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 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 Read-along Plans

moby dick 2I have long been wanting to read Moby Dick, and Brona’s plan seems just about perfect: three to four chapters a week beginning August 1, which is Herman Melville’s 200th birthday. The reading could be followed up with a listening to the chapters on audio at Moby Dick Big Read.

Here is a screenshot of the site, as the name almost sounds…ridiculous:

Screenshot_2019-05-27-19-06-15~2

So, it’s a plan. I have time to finish Lucky Per which was to be May’s read-along, and locate my leather bound, gilt-edged edition of Moby Dick. Perhaps you will join us as well.