Moby Dick: Chapters 61-70

Chapter 61: 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 their wake.

Chapter 62: No wonder, tsking 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 helpless harpooneers are madly cursed and distracted…no wonder that to many ship owners whaling is but a losing concern.

Chapter 63: Furthermore: you must know that when thr second iron (harpoon) 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.

Chapter 64: Nor was Stubb the only banqueter on whale’s flesh that night. Mingling their mumblings with his own mastications, thoisands on thousands of sharks, swarming round the dead leviathan, smackingly feasted on its fatness.

Chapter 65: 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.

Chapter 66: 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; it is not not very soon completed and requires all hands to set about it.

Chapter 67: 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.

Chapter 68: 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.

Chapter 69: There’s a most doleful and most mocking funeral! The sea-vultures all in pious mourning, the air-sharks all punctiliously in black and speckled…Oh, horrible vulturism of earth! from which not the mightiest whale is free.

Chapter 70: Do you not marvel then, at Stubb’s boast, that he demanded but ten minutes to behead a sperm whale?

I never expected humour (a meat pie one hundred feet long!) to be intertwined with sage advice (live in this world without being of it). Melville’s writing amazes me at every turn of the page.

Moby Dick: Chapters 51-60

French engraving by Ambrose Louis Garneray

Chapter 51: ‘There she blows!’ Had the trump of judgement 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.

Chapter 52: But in pursuit of those mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, sometime or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren masses or midway leave us whelmed.

Chapter 53: Gam: noun – a social meeting of two (or more) whale-ships, 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.

Chapter 54: ‘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.

Chapter 55: For it is one of the more curious things about this Leviathan, that his skeleton gives very little idea of his general shape.

Chapter 56: 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. (See an example of a French engraving at the top of this post.)

Chapter 57: With a frigate’s anchors for my bridle-bits 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: 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.

Chapter 59: ‘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.’

Chapter 60: 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 reeling it downwards through a block towards the tub, so as in the act of coiling to free it from all possible wrinkles and twists.

I am intrigued by the references to the Bible which Melville so often inserts. “Noah’s flood is not yet subsided…” is one of them. They give a beautiful connection to me of the Old Testament stories and Melville’s tale. And, his observations on human character could apply to many circumstances, not only whaling. One man finding another to be superior, and then reducing his “tower” to a heap of dust? Isn’t that what all the cowboy stories from the West are about? It seems to me that man is constantly trying to prove his superiority over another man. Or, beast, as in the case of Moby Dick.

Moby Dick: Chapters 41-50

Chapter 41: 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.

Chapter 42: …he (the mariner) 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 sounding; heart and helm they both go down, he never rests till blue water is under him again.

Chapter 43: ‘Say what ye will, shipmate; I’ve sharp ears.’

‘Aye, you are the chap, ain’t ye, that heard the hum of the Quakeress’s knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you’re the chap.’

Chapter 44: 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 marvelous precision.

Chapter 45: 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.

Chapter 46: Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object (giving chase to Moby Dick) – 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.

Chapter 47: 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.

Chapter 48: 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.

Chapter 49: 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.

Chapter 50: ‘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!’

And, there’s one other quote from Chapter 48 that I am pondering:

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.

I believe, with all my heart, that we ought to hold up hope in the midst of despair. But, is he “hopelessly holding up hope” because he is a man without faith? I suggest that is the case, for it is only from faith that I am able to continue in hope.

Moby Dick (Chapters 31-40)

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Chapter 31: ‘Mast-head, there! Look sharp, all of ye! There are whales hereabouts! If ye see a white one, split your lungs for him!’

Chapter 32: 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.

Chaphter 33: 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 gourd) the command of the ship’s deck is also his…

Chapter 34: Over the ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute, maned sea-lion on the white coral-beach, surrounded by his warlike but still deferential cubs.

Chapter 35: The three mast-heads are kept manned from sunrise to sunset; 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.

Chapter 36: “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!”

Chapter 37: The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run…Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!

Chapter 38: 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!

Chapter 39: Because a laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer…

Chapter 40: 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!

Look at Chapter 38: “…tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut.” That phrase has jumped out in my reading! What cables are towing me? Sugar, for one thing, which seems as innocuous as a whale in the sea, and yet I seem unable to sever it completely. And surely, there are things which try as I might, I cannot cut away (judgement, perfectionism, a critical spirit).

Moby Dick (Chapters 21-30)

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While reading Moby Dick, I have been selecting a quote which seems particularly pertinent to each chapter, in the hopes that at the conclusion I will have a collective summary of all the important bits. A summary, I hope, that will help tie it all together in my mind. I am posting them in groups of 10, so as not to be overwhelming to any of us, and so here are the quotes from Chapters 21-30:

Chapter 21: 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 cabin.

Chapter 22: ‘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 by 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 hung, ye mates. Don’t stave the boats needlessly, ye harpooneers; a good white cedar plank is raised full three per cent within the year.’

Chapter 23: 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.

Chapter 24: …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!

Chapter 25: 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 the sperm oil in its unmanufactured, in polluted state, the sweetest of all oils?

Chapter 26: Looking into his (Starbuck’s) eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering images of those thousandfold perils he had calmly confronted through life.

Chapter 27: What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going, unseating man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a world full of grave peddlers, 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.

Chapter 28: More than once did he (Ahab) put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any other man, would have soon flowered out in a smile.

Chapter 29: Old age is always wakeful; as if, the longer linked with life, the less man has to do with aught that looks like death.

Chapter 30: 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.

 

I can’t imagine ever being bored by this novel. I have heard it is lengthy, and tiresome beyond compare, but I have yet to reach those parts.

Moby Dick (Chapters 11-20)

AEAEE80D-2F9E-4108-94F4-620CB9F6D13CChapter 11: I was only alive to the condensed confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and blanket with a real friend.

Chapter 12: Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.

Chapter 13: (Queequeg saves a greenhorn who had been teasing him before he was swept overboard.) “It’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. (He says.) We cannibals must help these Christians.”

Chapter 14: 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.

Chapter 15:  “So, Mr. Queequeg (said the inkeeper’s wife), “I will just take this here iron (harpoon) and keep it for you til tomorrow morning. But the chowder; clam or cod tomorrow for breakfast?”

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

Chapter 16: You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I know…but take my word for it, you never saw such a rare old craft as the Pequod. She was a ship of the old school, rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed look about her…a cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies.

Chapter 17: As Queequeg’s Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation was to continue all day, I did not choose to disturb him until nightfall; for I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations, never mind how comical…

Chapter 18: Without saying one 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 in 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.

Chapter 19: 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.

Chapter 20: 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.

***

Critics now want to say that Ishmael and Queequeg have a homosexual relationship; I disagree. I think they have a friendship that is formed of the tightest bonds from two lonely people who understand each other.

The chapter in which Queequeg displays his skill with the harpoon is entitled “Queequeg’s Mark.” He is far more adept at making his mark with a harpoon than he is with a pen as he is asked to do near the end of the chapter. What a clever title Melville used.

Melville’s humor, descriptions, setting, characterization, and foreshadowing are incredible. It is a book I carry on reading with the greatest of zeal.

Moby Dick: a sentence or two from each chapter; a type of Cliff notes, if you will. (Chapters 1-10 so far.)

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I never expected to be so thoroughly entranced by Moby Dick. I knew I wanted to read it because a reader should be aware of such classics, because Herman Melville’s birthday was 200 years ago on August 1, because it has been sitting on my shelf for years. But, I never knew that each chapter, even each page, would have something significant to say.

In order to remember such a long novel accurately, I am writing down quotes which seem to highlight each chapter. I will post them in groups of ten, to access them more easily. (And Brona, I realize this was to be a slow read-along, but I am compelled to sail along.)

Chapter 1: 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.

Chapter 2: …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 (New Bedford, Massachusetts).

Chapter 3: Upon entering the place ((The Spouter Inn) 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 hadn’t no objections to sharing a harpooner’s blanket, have ye? I s’pose you are goin’ a whalin’, so you’d better get used to that sort of thing.’

Chapter 4: Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner…The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-colored 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 one precise shade…this same arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that same patchwork quilt.

Chapter 5: Queequeg’s 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 everyone knows that in most people’s estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly.

Chapter 6: …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.

Chapter 7:  In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included…how it is that we still refuse to be comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in unspeakable bliss.

Chapter 8:  Yes, the world’s a ship in its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.

Chapter 9: Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed them into a gale!

Chapter 10: No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage (Queequeg) had redeemed it…He seemed to take me quite as naturally and unbiddingly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me around 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.

Can’t you just see Queequeg’s tattoos? The harpoon with which he first shaves and then spears his beefsteak for breakfast? The church with its pulpit and tombstones and somber foreshadowing of what one feels certain will come? This book has me by the throat, and I love it.

Google is pressing me to renew my domain, while I am busy cycling. Coloring. And, reading.

My favorite new pace is “slow.” That way I can hear the late summer insects singing as I ride through their domain, trying to identify the wildflowers whizzing by. I’ve got Queen Anne’s Lace, lilies, thistles, and Brown-eyed Susans, but those pink ones? I haven’t a clue. And, it doesn’t matter.

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When I color in Johanna Basford’s books, this one is Magical Jungle, I can make them any color I wish. You might think I’m a bit old for coloring, but I think not. School supplies are out now, at the best price they’ll be all year, and I recommend getting yourself a pack of Crayola colored pencils for under $7.00 and having a party.

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August is time for Brona’s read-along of Moby Dick, a few chapters a week as I recall. So, there’s that to read on the plane to a family wedding in Virginia next week.

Meanwhile, I keep deleting the most tiresome texts from Google threatening the banishment of my blog if I don’t renew my domain by August 3. I feel a little like John Belushi in Animal House: “Great, 13 years of blogging down the drain,” with two pencils protruding from my nostrils. And yet, if they take it away, I’ll be [dolcebellezza2.wordpress.com]. Would you still come visit me then? If I promise to return the favor?