allowed time to rally, he then acts, not so often
with blind rage, as with wilful, deliberate designs of destruction to his
pursuers; nor is it without conveying some eloquent indication of his
character, that upon being attacked he will frequently open his mouth, and
retain it in that dread expansion for several consecutive minutes. But I
must be content with only one more and a concluding illustration; a
remarkable and most significant one, by which you will not fail to see,
that not only is the most marvellous event in this book corroborated by
plain facts of the present day, but that these marvels (like all marvels)
are mere repetitions of the ages; so that for the millionth time we say
amen with Solomon—Verily there is nothing new under the sun.

In the sixth Christian century lived Procopius, a Christian magistrate of
Constantinople, in the days when Justinian was Emperor and Belisarius
general. As many know, he wrote the history of his own times, a work every
way of uncommon value. By the best authorities, he has always been
considered a most trustworthy and unexaggerating historian, except in some
one or two particulars, not at all affecting the matter presently to be

Now, in this history of his, Procopius mentions that, during the term of
his prefecture at Constantinople, a great sea-monster was captured in the
neighboring Propontis, or Sea of Marmora, after having destroyed vessels
at intervals in those waters for a period of more than fifty years. A fact
thus set down in substantial history cannot easily be gainsaid. Nor is
there any reason it should be. Of what precise species this sea-monster
was, is not mentioned. But as he destroyed ships, as well as for other
reasons, he must have been a whale; and I am strongly inclined to think a
sperm whale. And I will tell you why. For a long time I fancied that the
sperm whale had been always unknown in the Mediterranean and the deep
waters connecting with it. Even now I am certain that those seas are not,
and perhaps never can be, in the present constitution of things, a place
for his habitual gregarious resort. But further investigations have
recently proved to me, that in modern times there have been isolated
instances of the presence of the sperm whale in the Mediterranean. I am
told, on good authority, that on the Barbary coast, a Commodore Davis of
the British navy found the skeleton of a sperm whale. Now, as a vessel of
war readily passes through the Dardanelles, hence a sperm whale could, by
the same route, pass out of the Mediterranean into the Propontis.

In the Propontis, as far as I can learn, none of that peculiar substance
called brit is to be found, the aliment of the right whale. But I have
every reason to believe that the food of the sperm whale—squid or
cuttle-fish—lurks at the bottom of that sea, because large
creatures, but by no means the largest of that sort, have been found at
its surface. If, then, you properly put these statements together, and
reason upon them a bit, you will clearly perceive that, according to all
human reasoning, Procopius’s sea-monster, that for half a century stove
the ships of a Roman Emperor, must in all probability have been a sperm

CHAPTER 46. Surmises.

Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in all his
thoughts and actions ever had in view the ultimate capture of Moby Dick;
though he seemed ready to sacrifice all mortal interests to that one
passion; nevertheless it may have been that he was by nature and long
habituation far too wedded to a fiery whaleman’s ways, altogether to
abandon the collateral prosecution of the voyage. Or at least if this were
otherwise, there were not wanting other motives much more influential with
him. It would be refining too much, perhaps, even considering his
monomania, to hint that his vindictiveness towards the White Whale might
have possibly extended itself in some degree to all sperm whales, and that
the more monsters he slew by so much the more he multiplied the chances
that each subsequently encountered whale would prove to be the hated one
he hunted. But if such an hypothesis be indeed exceptionable, there were
still additional considerations which, though not so strictly according
with the wildness of his ruling passion, yet were by no means incapable of
swaying him.

To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all tools used in the
shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get out of order. He knew, for
example, that however magnetic his ascendency in some respects was over
Starbuck, yet that ascendency did not cover the complete spiritual man any
more than mere corporeal superiority involves intellectual mastership; for
to the purely spiritual, the intellectual but stand in a sort of corporeal
relation. Starbuck’s body and Starbuck’s coerced will were Ahab’s, so long
as Ahab kept his magnet at Starbuck’s brain; still he knew that for all
this the chief mate, in his soul, abhorred his captain’s quest, and could
he, would joyfully disintegrate himself from it, or even frustrate it. It
might be that a long interval would elapse ere the White Whale was seen.
During that long interval Starbuck would ever be apt to fall into open
relapses of rebellion against his captain’s leadership, unless some
ordinary, prudential, circumstantial influences were brought to bear upon
him. Not only that, but the subtle insanity of Ahab respecting Moby Dick
was noways more significantly manifested than in his superlative sense and
shrewdness in foreseeing that, for the present, the hunt should in some
way be stripped of that strange imaginative impiousness which naturally
invested it; that the full terror of the voyage must be kept withdrawn
into the obscure background (for few men’s courage is proof against
protracted meditation unrelieved by action); that when they stood their
long night watches, his officers and men must have some nearer things to
think of than Moby Dick. For however eagerly and impetuously the savage
crew had hailed the announcement of his quest; yet all sailors of all
sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable—they live in the
varying outer weather, and they inhale its fickleness—and when
retained for any object remote and blank in the pursuit, however
promissory of life and passion in the end, it is above all things
requisite that temporary interests and employments should intervene and
hold them healthily suspended for the final dash.

Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing. In times of strong emotion
mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent.
The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought
Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the White Whale fully incites the
hearts of this my savage crew, and playing round their savageness even
breeds a certain generous knight-errantism in them, still, while for the
love of it they give chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food for
their more common, daily appetites. For even the high lifted and chivalric
Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse two thousand miles of
land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without committing burglaries,
picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way. Had they
been strictly held to their one final and romantic object—that final
and romantic object, too many would have turned from in disgust. I will
not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash—aye, cash.
They may scorn cash now; but let some months go by, and no perspective
promise of it to them, and then this same quiescent cash all at once
mutinying in them, this same cash would soon cashier Ahab.

Nor was there wanting still another precautionary motive more related to
Ahab personally. Having impulsively, it is probable, and perhaps somewhat
prematurely revealed the prime but private purpose of the Pequod’s voyage,
Ahab was now entirely conscious that, in so doing, he had indirectly laid
himself open to the unanswerable charge of usurpation; and with perfect
impunity, both moral and legal, his crew if so disposed, and to that end
competent, could refuse all further obedience to him, and even violently
wrest from him the command. From even the barely hinted imputation of
usurpation, and the possible consequences of such a suppressed impression
gaining ground, Ahab must of course have been most anxious to protect
himself. That protection could only consist in his own predominating brain
and heart and hand, backed by a heedful, closely calculating attention to
every minute atmospheric influence which it was possible for his crew to
be subjected to.

For all these reasons then, and others perhaps too analytic to be verbally
developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he must still in a good degree
continue true to the natural, nominal purpose of the Pequod’s voyage;
observe all customary usages; and not only that, but force himself to
evince all his well known passionate interest in the general pursuit of
his profession.

Be all this as it may, his voice was now often heard hailing the three
mast-heads and admonishing them to keep a bright look-out, and not omit
reporting even a porpoise. This vigilance was not long without reward.

CHAPTER 47. The Mat-Maker.

It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging about
the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-coloured waters. Queequeg
and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a sword-mat, for an
additional lashing to our boat. So still and subdued and yet somehow
preluding was all the scene, and such an incantation of reverie lurked in
the air, that each silent sailor seemed resolved into his own invisible

I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I kept
passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long
yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg,
standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the
threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly and unthinkingly
drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign
all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermitting
dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time,
and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the
Fates. There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single,
ever returning, unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to
admit of the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This
warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own
shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads. Meantime,
Queequeg’s impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof
slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be;
and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding
contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword,
thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this
easy, indifferent sword must be chance—aye, chance, free will, and
necessity—nowise incompatible—all interweavingly working
together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its
ultimate course—its every alternating vibration, indeed, only
tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given
threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines
of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though
thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last
featuring blow at events.

Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so
strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball of
free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at the clouds whence
that voice dropped like a wing. High aloft in the cross-trees was that mad
Gay-Header, Tashtego. His body was reaching eagerly forward, his hand
stretched out like a wand, and at brief sudden intervals he continued his
cries. To be sure the same sound was that very moment perhaps being heard
all over the seas, from hundreds of whalemen’s look-outs perched as high
in the air; but from few of those lungs could that accustomed old cry have
derived such a marvellous cadence as from Tashtego the Indian’s.

As he stood hovering over you half suspended in air, so wildly and eagerly
peering towards the horizon, you would have thought him some prophet or
seer beholding the shadows of Fate, and by those wild cries announcing
their coming.

“There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!”


“On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!”

Instantly all was commotion.

The Sperm Whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and
reliable uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish from other
tribes of his genus.

“There go flukes!” was now the cry from Tashtego; and the whales

“Quick, steward!” cried Ahab. “Time! time!”

Dough-Boy hurried below, glanced at the watch, and reported the exact
minute to Ahab.

The ship was now kept away from the wind, and she went gently rolling
before it. Tashtego reporting that the whales had gone down heading to
leeward, we confidently looked to see them again directly in advance of
our bows. For that singular craft at times evinced by the Sperm Whale
when, sounding with his head in one direction, he nevertheless, while
concealed beneath the surface, mills round, and swiftly swims off in the
opposite quarter—this deceitfulness of his could not now be in
action; for there was no reason to suppose that the fish seen by Tashtego
had been in any way alarmed, or indeed knew at all of our vicinity. One of
the men selected for shipkeepers—that is, those not appointed to the
boats, by this time relieved the Indian at the main-mast head. The sailors
at the fore and mizzen had come down; the line tubs were fixed in their
places; the cranes were thrust out; the mainyard was backed, and the three
boats swung over the sea like three samphire baskets over high cliffs.
Outside of the bulwarks their eager crews with one hand clung to the rail,
while one foot was expectantly poised on the gunwale. So look the long
line of man-of-war’s men about to throw themselves on board an enemy’s

But at this critical instant a sudden exclamation was heard that took
every eye from the whale. With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who was
surrounded by five dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air.

CHAPTER 48. The First Lowering.

The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the other side of
the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were casting loose the tackles
and bands of the boat which swung there. This boat had always been deemed
one of the spare boats, though technically called the captain’s, on
account of its hanging from the starboard quarter. The figure that now
stood by its bows was tall and swart, with one white tooth evilly
protruding from its steel-like lips. A rumpled Chinese jacket of black
cotton funereally invested him, with wide black trowsers of the same dark
stuff. But strangely crowning this ebonness was a glistening white plaited
turban, the living hair braided and coiled round and round upon his head.
Less swart in aspect, the companions of this figure were of that vivid,
tiger-yellow complexion peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of the
Manillas;—a race notorious for a certain diabolism of subtilty, and
by some honest white mariners supposed to be the paid spies and secret
confidential agents on the water of the devil, their lord, whose
counting-room they suppose to be elsewhere.

While yet the wondering ship’s company were gazing upon these strangers,
Ahab cried out to the white-turbaned old man at their head, “All ready
there, Fedallah?”

“Ready,” was the half-hissed reply.

“Lower away then; d’ye hear?” shouting across the deck. “Lower away there,
I say.”

Such was the thunder of his voice, that spite of their amazement the men
sprang over the rail; the sheaves whirled round in the blocks; with a
wallow, the three boats dropped into the sea; while, with a dexterous,
off-handed daring, unknown in any other vocation, the sailors, goat-like,
leaped down the rolling ship’s side into the tossed boats below.

Hardly had they pulled out from under the ship’s lee, when a fourth keel,
coming from the windward side, pulled round under the stern, and showed
the five strangers rowing Ahab, who, standing erect in the stern, loudly
hailed Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, to spread themselves widely, so as to
cover a large expanse of water. But with all their eyes again riveted upon
the swart Fedallah and his crew, the inmates of the other boats obeyed not
the command.

“Captain Ahab?—” said Starbuck.

“Spread yourselves,” cried Ahab; “give way, all four boats. Thou, Flask,
pull out more to leeward!”

“Aye, aye, sir,” cheerily cried little King-Post, sweeping round his great
steering oar. “Lay back!” addressing his crew. “There!—there!—there
again! There she blows right ahead, boys!—lay back!”

“Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy.”

“Oh, I don’t mind ’em, sir,” said Archy; “I knew it
all before now. Didn’t I hear ’em in the hold? And didn’t I
tell Cabaco here of it? What say ye, Cabaco? They are stowaways, Mr. Flask.”

“Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little
ones,” drawlingly and soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew, some of whom
still showed signs of uneasiness. “Why don’t you break your backbones, my
boys? What is it you stare at? Those chaps in yonder boat? Tut! They are
only five more hands come to help us—never mind from where—the
more the merrier. Pull, then, do pull; never mind the brimstone—devils
are good fellows enough. So, so; there you are now; that’s the stroke for
a thousand pounds; that’s the stroke to sweep the stakes! Hurrah for the
gold cup of sperm oil, my heroes! Three cheers, men—all hearts
alive! Easy, easy; don’t be in a hurry—don’t be in a hurry. Why
don’t you snap your oars, you rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So, so,
so, then:—softly, softly! That’s it—that’s it! long and
strong. Give way there, give way! The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin
rapscallions; ye are all asleep. Stop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull.
Pull, will ye? pull, can’t ye? pull, won’t ye? Why in the name of gudgeons
and ginger-cakes don’t ye pull?—pull and break something! pull, and
start your eyes out! Here!” whipping out the sharp knife from his girdle;
“every mother’s son of ye draw his knife, and pull with the blade between
his teeth. That’s it—that’s it. Now ye do something; that looks like
it, my steel-bits. Start her—start her, my silver-spoons! Start her,

Stubb’s exordium to his crew is given here at large, because he had rather
a peculiar way of talking to them in general, and especially in
inculcating the religion of rowing. But you must not suppose from this
specimen of his sermonizings that he ever flew into downright passions
with his congregation. Not at all; and therein consisted his chief
peculiarity. He would say the most terrific things to his crew, in a tone
so strangely compounded of fun and fury, and the fury seemed so calculated
merely as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman could hear such queer
invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for the mere
joke of the thing. Besides he all the time looked so easy and indolent
himself, so loungingly managed his steering-oar, and so broadly gaped—open-mouthed
at times—that the mere sight of such a yawning commander, by sheer
force of contrast, acted like a charm upon the crew. Then again, Stubb was
one of those odd sort of humorists, whose jollity is sometimes so
curiously ambiguous, as to put all inferiors on their guard in the matter
of obeying them.

In obedience to a sign from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling obliquely
across Stubb’s bow; and when for a minute or so the two boats were pretty
near to each other, Stubb hailed the mate.

“Mr. Starbuck! larboard boat there, ahoy! a word with ye, sir, if ye

“Halloa!” returned Starbuck, turning round not a single inch as he spoke;
still earnestly but whisperingly urging his crew; his face set like a
flint from Stubb’s.

“What think ye of those yellow boys, sir!”

“Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed. (Strong, strong,
boys!)” in a whisper to his crew, then speaking out loud again: “A sad
business, Mr. Stubb! (seethe her, seethe her, my lads!) but never mind,
Mr. Stubb, all for the best. Let all your crew pull strong, come what
will. (Spring, my men, spring!) There’s hogsheads of sperm ahead, Mr.
Stubb, and that’s what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!) Sperm, sperm’s the
play! This at least is duty; duty and profit hand in hand.”

“Aye, aye, I thought as much,” soliloquized Stubb, when the boats
diverged, “as soon as I clapt eye on ’em, I thought so. Aye, and that’s
what he went into the after hold for, so often, as Dough-Boy long
suspected. They were hidden down there. The White Whale’s at the bottom of
it. Well, well, so be it! Can’t be helped! All right! Give way, men! It
ain’t the White Whale to-day! Give way!”

Now the advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical instant as
the lowering of the boats from the deck, this had not unreasonably
awakened a sort of superstitious amazement in some of the ship’s company;
but Archy’s fancied discovery having some time previous got abroad among
them, though indeed not credited then, this had in some small measure
prepared them for the event. It took off the extreme edge of their wonder;
and so what with all this and Stubb’s confident way of accounting for
their appearance, they were for the time freed from superstitious
surmisings; though the affair still left abundant room for all manner of
wild conjectures as to dark Ahab’s precise agency in the matter from the
beginning. For me, I silently recalled the mysterious shadows I had seen
creeping on board the Pequod during the dim Nantucket dawn, as well as the
enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah.

Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers, having sided the furthest
to windward, was still ranging ahead of the other boats; a circumstance
bespeaking how potent a crew was pulling him. Those tiger yellow creatures
of his seemed all steel and whalebone; like five trip-hammers they rose
and fell with regular strokes of strength, which periodically started the
boat along the water like a horizontal burst boiler out of a Mississippi
steamer. As for Fedallah, who was seen pulling the harpooneer oar, he had
thrown aside his black jacket, and displayed his naked chest with the
whole part of his body above the gunwale, clearly cut against the
alternating depressions of the watery horizon; while at the other end of
the boat Ahab, with one arm, like a fencer’s, thrown half backward into
the air, as if to counterbalance any tendency to trip; Ahab was seen
steadily managing his steering oar as in a thousand boat lowerings ere the
White Whale had torn him. All at once the outstretched arm gave a peculiar
motion and then remained fixed, while the boat’s five oars were seen
simultaneously peaked. Boat and crew sat motionless on the sea. Instantly
the three spread boats in the rear paused on their way. The whales had
irregularly settled bodily down into the blue, thus giving no distantly
discernible token of the movement, though from his closer vicinity Ahab
had observed it.

“Every man look out along his oars!” cried Starbuck. “Thou, Queequeg,
stand up!”

Nimbly springing up on the triangular raised box in the bow, the savage
stood erect there, and with intensely eager eyes gazed off towards the
spot where the chase had last been descried. Likewise upon the extreme
stern of the boat where it was also triangularly platformed level with the
gunwale, Starbuck himself was seen coolly and adroitly balancing himself
to the jerking tossings of his chip of a craft, and silently eyeing the
vast blue eye of the sea.

Not very far distant Flask’s boat was also lying breathlessly still; its
commander recklessly standing upon the top of the loggerhead, a stout sort
of post rooted in the keel, and rising some two feet above the level of
the stern platform. It is used for catching turns with the whale line. Its
top is not more spacious than the palm of a man’s hand, and standing upon
such a base as that, Flask seemed perched at the mast-head of some ship
which had sunk to all but her trucks. But little King-Post was small and
short, and at the same time little King-Post was full of a large and tall
ambition, so that this loggerhead stand-point of his did by no means
satisfy King-Post.

“I can’t see three seas off; tip us up an oar there, and let me on to

Upon this, Daggoo, with either hand upon the gunwale to steady his way,
swiftly slid aft, and then erecting himself volunteered his lofty
shoulders for a pedestal.

“Good a mast-head as any, sir. Will you mount?”

“That I will, and thank ye very much, my fine fellow; only I wish you
fifty feet taller.”

Whereupon planting his feet firmly against two opposite planks of the
boat, the gigantic negro, stooping a little, presented his flat palm to
Flask’s foot, and then putting Flask’s hand on his hearse-plumed head and
bidding him spring as he himself should toss, with one dexterous fling
landed the little man high and dry on his shoulders. And here was Flask
now standing, Daggoo with one lifted arm furnishing him with a breastband
to lean against and steady himself by.

At any time it is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what wondrous
habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an erect posture
in his boat, even when pitched about by the most riotously perverse and
cross-running seas. Still more strange to see him giddily perched upon the
loggerhead itself, under such circumstances. But the sight of little Flask
mounted upon gigantic Daggoo was yet more curious; for sustaining himself
with a cool, indifferent, easy, unthought of, barbaric majesty, the noble
negro to every roll of the sea harmoniously rolled his fine form. On his
broad back, flaxen-haired Flask seemed a snow-flake. The bearer looked
nobler than the rider. Though truly vivacious, tumultuous, ostentatious
little Flask would now and then stamp with impatience; but not one added
heave did he thereby give to the negro’s lordly chest. So have I seen
Passion and Vanity stamping the living magnanimous earth, but the earth
did not alter her tides and her seasons for that.

Meanwhile Stubb, the third mate, betrayed no such far-gazing solicitudes.
The whales might have made one of their regular soundings, not a temporary
dive from mere fright; and if that were the case, Stubb, as his wont in
such cases, it seems, was resolved to solace the languishing interval with
his pipe. He withdrew it from his hatband, where he always wore it aslant
like a feather. He loaded it, and rammed home the loading with his
thumb-end; but hardly had he ignited his match across the rough sandpaper
of his hand, when Tashtego, his harpooneer, whose eyes had been setting to
windward like two fixed stars, suddenly dropped like light from his erect
attitude to his seat, crying out in a quick phrensy of hurry, “Down, down
all, and give way!—there they are!”

To a landsman, no whale, nor any sign of a herring, would have been
visible at that moment; nothing but a troubled bit of greenish white
water, and thin scattered puffs of vapor hovering over it, and
suffusingly blowing off to leeward, like the confused scud from white
rolling billows. The air around suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it were,
like the air over intensely heated plates of iron. Beneath this
atmospheric waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin layer of
water, also, the whales were swimming. Seen in advance of all the other
indications, the puffs of vapor they spouted, seemed their forerunning
couriers and detached flying outriders.

All four boats were now in keen pursuit of that one spot of troubled water
and air. But it bade fair to outstrip them; it flew on and on, as a mass
of interblending bubbles borne down a rapid stream from the hills.

“Pull, pull, my good boys,” said Starbuck, in the lowest possible but
intensest concentrated whisper to his men; while the sharp fixed glance
from his eyes darted straight ahead of the bow, almost seemed as two
visible needles in two unerring binnacle compasses. He did not say much to
his crew, though, nor did his crew say anything to him. Only the silence
of the boat was at intervals startlingly pierced by one of his peculiar
whispers, now harsh with command, now soft with entreaty.

How different the loud little King-Post. “Sing out and say something, my
hearties. Roar and pull, my thunderbolts! Beach me, beach me on their
black backs, boys; only do that for me, and I’ll sign over to you my
Martha’s Vineyard plantation, boys; including wife and children, boys. Lay
me on—lay me on! O Lord, Lord! but I shall go stark, staring mad!
See! see that white water!” And so shouting, he pulled his hat from his
head, and stamped up and down on it; then picking it up, flirted it far
off upon the sea; and finally fell to rearing and plunging in the boat’s
stern like a crazed colt from the prairie.

“Look at that chap now,” philosophically drawled Stubb, who, with his
unlighted short pipe, mechanically retained between his teeth, at a short
distance, followed after—“He’s got fits, that Flask has. Fits? yes,
give him fits—that’s the very word—pitch fits into ’em.
Merrily, merrily, hearts-alive. Pudding for supper, you know;—merry’s
the word. Pull, babes—pull, sucklings—pull, all. But what the
devil are you hurrying about? Softly, softly, and steadily, my men. Only
pull, and keep pulling; nothing more. Crack all your backbones, and bite
your knives in two—that’s all. Take it easy—why don’t ye take
it easy, I say, and burst all your livers and lungs!”

But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew of
his—these were words best omitted here; for you live under the
blessed light of the evangelical land. Only the infidel sharks in the
audacious seas may give ear to such words, when, with tornado brow, and
eyes of red murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his prey.

Meanwhile, all the boats tore on. The repeated specific allusions of Flask
to “that whale,” as he called the fictitious monster which he declared to
be incessantly tantalizing his boat’s bow with its tail—these
allusions of his were at times so vivid and life-like, that they would
cause some one or two of his men to snatch a fearful look over the
shoulder. But this was against all rule; for the oarsmen must put out
their eyes, and ram a skewer through their necks; usage pronouncing that
they must have no organs but ears, and no limbs but arms, in these
critical moments.

It was a sight full of quick wonder and awe! The vast swells of the
omnipotent sea; the surging, hollow roar they made, as they rolled along
the eight gunwales, like gigantic bowls in a boundless bowling-green; the
brief suspended agony of the boat, as it would tip for an instant on the
knife-like edge of the sharper waves, that almost seemed threatening to
cut it in two; the sudden profound dip into the watery glens and hollows;
the keen spurrings and goadings to gain the top of the opposite hill; the
headlong, sled-like slide down its other side;—all these, with the
cries of the headsmen and harpooneers, and the shuddering gasps of the
oarsmen, with the wondrous sight of the ivory Pequod bearing down upon her
boats with outstretched sails, like a wild hen after her screaming brood;—all
this was thrilling.

Not the raw recruit, marching from the bosom of his wife into the fever
heat of his first battle; not the dead man’s ghost encountering the first
unknown phantom in the other world;—neither of these can feel
stranger and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the first time
finds himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of the hunted sperm

The dancing white water made by the chase was now becoming more and more
visible, owing to the increasing darkness of the dun cloud-shadows flung
upon the sea. The jets of vapor no longer blended, but tilted everywhere
to right and left; the whales seemed separating their wakes. The boats
were pulled more apart; Starbuck giving chase to three whales running dead
to leeward. Our sail was now set, and, with the still rising wind, we
rushed along; the boat going with such madness through the water, that the
lee oars could scarcely be worked rapidly enough to escape being torn from
the row-locks.

Soon we were running through a suffusing wide veil of mist; neither ship
nor boat to be seen.

“Give way, men,” whispered Starbuck, drawing still further aft the sheet
of his sail; “there is time to kill a fish yet before the squall comes.
There’s white water again!—close to! Spring!”

Soon after, two cries in quick succession on each side of us denoted that
the other boats had got fast; but hardly were they overheard, when with a
lightning-like hurtling whisper Starbuck said: “Stand up!” and Queequeg,
harpoon in hand, sprang to his feet.

Though not one of the oarsmen was then facing the life and death peril so
close to them ahead, yet with their eyes on the intense countenance of the
mate in the stern of the boat, they knew that the imminent instant had
come; they heard, too, an enormous wallowing sound as of fifty elephants
stirring in their litter. Meanwhile the boat was still booming through the
mist, the waves curling and hissing around us like the erected crests of
enraged serpents.

“That’s his hump. There, there, give it to him!” whispered Starbuck.

A short rushing sound leaped out of the boat; it was the darted iron of
Queequeg. Then all in one welded commotion came an invisible push from
astern, while forward the boat seemed striking on a ledge; the sail
collapsed and exploded; a gush of scalding vapor shot up near by;
something rolled and tumbled like an earthquake beneath us. The whole crew
were half suffocated as they were tossed helter-skelter into the white
curdling cream of the squall. Squall, whale, and harpoon had all blended
together; and the whale, merely grazed by the iron, escaped.

Though completely swamped, the boat was nearly unharmed. Swimming round it
we picked up the floating oars, and lashing them across the gunwale,
tumbled back to our places. There we sat up to our knees in the sea, the
water covering every rib and plank, so that to our downward gazing eyes
the suspended craft seemed a coral boat grown up to us from the bottom of
the ocean.

The wind increased to a howl; the waves dashed their bucklers together;
the whole squall roared, forked, and crackled around us like a white fire
upon the prairie, in which, unconsumed, we were burning; immortal in these
jaws of death! In vain we hailed the other boats; as well roar to the live
coals down the chimney of a flaming furnace as hail those boats in that
storm. Meanwhile the driving scud, rack, and mist, grew darker with the
shadows of night; no sign of the ship could be seen. The rising sea
forbade all attempts to bale out the boat. The oars were useless as
propellers, performing now the office of life-preservers. So, cutting the
lashing of the waterproof match keg, after many failures Starbuck
contrived to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching it on a waif
pole, handed it to Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope.
There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that
almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man
without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.

Wet, drenched through, and shivering cold, despairing of ship or boat, we
lifted up our eyes as the dawn came on. The mist still spread over the
sea, the empty lantern lay crushed in the bottom of the boat. Suddenly
Queequeg started to his feet, hollowing his hand to his ear. We all heard
a faint creaking, as of ropes and yards hitherto muffled by the storm. The
sound came nearer and nearer; the thick mists were dimly parted by a huge,
vague form. Affrighted, we all sprang into the sea as the ship at last
loomed into view, bearing right down upon us within a distance of not much
more than its length.

Floating on the waves we saw the abandoned boat, as for one instant it
tossed and gaped beneath the ship’s bows like a chip at the base of a
cataract; and then the vast hull rolled over it, and it was seen no more
till it came up weltering astern. Again we swam for it, were dashed
against it by the seas, and were at last taken up and safely landed on
board. Ere the squall came close to, the other boats had cut loose from
their fish and returned to the ship in good time. The ship had given us
up, but was still cruising, if haply it might light upon some token of our
perishing,—an oar or a lance pole.

CHAPTER 49. The Hyena.

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair
we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical
joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects
that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However, nothing
dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all
events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible
and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion
gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and
worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all
these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and
jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old
joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man
only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of
his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing
most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke. There is nothing
like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial,
desperado philosophy; and with it I now regarded this whole voyage of the
Pequod, and the great White Whale its object.

“Queequeg,” said I, when they had dragged me, the last man, to the deck,
and I was still shaking myself in my jacket to fling off the water;
“Queequeg, my fine friend, does this sort of thing often happen?” Without
much emotion, though soaked through just like me, he gave me to understand
that such things did often happen.

“Mr. Stubb,” said I, turning to that worthy, who, buttoned up in his
oil-jacket, was now calmly smoking his pipe in the rain; “Mr. Stubb, I
think I have heard you say that of all whalemen you ever met, our chief
mate, Mr. Starbuck, is by far the most careful and prudent. I suppose
then, that going plump on a flying whale with your sail set in a foggy
squall is the height of a whaleman’s discretion?”

“Certain. I’ve lowered for whales from a leaking ship in a gale off Cape

“Mr. Flask,” said I, turning to little King-Post, who was standing close
by; “you are experienced in these things, and I am not. Will you tell me
whether it is an unalterable law in this fishery, Mr. Flask, for an
oarsman to break his own back pulling himself back-foremost into death’s

“Can’t you twist that smaller?” said Flask. “Yes, that’s the law. I should
like to see a boat’s crew backing water up to a whale face foremost. Ha,
ha! the whale would give them squint for squint, mind that!”

Here then, from three impartial witnesses, I had a deliberate statement of
the entire case. Considering, therefore, that squalls and capsizings in
the water and consequent bivouacks on the deep, were matters of common
occurrence in this kind of life; considering that at the superlatively
critical instant of going on to the whale I must resign my life into the
hands of him who steered the boat—oftentimes a fellow who at that
very moment is in his impetuousness upon the point of scuttling the craft
with his own frantic stampings; considering that the particular disaster
to our own particular boat was chiefly to be imputed to Starbuck’s driving
on to his whale almost in the teeth of a squall, and considering that
Starbuck, notwithstanding, was famous for his great heedfulness in the
fishery; considering that I belonged to this uncommonly prudent Starbuck’s
boat; and finally considering in what a devil’s chase I was implicated,
touching the White Whale: taking all things together, I say, I thought I
might as well go below and make a rough draft of my will. “Queequeg,” said
I, “come along, you shall be my lawyer, executor, and legatee.”

It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering at their
last wills and testaments, but there are no people in the world more fond
of that diversion. This was the fourth time in my nautical life that I had
done the same thing. After the ceremony was concluded upon the present
occasion, I felt all the easier; a stone was rolled away from my heart.
Besides, all the days I should now live would be as good as the days that
Lazarus lived after his resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so
many months or weeks as the case might be. I survived myself; my death and
burial were locked up in my chest. I looked round me tranquilly and
contentedly, like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the
bars of a snug family vault.

Now then, thought I, unconsciously rolling up the sleeves of my frock,
here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction, and the
devil fetch the hindmost.

CHAPTER 50. Ahab’s Boat and Crew. Fedallah.

“Who would have thought it, Flask!” cried Stubb; “if I had but one leg you
would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my
timber toe. Oh! he’s a wonderful old man!”

“I don’t think it so strange, after all, on that account,” said Flask. “If
his leg were off at the hip, now, it would be a different thing. That
would disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of the other left,
you know.”

“I don’t know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel.”

Among whale-wise people it has often been argued whether, considering the
paramount importance of his life to the success of the voyage, it is right
for a whaling captain to jeopardize that life in the active perils of the
chase. So Tamerlane’s soldiers often argued with tears in their eyes,
whether that invaluable life of his ought to be carried into the thickest
of the fight.

But with Ahab the question assumed a modified aspect. Considering that
with two legs man is but a hobbling wight in all times of danger;
considering that the pursuit of whales is always under great and
extraordinary difficulties; that every individual moment, indeed, then
comprises a peril; under these circumstances is it wise for any maimed man
to enter a whale-boat in the hunt? As a general thing, the joint-owners of
the Pequod must have plainly thought not.

Ahab well knew that although his friends at home would think little of his
entering a boat in certain comparatively harmless vicissitudes of the
chase, for the sake of being near the scene of action and giving his
orders in person, yet for Captain Ahab to have a boat actually apportioned
to him as a regular headsman in the hunt—above all for Captain Ahab
to be supplied with five extra men, as that same boat’s crew, he well knew
that such generous conceits never entered the heads of the owners of the
Pequod. Therefore he had not solicited a boat’s crew from them, nor had he
in any way hinted his desires on that head. Nevertheless he had taken
private measures of his own touching all that matter. Until Cabaco’s
published discovery, the sailors had little foreseen it, though to be sure
when, after being a little while out of port, all hands had concluded the
customary business of fitting the whaleboats for service; when some time
after this Ahab was now and then found bestirring himself in the matter of
making thole-pins with his own hands for what was thought to be one of the
spare boats, and even solicitously cutting the small wooden skewers, which
when the line is running out are pinned over the groove in the bow: when
all this was observed in him, and particularly his solicitude in having an
extra coat of sheathing in the bottom of the boat, as if to make it better
withstand the pointed pressure of his ivory limb; and also the anxiety he
evinced in exactly shaping the thigh board, or clumsy cleat, as it is
sometimes called, the horizontal piece in the boat’s bow for bracing the
knee against in darting or stabbing at the whale; when it was observed how
often he stood up in that boat with his solitary knee fixed in the
semi-circular depression in the cleat, and with the carpenter’s chisel
gouged out a little here and straightened it a little there; all these
things, I say, had awakened much interest and curiosity at the time. But
almost everybody supposed that this particular preparative heedfulness in
Ahab must only be with a view to the ultimate chase of Moby Dick; for he
had already revealed his intention to hunt that mortal monster in person.
But such a supposition did by no means involve the remotest suspicion as
to any boat’s crew being assigned to that boat.

Now, with the subordinate phantoms, what wonder remained soon waned away;
for in a whaler wonders soon wane. Besides, now and then such
unaccountable odds and ends of strange nations come up from the unknown
nooks and ash-holes of the earth to man these floating outlaws of whalers;
and the ships themselves often pick up such queer castaway creatures found
tossing about the open sea on planks, bits of wreck, oars, whaleboats,
canoes, blown-off Japanese junks, and what not; that Beelzebub himself
might climb up the side and step down into the cabin to chat with the
captain, and it would not create any unsubduable excitement in the

But be all this as it may, certain it is that while the subordinate
phantoms soon found their place among the crew, though still as it were
somehow distinct from them, yet that hair-turbaned Fedallah remained a
muffled mystery to the last. Whence he came in a mannerly world like this,
by what sort of unaccountable tie he soon evinced himself to be linked
with Ahab’s peculiar fortunes; nay, so far as to have some sort of a
half-hinted influence; Heaven knows, but it might have been even authority
over him; all this none knew. But one cannot sustain an indifferent air
concerning Fedallah. He was such a creature as civilized, domestic people
in the temperate zone only see in their dreams, and that but dimly; but
the like of whom now and then glide among the unchanging Asiatic
communities, especially the Oriental isles to the east of the continent—those
insulated, immemorial, unalterable countries, which even in these modern
days still preserve much of the ghostly aboriginalness of earth’s primal
generations, when the memory of the first man was a distinct recollection,
and all men his descendants, unknowing whence he came, eyed each other as
real phantoms, and asked of the sun and the moon why they were created and
to what end; when though, according to Genesis, the angels indeed
consorted with the daughters of men, the devils also, add the uncanonical
Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours.

CHAPTER 51. The Spirit-Spout.

Days, weeks passed, and under easy sail, the ivory Pequod had slowly swept
across four several cruising-grounds; that off the Azores; off the Cape de
Verdes; on the Plate (so called), being off the mouth of the Rio de la
Plata; and the Carrol Ground, an unstaked, watery locality, southerly from
St. Helena.

It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and
moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and,
by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence,
not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in
advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked
celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea.
Fedallah first descried this jet. For of these moonlight nights, it was
his wont to mount to the main-mast head, and stand a look-out there, with
the same precision as if it had been day. And yet, though herds of whales
were seen by night, not one whaleman in a hundred would venture a lowering
for them. You may think with what emotions, then, the seamen beheld this
old Oriental perched aloft at such unusual hours; his turban and the moon,
companions in one sky. But when, after spending his uniform interval there
for several successive nights without uttering a single sound; when, after
all this silence, his unearthly voice was heard announcing that silvery,
moon-lit jet, every reclining mariner started to his feet as if some
winged spirit had lighted in the rigging, and hailed the mortal crew.
“There she blows!” Had the trump of judgment blown, they could not have
quivered more; yet still they felt no terror; rather pleasure. For though
it was a most unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so
deliriously exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively
desired a lowering.

Walking the deck with quick, side-lunging strides, Ahab commanded the
t’gallant sails and royals to be set, and every stunsail spread. The best
man in the ship must take the helm. Then, with every mast-head manned, the
piled-up craft rolled down before the wind. The strange, upheaving,
lifting tendency of the taffrail breeze filling the hollows of so many
sails, made the buoyant, hovering deck to feel like air beneath the feet;
while still she rushed along, as if two antagonistic influences were
struggling in her—one to mount direct to heaven, the other to drive
yawingly to some horizontal goal. And had you watched Ahab’s face that
night, you would have thought that in him also two different things were
warring. While his one live leg made lively echoes along the deck, every
stroke of his dead limb sounded like a coffin-tap. On life and death this
old man walked. But though the ship so swiftly sped, and though from every
eye, like arrows, the eager glances shot, yet the silvery jet was no more
seen that night. Every sailor swore he saw it once, but not a second time.

This midnight-spout had almost grown a forgotten thing, when, some days
after, lo! at the same silent hour, it was again announced: again it was
descried by all; but upon making sail to overtake it, once more it
disappeared as if it had never been. And so it served us night after
night, till no one heeded it but to wonder at it. Mysteriously jetted into
the clear moonlight, or starlight, as the case might be; disappearing
again for one whole day, or two days, or three; and somehow seeming at
every distinct repetition to be advancing still further and further in our
van, this solitary jet seemed for ever alluring us on.

Nor with the immemorial superstition of their race, and in accordance with
the preternaturalness, as it seemed, which in many things invested the
Pequod, were there wanting some of the seamen who swore that whenever and
wherever descried; at however remote times, or in however far apart
latitudes and longitudes, that unnearable spout was cast by one self-same
whale; and that whale, Moby Dick. For a time, there reigned, too, a sense
of peculiar dread at this flitting apparition, as if it were treacherously
beckoning us on and on, in order that the monster might turn round upon
us, and rend us at last in the remotest and most savage seas.

These temporary apprehensions, so vague but so awful, derived a wondrous
potency from the contrasting serenity of the weather, in which, beneath
all its blue blandness, some thought there lurked a devilish charm, as for
days and days we voyaged along, through seas so wearily, lonesomely mild,
that all space, in repugnance to our vengeful errand, seemed vacating
itself of life before our urn-like prow.

But, at last, when turning to the eastward, the Cape winds began howling
around us, and we rose and fell upon the long, troubled seas that are
there; when the ivory-tusked Pequod sharply bowed to the blast, and gored
the dark waves in her madness, till, like showers of silver chips, the
foam-flakes flew over her bulwarks; then all this desolate vacuity of life
went away, but gave place to sights more dismal than before.

Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and thither
before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable sea-ravens. And
every morning, perched on our stays, rows of these birds were seen; and
spite of our hootings, for a long time obstinately clung to the hemp, as
though they deemed our ship some drifting, uninhabited craft; a thing
appointed to desolation, and therefore fit roosting-place for their
homeless selves. And heaved and heaved, still unrestingly heaved the black
sea, as if its vast tides were a conscience; and the great mundane soul
were in anguish and remorse for the long sin and suffering it had bred.

Cape of Good Hope, do they call ye? Rather Cape Tormentoso, as called of
yore; for long allured by the perfidious silences that before had attended
us, we found ourselves launched into this tormented sea, where guilty
beings transformed into those fowls and these fish, seemed condemned to
swim on everlastingly without any haven in store, or beat that black air
without any horizon. But calm, snow-white, and unvarying; still directing
its fountain of feathers to the sky; still beckoning us on from before,
the solitary jet would at times be descried.

During all this blackness of the elements, Ahab, though assuming for the
time the almost continual command of the drenched and dangerous deck,
manifested the gloomiest reserve; and more seldom than ever addressed his
mates. In tempestuous times like these, after everything above and aloft
has been secured, nothing more can be done but passively to await the
issue of the gale. Then Captain and crew become practical fatalists. So,
with his ivory leg inserted into its accustomed hole, and with one hand
firmly grasping a shroud, Ahab for hours and hours would stand gazing dead
to windward, while an occasional squall of sleet or snow would all but
congeal his very eyelashes together. Meantime, the crew driven from the
forward part of the ship by the perilous seas that burstingly broke over
its bows, stood in a line along the bulwarks in the waist; and the better
to guard against the leaping waves, each man had slipped himself into a
sort of bowline secured to the rail, in which he swung as in a loosened
belt. Few or no words were spoken; and the silent ship, as if manned by
painted sailors in wax, day after day tore on through all the swift
madness and gladness of the demoniac waves. By night the same muteness of
humanity before the shrieks of the ocean prevailed; still in silence the
men swung in the bowlines; still wordless Ahab stood up to the blast. Even
when wearied nature seemed demanding repose he would not seek that repose
in his hammock. Never could Starbuck forget the old man’s aspect, when one
night going down into the cabin to mark how the barometer stood, he saw
him with closed eyes sitting straight in his floor-screwed chair; the rain
and half-melted sleet of the storm from which he had some time before
emerged, still slowly dripping from the unremoved hat and coat. On the
table beside him lay unrolled one of those charts of tides and currents
which have previously been spoken of. His lantern swung from his tightly
clenched hand. Though the body was erect, the head was thrown back so that
the closed eyes were pointed towards the needle of the tell-tale that
swung from a beam in the ceiling.*

*The cabin-compass is called the tell-tale, because without going to the
compass at the helm, the Captain, while below, can inform himself of the
course of the ship.

Terrible old man! thought Starbuck with a shudder, sleeping in this gale,
still thou steadfastly eyest thy purpose.

CHAPTER 52. The Albatross.

South-eastward from the Cape, off the distant Crozetts, a good cruising
ground for Right Whalemen, a sail loomed ahead, the Goney (Albatross) by
name. As she slowly drew nigh, from my lofty perch at the fore-mast-head,
I had a good view of that sight so remarkable to a tyro in the far ocean
fisheries—a whaler at sea, and long absent from home.

As if the waves had been fullers, this craft was bleached like the
skeleton of a stranded walrus. All down her sides, this spectral
appearance was traced with long channels of reddened rust, while all her
spars and her rigging were like the thick branches of trees furred over
with hoar-frost. Only her lower sails were set. A wild sight it was to see
her long-bearded look-outs at those three mast-heads. They seemed clad in
the skins of beasts, so torn and bepatched the raiment that had survived
nearly four years of cruising. Standing in iron hoops nailed to the mast,
they swayed and swung over a fathomless sea; and though, when the ship
slowly glided close under our stern, we six men in the air came so nigh to
each other that we might almost have leaped from the mast-heads of one
ship to those of the other; yet, those forlorn-looking fishermen, mildly
eyeing us as they passed, said not one word to our own look-outs, while
the quarter-deck hail was being heard from below.

“Ship ahoy! Have ye seen the White Whale?”

But as the strange captain, leaning over the pallid bulwarks, was in the
act of putting his trumpet to his mouth, it somehow fell from his hand
into the sea; and the wind now rising amain, he in vain strove to make
himself heard without it. Meantime his ship was still increasing the
distance between. While in various silent ways the seamen of the Pequod
were evincing their observance of this ominous incident at the first mere
mention of the White Whale’s name to another ship, Ahab for a moment
paused; it almost seemed as though he would have lowered a boat to board
the stranger, had not the threatening wind forbade. But taking advantage
of his windward position, he again seized his trumpet, and knowing by her
aspect that the stranger vessel was a Nantucketer and shortly bound home,
he loudly hailed—“Ahoy there! This is the Pequod, bound round the
world! Tell them to address all future letters to the Pacific ocean! and
this time three years, if I am not at home, tell them to address them
to ——”

At that moment the two wakes were fairly crossed, and instantly, then, in
accordance with their singular ways, shoals of small harmless fish, that
for some days before had been placidly swimming by our side, darted away
with what seemed shuddering fins, and ranged themselves fore and aft with
the stranger’s flanks. Though in the course of his continual voyagings
Ahab must often before have noticed a similar sight, yet, to any
monomaniac man, the veriest trifles capriciously carry meanings.

“Swim away from me, do ye?” murmured Ahab, gazing over into the water.
There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep
helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before evinced. But
turning to the steersman, who thus far had been holding the ship in the
wind to diminish her headway, he cried out in his old lion voice,—“Up
helm! Keep her off round the world!”

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings;
but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through
numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we
left behind secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for
ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than
any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the
voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented
chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all
human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead
us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.

CHAPTER 53. The Gam.

The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the whaler we had
spoken was this: the wind and sea betokened storms. But even had this not
been the case, he would not after all, perhaps, have boarded her—judging
by his subsequent conduct on similar occasions—if so it had been
that, by the process of hailing, he had obtained a negative answer to the
question he put. For, as it eventually turned out, he cared not to
consort, even for five minutes, with any stranger captain, except he could
contribute some of that information he so absorbingly sought. But all this
might remain inadequately estimated, were not something said here of the
peculiar usages of whaling-vessels when meeting each other in foreign
seas, and especially on a common cruising-ground.

If two strangers crossing the Pine Barrens in New York State, or the
equally desolate Salisbury Plain in England; if casually encountering each
other in such inhospitable wilds, these twain, for the life of them,
cannot well avoid a mutual salutation; and stopping for a moment to
interchange the news; and, perhaps, sitting down for a while and resting
in concert: then, how much more natural that upon the illimitable Pine
Barrens and Salisbury Plains of the sea, two whaling vessels descrying
each other at the ends of the earth—off lone Fanning’s Island, or
the far away King’s Mills; how much more natural, I say, that under such
circumstances these ships should not only interchange hails, but come into
still closer, more friendly and sociable contact. And especially would
this seem to be a matter of course, in the case of vessels owned in one
seaport, and whose captains, officers, and not a few of the men are
personally known to each other; and consequently, have all sorts of dear
domestic things to talk about.

For the long absent ship, the outward-bounder, perhaps, has letters on
board; at any rate, she will be sure to let her have some papers of a date
a year or two later than the last one on her blurred and thumb-worn files.
And in return for that courtesy, the outward-bound ship would receive the
latest whaling intelligence from the cruising-ground to which she may be
destined, a thing of the utmost importance to her. And in degree, all this
will hold true concerning whaling vessels crossing each other’s track on
the cruising-ground itself, even though they are equally long absent from
home. For one of them may have received a transfer of letters from some
third, and now far remote vessel; and some of those letters may be for the
people of the ship she now meets. Besides, they would exchange the whaling
news, and have an agreeable chat. For not only would they meet with all
the sympathies of sailors, but likewise with all the peculiar
congenialities arising from a common pursuit and mutually shared
privations and perils.

Nor would difference of country make any very essential difference; that
is, so long as both parties speak one language, as is the case with
Americans and English. Though, to be sure, from the small number of
English whalers, such meetings do not very often occur, and when they do
occur there is too apt to be a sort of shyness between them; for your
Englishman is rather reserved, and your Yankee, he does not fancy that
sort of thing in anybody but himself. Besides, the English whalers
sometimes affect a kind of metropolitan superiority over the American
whalers; regarding the long, lean Nantucketer, with his nondescript
provincialisms, as a sort of sea-peasant. But where this superiority in
the English whalemen does really consist, it would be hard to say, seeing
that the Yankees in one day, collectively, kill more whales than all the
English, collectively, in ten years. But this is a harmless little foible
in the English whale-hunters, which the Nantucketer does not take much to
heart; probably, because he knows that he has a few foibles himself.

So, then, we see that of all ships separately sailing the sea, the whalers
have most reason to be sociable—and they are so. Whereas, some
merchant ships crossing each other’s wake in the mid-Atlantic, will
oftentimes pass on without so much as a single word of recognition,
mutually cutting each other on the high seas, like a brace of dandies in
Broadway; and all the time indulging, perhaps, in finical criticism upon
each other’s rig. As for Men-of-War, when they chance to meet at sea, they
first go through such a string of silly bowings and scrapings, such a
ducking of ensigns, that there does not seem to be much right-down hearty
good-will and brotherly love about it at all. As touching Slave-ships
meeting, why, they are in such a prodigious hurry, they run away from each
other as soon as possible. And as for Pirates, when they chance to cross
each other’s cross-bones, the first hail is—“How many skulls?”—the
same way that whalers hail—“How many barrels?” And that question
once answered, pirates straightway steer apart, for they are infernal
villains on both sides, and don’t like to see overmuch of each other’s
villanous likenesses.

But look at the godly, honest, unostentatious, hospitable, sociable,
free-and-easy whaler! What does the whaler do when she meets another
whaler in any sort of decent weather? She has a “Gam,” a thing so utterly
unknown to all other ships that they never heard of the name even; and if
by chance they should hear of it, they only grin at it, and repeat
gamesome stuff about “spouters” and “blubber-boilers,” and such like
pretty exclamations. Why it is that all Merchant-seamen, and also all
Pirates and Man-of-War’s men, and Slave-ship sailors, cherish such a
scornful feeling towards Whale-ships; this is a question it would be hard
to answer. Because, in the case of pirates, say, I should like to know
whether that profession of theirs has any peculiar glory about it. It
sometimes ends in uncommon elevation, indeed; but only at the gallows. And
besides, when a man is elevated in that odd fashion, he has no proper
foundation for his superior altitude. Hence, I conclude, that in boasting
himself to be high lifted above a whaleman, in that assertion the pirate
has no solid basis to stand on.

But what is a Gam? You might wear out your index-finger running up and
down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word. Dr. Johnson
never attained to that erudition; Noah Webster’s ark does not hold it.
Nevertheless, this same expressive word has now for many years been in
constant use among some fifteen thousand true born Yankees. Certainly, it
needs a definition, and should be incorporated into the Lexicon. With that
view, let me learnedly define it.

GAM. NOUN—A social meeting of two (or more) Whaleships,
generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits
by boats’ crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one
ship, and the two chief mates on the other.

There is another little item about Gamming which must not be forgotten
here. All professions have their own little peculiarities of detail; so
has the whale fishery. In a pirate, man-of-war, or slave ship, when the
captain is rowed anywhere in his boat, he always sits in the stern sheets
on a comfortable, sometimes cushioned seat there, and often steers himself
with a pretty little milliner’s tiller decorated with gay cords and
ribbons. But the whale-boat has no seat astern, no sofa of that sort
whatever, and no tiller at all. High times indeed, if whaling captains
were wheeled about the water on castors like gouty old aldermen in patent
chairs. And as for a tiller, the whale-boat never admits of any such
effeminacy; and therefore as in gamming a complete boat’s crew must leave
the ship, and hence as the boat steerer or harpooneer is of the number,
that subordinate is the steersman upon the occasion, and the captain,
having no place to sit in, is pulled off to his visit all standing like a
pine tree. And often you will notice that being conscious of the eyes of
the whole visible world resting on him from the sides of the two ships,
this standing captain is all alive to the importance of sustaining his
dignity by maintaining his legs. Nor is this any very easy matter; for in
his rear is the immense projecting steering oar hitting him now and then
in the small of his back, the after-oar reciprocating by rapping his knees
in front. He is thus completely wedged before and behind, and can only
expand himself sideways by settling down on his stretched legs; but a
sudden, violent pitch of the boat will often go far to topple him, because
length of foundation is nothing without corresponding breadth. Merely make
a spread angle of two poles, and you cannot stand them up. Then, again, it
would never do in plain sight of the world’s riveted eyes, it would never
do, I say, for this straddling captain to be seen steadying himself the
slightest particle by catching hold of anything with his hands; indeed, as
token of his entire, buoyant self-command, he generally carries his hands
in his trowsers’ pockets; but perhaps being generally very large, heavy
hands, he carries them there for ballast. Nevertheless there have occurred
instances, well authenticated ones too, where the captain has been known
for an uncommonly critical moment or two, in a sudden squall say—to
seize hold of the nearest oarsman’s hair, and hold on there like grim

CHAPTER 54. The Town-Ho’s Story.

(As told at the Golden Inn.)

The Cape of Good Hope, and all the watery region round about there, is
much like some noted four corners of a great highway, where you meet more
travellers than in any other part.

It was not very long after speaking the Goney that another homeward-bound
whaleman, the Town-Ho,* was encountered. She was manned almost wholly by
Polynesians. In the short gam that ensued she gave us strong news of Moby
Dick. To some the general interest in the White Whale was now wildly
heightened by a circumstance of the Town-Ho’s story, which seemed
obscurely to involve with the whale a certain wondrous, inverted
visitation of one of those so called judgments of God which at times are
said to overtake some men. This latter circumstance, with its own
particular accompaniments, forming what may be called the secret part of
the tragedy about to be narrated, never reached the ears of Captain Ahab
or his mates. For that secret part of the story was unknown to the captain
of the Town-Ho himself. It was the private property of three confederate
white seamen of that ship, one of whom, it seems, communicated it to
Tashtego with Romish injunctions of secrecy, but the following night
Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and revealed so much of it in that way,
that when he was wakened he could not well withhold the rest.
Nevertheless, so potent an influence did this thing have on those seamen
in the Pequod who came to the full knowledge of it, and by such a strange
delicacy, to call it so, were they governed in this matter, that they kept
the secret among themselves so that it never transpired abaft the Pequod’s
main-mast. Interweaving in its proper place this darker thread with the
story as publicly narrated on the ship, the whole of this strange affair I
now proceed to put on lasting record.

*The ancient whale-cry upon first sighting a whale from the mast-head,
still used by whalemen in hunting the famous Gallipagos terrapin.

For my humor’s sake, I shall preserve the style in which I once narrated
it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one saint’s eve,
smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden Inn. Of those fine
cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and Sebastian, were on the closer terms
with me; and hence the interluding questions they occasionally put, and
which are duly answered at the time.

“Some two years prior to my first learning the events which I am about
rehearsing to you, gentlemen, the Town-Ho, Sperm Whaler of Nantucket, was
cruising in your Pacific here, not very many days’ sail eastward from the
eaves of this good Golden Inn. She was somewhere to the northward of the
Line. One morning upon handling the pumps, according to daily usage, it
was observed that she made more water in her hold than common. They
supposed a sword-fish had stabbed her, gentlemen. But the captain, having
some unusual reason for believing that rare good luck awaited him in those
latitudes; and therefore being very averse to quit them, and the leak not
being then considered at all dangerous, though, indeed, they could not
find it after searching the hold as low down as was possible in rather
heavy weather, the ship still continued her cruisings, the mariners
working at the pumps at wide and easy intervals; but no good luck came;
more days went by, and not only was the leak yet undiscovered, but it
sensibly increased. So much so, that now taking some alarm, the captain,
making all sail, stood away for the nearest harbor among the islands,
there to have his hull hove out and repaired.

“Though no small passage was before her, yet, if the commonest chance
favoured, he did not at all fear that his ship would founder by the way,
because his pumps were of the best, and being periodically relieved at
them, those six-and-thirty men of his could easily keep the ship free;
never mind if the leak should double on her. In truth, well nigh the whole
of this passage being attended by very prosperous breezes, the Town-Ho had
all but certainly arrived in perfect safety at her port without the
occurrence of the least fatality, had it not been for the brutal
overbearing of Radney, the mate, a Vineyarder, and the bitterly provoked
vengeance of Steelkilt, a Lakeman and desperado from Buffalo.

“‘Lakeman!—Buffalo! Pray, what is a Lakeman, and where is Buffalo?’
said Don Sebastian, rising in his swinging mat of grass.

“On the eastern shore of our Lake Erie, Don; but—I crave your
courtesy—may be, you shall soon hear further of all that. Now,
gentlemen, in square-sail brigs and three-masted ships, well-nigh as large
and stout as any that ever sailed out of your old Callao to far Manilla;
this Lakeman, in the land-locked heart of our America, had yet been
nurtured by all those agrarian freebooting impressions popularly connected
with the open ocean. For in their interflowing aggregate, those grand
fresh-water seas of ours,—Erie, and Ontario, and Huron, and
Superior, and Michigan,—possess an ocean-like expansiveness, with
many of the ocean’s noblest traits; with many of its rimmed varieties of
races and of climes. They contain round archipelagoes of romantic isles,
even as the Polynesian waters do; in large part, are shored by two great
contrasting nations, as the Atlantic is; they furnish long maritime
approaches to our numerous territorial colonies from the East, dotted all
round their banks; here and there are frowned upon by batteries, and by
the goat-like craggy guns of lofty Mackinaw; they have heard the fleet
thunderings of naval victories; at intervals, they yield their beaches to
wild barbarians, whose red painted faces flash from out their peltry
wigwams; for leagues and leagues are flanked by ancient and unentered
forests, where the gaunt pines stand like serried lines of kings in Gothic
genealogies; those same woods harboring wild Afric beasts of prey, and
silken creatures whose exported furs give robes to Tartar Emperors; they
mirror the paved capitals of Buffalo and Cleveland, as well as Winnebago
villages; they float alike the full-rigged merchant ship, the armed
cruiser of the State, the steamer, and the beech canoe; they are swept by
Borean and dismasting blasts as direful as any that lash the salted wave;
they know what shipwrecks are, for out of sight of land, however inland,
they have drowned full many a midnight ship with all its shrieking crew.
Thus, gentlemen, though an inlander, Steelkilt was wild-ocean born, and
wild-ocean nurtured; as much of an audacious mariner as any. And for
Radney, though in his infancy he may have laid him down on the lone
Nantucket beach, to nurse at his maternal sea; though in after life he had
long followed our austere Atlantic and your contemplative Pacific; yet was
he quite as vengeful and full of social quarrel as the backwoods seaman,
fresh from the latitudes of buck-horn handled Bowie-knives. Yet was this
Nantucketer a man with some good-hearted traits; and this Lakeman, a
mariner, who though a sort of devil indeed, might yet by inflexible
firmness, only tempered by that common decency of human recognition which
is the meanest slave’s right; thus treated, this Steelkilt had long been
retained harmless and docile. At all events, he had proved so thus far;
but Radney was doomed and made mad, and Steelkilt—but, gentlemen,
you shall hear.

“It was not more than a day or two at the furthest after pointing her prow
for her island haven, that the Town-Ho’s leak seemed again increasing, but
only so as to require an hour or more at the pumps every day. You must
know that in a settled and civilized ocean like our Atlantic, for example,
some skippers think little of pumping their whole way across it; though of
a still, sleepy night, should the officer of the deck happen to forget his
duty in that respect, the probability would be that he and his shipmates
would never again remember it, on account of all hands gently subsiding to
the bottom. Nor in the solitary and savage seas far from you to the
westward, gentlemen, is it altogether unusual for ships to keep clanging
at their pump-handles in full chorus even for a voyage of considerable
length; that is, if it lie along a tolerably accessible coast, or if any
other reasonable retreat is afforded them. It is only when a leaky vessel
is in some very out of the way part of those waters, some really landless
latitude, that her captain begins to feel a little anxious.

“Much this way had it been with the Town-Ho; so when her leak was found
gaining once more, there was in truth some small concern manifested by
several of her company; especially by Radney the mate. He commanded the
upper sails to be well hoisted, sheeted home anew, and every way expanded
to the breeze. Now this Radney, I suppose, was as little of a coward, and
as little inclined to any sort of nervous apprehensiveness touching his
own person as any fearless, unthinking creature on land or on sea that you
can conveniently imagine, gentlemen. Therefore when he betrayed this
solicitude about the safety of the ship, some of the seamen declared that
it was only on account of his being a part owner in her. So when they were
working that evening at the pumps, there was on this head no small
gamesomeness slily going on among them, as they stood with their feet
continually overflowed by the rippling clear water; clear as any mountain
spring, gentlemen—that bubbling from the pumps ran across the deck,
and poured itself out in steady spouts at the lee scupper-holes.

“Now, as you well know, it is not seldom the case in this conventional
world of ours—watery or otherwise; that when a person placed in
command over his fellow-men finds one of them to be very significantly his
superior in general pride of manhood, straightway against that man he
conceives an unconquerable dislike and bitterness; and if he have a chance
he will pull down and pulverize that subaltern’s tower, and make a little
heap of dust of it. Be this conceit of mine as it may, gentlemen, at all
events Steelkilt was a tall and noble animal with a head like a Roman, and
a flowing golden beard like the tasseled housings of your last viceroy’s
snorting charger; and a brain, and a heart, and a soul in him, gentlemen,
which had made Steelkilt Charlemagne, had he been born son to
Charlemagne’s father. But Radney, the mate, was ugly as a mule; yet as
hardy, as stubborn, as malicious. He did not love Steelkilt, and Steelkilt
knew it.

“Espying the mate drawing near as he was toiling at the pump with the
rest, the Lakeman affected not to notice him, but unawed, went on with his
gay banterings.

“‘Aye, aye, my merry lads, it’s a lively leak this; hold a cannikin, one
of ye, and let’s have a taste. By the Lord, it’s worth bottling! I tell ye
what, men, old Rad’s investment must go for it! he had best cut away his
part of the hull and tow it home. The fact is, boys, that sword-fish only
began the job; he’s come back again with a gang of ship-carpenters,
saw-fish, and file-fish, and what not; and the whole posse of ’em are now
hard at work cutting and slashing at the bottom; making improvements, I
suppose. If old Rad were here now, I’d tell him to jump overboard and
scatter ’em. They’re playing the devil with his estate, I can tell him.
But he’s a simple old soul,—Rad, and a beauty too. Boys, they say
the rest of his property is invested in looking-glasses. I wonder if he’d
give a poor devil like me the model of his nose.’

“‘Damn your eyes! what’s that pump stopping for?’ roared Radney,
pretending not to have heard the sailors’ talk. ‘Thunder away at it!’

“‘Aye, aye, sir,’ said Steelkilt, merry as a cricket. ‘Lively, boys,
lively, now!’ And with that the pump clanged like fifty fire-engines; the
men tossed their hats off to it, and ere long that peculiar gasping of the
lungs was heard which denotes the fullest tension of life’s utmost

“Quitting the pump at last, with the rest of his band, the Lakeman went
forward all panting, and sat himself down on the windlass; his face fiery
red, his eyes bloodshot, and wiping the profuse sweat from his brow. Now
what cozening fiend it was, gentlemen, that possessed Radney to meddle
with such a man in that corporeally exasperated state, I know not; but so
it happened. Intolerably striding along the deck, the mate commanded him
to get a broom and sweep down the planks, and also a shovel, and remove
some offensive matters consequent upon allowing a pig to run at large.

“Now, gentlemen, sweeping a ship’s deck at sea is a piece of household
work which in all times but raging gales is regularly attended to every
evening; it has been known to be done in the case of ships actually
foundering at the time. Such, gentlemen, is the inflexibility of
sea-usages and the instinctive love of neatness in seamen; some of whom
would not willingly drown without first washing their faces. But in all
vessels this broom business is the prescriptive province of the boys, if
boys there be aboard. Besides, it was the stronger men in the Town-Ho that
had been divided into gangs, taking turns at the pumps; and being the most
athletic seaman of them all, Steelkilt had been regularly assigned captain
of one of the gangs; consequently he should have been freed from any
trivial business not connected with truly nautical duties, such being the
case with his comrades. I mention all these particulars so that you may
understand exactly how this affair stood between the two men.

“But there was more than this: the order about the shovel was almost as
plainly meant to sting and insult Steelkilt, as though Radney had spat in
his face. Any man who has gone sailor in a whale-ship will understand
this; and all this and doubtless much more, the Lakeman fully comprehended
when the mate uttered his command. But as he sat still for a moment, and
as he steadfastly looked into the mate’s malignant eye and perceived the
stacks of powder-casks heaped up in him and the slow-match silently
burning along towards them; as he instinctively saw all this, that strange
forbearance and unwillingness to stir up the deeper passionateness in any
already ireful being—a repugnance most felt, when felt at all, by
really valiant men even when aggrieved—this nameless phantom
feeling, gentlemen, stole over Steelkilt.

“Therefore, in his ordinary tone, only a little broken by the bodily
exhaustion he was temporarily in, he answered him saying that sweeping the
deck was not his business, and he would not do it. And then, without at
all alluding to the shovel, he pointed to three lads as the customary
sweepers; who, not being billeted at the pumps, had done little or nothing
all day. To this, Radney replied with an oath, in a most domineering and
outrageous manner unconditionally reiterating his command; meanwhile
advancing upon the still seated Lakeman, with an uplifted cooper’s club
hammer which he had snatched from a cask near by.

“Heated and irritated as he was by his spasmodic toil at the pumps, for
all his first nameless feeling of forbearance the sweating Steelkilt could
but ill brook this bearing in the mate; but somehow still smothering the
conflagration within him, without speaking he remained doggedly rooted to
his seat, till at last the incensed Radney shook the hammer within a few
inches of his face, furiously commanding him to do his bidding.

“Steelkilt rose, and slowly retreating round the windlass, steadily
followed by the mate with his menacing hammer, deliberately repeated his
intention not to obey. Seeing, however, that his forbearance had not the
slightest effect, by an awful and unspeakable intimation with his twisted
hand he warned off the foolish and infatuated man; but it was to no
purpose. And in this way the two went once slowly round the windlass;
when, resolved at last no longer to retreat, bethinking him that he had
now forborne as much as comported with his humor, the Lakeman paused on
the hatches and thus spoke to the officer:

“‘Mr. Radney, I will not obey you. Take that hammer away, or look to
yourself.’ But the predestinated mate coming still closer to him, where
the Lakeman stood fixed, now shook the heavy hammer within an inch of his
teeth; meanwhile repeating a string of insufferable maledictions.
Retreating not the thousandth part of an inch; stabbing him in the eye
with the unflinching poniard of his glance, Steelkilt, clenching his right
hand behind him and creepingly drawing it back, told his persecutor that
if the hammer but grazed his cheek he (Steelkilt) would murder him. But,
gentlemen, the fool had been branded for the slaughter by the gods.
Immediately the hammer touched the cheek; the next instant the lower jaw
of the mate was stove in his head; he fell on the hatch spouting blood
like a whale.

“Ere the cry could go aft Steelkilt was shaking one of the backstays
leading far aloft to where two of his comrades were standing their
mastheads. They were both Canallers.

“‘Canallers!’ cried Don Pedro. ‘We have seen many whale-ships in our
harbours, but never heard of your Canallers. Pardon: who and what are

“‘Canallers, Don, are the boatmen belonging to our grand Erie Canal. You
must have heard of it.’

“‘Nay, Senor; hereabouts in this dull, warm, most lazy, and hereditary
land, we know but little of your vigorous North.’

“‘Aye? Well then, Don, refill my cup. Your chicha’s very fine; and ere
proceeding further I will tell ye what our Canallers are; for such
information may throw side-light upon my story.’

“For three hundred and sixty miles, gentlemen, through the entire breadth
of the state of New York; through numerous populous cities and most
thriving villages; through long, dismal, uninhabited swamps, and affluent,
cultivated fields, unrivalled for fertility; by billiard-room and
bar-room; through the holy-of-holies of great forests; on Roman arches
over Indian rivers; through sun and shade; by happy hearts or broken;
through all the wide contrasting scenery of those noble Mohawk counties;
and especially, by rows of snow-white chapels, whose spires stand almost
like milestones, flows one continual stream of Venetianly corrupt and
often lawless life. There’s your true Ashantee, gentlemen; there howl your
pagans; where you ever find them, next door to you; under the long-flung
shadow, and the snug patronising lee of churches. For by some curious
fatality, as it is often noted of your metropolitan freebooters that they
ever encamp around the halls of justice, so sinners, gentlemen, most
abound in holiest vicinities.

“‘Is that a friar passing?’ said Don Pedro, looking downwards into the
crowded plazza, with humorous concern.

“‘Well for our northern friend, Dame Isabella’s Inquisition wanes in
Lima,’ laughed Don Sebastian. ‘Proceed, Senor.’

“‘A moment! Pardon!’ cried another of the company. ‘In the name of all us
Limeese, I but desire to express to you, sir sailor, that we have by no
means overlooked your delicacy in not substituting present Lima for
distant Venice in your corrupt comparison. Oh! do not bow and look
surprised; you know the proverb all along this coast—“Corrupt as
Lima.” It but bears out your saying, too; churches more plentiful than
billiard-tables, and for ever open—and “Corrupt as Lima.” So, too,
Venice; I have been there; the holy city of the blessed evangelist, St.
Mark!—St. Dominic, purge it! Your cup! Thanks: here I refill; now,
you pour out again.’

“Freely depicted in his own vocation, gentlemen, the Canaller would make a
fine dramatic hero, so abundantly and picturesquely wicked is he. Like
Mark Antony, for days and days along his green-turfed, flowery Nile, he
indolently floats, openly toying with his red-cheeked Cleopatra, ripening
his apricot thigh upon the sunny deck. But ashore, all this effeminacy is
dashed. The brigandish guise which the Canaller so proudly sports; his
slouched and gaily-ribboned hat betoken his grand features. A terror to
the smiling innocence of the villages through which he floats; his swart
visage and bold swagger are not unshunned in cities. Once a vagabond on
his own canal, I have received good turns from one of these Canallers; I
thank him heartily; would fain be not ungrateful; but it is often one of
the prime redeeming qualities of your man of violence, that at times he
has as stiff an arm to back a poor stranger in a strait, as to plunder a
wealthy one. In sum, gentlemen, what the wildness of this canal life is,
is emphatically evinced by this; that our wild whale-fishery contains so
many of its most finished graduates, and that scarce any race of mankind,
except Sydney men, are so much distrusted by our whaling captains. Nor
does it at all diminish the curiousness of this matter, that to many
thousands of our rural boys and young men born along its line, the
probationary life of the Grand Canal furnishes the sole transition between
quietly reaping in a Christian corn-field, and recklessly ploughing the
waters of the most barbaric seas.

“‘I see! I see!’ impetuously exclaimed Don Pedro, spilling his chicha upon
his silvery ruffles. ‘No need to travel! The world’s one Lima. I had
thought, now, that at your temperate North the generations were cold and
holy as the hills.—But the story.’

“I left off, gentlemen, where the Lakeman shook the backstay. Hardly had
he done so, when he was surrounded by the three junior mates and the four
harpooneers, who all crowded him to the deck. But sliding down the ropes
like baleful comets, the two Canallers rushed into the uproar, and sought
to drag their man out of it towards the forecastle. Others of the sailors
joined with them in this attempt, and a twisted turmoil ensued; while
standing out of harm’s way, the valiant captain danced up and down with a
whale-pike, calling upon his officers to manhandle that atrocious
scoundrel, and smoke him along to the quarter-deck. At intervals, he ran
close up to the revolving border of the confusion, and prying into the
heart of it with his pike, sought to prick out the object of his
resentment. But Steelkilt and his desperadoes were too much for them all;
they succeeded in gaining the forecastle deck, where, hastily slewing
about three or four large casks in a line with the windlass, these
sea-Parisians entrenched themselves behind the barricade.

“‘Come out of that, ye pirates!’ roared the captain, now menacing them
with a pistol in each hand, just brought to him by the steward. ‘Come out
of that, ye cut-throats!’

“Steelkilt leaped on the barricade, and striding up and down there, defied
the worst the pistols could do; but gave the captain to understand
distinctly, that his (Steelkilt’s) death would be the signal for a
murderous mutiny on the part of all hands. Fearing in his heart lest this
might prove but too true, the captain a little desisted, but still
commanded the insurgents instantly to return to their duty.

“‘Will you promise not to touch us, if we do?’ demanded their ringleader.

“‘Turn to! turn to!—I make no promise;—to your duty! Do you
want to sink the ship, by knocking off at a time like this? Turn to!’ and
he once more raised a pistol.

“‘Sink the ship?’ cried Steelkilt. ‘Aye, let her sink. Not a man of us
turns to, unless you swear not to raise a rope-yarn against us. What say
ye, men?’ turning to his comrades. A fierce cheer was their response.

“The Lakeman now patrolled the barricade, all the while keeping his eye on
the Captain, and jerking out such sentences as these:—‘It’s not our
fault; we didn’t want it; I told him to take his hammer away; it was boy’s
business; he might have known me before this; I told him not to prick the
buffalo; I believe I have broken a finger here against his cursed jaw;
ain’t those mincing knives down in the forecastle there, men? look to
those handspikes, my hearties. Captain, by God, look to yourself; say the
word; don’t be a fool; forget it all; we are ready to turn to; treat us
decently, and we’re your men; but we won’t be flogged.’

“‘Turn to! I make no promises, turn to, I say!’

“‘Look ye, now,’ cried the Lakeman, flinging out his arm towards him,
‘there are a few of us here (and I am one of them) who have shipped for
the cruise, d’ye see; now as you well know, sir, we can claim our
discharge as soon as the anchor is down; so we don’t want a row; it’s not
our interest; we want to be peaceable; we are ready to work, but we won’t
be flogged.’

“‘Turn to!’ roared the Captain.

“Steelkilt glanced round him a moment, and then said:—‘I tell you
what it is now, Captain, rather than kill ye, and be hung for such a
shabby rascal, we won’t lift a hand against ye unless ye attack us; but
till you say the word about not flogging us, we don’t do a hand’s turn.’

“‘Down into the forecastle then, down with ye, I’ll keep ye there till
ye’re sick of it. Down ye go.’

“‘Shall we?’ cried the ringleader to his men. Most of them were against
it; but at length, in obedience to Steelkilt, they preceded him down into
their dark den, growlingly disappearing, like bears into a cave.

“As the Lakeman’s bare head was just level with the planks, the Captain
and his posse leaped the barricade, and rapidly drawing over the slide of
the scuttle, planted their group of hands upon it, and loudly called for
the steward to bring the heavy brass padlock belonging to the
companionway. Then opening the slide a little, the Captain whispered something
down the crack, closed it, and turned the key upon them—ten in
number—leaving on deck some twenty or more, who thus far had remained neutral.

“All night a wide-awake watch was kept by all the officers, forward and
aft, especially about the forecastle scuttle and fore hatchway; at which
last place it was feared the insurgents might emerge, after breaking
through the bulkhead below. But the hours of darkness passed in peace; the
men who still remained at their duty toiling hard at the pumps, whose
clinking and clanking at intervals through the dreary night dismally
resounded through the ship.

“At sunrise the Captain went forward, and knocking on the deck, summoned
the prisoners to work; but with a yell they refused. Water was then
lowered down to them, and a couple of handfuls of biscuit were tossed
after it; when again turning the key upon them and pocketing it, the
Captain returned to the quarter-deck. Twice every day for three days this
was repeated; but on the fourth morning a confused wrangling, and then a
scuffling was heard, as the customary summons was delivered; and suddenly
four men burst up from the forecastle, saying they were ready to turn to.
The fetid closeness of the air, and a famishing diet, united perhaps to
some fears of ultimate retribution, had constrained them to surrender at
discretion. Emboldened by this, the Captain reiterated his demand to the
rest, but Steelkilt shouted up to him a terrific hint to stop his babbling
and betake himself where he belonged. On the fifth morning three others of
the mutineers bolted up into the air from the desperate arms below that
sought to restrain them. Only three were left.

“‘Better turn to, now?’ said the Captain with a heartless jeer.

“‘Shut us up again, will ye!’ cried Steelkilt.

“‘Oh certainly,’ said the Captain, and the key clicked.

“It was at this point, gentlemen, that enraged by the defection of seven
of his former associates, and stung by the mocking voice that had last
hailed him, and maddened by his long entombment in a place as black as the
bowels of despair; it was then that Steelkilt proposed to the two
Canallers, thus far apparently of one mind with him, to burst out of their
hole at the next summoning of the garrison; and armed with their keen
mincing knives (long, crescentic, heavy implements with a handle at each
end) run amuck from the bowsprit to the taffrail; and if by any
devilishness of desperation possible, seize the ship. For himself, he
would do this, he said, whether they joined him or not. That was the last
night he should spend in that den. But the scheme met with no opposition
on the part of the other two; they swore they were ready for that, or for
any other mad thing, for anything in short but a surrender. And what was
more, they each insisted upon being the first man on deck, when the time
to make the rush should come. But to this their leader as fiercely
objected, reserving that priority for himself; particularly as his two
comrades would not yield, the one to the other, in the matter; and both of
them could not be first, for the ladder would but admit one man at a time.
And here, gentlemen, the foul play of these miscreants must come out.

“Upon hearing the frantic project of their leader, each in his own
separate soul had suddenly lighted, it would seem, upon the same piece of
treachery, namely: to be foremost in breaking out, in order to be the
first of the three, though the last of the ten, to surrender; and thereby
secure whatever small chance of pardon such conduct might merit. But when
Steelkilt made known his determination still to lead them to the last,
they in some way, by some subtle chemistry of villany, mixed their before
secret treacheries together; and when their leader fell into a doze,
verbally opened their souls to each other in three sentences; and bound
the sleeper with cords, and gagged him with cords; and shrieked out for
the Captain at midnight.

“Thinking murder at hand, and smelling in the dark for the blood, he and
all his armed mates and harpooneers rushed for the forecastle. In a few
minutes the scuttle was opened, and, bound hand and foot, the still
struggling ringleader was shoved up into the air by his perfidious allies,
who at once claimed the honor of securing a man who had been fully ripe
for murder. But all these were collared, and dragged along the deck like
dead cattle; and, side by side, were seized up into the mizzen rigging,
like three quarters of meat, and there they hung till morning. ‘Damn ye,’
cried the Captain, pacing to and fro before them, ‘the vultures would not
touch ye, ye villains!’

“At sunrise he summoned all hands; and separating those who had rebelled
from those who had taken no part in the mutiny, he told the former that he
had a good mind to flog them all round—thought, upon the whole, he
would do so—he ought to—justice demanded it; but for the
present, considering their timely surrender, he would let them go with a
reprimand, which he accordingly administered in the vernacular.

“‘But as for you, ye carrion rogues,’ turning to the three men in the
rigging—‘for you, I mean to mince ye up for the try-pots;’ and,
seizing a rope, he applied it with all his might to the backs of the two
traitors, till they yelled no more, but lifelessly hung their heads
sideways, as the two crucified thieves are drawn.

“‘My wrist is sprained with ye!’ he cried, at last; ‘but there is still
rope enough left for you, my fine bantam, that wouldn’t give up. Take that
gag from his mouth, and let us hear what he can say for himself.’

“For a moment the exhausted mutineer made a tremulous motion of his
cramped jaws, and then painfully twisting round his head, said in a sort
of hiss, ‘What I say is this—and mind it well—if you flog me,
I murder you!’

“‘Say ye so? then see how ye frighten me’—and the Captain drew off
with the rope to strike.

“‘Best not,’ hissed the Lakeman.

“‘But I must,’—and the rope was once more drawn back for the stroke.

“Steelkilt here hissed out something, inaudible to all but the Captain;
who, to the amazement of all hands, started back, paced the deck rapidly
two or three times, and then suddenly throwing down his rope, said, ‘I
won’t do it—let him go—cut him down: d’ye hear?’

“But as the junior mates were hurrying to execute the order, a pale man,
with a bandaged head, arrested them—Radney the chief mate. Ever
since the blow, he had lain in his berth; but that morning, hearing the
tumult on the deck, he had crept out, and thus far had watched the whole
scene. Such was the state of his mouth, that he could hardly speak; but
mumbling something about his being willing and able to do what the captain
dared not attempt, he snatched the rope and advanced to his pinioned foe.

“‘You are a coward!’ hissed the Lakeman.

“‘So I am, but take that.’ The mate was in the very act of striking, when
another hiss stayed his uplifted arm. He paused: and then pausing no more,
made good his word, spite of Steelkilt’s threat, whatever that might have
been. The three men were then cut down, all hands were turned to, and,
sullenly worked by the moody seamen, the iron pumps clanged as before.

“Just after dark that day, when one watch had retired below, a clamor was
heard in the forecastle; and the two trembling traitors running up,
besieged the cabin door, saying they durst not consort with the crew.
Entreaties, cuffs, and kicks could not drive them back, so at their own
instance they were put down in the ship’s run for salvation. Still, no
sign of mutiny reappeared among the rest. On the contrary, it seemed, that
mainly at Steelkilt’s instigation, they had resolved to maintain the
strictest peacefulness, obey all orders to the last, and, when the ship
reached port, desert her in a body. But in order to insure the speediest
end to the voyage, they all agreed to another thing—namely, not to
sing out for whales, in case any should be discovered. For, spite of her
leak, and spite of all her other perils, the Town-Ho still maintained her
mast-heads, and her captain was just as willing to lower for a fish that
moment, as on the day his craft first struck the cruising ground; and
Radney the mate was quite as ready to change his berth for a boat, and
with his bandaged mouth seek to gag in death the vital jaw of the whale.

“But though the Lakeman had induced the seamen to adopt this sort of
passiveness in their conduct, he kept his own counsel (at least till all
was over) concerning his own proper and private revenge upon the man who
had stung him in the ventricles of his heart. He was in Radney the chief
mate’s watch; and as if the infatuated man sought to run more than half
way to meet his doom, after the scene at the rigging, he insisted, against
the express counsel of the captain, upon resuming the head of his watch at
night. Upon this, and one or two other circumstances, Steelkilt
systematically built the plan of his revenge.

“During the night, Radney had an unseamanlike way of sitting on the
bulwarks of the quarter-deck, and leaning his arm upon the gunwale of the
boat which was hoisted up there, a little above the ship’s side. In this
attitude, it was well known, he sometimes dozed. There was a considerable
vacancy between the boat and the ship, and down between this was the sea.
Steelkilt calculated his time, and found that his next trick at the helm
would come round at two o’clock, in the morning of the third day from that
in which he had been betrayed. At his leisure, he employed the interval in
braiding something very carefully in his watches below.

“‘What are you making there?’ said a shipmate.

“‘What do you think? what does it look like?’

“‘Like a lanyard for your bag; but it’s an odd one, seems to me.’

“‘Yes, rather oddish,’ said the Lakeman, holding it at arm’s length before
him; ‘but I think it will answer. Shipmate, I haven’t enough twine,—have
you any?’

“But there was none in the forecastle.

“‘Then I must get some from old Rad;’ and he rose to go aft.

“‘You don’t mean to go a begging to him!’ said a sailor.

“‘Why not? Do you think he won’t do me a turn, when it’s to help himself
in the end, shipmate?’ and going to the mate, he looked at him quietly,
and asked him for some twine to mend his hammock. It was given him—neither
twine nor lanyard were seen again; but the next night an iron ball,
closely netted, partly rolled from the pocket of the Lakeman’s monkey
jacket, as he was tucking the coat into his hammock for a pillow.
Twenty-four hours after, his trick at the silent helm—nigh to the
man who was apt to doze over the grave always ready dug to the seaman’s
hand—that fatal hour was then to come; and in the fore-ordaining
soul of Steelkilt, the mate was already stark and stretched as a corpse,
with his forehead crushed in.

“But, gentlemen, a fool saved the would-be murderer from the bloody deed
he had planned. Yet complete revenge he had, and without being the
avenger. For by a mysterious fatality, Heaven itself seemed to step in to
take out of his hands into its own the damning thing he would have done.

“It was just between daybreak and sunrise of the morning of the second
day, when they were washing down the decks, that a stupid Teneriffe man,
drawing water in the main-chains, all at once shouted out, ‘There she
rolls! there she rolls!’ Jesu, what a whale! It was Moby Dick.

“‘Moby Dick!’ cried Don Sebastian; ‘St. Dominic! Sir sailor, but do whales
have christenings? Whom call you Moby Dick?’

“‘A very white, and famous, and most deadly immortal monster, Don;—but
that would be too long a story.’

“‘How? how?’ cried all the young Spaniards, crowding.

“‘Nay, Dons, Dons—nay, nay! I cannot rehearse that now. Let me get
more into the air, Sirs.’

“‘The chicha! the chicha!’ cried Don Pedro; ‘our vigorous friend looks
faint;—fill up his empty glass!’

“No need, gentlemen; one moment, and I proceed.—Now, gentlemen, so
suddenly perceiving the snowy whale within fifty yards of the ship—forgetful
of the compact among the crew—in the excitement of the moment, the
Teneriffe man had instinctively and involuntarily lifted his voice for the
monster, though for some little time past it had been plainly beheld from
the three sullen mast-heads. All was now a phrensy. ‘The White Whale—the
White Whale!’ was the cry from captain, mates, and harpooneers, who,
undeterred by fearful rumours, were all anxious to capture so famous and
precious a fish; while the dogged crew eyed askance, and with curses, the
appalling beauty of the vast milky mass, that lit up by a horizontal
spangling sun, shifted and glistened like a living opal in the blue
morning sea. Gentlemen, a strange fatality pervades the whole career of
these events, as if verily mapped out before the world itself was charted.
The mutineer was the bowsman of the mate, and when fast to a fish, it was
his duty to sit next him, while Radney stood up with his lance in the
prow, and haul in or slacken the line, at the word of command. Moreover,
when the four boats were lowered, the mate’s got the start; and none
howled more fiercely with delight than did Steelkilt, as he strained at
his oar. After a stiff pull, their harpooneer got fast, and, spear in
hand, Radney sprang to the bow. He was always a furious man, it seems, in
a boat. And now his bandaged cry was, to beach him on the whale’s topmost
back. Nothing loath, his bowsman hauled him up and up, through a blinding
foam that blent two whitenesses together; till of a sudden the boat struck
as against a sunken ledge, and keeling over, spilled out the standing
mate. That instant, as he fell on the whale’s slippery back, the boat
righted, and was dashed aside by the swell, while Radney was tossed over
into the sea, on the other flank of the whale. He struck out through the
spray, and, for an instant, was dimly seen through that veil, wildly
seeking to remove himself from the eye of Moby Dick. But the whale rushed
round in a sudden maelstrom; seized the swimmer between his jaws; and
rearing high up with him, plunged headlong again, and went down.

“Meantime, at the first tap of the boat’s bottom, the Lakeman had
slackened the line, so as to drop astern from the whirlpool; calmly
looking on, he thought his own thoughts. But a sudden, terrific, downward
jerking of the boat, quickly brought his knife to the line. He cut it; and
the whale was free. But, at some distance, Moby Dick rose again, with some
tatters of Radney’s red woollen shirt, caught in the teeth that had
destroyed him. All four boats gave chase again; but the whale eluded them,
and finally wholly disappeared.

“In good time, the Town-Ho reached her port—a savage, solitary place—where
no civilized creature resided. There, headed by the Lakeman, all but five
or six of the foremastmen deliberately deserted among the palms;
eventually, as it turned out, seizing a large double war-canoe of the
savages, and setting sail for some other harbor.

“The ship’s company being reduced to but a handful, the captain called
upon the Islanders to assist him in the laborious business of heaving down
the ship to stop the leak. But to such unresting vigilance over their
dangerous allies was this small band of whites necessitated, both by night
and by day, and so extreme was the hard work they underwent, that upon the
vessel being ready again for sea, they were in such a weakened condition
that the captain durst not put off with them in so heavy a vessel. After
taking counsel with his officers, he anchored the ship as far off shore as
possible; loaded and ran out his two cannon from the bows; stacked his
muskets on the poop; and warning the Islanders not to approach the ship at
their peril, took one man with him, and setting the sail of his best
whale-boat, steered straight before the wind for Tahiti, five hundred
miles distant, to procure a reinforcement to his crew.

“On the fourth day of the sail, a large canoe was descried, which seemed
to have touched at a low isle of corals. He steered away from it; but the
savage craft bore down on him; and soon the voice of Steelkilt hailed him
to heave to, or he would run him under water. The captain presented a
pistol. With one foot on each prow of the yoked war-canoes, the Lakeman
laughed him to scorn; assuring him that if the pistol so much as clicked
in the lock, he would bury him in bubbles and foam.

“‘What do you want of me?’ cried the captain.

“‘Where are you bound? and for what are you bound?’ demanded Steelkilt;
‘no lies.’

“‘I am bound to Tahiti for more men.’

“‘Very good. Let me board you a moment—I come in peace.’ With that
he leaped from the canoe, swam to the boat; and climbing the gunwale,
stood face to face with the captain.

“‘Cross your arms, sir; throw back your head. Now, repeat after me. As
soon as Steelkilt leaves me, I swear to beach this boat on yonder island,
and remain there six days. If I do not, may lightnings strike me!’

“‘A pretty scholar,’ laughed the Lakeman. ‘Adios, Senor!’ and leaping into
the sea, he swam back to his comrades.

“Watching the boat till it was fairly beached, and drawn up to the roots
of the cocoa-nut trees, Steelkilt made sail again, and in due time arrived
at Tahiti, his own place of destination. There, luck befriended him; two
ships were about to sail for France, and were providentially in want of
precisely that number of men which the sailor headed. They embarked; and
so for ever got the start of their former captain, had he been at all
minded to work them legal retribution.

“Some ten days after the French ships sailed, the whale-boat arrived, and
the captain was forced to enlist some of the more civilized Tahitians, who
had been somewhat used to the sea. Chartering a small native schooner, he
returned with them to his vessel; and finding all right there, again
resumed his cruisings.

“Where Steelkilt now is, gentlemen, none know; but upon the island of
Nantucket, the widow of Radney still turns to the sea which refuses to
give up its dead; still in dreams sees the awful white whale that
destroyed him. * * * *

“‘Are you through?’ said Don Sebastian, quietly.

“‘I am, Don.’

“‘Then I entreat you, tell me if to the best of your own convictions, this
your story is in substance really true? It is so passing wonderful! Did
you get it from an unquestionable source? Bear with me if I seem to

“‘Also bear with all of us, sir sailor; for we all join in Don Sebastian’s
suit,’ cried the company, with exceeding interest.

“‘Is there a copy of the Holy Evangelists in the Golden Inn, gentlemen?’

“‘Nay,’ said Don Sebastian; ‘but I know a worthy priest near by, who will
quickly procure one for me. I go for it; but are you well advised? this
may grow too serious.’

“‘Will you be so good as to bring the priest also, Don?’

“‘Though there are no Auto-da-Fés in Lima now,’ said one of the company
to another; ‘I fear our sailor friend runs risk of the archiepiscopacy.
Let us withdraw more out of the moonlight. I see no need of this.’

“‘Excuse me for running after you, Don Sebastian; but may I also beg that
you will be particular in procuring the largest sized Evangelists you

* * * * * *

“‘This is the priest, he brings you the Evangelists,’ said Don Sebastian,
gravely, returning with a tall and solemn figure.

“‘Let me remove my hat. Now, venerable priest, further into the light, and
hold the Holy Book before me that I may touch it.

“‘So help me Heaven, and on my honor the story I have told ye, gentlemen,
is in substance and its great items, true. I know it to be true; it
happened on this ball; I trod the ship; I knew the crew; I have seen and
talked with Steelkilt since the death of Radney.’”

CHAPTER 55. Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales.

I shall ere long paint to you as well as one can without canvas, something
like the true form of the whale as he actually appears to the eye of the
whaleman when in his own absolute body the whale is moored alongside the
whale-ship so that he can be fairly stepped upon there. It may be worth
while, therefore, previously to advert to those curious imaginary
portraits of him which even down to the present day confidently challenge
the faith of the landsman. It is time to set the world right in this
matter, by proving such pictures of the whale all wrong.

It may be that the primal source of all those pictorial delusions will be
found among the oldest Hindoo, Egyptian, and Grecian sculptures. For ever
since those inventive but unscrupulous times when on the marble panellings
of temples, the pedestals of statues, and on shields, medallions, cups,
and coins, the dolphin was drawn in scales of chain-armor like Saladin’s,
and a helmeted head like St. George’s; ever since then has something of
the same sort of license prevailed, not only in most popular pictures of
the whale, but in many scientific presentations of him.

Now, by all odds, the most ancient extant portrait anyways purporting to
be the whale’s, is to be found in the famous cavern-pagoda of Elephanta,
in India. The Brahmins maintain that in the almost endless sculptures of
that immemorial pagoda, all the trades and pursuits, every conceivable
avocation of man, were prefigured ages before any of them actually came
into being. No wonder then, that in some sort our noble profession of
whaling should have been there shadowed forth. The Hindoo whale referred
to, occurs in a separate department of the wall, depicting the incarnation
of Vishnu in the form of leviathan, learnedly known as the Matse Avatar.
But though this sculpture is half man and half whale, so as only to give
the tail of the latter, yet that small section of him is all wrong. It
looks more like the tapering tail of an anaconda, than the broad palms of
the true whale’s majestic flukes.

But go to the old Galleries, and look now at a great Christian painter’s
portrait of this fish; for he succeeds no better than the antediluvian
Hindoo. It is Guido’s picture of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the
sea-monster or whale. Where did Guido get the model of such a strange
creature as that? Nor does Hogarth, in painting the same scene in his own
“Perseus Descending,” make out one whit better. The huge corpulence of
that Hogarthian monster undulates on the surface, scarcely drawing one
inch of water. It has a sort of howdah on its back, and its distended
tusked mouth into which the billows are rolling, might be taken for the
Traitors’ Gate leading from the Thames by water into the Tower. Then,
there are the Prodromus whales of old Scotch Sibbald, and Jonah’s whale,
as depicted in the prints of old Bibles and the cuts of old primers. What
shall be said of these? As for the book-binder’s whale winding like a
vine-stalk round the stock of a descending anchor—as stamped and
gilded on the backs and title-pages of many books both old and new—that
is a very picturesque but purely fabulous creature, imitated, I take it,
from the like figures on antique vases. Though universally denominated a
dolphin, I nevertheless call this book-binder’s fish an attempt at a
whale; because it was so intended when the device was first introduced. It
was introduced by an old Italian publisher somewhere about the 15th
century, during the Revival of Learning; and in those days, and even down
to a comparatively late period, dolphins were popularly supposed to be a
species of the Leviathan.

In the vignettes and other embellishments of some ancient books you will
at times meet with very curious touches at the whale, where all manner of
spouts, jets d’eau, hot springs and cold, Saratoga and Baden-Baden, come
bubbling up from his unexhausted brain. In the title-page of the original
edition of the “Advancement of Learning” you will find some curious

But quitting all these unprofessional attempts, let us glance at those
pictures of leviathan purporting to be sober, scientific delineations, by
those who know. In old Harris’s collection of voyages there are some
plates of whales extracted from a Dutch book of voyages, A.D. 1671,
entitled “A Whaling Voyage to Spitzbergen in the ship Jonas in the Whale,
Peter Peterson of Friesland, master.” In one of those plates the whales,
like great rafts of logs, are represented lying among ice-isles, with
white bears running over their living backs. In another plate, the
prodigious blunder is made of representing the whale with perpendicular

Then again, there is an imposing quarto, written by one Captain Colnett, a
Post Captain in the English navy, entitled “A Voyage round Cape Horn into
the South Seas, for the purpose of extending the Spermaceti Whale
Fisheries.” In this book is an outline purporting to be a “Picture of a
Physeter or Spermaceti whale, drawn by scale from one killed on the coast
of Mexico, August, 1793, and hoisted on deck.” I doubt not the captain had
this veracious picture taken for the benefit of his marines. To mention
but one thing about it, let me say that it has an eye which applied,
according to the accompanying scale, to a full grown sperm whale, would
make the eye of that whale a bow-window some five feet long. Ah, my
gallant captain, why did ye not give us Jonah looking out of that eye!

Nor are the most conscientious compilations of Natural History for the
benefit of the young and tender, free from the same heinousness of
mistake. Look at that popular work “Goldsmith’s Animated Nature.” In the
abridged London edition of 1807, there are plates of an alleged “whale”
and a “narwhale.” I do not wish to seem inelegant, but this unsightly
whale looks much like an amputated sow; and, as for the narwhale, one
glimpse at it is enough to amaze one, that in this nineteenth century such
a hippogriff could be palmed for genuine upon any intelligent public of

Then, again, in 1825, Bernard Germain, Count de Lacépède, a great
naturalist, published a scientific systemized whale book, wherein are
several pictures of the different species of the Leviathan. All these are
not only incorrect, but the picture of the Mysticetus or Greenland whale
(that is to say, the Right whale), even Scoresby, a long experienced man
as touching that species, declares not to have its counterpart in nature.

But the placing of the cap-sheaf to all this blundering business was
reserved for the scientific Frederick Cuvier, brother to the famous Baron.
In 1836, he published a Natural History of Whales, in which he gives what
he calls a picture of the Sperm Whale. Before showing that picture to any
Nantucketer, you had best provide for your summary retreat from Nantucket.
In a word, Frederick Cuvier’s Sperm Whale is not a Sperm Whale, but a
squash. Of course, he never had the benefit of a whaling voyage (such men
seldom have), but whence he derived that picture, who can tell? Perhaps he
got it as his scientific predecessor in the same field, Desmarest, got one
of his authentic abortions; that is, from a Chinese drawing. And what sort
of lively lads with the pencil those Chinese are, many queer cups and
saucers inform us.

As for the sign-painters’ whales seen in the streets hanging over the
shops of oil-dealers, what shall be said of them? They are generally
Richard III. whales, with dromedary humps, and very savage; breakfasting
on three or four sailor tarts, that is whaleboats full of mariners: their
deformities floundering in seas of blood and blue paint.

But these manifold mistakes in depicting the whale are not so very
surprising after all. Consider! Most of the scientific drawings have been
taken from the stranded fish; and these are about as correct as a drawing
of a wrecked ship, with broken back, would correctly represent the noble
animal itself in all its undashed pride of hull and spars. Though
elephants have stood for their full-lengths, the living Leviathan has
never yet fairly floated himself for his portrait. The living whale, in
his full majesty and significance, is only to be seen at sea in
unfathomable waters; and afloat the vast bulk of him is out of sight, like
a launched line-of-battle ship; and out of that element it is a thing
eternally impossible for mortal man to hoist him bodily into the air, so
as to preserve all his mighty swells and undulations. And, not to speak of
the highly presumable difference of contour between a young sucking whale
and a full-grown Platonian Leviathan; yet, even in the case of one of
those young sucking whales hoisted to a ship’s deck, such is then the
outlandish, eel-like, limbered, varying shape of him, that his precise
expression the devil himself could not catch.

But it may be fancied, that from the naked skeleton of the stranded whale,
accurate hints may be derived touching his true form. Not at all. For it
is one of the more curious things about this Leviathan, that his skeleton
gives very little idea of his general shape. Though Jeremy Bentham’s
skeleton, which hangs for candelabra in the library of one of his
executors, correctly conveys the idea of a burly-browed utilitarian old
gentleman, with all Jeremy’s other leading personal characteristics; yet
nothing of this kind could be inferred from any leviathan’s articulated
bones. In fact, as the great Hunter says, the mere skeleton of the whale
bears the same relation to the fully invested and padded animal as the
insect does to the chrysalis that so roundingly envelopes it. This
peculiarity is strikingly evinced in the head, as in some part of this
book will be incidentally shown. It is also very curiously displayed in
the side fin, the bones of which almost exactly answer to the bones of the
human hand, minus only the thumb. This fin has four regular bone-fingers,
the index, middle, ring, and little finger. But all these are permanently
lodged in their fleshy covering, as the human fingers in an artificial
covering. “However recklessly the whale may sometimes serve us,” said
humorous Stubb one day, “he can never be truly said to handle us without

For all these reasons, then, any way you may look at it, you must needs
conclude that the great Leviathan is that one creature in the world which
must remain unpainted to the last. True, one portrait may hit the mark
much nearer than another, but none can hit it with any very considerable
degree of exactness. So there is no earthly way of finding out precisely
what the whale really looks like. And the only mode in which you can
derive even a tolerable idea of his living contour, is by going a whaling
yourself; but by so doing, you run no small risk of being eternally stove
and sunk by him. Wherefore, it seems to me you had best not be too
fastidious in your curiosity touching this Leviathan.

CHAPTER 56. Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes.

In connexion with the monstrous pictures of whales, I am strongly tempted
here to enter upon those still more monstrous stories of them which are to
be found in certain books, both ancient and modern, especially in Pliny,
Purchas, Hackluyt, Harris, Cuvier, etc. But I pass that matter by.

I know of only four published outlines of the great Sperm Whale;
Colnett’s, Huggins’s, Frederick Cuvier’s, and Beale’s. In the previous
chapter Colnett and Cuvier have been referred to. Huggins’s is far better
than theirs; but, by great odds, Beale’s is the best. All Beale’s drawings
of this whale are good, excepting the middle figure in the picture of
three whales in various attitudes, capping his second chapter. His
frontispiece, boats attacking Sperm Whales, though no doubt calculated to
excite the civil scepticism of some parlor men, is admirably correct and
life-like in its general effect. Some of the Sperm Whale drawings in J.
Ross Browne are pretty correct in contour; but they are wretchedly
engraved. That is not his fault though.

Of the Right Whale, the best outline pictures are in Scoresby; but they
are drawn on too small a scale to convey a desirable impression. He has
but one picture of whaling scenes, and this is a sad deficiency, because
it is by such pictures only, when at all well done, that you can derive
anything like a truthful idea of the living whale as seen by his living

But, taken for all in all, by far the finest, though in some details not
the most correct, presentations of whales and whaling scenes to be
anywhere found, are two large French engravings, well executed, and taken
from paintings by one Garnery. Respectively, they represent attacks on the
Sperm and Right Whale. In the first engraving a noble Sperm Whale is
depicted in full majesty of might, just risen beneath the boat from the
profundities of the ocean, and bearing high in the air upon his back the
terrific wreck of the stoven planks. The prow of the boat is partially
unbroken, and is drawn just balancing upon the monster’s spine; and
standing in that prow, for that one single incomputable flash of time, you
behold an oarsman, half shrouded by the incensed boiling spout of the
whale, and in the act of leaping, as if from a precipice. The action of
the whole thing is wonderfully good and true. The half-emptied line-tub
floats on the whitened sea; the wooden poles of the spilled harpoons
obliquely bob in it; the heads of the swimming crew are scattered about
the whale in contrasting expressions of affright; while in the black
stormy distance the ship is bearing down upon the scene. Serious fault
might be found with the anatomical details of this whale, but let that
pass; since, for the life of me, I could not draw so good a one.

In the second engraving, the boat is in the act of drawing alongside the
barnacled flank of a large running Right Whale, that rolls his black weedy
bulk in the sea like some mossy rock-slide from the Patagonian cliffs. His
jets are erect, full, and black like soot; so that from so abounding a
smoke in the chimney, you would think there must be a brave supper cooking
in the great bowels below. Sea fowls are pecking at the small crabs,
shell-fish, and other sea candies and maccaroni, which the Right Whale
sometimes carries on his pestilent back. And all the while the
thick-lipped leviathan is rushing through the deep, leaving tons of
tumultuous white curds in his wake, and causing the slight boat to rock in
the swells like a skiff caught nigh the paddle-wheels of an ocean steamer.
Thus, the foreground is all raging commotion; but behind, in admirable
artistic contrast, is the glassy level of a sea becalmed, the drooping
unstarched sails of the powerless ship, and the inert mass of a dead
whale, a conquered fortress, with the flag of capture lazily hanging from
the whale-pole inserted into his spout-hole.

Who Garnery the painter is, or was, I know not. But my life for it he was
either practically conversant with his subject, or else marvellously
tutored by some experienced whaleman. The French are the lads for painting
action. Go and gaze upon all the paintings of Europe, and where will you
find such a gallery of living and breathing commotion on canvas, as in
that triumphal hall at Versailles; where the beholder fights his way,
pell-mell, through the consecutive great battles of France; where every
sword seems a flash of the Northern Lights, and the successive armed kings
and Emperors dash by, like a charge of crowned centaurs? Not wholly
unworthy of a place in that gallery, are these sea battle-pieces of

The natural aptitude of the French for seizing the picturesqueness of
things seems to be peculiarly evinced in what paintings and engravings
they have of their whaling scenes. With not one tenth of England’s
experience in the fishery, and not the thousandth part of that of the
Americans, they have nevertheless furnished both nations with the only
finished sketches at all capable of conveying the real spirit of the whale
hunt. For the most part, the English and American whale draughtsmen seem
entirely content with presenting the mechanical outline of things, such as
the vacant profile of the whale; which, so far as picturesqueness of
effect is concerned, is about tantamount to sketching the profile of a
pyramid. Even Scoresby, the justly renowned Right whaleman, after giving
us a stiff full length of the Greenland whale, and three or four delicate
miniatures of narwhales and porpoises, treats us to a series of classical
engravings of boat hooks, chopping knives, and grapnels; and with the
microscopic diligence of a Leuwenhoeck submits to the inspection of a
shivering world ninety-six fac-similes of magnified Arctic snow crystals.
I mean no disparagement to the excellent voyager (I honor him for a
veteran), but in so important a matter it was certainly an oversight not
to have procured for every crystal a sworn affidavit taken before a
Greenland Justice of the Peace.

In addition to those fine engravings from Garnery, there are two other
French engravings worthy of note, by some one who subscribes himself “H.
Durand.” One of them, though not precisely adapted to our present purpose,
nevertheless deserves mention on other accounts. It is a quiet noon-scene
among the isles of the Pacific; a French whaler anchored, inshore, in a
calm, and lazily taking water on board; the loosened sails of the ship,
and the long leaves of the palms in the background, both drooping together
in the breezeless air. The effect is very fine, when considered with
reference to its presenting the hardy fishermen under one of their few
aspects of oriental repose. The other engraving is quite a different
affair: the ship hove-to upon the open sea, and in the very heart of the
Leviathanic life, with a Right Whale alongside; the vessel (in the act of
cutting-in) hove over to the monster as if to a quay; and a boat,
hurriedly pushing off from this scene of activity, is about giving chase
to whales in the distance. The harpoons and lances lie levelled for use;
three oarsmen are just setting the mast in its hole; while from a sudden
roll of the sea, the little craft stands half-erect out of the water, like
a rearing horse. From the ship, the smoke of the torments of the boiling
whale is going up like the smoke over a village of smithies; and to
windward, a black cloud, rising up with earnest of squalls and rains,
seems to quicken the activity of the excited seamen.

CHAPTER 57. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars.

On Tower-hill, as you go down to the London docks, you may have seen a
crippled beggar (or kedger, as the sailors say) holding a painted board
before him, representing the tragic scene in which he lost his leg. There
are three whales and three boats; and one of the boats (presumed to
contain the missing leg in all its original integrity) is being crunched
by the jaws of the foremost whale. Any time these ten years, they tell me,
has that man held up that picture, and exhibited that stump to an
incredulous world. But the time of his justification has now come. His
three whales are as good whales as were ever published in Wapping, at any
rate; and his stump as unquestionable a stump as any you will find in the
western clearings. But, though for ever mounted on that stump, never a
stump-speech does the poor whaleman make; but, with downcast eyes, stands
ruefully contemplating his own amputation.

Throughout the Pacific, and also in Nantucket, and New Bedford, and Sag
Harbor, you will come across lively sketches of whales and whaling-scenes,
graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale-teeth, or ladies’ busks
wrought out of the Right Whale-bone, and other like skrimshander articles,
as the whalemen call the numerous little ingenious contrivances they
elaborately carve out of the rough material, in their hours of ocean
leisure. Some of them have little boxes of dentistical-looking implements,
specially intended for the skrimshandering business. But, in general, they
toil with their jack-knives alone; and, with that almost omnipotent tool
of the sailor, they will turn you out anything you please, in the way of a
mariner’s fancy.

Long exile from Christendom and civilization inevitably restores a man to
that condition in which God placed him, i.e. what is called savagery. Your
true whale-hunter is as much a savage as an Iroquois. I myself am a
savage, owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready
at any moment to rebel against him.

Now, one of the peculiar characteristics of the savage in his domestic
hours, is his wonderful patience of industry. An ancient Hawaiian war-club
or spear-paddle, in its full multiplicity and elaboration of carving, is
as great a trophy of human perseverance as a Latin lexicon. For, with but
a bit of broken sea-shell or a shark’s tooth, that miraculous intricacy of
wooden net-work has been achieved; and it has cost steady years of steady

As with the Hawaiian savage, so with the white sailor-savage. With the
same marvellous patience, and with the same single shark’s tooth, of his
one poor jack-knife, he will carve you a bit of bone sculpture, not quite
as workmanlike, but as close packed in its maziness of design, as the
Greek savage, Achilles’s shield; and full of barbaric spirit and
suggestiveness, as the prints of that fine old Dutch savage, Albert Durer.

Wooden whales, or whales cut in profile out of the small dark slabs of the
noble South Sea war-wood, are frequently met with in the forecastles of
American whalers. Some of them are done with much accuracy.

At some old gable-roofed country houses you will see brass whales hung by
the tail for knockers to the road-side door. When the porter is sleepy,
the anvil-headed whale would be best. But these knocking whales are seldom
remarkable as faithful essays. On the spires of some old-fashioned
churches you will see sheet-iron whales placed there for weather-cocks;
but they are so elevated, and besides that are to all intents and purposes
so labelled with “Hands off!” you cannot examine them closely enough to
decide upon their merit.

In bony, ribby regions of the earth, where at the base of high broken
cliffs masses of rock lie strewn in fantastic groupings upon the plain,
you will often discover images as of the petrified forms of the Leviathan
partly merged in grass, which of a windy day breaks against them in a surf
of green surges.

Then, again, in mountainous countries where the traveller is continually
girdled by amphitheatrical heights; here and there from some lucky point
of view you will catch passing glimpses of the profiles of whales defined
along the undulating ridges. But you must be a thorough whaleman, to see
these sights; and not only that, but if you wish to return to such a sight
again, you must be sure and take the exact intersecting latitude and
longitude of your first stand-point, else so chance-like are such
observations of the hills, that your precise, previous stand-point would
require a laborious re-discovery; like the Soloma Islands, which still
remain incognita, though once high-ruffed Mendanna trod them and old
Figuera chronicled them.

Nor when expandingly lifted by your subject, can you fail to trace out
great whales in the starry heavens, and boats in pursuit of them; as when
long filled with thoughts of war the Eastern nations saw armies locked in
battle among the clouds. Thus at the North have I chased Leviathan round
and round the Pole with the revolutions of the bright points that first
defined him to me. And beneath the effulgent Antarctic skies I have
boarded the Argo-Navis, and joined the chase against the starry Cetus far
beyond the utmost stretch of Hydrus and the Flying Fish.

With a frigate’s anchors for my bridle-bitts and fasces of harpoons for
spurs, would I could mount that whale and leap the topmost skies, to see
whether the fabled heavens with all their countless tents really lie
encamped beyond my mortal sight!

CHAPTER 58. Brit.

Steering north-eastward from the Crozetts, we fell in with vast meadows of
brit, the minute, yellow substance, upon which the Right Whale largely
feeds. For leagues and leagues it undulated round us, so that we seemed to
be sailing through boundless fields of ripe and golden wheat.

On the second day, numbers of Right Whales were seen, who, secure from the
attack of a Sperm Whaler like the Pequod, with open jaws sluggishly swam
through the brit, which, adhering to the fringing fibres of that wondrous
Venetian blind in their mouths, was in that manner separated from the
water that escaped at the lip.

As morning mowers, who side by side slowly and seethingly advance their
scythes through the long wet grass of marshy meads; even so these monsters
swam, making a strange, grassy, cutting sound; and leaving behind them
endless swaths of blue upon the yellow sea.*

*That part of the sea known among whalemen as the “Brazil Banks” does not
bear that name as the Banks of Newfoundland do, because of there being
shallows and soundings there, but because of this remarkable meadow-like
appearance, caused by the vast drifts of brit continually floating in
those latitudes, where the Right Whale is often chased.

But it was only the sound they made as they parted the brit which at all
reminded one of mowers. Seen from the mast-heads, especially when they
paused and were stationary for a while, their vast black forms looked more
like lifeless masses of rock than anything else. And as in the great
hunting countries of India, the stranger at a distance will sometimes pass
on the plains recumbent elephants without knowing them to be such, taking
them for bare, blackened elevations of the soil; even so, often, with him,
who for the first time beholds this species of the leviathans of the sea.
And even when recognised at last, their immense magnitude renders it very
hard really to believe that such bulky masses of overgrowth can possibly
be instinct, in all parts, with the same sort of life that lives in a dog
or a horse.

Indeed, in other respects, you can hardly regard any creatures of the deep
with the same feelings that you do those of the shore. For though some old
naturalists have maintained that all creatures of the land are of their
kind in the sea; and though taking a broad general view of the thing, this
may very well be; yet coming to specialties, where, for example, does the
ocean furnish any fish that in disposition answers to the sagacious
kindness of the dog? The accursed shark alone can in any generic respect
be said to bear comparative analogy to him.

But though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants of the seas
have ever been regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and repelling;
though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita, so that
Columbus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to discover his one
superficial western one; though, by vast odds, the most terrific of all
mortal disasters have immemorially and indiscriminately befallen tens and
hundreds of thousands of those who have gone upon the waters; though but a
moment’s consideration will teach, that however baby man may brag of his
science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science
and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom,
the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest
frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these
very impressions, man has lost that sense of the full awfulness of the sea
which aboriginally belongs to it.

The first boat we read of, floated on an ocean, that with Portuguese
vengeance had whelmed a whole world without leaving so much as a widow.
That same ocean rolls now; that same ocean destroyed the wrecked ships of
last year. Yea, foolish mortals, Noah’s flood is not yet subsided; two
thirds of the fair world it yet covers.

Wherein differ the sea and the land, that a miracle upon one is not a
miracle upon the other? Preternatural terrors rested upon the Hebrews,
when under the feet of Korah and his company the live ground opened and
swallowed them up for ever; yet not a modern sun ever sets, but in
precisely the same manner the live sea swallows up ships and crews.

But not only is the sea such a foe to man who is an alien to it, but it is
also a fiend to its own off-spring; worse than the Persian host who
murdered his own guests; sparing not the creatures which itself hath
spawned. Like a savage tigress that tossing in the jungle overlays her own
cubs, so the sea dashes even the mightiest whales against the rocks, and
leaves them there side by side with the split wrecks of ships. No mercy,
no power but its own controls it. Panting and snorting like a mad battle
steed that has lost its rider, the masterless ocean overruns the globe.

Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide
under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden
beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish
brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the
dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more,
the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each
other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile
earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a
strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean
surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular
Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the
half known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst
never return!

CHAPTER 59. Squid.

Slowly wading through the meadows of brit, the Pequod still held on her
way north-eastward towards the island of Java; a gentle air impelling her
keel, so that in the surrounding serenity her three tall tapering masts
mildly waved to that languid breeze, as three mild palms on a plain. And
still, at wide intervals in the silvery night, the lonely, alluring jet
would be seen.

But one transparent blue morning, when a stillness almost preternatural
spread over the sea, however unattended with any stagnant calm; when the
long burnished sun-glade on the waters seemed a golden finger laid across
them, enjoining some secrecy; when the slippered waves whispered together
as they softly ran on; in this profound hush of the visible sphere a
strange spectre was seen by Daggoo from the main-mast-head.

In the distance, a great white mass lazily rose, and rising higher and
higher, and disentangling itself from the azure, at last gleamed before
our prow like a snow-slide, new slid from the hills. Thus glistening for a
moment, as slowly it subsided, and sank. Then once more arose, and
silently gleamed. It seemed not a whale; and yet is this Moby Dick?
thought Daggoo. Again the phantom went down, but on re-appearing once
more, with a stiletto-like cry that startled every man from his nod, the
negro yelled out—“There! there again! there she breaches! right
ahead! The White Whale, the White Whale!”

Upon this, the seamen rushed to the yard-arms, as in swarming-time the
bees rush to the boughs. Bare-headed in the sultry sun, Ahab stood on the
bowsprit, and with one hand pushed far behind in readiness to wave his
orders to the helmsman, cast his eager glance in the direction indicated
aloft by the outstretched motionless arm of Daggoo.

Whether the flitting attendance of the one still and solitary jet had
gradually worked upon Ahab, so that he was now prepared to connect the
ideas of mildness and repose with the first sight of the particular whale
he pursued; however this was, or whether his eagerness betrayed him;
whichever way it might have been, no sooner did he distinctly perceive the
white mass, than with a quick intensity he instantly gave orders for

The four boats were soon on the water; Ahab’s in advance, and all swiftly
pulling towards their prey. Soon it went down, and while, with oars
suspended, we were awaiting its reappearance, lo! in the same spot where
it sank, once more it slowly rose. Almost forgetting for the moment all
thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which
the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind. A vast pulpy mass,
furlongs in length and breadth, of a glancing cream-colour, lay floating
on the water, innumerable long arms radiating from its centre, and curling
and twisting like a nest of anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any
hapless object within reach. No perceptible face or front did it have; no
conceivable token of either sensation or instinct; but undulated there on
the billows, an unearthly, formless, chance-like apparition of life.

As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still
gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, with a wild voice
exclaimed—“Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than
to have seen thee, thou white ghost!”

“What was it, Sir?” said Flask.

“The great live squid, which, they say, few whale-ships ever beheld, and
returned to their ports to tell of it.”

But Ahab said nothing; turning his boat, he sailed back to the vessel; the
rest as silently following.

Whatever superstitions the sperm whalemen in general have connected with
the sight of this object, certain it is, that a glimpse of it being so
very unusual, that circumstance has gone far to invest it with
portentousness. So rarely is it beheld, that though one and all of them
declare it to be the largest animated thing in the ocean, yet very few of
them have any but the most vague ideas concerning its true nature and
form; notwithstanding, they believe it to furnish to the sperm whale his
only food. For though other species of whales find their food above water,
and may be seen by man in the act of feeding, the spermaceti whale obtains
his whole food in unknown zones below the surface; and only by inference
is it that any one can tell of what, precisely, that food consists. At
times, when closely pursued, he will disgorge what are supposed to be the
detached arms of the squid; some of them thus exhibited exceeding twenty
and thirty feet in length. They fancy that the monster to which these arms
belonged ordinarily clings by them to the bed of the ocean; and that the
sperm whale, unlike other species, is supplied with teeth in order to
attack and tear it.

There seems some ground to imagine that the great Kraken of Bishop
Pontoppodan may ultimately resolve itself into Squid. The manner in which
the Bishop describes it, as alternately rising and sinking, with some
other particulars he narrates, in all this the two correspond. But much
abatement is necessary with respect to the incredible bulk he assigns it.

By some naturalists who have vaguely heard rumors of the mysterious
creature, here spoken of, it is included among the class of cuttle-fish,
to which, indeed, in certain external respects it would seem to belong,
but only as the Anak of the tribe.

CHAPTER 60. The Line.

With reference to the whaling scene shortly to be described, as well as
for the better understanding of all similar scenes elsewhere presented, I
have here to speak of the magical, sometimes horrible whale-line.

The line originally used in the fishery was of the best hemp, slightly
vapored with tar, not impregnated with it, as in the case of ordinary
ropes; for while tar, as ordinarily used, makes the hemp more pliable to
the rope-maker, and also renders the rope itself more convenient to the
sailor for common ship use; yet, not only would the ordinary quantity too
much stiffen the whale-line for the close coiling to which it must be
subjected; but as most seamen are beginning to learn, tar in general by no
means adds to the rope’s durability or strength, however much it may give
it compactness and gloss.

Of late years the Manilla rope has in the American fishery almost entirely
superseded hemp as a material for whale-lines; for, though not so durable
as hemp, it is stronger, and far more soft and elastic; and I will add
(since there is an æsthetics in all things), is much more handsome and
becoming to the boat, than hemp. Hemp is a dusky, dark fellow, a sort of
Indian; but Manilla is as a golden-haired Circassian to behold.

The whale-line is only two-thirds of an inch in thickness. At first sight,
you would not think it so strong as it really is. By experiment its one
and fifty yarns will each suspend a weight of one hundred and twenty
pounds; so that the whole rope will bear a strain nearly equal to three
tons. In length, the common sperm whale-line measures something over two
hundred fathoms. Towards the stern of the boat it is spirally coiled away
in the tub, not like the worm-pipe of a still though, but so as to form
one round, cheese-shaped mass of densely bedded “sheaves,” or layers of
concentric spiralizations, without any hollow but the “heart,” or minute
vertical tube formed at the axis of the cheese. As the least tangle or
kink in the coiling would, in running out, infallibly take somebody’s arm,
leg, or entire body off, the utmost precaution is used in stowing the line
in its tub. Some harpooneers will consume almost an entire morning in this
business, carrying the line high aloft and then reeving it downwards
through a block towards the tub, so as in the act of coiling to free it
from all possible wrinkles and twists.

In the English boats two tubs are used instead of one; the same line being
continuously coiled in both tubs. There is some advantage in this; because
these twin-tubs being so small they fit more readily into the boat, and do
not strain it so much; whereas, the American tub, nearly three feet in
diameter and of proportionate depth, makes a rather bulky freight for a
craft whose planks are but one half-inch in thickness; for the bottom of
the whale-boat is like critical ice, which will bear up a considerable
distributed weight, but not very much of a concentrated one. When the
painted canvas cover is clapped on the American line-tub, the boat looks
as if it were pulling off with a prodigious great wedding-cake to present
to the whales.

Both ends of the line are exposed; the lower end terminating in an
eye-splice or loop coming up from the bottom against the side of the tub,
and hanging over its edge completely disengaged from everything. This
arrangement of the lower end is necessary on two accounts. First: In order
to facilitate the fastening to it of an additional line from a neighboring
boat, in case the stricken whale should sound so deep as to threaten to
carry off the entire line originally attached to the harpoon. In these
instances, the whale of course is shifted like a mug of ale, as it were,
from the one boat to the other; though the first boat always hovers at
hand to assist its consort. Second: This arrangement is indispensable for
common safety’s sake; for were the lower end of the line in any way
attached to the boat, and were the whale then to run the line out to the
end almost in a single, smoking minute as he sometimes does, he would not
stop there, for the doomed boat would infallibly be dragged down after him
into the profundity of the sea; and in that case no town-crier would ever
find her again.

Before lowering the boat for the chase, the upper end of the line is taken
aft from the tub, and passing round the loggerhead there, is again carried
forward the entire length of the boat, resting crosswise upon the loom or
handle of every man’s oar, so that it jogs against his wrist in rowing;
and also passing between the men, as they alternately sit at the opposite
gunwales, to the leaded chocks or grooves in the extreme pointed prow of
the boat, where a wooden pin or skewer the size of a common quill,
prevents it from slipping out. From the chocks it hangs in a slight
festoon over the bows, and is then passed inside the boat again; and some
ten or twenty fathoms (called box-line) being coiled upon the box in the
bows, it continues its way to the gunwale still a little further aft, and
is then attached to the short-warp—the rope which is immediately
connected with the harpoon; but previous to that connexion, the short-warp
goes through sundry mystifications too tedious to detail.

Thus the whale-line folds the whole boat in its complicated coils,
twisting and writhing around it in almost every direction. All the oarsmen
are involved in its perilous contortions; so that to the timid eye of the
landsman, they seem as Indian jugglers, with the deadliest snakes
sportively festooning their limbs. Nor can any son of mortal woman, for
the first time, seat himself amid those hempen intricacies, and while
straining his utmost at the oar, bethink him that at any unknown instant
the harpoon may be darted, and all these horrible contortions be put in
play like ringed lightnings; he cannot be thus circumstanced without a
shudder that makes the very marrow in his bones to quiver in him like a
shaken jelly. Yet habit—strange thing! what cannot habit accomplish?—Gayer
sallies, more merry mirth, better jokes, and brighter repartees, you never
heard over your mahogany, than you will hear over the half-inch white
cedar of the whale-boat, when thus hung in hangman’s nooses; and, like the
six burghers of Calais before King Edward, the six men composing the crew
pull into the jaws of death, with a halter around every neck, as you may

Perhaps a very little thought will now enable you to account for those
repeated whaling disasters—some few of which are casually chronicled—of
this man or that man being taken out of the boat by the line, and lost.
For, when the line is darting out, to be seated then in the boat, is like
being seated in the midst of the manifold whizzings of a steam-engine in
full play, when every flying beam, and shaft, and wheel, is grazing you.
It is worse; for you cannot sit motionless in the heart of these perils,
because the boat is rocking like a cradle, and you are pitched one way and
the other, without the slightest warning; and only by a certain
self-adjusting buoyancy and simultaneousness of volition and action, can
you escape being made a Mazeppa of, and run away with where the all-seeing
sun himself could never pierce you out.

Again: as the profound calm which only apparently precedes and prophesies
of the storm, is perhaps more awful than the storm itself; for, indeed,
the calm is but the wrapper and envelope of the storm; and contains it in
itself, as the seemingly harmless rifle holds the fatal powder, and the
ball, and the explosion; so the graceful repose of the line, as it
silently serpentines about the oarsmen before being brought into actual
play—this is a thing which carries more of true terror than any
other aspect of this dangerous affair. But why say more? All men live
enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but
it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals
realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a
philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel
one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with
a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.

CHAPTER 61. Stubb Kills a Whale.

If to Starbuck the apparition of the Squid was a thing of portents, to
Queequeg it was quite a different object.

“When you see him ’quid,” said the savage, honing his harpoon in the bow
of his hoisted boat, “then you quick see him ’parm whale.”

The next day was exceedingly still and sultry, and with nothing special to
engage them, the Pequod’s crew could hardly resist the spell of sleep
induced by such a vacant sea. For this part of the Indian Ocean through
which we then were voyaging is not what whalemen call a lively ground;
that is, it affords fewer glimpses of porpoises, dolphins, flying-fish,
and other vivacious denizens of more stirring waters, than those off the
Rio de la Plata, or the in-shore ground off Peru.

It was my turn to stand at the foremast-head; and with my shoulders
leaning against the slackened royal shrouds, to and fro I idly swayed in
what seemed an enchanted air. No resolution could withstand it; in that
dreamy mood losing all consciousness, at last my soul went out of my body;
though my body still continued to sway as a pendulum will, long after the
power which first moved it is withdrawn.

Ere forgetfulness altogether came over me, I had noticed that the seamen
at the main and mizzen-mast-heads were already drowsy. So that at last all
three of us lifelessly swung from the spars, and for every swing that we
made there was a nod from below from the slumbering helmsman. The waves,
too, nodded their indolent crests; and across the wide trance of the sea,
east nodded to west, and the sun over all.

Suddenly bubbles seemed bursting beneath my closed eyes; like vices my
hands grasped the shrouds; some invisible, gracious agency preserved me;
with a shock I came back to life. And lo! close under our lee, not forty
fathoms off, a gigantic Sperm Whale lay rolling in the water like the
capsized hull of a frigate, his broad, glossy back, of an Ethiopian hue,
glistening in the sun’s rays like a mirror. But lazily undulating in the
trough of the sea, and ever and anon tranquilly spouting his vapory jet,
the whale looked like a portly burgher smoking his pipe of a warm
afternoon. But that pipe, poor whale, was thy last. As if struck by some
enchanter’s wand, the sleepy ship and every sleeper in it all at once
started into wakefulness; and more than a score of voices from all parts
of the vessel, simultaneously with the three notes from aloft, shouted
forth the accustomed cry, as the great fish slowly and regularly spouted
the sparkling brine into the air.

“Clear away the boats! Luff!” cried Ahab. And obeying his own order, he
dashed the helm down before the helmsman could handle the spokes.

The sudden exclamations of the crew must have alarmed the whale; and ere
the boats were down, majestically turning, he swam away to the leeward,
but with such a steady tranquillity, and making so few ripples as he swam,
that thinking after all he might not as yet be alarmed, Ahab gave orders
that not an oar should be used, and no man must speak but in whispers. So
seated like Ontario Indians on the gunwales of the boats, we swiftly but
silently paddled along; the calm not admitting of the noiseless sails
being set. Presently, as we thus glided in chase, the monster
perpendicularly flitted his tail forty feet into the air, and then sank
out of sight like a tower swallowed up.

“There go flukes!” was the cry, an announcement immediately followed by
Stubb’s producing his match and igniting his pipe, for now a respite was
granted. After the full interval of his sounding had elapsed, the whale
rose again, and being now in advance of the smoker’s boat, and much nearer
to it than to any of the others, Stubb counted upon the honor of the
capture. It was obvious, now, that the whale had at length become aware of
his pursuers. All silence of cautiousness was therefore no longer of use.
Paddles were dropped, and oars came loudly into play. And still puffing at
his pipe, Stubb cheered on his crew to the assault.

Yes, a mighty change had come over the fish. All alive to his jeopardy, he
was going “head out”; that part obliquely projecting from the mad yeast
which he brewed.*

*It will be seen in some other place of what a very light substance the
entire interior of the sperm whale’s enormous head consists. Though
apparently the most massive, it is by far the most buoyant part about him.
So that with ease he elevates it in the air, and invariably does so when
going at his utmost speed. Besides, such is the breadth of the upper part
of the front of his head, and such the tapering cut-water formation of the
lower part, that by obliquely elevating his head, he thereby may be said
to transform himself from a bluff-bowed sluggish galliot into a
sharppointed New York pilot-boat.

“Start her, start her, my men! Don’t hurry yourselves; take plenty of time—but
start her; start her like thunder-claps, that’s all,” cried Stubb,
spluttering out the smoke as he spoke. “Start her, now; give ’em the long
and strong stroke, Tashtego. Start her, Tash, my boy—start her, all;
but keep cool, keep cool—cucumbers is the word—easy, easy—only
start her like grim death and grinning devils, and raise the buried dead
perpendicular out of their graves, boys—that’s all. Start her!”

“Woo-hoo! Wa-hee!” screamed the Gay-Header in reply, raising some old
war-whoop to the skies; as every oarsman in the strained boat
involuntarily bounced forward with the one tremendous leading stroke which
the eager Indian gave.

But his wild screams were answered by others quite as wild. “Kee-hee!
Kee-hee!” yelled Daggoo, straining forwards and backwards on his seat,
like a pacing tiger in his cage.

“Ka-la! Koo-loo!” howled Queequeg, as if smacking his lips over a mouthful
of Grenadier’s steak. And thus with oars and yells the keels cut the sea.
Meanwhile, Stubb retaining his place in the van, still encouraged his men
to the onset, all the while puffing the smoke from his mouth. Like
desperadoes they tugged and they strained, till the welcome cry was heard—“Stand
up, Tashtego!—give it to him!” The harpoon was hurled. “Stern all!”
The oarsmen backed water; the same moment something went hot and hissing
along every one of their wrists. It was the magical line. An instant
before, Stubb had swiftly caught two additional turns with it round the
loggerhead, whence, by reason of its increased rapid circlings, a hempen
blue smoke now jetted up and mingled with the steady fumes from his pipe.
As the line passed round and round the loggerhead; so also, just before
reaching that point, it blisteringly passed through and through both of
Stubb’s hands, from which the hand-cloths, or squares of quilted canvas
sometimes worn at these times, had accidentally dropped. It was like
holding an enemy’s sharp two-edged sword by the blade, and that enemy all
the time striving to wrest it out of your clutch.

“Wet the line! wet the line!” cried Stubb to the tub oarsman (him seated
by the tub) who, snatching off his hat, dashed sea-water into it.* More
turns were taken, so that the line began holding its place. The boat now
flew through the boiling water like a shark all fins. Stubb and Tashtego
here changed places—stem for stern—a staggering business truly
in that rocking commotion.

*Partly to show the indispensableness of this act, it may here be stated,
that, in the old Dutch fishery, a mop was used to dash the running line
with water; in many other ships, a wooden piggin, or bailer, is set apart
for that purpose. Your hat, however, is the most convenient.

From the vibrating line extending the entire length of the upper part of
the boat, and from its now being more tight than a harpstring, you would
have thought the craft had two keels—one cleaving the water, the
other the air—as the boat churned on through both opposing elements
at once. A continual cascade played at the bows; a ceaseless whirling eddy
in her wake; and, at the slightest motion from within, even but of a
little finger, the vibrating, cracking craft canted over her spasmodic
gunwale into the sea. Thus they rushed; each man with might and main
clinging to his seat, to prevent being tossed to the foam; and the tall
form of Tashtego at the steering oar crouching almost double, in order to
bring down his centre of gravity. Whole Atlantics and Pacifics seemed
passed as they shot on their way, till at length the whale somewhat
slackened his flight.

“Haul in—haul in!” cried Stubb to the bowsman! and, facing round
towards the whale, all hands began pulling the boat up to him, while yet
the boat was being towed on. Soon ranging up by his flank, Stubb, firmly
planting his knee in the clumsy cleat, darted dart after dart into the
flying fish; at the word of command, the boat alternately sterning out of
the way of the whale’s horrible wallow, and then ranging up for another

The red tide now poured from all sides of the monster like brooks down a
hill. His tormented body rolled not in brine but in blood, which bubbled
and seethed for furlongs behind in their wake. The slanting sun playing
upon this crimson pond in the sea, sent back its reflection into every
face, so that they all glowed to each other like red men. And all the
while, jet after jet of white smoke was agonizingly shot from the spiracle
of the whale, and vehement puff after puff from the mouth of the excited
headsman; as at every dart, hauling in upon his crooked lance (by the line
attached to it), Stubb straightened it again and again, by a few rapid
blows against the gunwale, then again and again sent it into the whale.

“Pull up—pull up!” he now cried to the bowsman, as the waning whale
relaxed in his wrath. “Pull up!—close to!” and the boat ranged along
the fish’s flank. When reaching far over the bow, Stubb slowly churned his
long sharp lance into the fish, and kept it there, carefully churning and
churning, as if cautiously seeking to feel after some gold watch that the
whale might have swallowed, and which he was fearful of breaking ere he
could hook it out. But that gold watch he sought was the innermost life of
the fish. And now it is struck; for, starting from his trance into that
unspeakable thing called his “flurry,” the monster horribly wallowed in
his blood, overwrapped himself in impenetrable, mad, boiling spray, so
that the imperilled craft, instantly dropping astern, had much ado blindly
to struggle out from that phrensied twilight into the clear air of the

And now abating in his flurry, the whale once more rolled out into view;
surging from side to side; spasmodically dilating and contracting his
spout-hole, with sharp, cracking, agonized respirations. At last, gush
after gush of clotted red gore, as if it had been the purple lees of red
wine, shot into the frighted air; and falling back again, ran dripping
down his motionless flanks into the sea. His heart had burst!

“He’s dead, Mr. Stubb,” said Daggoo.

“Yes; both pipes smoked out!” and withdrawing his own from his mouth,
Stubb scattered the dead ashes over the water; and, for a moment, stood
thoughtfully eyeing the vast corpse he had made.

CHAPTER 62. The Dart.

A word concerning an incident in the last chapter.

According to the invariable usage of the fishery, the whale-boat pushes
off from the ship, with the headsman or whale-killer as temporary
steersman, and the harpooneer or whale-fastener pulling the foremost oar,
the one known as the harpooneer-oar. Now it needs a strong, nervous arm to
strike the first iron into the fish; for often, in what is called a long
dart, the heavy implement has to be flung to the distance of twenty or
thirty feet. But however prolonged and exhausting the chase, the
harpooneer is expected to pull his oar meanwhile to the uttermost; indeed,
he is expected to set an example of superhuman activity to the rest, not
only by incredible rowing, but by repeated loud and intrepid exclamations;
and what it is to keep shouting at the top of one’s compass, while all the
other muscles are strained and half started—what that is none know
but those who have tried it. For one, I cannot bawl very heartily and work
very recklessly at one and the same time. In this straining, bawling
state, then, with his back to the fish, all at once the exhausted
harpooneer hears the exciting cry—“Stand up, and give it to him!” He
now has to drop and secure his oar, turn round on his centre half way,
seize his harpoon from the crotch, and with what little strength may
remain, he essays to pitch it somehow into the whale. No wonder, taking
the whole fleet of whalemen in a body, that out of fifty fair chances for
a dart, not five are successful; no wonder that so many hapless
harpooneers are madly cursed and disrated; no wonder that some of them
actually burst their blood-vessels in the boat; no wonder that some sperm
whalemen are absent four years with four barrels; no wonder that to many
ship owners, whaling is but a losing concern; for it is the harpooneer
that makes the voyage, and if you take the breath out of his body how can
you expect to find it there when most wanted!

Again, if the dart be successful, then at the second critical instant,
that is, when the whale starts to run, the boatheader and harpooneer
likewise start to running fore and aft, to the imminent jeopardy of
themselves and every one else. It is then they change places; and the
headsman, the chief officer of the little craft, takes his proper station
in the bows of the boat.

Now, I care not who maintains the contrary, but all this is both foolish
and unnecessary. The headsman should stay in the bows from first to last;
he should both dart the harpoon and the lance, and no rowing whatever
should be expected of him, except under circumstances obvious to any
fisherman. I know that this would sometimes involve a slight loss of speed
in the chase; but long experience in various whalemen of more than one
nation has convinced me that in the vast majority of failures in the
fishery, it has not by any means been so much the speed of the whale as
the before described exhaustion of the harpooneer that has caused them.

To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooneers of this
world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of

CHAPTER 63. The Crotch.

Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs. So, in
productive subjects, grow the chapters.

The crotch alluded to on a previous page deserves independent mention. It
is a notched stick of a peculiar form, some two feet in length, which is
perpendicularly inserted into the starboard gunwale near the bow, for the
purpose of furnishing a rest for the wooden extremity of the harpoon,
whose other naked, barbed end slopingly projects from the prow. Thereby
the weapon is instantly at hand to its hurler, who snatches it up as
readily from its rest as a backwoodsman swings his rifle from the wall. It
is customary to have two harpoons reposing in the crotch, respectively
called the first and second irons.

But these two harpoons, each by its own cord, are both connected with the
line; the object being this: to dart them both, if possible, one instantly
after the other into the same whale; so that if, in the coming drag, one
should draw out, the other may still retain a hold. It is a doubling of
the chances. But it very often happens that owing to the instantaneous,
violent, convulsive running of the whale upon receiving the first iron, it
becomes impossible for the harpooneer, however lightning-like in his
movements, to pitch the second iron into him. Nevertheless, as the second
iron is already connected with the line, and the line is running, hence
that weapon must, at all events, be anticipatingly tossed out of the boat,
somehow and somewhere; else the most terrible jeopardy would involve all
hands. Tumbled into the water, it accordingly is in such cases; the spare
coils of box line (mentioned in a preceding chapter) making this feat, in
most instances, prudently practicable. But this critical act is not always
unattended with the saddest and most fatal casualties.

Furthermore: you must know that when the second iron is thrown overboard,
it thenceforth becomes a dangling, sharp-edged terror, skittishly
curvetting about both boat and whale, entangling the lines, or cutting
them, and making a prodigious sensation in all directions. Nor, in
general, is it possible to secure it again until the whale is fairly
captured and a corpse.

Consider, now, how it must be in the case of four boats all engaging one
unusually strong, active, and knowing whale; when owing to these qualities
in him, as well as to the thousand concurring accidents of such an
audacious enterprise, eight or ten loose second irons may be
simultaneously dangling about him. For, of course, each boat is supplied
with several harpoons to bend on to the line should the first one be
ineffectually darted without recovery. All these particulars are
faithfully narrated here, as they will not fail to elucidate several most
important, however intricate passages, in scenes hereafter to be painted.

CHAPTER 64. Stubb’s Supper.

Stubb’s whale had been killed some distance from the ship. It was a calm;
so, forming a tandem of three boats, we commenced the slow business of
towing the trophy to the Pequod. And now, as we eighteen men with our
thirty-six arms, and one hundred and eighty thumbs and fingers, slowly
toiled hour after hour upon that inert, sluggish corpse in the sea; and it
seemed hardly to budge at all, except at long intervals; good evidence was
hereby furnished of the enormousness of the mass we moved. For, upon the
great canal of Hang-Ho, or whatever they call it, in China, four or five
laborers on the foot-path will draw a bulky freighted junk at the rate of
a mile an hour; but this grand argosy we towed heavily forged along, as if
laden with pig-lead in bulk.

Darkness came on; but three lights up and down in the Pequod’s
main-rigging dimly guided our way; till drawing nearer we saw Ahab
dropping one of several more lanterns over the bulwarks. Vacantly eyeing
the heaving whale for a moment, he issued the usual orders for securing it
for the night, and then handing his lantern to a seaman, went his way into
the cabin, and did not come forward again until morning.

Though, in overseeing the pursuit of this whale, Captain Ahab had evinced
his customary activity, to call it so; yet now that the creature was dead,
some vague dissatisfaction, or impatience, or despair, seemed working in
him; as if the sight of that dead body reminded him that Moby Dick was yet
to be slain; and though a thousand other whales were brought to his ship,
all that would not one jot advance his grand, monomaniac object. Very soon
you would have thought from the sound on the Pequod’s decks, that all
hands were preparing to cast anchor in the deep; for heavy chains are
being dragged along the deck, and thrust rattling out of the port-holes.
But by those clanking links, the vast corpse itself, not the ship, is to
be moored. Tied by the head to the stern, and by the tail to the bows, the
whale now lies with its black hull close to the vessel’s and seen through
the darkness of the night, which obscured the spars and rigging aloft, the
two—ship and whale, seemed yoked together like colossal bullocks,
whereof one reclines while the other remains standing.*

*A little item may as well be related here. The strongest and most
reliable hold which the ship has upon the whale when moored alongside, is
by the flukes or tail; and as from its greater density that part is
relatively heavier than any other (excepting the side-fins), its
flexibility even in death, causes it to sink low beneath the surface; so
that with the hand you cannot get at it from the boat, in order to put the
chain round it. But this difficulty is ingeniously overcome: a small,
strong line is prepared with a wooden float at its outer end, and a weight
in its middle, while the other end is secured to the ship. By adroit
management the wooden float is made to rise on the other side of the mass,
so that now having girdled the whale, the chain is readily made to follow
suit; and being slipped along the body, is at last locked fast round the
smallest part of the tail, at the point of junction with its broad flukes
or lobes.

If moody Ahab was now all quiescence, at least so far as could be known on
deck, Stubb, his second mate, flushed with conquest, betrayed an unusual
but still good-natured excitement. Such an unwonted bustle was he in that
the staid Starbuck, his official superior, quietly resigned to him for the
time the sole management of affairs. One small, helping cause of all this
liveliness in Stubb, was soon made strangely manifest. Stubb was a high
liver; he was somewhat intemperately fond of the whale as a flavorish
thing to his palate.

“A steak, a steak, ere I sleep! You, Daggoo! overboard you go, and cut me
one from his small!”

Here be it known, that though these wild fishermen do not, as a general
thing, and according to the great military maxim, make the enemy defray
the current expenses of the war (at least before realizing the proceeds of
the voyage), yet now and then you find some of these Nantucketers who have
a genuine relish for that particular part of the Sperm Whale designated by
Stubb; comprising the tapering extremity of the body.

About midnight that steak was cut and cooked; and lighted by two lanterns
of sperm oil, Stubb stoutly stood up to his spermaceti supper at the
capstan-head, as if that capstan were a sideboard. Nor was Stubb the only
banqueter on whale’s flesh that night. Mingling their mumblings with his
own mastications, thousands on thousands of sharks, swarming round the
dead leviathan, smackingly feasted on its fatness. The few sleepers below
in their bunks were often startled by the sharp slapping of their tails
against the hull, within a few inches of the sleepers’ hearts. Peering
over the side you could just see them (as before you heard them) wallowing
in the sullen, black waters, and turning over on their backs as they
scooped out huge globular pieces of the whale of the bigness of a human
head. This particular feat of the shark seems all but miraculous. How at
such an apparently unassailable surface, they contrive to gouge out such
symmetrical mouthfuls, remains a part of the universal problem of all
things. The mark they thus leave on the whale, may best be likened to the
hollow made by a carpenter in countersinking for a screw.

Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks
will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship’s decks, like hungry dogs
round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every
killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant butchers
over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other’s live meat
with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks, also, with their
jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away under the table at the
dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole affair upside down, it
would still be pretty much the same thing, that is to say, a shocking
sharkish business enough for all parties; and though sharks also are the
invariable outriders of all slave ships crossing the Atlantic,
systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in case a parcel is to be
carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently buried; and though one or
two other like instances might be set down, touching the set terms,
places, and occasions, when sharks do most socially congregate, and most
hilariously feast; yet is there no conceivable time or occasion when you
will find them in such countless numbers, and in gayer or more jovial
spirits, than around a dead sperm whale, moored by night to a whaleship at
sea. If you have never seen that sight, then suspend your decision about
the propriety of devil-worship, and the expediency of conciliating the

But, as yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was going
on so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of his own
epicurean lips.

“Cook, cook!—where’s that old Fleece?” he cried at length, widening
his legs still further, as if to form a more secure base for his supper;
and, at the same time darting his fork into the dish, as if stabbing with
his lance; “cook, you cook!—sail this way, cook!”

The old black, not in any very high glee at having been previously roused
from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable hour, came shambling along
from his galley, for, like many old blacks, there was something the matter
with his knee-pans, which he did not keep well scoured like his other
pans; this old Fleece, as they called him, came shuffling and limping
along, assisting his step with his tongs, which, after a clumsy fashion,
were made of straightened iron hoops; this old Ebony floundered along, and
in obedience to the word of command, came to a dead stop on the opposite
side of Stubb’s sideboard; when, with both hands folded before him, and
resting on his two-legged cane, he bowed his arched back still further
over, at the same time sideways inclining his head, so as to bring his
best ear into play.

“Cook,” said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his mouth,
“don’t you think this steak is rather overdone? You’ve been beating this
steak too much, cook; it’s too tender. Don’t I always say that to be good,
a whale-steak must be tough? There are those sharks now over the side,
don’t you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a shindy they are
kicking up! Cook, go and talk to ’em; tell ’em they are welcome to help
themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must keep quiet. Blast me,
if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and deliver my message. Here, take
this lantern,” snatching one from his sideboard; “now then, go and preach
to ’em!”

Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck to
the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low over the sea,
so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other hand he
solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side in a mumbling
voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling behind,
overheard all that was said.

“Fellow-critters: I’se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam noise
dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin’ ob de lip! Massa Stubb say dat you
can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you must stop
dat dam racket!”

“Cook,” here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap on
the shoulder,—“Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn’t swear that way
when you’re preaching. That’s no way to convert sinners, cook!”

“Who dat? Den preach to him yourself,” sullenly turning to go.

“No, cook; go on, go on.”

“Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:”—

“Right!” exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, “coax ’em to it; try that,” and
Fleece continued.

“Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you,
fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness—’top dat dam slappin’ ob de
tail! How you tink to hear, spose you keep up such a dam slappin’ and
bitin’ dare?”

“Cook,” cried Stubb, collaring him, “I won’t have that swearing. Talk to
’em gentlemanly.”

Once more the sermon proceeded.

“Your woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don’t blame ye so much for;
dat is natur, and can’t be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is
de pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den
you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more dan de shark well goberned.
Now, look here, bred’ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping yourselbs
from dat whale. Don’t be tearin’ de blubber out your neighbour’s
mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat whale? And, by Gor, none
on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale belong to some one else. I
know some o’ you has berry brig mout, brigger dan oders; but den de brig
mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat de brigness of de mout is not
to swaller wid, but to bit off de blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat
can’t get into de scrouge to help demselves.”

“Well done, old Fleece!” cried Stubb, “that’s Christianity; go on.”

“No use goin’ on; de dam willains will keep a scougin’ and slappin’ each
oder, Massa Stubb; dey don’t hear one word; no use a-preachin’ to such dam
g’uttons as you call ’em, till dare bellies is full, and dare bellies is
bottomless; and when dey do get ’em full, dey wont hear you den; for den
dey sink in de sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and can’t hear not’ing
at all, no more, for eber and eber.”

“Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction,
Fleece, and I’ll away to my supper.”

Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his
shrill voice, and cried—

“Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill
your dam’ bellies ’till dey bust—and den die.”

“Now, cook,” said Stubb, resuming his supper at the capstan; “stand just
where you stood before, there, over against me, and pay particular

“All dention,” said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in the
desired position.

“Well,” said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile; “I shall now go back
to the subject of this steak. In the first place, how old are you, cook?”

“What dat do wid de ’teak,” said the old black, testily.

“Silence! How old are you, cook?”

“’Bout ninety, dey say,” he gloomily muttered.

“And you have lived in this world hard upon one hundred years, cook, and
don’t know yet how to cook a whale-steak?” rapidly bolting another
mouthful at the last word, so that morsel seemed a continuation of the
question. “Where were you born, cook?”

“’Hind de hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin’ ober de Roanoke.”

“Born in a ferry-boat! That’s queer, too. But I want to know what country
you were born in, cook!”

“Didn’t I say de Roanoke country?” he cried sharply.

“No, you didn’t, cook; but I’ll tell you what I’m coming to, cook. You
must go home and be born over again; you don’t know how to cook a
whale-steak yet.”

“Bress my soul, if I cook noder one,” he growled, angrily, turning round
to depart.

“Come back, cook;—here, hand me those tongs;—now take
that bit of steak there, and tell me if you think that steak cooked as it
should be? Take it, I say”—holding the tongs towards him—“take
it, and taste it.”

Faintly smacking his withered lips over it for a moment, the old negro
muttered, “Best cooked ’teak I eber taste; joosy, berry joosy.”

“Cook,” said Stubb, squaring himself once more; “do you belong to the

“Passed one once in Cape-Down,” said the old man sullenly.

“And you have once in your life passed a holy church in Cape-Town, where
you doubtless overheard a holy parson addressing his hearers as his
beloved fellow-creatures, have you, cook! And yet you come here, and tell
me such a dreadful lie as you did just now, eh?” said Stubb. “Where do you
expect to go to, cook?”

“Go to bed berry soon,” he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke.

“Avast! heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It’s an awful question. Now
what’s your answer?”

“When dis old brack man dies,” said the negro slowly, changing his whole
air and demeanor, “he hisself won’t go nowhere; but some bressed angel
will come and fetch him.”

“Fetch him? How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And fetch
him where?”

“Up dere,” said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his head, and
keeping it there very solemnly.

“So, then, you expect to go up into our main-top, do you, cook, when you
are dead? But don’t you know the higher you climb, the colder it gets?
Main-top, eh?”

“Didn’t say dat t’all,” said Fleece, again in the sulks.

“You said up there, didn’t you? and now look yourself, and see where your
tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven by crawling
through the lubber’s hole, cook; but, no, no, cook, you don’t get there,
except you go the regular way, round by the rigging. It’s a ticklish
business, but must be done, or else it’s no go. But none of us are in
heaven yet. Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my orders. Do ye hear? Hold
your hat in one hand, and clap t’other a’top of your heart, when I’m
giving my orders, cook. What! that your heart, there?—that’s your
gizzard! Aloft! aloft!—that’s it—now you have it. Hold it
there now, and pay attention.”

“All ’dention,” said the old black, with both hands placed as desired,
vainly wriggling his grizzled head, as if to get both ears in front at one
and the same time.

“Well then, cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad, that
I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that, don’t you?
Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my private
table here, the capstan, I’ll tell you what to do so as not to spoil it by
overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal to it with the
other; that done, dish it; d’ye hear? And now to-morrow, cook, when we are
cutting in the fish, be sure you stand by to get the tips of his fins;
have them put in pickle. As for the ends of the flukes, have them soused,
cook. There, now ye may go.”

But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.

“Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch. D’ye
hear? away you sail, then.—Halloa! stop! make a bow before you go.—Avast
heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast—don’t forget.”

“Wish, by gor! whale eat him, ’stead of him eat whale. I’m bressed if he
ain’t more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself,” muttered the old man,
limping away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock.

CHAPTER 65. The Whale as a Dish.

That mortal man should feed upon the creature that feeds his lamp, and,
like Stubb, eat him by his own light, as you may say; this seems so
outlandish a thing that one must needs go a little into the history and
philosophy of it.

It is upon record, that three centuries ago the tongue of the Right Whale
was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and commanded large prices there.
Also, that in Henry VIIIth’s time, a certain cook of the court obtained a
handsome reward for inventing an admirable sauce to be eaten with
barbacued porpoises, which, you remember, are a species of whale.
Porpoises, indeed, are to this day considered fine eating. The meat is
made into balls about the size of billiard balls, and being well seasoned
and spiced might be taken for turtle-balls or veal balls. The old monks of
Dunfermline were very fond of them. They had a great porpoise grant from
the crown.

The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would by all hands
be considered a noble dish, were there not so much of him; but when you
come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet long, it takes
away your appetite. Only the most unprejudiced of men like Stubb, nowadays
partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious. We all
know how they live upon whales, and have rare old vintages of prime old
train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors, recommends strips
of blubber for infants, as being exceedingly juicy and nourishing. And
this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally
left in Greenland by a whaling vessel—that these men actually lived
for several months on the mouldy scraps of whales which had been left
ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen these scraps
are called “fritters”; which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown
and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives’
dough-nuts or oly-cooks, when fresh. They have such an eatable look that
the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his
exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be
delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as the
buffalo’s (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid
pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is;
like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a cocoanut in the third
month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter.
Nevertheless, many whalemen have a method of absorbing it into some other
substance, and then partaking of it. In the long try watches of the night
it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their ship-biscuit into the
huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many a good supper have I
thus made.

In the case of a small Sperm Whale the brains are accounted a fine dish.
The casket of the skull is broken into with an axe, and the two plump,
whitish lobes being withdrawn (precisely resembling two large puddings),
they are then mixed with flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess, in
flavor somewhat resembling calves’ head, which is quite a dish among some
epicures; and every one knows that some young bucks among the epicures, by
continually dining upon calves’ brains, by and by get to have a little
brains of their own, so as to be able to tell a calf’s head from their own
heads; which, indeed, requires uncommon discrimination. And that is the
reason why a young buck with an intelligent looking calf’s head before
him, is somehow one of the saddest sights you can see. The head looks a
sort of reproachfully at him, with an “Et tu Brute!” expression.

It is not, perhaps, entirely because the whale is so excessively unctuous
that landsmen seem to regard the eating of him with abhorrence; that
appears to result, in some way, from the consideration before mentioned:
i.e. that a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it
too by its own light. But no doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox
was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on
his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved
it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see
the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds.
Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal’s jaw? Cannibals? who
is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fejee that
salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it
will be more tolerable for that provident Fejee, I say, in the day of
judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest
geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy

But Stubb, he eats the whale by its own light, does he? and that is adding
insult to injury, is it? Look at your knife-handle, there, my civilized
and enlightened gourmand dining off that roast beef, what is that handle
made of?—what but the bones of the brother of the very ox you are
eating? And what do you pick your teeth with, after devouring that fat
goose? With a feather of the same fowl. And with what quill did the
Secretary of the Society for the Suppression of Cruelty to Ganders
formally indite his circulars? It is only within the last month or two
that that society passed a resolution to patronize nothing but steel pens.

CHAPTER 66. The Shark Massacre.

When in the Southern Fishery, a captured Sperm Whale, after long and weary
toil, is brought alongside late at night, it is not, as a general thing at
least, customary to proceed at once to the business of cutting him in. For
that business is an exceedingly laborious one; is not very soon completed;
and requires all hands to set about it. Therefore, the common usage is to
take in all sail; lash the helm a’lee; and then send every one below to
his hammock till daylight, with the reservation that, until that time,
anchor-watches shall be kept; that is, two and two for an hour, each
couple, the crew in rotation shall mount the deck to see that all goes

But sometimes, especially upon the Line in the Pacific, this plan will not
answer at all; because such incalculable hosts of sharks gather round the
moored carcase, that were he left so for six hours, say, on a stretch,
little more than the skeleton would be visible by morning. In most other
parts of the ocean, however, where these fish do not so largely abound,
their wondrous voracity can be at times considerably diminished, by
vigorously stirring them up with sharp whaling-spades, a procedure
notwithstanding, which, in some instances, only seems to tickle them into
still greater activity. But it was not thus in the present case with the
Pequod’s sharks; though, to be sure, any man unaccustomed to such sights,
to have looked over her side that night, would have almost thought the
whole round sea was one huge cheese, and those sharks the maggots in it.

Nevertheless, upon Stubb setting the anchor-watch after his supper was
concluded; and when, accordingly, Queequeg and a forecastle seaman came on
deck, no small excitement was created among the sharks; for immediately
suspending the cutting stages over the side, and lowering three lanterns,
so that they cast long gleams of light over the turbid sea, these two
mariners, darting their long whaling-spades, kept up an incessant
murdering of the sharks,* by striking the keen steel deep into their
skulls, seemingly their only vital part. But in the foamy confusion of
their mixed and struggling hosts, the marksmen could not always hit their
mark; and this brought about new revelations of the incredible ferocity of
the foe. They viciously snapped, not only at each other’s disembowelments,
but like flexible bows, bent round, and bit their own; till those entrails
seemed swallowed over and over again by the same mouth, to be oppositely
voided by the gaping wound. Nor was this all. It was unsafe to meddle with
the corpses and ghosts of these creatures. A sort of generic or
Pantheistic vitality seemed to lurk in their very joints and bones, after
what might be called the individual life had departed. Killed and hoisted
on deck for the sake of his skin, one of these sharks almost took poor
Queequeg’s hand off, when he tried to shut down the dead lid of his
murderous jaw.

*The whaling-spade used for cutting-in is made of the very best steel; is
about the bigness of a man’s spread hand; and in general shape,
corresponds to the garden implement after which it is named; only its
sides are perfectly flat, and its upper end considerably narrower than the
lower. This weapon is always kept as sharp as possible; and when being
used is occasionally honed, just like a razor. In its socket, a stiff
pole, from twenty to thirty feet long, is inserted for a handle.

“Queequeg no care what god made him shark,” said the savage, agonizingly
lifting his hand up and down; “wedder Fejee god or Nantucket god; but de
god wat made shark must be one dam Ingin.”

CHAPTER 67. Cutting In.

It was a Saturday night, and such a Sabbath as followed! Ex officio
professors of Sabbath breaking are all whalemen. The ivory Pequod was
turned into what seemed a shamble; every sailor a butcher. You would have
thought we were offering up ten thousand red oxen to the sea gods.

In the first place, the enormous cutting tackles, among other ponderous
things comprising a cluster of blocks generally painted green, and which
no single man can possibly lift—this vast bunch of grapes was swayed
up to the main-top and firmly lashed to the lower mast-head, the strongest
point anywhere above a ship’s deck. The end of the hawser-like rope
winding through these intricacies, was then conducted to the windlass, and
the huge lower block of the tackles was swung over the whale; to this
block the great blubber hook, weighing some one hundred pounds, was
attached. And now suspended in stages over the side, Starbuck and Stubb,
the mates, armed with their long spades, began cutting a hole in the body
for the insertion of the hook just above the nearest of the two side-fins.
This done, a broad, semicircular line is cut round the hole, the hook is
inserted, and the main body of the crew striking up a wild chorus, now
commence heaving in one dense crowd at the windlass. When instantly, the
entire ship careens over on her side; every bolt in her starts like the
nail-heads of an old house in frosty weather; she trembles, quivers, and
nods her frighted mast-heads to the sky. More and more she leans over to
the whale, while every gasping heave of the windlass is answered by a
helping heave from the billows; till at last, a swift, startling snap is
heard; with a great swash the ship rolls upwards and backwards from the
whale, and the triumphant tackle rises into sight dragging after it the
disengaged semicircular end of the first strip of blubber. Now as the
blubber envelopes the whale precisely as the rind does an orange, so is it
stripped off from the body precisely as an orange is sometimes stripped by
spiralizing it. For the strain constantly kept up by the windlass
continually keeps the whale rolling over and over in the water, and as the
blubber in one strip uniformly peels off along the line called the
“scarf,” simultaneously cut by the spades of Starbuck and Stubb, the
mates; and just as fast as it is thus peeled off, and indeed by that very
act itself, it is all the time being hoisted higher and higher aloft till
its upper end grazes the main-top; the men at the windlass then cease
heaving, and for a moment or two the prodigious blood-dripping mass sways
to and fro as if let down from the sky, and every one present must take
good heed to dodge it when it swings, else it may box his ears and pitch
him headlong overboard.

One of the attending harpooneers now advances with a long, keen weapon
called a boarding-sword, and watching his chance he dexterously slices out
a considerable hole in the lower part of the swaying mass. Into this hole,
the end of the second alternating great tackle is then hooked so as to
retain a hold upon the blubber, in order to prepare for what follows.
Whereupon, this accomplished swordsman, warning all hands to stand off,
once more makes a scientific dash at the mass, and with a few sidelong,
desperate, lunging slicings, severs it completely in twain; so that while
the short lower part is still fast, the long upper strip, called a
blanket-piece, swings clear, and is all ready for lowering. The heavers
forward now resume their song, and while the one tackle is peeling and
hoisting a second strip from the whale, the other is slowly slackened
away, and down goes the first strip through the main hatchway right
beneath, into an unfurnished parlor called the blubber-room. Into this
twilight apartment sundry nimble hands keep coiling away the long
blanket-piece as if it were a great live mass of plaited serpents. And
thus the work proceeds; the two tackles hoisting and lowering
simultaneously; both whale and windlass heaving, the heavers singing, the
blubber-room gentlemen coiling, the mates scarfing, the ship straining,
and all hands swearing occasionally, by way of assuaging the general

CHAPTER 68. The Blanket.

I have given no small attention to that not unvexed subject, the skin of
the whale. I have had controversies about it with experienced whalemen
afloat, and learned naturalists ashore. My original opinion remains
unchanged; but it is only an opinion.

The question is, what and where is the skin of the whale? Already you know
what his blubber is. That blubber is something of the consistence of firm,
close-grained beef, but tougher, more elastic and compact, and ranges from
eight or ten to twelve and fifteen inches in thickness.

Now, however preposterous it may at first seem to talk of any creature’s
skin as being of that sort of consistence and thickness, yet in point of
fact these are no arguments against such a presumption; because you cannot
raise any other dense enveloping layer from the whale’s body but that same
blubber; and the outermost enveloping layer of any animal, if reasonably
dense, what can that be but the skin? True, from the unmarred dead body of
the whale, you may scrape off with your hand an infinitely thin,
transparent substance, somewhat resembling the thinnest shreds of
isinglass, only it is almost as flexible and soft as satin; that is,
previous to being dried, when it not only contracts and thickens, but
becomes rather hard and brittle. I have several such dried bits, which I
use for marks in my whale-books. It is transparent, as I said before; and
being laid upon the printed page, I have sometimes pleased myself with
fancying it exerted a magnifying influence. At any rate, it is pleasant to
read about whales through their own spectacles, as you may say. But what I
am driving at here is this. That same infinitely thin, isinglass
substance, which, I admit, invests the entire body of the whale, is not so
much to be regarded as the skin of the creature, as the skin of the skin,
so to speak; for it were simply ridiculous to say, that the proper skin of
the tremendous whale is thinner and more tender than the skin of a
new-born child. But no more of this.

Assuming the blubber to be the skin of the whale; then, when this skin, as
in the case of a very large Sperm Whale, will yield the bulk of one
hundred barrels of oil; and, when it is considered that, in quantity, or
rather weight, that oil, in its expressed state, is only three fourths,
and not the entire substance of the coat; some idea may hence be had of
the enormousness of that animated mass, a mere part of whose mere
integument yields such a lake of liquid as that. Reckoning ten barrels to
the ton, you have ten tons for the net weight of only three quarters of
the stuff of the whale’s skin.

In life, the visible surface of the Sperm Whale is not the least among the
many marvels he presents. Almost invariably it is all over obliquely
crossed and re-crossed with numberless straight marks in thick array,
something like those in the finest Italian line engravings. But these
marks do not seem to be impressed upon the isinglass substance above
mentioned, but seem to be seen through it, as if they were engraved upon
the body itself. Nor is this all. In some instances, to the quick,
observant eye, those linear marks, as in a veritable engraving, but afford
the ground for far other delineations. These are hieroglyphical; that is,
if you call those mysterious cyphers on the walls of pyramids
hieroglyphics, then that is the proper word to use in the present
connexion. By my retentive memory of the hieroglyphics upon one Sperm
Whale in particular, I was much struck with a plate representing the old
Indian characters chiselled on the famous hieroglyphic palisades on the
banks of the Upper Mississippi. Like those mystic rocks, too, the
mystic-marked whale remains undecipherable. This allusion to the Indian
rocks reminds me of another thing. Besides all the other phenomena which
the exterior of the Sperm Whale presents, he not seldom displays the back,
and more especially his flanks, effaced in great part of the regular
linear appearance, by reason of numerous rude scratches, altogether of an
irregular, random aspect. I should say that those New England rocks on the
sea-coast, which Agassiz imagines to bear the marks of violent scraping
contact with vast floating icebergs—I should say, that those rocks
must not a little resemble the Sperm Whale in this particular. It also
seems to me that such scratches in the whale are probably made by hostile
contact with other whales; for I have most remarked them in the large,
full-grown bulls of the species.

A word or two more concerning this matter of the skin or blubber of the
whale. It has already been said, that it is stript from him in long
pieces, called blanket-pieces. Like most sea-terms, this one is very happy
and significant. For the whale is indeed wrapt up in his blubber as in a
real blanket or counterpane; or, still better, an Indian poncho slipt over
his head, and skirting his extremity. It is by reason of this cosy
blanketing of his body, that the whale is enabled to keep himself
comfortable in all weathers, in all seas, times, and tides. What would
become of a Greenland whale, say, in those shuddering, icy seas of the
North, if unsupplied with his cosy surtout? True, other fish are found
exceedingly brisk in those Hyperborean waters; but these, be it observed,
are your cold-blooded, lungless fish, whose very bellies are
refrigerators; creatures, that warm themselves under the lee of an
iceberg, as a traveller in winter would bask before an inn fire; whereas,
like man, the whale has lungs and warm blood. Freeze his blood, and he
dies. How wonderful is it then—except after explanation—that
this great monster, to whom corporeal warmth is as indispensable as it is
to man; how wonderful that he should be found at home, immersed to his
lips for life in those Arctic waters! where, when seamen fall overboard,
they are sometimes found, months afterwards, perpendicularly frozen into
the hearts of fields of ice, as a fly is found glued in amber. But more
surprising is it to know, as has been proved by experiment, that the blood
of a Polar whale is warmer than that of a Borneo negro in summer.

It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong
individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare
virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after
the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this
world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at
the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter’s, and like the great whale,
retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.

But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things! Of erections,
how few are domed like St. Peter’s! of creatures, how few vast as the

CHAPTER 69. The Funeral.

“Haul in the chains! Let the carcase go astern!”

The vast tackles have now done their duty. The peeled white body of the
beheaded whale flashes like a marble sepulchre; though changed in hue, it
has not perceptibly lost anything in bulk. It is still colossal. Slowly it
floats more and more away, the water round it torn and splashed by the
insatiate sharks, and the air above vexed with rapacious flights of
screaming fowls, whose beaks are like so many insulting poniards in the
whale. The vast white headless phantom floats further and further from the
ship, and every rod that it so floats, what seem square roods of sharks
and cubic roods of fowls, augment the murderous din. For hours and hours
from the almost stationary ship that hideous sight is seen. Beneath the
unclouded and mild azure sky, upon the fair face of the pleasant sea,
wafted by the joyous breezes, that great mass of death floats on and on,
till lost in infinite perspectives.

There’s a most doleful and most mocking funeral! The sea-vultures all in
pious mourning, the air-sharks all punctiliously in black or speckled. In
life but few of them would have helped the whale, I ween, if peradventure
he had needed it; but upon the banquet of his funeral they most piously do
pounce. Oh, horrible vultureism of earth! from which not the mightiest
whale is free.

Nor is this the end. Desecrated as the body is, a vengeful ghost survives
and hovers over it to scare. Espied by some timid man-of-war or blundering
discovery-vessel from afar, when the distance obscuring the swarming
fowls, nevertheless still shows the white mass floating in the sun, and
the white spray heaving high against it; straightway the whale’s unharming
corpse, with trembling fingers is set down in the log—shoals, rocks,
and breakers hereabouts: beware!
And for years afterwards, perhaps, ships
shun the place; leaping over it as silly sheep leap over a vacuum, because
their leader originally leaped there when a stick was held. There’s your
law of precedents; there’s your utility of traditions; there’s the story
of your obstinate survival of old beliefs never bottomed on the earth, and
now not even hovering in the air! There’s orthodoxy!

Thus, while in life the great whale’s body may have been a real terror to
his foes, in his death his ghost becomes a powerless panic to a world.

Are you a believer in ghosts, my friend? There are other ghosts than the
Cock-Lane one, and far deeper men than Doctor Johnson who believe in them.

CHAPTER 70. The Sphynx.

It should not have been omitted that previous to completely stripping the
body of the leviathan, he was beheaded. Now, the beheading of the Sperm
Whale is a scientific anatomical feat, upon which experienced whale
surgeons very much pride themselves: and not without reason.

Consider that the whale has nothing that can properly be called a neck; on
the contrary, where his head and body seem to join, there, in that very
place, is the thickest part of him. Remember, also, that the surgeon must
operate from above, some eight or ten feet intervening between him and his
subject, and that subject almost hidden in a discoloured, rolling, and
oftentimes tumultuous and bursting sea. Bear in mind, too, that under
these untoward circumstances he has to cut many feet deep in the flesh;
and in that subterraneous manner, without so much as getting one single
peep into the ever-contracting gash thus made, he must skilfully steer
clear of all adjacent, interdicted parts, and exactly divide the spine at
a critical point hard by its insertion into the skull. Do you not marvel,
then, at Stubb’s boast, that he demanded but ten minutes to behead a sperm

When first severed, the head is dropped astern and held there by a cable
till the body is stripped. That done, if it belong to a small whale it is
hoisted on deck to be deliberately disposed of. But, with a full grown
leviathan this is impossible; for the sperm whale’s head embraces nearly
one third of his entire bulk, and completely to suspend such a burden as
that, even by the immense tackles of a whaler, this were as vain a thing
as to attempt weighing a Dutch barn in jewellers’ scales.

The Pequod’s whale being decapitated and the body stripped, the head was
hoisted against the ship’s side—about half way out of the sea, so
that it might yet in great part be buoyed up by its native element. And
there with the strained craft steeply leaning over to it, by reason of the
enormous downward drag from the lower mast-head, and every yard-arm on
that side projecting like a crane over the waves; there, that
blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod’s waist like the giant Holofernes’s
from the girdle of Judith.

When this last task was accomplished it was noon, and the seamen went
below to their dinner. Silence reigned over the before tumultuous but now
deserted deck. An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus, was
more and more unfolding its noiseless measureless leaves upon the sea.

A short space elapsed, and up into this noiselessness came Ahab alone from
his cabin. Taking a few turns on the quarter-deck, he paused to gaze over
the side, then slowly getting into the main-chains he took Stubb’s long
spade—still remaining there after the whale’s decapitation—and
striking it into the lower part of the half-suspended mass, placed its
other end crutch-wise under one arm, and so stood leaning over with eyes
attentively fixed on this head.

It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst of so
intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx’s in the desert. “Speak, thou vast
and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a
beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head,
and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast
dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has
moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies
rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this
frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there,
in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been
where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where
sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the
locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they
sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed
false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from
the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the
insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed—while
swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a
righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen
enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one
syllable is thine!”

“Sail ho!” cried a triumphant voice from the main-mast-head.

“Aye? Well, now, that’s cheering,” cried Ahab, suddenly erecting himself,
while whole thunder-clouds swept aside from his brow. “That lively cry
upon this deadly calm might almost convert a better man.—Where

“Three points on the starboard bow, sir, and bringing down her breeze to

“Better and better, man. Would now St. Paul would come along that way, and
to my breezelessness bring his breeze! O Nature, and O soul of man! how
far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest atom
stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind.”

CHAPTER 71. The Jeroboam’s Story.

Hand in hand, ship and breeze blew on; but the breeze came faster than the
ship, and soon the Pequod began to rock.

By and by, through the glass the stranger’s boats and manned mast-heads
proved her a whale-ship. But as she was so far to windward, and shooting
by, apparently making a passage to some other ground, the Pequod could not
hope to reach her. So the signal was set to see what response would be

Here be it said, that like the vessels of military marines, the ships of
the American Whale Fleet have each a private signal; all which signals
being collected in a book with the names of the respective vessels
attached, every captain is provided with it. Thereby, the whale commanders
are enabled to recognise each other upon the ocean, even at considerable
distances and with no small facility.

The Pequod’s signal was at last responded to by the stranger’s setting her
own; which proved the ship to be the Jeroboam of Nantucket. Squaring her
yards, she bore down, ranged abeam under the Pequod’s lee, and lowered a
boat; it soon drew nigh; but, as the side-ladder was being rigged by
Starbuck’s order to accommodate the visiting captain, the stranger in
question waved his hand from his boat’s stern in token of that proceeding
being entirely unnecessary. It turned out that the Jeroboam had a
malignant epidemic on board, and that Mayhew, her captain, was fearful of
infecting the Pequod’s company. For, though himself and boat’s crew
remained untainted, and though his ship was half a rifle-shot off, and an
incorruptible sea and air rolling and flowing between; yet conscientiously
adhering to the timid quarantine of the land, he peremptorily refused to
come into direct contact with the Pequod.

But this did by no means prevent all communications. Preserving an
interval of some few yards between itself and the ship, the Jeroboam’s
boat by the occasional use of its oars contrived to keep parallel to the
Pequod, as she heavily forged through the sea (for by this time it blew
very fresh), with her main-topsail aback; though, indeed, at times by the
sudden onset of a large rolling wave, the boat would be pushed some way
ahead; but would be soon skilfully brought to her proper bearings again.
Subject to this, and other the like interruptions now and then, a
conversation was sustained between the two parties; but at intervals not
without still another interruption of a very different sort.

Pulling an oar in the Jeroboam’s boat, was a man of a singular appearance,
even in that wild whaling life where individual notabilities make up all
totalities. He was a small, short, youngish man, sprinkled all over his
face with freckles, and wearing redundant yellow hair. A long-skirted,
cabalistically-cut coat of a faded walnut tinge enveloped him; the
overlapping sleeves of which were rolled up on his wrists. A deep,
settled, fanatic delirium was in his eyes.

So soon as this figure had been first descried, Stubb had exclaimed—“That’s
he! that’s he!—the long-togged scaramouch the Town-Ho’s company told
us of!” Stubb here alluded to a strange story told of the Jeroboam, and a
certain man among her crew, some time previous when the Pequod spoke the
Town-Ho. According to this account and what was subsequently learned, it
seemed that the scaramouch in question had gained a wonderful ascendency
over almost everybody in the Jeroboam. His story was this:

He had been originally nurtured among the crazy society of Neskyeuna
Shakers, where he had been a great prophet; in their cracked, secret
meetings having several times descended from heaven by the way of a
trap-door, announcing the speedy opening of the seventh vial, which he
carried in his vest-pocket; but, which, instead of containing gunpowder,
was supposed to be charged with laudanum. A strange, apostolic whim having
seized him, he had left Neskyeuna for Nantucket, where, with that cunning
peculiar to craziness, he assumed a steady, common-sense exterior, and
offered himself as a green-hand candidate for the Jeroboam’s whaling
voyage. They engaged him; but straightway upon the ship’s getting out of
sight of land, his insanity broke out in a freshet. He announced himself
as the archangel Gabriel, and commanded the captain to jump overboard. He
published his manifesto, whereby he set himself forth as the deliverer of
the isles of the sea and vicar-general of all Oceanica. The unflinching
earnestness with which he declared these things;—the dark, daring
play of his sleepless, excited imagination, and all the preternatural
terrors of real delirium, united to invest this Gabriel in the minds of
the majority of the ignorant crew, with an atmosphere of sacredness.
Moreover, they were afraid of him. As such a man, however, was not of much
practical use in the ship, especially as he refused to work except when he
pleased, the incredulous captain would fain have been rid of him; but
apprised that that individual’s intention was to land him in the first
convenient port, the archangel forthwith opened all his seals and vials—devoting
the ship and all hands to unconditional perdition, in case this intention
was carried out. So strongly did he work upon his disciples among the
crew, that at last in a body they went to the captain and told him if
Gabriel was sent from the ship, not a man of them would remain. He was
therefore forced to relinquish his plan. Nor would they permit Gabriel to
be any way maltreated, say or do what he would; so that it came to pass
that Gabriel had the complete freedom of the ship. The consequence of all
this was, that the archangel cared little or nothing for the captain and
mates; and since the epidemic had broken out, he carried a higher hand
than ever; declaring that the plague, as he called it, was at his sole
command; nor should it be stayed but according to his good pleasure. The
sailors, mostly poor devils, cringed, and some of them fawned before him;
in obedience to his instructions, sometimes rendering him personal homage,
as to a god. Such things may seem incredible; but, however wondrous, they
are true. Nor is the history of fanatics half so striking in respect to
the measureless self-deception of the fanatic himself, as his measureless
power of deceiving and bedevilling so many others. But it is time to
return to the Pequod.

“I fear not thy epidemic, man,” said Ahab from the bulwarks, to Captain
Mayhew, who stood in the boat’s stern; “come on board.”

But now Gabriel started to his feet.

“Think, think of the fevers, yellow and bilious! Beware of the horrible

“Gabriel! Gabriel!” cried Captain Mayhew; “thou must either—” But
that instant a headlong wave shot the boat far ahead, and its seethings
drowned all speech.

“Hast thou seen the White Whale?” demanded Ahab, when the boat drifted

“Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk! Beware of the horrible

“I tell thee again, Gabriel, that—” But again the boat tore ahead as
if dragged by fiends. Nothing was said for some moments, while a
succession of riotous waves rolled by, which by one of those occasional
caprices of the seas were tumbling, not heaving it. Meantime, the hoisted
sperm whale’s head jogged about very violently, and Gabriel was seen
eyeing it with rather more apprehensiveness than his archangel nature
seemed to warrant.

When this interlude was over, Captain Mayhew began a dark story concerning
Moby Dick; not, however, without frequent interruptions from Gabriel,
whenever his name was mentioned, and the crazy sea that seemed leagued
with him.

It seemed that the Jeroboam had not long left home, when upon speaking a
whale-ship, her people were reliably apprised of the existence of Moby
Dick, and the havoc he had made. Greedily sucking in this intelligence,
Gabriel solemnly warned the captain against attacking the White Whale, in
case the monster should be seen; in his gibbering insanity, pronouncing
the White Whale to be no less a being than the Shaker God incarnated; the
Shakers receiving the Bible. But when, some year or two afterwards, Moby
Dick was fairly sighted from the mast-heads, Macey, the chief mate, burned
with ardour to encounter him; and the captain himself being not unwilling
to let him have the opportunity, despite all the archangel’s denunciations
and forewarnings, Macey succeeded in persuading five men to man his boat.
With them he pushed off; and, after much weary pulling, and many perilous,
unsuccessful onsets, he at last succeeded in getting one iron fast.
Meantime, Gabriel, ascending to the main-royal mast-head, was tossing one
arm in frantic gestures, and hurling forth prophecies of speedy doom to
the sacrilegious assailants of his divinity. Now, while Macey, the mate,
was standing up in his boat’s bow, and with all the reckless energy of his
tribe was venting his wild exclamations upon the whale, and essaying to
get a fair chance for his poised lance, lo! a broad white shadow rose from
the sea; by its quick, fanning motion, temporarily taking the breath out
of the bodies of the oarsmen. Next instant, the luckless mate, so full of
furious life, was smitten bodily into the air, and making a long arc in
his descent, fell into the sea at the distance of about fifty yards. Not a
chip of the boat was harmed, nor a hair of any oarsman’s head; but the
mate for ever sank.

It is well to parenthesize here, that of the fatal accidents in the
Sperm-Whale Fishery, this kind is perhaps almost as frequent as any.
Sometimes, nothing is injured but the man who is thus annihilated; oftener
the boat’s bow is knocked off, or the thigh-board, in which the headsman
stands, is torn from its place and accompanies the body. But strangest of
all is the circumstance, that in more instances than one, when the body
has been recovered, not a single mark of violence is discernible; the man
being stark dead.

The whole calamity, with the falling form of Macey, was plainly descried
from the ship. Raising a piercing shriek—“The vial! the vial!”
Gabriel called off the terror-stricken crew from the further hunting of
the whale. This terrible event clothed the archangel with added influence;
because his credulous disciples believed that he had specifically
fore-announced it, instead of only making a general prophecy, which any
one might have done, and so have chanced to hit one of many marks in the
wide margin allowed. He became a nameless terror to the ship.

Mayhew having concluded his narration, Ahab put such questions to him,
that the stranger captain could not forbear inquiring whether he intended
to hunt the White Whale, if opportunity should offer. To which Ahab
answered—“Aye.” Straightway, then, Gabriel once more started to his
feet, glaring upon the old man, and vehemently exclaimed, with downward
pointed finger—“Think, think of the blasphemer—dead, and down
there!—beware of the blasphemer’s end!”

Ahab stolidly turned aside; then said to Mayhew, “Captain, I have just
bethought me of my letter-bag; there is a letter for one of thy officers,
if I mistake not. Starbuck, look over the bag.”

Every whale-ship takes out a goodly number of letters for various ships,
whose delivery to the persons to whom they may be addressed, depends upon
the mere chance of encountering them in the four oceans. Thus, most
letters never reach their mark; and many are only received after attaining
an age of two or three years or more.

Soon Starbuck returned with a letter in his hand. It was sorely tumbled,
damp, and covered with a dull, spotted, green mould, in consequence of
being kept in a dark locker of the cabin. Of such a letter, Death himself
might well have been the post-boy.

“Can’st not read it?” cried Ahab. “Give it me, man. Aye, aye, it’s but a
dim scrawl;—what’s this?” As he was studying it out, Starbuck took a
long cutting-spade pole, and with his knife slightly split the end, to
insert the letter there, and in that way, hand it to the boat, without its
coming any closer to the ship.

Meantime, Ahab holding the letter, muttered, “Mr. Har—yes, Mr. Harry—(a
woman’s pinny hand,—the man’s wife, I’ll wager)—Aye—Mr.
Harry Macey, Ship Jeroboam;—why it’s Macey, and he’s dead!”

“Poor fellow! poor fellow! and from his wife,” sighed Mayhew; “but let me
have it.”

“Nay, keep it thyself,” cried Gabriel to Ahab; “thou art soon going that

“Curses throttle thee!” yelled Ahab. “Captain Mayhew, stand by now to
receive it”; and taking the fatal missive from Starbuck’s hands, he caught
it in the slit of the pole, and reached it over towards the boat. But as
he did so, the oarsmen expectantly desisted from rowing; the boat drifted
a little towards the ship’s stern; so that, as if by magic, the letter
suddenly ranged along with Gabriel’s eager hand. He clutched it in an
instant, seized the boat-knife, and impaling the letter on it, sent it
thus loaded back into the ship. It fell at Ahab’s feet. Then Gabriel
shrieked out to his comrades to give way with their oars, and in that
manner the mutinous boat rapidly shot away from the Pequod.

As, after this interlude, the seamen resumed their work upon the jacket of
the whale, many strange things were hinted in reference to this wild

CHAPTER 72. The Monkey-Rope.

In the tumultuous business of cutting-in and attending to a whale, there
is much running backwards and forwards among the crew. Now hands are
wanted here, and then again hands are wanted there. There is no staying in
any one place; for at one and the same time everything has to be done
everywhere. It is much the same with him who endeavors the description of
the scene. We must now retrace our way a little. It was mentioned that
upon first breaking ground in the whale’s back, the blubber-hook was
inserted into the original hole there cut by the spades of the mates. But
how did so clumsy and weighty a mass as that same hook get fixed in that
hole? It was inserted there by my particular friend Queequeg, whose duty
it was, as harpooneer, to descend upon the monster’s back for the special
purpose referred to. But in very many cases, circumstances require that
the harpooneer shall remain on the whale till the whole flensing or
stripping operation is concluded. The whale, be it observed, lies almost
entirely submerged, excepting the immediate parts operated upon. So down
there, some ten feet below the level of the deck, the poor harpooneer
flounders about, half on the whale and half in the water, as the vast mass
revolves like a tread-mill beneath him. On the occasion in question,
Queequeg figured in the Highland costume—a shirt and socks—in
which to my eyes, at least, he appeared to uncommon advantage; and no one
had a better chance to observe him, as will presently be seen.

Being the savage’s bowsman, that is, the person who pulled the bow-oar in
his boat (the second one from forward), it was my cheerful duty to attend
upon him while taking that hard-scrabble scramble upon the dead whale’s
back. You have seen Italian organ-boys holding a dancing-ape by a long
cord. Just so, from the ship’s steep side, did I hold Queequeg down there
in the sea, by what is technically called in the fishery a monkey-rope,
attached to a strong strip of canvas belted round his waist.

It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For, before we
proceed further, it must be said that the monkey-rope was fast at both
ends; fast to Queequeg’s broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow leather
one. So that for better or for worse, we two, for the time, were wedded;
and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more, then both usage and honor
demanded, that instead of cutting the cord, it should drag me down in his
wake. So, then, an elongated Siamese ligature united us. Queequeg was my
own inseparable twin brother; nor could I any way get rid of the dangerous
liabilities which the hempen bond entailed.

So strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation then, that
while earnestly watching his motions, I seemed distinctly to perceive that
my own individuality was now merged in a joint stock company of two; that
my free will had received a mortal wound; and that another’s mistake or
misfortune might plunge innocent me into unmerited disaster and death.
Therefore, I saw that here was a sort of interregnum in Providence; for
its even-handed equity never could have so gross an injustice. And yet
still further pondering—while I jerked him now and then from between
the whale and ship, which would threaten to jam him—still further
pondering, I say, I saw that this situation of mine was the precise
situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in most cases, he, one way
or other, has this Siamese connexion with a plurality of other mortals. If
your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you
poison in your pills, you die. True, you may say that, by exceeding
caution, you may possibly escape these and the multitudinous other evil
chances of life. But handle Queequeg’s monkey-rope heedfully as I would,
sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard. Nor
could I possibly forget that, do what I would, I only had the management
of one end of it.*

*The monkey-rope is found in all whalers; but it was only in the Pequod
that the monkey and his holder were ever tied together. This improvement
upon the original usage was introduced by no less a man than Stubb, in
order to afford the imperilled harpooneer the strongest possible guarantee
for the faithfulness and vigilance of his monkey-rope holder.

I have hinted that I would often jerk poor Queequeg from between the whale
and the ship—where he would occasionally fall, from the incessant
rolling and swaying of both. But this was not the only jamming jeopardy he
was exposed to. Unappalled by the massacre made upon them during the
night, the sharks now freshly and more keenly allured by the before pent
blood which began to flow from the carcass—the rabid creatures
swarmed round it like bees in a beehive.

And right in among those sharks was Queequeg; who often pushed them aside
with his floundering feet. A thing altogether incredible were it not that
attracted by such prey as a dead whale, the otherwise miscellaneously
carnivorous shark will seldom touch a man.

Nevertheless, it may well be believed that since they have such a ravenous
finger in the pie, it is deemed but wise to look sharp to them.
Accordingly, besides the monkey-rope, with which I now and then jerked the
poor fellow from too close a vicinity to the maw of what seemed a
peculiarly ferocious shark—he was provided with still another
protection. Suspended over the side in one of the stages, Tashtego and
Daggoo continually flourished over his head a couple of keen whale-spades,
wherewith they slaughtered as many sharks as they could reach. This
procedure of theirs, to be sure, was very disinterested and benevolent of
them. They meant Queequeg’s best happiness, I admit; but in their hasty
zeal to befriend him, and from the circumstance that both he and the
sharks were at times half hidden by the blood-muddled water, those
indiscreet spades of theirs would come nearer amputating a leg than a
tail. But poor Queequeg, I suppose, straining and gasping there with that
great iron hook—poor Queequeg, I suppose, only prayed to his Yojo,
and gave up his life into the hands of his gods.

Well, well, my dear comrade and twin-brother, thought I, as I drew in and
then slacked off the rope to every swell of the sea—what matters it,
after all? Are you not the precious image of each and all of us men in
this whaling world? That unsounded ocean you gasp in, is Life; those
sharks, your foes; those spades, your friends; and what between sharks and
spades you are in a sad pickle and peril, poor lad.

But courage! there is good cheer in store for you, Queequeg. For now, as
with blue lips and blood-shot eyes the exhausted savage at last climbs up
the chains and stands all dripping and involuntarily trembling over the
side; the steward advances, and with a benevolent, consolatory glance
hands him—what? Some hot Cognac? No! hands him, ye gods! hands him a
cup of tepid ginger and water!

“Ginger? Do I smell ginger?” suspiciously asked Stubb, coming near. “Yes,
this must be ginger,” peering into the as yet untasted cup. Then standing
as if incredulous for a while, he calmly walked towards the astonished
steward slowly saying, “Ginger? ginger? and will you have the goodness to
tell me, Mr. Dough-Boy, where lies the virtue of ginger? Ginger! is ginger
the sort of fuel you use, Dough-boy, to kindle a fire in this shivering
cannibal? Ginger!—what the devil is ginger? Sea-coal? firewood?—lucifer
matches?—tinder?—gunpowder?—what the devil is ginger, I
say, that you offer this cup to our poor Queequeg here.”

“There is some sneaking Temperance Society movement about this business,”
he suddenly added, now approaching Starbuck, who had just come from
forward. “Will you look at that kannakin, sir: smell of it, if you
please.” Then watching the mate’s countenance, he added, “The steward, Mr.
Starbuck, had the face to offer that calomel and jalap to Queequeg, there,
this instant off the whale. Is the steward an apothecary, sir? and may I
ask whether this is the sort of bitters by which he blows back the life
into a half-drowned man?”

“I trust not,” said Starbuck, “it is poor stuff enough.”

“Aye, aye, steward,” cried Stubb, “we’ll teach you to drug a harpooneer;
none of your apothecary’s medicine here; you want to poison us, do ye? You
have got out insurances on our lives and want to murder us all, and pocket
the proceeds, do ye?”

“It was not me,” cried Dough-Boy, “it was Aunt Charity that brought the
ginger on board; and bade me never give the harpooneers any spirits, but
only this ginger-jub—so she called it.”

“Ginger-jub! you gingerly rascal! take that! and run along with ye to the
lockers, and get something better. I hope I do no wrong, Mr. Starbuck. It
is the captain’s orders—grog for the harpooneer on a whale.”

“Enough,” replied Starbuck, “only don’t hit him again, but—”

“Oh, I never hurt when I hit, except when I hit a whale or something of
that sort; and this fellow’s a weazel. What were you about saying, sir?”

“Only this: go down with him, and get what thou wantest thyself.”

When Stubb reappeared, he came with a dark flask in one hand, and a sort
of tea-caddy in the other. The first contained strong spirits, and was
handed to Queequeg; the second was Aunt Charity’s gift, and that was
freely given to the waves.

CHAPTER 73. Stubb and Flask kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk over Him.

It must be borne in mind that all this time we have a Sperm Whale’s
prodigious head hanging to the Pequod’s side. But we must let it continue
hanging there a while till we can get a chance to attend to it. For the
present other matters press, and the best we can do now for the head, is
to pray heaven the tackles may hold.

Now, during the past night and forenoon, the Pequod had gradually drifted
into a sea, which, by its occasional patches of yellow brit, gave unusual
tokens of the vicinity of Right Whales, a species of the Leviathan that
but few supposed to be at this particular time lurking anywhere near. And
though all hands commonly disdained the capture of those inferior
creatures; and though the Pequod was not commissioned to cruise for them
at all, and though she had passed numbers of them near the Crozetts
without lowering a boat; yet now that a Sperm Whale had been brought
alongside and beheaded, to the surprise of all, the announcement was made
that a Right Whale should be captured that day, if opportunity offered.

Nor was this long wanting. Tall spouts were seen to leeward; and two
boats, Stubb’s and Flask’s, were detached in pursuit. Pulling further and
further away, they at last became almost invisible to the men at the
mast-head. But suddenly in the distance, they saw a great heap of
tumultuous white water, and soon after news came from aloft that one or
both the boats must be fast. An interval passed and the boats were in
plain sight, in the act of being dragged right towards the ship by the
towing whale. So close did the monster come to the hull, that at first it
seemed as if he meant it malice; but suddenly going down in a maelstrom,
within three rods of the planks, he wholly disappeared from view, as if
diving under the keel. “Cut, cut!” was the cry from the ship to the boats,
which, for one instant, seemed on the point of being brought with a deadly
dash against the vessel’s side. But having plenty of line yet in the tubs,
and the whale not sounding very rapidly, they paid out abundance of rope,
and at the same time pulled with all their might so as to get ahead of the
ship. For a few minutes the struggle was intensely critical; for while
they still slacked out the tightened line in one direction, and still
plied their oars in another, the contending strain threatened to take them
under. But it was only a few feet advance they sought to gain. And they
stuck to it till they did gain it; when instantly, a swift tremor was felt
running like lightning along the keel, as the strained line, scraping
beneath the ship, suddenly rose to view under her bows, snapping and
quivering; and so flinging off its drippings, that the drops fell like
bits of broken glass on the water, while the whale beyond also rose to
sight, and once more the boats were free to fly. But the fagged whale
abated his speed, and blindly altering his course, went round the stern of
the ship towing the two boats after him, so that they performed a complete

Meantime, they hauled more and more upon their lines, till close flanking
him on both sides, Stubb answered Flask with lance for lance; and thus
round and round the Pequod the battle went, while the multitudes of sharks
that had before swum round the Sperm Whale’s body, rushed to the fresh
blood that was spilled, thirstily drinking at every new gash, as the eager
Israelites did at the new bursting fountains that poured from the smitten

At last his spout grew thick, and with a frightful roll and vomit, he
turned upon his back a corpse.

While the two headsmen were engaged in making fast cords to his flukes,
and in other ways getting the mass in readiness for towing, some
conversation ensued between them.

“I wonder what the old man wants with this lump of foul lard,” said Stubb,
not without some disgust at the thought of having to do with so ignoble a

“Wants with it?” said Flask, coiling some spare line in the boat’s bow,
“did you never hear that the ship which but once has a Sperm Whale’s head
hoisted on her starboard side, and at the same time a Right Whale’s on the
larboard; did you never hear, Stubb, that that ship can never afterwards

“Why not?

“I don’t know, but I heard that gamboge ghost of a Fedallah saying so, and
he seems to know all about ships’ charms. But I sometimes think he’ll
charm the ship to no good at last. I don’t half like that chap, Stubb. Did
you ever notice how that tusk of his is a sort of carved into a snake’s
head, Stubb?”

“Sink him! I never look at him at all; but if ever I get a chance of a
dark night, and he standing hard by the bulwarks, and no one by; look down
there, Flask”—pointing into the sea with a peculiar motion of both
hands—“Aye, will I! Flask, I take that Fedallah to be the devil in
disguise. Do you believe that cock and bull story about his having been
stowed away on board ship? He’s the devil, I say. The reason why you don’t
see his tail, is because he tucks it up out of sight; he carries it coiled
away in his pocket, I guess. Blast him! now that I think of it, he’s
always wanting oakum to stuff into the toes of his boots.”

“He sleeps in his boots, don’t he? He hasn’t got any hammock; but I’ve
seen him lay of nights in a coil of rigging.”

“No doubt, and it’s because of his cursed tail; he coils it down, do ye
see, in the eye of the rigging.”

“What’s the old man have so much to do with him for?”

“Striking up a swap or a bargain, I suppose.”

“Bargain?—about what?”

“Why, do ye see, the old man is hard bent after that White Whale, and the
devil there is trying to come round him, and get him to swap away his
silver watch, or his soul, or something of that sort, and then he’ll
surrender Moby Dick.”

“Pooh! Stubb, you are skylarking; how can Fedallah do that?”

“I don’t know, Flask, but the devil is a curious chap, and a wicked one, I
tell ye. Why, they say as how he went a sauntering into the old flag-ship
once, switching his tail about devilish easy and gentlemanlike, and
inquiring if the old governor was at home. Well, he was at home, and asked
the devil what he wanted. The devil, switching his hoofs, up and says, ‘I
want John.’ ‘What for?’ says the old governor. ‘What business is that of
yours,’ says the devil, getting mad,—‘I want to use him.’ ‘Take
him,’ says the governor—and by the Lord, Flask, if the devil didn’t
give John the Asiatic cholera before he got through with him, I’ll eat
this whale in one mouthful. But look sharp—ain’t you all ready
there? Well, then, pull ahead, and let’s get the whale alongside.”

“I think I remember some such story as you were telling,” said Flask, when
at last the two boats were slowly advancing with their burden towards the
ship, “but I can’t remember where.”

“Three Spaniards? Adventures of those three bloody-minded soldadoes? Did ye
read it there, Flask? I guess ye did?”

“No: never saw such a book; heard of it, though. But now, tell me, Stubb,
do you suppose that that devil you was speaking of just now, was the same
you say is now on board the Pequod?”

“Am I the same man that helped kill this whale? Doesn’t the devil live for
ever; who ever heard that the devil was dead? Did you ever see any parson
a wearing mourning for the devil? And if the devil has a latch-key to get
into the admiral’s cabin, don’t you suppose he can crawl into a porthole?
Tell me that, Mr. Flask?”

“How old do you suppose Fedallah is, Stubb?”

“Do you see that mainmast there?” pointing to the ship; “well, that’s the
figure one; now take all the hoops in the Pequod’s hold, and string along
in a row with that mast, for oughts, do you see; well, that wouldn’t begin
to be Fedallah’s age. Nor all the coopers in creation couldn’t show hoops
enough to make oughts enough.”

“But see here, Stubb, I thought you a little boasted just now, that you
meant to give Fedallah a sea-toss, if you got a good chance. Now, if he’s
so old as all those hoops of yours come to, and if he is going to live for
ever, what good will it do to pitch him overboard—tell me that?

“Give him a good ducking, anyhow.”

“But he’d crawl back.”

“Duck him again; and keep ducking him.”

“Suppose he should take it into his head to duck you, though—yes,
and drown you—what then?”

“I should like to see him try it; I’d give him such a pair of black eyes
that he wouldn’t dare to show his face in the admiral’s cabin again for a
long while, let alone down in the orlop there, where he lives, and
hereabouts on the upper decks where he sneaks so much. Damn the devil,
Flask; so you suppose I’m afraid of the devil? Who’s afraid of him, except
the old governor who daresn’t catch him and put him in double-darbies, as
he deserves, but lets him go about kidnapping people; aye, and signed a
bond with him, that all the people the devil kidnapped, he’d roast for
him? There’s a governor!”

“Do you suppose Fedallah wants to kidnap Captain Ahab?”

“Do I suppose it? You’ll know it before long, Flask. But I am going now to
keep a sharp look-out on him; and if I see anything very suspicious going
on, I’ll just take him by the nape of his neck, and say—Look here,
Beelzebub, you don’t do it; and if he makes any fuss, by the Lord I’ll
make a grab into his pocket for his tail, take it to the capstan, and give
him such a wrenching and heaving, that his tail will come short off at the
stump—do you see; and then, I rather guess when he finds himself
docked in that queer fashion, he’ll sneak off without the poor
satisfaction of feeling his tail between his legs.”

“And what will you do with the tail, Stubb?”

“Do with it? Sell it for an ox whip when we get home;—what else?”

“Now, do you mean what you say, and have been saying all along, Stubb?”

“Mean or not mean, here we are at the ship.”

The boats were here hailed, to tow the whale on the larboard side, where
fluke chains and other necessaries were already prepared for securing him.

“Didn’t I tell you so?” said Flask; “yes, you’ll soon see this right
whale’s head hoisted up opposite that parmacetti’s.”

In good time, Flask’s saying proved true. As before, the Pequod steeply
leaned over towards the sperm whale’s head, now, by the counterpoise of
both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may
well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke’s head, you go over
that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant’s and you come back
again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming
boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then
you will float light and right.

In disposing of the body of a right whale, when brought alongside the
ship, the same preliminary proceedings commonly take place as in the case
of a sperm whale; only, in the latter instance, the head is cut off whole,
but in the former the lips and tongue are separately removed and hoisted
on deck, with all the well known black bone attached to what is called the
crown-piece. But nothing like this, in the present case, had been done.
The carcases of both whales had dropped astern; and the head-laden ship
not a little resembled a mule carrying a pair of overburdening panniers.

Meantime, Fedallah was calmly eyeing the right whale’s head, and ever and
anon glancing from the deep wrinkles there to the lines in his own hand.
And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow; while,
if the Parsee’s shadow was there at all it seemed only to blend with, and
lengthen Ahab’s. As the crew toiled on, Laplandish speculations were
bandied among them, concerning all these passing things.

CHAPTER 74. The Sperm Whale’s Head—Contrasted View.

Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let us join
them, and lay together our own.

Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the Right
Whale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only whales regularly
hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present the two extremes of all
the known varieties of the whale. As the external difference between them
is mainly observable in their heads; and as a head of each is this moment
hanging from the Pequod’s side; and as we may freely go from one to the
other, by merely stepping across the deck:—where, I should like to
know, will you obtain a better chance to study practical cetology than

In the first place, you are struck by the general contrast between these
heads. Both are massive enough in all conscience; but there is a certain
mathematical symmetry in the Sperm Whale’s which the Right Whale’s sadly
lacks. There is more character in the Sperm Whale’s head. As you behold
it, you involuntarily yield the immense superiority to him, in point of
pervading dignity. In the present instance, too, this dignity is
heightened by the pepper and salt colour of his head at the summit, giving
token of advanced age and large experience. In short, he is what the
fishermen technically call a “grey-headed whale.”

Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these heads—namely, the
two most important organs, the eye and the ear. Far back on the side of
the head, and low down, near the angle of either whale’s jaw, if you
narrowly search, you will at last see a lashless eye, which you would
fancy to be a young colt’s eye; so out of all proportion is it to the
magnitude of the head.

Now, from this peculiar sideway position of the whale’s eyes, it is plain
that he can never see an object which is exactly ahead, no more than he
can one exactly astern. In a word, the position of the whale’s eyes
corresponds to that of a man’s ears; and you may fancy, for yourself, how
it would fare with you, did you sideways survey objects through your ears.
You would find that you could only command some thirty degrees of vision
in advance of the straight side-line of sight; and about thirty more
behind it. If your bitterest foe were walking straight towards you, with
dagger uplifted in broad day, you would not be able to see him, any more
than if he were stealing upon you from behind. In a word, you would have
two backs, so to speak; but, at the same time, also, two fronts (side
fronts): for what is it that makes the front of a man—what, indeed,
but his eyes?

Moreover, while in most other animals that I can now think of, the eyes
are so planted as imperceptibly to blend their visual power, so as to
produce one picture and not two to the brain; the peculiar position of the
whale’s eyes, effectually divided as they are by many cubic feet of solid
head, which towers between them like a great mountain separating two lakes
in valleys; this, of course, must wholly separate the impressions which
each independent organ imparts. The whale, therefore, must see one
distinct picture on this side, and another distinct picture on that side;
while all between must be profound darkness and nothingness to him. Man
may, in effect, be said to look out on the world from a sentry-box with
two joined sashes for his window. But with the whale, these two sashes are
separately inserted, making two distinct windows, but sadly impairing the
view. This peculiarity of the whale’s eyes is a thing always to be borne
in mind in the fishery; and to be remembered by the reader in some
subsequent scenes.

A curious and most puzzling question might be started concerning this
visual matter as touching the Leviathan. But I must be content with a
hint. So long as a man’s eyes are open in the light, the act of seeing is
involuntary; that is, he cannot then help mechanically seeing whatever
objects are before him. Nevertheless, any one’s experience will teach him,
that though he can take in an undiscriminating sweep of things at one
glance, it is quite impossible for him, attentively, and completely, to
examine any two things—however large or however small—at one
and the same instant of time; never mind if they lie side by side and
touch each other. But if you now come to separate these two objects, and
surround each by a circle of profound darkness; then, in order to see one
of them, in such a manner as to bring your mind to bear on it, the other
will be utterly excluded from your contemporary consciousness. How is it,
then, with the whale? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must
simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive,
combining, and subtle than man’s, that he can at the same moment of time
attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of him, and
the other in an exactly opposite direction? If he can, then is it as
marvellous a thing in him, as if a man were able simultaneously to go
through the demonstrations of two distinct problems in Euclid. Nor,
strictly investigated, is there any incongruity in this comparison.

It may be but an idle whim, but it has always seemed to me, that the
extraordinary vacillations of movement displayed by some whales when beset
by three or four boats; the timidity and liability to queer frights, so
common to such whales; I think that all this indirectly proceeds from the
helpless perplexity of volition, in which their divided and diametrically
opposite powers of vision must involve them.

But the ear of the whale is full as curious as the eye. If you are an
entire stranger to their race, you might hunt over these two heads for
hours, and never discover that organ. The ear has no external leaf
whatever; and into the hole itself you can hardly insert a quill, so
wondrously minute is it. It is lodged a little behind the eye. With
respect to their ears, this important difference is to be observed between
the sperm whale and the right. While the ear of the former has an external
opening, that of the latter is entirely and evenly covered over with a
membrane, so as to be quite imperceptible from without.

Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world
through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is
smaller than a hare’s? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of
Herschel’s great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of
cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of
hearing? Not at all.—Why then do you try to “enlarge” your mind?
Subtilize it.

Let us now with whatever levers and steam-engines we have at hand, cant
over the sperm whale’s head, that it may lie bottom up; then, ascending by
a ladder to the summit, have a peep down the mouth; and were it not that
the body is now completely separated from it, with a lantern we might
descend into the great Kentucky Mammoth Cave of his stomach. But let us
hold on here by this tooth, and look about us where we are. What a really
beautiful and chaste-looking mouth! from floor to ceiling, lined, or
rather papered with a glistening white membrane, glossy as bridal satins.

But come out now, and look at this portentous lower jaw, which seems like
the long narrow lid of an immense snuff-box, with the hinge at one end,
instead of one side. If you pry it up, so as to get it overhead, and
expose its rows of teeth, it seems a terrific portcullis; and such, alas!
it proves to many a poor wight in the fishery, upon whom these spikes fall
with impaling force. But far more terrible is it to behold, when fathoms
down in the sea, you see some sulky whale, floating there suspended, with
his prodigious jaw, some fifteen feet long, hanging straight down at
right-angles with his body, for all the world like a ship’s jib-boom. This
whale is not dead; he is only dispirited; out of sorts, perhaps;
hypochondriac; and so supine, that the hinges of his jaw have relaxed,
leaving him there in that ungainly sort of plight, a reproach to all his
tribe, who must, no doubt, imprecate lock-jaws upon him.

In most cases this lower jaw—being easily unhinged by a practised
artist—is disengaged and hoisted on deck for the purpose of
extracting the ivory teeth, and furnishing a supply of that hard white
whalebone with which the fishermen fashion all sorts of curious articles,
including canes, umbrella-stocks, and handles to riding-whips.

With a long, weary hoist the jaw is dragged on board, as if it were an
anchor; and when the proper time comes—some few days after the other
work—Queequeg, Daggoo, and Tashtego, being all accomplished
dentists, are set to drawing teeth. With a keen cutting-spade, Queequeg
lances the gums; then the jaw is lashed down to ringbolts, and a tackle
being rigged from aloft, they drag out these teeth, as Michigan oxen drag
stumps of old oaks out of wild wood lands. There are generally forty-two
teeth in all; in old whales, much worn down, but undecayed; nor filled
after our artificial fashion. The jaw is afterwards sawn into slabs, and
piled away like joists for building houses.

CHAPTER 75. The Right Whale’s Head—Contrasted View.

Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right Whale’s

As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale’s head may be compared to a
Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so broadly rounded);
so, at a broad view, the Right Whale’s head bears a rather inelegant
resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe. Two hundred years ago an old
Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a shoemaker’s last. And in this
same last or shoe, that old woman of the nursery tale, with the swarming
brood, might very comfortably be lodged, she and all her progeny.

But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume different
aspects, according to your point of view. If you stand on its summit and
look at these two F-shaped spoutholes, you would take the whole head for
an enormous bass-viol, and these spiracles, the apertures in its
sounding-board. Then, again, if you fix your eye upon this strange,
crested, comb-like incrustation on the top of the mass—this green,
barnacled thing, which the Greenlanders call the “crown,” and the Southern
fishers the “bonnet” of the Right Whale; fixing your eyes solely on this,
you would take the head for the trunk of some huge oak, with a bird’s nest
in its crotch. At any rate, when you watch those live crabs that nestle
here on this bonnet, such an idea will be almost sure to occur to you;
unless, indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the technical term “crown”
also bestowed upon it; in which case you will take great interest in
thinking how this mighty monster is actually a diademed king of the sea,
whose green crown has been put together for him in this marvellous manner.
But if this whale be a king, he is a very sulky looking fellow to grace a
diadem. Look at that hanging lower lip! what a huge sulk and pout is
there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter’s measurement, about twenty feet long
and five feet deep; a sulk and pout that will yield you some 500 gallons
of oil and more.

A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped. The
fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during an important
interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast, when earthquakes caused the
beach to gape. Over this lip, as over a slippery threshold, we now slide
into the mouth. Upon my word were I at Mackinaw, I should take this to be
the inside of an Indian wigwam. Good Lord! is this the road that Jonah
went? The roof is about twelve feet high, and runs to a pretty sharp
angle, as if there were a regular ridge-pole there; while these ribbed,
arched, hairy sides, present us with those wondrous, half vertical,
scimetar-shaped slats of whalebone, say three hundred on a side, which
depending from the upper part of the head or crown bone, form those
Venetian blinds which have elsewhere been cursorily mentioned. The edges
of these bones are fringed with hairy fibres, through which the Right
Whale strains the water, and in whose intricacies he retains the small
fish, when openmouthed he goes through the seas of brit in feeding time.
In the central blinds of bone, as they stand in their natural order, there
are certain curious marks, curves, hollows, and ridges, whereby some
whalemen calculate the creature’s age, as the age of an oak by its
circular rings. Though the certainty of this criterion is far from
demonstrable, yet it has the savor of analogical probability. At any rate,
if we yield to it, we must grant a far greater age to the Right Whale than
at first glance will seem reasonable.

In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies
concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the wondrous
“whiskers” inside of the whale’s mouth;* another, “hogs’ bristles”; a
third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following elegant language:
“There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing on each side of his
upper chop, which arch over his tongue on each side of his mouth.”

*This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker, or
rather a moustache, consisting of a few scattered white hairs on the upper
part of the outer end of the lower jaw. Sometimes these tufts impart a
rather brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn countenance.

As every one knows, these same “hogs’ bristles,” “fins,” “whiskers,”
“blinds,” or whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks and
other stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the demand has long
been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne’s time that the bone was in its
glory, the farthingale being then all the fashion. And as those ancient
dames moved about gaily, though in the jaws of the whale, as you may say;
even so, in a shower, with the like thoughtlessness, do we nowadays fly
under the same jaws for protection; the umbrella being a tent spread over
the same bone.

But now forget all about blinds and whiskers for a moment, and, standing
in the Right Whale’s mouth, look around you afresh. Seeing all these
colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think you
were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand
pipes? For a carpet to the organ we have a rug of the softest Turkey—the
tongue, which is glued, as it were, to the floor of the mouth. It is very
fat and tender, and apt to tear in pieces in hoisting it on deck. This
particular tongue now before us; at a passing glance I should say it was a
six-barreler; that is, it will yield you about that amount of oil.

Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started with—that
the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely different heads.
To sum up, then: in the Right Whale’s there is no great well of sperm; no
ivory teeth at all; no long, slender mandible of a lower jaw, like the
Sperm Whale’s. Nor in the Sperm Whale are there any of those blinds of
bone; no huge lower lip; and scarcely anything of a tongue. Again, the
Right Whale has two external spout-holes, the Sperm Whale only one.

Look your last, now, on these venerable hooded heads, while they yet lie
together; for one will soon sink, unrecorded, in the sea; the other will
not be very long in following.

Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale’s there? It is the same he
died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead seem now faded
away. I think his broad brow to be full of a prairie-like placidity, born
of a speculative indifference as to death. But mark the other head’s
expression. See that amazing lower lip, pressed by accident against the
vessel’s side, so as firmly to embrace the jaw. Does not this whole head
seem to speak of an enormous practical resolution in facing death? This
Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who
might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.

CHAPTER 76. The Battering-Ram.

Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale’s head, I would have you, as
a sensible physiologist, simply—particularly remark its front
aspect, in all its compacted collectedness. I would have you investigate
it now with the sole view of forming to yourself some unexaggerated,
intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram power may be lodged there.
Here is a vital point; for you must either satisfactorily settle this
matter with yourself, or for ever remain an infidel as to one of the most
appalling, but not the less true events, perhaps anywhere to be found in
all recorded history.

You observe that in the ordinary swimming position of the Sperm Whale, the
front of his head presents an almost wholly vertical plane to the water;
you observe that the lower part of that front slopes considerably
backwards, so as to furnish more of a retreat for the long socket which
receives the boom-like lower jaw; you observe that the mouth is entirely
under the head, much in the same way, indeed, as though your own mouth
were entirely under your chin. Moreover you observe that the whale has no
external nose; and that what nose he has—his spout hole—is on
the top of his head; you observe that his eyes and ears are at the sides
of his head, nearly one third of his entire length from the front.
Wherefore, you must now have perceived that the front of the Sperm Whale’s
head is a dead, blind wall, without a single organ or tender prominence of
any sort whatsoever. Furthermore, you are now to consider that only in the
extreme, lower, backward sloping part of the front of the head, is there
the slightest vestige of bone; and not till you get near twenty feet from
the forehead do you come to the full cranial development. So that this
whole enormous boneless mass is as one wad. Finally, though, as will soon
be revealed, its contents partly comprise the most delicate oil; yet, you
are now to be apprised of the nature of the substance which so impregnably
invests all that apparent effeminacy. In some previous place I have
described to you how the blubber wraps the body of the whale, as the rind
wraps an orange. Just so with the head; but with this difference: about
the head this envelope, though not so thick, is of a boneless toughness,
inestimable by any man who has not handled it. The severest pointed
harpoon, the sharpest lance darted by the strongest human arm, impotently
rebounds from it. It is as though the forehead of the Sperm Whale were
paved with horses’ hoofs. I do not think that any sensation lurks in it.

Bethink yourself also of another thing. When two large, loaded Indiamen
chance to crowd and crush towards each other in the docks, what do the
sailors do? They do not suspend between them, at the point of coming
contact, any merely hard substance, like iron or wood. No, they hold there
a large, round wad of tow and cork, enveloped in the thickest and toughest
of ox-hide. That bravely and uninjured takes the jam which would have
snapped all their oaken handspikes and iron crow-bars. By itself this
sufficiently illustrates the obvious fact I drive at. But supplementary to
this, it has hypothetically occurred to me, that as ordinary fish possess
what is called a swimming bladder in them, capable, at will, of distension
or contraction; and as the Sperm Whale, as far as I know, has no such
provision in him; considering, too, the otherwise inexplicable manner in
which he now depresses his head altogether beneath the surface, and anon
swims with it high elevated out of the water; considering the unobstructed
elasticity of its envelope; considering the unique interior of his head;
it has hypothetically occurred to me, I say, that those mystical
lung-celled honeycombs there may possibly have some hitherto unknown and
unsuspected connexion with the outer air, so as to be susceptible to
atmospheric distension and contraction. If this be so, fancy the
irresistibleness of that might, to which the most impalpable and
destructive of all elements contributes.

Now, mark. Unerringly impelling this dead, impregnable, uninjurable wall,
and this most buoyant thing within; there swims behind it all a mass of
tremendous life, only to be adequately estimated as piled wood is—by
the cord; and all obedient to one volition, as the smallest insect. So
that when I shall hereafter detail to you all the specialities and
concentrations of potency everywhere lurking in this expansive monster;
when I shall show you some of his more inconsiderable braining feats; I
trust you will have renounced all ignorant incredulity, and be ready to
abide by this; that though the Sperm Whale stove a passage through the
Isthmus of Darien, and mixed the Atlantic with the Pacific, you would not
elevate one hair of your eye-brow. For unless you own the whale, you are
but a provincial and sentimentalist in Truth. But clear Truth is a thing
for salamander giants only to encounter; how small the chances for the
provincials then? What befell the weakling youth lifting the dread
goddess’s veil at Lais?

CHAPTER 77. The Great Heidelburgh Tun.

Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it aright, you must
know something of the curious internal structure of the thing operated

Regarding the Sperm Whale’s head as a solid oblong, you may, on an
inclined plane, sideways divide it into two quoins,* whereof the lower is
the bony structure, forming the cranium and jaws, and the upper an
unctuous mass wholly free from bones; its broad forward end forming the
expanded vertical apparent forehead of the whale. At the middle of the
forehead horizontally subdivide this upper quoin, and then you have two
almost equal parts, which before were naturally divided by an internal
wall of a thick tendinous substance.

*Quoin is not a Euclidean term. It belongs to the pure nautical
mathematics. I know not that it has been defined before. A quoin is a
solid which differs from a wedge in having its sharp end formed by the
steep inclination of one side, instead of the mutual tapering of both

The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense honeycomb of
oil, formed by the crossing and recrossing, into ten thousand infiltrated
cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole extent. The
upper part, known as the Case, may be regarded as the great Heidelburgh
Tun of the Sperm Whale. And as that famous great tierce is mystically
carved in front, so the whale’s vast plaited forehead forms innumerable
strange devices for the emblematical adornment of his wondrous tun.
Moreover, as that of Heidelburgh was always replenished with the most
excellent of the wines of the Rhenish valleys, so the tun of the whale
contains by far the most precious of all his oily vintages; namely, the
highly-prized spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous
state. Nor is this precious substance found unalloyed in any other part of
the creature. Though in life it remains perfectly fluid, yet, upon
exposure to the air, after death, it soon begins to concrete; sending
forth beautiful crystalline shoots, as when the first thin delicate ice is
just forming in water. A large whale’s case generally yields about five
hundred gallons of sperm, though from unavoidable circumstances,
considerable of it is spilled, leaks, and dribbles away, or is otherwise
irrevocably lost in the ticklish business of securing what you can.

I know not with what fine and costly material the Heidelburgh Tun was
coated within, but in superlative richness that coating could not possibly
have compared with the silken pearl-coloured membrane, like the lining of
a fine pelisse, forming the inner surface of the Sperm Whale’s case.

It will have been seen that the Heidelburgh Tun of the Sperm Whale
embraces the entire length of the entire top of the head; and since—as
has been elsewhere set forth—the head embraces one third of the
whole length of the creature, then setting that length down at eighty feet
for a good sized whale, you have more than twenty-six feet for the depth
of the tun, when it is lengthwise hoisted up and down against a ship’s

As in decapitating the whale, the operator’s instrument is brought close
to the spot where an entrance is subsequently forced into the spermaceti
magazine; he has, therefore, to be uncommonly heedful, lest a careless,
untimely stroke should invade the sanctuary and wastingly let out its
invaluable contents. It is this decapitated end of the head, also, which
is at last elevated out of the water, and retained in that position by the
enormous cutting tackles, whose hempen combinations, on one side, make
quite a wilderness of ropes in that quarter.

Thus much being said, attend now, I pray you, to that marvellous and—in
this particular instance—almost fatal operation whereby the Sperm
Whale’s great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped.

CHAPTER 78. Cistern and Buckets.

Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft; and without altering his erect
posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging mainyard-arm, to the part
where it exactly projects over the hoisted Tun. He has carried with him a
light tackle called a whip, consisting of only two parts, travelling
through a single-sheaved block. Securing this block, so that it hangs down
from the yard-arm, he swings one end of the rope, till it is caught and
firmly held by a hand on deck. Then, hand-over-hand, down the other part,
the Indian drops through the air, till dexterously he lands on the summit
of the head. There—still high elevated above the rest of the
company, to whom he vivaciously cries—he seems some Turkish Muezzin
calling the good people to prayers from the top of a tower. A
short-handled sharp spade being sent up to him, he diligently searches for
the proper place to begin breaking into the Tun. In this business he
proceeds very heedfully, like a treasure-hunter in some old house,
sounding the walls to find where the gold is masoned in. By the time this
cautious search is over, a stout iron-bound bucket, precisely like a
well-bucket, has been attached to one end of the whip; while the other
end, being stretched across the deck, is there held by two or three alert
hands. These last now hoist the bucket within grasp of the Indian, to whom
another person has reached up a very long pole. Inserting this pole into
the bucket, Tashtego downward guides the bucket into the Tun, till it
entirely disappears; then giving the word to the seamen at the whip, up
comes the bucket again, all bubbling like a dairy-maid’s pail of new milk.
Carefully lowered from its height, the full-freighted vessel is caught by
an appointed hand, and quickly emptied into a large tub. Then remounting
aloft, it again goes through the same round until the deep cistern will
yield no more. Towards the end, Tashtego has to ram his long pole harder
and harder, and deeper and deeper into the Tun, until some twenty feet of
the pole have gone down.

Now, the people of the Pequod had been baling some time in this way;
several tubs had been filled with the fragrant sperm; when all at once a
queer accident happened. Whether it was that Tashtego, that wild Indian,
was so heedless and reckless as to let go for a moment his one-handed hold
on the great cabled tackles suspending the head; or whether the place
where he stood was so treacherous and oozy; or whether the Evil One
himself would have it to fall out so, without stating his particular
reasons; how it was exactly, there is no telling now; but, on a sudden, as
the eightieth or ninetieth bucket came suckingly up—my God! poor
Tashtego—like the twin reciprocating bucket in a veritable well,
dropped head-foremost down into this great Tun of Heidelburgh, and with a
horrible oily gurgling, went clean out of sight!

“Man overboard!” cried Daggoo, who amid the general consternation first
came to his senses. “Swing the bucket this way!” and putting one foot into
it, so as the better to secure his slippery hand-hold on the whip itself,
the hoisters ran him high up to the top of the head, almost before
Tashtego could have reached its interior bottom. Meantime, there was a
terrible tumult. Looking over the side, they saw the before lifeless head
throbbing and heaving just below the surface of the sea, as if that moment
seized with some momentous idea; whereas it was only the poor Indian
unconsciously revealing by those struggles the perilous depth to which he
had sunk.

At this instant, while Daggoo, on the summit of the head, was clearing the
whip—which had somehow got foul of the great cutting tackles—a
sharp cracking noise was heard; and to the unspeakable horror of all, one
of the two enormous hooks suspending the head tore out, and with a vast
vibration the enormous mass sideways swung, till the drunk ship reeled and
shook as if smitten by an iceberg. The one remaining hook, upon which the
entire strain now depended, seemed every instant to be on the point of
giving way; an event still more likely from the violent motions of the

“Come down, come down!” yelled the seamen to Daggoo, but with one hand
holding on to the heavy tackles, so that if the head should drop, he would
still remain suspended; the negro having cleared the foul line, rammed
down the bucket into the now collapsed well, meaning that the buried
harpooneer should grasp it, and so be hoisted out.

“In heaven’s name, man,” cried Stubb, “are you ramming home a cartridge
there?—Avast! How will that help him; jamming that iron-bound bucket
on top of his head? Avast, will ye!”

“Stand clear of the tackle!” cried a voice like the bursting of a rocket.

Almost in the same instant, with a thunder-boom, the enormous mass dropped
into the sea, like Niagara’s Table-Rock into the whirlpool; the suddenly
relieved hull rolled away from it, to far down her glittering copper; and
all caught their breath, as half swinging—now over the sailors’
heads, and now over the water—Daggoo, through a thick mist of spray,
was dimly beheld clinging to the pendulous tackles, while poor,
buried-alive Tashtego was sinking utterly down to the bottom of the sea!
But hardly had the blinding vapor cleared away, when a naked figure with
a boarding-sword in his hand, was for one swift moment seen hovering over
the bulwarks. The next, a loud splash announced that my brave Queequeg had
dived to the rescue. One packed rush was made to the side, and every eye
counted every ripple, as moment followed moment, and no sign of either the
sinker or the diver could be seen. Some hands now jumped into a boat
alongside, and pushed a little off from the ship.

“Ha! ha!” cried Daggoo, all at once, from his now quiet, swinging perch
overhead; and looking further off from the side, we saw an arm thrust
upright from the blue waves; a sight strange to see, as an arm thrust
forth from the grass over a grave.

“Both! both!—it is both!”—cried Daggoo again with a joyful
shout; and soon after, Queequeg was seen boldly striking out with one
hand, and with the other clutching the long hair of the Indian. Drawn into
the waiting boat, they were quickly brought to the deck; but Tashtego was
long in coming to, and Queequeg did not look very brisk.

Now, how had this noble rescue been accomplished? Why, diving after the
slowly descending head, Queequeg with his keen sword had made side lunges
near its bottom, so as to scuttle a large hole there; then dropping his
sword, had thrust his long arm far inwards and upwards, and so hauled out
poor Tash by the head. He averred, that upon first thrusting in for him, a
leg was presented; but well knowing that that was not as it ought to be,
and might occasion great trouble;—he had thrust back the leg, and by
a dexterous heave and toss, had wrought a somerset upon the Indian; so
that with the next trial, he came forth in the good old way—head
foremost. As for the great head itself, that was doing as well as could be

And thus, through the courage and great skill in obstetrics of Queequeg,
the deliverance, or rather, delivery of Tashtego, was successfully
accomplished, in the teeth, too, of the most untoward and apparently
hopeless impediments; which is a lesson by no means to be forgotten.
Midwifery should be taught in the same course with fencing and boxing,
riding and rowing.

I know that this queer adventure of the Gay-Header’s will be sure to seem
incredible to some landsmen, though they themselves may have either seen
or heard of some one’s falling into a cistern ashore; an accident which
not seldom happens, and with much less reason too than the Indian’s,
considering the exceeding slipperiness of the curb of the Sperm Whale’s

But, peradventure, it may be sagaciously urged, how is this? We thought
the tissued, infiltrated head of the Sperm Whale, was the lightest and
most corky part about him; and yet thou makest it sink in an element of a
far greater specific gravity than itself. We have thee there. Not at all,
but I have ye; for at the time poor Tash fell in, the case had been nearly
emptied of its lighter contents, leaving little but the dense tendinous
wall of the well—a double welded, hammered substance, as I have
before said, much heavier than the sea water, and a lump of which sinks in
it like lead almost. But the tendency to rapid sinking in this substance
was in the present instance materially counteracted by the other parts of
the head remaining undetached from it, so that it sank very slowly and
deliberately indeed, affording Queequeg a fair chance for performing his
agile obstetrics on the run, as you may say. Yes, it was a running
delivery, so it was.

Now, had Tashtego perished in that head, it had been a very precious
perishing; smothered in the very whitest and daintiest of fragrant
spermaceti; coffined, hearsed, and tombed in the secret inner chamber and
sanctum sanctorum of the whale. Only one sweeter end can readily be
recalled—the delicious death of an Ohio honey-hunter, who seeking
honey in the crotch of a hollow tree, found such exceeding store of it,
that leaning too far over, it sucked him in, so that he died embalmed. How
many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato’s honey head, and sweetly
perished there?

CHAPTER 79. The Prairie.

To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of this
Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist has as
yet undertaken. Such an enterprise would seem almost as hopeful as for
Lavater to have scrutinized the wrinkles on the Rock of Gibraltar, or for
Gall to have mounted a ladder and manipulated the Dome of the Pantheon.
Still, in that famous work of his, Lavater not only treats of the various
faces of men, but also attentively studies the faces of horses, birds,
serpents, and fish; and dwells in detail upon the modifications of
expression discernible therein. Nor have Gall and his disciple Spurzheim
failed to throw out some hints touching the phrenological characteristics
of other beings than man. Therefore, though I am but ill qualified for a
pioneer, in the application of these two semi-sciences to the whale, I
will do my endeavor. I try all things; I achieve what I can.

Physiognomically regarded, the Sperm Whale is an anomalous creature. He
has no proper nose. And since the nose is the central and most conspicuous
of the features; and since it perhaps most modifies and finally controls
their combined expression; hence it would seem that its entire absence, as
an external appendage, must very largely affect the countenance of the
whale. For as in landscape gardening, a spire, cupola, monument, or tower
of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable to the completion of the
scene; so no face can be physiognomically in keeping without the elevated
open-work belfry of the nose. Dash the nose from Phidias’s marble Jove,
and what a sorry remainder! Nevertheless, Leviathan is of so mighty a
magnitude, all his proportions are so stately, that the same deficiency
which in the sculptured Jove were hideous, in him is no blemish at all.
Nay, it is an added grandeur. A nose to the whale would have been
impertinent. As on your physiognomical voyage you sail round his vast head
in your jolly-boat, your noble conceptions of him are never insulted by
the reflection that he has a nose to be pulled. A pestilent conceit, which
so often will insist upon obtruding even when beholding the mightiest
royal beadle on his throne.

In some particulars, perhaps the most imposing physiognomical view to be
had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full front of his head. This aspect
is sublime.

In thought, a fine human brow is like the East when troubled with the
morning. In the repose of the pasture, the curled brow of the bull has a
touch of the grand in it. Pushing heavy cannon up mountain defiles, the
elephant’s brow is majestic. Human or animal, the mystical brow is as that
great golden seal affixed by the German emperors to their decrees. 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

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 can.

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

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 world.

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 vertebræ to a strung necklace of
dwarfed skulls, all bearing rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It
is a German conceit, that the vertebræ 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 vertebræ 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 vertebræ 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

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 vertebræ, 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 know.

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 honor 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 vapors 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

“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

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

In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the three boats sent
down beneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad enough to
shade half Xerxes’ army. Who can tell how appalling to the wounded whale
must have been such huge phantoms flitting over his head!

“Stand by, men; he stirs,” cried Starbuck, as the three lines suddenly
vibrated in the water, distinctly conducting upwards to them, as by
magnetic wires, the life and death throbs of the whale, so that every
oarsman felt them in his seat. The next moment, relieved in great part
from the downward strain at the bows, the boats gave a sudden bounce
upwards, as a small icefield will, when a dense herd of white bears are
scared from it into the sea.

“Haul in! Haul in!” cried Starbuck again; “he’s rising.”

The lines, of which, hardly an instant before, not one hand’s breadth
could have been gained, were now in long quick coils flung back all
dripping into the boats, and soon the whale broke water within two ship’s
lengths of the hunters.

His motions plainly denoted his extreme exhaustion. In most land animals
there are certain valves or flood-gates in many of their veins, whereby
when wounded, the blood is in some degree at least instantly shut off in
certain directions. Not so with the whale; one of whose peculiarities it
is to have an entire non-valvular structure of the blood-vessels, so that
when pierced even by so small a point as a harpoon, a deadly drain is at
once begun upon his whole arterial system; and when this is heightened by
the extraordinary pressure of water at a great distance below the surface,
his life may be said to pour from him in incessant streams. Yet so vast is
the quantity of blood in him, and so distant and numerous its interior
fountains, that he will keep thus bleeding and bleeding for a considerable
period; even as in a drought a river will flow, whose source is in the
well-springs of far-off and undiscernible hills. Even now, when the boats
pulled upon this whale, and perilously drew over his swaying flukes, and
the lances were darted into him, they were followed by steady jets from
the new made wound, which kept continually playing, while the natural
spout-hole in his head was only at intervals, however rapid, sending its
affrighted moisture into the air. From this last vent no blood yet came,
because no vital part of him had thus far been struck. His life, as they
significantly call it, was untouched.

As the boats now more closely surrounded him, the whole upper part of his
form, with much of it that is ordinarily submerged, was plainly revealed.
His eyes, or rather the places where his eyes had been, were beheld. As
strange misgrown masses gather in the knot-holes of the noblest oaks when
prostrate, so from the points which the whale’s eyes had once occupied,
now protruded blind bulbs, horribly pitiable to see. But pity there was
none. For all his old age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must
die the death and be murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other
merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that
preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all. Still rolling in his
blood, at last he partially disclosed a strangely discoloured bunch or
protuberance, the size of a bushel, low down on the flank.

“A nice spot,” cried Flask; “just let me prick him there once.”

“Avast!” cried Starbuck, “there’s no need of that!”

But humane Starbuck was too late. At the instant of the dart an ulcerous
jet shot from this cruel wound, and goaded by it into more than sufferable
anguish, the whale now spouting thick blood, with swift fury blindly
darted at the craft, bespattering them and their glorying crews all over
with showers of gore, capsizing Flask’s boat and marring the bows. It was
his death stroke. For, by this time, so spent was he by loss of blood,
that he helplessly rolled away from the wreck he had made; lay panting on
his side, impotently flapped with his stumped fin, then over and over
slowly revolved like a waning world; turned up the white secrets of his
belly; lay like a log, and died. It was most piteous, that last expiring
spout. As when by unseen hands the water is gradually drawn off from some
mighty fountain, and with half-stifled melancholy gurglings the
spray-column lowers and lowers to the ground—so the last long dying
spout of the whale.

Soon, while the crews were awaiting the arrival of the ship, the body
showed symptoms of sinking with all its treasures unrifled. Immediately,
by Starbuck’s orders, lines were secured to it at different points, so
that ere long every boat was a buoy; the sunken whale being suspended a
few inches beneath them by the cords. By very heedful management, when the
ship drew nigh, the whale was transferred to her side, and was strongly
secured there by the stiffest fluke-chains, for it was plain that unless
artificially upheld, the body would at once sink to the bottom.

It so chanced that almost upon first cutting into him with the spade, the
entire length of a corroded harpoon was found imbedded in his flesh, on
the lower part of the bunch before described. But as the stumps of
harpoons are frequently found in the dead bodies of captured whales, with
the flesh perfectly healed around them, and no prominence of any kind to
denote their place; therefore, there must needs have been some other
unknown reason in the present case fully to account for the ulceration
alluded to. But still more curious was the fact of a lance-head of stone
being found in him, not far from the buried iron, the flesh perfectly firm
about it. Who had darted that stone lance? And when? It might have been
darted by some Nor’ West Indian long before America was discovered.

What other marvels might have been rummaged out of this monstrous cabinet
there is no telling. But a sudden stop was put to further discoveries, by
the ship’s being unprecedentedly dragged over sideways to the sea, owing
to the body’s immensely increasing tendency to sink. However, Starbuck,
who had the ordering of affairs, hung on to it to the last; hung on to it
so resolutely, indeed, that when at length the ship would have been
capsized, if still persisting in locking arms with the body; then, when
the command was given to break clear from it, such was the immovable
strain upon the timber-heads to which the fluke-chains and cables were
fastened, that it was impossible to cast them off. Meantime everything in
the Pequod was aslant. To cross to the other side of the deck was like
walking up the steep gabled roof of a house. The ship groaned and gasped.
Many of the ivory inlayings of her bulwarks and cabins were started from
their places, by the unnatural dislocation. In vain handspikes and crows
were brought to bear upon the immovable fluke-chains, to pry them adrift
from the timberheads; and so low had the whale now settled that the
submerged ends could not be at all approached, while every moment whole
tons of ponderosity seemed added to the sinking bulk, and the ship seemed
on the point of going over.

“Hold on, hold on, won’t ye?” cried Stubb to the body, “don’t be in such a
devil of a hurry to sink! By thunder, men, we must do something or go for
it. No use prying there; avast, I say with your handspikes, and run one of
ye for a prayer book and a pen-knife, and cut the big chains.”

“Knife? Aye, aye,” cried Queequeg, and seizing the carpenter’s heavy
hatchet, he leaned out of a porthole, and steel to iron, began slashing at
the largest fluke-chains. But a few strokes, full of sparks, were given,
when the exceeding strain effected the rest. With a terrific snap, every
fastening went adrift; the ship righted, the carcase sank.

Now, this occasional inevitable sinking of the recently killed Sperm Whale
is a very curious thing; nor has any fisherman yet adequately accounted
for it. Usually the dead Sperm Whale floats with great buoyancy, with its
side or belly considerably elevated above the surface. If the only whales
that thus sank were old, meagre, and broken-hearted creatures, their pads
of lard diminished and all their bones heavy and rheumatic; then you might
with some reason assert that this sinking is caused by an uncommon
specific gravity in the fish so sinking, consequent upon this absence of
buoyant matter in him. But it is not so. For young whales, in the highest
health, and swelling with noble aspirations, prematurely cut off in the
warm flush and May of life, with all their panting lard about them; even
these brawny, buoyant heroes do sometimes sink.

Be it said, however, that the Sperm Whale is far less liable to this
accident than any other species. Where one of that sort go down, twenty
Right Whales do. This difference in the species is no doubt imputable in
no small degree to the greater quantity of bone in the Right Whale; his
Venetian blinds alone sometimes weighing more than a ton; from this
incumbrance the Sperm Whale is wholly free. But there are instances where,
after the lapse of many hours or several days, the sunken whale again
rises, more buoyant than in life. But the reason of this is obvious. Gases
are generated in him; he swells to a prodigious magnitude; becomes a sort
of animal balloon. A line-of-battle ship could hardly keep him under then.
In the Shore Whaling, on soundings, among the Bays of New Zealand, when a
Right Whale gives token of sinking, they fasten buoys to him, with plenty
of rope; so that when the body has gone down, they know where to look for
it when it shall have ascended again.

It was not long after the sinking of the body that a cry was heard from
the Pequod’s mast-heads, announcing that the Jungfrau was again lowering
her boats; though the only spout in sight was that of a Fin-Back,
belonging to the species of uncapturable whales, because of its incredible
power of swimming. Nevertheless, the Fin-Back’s spout is so similar to the
Sperm Whale’s, that by unskilful fishermen it is often mistaken for it.
And consequently Derick and all his host were now in valiant chase of this
unnearable brute. The Virgin crowding all sail, made after her four young
keels, and thus they all disappeared far to leeward, still in bold,
hopeful chase.

Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend.

CHAPTER 82. The Honor and Glory of Whaling.

There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true

The more I dive into this matter of whaling, and push my researches up to
the very spring-head of it so much the more am I impressed with its great
honorableness and antiquity; and especially when I find so many great
demi-gods and heroes, prophets of all sorts, who one way or other have
shed distinction upon it, I am transported with the reflection that I
myself belong, though but subordinately, to so emblazoned a fraternity.

The gallant Perseus, a son of Jupiter, was the first whaleman; and to the
eternal honor of our calling be it said, that the first whale attacked by
our brotherhood was not killed with any sordid intent. Those were the
knightly days of our profession, when we only bore arms to succor the
distressed, and not to fill men’s lamp-feeders. Every one knows the fine
story of Perseus and Andromeda; how the lovely Andromeda, the daughter of
a king, was tied to a rock on the sea-coast, and as Leviathan was in the
very act of carrying her off, Perseus, the prince of whalemen, intrepidly
advancing, harpooned the monster, and delivered and married the maid. It
was an admirable artistic exploit, rarely achieved by the best harpooneers
of the present day; inasmuch as this Leviathan was slain at the very first
dart. And let no man doubt this Arkite story; for in the ancient Joppa,
now Jaffa, on the Syrian coast, in one of the Pagan temples, there stood
for many ages the vast skeleton of a whale, which the city’s legends and
all the inhabitants asserted to be the identical bones of the monster that
Perseus slew. When the Romans took Joppa, the same skeleton was carried to
Italy in triumph. What seems most singular and suggestively important in
this story, is this: it was from Joppa that Jonah set sail.

Akin to the adventure of Perseus and Andromeda—indeed, by some
supposed to be indirectly derived from it—is that famous story of
St. George and the Dragon; which dragon I maintain to have been a whale;
for in many old chronicles whales and dragons are strangely jumbled
together, and often stand for each other. “Thou art as a lion of the
waters, and as a dragon of the sea,” saith Ezekiel; hereby, plainly
meaning a whale; in truth, some versions of the Bible use that word
itself. Besides, it would much subtract from the glory of the exploit had
St. George but encountered a crawling reptile of the land, instead of
doing battle with the great monster of the deep. Any man may kill a snake,
but only a Perseus, a St. George, a Coffin, have the heart in them to
march boldly up to a whale.

Let not the modern paintings of this scene mislead us; for though the
creature encountered by that valiant whaleman of old is vaguely
represented of a griffin-like shape, and though the battle is depicted on
land and the saint on horseback, yet considering the great ignorance of
those times, when the true form of the whale was unknown to artists; and
considering that as in Perseus’ case, St. George’s whale might have
crawled up out of the sea on the beach; and considering that the animal
ridden by St. George might have been only a large seal, or sea-horse;
bearing all this in mind, it will not appear altogether incompatible with
the sacred legend and the ancientest draughts of the scene, to hold this
so-called dragon no other than the great Leviathan himself. In fact,
placed before the strict and piercing truth, this whole story will fare
like that fish, flesh, and fowl idol of the Philistines, Dagon by name;
who being planted before the ark of Israel, his horse’s head and both the
palms of his hands fell off from him, and only the stump or fishy part of
him remained. Thus, then, one of our own noble stamp, even a whaleman, is
the tutelary guardian of England; and by good rights, we harpooneers of
Nantucket should be enrolled in the most noble order of St. George. And
therefore, let not the knights of that honorable company (none of whom, I
venture to say, have ever had to do with a whale like their great patron),
let them never eye a Nantucketer with disdain, since even in our woollen
frocks and tarred trowsers we are much better entitled to St. George’s
decoration than they.

Whether to admit Hercules among us or not, concerning this I long remained
dubious: for though according to the Greek mythologies, that antique
Crockett and Kit Carson—that brawny doer of rejoicing good deeds,
was swallowed down and thrown up by a whale; still, whether that strictly
makes a whaleman of him, that might be mooted. It nowhere appears that he
ever actually harpooned his fish, unless, indeed, from the inside.
Nevertheless, he may be deemed a sort of involuntary whaleman; at any rate
the whale caught him, if he did not the whale. I claim him for one of our

But, by the best contradictory authorities, this Grecian story of Hercules
and the whale is considered to be derived from the still more ancient
Hebrew story of Jonah and the whale; and vice versâ; certainly they are
very similar. If I claim the demi-god then, why not the prophet?

Nor do heroes, saints, demigods, and prophets alone comprise the whole
roll of our order. Our grand master is still to be named; for like royal
kings of old times, we find the head waters of our fraternity in nothing
short of the great gods themselves. That wondrous oriental story is now to
be rehearsed from the Shaster, which gives us the dread Vishnoo, one of
the three persons in the godhead of the Hindoos; gives us this divine
Vishnoo himself for our Lord;—Vishnoo, who, by the first of his ten
earthly incarnations, has for ever set apart and sanctified the whale.
When Brahma, or the God of Gods, saith the Shaster, resolved to recreate
the world after one of its periodical dissolutions, he gave birth to
Vishnoo, to preside over the work; but the Vedas, or mystical books, whose
perusal would seem to have been indispensable to Vishnoo before beginning
the creation, and which therefore must have contained something in the
shape of practical hints to young architects, these Vedas were lying at
the bottom of the waters; so Vishnoo became incarnate in a whale, and
sounding down in him to the uttermost depths, rescued the sacred volumes.
Was not this Vishnoo a whaleman, then? even as a man who rides a horse is
called a horseman?

Perseus, St. George, Hercules, Jonah, and Vishnoo! there’s a member-roll
for you! What club but the whaleman’s can head off like that?

CHAPTER 83. Jonah Historically Regarded.

Reference was made to the historical story of Jonah and the whale in the
preceding chapter. Now some Nantucketers rather distrust this historical
story of Jonah and the whale. But then there were some sceptical Greeks
and Romans, who, standing out from the orthodox pagans of their times,
equally doubted the story of Hercules and the whale, and Arion and the
dolphin; and yet their doubting those traditions did not make those
traditions one whit the less facts, for all that.

One old Sag-Harbor whaleman’s chief reason for questioning the Hebrew
story was this:—He had one of those quaint old-fashioned Bibles,
embellished with curious, unscientific plates; one of which represented
Jonah’s whale with two spouts in his head—a peculiarity only true
with respect to a species of the Leviathan (the Right Whale, and the
varieties of that order), concerning which the fishermen have this saying,
“A penny roll would choke him”; his swallow is so very small. But, to
this, Bishop Jebb’s anticipative answer is ready. It is not necessary,
hints the Bishop, that we consider Jonah as tombed in the whale’s belly,
but as temporarily lodged in some part of his mouth. And this seems
reasonable enough in the good Bishop. For truly, the Right Whale’s mouth
would accommodate a couple of whist-tables, and comfortably seat all the
players. Possibly, too, Jonah might have ensconced himself in a hollow
tooth; but, on second thoughts, the Right Whale is toothless.

Another reason which Sag-Harbor (he went by that name) urged for his want
of faith in this matter of the prophet, was something obscurely in
reference to his incarcerated body and the whale’s gastric juices. But
this objection likewise falls to the ground, because a German exegetist
supposes that Jonah must have taken refuge in the floating body of a dead
whale—even as the French soldiers in the Russian campaign turned
their dead horses into tents, and crawled into them. Besides, it has been
divined by other continental commentators, that when Jonah was thrown
overboard from the Joppa ship, he straightway effected his escape to
another vessel near by, some vessel with a whale for a figure-head; and, I
would add, possibly called “The Whale,” as some craft are nowadays
christened the “Shark,” the “Gull,” the “Eagle.” Nor have there been
wanting learned exegetists who have opined that the whale mentioned in the
book of Jonah merely meant a life-preserver—an inflated bag of wind—which
the endangered prophet swam to, and so was saved from a watery doom. Poor
Sag-Harbor, therefore, seems worsted all round. But he had still another
reason for his want of faith. It was this, if I remember right: Jonah was
swallowed by the whale in the Mediterranean Sea, and after three days he
was vomited up somewhere within three days’ journey of Nineveh, a city on
the Tigris, very much more than three days’ journey across from the
nearest point of the Mediterranean coast. How is that?

But was there no other way for the whale to land the prophet within that
short distance of Nineveh? Yes. He might have carried him round by the way
of the Cape of Good Hope. But not to speak of the passage through the
whole length of the Mediterranean, and another passage up the Persian Gulf
and Red Sea, such a supposition would involve the complete
circumnavigation of all Africa in three days, not to speak of the Tigris
waters, near the site of Nineveh, being too shallow for any whale to swim
in. Besides, this idea of Jonah’s weathering the Cape of Good Hope at so
early a day would wrest the honor of the discovery of that great headland
from Bartholomew Diaz, its reputed discoverer, and so make modern history
a liar.

But all these foolish arguments of old Sag-Harbor only evinced his foolish
pride of reason—a thing still more reprehensible in him, seeing that
he had but little learning except what he had picked up from the sun and
the sea. I say it only shows his foolish, impious pride, and abominable,
devilish rebellion against the reverend clergy. For by a Portuguese
Catholic priest, this very idea of Jonah’s going to Nineveh via the Cape
of Good Hope was advanced as a signal magnification of the general
miracle. And so it was. Besides, to this day, the highly enlightened Turks
devoutly believe in the historical story of Jonah. And some three
centuries ago, an English traveller in old Harris’s Voyages, speaks of a
Turkish Mosque built in honor of Jonah, in which Mosque was a miraculous
lamp that burnt without any oil.

CHAPTER 84. Pitchpoling.

To make them run easily and swiftly, the axles of carriages are anointed;
and for much the same purpose, some whalers perform an analogous operation
upon their boat; they grease the bottom. Nor is it to be doubted that as
such a procedure can do no harm, it may possibly be of no contemptible
advantage; considering that oil and water are hostile; that oil is a
sliding thing, and that the object in view is to make the boat slide
bravely. Queequeg believed strongly in anointing his boat, and one morning
not long after the German ship Jungfrau disappeared, took more than
customary pains in that occupation; crawling under its bottom, where it
hung over the side, and rubbing in the unctuousness as though diligently
seeking to insure a crop of hair from the craft’s bald keel. He seemed to
be working in obedience to some particular presentiment. Nor did it remain
unwarranted by the event.

Towards noon whales were raised; but so soon as the ship sailed down to
them, they turned and fled with swift precipitancy; a disordered flight,
as of Cleopatra’s barges from Actium.

Nevertheless, the boats pursued, and Stubb’s was foremost. By great
exertion, Tashtego at last succeeded in planting one iron; but the
stricken whale, without at all sounding, still continued his horizontal
flight, with added fleetness. Such unintermitted strainings upon the
planted iron must sooner or later inevitably extract it. It became
imperative to lance the flying whale, or be content to lose him. But to
haul the boat up to his flank was impossible, he swam so fast and furious.
What then remained?

Of all the wondrous devices and dexterities, the sleights of hand and
countless subtleties, to which the veteran whaleman is so often forced,
none exceed that fine manœuvre with the lance called pitchpoling. Small
sword, or broad sword, in all its exercises boasts nothing like it. It is
only indispensable with an inveterate running whale; its grand fact and
feature is the wonderful distance to which the long lance is accurately
darted from a violently rocking, jerking boat, under extreme headway.
Steel and wood included, the entire spear is some ten or twelve feet in
length; the staff is much slighter than that of the harpoon, and also of a
lighter material—pine. It is furnished with a small rope called a
warp, of considerable length, by which it can be hauled back to the hand
after darting.

But before going further, it is important to mention here, that though the
harpoon may be pitchpoled in the same way with the lance, yet it is seldom
done; and when done, is still less frequently successful, on account of
the greater weight and inferior length of the harpoon as compared with the
lance, which in effect become serious drawbacks. As a general thing,
therefore, you must first get fast to a whale, before any pitchpoling
comes into play.

Look now at Stubb; a man who from his humorous, deliberate coolness and
equanimity in the direst emergencies, was specially qualified to excel in
pitchpoling. Look at him; he stands upright in the tossed bow of the
flying boat; wrapt in fleecy foam, the towing whale is forty feet ahead.
Handling the long lance lightly, glancing twice or thrice along its length
to see if it be exactly straight, Stubb whistlingly gathers up the coil of
the warp in one hand, so as to secure its free end in his grasp, leaving
the rest unobstructed. Then holding the lance full before his waistband’s
middle, he levels it at the whale; when, covering him with it, he steadily
depresses the butt-end in his hand, thereby elevating the point till the
weapon stands fairly balanced upon his palm, fifteen feet in the air. He
minds you somewhat of a juggler, balancing a long staff on his chin. Next
moment with a rapid, nameless impulse, in a superb lofty arch the bright
steel spans the foaming distance, and quivers in the life spot of the
whale. Instead of sparkling water, he now spouts red blood.

“That drove the spigot out of him!” cried Stubb. “’Tis July’s immortal
Fourth; all fountains must run wine today! Would now, it were old Orleans
whiskey, or old Ohio, or unspeakable old Monongahela! Then, Tashtego, lad,
I’d have ye hold a canakin to the jet, and we’d drink round it! Yea,
verily, hearts alive, we’d brew choice punch in the spread of his
spout-hole there, and from that live punch-bowl quaff the living stuff.”

Again and again to such gamesome talk, the dexterous dart is repeated, the
spear returning to its master like a greyhound held in skilful leash. The
agonized whale goes into his flurry; the tow-line is slackened, and the
pitchpoler dropping astern, folds his hands, and mutely watches the
monster die.

CHAPTER 85. The Fountain.

That for six thousand years—and no one knows how many millions of
ages before—the great whales should have been spouting all over the
sea, and sprinkling and mistifying the gardens of the deep, as with so
many sprinkling or mistifying pots; and that for some centuries back,
thousands of hunters should have been close by the fountain of the whale,
watching these sprinklings and spoutings—that all this should be,
and yet, that down to this blessed minute (fifteen and a quarter minutes
past one o’clock P.M. of this sixteenth day of December, A.D. 1851), it
should still remain a problem, whether these spoutings are, after all,
really water, or nothing but vapor—this is surely a noteworthy

Let us, then, look at this matter, along with some interesting items
contingent. Every one knows that by the peculiar cunning of their gills,
the finny tribes in general breathe the air which at all times is combined
with the element in which they swim; hence, a herring or a cod might live
a century, and never once raise its head above the surface. But owing to
his marked internal structure which gives him regular lungs, like a human
being’s, the whale can only live by inhaling the disengaged air in the
open atmosphere. Wherefore the necessity for his periodical visits to the
upper world. But he cannot in any degree breathe through his mouth, for,
in his ordinary attitude, the Sperm Whale’s mouth is buried at least eight
feet beneath the surface; and what is still more, his windpipe has no
connexion with his mouth. No, he breathes through his spiracle alone; and
this is on the top of his head.

If I say, that in any creature breathing is only a function indispensable
to vitality, inasmuch as it withdraws from the air a certain element,
which being subsequently brought into contact with the blood imparts to
the blood its vivifying principle, I do not think I shall err; though I
may possibly use some superfluous scientific words. Assume it, and it
follows that if all the blood in a man could be aerated with one breath,
he might then seal up his nostrils and not fetch another for a
considerable time. That is to say, he would then live without breathing.
Anomalous as it may seem, this is precisely the case with the whale, who
systematically lives, by intervals, his full hour and more (when at the
bottom) without drawing a single breath, or so much as in any way inhaling
a particle of air; for, remember, he has no gills. How is this? Between
his ribs and on each side of his spine he is supplied with a remarkable
involved Cretan labyrinth of vermicelli-like vessels, which vessels, when
he quits the surface, are completely distended with oxygenated blood. So
that for an hour or more, a thousand fathoms in the sea, he carries a
surplus stock of vitality in him, just as the camel crossing the waterless
desert carries a surplus supply of drink for future use in its four
supplementary stomachs. The anatomical fact of this labyrinth is
indisputable; and that the supposition founded upon it is reasonable and
true, seems the more cogent to me, when I consider the otherwise
inexplicable obstinacy of that leviathan in having his spoutings out, as
the fishermen phrase it. This is what I mean. If unmolested, upon rising
to the surface, the Sperm Whale will continue there for a period of time
exactly uniform with all his other unmolested risings. Say he stays eleven
minutes, and jets seventy times, that is, respires seventy breaths; then
whenever he rises again, he will be sure to have his seventy breaths over
again, to a minute. Now, if after he fetches a few breaths you alarm him,
so that he sounds, he will be always dodging up again to make good his
regular allowance of air. And not till those seventy breaths are told,
will he finally go down to stay out his full term below. Remark, however,
that in different individuals these rates are different; but in any one
they are alike. Now, why should the whale thus insist upon having his
spoutings out, unless it be to replenish his reservoir of air, ere
descending for good? How obvious is it, too, that this necessity for the
whale’s rising exposes him to all the fatal hazards of the chase. For not
by hook or by net could this vast leviathan be caught, when sailing a
thousand fathoms beneath the sunlight. Not so much thy skill, then, O
hunter, as the great necessities that strike the victory to thee!

In man, breathing is incessantly going on—one breath only serving
for two or three pulsations; so that whatever other business he has to
attend to, waking or sleeping, breathe he must, or die he will. But the
Sperm Whale only breathes about one seventh or Sunday of his time.

It has been said that the whale only breathes through his spout-hole; if
it could truthfully be added that his spouts are mixed with water, then I
opine we should be furnished with the reason why his sense of smell seems
obliterated in him; for the only thing about him that at all answers to
his nose is that identical spout-hole; and being so clogged with two
elements, it could not be expected to have the power of smelling. But
owing to the mystery of the spout—whether it be water or whether it
be vapor—no absolute certainty can as yet be arrived at on this
head. Sure it is, nevertheless, that the Sperm Whale has no proper
olfactories. But what does he want of them? No roses, no violets, no
Cologne-water in the sea.

Furthermore, as his windpipe solely opens into the tube of his spouting
canal, and as that long canal—like the grand Erie Canal—is
furnished with a sort of locks (that open and shut) for the downward
retention of air or the upward exclusion of water, therefore the whale has
no voice; unless you insult him by saying, that when he so strangely
rumbles, he talks through his nose. But then again, what has the whale to
say? Seldom have I known any profound being that had anything to say to
this world, unless forced to stammer out something by way of getting a
living. Oh! happy that the world is such an excellent listener!

Now, the spouting canal of the Sperm Whale, chiefly intended as it is for
the conveyance of air, and for several feet laid along, horizontally, just
beneath the upper surface of his head, and a little to one side; this
curious canal is very much like a gas-pipe laid down in a city on one side
of a street. But the question returns whether this gas-pipe is also a
water-pipe; in other words, whether the spout of the Sperm Whale is the
mere vapor of the exhaled breath, or whether that exhaled breath is mixed
with water taken in at the mouth, and discharged through the spiracle. It
is certain that the mouth indirectly communicates with the spouting canal;
but it cannot be proved that this is for the purpose of discharging water
through the spiracle. Because the greatest necessity for so doing would
seem to be, when in feeding he accidentally takes in water. But the Sperm
Whale’s food is far beneath the surface, and there he cannot spout even if
he would. Besides, if you regard him very closely, and time him with your
watch, you will find that when unmolested, there is an undeviating rhyme
between the periods of his jets and the ordinary periods of respiration.

But why pester one with all this reasoning on the subject? Speak out! You
have seen him spout; then declare what the spout is; can you not tell
water from air? My dear sir, in this world it is not so easy to settle
these plain things. I have ever found your plain things the knottiest of
all. And as for this whale spout, you might almost stand in it, and yet be
undecided as to what it is precisely.

The central body of it is hidden in the snowy sparkling mist enveloping
it; and how can you certainly tell whether any water falls from it, when,
always, when you are close enough to a whale to get a close view of his
spout, he is in a prodigious commotion, the water cascading all around
him. And if at such times you should think that you really perceived drops
of moisture in the spout, how do you know that they are not merely
condensed from its vapor; or how do you know that they are not those
identical drops superficially lodged in the spout-hole fissure, which is
countersunk into the summit of the whale’s head? For even when tranquilly
swimming through the mid-day sea in a calm, with his elevated hump
sun-dried as a dromedary’s in the desert; even then, the whale always
carries a small basin of water on his head, as under a blazing sun you
will sometimes see a cavity in a rock filled up with rain.

Nor is it at all prudent for the hunter to be over curious touching the
precise nature of the whale spout. It will not do for him to be peering
into it, and putting his face in it. You cannot go with your pitcher to
this fountain and fill it, and bring it away. For even when coming into
slight contact with the outer, vapory shreds of the jet, which will often
happen, your skin will feverishly smart, from the acridness of the thing
so touching it. And I know one, who coming into still closer contact with
the spout, whether with some scientific object in view, or otherwise, I
cannot say, the skin peeled off from his cheek and arm. Wherefore, among
whalemen, the spout is deemed poisonous; they try to evade it. Another
thing; I have heard it said, and I do not much doubt it, that if the jet
is fairly spouted into your eyes, it will blind you. The wisest thing the
investigator can do then, it seems to me, is to let this deadly spout

Still, we can hypothesize, even if we cannot prove and establish. My
hypothesis is this: that the spout is nothing but mist. And besides other
reasons, to this conclusion I am impelled, by considerations touching the
great inherent dignity and sublimity of the Sperm Whale; I account him no
common, shallow being, inasmuch as it is an undisputed fact that he is
never found on soundings, or near shores; all other whales sometimes are.
He is both ponderous and profound. And I am convinced that from the heads
of all ponderous profound beings, such as Plato, Pyrrho, the Devil,
Jupiter, Dante, and so on, there always goes up a certain semi-visible
steam, while in the act of thinking deep thoughts. While composing a
little treatise on Eternity, I had the curiosity to place a mirror before
me; and ere long saw reflected there, a curious involved worming and
undulation in the atmosphere over my head. The invariable moisture of my
hair, while plunged in deep thought, after six cups of hot tea in my thin
shingled attic, of an August noon; this seems an additional argument for
the above supposition.

And how nobly it raises our conceit of the mighty, misty monster, to
behold him solemnly sailing through a calm tropical sea; his vast, mild
head overhung by a canopy of vapor, engendered by his incommunicable
contemplations, and that vapor—as you will sometimes see it—glorified
by a rainbow, as if Heaven itself had put its seal upon his thoughts. For,
d’ye see, rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor.
And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine
intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And
for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or
denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things
earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes
neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with
equal eye.

CHAPTER 86. The Tail.

Other poets have warbled the praises of the soft eye of the antelope, and
the lovely plumage of the bird that never alights; less celestial, I
celebrate a tail.

Reckoning the largest sized Sperm Whale’s tail to begin at that point of
the trunk where it tapers to about the girth of a man, it comprises upon
its upper surface alone, an area of at least fifty square feet. The
compact round body of its root expands into two broad, firm, flat palms or
flukes, gradually shoaling away to less than an inch in thickness. At the
crotch or junction, these flukes slightly overlap, then sideways recede
from each other like wings, leaving a wide vacancy between. In no living
thing are the lines of beauty more exquisitely defined than in the
crescentic borders of these flukes. At its utmost expansion in the full
grown whale, the tail will considerably exceed twenty feet across.

The entire member seems a dense webbed bed of welded sinews; but cut into
it, and you find that three distinct strata compose it:—upper,
middle, and lower. The fibres in the upper and lower layers, are long and
horizontal; those of the middle one, very short, and running crosswise
between the outside layers. This triune structure, as much as anything
else, imparts power to the tail. To the student of old Roman walls, the
middle layer will furnish a curious parallel to the thin course of tiles
always alternating with the stone in those wonderful relics of the
antique, and which undoubtedly contribute so much to the great strength of
the masonry.

But as if this vast local power in the tendinous tail were not enough, the
whole bulk of the leviathan is knit over with a warp and woof of muscular
fibres and filaments, which passing on either side the loins and running
down into the flukes, insensibly blend with them, and largely contribute
to their might; so that in the tail the confluent measureless force of the
whole whale seems concentrated to a point. Could annihilation occur to
matter, this were the thing to do it.

Nor does this—its amazing strength, at all tend to cripple the
graceful flexion of its motions; where infantileness of ease undulates
through a Titanism of power. On the contrary, those motions derive their
most appalling beauty from it. Real strength never impairs beauty or
harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful,
strength has much to do with the magic. Take away the tied tendons that
all over seem bursting from the marble in the carved Hercules, and its
charm would be gone. As devout Eckerman lifted the linen sheet from the
naked corpse of Goethe, he was overwhelmed with the massive chest of the
man, that seemed as a Roman triumphal arch. When Angelo paints even God
the Father in human form, mark what robustness is there. And whatever they
may reveal of the divine love in the Son, the soft, curled,
hermaphroditical Italian pictures, in which his idea has been most
successfully embodied; these pictures, so destitute as they are of all
brawniness, hint nothing of any power, but the mere negative, feminine one
of submission and endurance, which on all hands it is conceded, form the
peculiar practical virtues of his teachings.

Such is the subtle elasticity of the organ I treat of, that whether
wielded in sport, or in earnest, or in anger, whatever be the mood it be
in, its flexions are invariably marked by exceeding grace. Therein no
fairy’s arm can transcend it.

Five great motions are peculiar to it. First, when used as a fin for
progression; Second, when used as a mace in battle; Third, in sweeping;
Fourth, in lobtailing; Fifth, in peaking flukes.

First: Being horizontal in its position, the Leviathan’s tail acts in a
different manner from the tails of all other sea creatures. It never
wriggles. In man or fish, wriggling is a sign of inferiority. To the
whale, his tail is the sole means of propulsion. Scroll-wise coiled
forwards beneath the body, and then rapidly sprung backwards, it is this
which gives that singular darting, leaping motion to the monster when
furiously swimming. His side-fins only serve to steer by.

Second: It is a little significant, that while one sperm whale only fights
another sperm whale with his head and jaw, nevertheless, in his conflicts
with man, he chiefly and contemptuously uses his tail. In striking at a
boat, he swiftly curves away his flukes from it, and the blow is only
inflicted by the recoil. If it be made in the unobstructed air, especially
if it descend to its mark, the stroke is then simply irresistible. No ribs
of man or boat can withstand it. Your only salvation lies in eluding it;
but if it comes sideways through the opposing water, then partly owing to
the light buoyancy of the whale-boat, and the elasticity of its materials,
a cracked rib or a dashed plank or two, a sort of stitch in the side, is
generally the most serious result. These submerged side blows are so often
received in the fishery, that they are accounted mere child’s play. Some
one strips off a frock, and the hole is stopped.

Third: I cannot demonstrate it, but it seems to me, that in the whale the
sense of touch is concentrated in the tail; for in this respect there is a
delicacy in it only equalled by the daintiness of the elephant’s trunk.
This delicacy is chiefly evinced in the action of sweeping, when in
maidenly gentleness the whale with a certain soft slowness moves his
immense flukes from side to side upon the surface of the sea; and if he
feel but a sailor’s whisker, woe to that sailor, whiskers and all. What
tenderness there is in that preliminary touch! Had this tail any
prehensile power, I should straightway bethink me of Darmonodes’ elephant
that so frequented the flower-market, and with low salutations presented
nosegays to damsels, and then caressed their zones. On more accounts than
one, a pity it is that the whale does not possess this prehensile virtue
in his tail; for I have heard of yet another elephant, that when wounded
in the fight, curved round his trunk and extracted the dart.

Fourth: Stealing unawares upon the whale in the fancied security of the
middle of solitary seas, you find him unbent from the vast corpulence of
his dignity, and kitten-like, he plays on the ocean as if it were a
hearth. But still you see his power in his play. The broad palms of his
tail are flirted high into the air; then smiting the surface, the
thunderous concussion resounds for miles. You would almost think a great
gun had been discharged; and if you noticed the light wreath of vapor
from the spiracle at his other extremity, you would think that that was
the smoke from the touch-hole.

Fifth: As in the ordinary floating posture of the leviathan the flukes lie
considerably below the level of his back, they are then completely out of
sight beneath the surface; but when he is about to plunge into the deeps,
his entire flukes with at least thirty feet of his body are tossed erect
in the air, and so remain vibrating a moment, till they downwards shoot
out of view. Excepting the sublime breach—somewhere else to be
described—this peaking of the whale’s flukes is perhaps the grandest
sight to be seen in all animated nature. Out of the bottomless
profundities the gigantic tail seems spasmodically snatching at the
highest heaven. So in dreams, have I seen majestic Satan thrusting forth
his tormented colossal claw from the flame Baltic of Hell. But in gazing
at such scenes, it is all in all what mood you are in; if in the Dantean,
the devils will occur to you; if in that of Isaiah, the archangels.
Standing at the mast-head of my ship during a sunrise that crimsoned sky
and sea, I once saw a large herd of whales in the east, all heading
towards the sun, and for a moment vibrating in concert with peaked flukes.
As it seemed to me at the time, such a grand embodiment of adoration of
the gods was never beheld, even in Persia, the home of the fire
worshippers. As Ptolemy Philopater testified of the African elephant, I
then testified of the whale, pronouncing him the most devout of all
beings. For according to King Juba, the military elephants of antiquity
often hailed the morning with their trunks uplifted in the profoundest

The chance comparison in this chapter, between the whale and the elephant,
so far as some aspects of the tail of the one and the trunk of the other
are concerned, should not tend to place those two opposite organs on an
equality, much less the creatures to which they respectively belong. For
as the mightiest elephant is but a terrier to Leviathan, so, compared with
Leviathan’s tail, his trunk is but the stalk of a lily. The most direful
blow from the elephant’s trunk were as the playful tap of a fan, compared
with the measureless crush and crash of the sperm whale’s ponderous
flukes, which in repeated instances have one after the other hurled entire
boats with all their oars and crews into the air, very much as an Indian
juggler tosses his balls.*

*Though all comparison in the way of general bulk between the whale and
the elephant is preposterous, inasmuch as in that particular the elephant
stands in much the same respect to the whale that a dog does to the
elephant; nevertheless, there are not wanting some points of curious
similitude; among these is the spout. It is well known that the elephant
will often draw up water or dust in his trunk, and then elevating it, jet
it forth in a stream.

The more I consider this mighty tail, the more do I deplore my inability
to express it. At times there are gestures in it, which, though they would
well grace the hand of man, remain wholly inexplicable. In an extensive
herd, so remarkable, occasionally, are these mystic gestures, that I have
heard hunters who have declared them akin to Free-Mason signs and symbols;
that the whale, indeed, by these methods intelligently conversed with the
world. Nor are there wanting other motions of the whale in his general
body, full of strangeness, and unaccountable to his most experienced
assailant. Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep; I know him
not, and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whale, how
understand his head? much more, how comprehend his face, when face he has
none? Thou shalt see my back parts, my tail, he seems to say, but my face
shall not be seen. But I cannot completely make out his back parts; and
hint what he will about his face, I say again he has no face.

CHAPTER 87. The Grand Armada.

The long and narrow peninsula of Malacca, extending south-eastward from
the territories of Birmah, forms the most southerly point of all Asia. In
a continuous line from that peninsula stretch the long islands of Sumatra,
Java, Bally, and Timor; which, with many others, form a vast mole, or
rampart, lengthwise connecting Asia with Australia, and dividing the long
unbroken Indian ocean from the thickly studded oriental archipelagoes.
This rampart is pierced by several sally-ports for the convenience of
ships and whales; conspicuous among which are the straits of Sunda and
Malacca. By the straits of Sunda, chiefly, vessels bound to China from the
west, emerge into the China seas.

Those narrow straits of Sunda divide Sumatra from Java; and standing
midway in that vast rampart of islands, buttressed by that bold green
promontory, known to seamen as Java Head; they not a little correspond to
the central gateway opening into some vast walled empire: and considering
the inexhaustible wealth of spices, and silks, and jewels, and gold, and
ivory, with which the thousand islands of that oriental sea are enriched,
it seems a significant provision of nature, that such treasures, by the
very formation of the land, should at least bear the appearance, however
ineffectual, of being guarded from the all-grasping western world. The
shores of the Straits of Sunda are unsupplied with those domineering
fortresses which guard the entrances to the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and
the Propontis. Unlike the Danes, these Orientals do not demand the
obsequious homage of lowered top-sails from the endless procession of
ships before the wind, which for centuries past, by night and by day, have
passed between the islands of Sumatra and Java, freighted with the
costliest cargoes of the east. But while they freely waive a ceremonial
like this, they do by no means renounce their claim to more solid tribute.

Time out of mind the piratical proas of the Malays, lurking among the low
shaded coves and islets of Sumatra, have sallied out upon the vessels
sailing through the straits, fiercely demanding tribute at the point of
their spears. Though by the repeated bloody chastisements they have
received at the hands of European cruisers, the audacity of these corsairs
has of late been somewhat repressed; yet, even at the present day, we
occasionally hear of English and American vessels, which, in those waters,
have been remorselessly boarded and pillaged.

With a fair, fresh wind, the Pequod was now drawing nigh to these straits;
Ahab purposing to pass through them into the Javan sea, and thence,
cruising northwards, over waters known to be frequented here and there by
the Sperm Whale, sweep inshore by the Philippine Islands, and gain the far
coast of Japan, in time for the great whaling season there. By these
means, the circumnavigating Pequod would sweep almost all the known Sperm
Whale cruising grounds of the world, previous to descending upon the Line
in the Pacific; where Ahab, though everywhere else foiled in his pursuit,
firmly counted upon giving battle to Moby Dick, in the sea he was most
known to frequent; and at a season when he might most reasonably be
presumed to be haunting it.

But how now? in this zoned quest, does Ahab touch no land? does his crew
drink air? Surely, he will stop for water. Nay. For a long time, now, the
circus-running sun has raced within his fiery ring, and needs no
sustenance but what’s in himself. So Ahab. Mark this, too, in the whaler.
While other hulls are loaded down with alien stuff, to be transferred to
foreign wharves; the world-wandering whale-ship carries no cargo but
herself and crew, their weapons and their wants. She has a whole lake’s
contents bottled in her ample hold. She is ballasted with utilities; not
altogether with unusable pig-lead and kentledge. She carries years’ water
in her. Clear old prime Nantucket water; which, when three years afloat,
the Nantucketer, in the Pacific, prefers to drink before the brackish
fluid, but yesterday rafted off in casks, from the Peruvian or Indian
streams. Hence it is, that, while other ships may have gone to China from
New York, and back again, touching at a score of ports, the whale-ship, in
all that interval, may not have sighted one grain of soil; her crew having
seen no man but floating seamen like themselves. So that did you carry
them the news that another flood had come; they would only answer—“Well,
boys, here’s the ark!”

Now, as many Sperm Whales had been captured off the western coast of Java,
in the near vicinity of the Straits of Sunda; indeed, as most of the
ground, roundabout, was generally recognised by the fishermen as an
excellent spot for cruising; therefore, as the Pequod gained more and more
upon Java Head, the look-outs were repeatedly hailed, and admonished to
keep wide awake. But though the green palmy cliffs of the land soon loomed
on the starboard bow, and with delighted nostrils the fresh cinnamon was
snuffed in the air, yet not a single jet was descried. Almost renouncing
all thought of falling in with any game hereabouts, the ship had well nigh
entered the straits, when the customary cheering cry was heard from aloft,
and ere long a spectacle of singular magnificence saluted us.

But here be it premised, that owing to the unwearied activity with which
of late they have been hunted over all four oceans, the Sperm Whales,
instead of almost invariably sailing in small detached companies, as in
former times, are now frequently met with in extensive herds, sometimes
embracing so great a multitude, that it would almost seem as if numerous
nations of them had sworn solemn league and covenant for mutual assistance
and protection. To this aggregation of the Sperm Whale into such immense
caravans, may be imputed the circumstance that even in the best cruising
grounds, you may now sometimes sail for weeks and months together, without
being greeted by a single spout; and then be suddenly saluted by what
sometimes seems thousands on thousands.

Broad on both bows, at the distance of some two or three miles, and
forming a great semicircle, embracing one half of the level horizon, a
continuous chain of whale-jets were up-playing and sparkling in the
noon-day air. Unlike the straight perpendicular twin-jets of the Right
Whale, which, dividing at top, fall over in two branches, like the cleft
drooping boughs of a willow, the single forward-slanting spout of the
Sperm Whale presents a thick curled bush of white mist, continually rising
and falling away to leeward.

Seen from the Pequod’s deck, then, as she would rise on a high hill of the
sea, this host of vapory spouts, individually curling up into the air,
and beheld through a blending atmosphere of bluish haze, showed like the
thousand cheerful chimneys of some dense metropolis, descried of a balmy
autumnal morning, by some horseman on a height.

As marching armies approaching an unfriendly defile in the mountains,
accelerate their march, all eagerness to place that perilous passage in
their rear, and once more expand in comparative security upon the plain;
even so did this vast fleet of whales now seem hurrying forward through
the straits; gradually contracting the wings of their semicircle, and
swimming on, in one solid, but still crescentic centre.

Crowding all sail the Pequod pressed after them; the harpooneers handling
their weapons, and loudly cheering from the heads of their yet suspended
boats. If the wind only held, little doubt had they, that chased through
these Straits of Sunda, the vast host would only deploy into the Oriental
seas to witness the capture of not a few of their number. And who could
tell whether, in that congregated caravan, Moby Dick himself might not
temporarily be swimming, like the worshipped white-elephant in the
coronation procession of the Siamese! So with stun-sail piled on
stun-sail, we sailed along, driving these leviathans before us; when, of a
sudden, the voice of Tashtego was heard, loudly directing attention to
something in our wake.

Corresponding to the crescent in our van, we beheld another in our rear.
It seemed formed of detached white vapors, rising and falling something
like the spouts of the whales; only they did not so completely come and
go; for they constantly hovered, without finally disappearing. Levelling
his glass at this sight, Ahab quickly revolved in his pivot-hole, crying,
“Aloft there, and rig whips and buckets to wet the sails;—Malays,
sir, and after us!”

As if too long lurking behind the headlands, till the Pequod should fairly
have entered the straits, these rascally Asiatics were now in hot pursuit,
to make up for their over-cautious delay. But when the swift Pequod, with
a fresh leading wind, was herself in hot chase; how very kind of these
tawny philanthropists to assist in speeding her on to her own chosen
pursuit,—mere riding-whips and rowels to her, that they were. As
with glass under arm, Ahab to-and-fro paced the deck; in his forward turn
beholding the monsters he chased, and in the after one the bloodthirsty
pirates chasing him; some such fancy as the above seemed his. And when he
glanced upon the green walls of the watery defile in which the ship was
then sailing, and bethought him that through that gate lay the route to
his vengeance, and beheld, how that through that same gate he was now both
chasing and being chased to his deadly end; and not only that, but a herd
of remorseless wild pirates and inhuman atheistical devils were infernally
cheering him on with their curses;—when all these conceits had
passed through his brain, Ahab’s brow was left gaunt and ribbed, like the
black sand beach after some stormy tide has been gnawing it, without being
able to drag the firm thing from its place.

But thoughts like these troubled very few of the reckless crew; and when,
after steadily dropping and dropping the pirates astern, the Pequod at
last shot by the vivid green Cockatoo Point on the Sumatra side, emerging
at last upon the broad waters beyond; then, the harpooneers seemed more to
grieve that the swift whales had been gaining upon the ship, than to
rejoice that the ship had so victoriously gained upon the Malays. But
still driving on in the wake of the whales, at length they seemed abating
their speed; gradually the ship neared them; and the wind now dying away,
word was passed to spring to the boats. But no sooner did the herd, by
some presumed wonderful instinct of the Sperm Whale, become notified of
the three keels that were after them,—though as yet a mile in their
rear,—than they rallied again, and forming in close ranks and
battalions, so that their spouts all looked like flashing lines of stacked
bayonets, moved on with redoubled velocity.

Stripped to our shirts and drawers, we sprang to the white-ash, and after
several hours’ pulling were almost disposed to renounce the chase, when a
general pausing commotion among the whales gave animating token that they
were now at last under the influence of that strange perplexity of inert
irresolution, which, when the fishermen perceive it in the whale, they say
he is gallied. The compact martial columns in which they had been hitherto
rapidly and steadily swimming, were now broken up in one measureless rout;
and like King Porus’ elephants in the Indian battle with Alexander, they
seemed going mad with consternation. In all directions expanding in vast
irregular circles, and aimlessly swimming hither and thither, by their
short thick spoutings, they plainly betrayed their distraction of panic.
This was still more strangely evinced by those of their number, who,
completely paralysed as it were, helplessly floated like water-logged
dismantled ships on the sea. Had these Leviathans been but a flock of
simple sheep, pursued over the pasture by three fierce wolves, they could
not possibly have evinced such excessive dismay. But this occasional
timidity is characteristic of almost all herding creatures. Though banding
together in tens of thousands, the lion-maned buffaloes of the West have
fled before a solitary horseman. Witness, too, all human beings, how when
herded together in the sheepfold of a theatre’s pit, they will, at the
slightest alarm of fire, rush helter-skelter for the outlets, crowding,
trampling, jamming, and remorselessly dashing each other to death. Best,
therefore, withhold any amazement at the strangely gallied whales before
us, for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not
infinitely outdone by the madness of men.

Though many of the whales, as has been said, were in violent motion, yet
it is to be observed that as a whole the herd neither advanced nor
retreated, but collectively remained in one place. As is customary in
those cases, the boats at once separated, each making for some one lone
whale on the outskirts of the shoal. In about three minutes’ time,
Queequeg’s harpoon was flung; the stricken fish darted blinding spray in
our faces, and then running away with us like light, steered straight for
the heart of the herd. Though such a movement on the part of the whale
struck under such circumstances, is in no wise unprecedented; and indeed
is almost always more or less anticipated; yet does it present one of the
more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. For as the swift monster drags
you deeper and deeper into the frantic shoal, you bid adieu to circumspect
life and only exist in a delirious throb.

As, blind and deaf, the whale plunged forward, as if by sheer power of
speed to rid himself of the iron leech that had fastened to him; as we
thus tore a white gash in the sea, on all sides menaced as we flew, by the
crazed creatures to and fro rushing about us; our beset boat was like a
ship mobbed by ice-isles in a tempest, and striving to steer through their
complicated channels and straits, knowing not at what moment it may be
locked in and crushed.

But not a bit daunted, Queequeg steered us manfully; now sheering off from
this monster directly across our route in advance; now edging away from
that, whose colossal flukes were suspended overhead, while all the time,
Starbuck stood up in the bows, lance in hand, pricking out of our way
whatever whales he could reach by short darts, for there was no time to
make long ones. Nor were the oarsmen quite idle, though their wonted duty
was now altogether dispensed with. They chiefly attended to the shouting
part of the business. “Out of the way, Commodore!” cried one, to a great
dromedary that of a sudden rose bodily to the surface, and for an instant
threatened to swamp us. “Hard down with your tail, there!” cried a second
to another, which, close to our gunwale, seemed calmly cooling himself
with his own fan-like extremity.

All whaleboats carry certain curious contrivances, originally invented by
the Nantucket Indians, called druggs. Two thick squares of wood of equal
size are stoutly clenched together, so that they cross each other’s grain
at right angles; a line of considerable length is then attached to the
middle of this block, and the other end of the line being looped, it can
in a moment be fastened to a harpoon. It is chiefly among gallied whales
that this drugg is used. For then, more whales are close round you than
you can possibly chase at one time. But sperm whales are not every day
encountered; while you may, then, you must kill all you can. And if you
cannot kill them all at once, you must wing them, so that they can be
afterwards killed at your leisure. Hence it is, that at times like these
the drugg, comes into requisition. Our boat was furnished with three of
them. The first and second were successfully darted, and we saw the whales
staggeringly running off, fettered by the enormous sidelong resistance of
the towing drugg. They were cramped like malefactors with the chain and
ball. But upon flinging the third, in the act of tossing overboard the
clumsy wooden block, it caught under one of the seats of the boat, and in
an instant tore it out and carried it away, dropping the oarsman in the
boat’s bottom as the seat slid from under him. On both sides the sea came
in at the wounded planks, but we stuffed two or three drawers and shirts
in, and so stopped the leaks for the time.

It had been next to impossible to dart these drugged-harpoons, were it not
that as we advanced into the herd, our whale’s way greatly diminished;
moreover, that as we went still further and further from the circumference
of commotion, the direful disorders seemed waning. So that when at last
the jerking harpoon drew out, and the towing whale sideways vanished;
then, with the tapering force of his parting momentum, we glided between
two whales into the innermost heart of the shoal, as if from some mountain
torrent we had slid into a serene valley lake. Here the storms in the
roaring glens between the outermost whales, were heard but not felt. In
this central expanse the sea presented that smooth satin-like surface,
called a sleek, produced by the subtle moisture thrown off by the whale in
his more quiet moods. Yes, we were now in that enchanted calm which they
say lurks at the heart of every commotion. And still in the distracted
distance we beheld the tumults of the outer concentric circles, and saw
successive pods of whales, eight or ten in each, swiftly going round and
round, like multiplied spans of horses in a ring; and so closely shoulder
to shoulder, that a Titanic circus-rider might easily have over-arched the
middle ones, and so have gone round on their backs. Owing to the density
of the crowd of reposing whales, more immediately surrounding the embayed
axis of the herd, no possible chance of escape was at present afforded us.
We must watch for a breach in the living wall that hemmed us in; the wall
that had only admitted us in order to shut us up. Keeping at the centre of
the lake, we were occasionally visited by small tame cows and calves; the
women and children of this routed host.

Now, inclusive of the occasional wide intervals between the revolving
outer circles, and inclusive of the spaces between the various pods in any
one of those circles, the entire area at this juncture, embraced by the
whole multitude, must have contained at least two or three square miles.
At any rate—though indeed such a test at such a time might be
deceptive—spoutings might be discovered from our low boat that
seemed playing up almost from the rim of the horizon. I mention this
circumstance, because, as if the cows and calves had been purposely locked
up in this innermost fold; and as if the wide extent of the herd had
hitherto prevented them from learning the precise cause of its stopping;
or, possibly, being so young, unsophisticated, and every way innocent and
inexperienced; however it may have been, these smaller whales—now
and then visiting our becalmed boat from the margin of the lake—evinced
a wondrous fearlessness and confidence, or else a still becharmed panic
which it was impossible not to marvel at. Like household dogs they came
snuffling round us, right up to our gunwales, and touching them; till it
almost seemed that some spell had suddenly domesticated them. Queequeg
patted their foreheads; Starbuck scratched their backs with his lance; but
fearful of the consequences, for the time refrained from darting it.

But far beneath this wondrous world upon the surface, another and still
stranger world met our eyes as we gazed over the side. For, suspended in
those watery vaults, floated the forms of the nursing mothers of the
whales, and those that by their enormous girth seemed shortly to become
mothers. The lake, as I have hinted, was to a considerable depth
exceedingly transparent; and as human infants while suckling will calmly
and fixedly gaze away from the breast, as if leading two different lives
at the time; and while yet drawing mortal nourishment, be still
spiritually feasting upon some unearthly reminiscence;—even so did
the young of these whales seem looking up towards us, but not at us, as if
we were but a bit of Gulfweed in their new-born sight. Floating on their
sides, the mothers also seemed quietly eyeing us. One of these little
infants, that from certain queer tokens seemed hardly a day old, might
have measured some fourteen feet in length, and some six feet in girth. He
was a little frisky; though as yet his body seemed scarce yet recovered
from that irksome position it had so lately occupied in the maternal
reticule; where, tail to head, and all ready for the final spring, the
unborn whale lies bent like a Tartar’s bow. The delicate side-fins, and
the palms of his flukes, still freshly retained the plaited crumpled
appearance of a baby’s ears newly arrived from foreign parts.

“Line! line!” cried Queequeg, looking over the gunwale; “him fast! him
fast!—Who line him! Who struck?—Two whale; one big, one

“What ails ye, man?” cried Starbuck.

“Look-e here,” said Queequeg, pointing down.

As when the stricken whale, that from the tub has reeled out hundreds of
fathoms of rope; as, after deep sounding, he floats up again, and shows
the slackened curling line buoyantly rising and spiralling towards the
air; so now, Starbuck saw long coils of the umbilical cord of Madame
Leviathan, by which the young cub seemed still tethered to its dam. Not
seldom in the rapid vicissitudes of the chase, this natural line, with the
maternal end loose, becomes entangled with the hempen one, so that the cub
is thereby trapped. Some of the subtlest secrets of the seas seemed
divulged to us in this enchanted pond. We saw young Leviathan amours in
the deep.*

*The sperm whale, as with all other species of the Leviathan, but unlike
most other fish, breeds indifferently at all seasons; after a gestation
which may probably be set down at nine months, producing but one at a
time; though in some few known instances giving birth to an Esau and
Jacob:—a contingency provided for in suckling by two teats,
curiously situated, one on each side of the anus; but the breasts
themselves extend upwards from that. When by chance these precious parts
in a nursing whale are cut by the hunter’s lance, the mother’s pouring
milk and blood rivallingly discolour the sea for rods. The milk is very
sweet and rich; it has been tasted by man; it might do well with
strawberries. When overflowing with mutual esteem, the whales salute more

And thus, though surrounded by circle upon circle of consternations and
affrights, did these inscrutable creatures at the centre freely and
fearlessly indulge in all peaceful concernments; yea, serenely revelled in
dalliance and delight. But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my
being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and
while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and
deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.

Meanwhile, as we thus lay entranced, the occasional sudden frantic
spectacles in the distance evinced the activity of the other boats, still
engaged in drugging the whales on the frontier of the host; or possibly
carrying on the war within the first circle, where abundance of room and
some convenient retreats were afforded them. But the sight of the enraged
drugged whales now and then blindly darting to and fro across the circles,
was nothing to what at last met our eyes. It is sometimes the custom when
fast to a whale more than commonly powerful and alert, to seek to
hamstring him, as it were, by sundering or maiming his gigantic
tail-tendon. It is done by darting a short-handled cutting-spade, to which
is attached a rope for hauling it back again. A whale wounded (as we
afterwards learned) in this part, but not effectually, as it seemed, had
broken away from the boat, carrying along with him half of the harpoon
line; and in the extraordinary agony of the wound, he was now dashing
among the revolving circles like the lone mounted desperado Arnold, at the
battle of Saratoga, carrying dismay wherever he went.

But agonizing as was the wound of this whale, and an appalling spectacle
enough, any way; yet the peculiar horror with which he seemed to inspire
the rest of the herd, was owing to a cause which at first the intervening
distance obscured from us. But at length we perceived that by one of the
unimaginable accidents of the fishery, this whale had become entangled in
the harpoon-line that he towed; he had also run away with the
cutting-spade in him; and while the free end of the rope attached to that
weapon, had permanently caught in the coils of the harpoon-line round his
tail, the cutting-spade itself had worked loose from his flesh. So that
tormented to madness, he was now churning through the water, violently
flailing with his flexible tail, and tossing the keen spade about him,
wounding and murdering his own comrades.

This terrific object seemed to recall the whole herd from their stationary
fright. First, the whales forming the margin of our lake began to crowd a
little, and tumble against each other, as if lifted by half spent billows
from afar; then the lake itself began faintly to heave and swell; the
submarine bridal-chambers and nurseries vanished; in more and more
contracting orbits the whales in the more central circles began to swim in
thickening clusters. Yes, the long calm was departing. A low advancing hum
was soon heard; and then like to the tumultuous masses of block-ice when
the great river Hudson breaks up in Spring, the entire host of whales came
tumbling upon their inner centre, as if to pile themselves up in one
common mountain. Instantly Starbuck and Queequeg changed places; Starbuck
taking the stern.

“Oars! Oars!” he intensely whispered, seizing the helm—“gripe your
oars, and clutch your souls, now! My God, men, stand by! Shove him off,
you Queequeg—the whale there!—prick him!—hit him! Stand
up—stand up, and stay so! Spring, men—pull, men; never mind
their backs—scrape them!—scrape away!”

The boat was now all but jammed between two vast black bulks, leaving a
narrow Dardanelles between their long lengths. But by desperate endeavor
we at last shot into a temporary opening; then giving way rapidly, and at
the same time earnestly watching for another outlet. After many similar
hair-breadth escapes, we at last swiftly glided into what had just been
one of the outer circles, but now crossed by random whales, all violently
making for one centre. This lucky salvation was cheaply purchased by the
loss of Queequeg’s hat, who, while standing in the bows to prick the
fugitive whales, had his hat taken clean from his head by the air-eddy
made by the sudden tossing of a pair of broad flukes close by.

Riotous and disordered as the universal commotion now was, it soon
resolved itself into what seemed a systematic movement; for having clumped
together at last in one dense body, they then renewed their onward flight
with augmented fleetness. Further pursuit was useless; but the boats still
lingered in their wake to pick up what drugged whales might be dropped
astern, and likewise to secure one which Flask had killed and waifed. The
waif is a pennoned pole, two or three of which are carried by every boat;
and which, when additional game is at hand, are inserted upright into the
floating body of a dead whale, both to mark its place on the sea, and also
as token of prior possession, should the boats of any other ship draw

The result of this lowering was somewhat illustrative of that sagacious
saying in the Fishery,—the more whales the less fish. Of all the
drugged whales only one was captured. The rest contrived to escape for the
time, but only to be taken, as will hereafter be seen, by some other craft
than the Pequod.

CHAPTER 88. Schools and Schoolmasters.

The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or herd of Sperm
Whales, and there was also then given the probable cause inducing those
vast aggregations.

Now, though such great bodies are at times encountered, yet, as must have
been seen, even at the present day, small detached bands are occasionally
observed, embracing from twenty to fifty individuals each. Such bands are
known as schools. They generally are of two sorts; those composed almost
entirely of females, and those mustering none but young vigorous males, or
bulls, as they are familiarly designated.

In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see a
male of full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm, evinces
his gallantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight of his
ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman, swimming about
over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces and
endearments of the harem. The contrast between this Ottoman and his
concubines is striking; because, while he is always of the largest
leviathanic proportions, the ladies, even at full growth, are not more
than one-third of the bulk of an average-sized male. They are
comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare say, not to exceed half a dozen
yards round the waist. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied, that upon the
whole they are hereditarily entitled to en bon point.

It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolent
ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in leisurely
search of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for the full flower
of the Equatorial feeding season, having just returned, perhaps, from
spending the summer in the Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all
unpleasant weariness and warmth. By the time they have lounged up and down
the promenade of the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental waters in
anticipation of the cool season there, and so evade the other excessive
temperature of the year.

When serenely advancing on one of these journeys, if any strange
suspicious sights are seen, my lord whale keeps a wary eye on his
interesting family. Should any unwarrantably pert young Leviathan coming
that way, presume to draw confidentially close to one of the ladies, with
what prodigious fury the Bashaw assails him, and chases him away! High
times, indeed, if unprincipled young rakes like him are to be permitted to
invade the sanctity of domestic bliss; though do what the Bashaw will, he
cannot keep the most notorious Lothario out of his bed; for, alas! all
fish bed in common. As ashore, the ladies often cause the most terrible
duels among their rival admirers; just so with the whales, who sometimes
come to deadly battle, and all for love. They fence with their long lower
jaws, sometimes locking them together, and so striving for the supremacy
like elks that warringly interweave their antlers. Not a few are captured
having the deep scars of these encounters,—furrowed heads, broken
teeth, scolloped fins; and in some instances, wrenched and dislocated

But supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake himself away at the
first rush of the harem’s lord, then is it very diverting to watch that
lord. Gently he insinuates his vast bulk among them again and revels there
awhile, still in tantalizing vicinity to young Lothario, like pious
Solomon devoutly worshipping among his thousand concubines. Granting other
whales to be in sight, the fishermen will seldom give chase to one of
these Grand Turks; for these Grand Turks are too lavish of their strength,
and hence their unctuousness is small. As for the sons and the daughters
they beget, why, those sons and daughters must take care of themselves; at
least, with only the maternal help. For like certain other omnivorous
roving lovers that might be named, my Lord Whale has no taste for the
nursery, however much for the bower; and so, being a great traveller, he
leaves his anonymous babies all over the world; every baby an exotic. In
good time, nevertheless, as the ardour of youth declines; as years and
dumps increase; as reflection lends her solemn pauses; in short, as a
general lassitude overtakes the sated Turk; then a love of ease and virtue
supplants the love for maidens; our Ottoman enters upon the impotent,
repentant, admonitory stage of life, forswears, disbands the harem, and
grown to an exemplary, sulky old soul, goes about all alone among the
meridians and parallels saying his prayers, and warning each young
Leviathan from his amorous errors.

Now, as the harem of whales is called by the fishermen a school, so is the
lord and master of that school technically known as the schoolmaster. It
is therefore not in strict character, however admirably satirical, that
after going to school himself, he should then go abroad inculcating not
what he learned there, but the folly of it. His title, schoolmaster, would
very naturally seem derived from the name bestowed upon the harem itself,
but some have surmised that the man who first thus entitled this sort of
Ottoman whale, must have read the memoirs of Vidocq, and informed himself
what sort of a country-schoolmaster that famous Frenchman was in his
younger days, and what was the nature of those occult lessons he
inculcated into some of his pupils.

The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale
betakes himself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm Whales.
Almost universally, a lone whale—as a solitary Leviathan is called—proves
an ancient one. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel Boone, he will have no
one near him but Nature herself; and her he takes to wife in the
wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she is, though she keeps so
many moody secrets.

The schools composing none but young and vigorous males, previously
mentioned, offer a strong contrast to the harem schools. For while those
female whales are characteristically timid, the young males, or
forty-barrel-bulls, as they call them, are by far the most pugnacious of
all Leviathans, and proverbially the most dangerous to encounter;
excepting those wondrous grey-headed, grizzled whales, sometimes met, and
these will fight you like grim fiends exasperated by a penal gout.

The Forty-barrel-bull schools are larger than the harem schools. Like a
mob of young collegians, they are full of fight, fun, and wickedness,
tumbling round the world at such a reckless, rollicking rate, that no
prudent underwriter would insure them any more than he would a riotous lad
at Yale or Harvard. They soon relinquish this turbulence though, and when
about three-fourths grown, break up, and separately go about in quest of
settlements, that is, harems.

Another point of difference between the male and female schools is still
more characteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a Forty-barrel-bull—poor
devil! all his comrades quit him. But strike a member of the harem school,
and her companions swim around her with every token of concern, sometimes
lingering so near her and so long, as themselves to fall a prey.

CHAPTER 89. Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish.

The allusion to the waif and waif-poles in the last chapter but one,
necessitates some account of the laws and regulations of the whale
fishery, of which the waif may be deemed the grand symbol and badge.

It frequently happens that when several ships are cruising in company, a
whale may be struck by one vessel, then escape, and be finally killed and
captured by another vessel; and herein are indirectly comprised many minor