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Full text of "Moby-Dick, or, the Whale"

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S51, by 


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southorn District of New York. 




€jris %nk is Snstrihi 









— Loomings . . 



— Forecastle. — Mid- 


—The Carpet Bag. 


night .... 



— The Spouter-Inn 



—Moby Dick . . . 



— The Counterpane 



— The Whiteness of 


— Breakfast . . . 


the Whale . . 



—The Street . . 



-Hark! . . . . 



—The Chapel . . 



—The Chart . . . 



—The Pulpit . . 



—The Affidavit . . 



— The Sermon . . 



— Surmises .... 



— A Bosom Friend 



—The Mat-Maker . 



— Nightgown . 



— The First Lowering 



— Biographical . 



— The Hyena . . . 



— Wheelbarrow . 



— Ahab's Boat and 


— Nantucket . . 


Crew — Fedallah. 



— Chowder . . . 



—The Spirit-Spout . 



—The Ship . . . 



— The Pequod meets 


—The Ramadan . 

. 91 

the Albatross. . 



—His Mark . . . 



—The Gam. . . . 



—The Prophet . . 



—The Town Ho's 


—All Astir . . .- 


Story .... 



— Going Aboard . 



— Monstrous Pictures 


—Merry Christmas 


of Whales. . . 



—The Lee Shore . 



— Less Erroneous Pic- 


— The Advocate . 


tures of Whales . 



— Postscript. . . 



—Of Whales in Paint, 


— Knights and Squires 


in Teeth, &c. 



— Knights and Squires 






-Ahab .... 





—Enter Ahab ; to him 


—The Line. . . . 


Stubb . . . 



-Stubb kills a Whale. 



—The Pipe . . . 



—The Dart. . 



—Queen Mab . . . 



—The Crotch . . . 



— Cetology . . . 



— Stubb's Supper . . 



— The Specksynder 



-The Whale as a 


—The Cabin Table 


Dish .... 



—The Mast-Head. 



—The Shark Mas- 


— The Quarter-Deck 

sacre .... 


Ahab and all. 



— Cutting In . . . 





—The Blanket . . 



—Dusk .... 



-The Funeral. . . 



—First Night- Watch 



—The Sphynx. . . 









— The Pequod meets 


— A Bovver in the Ar- 

the Jeroboam. 

sacides. . . . 


Her Story . . 



— Measurement of the 


— The Monkey-rope 


Whale's Skeleton 



— Stubb & Flask kill 


—The Fossil Whale. 


a Right Whale. 



—Does the Whale Di- 


— The SpermWhale's 

minish 1 . . . 


Head . . . 



— Ahab's Leg . . . 



—The Right Whale's 


— The Carpenter . . 


Head. . . . 



—The Deck. Ahab 


— The BatteringRam 


and the Carpenter 



—The Great Heidel- 


—The Cabin. Ahab 

burgh Tun . . 


and Starbuck . 



— Cistern and Buck- 


— Queequeg in his 

ets ... . 


Coffin .... 



—The Praire . . . 



—The Pacific . . . 



—The Nut . . . 



—The Blacksmith . 



—The Pequod meets 


—The Forge . . . 


the Virgin . . 



—The Gilder . . . 



—The Honor and 


—The Pequod meets 

Glory of Whal- 

the Bachelor 


ing ... . 



—The Dying Whale. 



—Jonah Historically 


-The Whale- Watch. 


Regarded . . 



—The Quadrant . . 



— Pitchpoling. . . 



-The Candles. . . 



—The Fountain . . 



-The Deck . . . 



-The Tail . . . 



—Midnight, on the 


— The Grand Arma- 

Forecastle . . 





—Midnight, Aloft. . 



—Schools & School- 


—The Musket. . . 


masters . . . 



—The Needle . . . 



—Fast Fish and 


— The Log and Line. 


Loose Fish . . 



—The Life-Buoy . . 



— Heads or Tails . 



—Ahab and the Car- 


— The Pequod meet3 

penter .... 


the Rose Bud . 



— The Pequod meets 


— Ambergris . . . 


the Rachel . . 



—The Castaway. . 



-The Cabin. Ahab 


— A Squeeze of the 

and Pip . . . 


Hand. . . . 



—The Hat . . . . 



—The Cassock . . 



—The Pequod meets 


—The Try- Works . 


the Delight . . 



—The Lamp . . . 



—The Symphony. . 



— Stowing Down & 


—The Chase. First 

Clearing Up . 


Day .... 



—The Doubloon. . 



— The Chase. Second 


— The Pequod meets 

Day .... 


the Samuel En- 


—The Chase. Third 

derby of London. 


Day .... 



— The Decanter . . 


Epilogue . 





(supplies 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 Dictionary. 

" WHALE. * * * It is more immediately from the 
Dut. and Ger. Wallen ; a.s. Walw-ian, to roll, to wallow." 

Richardson's Dictionary. 




























(£uppltrtJ J>a a £u&*£u6=1Lttitatfatt.) 

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 own. 

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." 


" Leviathan maketh a path to shin- 5 after him ; 
One would think the deep t< be hoary." 


"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 
Balsene, 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 ether's verbal narrative taken down 
from his mouth by King Alfred. A. D. 890. 

" 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 cart-loads." 

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 Common- 
wealth or State — (in Latin, Civitas) which is but an artificial 
man." Opening sentence of Hoboes' 1 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." 


"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 Leviathans to attend their prey, 
And give no chace, but swallow in the fry, 

Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way." 
Dryderis 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 

Thomas Edge's Ten Voyages to Spitsbergen, in Purchass. 

" 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 tlie 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." 

SibbalcVs 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 

Richard Strafford 's Letter from the Bermudas. 
Phil. Trans. A. D. 1668. 

" 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. B. 1729. 

•a * -u * * u an( j t;h e breath of the whale is frequently 
attended with such an insupportable smell, as to bring on a 
disorder of the brain." 

UUoa'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. His. 

" 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." 

TJno Von TroiVs Letters on Banks's and 
Solander's Voyage to Iceland in 1772. 

"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 V 

Edmund Burke's reference in Parliament 

to the Nantucket Whale- Fishery. 


" Spain a great whale stranded on the shores of Europe." 

Edmund Burke, {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." 


" Soon to the sport of death the crews repair : 
Rodmond unerring o'er his head suspends 
The barbed steel, and eveiy 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 roar- 
ing 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 Cuvier. 


" 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." 

Colnetfs Voyage for the Purpose of 

Extending the Spermacetti Whale Finery. 

. " In the free element beneath me swam, 

Floundered and dived, in play, in chace, in battle, 

Fishes of every color, 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 observ- 
ing 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 Tioice 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 
spout ; 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." 
Eckermanrfs 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 different 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." Scoresby. 

" 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 everv- 
thing 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 con- 
sideration of the habits of so interesting, and, in a commercial 


point of view, of 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 com- 
petent observers, that of late years must have possessed the 
most abundant and the most convenient opportunities of 
witnessing their habitudes." 

Thomas Beetle'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 pos- 
sessing a formidable weapon at either extremity of its body, but 
also more frequently displays a disposition to employ these 
weapons offensively, and in a 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 Bennetts Whaling 
Voyage Round the Globe. 1840. 

October 13. "There she blows," was sung out from the 

" 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 breaches !" 

" Sing out ! sing out every time !" 

" Ay ay, sir ! There she blows ! there — there — thar she 
blows — bowes — bo-o-o-s !" 

"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. 1828. 


" 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. 

" 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 
Preble." 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 Ver- 
sion of tke whale-ship Globe narrative. 

" 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." 

McCulloctts 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." 

From " Something " unpublished. 


" 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 a regular voyage." 

Currents and Whaling. JJ. 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 Trucks. 

" On one occasion I saw two of these monsters (whales) pro- 
bably male and female, slowly swimming, one after the other, 
within less than a stone's throw of the shore " (Terra Del Fu- 
ego), " over which the beech tree extended its branches." 

Danvin'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 Kilter. 

" 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 Sony.^ 



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. When- 
ever 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 sur- 
rounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you 
waterward. Its extreme down-town 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 


L O O M I N G S . 

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. Saj, 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 

But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dream- 
iest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic land- 
scape 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 torment- 
ing, 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 them- 
selves much, as a general thing ; — no, I never go as a passen- 
ger ; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever 
go to sea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I aban- 
don 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 pyramids. 

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 Rensse- 
laers, 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 

L O O M I N G S 

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 any- 
thing the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey 
that old hunks in that particular instance ? "Who aint a slave ? 
Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains ma)' 
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 con- 

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 con- 
trary, 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 whole- 
some exercise and pure air of the forecastle 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 judgment. 

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 everlast- 
ing 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 wel- 
come ; 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 phan- 
tom, like a snow hill in the air. 



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 on 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 monopolizing 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 cobble-stones — so goes the story — 
to throw at the whales, in order to discover when they were 
nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the bowsprit ? 

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 wei'e 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 con- 
nexion, 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 reason- 
est well. Yes, these eyes are Avindows, 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. 



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 oil-painting so thoroughly be- 
smoked, and every way defaced, that in the unequal cross-lights 
by which you viewed it, it was only by diligent study and a 
series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry of the neigh- 
bors, 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 deli- 
neate 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 ice-bound stream of Time. But at last all 
these fancies yielded to that one portenfams 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-foun- 
dered 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 fire-places 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, espe- 
cially 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. Pro- 
jecting 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 ano- 
ther 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, sur- 
round 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 gulph 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 speci- 
mens of slcrimshander. 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 objection- 
able, 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 

" I thought so. All right ; take a seat. Supper ? — you 
want supper ? Supper '11 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 dili- 
gently 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 but- 
ton 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 sartainty." 

" Landlord," I whispered, " that aint the harpooneer, is it ?" 

" Oh, no," said he, looking a sort of diabolically funny, " the 
harpooner is a dark complexioned chap. He never eats dump- 
lings, he don't — he eats nothing but steaks, and likes 'em 

" 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 longstand- 
ing, or whether caught off the coast of Labrador, or on the wea- 
ther 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 
Alleganian Ridge in Virginia. When the revelry of his compa- 
nions had mounted to its height, this man slipped away unob- 
served, 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 favorite 
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 bed- 
wards. 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 cant spare ye a table- 
cloth 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 study. 

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 unwarrant- 
able 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 2" It was now hard upon twelve 

The landlord chuckled again with his lean chuckle, and 
seemed to be mightily tickled at something beyond my com- 
pi-ehension. " 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 V 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, 
a but I rayther guess you'll be done brown if that ere harpoon- 
eer 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 veiy 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 har- 
pooneer. And about this harpooneer, whom I have not yet 
seen, you persist in telling me the most mystifying and exaspe- 
rating 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 sell- 
ing 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 fool- 
ing me — but at the same time what could I think of a harpoon- 
eer who stayed out of a Saturday night clean into the holy Sab- 
bath, engaged in such a cannibal business as selling the heads 
of dead idolaters ? 


" Depend upon it, landlord, that harpooneer is a dangerous 

" 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 : 
Sail and me slept in that ere bed the night we were spliced. 
There's plenty 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 ; worCt ye 
come ? " 

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 disap- 

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 be- 
longing 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 ham- 
mock 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 concern- 
ing if. 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 uncom- 
monly 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 think- 
ing. I then took off my coat, and thought a little more in my 
shirt sleeves. But beginning to feel very cold now, half un- 
dressed 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 panta- 
loons 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 JSTew 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 color, 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 har- 
pooneer never noticed me at all. But, after some difficulty 
having opened his bag, he commenced fumbling in it, and pre- 
sently 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 countiy. 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 pro- 
duced at length a curious little deformed image with a hu nch 
on its back, and exactly the color 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 hunchbacked 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 appro- 
priate 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 

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 tight was put 
out, to break the spell in which I had so long been bound. 

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. " Land- 
lord ! 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 sabbee ?" — 

" 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 toma- 
hawk, 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 aint 

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 wont touch a leg of ye. 

" Good night, landlord," said I, " you may go." 

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




Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Quee- 
queg'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-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 of one precise shade — owing I suppose to his keep- 
ing 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 me. 

My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. 
When I was a child, I well remember a somewhat similar cir- 
cumstance 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 sigb 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, beseech- 
ing her as a particular favor to give me a good slippering for 
my misbehavior ; anything indeed but condemning me to he 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 conscious- 
ness 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 strange- 
ness, 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 counter- 
pane, 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 canni- 
bal 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. Mean- 
while, 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 apart- 
ment 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 mar- 
vellous 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 ; 
staling at him from the bed, and watching all his toilette mo- 
tions ; for the time my curiosity getting the better of my breed- 
ing. 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 state — 
neither caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just enough civilized 
to show off his outlandishness in the strangest possible manner. 
His education was not yet completed. He was an undergradu- 
ate. If he had not been a small degree civilized, he very pro- 
bably 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 

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 pro- 
ceeded 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^tfed 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 vigor- 
ous 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. 



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 bedfellow. 

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 keep- 
ers ; a brown and brawny company, with bosky beards ; an 
unshorn, shaggy set, all wearing monkey jackets for morning 

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 can- 
not 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 tamed 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, con- 
trasting 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 anywhere. 

These reflections iust 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 sur- 
prise, 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 whalemen ! 

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 break- 
fast was over he withdrew like the rest into the public room, 
lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was sitting there quietly digest- 
ing and smoking with his inseparable hat on, when I sallied 
out for a stroll. 




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, Tongatabooarrs, 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 strut- 
ting 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 whale- 
men, 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 

BLUE. 37 

their daughters, and portion off their nieces with a few porpoises 
a-piece. You must go to New Bedford to see a brilliant wed- 
ding ; for, they say, they have reservoirs of oil in every house, 
and eveiy night recklessly burn their lengths in spermaceti 

In summer time, the town is sweet to see ; full of fine 
maples — long avenues of green and gold. And in August, 
high in ah, the beautiful and bountiful horse-chestnuts, cande- 
labra-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 day. 

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. 



Ik 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 gleet 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 muf- 
fled 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 incom- 
municable. 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 ^n 
either side the pulpit. Three of them ran something like the 
following, but I do not pretend to quote : — 


2To tfje jfttemorj} 



Who, at the age of eighteen, was lost overboard, 

Near the Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia, 

November 1st, 1836. 


Is erected to his Memory 



So tfje £&emor£ 





Forming one of the boats' crews 

o F 


Who were towed out of sight by a Whale, 

On the Off-shore Ground in the 


December 31st, 1839. 

Is here placed by their surviving 



Wo tjje ittemors 


The late 


Who in the bows of his boat was killed by a 

Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan, 

August 3d, 1833. 

Is erected to his Memory 


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 con- 
gregation, 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 

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 
«eem 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 



I had not been seated very long ere a man of a certain vene- 
rable 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 
favorite. 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 
fife he had led. When he entered I observed that he carried 
no umbrella, and certainly had not come in his carnage, 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 pulpit. 

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, substi- 
tuting 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 color, the whole contrivance, consider- 
ing 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 impregna- 
ble in his little Quebec. 

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 strong- 
hold — 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 repre- 
senting 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 hand." 

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 favorable winds. Yes, the world's a ship on 
its passage out, and not a voyage complete ; and the pulpit 
is its prow. 




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 toll- 
ing 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 Jonah." 

" 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 sea- 
line 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 les- 
son 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-hearted- 
ness, suddenly awakened fears, the swift punishment, repent- 
ance, 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, wberein the hardness of obeying God con- 

" 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 hasten- 
ing 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 sympa- 
thetic 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 V 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 V 
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 pre- 
pares to test the length of Jonah's purse, ere he judge him 
openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum; and it's as- 
sented 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 
look'st 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 herald- 
ing presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold 
him in the smallest of his bowel's 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 obli- 
quity 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 upward, 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, 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 j)ointing 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 V 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 01 
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, Jonah ? Aye, well mightest thou fear the Lord 
God then ! Straightway, he now goes on to make a full con- 
fession ; whereupon the mariners became more and more 
appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet sup- 
plicating God for mercy, since he but too well knew the dark- 
ness 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 unre- 
luctantly lay hold of Jonah. 

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 deliver- 
ance 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 cla- 
morous 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. Ship- 
mates, 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 


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 commun- 
ing 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 tbings, 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 swal- 
lowed him down to living gulfs of doom, and with swift slant- 
ings 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 salva- 
tion ! Yea, woe to him who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, 
while preaching to others is himself a castaway !" 

He drooped 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 ? De- 
light 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 acknow- 
ledges 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 de- 
liciousness will be his, who coming to lay hira down, can say 


with his final breath — 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. 



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 

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 

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 alto- 
gether 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 ridi- 
culous, 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 cannibal- 
istically 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 indiffer- 
ence 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 compa- 
nionship ; 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 digester." 

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 peer- 
ing 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 mad- 
dened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This 
soothing savage had redeemed it. There he sat, his very indif- 
ference 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 wo 
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, be quietly offered me a puff. And then 
we sat exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping 
it regularly passing between us. 

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 country- 
man, 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 put 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 browsers 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 in- 
cluded — 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 feUow 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, 1 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. 



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 nappislmess 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 recum- 
bent position began to grow wearisome, and by little and little 
w r e 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 knee-pans were Avarming-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 comfort- 
able, 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 crystal. 

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 pleas- 
ant and self-created darkness into the imposed and coarse outer 
gloom of the unilluminated twelve-o'clock-at-night, 1 experi- 
enced 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 smok- 
ing in the bed the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff pre- 
judices 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 house- 
hold joy then. I no more felt unduly concerned for the land- 
lord'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 Jiay prove in the mere skeleton I give. 




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. 

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, Avhich 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 

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 him- 
self 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 country- 
men. 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 idolater 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 

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 
fur ascending the pure and undefiled throne of thirty pagan 


Kings before Mm. 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 sleeping. 



/ 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, in- 
cluding 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 laugh ?" 


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 be- 
tween 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 punch 
bowl ; — 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 cleai', 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 records. 

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 brows 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 bump- 
kin's hour of doom was come. Dropping his harpoon, the 
brawny savage caught him in his arms, and by an almost mira- 
culous dexterity and strength, sent him high up bodily into the 


ail- ; then slightly tapping his stern in mid-somerset, the fellow 
landed with bursting lungs upon his feet, while Queequeg, turn- 
ing 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 

" Look you," roared the Captain, " I'll kill-e you, you canni- 
bal, 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 con- 
sternation, 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 perpen- 
dicularly 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 drag- 
ging 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 can- 
nibals must help these Christians." 




Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the men- 
tioning ; 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 dis- 
covered the island, and there they found an empty ivory casket, 
— the poor little Indian's skeleton. 

What wonder, then, that these Nantucketers, bom 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 Bhering'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 assaults ! 

And thus have these naked Nantucketers, these sea hermits, 
issuing from their ant-hill in the sea, overrun and conquered 
the wateiy 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. 



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 lar- 


board hand, whereas I Lad 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 sensi- 
tive to such imj3ressions 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 scold- 
ing with a man in a purple woollen shirt. 

" Get along with ye," said she to the man, " or I'll be comb- 
ing ye ! " 

" Come on, Queequeg," said I, " all right. There's Mrs. 

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, 
Mi's. 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 favorite 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 an- 
nouncement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping 
to the kitchen door, I uttered the word " cod " with great em- 
phasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savory 
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 morn- 
ing 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 He, 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 variety." 



In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my 
surprise and no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to under- 
stand, 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 consi- 
derable 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 se- 
lection 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 any- 
thing ; 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 vene- 
rable 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 Beckett bled. But to all these her old anti- 
quities, 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 ivoiy. 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 that. 

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 over- 
look 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 Pottowot- 
taraie 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 

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 sail- 
ings 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 tent. 

" 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. Mar- 
chant 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 inuendoes, 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 

" 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 whal- 
ing 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, 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 merchant " 

" Hard down out of that ! Mind what I said about the mar- 
chant 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 it ?" 

" 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 per- 
ceived 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 for- 
bidding ; 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 dost 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 interest. 

Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucket- 
ers, 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 seclu- 
sion 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 
over-ruling morbidness at the bottom of his nature. For all 
men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. 
Be sure of this, 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 circumstances. 

Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired 
whaleman. But unlike Captain Peieg — 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 Pel eg. Though refusing, from 
conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet 
himself had inimitably 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 dedicat- 
ing 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 cer- 
tainly 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 quan- 
tity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When 


Biklad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-colored 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. Indo- 
lence and idleness perished from before him. His own person 
was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his 
long, gaunt body, he earned 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 read- 
ing 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, u 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 F said Peleg. 

" He'll do," said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spell- 
ing away at his book in a mumbling tone quite audible. 

I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, espe- 
cially as Peleg, his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blus- 
terer. 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 voy- 
age. 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 pro- 
portioned to the degree of importance pertaining to the respec- 
tive 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 nett 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 for- 
tunes, 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 inconsi- 


derable 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 considera- 
tion 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 

" Seven hundred and seventy-seventh," again said Bildad, 
without lifting his eyes ; and then went on mumbling — " fof 
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-colored 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 cany 
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 inter- 


vals 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 your- 
self 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 shipped." 

" 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 com- 
mon ; 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 

" 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 Gay- 
head, 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 laugh- 
ing 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 disin- 
cline 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 direc- 
tions, so that for the present dark Ahab slipped my mind. 




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 Rama- 
dan ; — 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 — Presbyte- 
rians 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 perform- 
ances 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, be- 
fore 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 open !" 

"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 un- 
derstand 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 won'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 unwith- 
drawn 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 knot 
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 you ?" 

" He hain't been a sittin' so all day, has he ?" said the 

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 unna- 
turally 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 any 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 suj>pose ; 
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 then. 

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 

" For heaven's sake, Queequeg, get up and shake yourself; 
get up and have some supper. You'll starve ; you'll kill your- 
self, 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 posi- 
tion, 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, unaccounta- 
ble 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 

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 
j>oint with him. 

And just so I now did with Queequeg. " Queequeg," said 
I, " get into bed now, and he and listen to me." I then went 
on, beginning with the rise and progress of the primitive reli- 
gions, 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 bora 
on an undigested apple-dumpling ; and since then perpetuated 
through the hereditary dyspepsias nurtured by Ramadans. 

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 occa- 
sion. 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 
Bubject, 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 conde- 
scending concern and compassion, as though he thought it a 
great pity that such a sensible young man should be so hope- 
lessly lost to evangelical pagan piety. 

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


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." 

" Yea," 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 

" 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 ever- 
lasting First Congregation of this whole worshipping world ; 
we all belong to that ; only some of us cherish some queer 
crotchets noways touching the grand belief ; in that we all join 

" 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 

100 HIS MARK. 

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 

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 every- 
thing 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 V 

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 pro- 
per 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 : — 

his »J« 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 

HIS MARK. 101 

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 

" 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 behest 
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 lnm, 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 ever- 
lasting 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 sail-makers who were mending a top-sail in 
the waist. Now and then he stooped to pick up a patch, 
or save an end of the tarred twine, which otherwise might have 
been wasted. 



" 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 fore- 
finger at the vessel in question. He was but shabbily apparel- 
led 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 sti'anger, 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 in- 
sane 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 V 

" 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 strangei-, 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 

" 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 los3 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 wont be, after all. Any how, 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 impor- 
tant to tell us, out with it ; but if you are only trying to bam- 
boozle us, you are mistaken in your game ; that's all I have to 

" 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 'em." 


" 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." 

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 Cap- 
tain 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 things. 

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. 




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 prepara- 
tions 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 rig- 
ging 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 stop- 
ping, 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 housekeep- 
ing. Just so with whaling, which necessitates a three-years' 
housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all grocers, coster- 
mongers, 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 acci- 
dents 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 spare, and spare lines 
and harpoons, and spare everythings, almost, but a spare Cap- 
tain and duplicate ship. 

At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest stor- 
age 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 want- 
ing 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 and 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 down- 
right 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 insensi- 
bly 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. 



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 Quee- 
queg to me. It was Elijah. 

" Going aboard ?" 

" Hands off, will you," said I. 

" Lookee here," said Queequeg, shaking himself, " go 'way !" 

" Aint 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 imper- 
tinent ?" 

" 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 with- 
drawing. We are going to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and 
would prefer not to be detained." 

" 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 paces. 

" 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 f ' 

Struck by this plain matter-of-fact question, I answered, say- 
ing " 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 V 


"Find who?" 

" Morning to ye ! morning to ye !" he rejoined, again 
moving off. " Oh ! I was going to warn ye against — hut never 
mind, never mind — it's all one, all in the family too ; — sharp 
frost this morning, ain't it ? Good hye 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 impu- 

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 down- 
wards and inclosed in his folded arms. The profoundest slum- 
ber 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." 

" Face !" said I, " call that his face ? very benevolent coun- 
tenance then ; but how hard he breathes, he's heaving himself; 
get off, Queequeg, you are heaw, 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 fatten- 
ing 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 attend- 
ant, 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 nourished 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 com- 
pletely filling the contracted hole, it began to tell upon him. 
He breathed with a sort of muffiedness ; then seemed troubled 
in the nose ; then revolved over once or twice ; then sat up and 
rubbed his eyes. 

" 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. 

1 " 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 

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. 



At length, towai'ds 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 
whaleboat, 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 

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 offices, 
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 seenac- 


tively 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 hun- 
dred 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 im- 
mediate 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 back- 
bone ! Why don't ye spring, I say, all of ye — spring ! Quo- 
hag ! 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 im- 
perturbable 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 

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 alongside. 

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 
eveiy way brimful of every intei-est to him, — poor old Bildad 
lingered long ; paced the deck with anxious strides ; ran down j' 
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, me- 
chanically 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, "Never- 
theless, 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 1 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," mur- 
mured 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 wa?. 
a little leaky, I thought. If ye touch at the islands, Mi . 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, if — " 

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

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 Atlantic. 



Some chapters back, one Bulkirgton was spoken of, a tall, 
new-landed 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 independ- 
ence 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 the highest truth, shore- 
less, indefinite as God — so, better is it to perish in that howl- 
ing 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, Bulkington ! Bear thee 
grimly, demigod ! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing — 
straight up, leaps thy apotheosis ! 



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 dis- 
reputable pursuit ; therefore, I am all anxiety to convince ye, 
ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby done to us hunters of 

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 honor- 
ing 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 inter- 
linked 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 Pe 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 1*788 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 eveiy 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 the glory of the 
whale-ship, which originally showed them, the way, and first in- 
terpreted between them and the savages. They may celebrate 
as they will the heroes of Exploring Expeditions, your Cookes, 
your Krusensterns ; but I say that scores of anonymous Cap- 
tains have sailed out of Nantucket, that were as great, and 
greater than your Cooke and your Krusenstern. For in their 
succorless empty-handedness, they, in the heathenish sharked 
waters, and by the beaches of unrecorded, javelin islands, 
battled with virgin wonders and terrors that Cooke 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 dedi- 
cates three chapters to, these men accounted unworthy of 
being set down in the ship's common log. Ah, the w r orld ! 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 libera- 
tion 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, Aus- 
tralia, 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 
douhle-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 threshold. 

But if, in the face of all this, you still declare that whaling 
has no assthetically 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 say. 

The whale no famous author, and whaling no famous chro- 
nicler ? 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 Frank- 
lin was Mary Morrel ; afterwards, by marriage, Mary Folger, 
one of the .old settlers of Nantucket, and the ancestress to a 
.Jong line of Folgers and harpooneers — all kith and kin to noble 
Benjamin — 1jhis day darting th.e barbed iron from one side of 
the world to the other. 

Good again; but then all .confess ,th# somehow whaling is 
not respectable. — 

Whaling not respectable ? Whaling is imperial ! By 


old English statutory law, the whale is declared "a royal 

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.* 

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

JVo 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 any- 
thing 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 

* See subsequent chapters for something more on this head. 




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 blameworthy ? 

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 caster 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 ! 




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 pre- 
pared 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 igno- 
rance. 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 estima- 
tion 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 Stbub, 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 lie 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 corn-age 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 valor 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-rained 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 pau- 
pered 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, God ! 



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 col- 


lected 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 fife 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. 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 

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 ex- 
haling 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 de- 
stroy 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 appre- 
hension of any possible danger from encountering them ; that in 
his poor opinion, the wondrous whale was but a species of mag- 
nified mouse, or at least water-rat, requiring only a little cir- 
cumvention 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 
(imber known by that name in Arctic whalers ; and which by 
She means of many radiating side timbers inserted into it, serves 
.o brace the ship against the icy concussions of those batter- 
ing 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 heads- 
men 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 sub- 
sists between the two, a close intimacy and friendliness ; it is 
therefore but meet, that in this place we set down who the Pe- 
quod'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 glit- 
tering expression — all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inhe- 
ritor of the un vitiated 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 snuff- 
ing 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 be- 
hold. Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large 
that the sailors called them ring-bolts, and would talk of secur- 
ing 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 uncom- 
monly 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, Aha- 
suerus 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 Ame- 
rican 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 libe- 
rally 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 Nan- 
tucket whalers frequently touch to augment their crews from the 
hardy peasants of those rocky shores. In like manner, the 

A H A B . 133 

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 Isolalo 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 veiy 
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 gi'eat 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 ! 


For several days after leaving Nantucket, nothing abore 
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 dic- 
tator was there, though hitherto unseen by any eyes not per- 
mitted to penetrate into the now sacred retreat of the cabin. 

134 A H A B . 

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 dia- 
bolical 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 espe- 
cially the aspect of the three chief officers of the ship, the mates, 
which was most forcibly calculated to allay these colorless mis- 
givings, and induce confidence and cheerfulness in every present- 
ment 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 

AHAB. 135 

rapidity, that as I mounted to the deck at the call of the fore- 
noon 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 cloth- 
ing? y° u 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 allu- 
sion was made to it, especially by the mates. But once Tash- 
tego'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 

J36 AHAB. 

ever Captain Ahab should be tranquilly laid out — whicb might 
hardly come to pass, so he muttered — then, whoever should dc 
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 

I was struck with the singular posture he maintained. Upon 
each side of the Pequod's quarter deck, and pretty close to the 
mizen 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, unsur- 
renderable wilfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedica- 
tion 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, con- 
sciousness 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 ; cither 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 cruis- 
ing ; 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 upon. 

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, misan- 
thropic woods ; even the barest, ruggedest, most thunder-cloven 
old oak will at least send forth some few green sprouts, to wel- 
come 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. 



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 poten- 
cies 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 noise- 
less 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 dis- 
turbing 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, griping at the iron banister, to help his crippled way. 
Some considerating 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 of 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 odd second mate, came up from below, 
and 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 did'st not know Ahab then. 

" 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 

Starting at the unforeseen 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 over- 
bearing 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 sus- 
pects ; what's that for, I should like to know ? Who's made ap- 
pointments 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 com- 
mandment ; 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, 1 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. Coining afoul of that old man has a 

THE PIPE. 141 

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 day- 



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 hail's, 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. 



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 in- 
sult, 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 dif- 
ference 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 devil- 
ish 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 flight. ' 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 sea- 
weed 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 piteh 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 V 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 that 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 

" What d'ye 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 way." 



Already we are boldly launched upon the deep ; but soon 
we shall be lost in its unshored, harborless 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 

C E T O L G Y . 145 

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 author- 
ities have laid down. 

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

u 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 incom- 
plete indications but serve to torture us naturalists." 

Thus speak of the whale, the great Cuvier, and John Hunter, 
and Lesson, those lights of zoology and anatomy. Never- 
theless, 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 ; Linnaeus ; Rondeletius ; Willoughby ; Green ; 
Artedi ; Sibbald ; Brisson ; Marten ; Lacepede ; Bonneterre ; 
Desmarest ; Baron Cuvier ; Frederick Cuvier ; John Hunter ; 
Owen ; Scoresby ; Beale ; Bennett ; J. Ross Browne ; the Au- 
thor of Miriam Coffin ; 01 instead ; and the Rev. T. Cheever. 
But to what ultimate generalizing purpose all these have writ- 
ten, the above cited extracts will show. 

Of the names in this list of whale authors, only those follow- 
ing 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, be is tbe best existing authority. But Scoresby knew 
nothing and says nothing of the great sperm whale, compared 
with which the Greenland whale is almost unworthy mention- 
ing. 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 wa} 7 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 des- 
cription. 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 life. 

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 sub- 
sequent 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 system atization 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 Ce- 
tology 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, Linnaeus 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 Linnaaus's express edict, were 
still found dividing the possession of the same seas with the 

The grounds upon which Linnaeus 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, penemintrantem feminam mammis lactantem," 
and finally, "ex lege naturae 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 

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 Avhale differ from 
other fish. Above, Linnaeus 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 ex- 
ternals, 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 defini- 
tion 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 

* 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 nosy, 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. 


this ground-plan of Cetology. Now, then, come the grand 
divisions of the entire whale host. 

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. 

I. The Folio Whale ; II. the Octavo Whale ; III. the 
Duodecimo Whale. 

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 chap- 
ters : — I. The Sperm Whale ; II. the Bight Whale ; III. the 
Fin Back Whale ; IV. the Hump-bached Wliale ; V. the 
Bazor 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 Wliale. 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 ex- 


ceedingly scarce, not being used for light, but only as an oint- 
ment 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 re- 
spect 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 fish- 
ermen, 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 baptized. 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 Baliene 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 depart- 
ments 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 hi. (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 eveiy 
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 color, 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 surrcnmding 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; unex- 
pectedly rising to the surface in the remotest and most sullen 
waters ; his straight and single lofty jet rising like a tall mis- 
anthropic 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 unconquera- 
ble Cain of his race, bearing for his mark that style upon his 
back. From having the baleen in his mouth, the Fin-Back is 

152 CE TO LOGY. 

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 connexion with this appellative of " Whalebone whales," 
it is of great importance to mention, that however such a nomen- 
clature 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 split. 

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 impos- 


sible 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 valu- 
able. 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 Bach). — 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). — An- 
other 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 awoy with rope-walks of fine. 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. 

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

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 mode- 
rate 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 ad- 
vance 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 inex- 
pressive, 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 circum- 
stance that the inner angles of his lips are curved upwards, ho 
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 show- 

* 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 diminished form does 
not. preserve the shape of the Folio volume, but the Octavo volume does. 


ing 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 hi. {Narwhale), that is, Nos- 
tril whale. — Another instance of a curiously named whale, so 
named I suppose from his peculiar horn being originally mis- 
taken 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 Unicom whale. He 
is certainly a curious example of the Unicornism to be found in 
almost every kingdom of animated nature. From certain clois- 
tered old authors I have gathered that this same sea-unicorn's 

156 C E T L G Y . 

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 ISarwhale, which for a long period after hung in the 
castle at Windsor." An Irish author avers that the Earl of Lei- 
cester, on bended knees, did likewise present to her highness 
another horn, pertaining to a land beast of- the unicorn nature. 

The ISTarwhale has a very picturesque, leopard-like look, being 
of a milk-white ground color, 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 circum polar 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 some- 
times 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 gentle- 
man 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. 

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 I. (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 wind- 
ward. They are the lads that always live before the wind. 
They are accounted a lucky omen. If you yourself can with- 
stand 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 sepa- 
rate colors, 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, inas- 
much as the Porpoise is the smallest of the whales. Above, you 
have all the Leviathans of note. But there are a rabble of un- 
certain, fugitive, half-fabulous whales, which, as an American 


whaleman, I know by reputation, but not personally. I shall 
enumerate them by their forecastle 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 read- 
ily be incorporated into this System, according to his Folio, Oc- 
tavo, 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 ; <fcc. From Ice- 
landic, Dutch, and old English authorities, there might be quoted 
other lists of uncertain whales, blessed with all manner of un- 
couth names. But I omit them as altogether obsolete ; and can 
hardly help suspecting them for mere sounds, full of Leviathan- 
ism, but signifying nothing. 

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 ! 



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 offi- 
cers, 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 Specksynder. 
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 de- 
partment and all its concerns, the Specksynder or Chief Har- 
pooneer 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 un- 
der 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 quar- 
ters 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 captains 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 whale- 
men 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. In- 
deed, 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, instan- 
taneous 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 sea. 

Nor, perhaps, will it fail to be eventually perceived, that be- 
hind 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, with- 
out 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 impart- 
ed 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 tre- 
mendous centralization. Nor, will the tragic dramatist who 
would depict mortal indomitableness in its fullest sweep and di- 
rect 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 Nan- 
tucket grimness and shagginess ; and in this episode touching 
Emperors and Bangs, I must not conceal that I have only to do 
with a poor old whale-hunter like him ; and, therefore, all out- 
ward 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 air! 



It is noon; and Dough-Boy, the steward, thrusting his 
j>ale 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 pre- 
sently, 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 cabin. 

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 be all right with that important rope, he likewise takes 
up the old burden, and with a rapid " Dinner, Mr. Flask," fol- 
lows after his predecessors. 

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 mizen- 
top 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 i 
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 mar- 
vellous, 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 cour- 
teously, therein certainly must have been some touch of mun- 
dane grandeur. But he who in the rightly regal and intelli- 
gent spirit presides over his own private dinner-table of invited 
guests, that man's unchallenged power and dominion of indivi- 
dual 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 Csesar. 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 war- 
like 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 pro- 
faned 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 shin- 
bones 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 ; neverthe- 
less, 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 din- 
ner, 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 immor- 
tal in him. Peace and satisfaction, thought Flask, have 
for ever departed from my stomach. I am an officer ; but, how 
I wish I could fist a bit of old-fashioned beef in the forecastle, 
as I used to when I was before tbe mast. Tbere'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 capa- 
city, 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 dumfound- 
ered 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 

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 bad 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 nim- 


ble 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 prelimi- 
nary 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 ele- 
ment of air ; and through his dilated nostrils snuffed in the sub- 
lime 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 Avould 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 then- knives ; that grating sound did not 
at all tend to tranquillize poor Dough-Boy. How could he for- 
get 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 nomi- 
nally lived there ; still, being anything but sedentary in their 
habits, they were scarcely ever in it except at meal-times, 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 Ame- 
rican 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, per- 
mitted 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 inac- 
cessible. Though nominally included in the census of Christen- 
dom, 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 ! 



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 al- 
most 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 any- 
thing 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 ex- 
patiate 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 standees, is an assertion based upon the general 
belief among archaeologists, 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 uphftings 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 every- 
thing 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 gran- 
deur 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 dis- 
tracted decks upon which they gaze ; however it may be sur- 
mised, that their spirits penetrate through the thick haze of tiie 


future, and descry what shoals and what rocks must be 

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 regu- 
lar 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 unevent- 
fulness 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 whalemen, 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 sentiy 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 fleshly 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 envi- 
able 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 fire-side 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 charm- 
ingly 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 infest- 
iiig 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 counter- 
acting the errors resulting from what is called the " local attrac- 
tion " 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 heen so many broken-down black- 
smiths 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 " approxi- 
mate 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 reple- 
nished 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 Greenland-men were ; yet that 
disadvantage is greatly counterbalanced by the widely contrast- 
ing 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 Queeqxieg, 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 tin- 
seasonable meditativeness ; and who offers to ship with the 
Phsedon 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. JSTor are these monitions at all unneeded. For now- 
adays, 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 ejaculates : — 

" 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 other- 
wise. 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 listl'essness 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 impart- 
ed 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 ! 


(Enter Ahdb : 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 move- 
ment. ^ 

" D'ye mark him, Flask ?" whispered Stubb ; " the chick 
that's in him pecks the shell. T'will 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 Star- 
buck 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 arid 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 stand- 
point ; 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 whisper- 
ing 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. Ve- 
hemently 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 voices. 

" Good !" cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones ; ob- 
serving 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-revolv- 
ing 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, ex- 


hibiting 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 tar- 
paulins 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 top-maul ; " 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 

" 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 

" And he have one, two, tree — 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 rourd as though uncorking a bot- 
tle — " like him — him — " 

" Corkscrew !" cried Ahab, " aye, Queequeg, the harpoons he 
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, 


Taslitego, 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 sur- 
prise, 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 tha 
dismasted me ; Moby Dick that brought me to this dead stump 
I stand on now. Aye, aye," he shouted with a terrific, loud, ani- 
mal sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose ; " Aye, aye ! it was 
that accursed white whale that razeed 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 

" 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 Dick !" 

" 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 command- 


er'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 ob- 
jects, 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-gloAV. 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 unwor- 
shipping 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 can- 
not, 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 har- 
pooneers, 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 mari- 
ners, 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, sus- 
tained, and mystic aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways 
from him ; the honest eye of Starbuck fell downright. 

" 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 cup- 
bearers 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 har- 
pooneers ! 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 

SUNSET. 185 

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. 



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 the 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 flash- 
ings ; but darkly feel that I wear that, that dazzlingly con- 
founds. '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 

186 DUSK. 

'Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stuhborn, 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 I 

CHAPTER XXXVm. •• . • 


By the Mainmast ; Starbuck leaning 

My soul is more than matched-; she's overmanned; and by 
a madman ! Insufferable sting, that sanity should ground arms 

DUSK. 187 

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 unfalter- 
ing 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 tiy to fight ye, ye grim, phantom futures ! 
Stand by me, hold me, bind me, ye blessed influences ! 




(Stubb solus, and mending a brace.) 
Ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! hem ! clear my throat ! — I've been think- 
ing 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 ! 


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. 




(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. — 


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 harpooneer is striking the whale ! 

mate's voice from the quarter-deck. 
Eight bells there, forward ! 


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- 
1 - o o n -s, a-h-o-y ! Eight bells there below ! Tumble up ! 



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 


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 tam- 
bourine ! 

(Sulky and sleepy!) 
Don't know where it is. 


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 ! legs ! 


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. 


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 ? Part- 
ners ! I must have partners ! 



Aye ; girls and a green ! — then I'll hop with ye ; yea, turn 
grasshopper ! 


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 
come's the music ; now for it ! 


(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- 


Go it, Pip ! Bang it, bell-boy ! Rig it, dig it, stig it, quig it, 
bell-boy ! Make fire-flies ; break the jinglers ! 

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


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


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


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



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 Htterest 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 
ball-room of it. Dance on, lads, you're young ; I was once. 


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 
shy darkens — the wind rises.) 


By Brahma ! boys, it '11 be douse sail soon. The sky-born, 
high-tide Ganges turned to wind ! Thou showest thy black 
brow, Seeva! 


(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. 


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



(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 shd ! 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 roar- 
ing 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.) 


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. 


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 ! 


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


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


Aye ! aye ! 


How the three pines shake ! Pines are the hardest sort of 


tree to live when shifted to any other soil, ana 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 birth-mark ; 
look yonder, boys, there's another in the sky — lurid-like, ye see, 
all else pitch black. 


What of that ? Who's afraid of black's afraid of mc ! I'm 
quarried out of it ! 


(Aside.) He wants to bully, ah ! — the old grudge makes mc 
touchy. (Advancing?) Aye, harpooneer, thy race is the unde- 
niable dark side of mankind — devilish dark at that. No 

daggoo (grimly). 



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 


What's that I saw — lightning ? Yes. 


No ; Daggoo showing his teeth. 

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

Spanish sailor (meeting him). 
Knife thee heartily ! big frame, small spirit ! 


A row ! a row ! a row ! 

tashtego (with a whiff). 
A row a'low, and a row aloft — Gods and men — both brawl- 
ers ! Humph ! 



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


Fair play ! Snatch the Spaniard's knife ! A ring, a ring ! 


Ready formed. There ! the ringed horizon. In that ring Cain 
struck Abel. Sweet work, right work ! No ? Why then, God, 
niad'st thou the ring ? 

mate's voice from the quarter deck. 
Hands by the halyards ! in top-gallant sails ! Stand by t& 
reef topsails ! 


The squall ! the squall ! jump, my jollies ! {They scatter!) 

pip {shrinking under the ivindlass). 
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 ! 




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, sympatheti- 
cal 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 revenge. 

For some time past, though at intervals only, the unaccompa- 
nied, 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, compara- 
tively, had knowingly seen him ; while the number who as yet 
had actually and knowingly given battle to him, was small in- 
deed. For, owing to the large number of whale-cruisers ; the 
disorderly way they were sprinkled over the entire watery cir- 
cumference, mkay 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 ob- 
structed 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 meri- 
dian, 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 largo, than to 
the individual cause. In that way, mostly, the disastrous 
encounter between Ahab and the whale had hitherto been popu- 
larly 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 fear- 
lessly 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 ancles, 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 come. 

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 ade- 
quate 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 wonderf ulness and fearfulness of the 
rumors which sometimes circulate there. For not only are 


whalemen as a body unexempt from that ignorance and su- 
perstitiousness 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 chiselled hearthstone, or aught hospita- 
ble beneath that part of the sun ; in such latitudes and longi- 
tudes, 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 birth. 

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 fcetal 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 fearfnlly 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 profes- 
sional inexperience, or incompetency, or timidity, decline a con- 
test 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 fire-side 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 ex- 
periences in the fishery may amend such reports as these ; yet 
in their full terribleness, even to the bloodthirsty item of Povel- 
son, 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 j>erils of this new and daring warfare ; such 
men protesting that although other leviathans might be hope- 
fully pursued, yet to chase and point lance at such an appari- 
tion as the Sperm Whale was not for mortal man. That to 
attempt it, Avould 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 suggestings referred to, as at last coming to 
be linked with the White Whale in the minds of the super- 
stitiously 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 con- 
ceit altogether without some faint show of superstitious proba- 
bility. 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 re- 
main, 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 

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 nar- 
rations are almost fully equalled by the realities of the whale- 

Forced into familiarity, then, with such prodigies as \hese ; 
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 supersti- 
tions ; 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 unsul- 
lied 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 distin- 
guished 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 gleamings. 
Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable 



hue, nor yet Lis 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 con- 
sternation 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 agent. 

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 com- 
rades, 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. JSTo 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 in- 
tellectual and spiritual exasperations. The White Whale swam 
before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those mali- 
cious 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 
Avhose 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 ago- 
nizing 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 en- 
counter, 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 more- 
over 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 suffer able 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 una- 
bated 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 mad- 
ness 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 royal- 
ties ; and from your grim sire only will the old State-secret 

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 other- 
wise 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 in- 
clined 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 voy- 
age 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 re- 

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 casta- 
ways, and cannibals — morally enfeebled also, by the incom- 
petence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in Star- 
buck, 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 infer- 
nal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge. How it 
was that they so aboundingly responded to the old man's he — 
by what evil magic their souls were possessed, that at times his 
hate seemed almost theirs ; the White Whale as much their in- 
sufferable 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. 



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 my- 
self I must, else all these chapters might be naught. 

Though in many natural objects, whiteness refiningly en- 
hances 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 pre-eminence 
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, Caesarian, 
heir to overlording Rome, having for the imperial color 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 inno- 
cence 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 incar- 
nate 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 de- 
rive 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 


This elusive quality it is, which, causes the thought of white- 
ness, 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 white- 
ness makes them the transcendent horrors they are ? That 
ghastly whiteness it is which imparts such an abhorrent mild- 
ness, 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.* 

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.* 

* 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 white- 
ness, separately regarded, which heightens the intolerable hideousness of 
that brute ; for, analysed, that heightened hideousness, it might be said, 
only arises 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 as- 
suming 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 funereal 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. 

* 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 


Most famous in our Western annals and Indian traditions is 
that of the White Steed of the Praries ; 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 

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 ! I never had heard 
that name before ; is it conceivable that this glorious thing is utterly un- 
known 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 im- 
pressions 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-fold- 
ing, the invoking, and adoring cherubim ! 


Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies. At their flaming head 
he westward trooped it like that chosen star which every even- 
ing 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 fur- 
nished him. A most imperial and archangelical apparition of 
that unfallen, western world, which to the eyes of the old trap- 
pers and hunters revived the glories of those primeval times 
when Adam walked majestic as a god, bluff-bowed 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 circumambi- 
ent 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 di- 
vineness ; and that this divineness had that in it which, though 
commanding worship, at the same time enforced a certain name- 
less terror. 

But there are other instances where this whiteness loses all 
that accessory and strange glory which invests it in the White 
Steed and Albatross. 

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 in- 
stances, has the art of human malice omitted so potent an aux- 
iliary. 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 quali- 
ty 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 appari- 
tion 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 where- 
in 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 hid- 
den 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 

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 war- 
riors 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 By ward 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 spec- 
tralness 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 ram- 
parts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own 

I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon 
of whiteness is not confessed to be the prime agent in exag- 
gerating the terror of objects otherwise terrible ; nor to the un- 
imaginative 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 examples. 

First : The mariner, when drawing nigh the coasts of foreign 
lands, if by night he hear the roar of breakers, starts to vigi- 
lance, 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 head- 
lands 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 undev 
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 tearfulness it would be to lose oneself in such inhuman soli- 
tudes. 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, behold- 
ing 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 
church-yard grinning upon him with its lean ice monuments and 
splintered crosses. 

But thou sayest, methinks this white-lead chapter about 
whiteness is but a white flag hung out from a craven soul ; thou 
surrenderest to a hypo, Ishmael. 

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 crea- 
tures in his green northern home, so that the strange muskiness 
he smells cannot recall to him anything associated with the ex- 


perience 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. in- 
stinct of the knowledge of the demonism in the world. Thouo-h 
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 man- 

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 color as the visible absence of color, 
and at the same time the concrete of all colore ; is it for these 
reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in 
a wide landscape of snows — a colorless, all-color of atheism 
from which we shrink? And when we consider that other 
theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues — 

HARK! 217 

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 with- 
out ; 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 prin- 
ciple 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 colored and coloring 
glasses upon then- eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself 
blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the pros- 
pect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale 
was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt ? 



" Hist ! Did you hear that noise, Cabaco V 
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. Stand- 
ing, 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 bucket ! '' 

" Say what ye will, shipmate ; I've sharp eai*s." 

"Aye, you are the chap, ain't ye, that heard the hum of the 
old Quakeress's knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nan- 
tucket ; you're the chap." 

" 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!" 



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 cm-rents ; 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, concern- 
ing the timeliest day to be upon this or that ground in search 
of his prey. 

So assured, indeed, is the fact concerning the periodicalnesa 


of the sperm whale's resorting to given waters, that many- 
hunters helieve 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.* 

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 

* Since the above was written, the statement is happily borne out by 
an official circular, issued by Lieutenant Maury, of the National Observa- 
tory, 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 ol 
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." 


along that path, migrating whales may with great confidence 
he looked for. 

And hence not only at substantiated times, upon well known se- 
parate feeding-grounds, could Ahab hope to encounter his prey ; 
but incrossing 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 en- 
tangle 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 identi- 
cally the same with those that were found there the preceding 
season ; though there ai-e 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 solita- 
ries and hermits among the matured, aged sperm whales. So 
that though Moby Dick had in a former year been seen, for ex- 
ample, 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 ac- 
complishing 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 at- 
tained, 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 mo- 
tive 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 sleep- 
lessness 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 be- 
ginning of the Season-on-the-Line. No possible endeavor then 
could enable her commander to make the great passage south- 
wards, 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 cor- 
rectly 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 Simoom, might blow Moby Dick 
into the devious zig-zag world-circle of the Pequod's circumnavi- 
gating 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 Constanti- 
nople ? 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 re- 
vengeful 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 clash- 
ing of phrensies, and whirled them 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, per- 
haps, 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, there- 
fore 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 color, 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. 



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 in- 
credulity 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 thei'e, 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 inci- 
dent to wandering in the heart of unknown regions. Mean- 
while, 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 recognized a peculiar sort of huge mole under 
the whale's eye, which I had observed there three years pre- 
vious. 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 popu- 
larly 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 pecu- 
liarly 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 recog- 
nise him by merely touching their tarpaulins when he would be 
discovered lounging by them on the sea, without seeking to cul- 
tivate 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 summaiy 
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, privi- 
leges, and distinctions of a name ; had as much a name indeed as 
Cambyses or Caesar. 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, 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 dif- 
ferent 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 mur- 
derous 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 rea- 
sonableness of the whole story of the White Whale, more es- 
pecially 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 imme- 
diately 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 obi- 
tuary 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 eco- 
nomical 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 ex- 
ample 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 suffi- 
ciently 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 shqaj 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 ship- 
wrecked 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 Chaee's narrative : " Every fact 
eeemed to warrant me in concluding that it wag 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 manoeuvres 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 suf- 
ferings." 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 satis- 
fied that I am correct in my opinion." 

Here are his reflections sometime 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 


Secondly : The ship Union, also of Nantucket, was in the 
year 180*7 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 thimble- 
ful. Very good ; but there is more coming. Some weeks 
after, the commodore set sail in this impregnable craft for Val- 
paraiso. 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. 

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." 

***** ** * 

*#*** ** * 


I will now refer you to Langsdorff's Voyages for a little cir- 
cumstance 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 intolera- 
bly cold that we were obliged to keep on our fur clothing. For 
some days we had very little wind ; it was not till the nine- 
teenth 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 im- 
possible to prevent its striking against him. We were thus 
placed in the most imminent danger, as this gigantic ci-eature, 
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 

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 concern- 
ing 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 

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 con- 
sternation 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 ham- 
mocks. 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 imputa- 
tion 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 un- 
seen 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 heen examples where the lines attached to 
a running sperm whale have, in a calm, heen 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 cha- 
racter, that upon being attacked he will frequently open his 
mouth, and retain it in that dread expansion for several consecu- 
tive 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 

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 pre- 
sently to be mentioned. 

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 sub- 
stantial 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 investiga- 
tions 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 Barbaiy 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 



Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in 
all his thoughts and actions ever had in view the ultimate cap- 


ture 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 con- 
sidering 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 sub- 
sequently 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 as- 
cendency 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 dis- 
integrate 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 in- 
sanity of Ahab respecting Moby Dick was noways more signifi- 


cantly 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 natur- 
ally 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 afe 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 pur- 
suit, however promissory of fife and passion in the end, it is 
above all things requisite that temporary interests and employ- 
ments 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. Grant- 
ing that the White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my 
savage crew, and playing round their savageness even breeds a cer- 
tain 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 tra- 
verse 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 en- 
tirely 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 calculat- 
ing 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 pas- 
sionate 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 vigi- 
lance was not long without reward. 



It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon ; the seamon were lazily 


lounging about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead- 
colored waters. Queequeg and I were mildly employed weav- 
ing 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 revery 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 mechanic- 
ally weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the fixed 
threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, un- 
changing 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, in- 
different 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 — no wise incompatible — 
all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of ne- 
cessity, 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 pre- 
scribed 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 un- 
earthly, 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 Dody 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 

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 !" 

" Where-away ?" 

" 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 disappeared. 

" Quick, steward ! cried Ahab. " Time ! time !" 


Dough-Boy turned 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 Tash- 
tego 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 fine 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 gun- 
wale. So look the long line of man-of-war's men about to 
throw themselves on board an enemy's ship. 

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. 



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 pro- 
truding 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 com- 
plexion peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of the Ma- 
nillas ; — 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 amaze- 
ment 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 ex- 
panse 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 stowa- 
ways, 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 brim- 
stone — 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, marling-spikes !" 

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 com- 
pounded 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 some- 
times 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 

" Mr. Starbuck ! larboard boat there, ahoy ! a word with ye, 
sir, if ye please !'' 

" 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 speak- 


ing 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 criti- 
cal 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 pre- 
pared 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 abun- 
dant 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 regu- 


lar 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 na- 
ked 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 coun- 
terbalance any tendency to trip ; Ahab was seen steadily ma- 
naging his steering oar as in a thousand boat lowerings ere 
the White Whale had torn him. All at once the out- 
stretched 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 dis- 
tantly 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 him- 
self 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 fine. 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 logger- 
head 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 that." 

Upon this, Daggoo, with either hand upon the gunwale to 
steady his way, swiftly slid aft, and then erecting himself volun- 
teered 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, present- 
ed his flat palm to Flask's foot, and then putting Flask's hand 
on his hearse-plumed head and bidding him spring as he him- 
self should toss, with one dexterous fling landed the little man 
high and dry on his shoulders. And here was Flask now stand- 
ing, Daggoo with one lifted arm furnishing him with a breast- 
band 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 main- 
tain 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 mount- 
ed upon gigantic Daggoo was yet more curious ; for sustaining 
himself with a cool, indifferent, easy, unthought of, barbaric ma- 
jesty, 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 noble]" 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 sand-paper of his hand, when Tashtegq, 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 far 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 planta- 
tion, 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 

"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. Pud- 
ding for supper, you know ; — merry's the word. Pull, babes 
— pull, sucklings — pull, all. But what the devil are you hurry- 
ing 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 murdei*, and 
foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his prey. 


Meanwhile, all the boats tore on. The repeated specific allu- 
sions 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 har- 
pooneers, 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 whale. 

The dancing white water made by the chase was now becom- 
ing 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 mad- 
ness 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 

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, 

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 ris- 
ing sea forbade all attempts to bale out the boat. The oars 
were useless as propellers, performing now the office of life-pre- 
servers. 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 Quee- 
queg as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope. There, then, 
he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that al- 
mighty 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 creak- 
ing, as of ropes and yards hitherto muffled by the storm. The 


sound came nearer and nearer ; the thick mists were dimly part- 
ed by a huge, vague form. Affrighted, we all sprang into the 
sea as the ship at last loomed into view, hearing light 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. 



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 di- 
gestion 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 way- 
ward 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 Horn." 

" 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 jaws ?" 

" 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 disas- 
ter to our own particular boat was chiefly to be imputed to Star- 
buck'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 consi- 
dering 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 tinker- 
ing 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. Be- 
sides, 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 bare 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 de- 
struction, and the devil fetch the hindmost. 




" Who would have thought it, Flask !" cried Stubb ; " if I 
had hut one leg you would not catch rne in a boat, unless maybe 
to stop the plug-hole with my timber toe. Oh ! he's a wonder- 
ful 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 


* * * * * * 

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 sol- 
diers often argued with tears in their eyes, whether that invalu- 
able life of his ought to be carried into the thickest of the fight. 

But with Ahab the question assumed a modified aspect. Con- 
sidering 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 in- 
dividual 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 sup- 
plied 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 cus- 
tomary business of fitting the whaleboats for service ; when 
some time after this Ahab was now and then found bestir- 
ring 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 solici- 
tude 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 shap- 
ing 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 ob- 
served 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 needfulness 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. Be- 
sides, 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, whale- 
boats, 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 forecastle. 

But be all this as it may, certain it is that while the subordi- 
nate phantoms soon found their place among the crew, though 
still as it were somehow distinct from them, yet that hair-tur- 
baned Fedallah remained a muffled mystery to the last. Whence 
he came in a mannerly world like this, by what sort of unac- 
countable 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 sus- 
tain 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 communi- 
ties, 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 abori- 
ginalness 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 in- 
deed consorted with the daughters of men, the devils also, add 
the uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours. 





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. 

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. Fedal- 
lah 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 strug- 
gling 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 

Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither 
and thither before us ; while thick in our rear flew the inscru- 
table 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 Tor- 
mentoto, 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 trans- 
formed 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 tempestu- 
ous 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 mad- 
ness 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 uj) to the blast. Even when wearied nature seemed 
demanding repose he would not seek that repose in his ham- 
mock. 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 fr6m his 
tightly clenched hand. Though the body was erect, the heafl. 
was thrown back so that the closed eyes were pointed towards 
the needle of the tell-tale that swung from a beam in the ceil- 

Terrible old man ! thought Starbuck with a shudder, sleeping 
in this gale, still thou steadfastly eyest thy purpose. 



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 

* 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. 


spectral appearance was traced with long channels of reddened 
rust, while all her spare 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 wind- 
ward 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 

264 THE GAM. 

of small harmless fish, that for some days hefore 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 voyag- 
ings Ahab must often before have noticed a similar sight, yet, 
to any monomaniac man, the veriest trifles capriciously carry 

" 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 con- 
duct? 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 Solo- 
mon, 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 ban-en mazes or midway leave us whelmed. 



The ostensible reason why Ahab did not go on board of the 
whaler we had spoken was this : the wind and sea betokened 

THE GAM. 265 

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, perbaps, 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 Fan- 
ning'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 sea- 
port, 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 whal- 
ing intelligence from the cruising-ground to which she may be 


266 THE GAM, 

destined, a thing of the utmost importance to her. And in de- 
gree, 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 whal- 
ing 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 dif- 
ference ; 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 some- 
times affect a kind of metropolitan superiority over the Ameri- 
can 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 sin- 
gle word of recognition, mutually cutting each other on the 
high seas, like a brace of dandies in Broadway ; and all the 

THE GAM. 267 

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 scrap- 
ings, 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 huny, 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 game- 
some 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 profes- 
sion 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 con- 
clude, that in boasting himself to be high lifted above a whale- 
man, 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 j 

268 THE GAM. 

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) Whale- 
ships, generally on a cruising-ground ; when, after exchanging 
hails, they exchange visits by boats' 1 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 peculiari- 
ties 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, some- 
times cushioned seat there, and often steers himself with a 
pretty little milliner's tiller decorated with gay cords and rib- 
bons. But the whale-boat has no seat astern, no sofa of that 
sort whatever, and no tiller at all. High times indeed, if whal- 
ing 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 subordi- 
nate 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 ex- 


pand 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 correspond- 
ing 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 gene- 
rally carries his hands in his trowsers' pockets ; but perhaps be- 
ing generally very large, heavy hands, he carries them there for 
ballast. Nevertheless there have occurred instances, well authen- 
ticated 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 death. 



(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 Coney 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 height- 

* The ancient whale-cry upon first sighting a whale from the mast- 
head, still used by whalemen in hunting the famous Gallipagos terrapin. 


ened by a circumstance of the Town-Ho's - stoiy, which seemed 
obscurely to involve with the whale a certain wondrous, invert- 
ed visitation of one of those so called judgments of God which 
at times are said to overtake some men. This latter circum- 
stance, with its own particular accompaniments, forming what 
may be called the secret part of the tragedy about to be narrat- 
ed, 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 secresy, 
but the following night Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and re- 
vealed 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 trans- 
pired 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. 

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 com- 
mon. 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 ma- 
riners 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 com- 
monest chance favored, 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 V said Don Sebastian, rising in his swinging mat of 

" 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 Ameri- 
ca, had yet heen nurtured by all those agrarian freebooting im- 
pressions 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 no- 
blest 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 then- beaches to wild barba- 
rians, whose red painted faces flash from out their peltry wig- 
wams ; 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, gen- 
tlemen, though an inlander, Steelkilt was wild-ocean born, and 
Avild-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 harm- 
less and docile. At all events, he had proved so thus far ; but 
Eadney was doomed and made mad, and Steelkilt — but, gentle- 
men, you shall hear. 

" It was not more than a day or two at the furthest after point- 
ing 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 set- 
tled 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 ac- 
count of all hands gently subsiding to the bottom. # Nor in the 
solitary and savage seas far from you to the westward, gentle- 
men, 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 apprehonsiveness 
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 con- 
ventional 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 uncon- 
querable 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 inl- 
awed, 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 play- 
ing 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. ' Thun- 
der 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 energies. 

" 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 com- 
manded 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 eveiy 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 neat- 


noss in seamen ; some of whom would not willingly drown with- 
out 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 ex- 
actly 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 unwilling- 
ness 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, gen- 
tlemen, 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, stead- 
ily followed by the mate with his menacing hammer, deliberate- 
ly repeated his intention not to obey. Seeing, however, that his 
forbearance had not the slightest effect, by an awful and un- 
speakable intimation with bis 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 repeat- 
ing 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 per- 
secutor 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 ciy could go aft Steelkilt was shaking one of the 


backstays leading far aloft to where two of his comrades were 
standing their mast-heads. They were both Canallers. 

' " Canallers !' cried Don Pedro. " ' We have seen many whale- 
ships in our harbors, but never heard of your Canallers. Par- 
don : who and what are they ?' 

" ' 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 Canal- 
lers are ; for such information may throw side-light upon my 

" 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 coun- 
ties ; 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 patronizing 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 down- 
wards into the crowded piazza, with humorous concern. 

" ' Well for our northern friend, Dame Isabella's Inquisi- 
tion 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 cor- 
rupt 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 Ca- 
naller would make a fine dramatic hero, so abundantly and pic- 
turesquely 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 meii 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 

" I left off, gentlemen, where the Lakeman shook the back- 
stay. 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 cap- 
tain 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 cap- 
tain a little desisted, but still commanded the insurgents instantly 
to return to their duty. 


"'Will you promise not to touch us, if we do V 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 

" ' Turn to f 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 
bung 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 flog- 
ging 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 V 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 disappear- 
ing, 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 companion-way. Then opening 
the slide a little, the Captain whispered something down the 
crack, closed it, and turned the key upon them — ten in num- 
ber — 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, for- 
ward and aft, especially about the forecastle scuttle and fore hatch- 
way ; 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 re- 
fused. "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 retribu- 


tion, had constrained them to surrender at discretion. Embold- 
ened 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 ah' from the 
desperate arms below that sought to restrain them. Only three 
were left. 

" ' Better turn to, now ?' said the Captain with a heartless 

" ' 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 a muck 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 othei 1 , 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 


" 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 break- 
ing 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 be- 
fore 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 mid- 

" 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 mizen 
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, con- 
sidering their timely surrender, he would let them go with a 
reprimand, which he accordingly administered in the vernacu- 

" ' 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 Cap- 
tain 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, 1 1 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 Steel- 
kilt'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 ano- 
ther 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 coun- 
sel (at least till all was over) concerning his own proper and 
piivate revenge upon the man who had stung him in the ven- 
tricles 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 r>lan of his 


"During the night, Raclney 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 veiy 
carefully in his watches below. 

" ' What are you making there V 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 

" ' 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 V 

" 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 lan- 
yard 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 pil- 
low. 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 


"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 

" ' 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 ah', Sirs.' 

" ' The chicha ! the chicha !' cried Don Pedro ; ' our vigorous 
friend looks faint ; — fill up 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 in- 
stinctively 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 rumors, 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. More- 
over, 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 Lake- 
man had slackened the line, so as to drop astern from the whirl- 
pool ; 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 foremast-men 
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 weak- 
ened 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 whaleboat, 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 V 
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 

" ' 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, Sen or !' 
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 num- 
ber 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 

" 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 con- 
victions, 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 press.' 

' " 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, 

" ' 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-Fes 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 moon- 
light. 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 can.' 

* * * * * * 

" ' 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 

" ' 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.' " 



I shall ere long paint to you as well as one can without can- 
vas, something like the true form of the whale as he actually ap- 
pears 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 delu- 
sions will be found among the oldest Hindoo, Egyptian, and 
Grecian sculptures. For ever since those inventive but unscru- 
pulous times when on the marble panellings of temples, the pe- 
destals 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 pre- 
sentations 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 ca- 
vern-pagoda of Elephanta, in India. The Brahmins maintain 
that in the almost endless sculptures of that immemorial pago- 
da, 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 pro- 
fession 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 De- 
scending," 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 pri- 
mers. What shall be said of these ? As for the book-binder's 
whale winding like a vine-stalk round the stock of a descend- 
ing 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 at- 
tempt at a whale ; because it was so intended when the device 
was first introduced. It was introduced by an old Italian pub- 
lisher somewhere about the 15 th 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 flukes. 

Then again, there is an imposing quarto, written by one Cap- 
tain 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, 1*793, 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 accompany- 
ing 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 

Nor are the most conscientious compilations of Natural His- 
tory for the benefit of the young and tender, free from the same 
heinousness of mistake. Look at that popular work " Gold- 
smith'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 schoolboys. 

Then, again, in 1825, Bernard Germain, Count de Lacepede, 
a great naturalist, published a scientific systemized whale book, 
wherein are several pictures of the different species of the Levia- 


than. All these are not only incorrect, but the picture of the 
Mysticetus or Greenland whale (that is to say, the Eight whale), 
even Scoresby, a long experienced man as touching that spe- 
cies, declares not to have its counterpart in nature. 

But the placing of the cap-sheaf to all this blundering busi- 
ness 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 whal- 
ing 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 authen- 
tic 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 draw- 
ings 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 un- 
fathomable waters ; and afloat the vast bulk of him is out of 


sight, like a launched line-of-battle ship ; and out of that ele- 
ment 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 characteris- 
tics ; yet nothing of this kind could be inferred from any levia- 
than'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 inci- 
dentally 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 mittens." 

For all these reasons, then, any way you may look at it, you 
must needs conclude that the great Leviathan is that one crea- 
ture 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 exact- 
ness. 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. 




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, &c. 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, except- 
ing the middle figure in the picture of three whales in various atti- 
tudes, 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 hest 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 hunters. 

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 en- 
gravings, 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 balanc- 
ing upon the monster's spine ; and standing in that prow, for 
that one single incomputable flash of time, you behold an oars- 
man, 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 ex- 
pressions 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 fore- 
ground is all raging commotion ; but behind, in admirable 
artistic contrast, is the glassy level of a sea becalmed, the droop- 
ing 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 Garnery. 

The natural aptitude of the French for seizing the picturesque- 
ness 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 neverthe- 
less 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 engrav- 
ings of boat hooks, chopping knives, and grapnels ; and with 
the microscopic diligence of a Leuwenhoeck submits to the in- 
spection of a shivering world ninety-six fac-similes of magnified 
Arctic snow crystals. I mean no disparagement to the ex- 
cellent 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. 



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 justi- 
fication 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 amputa- 

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 them- 
selves 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 

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 alle- 
giance 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 multipli- 
city 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 application. 

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 suggest- 
iveness, as the prints of that fine old Dutch savage, Albert 

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 t 
door. When the porter is sleepy, the anvil-headed whale 


would be best. But these knocking whales are seldom remark- 
able 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 in- 
tents 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 he 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 
Mend anna 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 pur- 
suit 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 de- 
fined 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 har- 

BRIT. 305 

poons 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 he encamped beyond my mortal sight ! 



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.* 

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 

* 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 remark- 
able meadow-like appearance, caused by the vast drifts of brit continually 
floating in those latitudes, where the Right Whale is often chased. 

306 BRIT. 

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 knowmg 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 re- 
cognised 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 specialities, 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 

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 ever- 
lasting terra incognita, so that Columbus sailed over number- 
less 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 tho stateliest, 

BRIT. 307 

stiffest frigate lie 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 five ground opened and swallowed them up for ever ; yet 
not a modern sun ever sets, but in precisely the same manner 
the five 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 offspring ; 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, un apparent for the most part, and 
treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Con- 
sider 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 cannibal- 
ism 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 

308 SQUID. 

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 appalhng 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 ! 



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 secresy ; 
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 

SQUID. 309 

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 swarm- 
ing-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 helms- 
man, 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 pre- 
pared 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 low- 

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-color, 
lay floating on the water, innumerable long arms radiating 
from its centre, and curling and twisting like a nest of anacon- 
das, 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 bil- 
lows, 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 

310 SQUID. 

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 ani- 
mated 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 feed- 
ing, 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 ris- 
ing 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, hei'e spoken of, it is included among the 

THE LINE. 311 

class of cuttle-fish, to which, indeed, in certain external respects 
it would seem to belong, but only as the Anak of the tribe. 



With reference to the whaling scene shortly to be described, 
as well as for the better understanding of all similar scenes else- 
where presented, I have here to speak of the magical, some- 
times 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 aesthetics 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 

312 THE LINE. 

sperm whale-line measures something over two hundred fa- 
thoms. 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 con- 
centrated 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 terminat- 
ing in an eye-splice or loop coming up from the bottom against 
the side of the tub, and hanging over its edge completely dis- 
engaged 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 har- 
poon. In these instances, the whale of course is shifted like 

THE LINE. 313 

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 logger- 
head there, is again earned 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 gun- 
wales, 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-fine) 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 con- 
nected with the harpoon ; but previous to that connexion, the 
short-warp goes through sundry mystifications too tedious to 

Thus the whale-fine 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 


314 THE LINE. 

instant the harpoon may be darted, and all these horrible con- 
tortion 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 simultaneous- 
ness of volition and action, can you escape being made a 
Mazeppa of, and run away with where the all-seeing sun him- 
self 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 
6torm 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 explo- 
sion ; 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. 



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 resolu- 
tion could withstand it ; in that dreamy mood losing all con- 
sciousness, 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 mizen 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 eveiy 
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 ah, and then sank out of sight like a tower swallowed up. 

" There go flukes !" was the cry, an announcement immedi- 
ately 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 be- 
come 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 pro- 
jecting from the mad yeast which he brewed.* 

" 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 per- 
pendicular out of their graves, boys — that's all. Start her !" 

* 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 for- 
mation 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 sharp-pointed New York pilot-boat. 


" 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 logger- 
head, 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 blister- 
ingly passed through and through both of Stubb's bands, 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 oars- 
man (him seated by the tub) who, snatching off his hat, 
dashed the sea-water into it.* More turns were taken, so that 

* 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. 


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. 

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 cas- 
cade 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 Pacifies 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 fling. 

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, start- 
ing from his trance into that unspeakable thing called his 
"flurry," the monster horribly wallowed in his blood, over- 
wrapped 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 day. 

And now abating in his flurry, the whale once more rolled 
out into view ; surging from side to side ; spasmodically dilat- 
ing and contracting his spout-hole, with sharp, cracking, ago- 
nized 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 I 

" 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. 

THE DART. 321 



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 
harpoon eer-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 dis- 
rated ; 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 boat-header 
and harpooneer likewise start to running fore and aft, to the im- 
minent 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 toil. 



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 inde- 
pendent 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 con- 
nected 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 tof 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 antici- 
patingly 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 casual- 

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 agam 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 with- 
out recovery. All these particulars are faithfully narrated here, 
as they will not fail to elucidate several most important, how- 
ever intricate passages, in scenes hereafter to be painted. 


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 com- 
menced 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 Pe- 
quod'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 cahin, 
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 clank 
ing 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.* 

If moody Ahab was now all quiescence, at least so far as 
could be known on deck, Stubb, his second mate, flushed with 

*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 rela- 
tively 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 pre- 
pared 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. 


conquest, betrayed an unusual but still good-natured excite- 
ment. Such an unwonted bustle was he in that the staid Star- 
buck, his official superior, quietly resigned to him for the timo 
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 fiavorish 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 desig- 
nated by Stubb ; comprising the tapering extremity of the 

About midnight that steak was cut and cooked ; and lighted 
by two lanterns of sperm oil, Stubb stoutly stood up to his sper- 
maceti 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 mas- 
tications, 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 miracu- 
lous. 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 whale-ship 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 devil. 

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 pre- 


viously 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 floun- 
dered 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 

" 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 ai-e wel- 
come 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," snatch- 
ing 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 con- 
gregation, with the other hand he solemnly flourished his tongs, 
and leaning far over the side in a mumbling voice began ad- 
dressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling behind, over- 
heard 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 wont have that swear- 
ing. 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. JSTow, look here, 
bred'ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping yoursebls from 
dat whale. Don't be tearin' de blubber out your neigh- 
bour's mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as todev 
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 brig- 
ness ob de mout is not to swallar wid, but to bite off de blubber 
for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get into de scrouge to help 


"Well done, old Fleece!" cried Stubb, "that's Christianity; 
go on." 

" No use goin' on ; de dam willains will keep a scrougin' 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 attention." 

"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 have you 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 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 Eoanoke 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 church ? " 

"Passed one once in Cape-Down," said the old man sul- 

" 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 

" 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 

" 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 gov ! 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 ejacu- 
lation he went to his hammock. 



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 
Eight Whale was esteemed a great delicacy in France, and 
commanded large prices there. Also, that in Henry VHIth'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. Por- 
poises, 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 fastidions. 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 ex- 
ceedingly juicy and nourishing. And tbis reminds me tbat 
certain Englisbmen, wbo 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. Ne- 
vertheless, 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 (pre- 
cisely resembling two large puddings), they are then mixed with 
flour, and cooked into a most delectable mess, in flavor some- 
what 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 some- 
how 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 con- 
sideration 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 Fe- 
jee, 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 pate-de-foie-gras. 

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-han- 
dle, 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 resolu- 
tion to patronize nothing but steel pens. 




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 veiy 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 reserva- 
tion 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 well. 

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 pro- 
cedure 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 disembowel- 
ments, 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. 

" 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." 

* 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. 





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 paint- 
ed 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 strik- 
ing 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. Where- 
upon, 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 unfur- 
nished parlor called the blubber-room. Into this twilight apart- 
ment 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 friction. 



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 

The question is, what and where is the skin of the whale ? 
Already you know what his blubber is. That blubber is some- 
thing 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 fancy- 
ing 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 infi- 
nitely 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 tre- 
mendous 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 sub- 
stance of the coat ; some idea may hence be had of the enor- 
mousness 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 hiero- 
glyphics upon one Sperm Whale in particular, I was much 
struck with a plate representing the old Indian characters chi- 
selled 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 pre- 
sents, 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 counter- 
pane ; 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 comforta- 
ble 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, lung- 
less 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 indis- 
pensable 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 
uling 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 whale ! 



" 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 sepul- 


ehre ; though changed in hue, it has not perceptibly lost any- 
thing in bulk. It is still colossal. Slowly it floats more and 
more away, the water round it torn and splashed by the insati- 
ate sharks, and the air above vexed with rapacious flights of 
screaming fowls, whose beaks are like so many insulting poni- 
ards 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 plea- 
sant 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 perad venture he had needed it ; but upon 
the banquet of his funeral they most piously do pounce. '-Oh. 
hjQK rible _ vultu reism^pf earth !.. fr om 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 un- 
harming corpse, with trembling fingers is set down in the log — 
shoals, rocks, and breakers hereabouts : betoare ! And for 
years afterwards, perhaps, ships shun the place ; leaping over it 
as silly sheep leap over a vacuum, because their leader < igi- 
nally leaped there when a stick was held. There's your L 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 power- 
less 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 Doc- 
tor Johnson who believe in them. 



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 discolored, 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, with- 
out so much as getting one single peep into the ever-contract- 
ing gash thus made, he must skilfully steer clear of all adja- 
cent, interdicted parts, and exactly divide the spine at a critical 
point hard by its insertion into the skull. Do you not marvel, 
ther, at Stubb's boast, that he demanded but ten minutes to 
behead a sperm whale ? 

When first severed, the head is dropped astern and held there 

346 THE S PHY NX. 

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-drip- 
ping 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 unfold- 
ing 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 eves 
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 de- 
sert. " 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 light- 
nings 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- 

" 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 away ?" 

" Three points on the starboard bow, sir, and bringing down 
her breeze to us !'' 

" 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." 



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 strangers' boats and 
manned mast-heads proved her a whale-ship. But as she was 
so far to windward, and shooting by, apparently making a pas- 
sage 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 stran- 
ger's setting her own ; which proved the ship to be the Jero- 
boam 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 stran- 
ger 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 un- 
tainted, and though his ship was half a rifle-shot off, and an 


incorruptible sea and air rolling and flowing between ; yet con- 
scientiously adhering to the timid quarantine of the land, he 
peremptorily refused to come into direct contact with the 

But this did, by no means prevent all communication. Pre- 
serving 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-top- 
sail 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 par- 
ties ; 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 sin- 
gular appearance, even in that wild whaling life where indivi- 
dual 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 overlap- 
ping 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 ex- 
claimed — " 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 subse- 
quently 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, com- 
mon sense exterior, and offered himself as a green-hand candi- 
date 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 over- 
board. 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 ma- 
jority 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 cap- 
tain 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 epi- 
demic had broken out, he carried a higher hand than ever ; 
declaring that the plague, as he called it, was at his sole com- 
mand ; nor should it be stayed but according to his good pleas- 
ure. The sailors, mostly poor devils, cringed, and some of 
them fawned before him ; in obedience to his instructions, some- 
times 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 bul- 
warks, 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 plague !" 

" 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 back. 

" Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk ! Beware 
of the horrible tail !" 

"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 ardor to en- 
counter him ; and the captain himself being not unwilling to 
let him have the opportunity, despite all the archangel's denun- 
ciations and fore warnings, 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. 

Tt is well to parenthesize here, that of the fatal accidents in 


the Sperm-Whale Fishery, this kind is perhaps almost as fre- 
quent 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 name- 
less 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 oppor- 
tunity 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 

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 way." 

" 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 oars- 
men expectantly desisted from rowing ; the boat drifted a little 
towards the ship's stern ; so that, as if by magic, the letter sud- 
denly 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 affair. 



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 men- 
tioned 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, circum- 
stances 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 un- 
common 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 situa- 
tion 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 mis- 
fortune might plunge innocent me into unmerited disaster and 
death. Therefore, I saw that here was a sort of interreguum in 
Providence ; for its even-handed equity never could have sanc- 
tioned so gross an injustice. And yet still further pondering — 
while I jerked him now and then from between the whale and 
the ship, which would threaten to jam him — still further pon- 
dering, 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 needfully as I would, 
sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding over- 
board. Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I would, I 
only had the management of one end of it.* 

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. Unap- 
palled 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 carcase — the rabid crea- 
tures 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 alto- 
gether 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 fero- 
cious 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 

* The moukey-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 to the imperilled harpooneer the strongest 
possible guarantee for the faithfulness and vigilance of his monkey-rope 


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 Quee- 
queg's best happiness, I admit ; but in their hasty zeal to be- 
friend him, and from the circumstance that both he and the 
sharks were at times half hidden by the blood-mudded 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, 1 
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 bloodshot eyes the exhausted 
savage at last climbs up the chains and stands all dripping and 
involuntarily trembling over the sMe ; the steward advances, 
and with a benevolent, consolatory glance hands him — what ? 
Some hot Cogniac ? 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 say- 
ing, " 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 gin- 
ger ?— sea-coal ? — fire-wood ? — lucifer matches ? — tinder ? — gun- 


powder ? — 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 Star- 
buck, who had just come from forward. " Will you look at 
that kannakin, sir : smell of it, if you please." Then watch- 
ing the mate's countenance, he added : " The steward, Mr. 
Starbuck, had the face to offer that calomel and jalap to Quee- 
queg, there, this instant off the whale. Is the steward an 
apothecary, sir ? and may I ask whether this is the sort of bit- 
ters 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 

J e 


"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 call- 
ed 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, 

" 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 

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. 



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 cap- 
tured 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 tow- 
ing 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 per- 
formed a complete circuit. ' • 

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 
emitten rock. 



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 leviathan. 

" 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 capsize ?" 

" 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 ham- 
mock ; but I've seen him lay of nights in a coil of rig- 


" No doubt, and it's because of his cursed tail ; lie 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 

" 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 saun- 
tering 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 
— aint 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 

" Three Spaniards ? Adventures of those three bloody- 
minded soldadoes ? Did ye read it there, Flask ? I guess ye 

"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 

" 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 port-hole ? 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 'em along in a row with that mast, 
for oughts, do you see ; well, that wouldn't begin to be Fedal- 
lah'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 admi- 
ral'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 ; do 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 let's him go about kidnapping people ; aye, 


and signed a bond with him, that all the people the devil kid- 
napped, 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 pre- 
pared 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. 



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 here ? 


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 color 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 posi- 
tion 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 

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 con- 
cerning 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 He 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 comprehen- 
sive, 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 direc- 


tion ? If he can, then is it as marvellous a thing in him, as if 
a man were able simultaneously to go through the demonstra- 
tions of two distinct prohlems in Euclid. Nor, strictly inves- 
tigated, 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, so 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 im- 
paling 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 pur- 
pose 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 unde- 


cayed ; nor filled after our artificial fashion. The jaw is after- 
wards sawn into slabs, and piled away like joists for building 



Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the 
Right Whale's head. 

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 veiy 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 /-shaped spout- 
holes, 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 tbe "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 veiy 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 regu- 
lar 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 depend- 
ing 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 open-mouthed 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 proba- 
bility. At any rate, if we yield to it, we must grant a far 


greater age to the Eight Whale than at first glance will seem 

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." 

As every one knows, these same "hogs' bristles," "fins," 
" whiskers," " blinds," or whatever you please, furnish to the la- 
dies 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 farthin- 
gale 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 um- 
brella 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. 

* This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker, 
ur 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 im- 
part a rather brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn countenance. 


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 Eight 
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 indiffe- 
rence 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. 



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 tough- . 
ness, 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 be- 
tween 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 dis- 
tension or contraction ; and as the Sperm Whale, as far as T 
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 envelop ; 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 con- 
traction. If this be so, fancy the irresistibleness of that might, 
to which the most impalpable and destructive of all elements 

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 ade- 
quately 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 befel the weakling 
youth lifting the dread goddess's veil at Lais ? 



Now comes the Baling of the Case. But to comprehend it 
aright, you must know something of the curious internal struc- 
ture of the thing operated upon. 

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 

* 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 sides. 


almost equal parts, which before were naturally divided by an 
internal wall of a thick tendinous substance. 

The lower subdivided part, called the junk, is one immense 
honeycomb of oil, formed by the crossing and re-crossing, 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 innu- 
merable 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 pre- 
cious of all his oily vintages ; namely, the highly-prized sper- 
maceti, 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 Heidel- 
burgh Tun was coated within, but in superlative richness that 
coating could not possibly have compared with the silken pearl- 
colored 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 length- 
wise hoisted up and down against a ship's side. 

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 con- 
tents. 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 mar- 
vellous and — in this particular instance — almost fata, operation 
whereby the Sperm "Whale's great Heidelburgh Tun is tapped. 



Nimble as a cat, Tashtego mounts aloft ; and without altering 
his erect posture, runs straight out upon the overhanging main- 
yard-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 needfully, like a treasure-hunter in some old house, sound- 
ing 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 veiy 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 re-mounting 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 particu- 
lar 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 con- 
sternation 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 life- 
less 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 sus- 
pending the head tore out, and with a vast vibration the enor- 
mous 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 head. 

" 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 enor- 


mous 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 its 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 strik- 
ing 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 our 
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, perad venture, 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 pre- 
sent 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 em- 
balmed. How many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato's 
honey head, and sweetly perished there ? 



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 touch- 
ing the phrenological characteristics of other beings than man. 
Therefore, though I am but ill qualified for a pioneer, in the ap- 
plication 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 indispensa- 
ble to the completion of the scene ; so no face can be physiog- 
nomically 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 de- 
ficiency 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 physiog- 
nomical voyage you sail round his vast head in your jolly-boat, 
your noble conceptions of him are never insulted by the reflec- 
tion 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 physiog- 
nomical 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. Push- 
ing 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 Shakspeare's or Melancthon's rise so 


386 THE PR A I RE, 

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 genius. 

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 inca- 
pable 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, ex- 
alted 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 

THE NUT. 387 

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. 



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 view 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 mon- 
ster'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 apprehen- 

388 THE NUT. 

sions, it seems more in keeping with the idea of his general 
might to regard that mystic part pf him as the seat of his intel- 

It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Levia- 
than, 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 bow 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 con- 
found 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 pro- 
digious 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 vertebra? to a strung necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bear- 
ing rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It is a German 
conceit, that the vertebrae 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 vertebrae 
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 auda- 
cious 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 vertebrae the canal tapers in size, but for a consider- 
able 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 emerg- 
ing from the brain's cavity, the spinal cord remains of an unde- 
creasing 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 magni- 
tude of his spinal cord. 

But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the phreno- 
logists, 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 vertebra?, 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 




The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the snip 
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 

" 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. Star- 
buck ; he's coming on 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, with- 
out 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 hav- 
ing 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 techni- 
cally 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 over- 
growing him, seemed afflicted with the jaundice, or some other 
infii-mity. 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 hos- 
tile currents meet. His spout was short, slow, and laborious ; 


coining 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 cum- 
brous 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 

" 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 there- 
fore 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 low- 
ered ; 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 villa- 
nous Yarman — Pull — wont 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 dropj>ing 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 quohogs for sup- 
per, you know, my lads — baked clams and muffins — oh, do, do, 
spring — he's a hundred barreler — 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 Gay- 
head ? 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, chival- 
rous 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 th } 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 
euchanted in him ; he had no voice, save that choking respira- 
tion through his spiracle, and this made the sight of him 
unspeakably pitiable ; while still, in his amazing bulk, portcul- 
lis 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 — instinc- 
tively 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 keels. 

" Don't be afraid, my butter-boxes," cried Stubb, casting a 
passing glance upon them as he shot by ; " ye'U 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 sun-beam ! 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 


Eut 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 harpoon- 
eers 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 per- 
pendicular 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 atmo- 
spheric weight we ourselves stand up under ; even here, above- 
ground, in the air ; how vast, then, the burden of a whale, bear- 
ing 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 board. 

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 sorf, 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 credi- 
ble that by three such thin threads the great Leviathan was 
suspended like the big weight to an eight day clock. Sus- 
pended ? and to what ? To three bits of board. Is this the 
creature of whom it was once so triumphantly said — " Canst 
thou fill bis 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 fish-spears ! 

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 ice- 
field 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 deadlj* 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 sub- 
merged, 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 pros- 
trate, 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 uncon- 


ditional inoffensiveness by all to all. Still rolling in his blood, 
at last he partially disclosed a strangely discolored bunch or 
protuberance, the size of a bushel, low down on the flank. 

"A nice spot," cried Flask; "just let me prick hirn there 

" 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, bespat- 
tering 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 gur- 
glings 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 de- 
scribed. 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 im- 
mensely 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 im- 
possible 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 disloca- 
tion. In vain handspikes and crows were brought to bear upon 
the immovable fluke-chains, to pry them adrift from the timber- 
heads ; and so low had the whale now settled that the sub- 
merged 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 con- 
siderably 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 in- 
cumbrance 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 swim- 
ming. 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 dis- 
appeared far to leeward, still in bold, hopeful chase. 

Oh ! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my 



There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness 
is the true method. 

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 distinc- 
tion upon it, I am transported with the reflection that I myself 


belong, though but subordinately, to so emblazoned a fra- 

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 Avas not killed with any 
sordid intent. Those w r ere 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 assert- 
ed 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 suggest- 
ively 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 5 
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 ani- 
mal 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 there- 
fore, 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 dis- 
dain, 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 my- 
thologies, 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 whale- 
man ; at any rate the whale caught him, if he did not the 
whale. I claim him for one of our clan. 

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 versa ; 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 Bramha, 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 be- 
ginning 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 Vish- 
noo 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 ? 




Reference was made to the historical story of Jonah and 
the whale in the preceding chapter. Now some Nantucketers 
rather distrust this historical stoiy 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 stoiy 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 veiy 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 straight- 
way 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 men- 
tioned 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 pro- 
phet 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 circum- 
navigation 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 reprehen- 
sible 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 rebel- 
lion 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. 



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 advan- 
tage ; 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 Gerrnan ship Jung- 
frau disappeared, took more than customary pains in that occu- 
pation ; 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 precipi- 
tancy ; 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, stiU con- 
tinued his horizontal flight, with added fleetness. Such unin- 
termitted 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. T /hat 
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 manoeuvre 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 har- 
poon, 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 pitch- 
poling comes into play. 

Look now at Stubb ; a man who from his humorous, de- 
liberate 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, 
cover, ng 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 fife spot of the whale. Instead of sparkling water, he now 
spouts red blood. 

" That drove the spigot out of him !" cries Stubb. " 'Tis 
July's immortal Fourth ; all fountains must run wine to-day ! 
Would now, it were old Orleans whiskey, or old Ohio, or un- 
speakable 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. 




That for six thousand years — and no one knows now 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 thing. 

Let us, then, look at this matter, along with some interesting 
items contingent. Every one knows that by the peculiar cun- 
ning 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 disen- 
gaged 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 con- 
nexion 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 con- 
tact 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 con- 
siderable 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 dis- 
tended with oxygenated blood. So that for an hour or more, a 
thousand fathoms in the sea, he carries a surplus stock of vita- 
lity in him, just as the camel crossing the waterless desert carries 
a surplus supply of drink for future use in its four supplemen- 
tary stomachs. The anatomical fact of this labyrinth is indis- 
putable ; 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 fishermon 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 when- 
ever 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 differ- 
ent 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 neces- 
sity 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 levia- 
than be caught, when sailing a thousand fathoms beneath the 
sunlight. Not so much thy skill, then, 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 busi- 
ness 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 
Avhether 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 in- 
tended 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 dis- 
charged 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 sur- 
face, 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 car- 
ries 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 alone. 

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 im- 
pelled, 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 some- 
times 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 supposi- 

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, en- 
gendered by his incommunicable contemplations, and that 
vapor — as you will sometimes see it — glorified by a rainbow, as 
if Heaven itself bad 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. 

THE TAIL. 417 



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 con- 
siderably 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 com- 
pose 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 

418 THE TAIL. 

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, insen- 
sibly blend with them, and largely contribute to their might ; 
so that in the tail "the confluent measureless force of the whole 
whale seems concentrated tq 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 iu 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 Eckerrnan 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 

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 ex- 
ceeding 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 ; 

THE TAIL. 419 

Third, in sweeping ; Fourth, in lobtailing ; Fifth, in peaking 

First : Being horizontal in its position, the Leviathan's tail 
acts in a different manner from the tails of all other sea crea- 
tures. It never wriggles. In man or fish, wriggling is a sign 
of inferiority. To the whale, his tail is the sole means of pro- 
pulsion. 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 swim- 
ming. 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 contempt- 
uously 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 
Wt a sailor's whisker, woe to that sailor, whiskers and all. 
What tenderness there is in that preliminary touch S Had this 

420 THE TAIL. 

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 

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 

THE TAIL. 421 

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 con- 
cert 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 pro- 
foundest silence. 

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 might- 
iest 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 creAvs into the air, very much as an Indian juggler tosses 
his balls.* 

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, occa- 

* 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. 


sionally, 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 unaccounta- 
ble 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. 



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 archi- 
pelagoes. 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 appear- 
ance, however ineffectual, of being guarded from the all-grasping 
western world. The shores of the Straits of Sunda are unsup- 
plied with those domineering fortresses which guard the entran- 
ces 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 demand- 
ing 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 descend- 
ing upon the Line in the Pacific ; where Ahab, though every- 
where 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 Nantuck- 
eter, 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 recog- 
nised by the fishermen as an excellent spot for cruising ; there- 
fore, 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 multi- 
tude, 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 ah. Unlike the straight perpen- 
dicular 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 vapoiy spouts, individually curl- 
ing 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 compa- 
rative 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 swim- 
ming 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 philanthro- 
pists 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 hi3 
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 irresolu- 
tion, 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' ele- 
phants 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 dis- 
traction 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 sheep- 
fold 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 unpre- 
cedented ; 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 deli nous 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 com- 
plicated 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 ad- 
vance ; 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. 'Nov 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 threat- 
ened 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 con- 
siderable 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 male- 
factors 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-har- 
poons, 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 van- 
ished ; 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 be- 
tween 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 com- 
motion. 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 pos- 
sible 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. Keep- 
ing 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 pui-posely 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 fearless- 
ness and confidence, or else a still becharmed panic which it 
was impossible not to marvei 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; Star- 


buck 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 differ- 
ent 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 Gulf-weed 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 little !" 

" 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, Star buck 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 
vicisitudes 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.* 

And thus, though surrounded by circle upon circle of conster- 
nations 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 some- 

* The sperm whale, as with all other species of the Leviathan, but 
unlike most other fish, breeds indifferently at all seasons ; after a gesta- 
tion 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 discolor the sea for rods. The milk is very sweet and rich ; it 
has been tasted by man ; it might do well with strawberries. When over- 
flowing with mutual esteem, the whales salute more hominum. 



times 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 after- 
wards 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, car- 
rying dismay wherever he went. 

But agonizing as was the wound of this whale, and an appal- 
ling 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 har- 
poon-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 flex- 
ible 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 

" 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. 

Eiotous 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 near. 

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. 



The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or 
herd of Sperm Whales, and there was also then given the pro- 
bable 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 inva- 
riably 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 con- 
cubines 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 confiden- 
tially close to one of the ladies, with what prodigious fury the 
Bashaw assails him, and chases him away ! High times, in- 
deed, 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 ad- 
mirers ; 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 supre- 
macy 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 in- 
stances, wrenched and dislocated mouths. 

But supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake him- 
self 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 worship- 
ping 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 daugh- 
ters must take care of themselves ; at least, with only the ma- 
ternal 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 ardor of youth declines ; as years and dumps in- 
crease ; 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, for- 
swears, 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, how- 
ever admirably satirical, that after going to school himself, ho 
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-school- 
master 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 reck- 
less, 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. 




The allusion to the waife 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 contingencies, all partaking 
of this one grand feature. For example, — after a weary and 
perilous chase and capture of a whale, the body may get loose 
from the ship by reason of a violent storm ; and drifting far 
away to leeward, be retaken by a second whaler, who, in a 
calm, snugly tows it alongside, without risk of life or line. Thus 
the most vexatious and violent disputes would often arise 
between the fishermen, were there not some written or unwrit- 
ten, universal, undisputed law applicable to all cases. 

Perhaps the only formal whaling code authorized by legisla- 
tive enactment, was that of Holland. It was decreed by the 
States-General in A.D. 1695. But though no other nation has 
ever had any written whaling law, yet the American fishermen 
have been their own legislators and lawyers in this matter. 
They have provided a system which for terse comprehensive- 
ness surpasses Justinian's Pandects and the By-laws of the 
Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling with other 
People's Business. Yes ; these laws might be engraven on a 
Queen Anne's farthing, or the barb of a harpoon, and worn 
round the neck, so small are they. 


I. A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it. 

II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest 
catch it. 

But what plays the mischief with this masterly code is the 
admirable brevity of it, which necessitates a vast volume of com- 
mentaries to expound it. 

First : What is a Fast-Fish ? Alive or dead a fish is techni- 
cally fast, when it is connected with an occupied ship or boat, 
by any medium at all controllable by the occupant or occu- 
pants, — a mast, an oar, a nine-inch cable, a telegraph wire, or a 
strand of cobweb, it is all the same. Likewise a fish is techni- 
cally fast when it bears a waif, or any other recognised symbol 
of possession ; so long as the party waifing it plainly evince their 
ability at any time to take it alongside, as well as their inten- 
tion so to do. 

These are scientific commentaries ; but the commentaries of 
the whalemen themselves sometimes consist in hard words and 
harder knocks — the Coke-upon-Littleton of the fist. True, 
among the more upright and honorable whalemen allowances 
are always made for peculiar cases, where it would be an outra- 
geous moral injustice for one party to claim possession of a 
whale previously chased or killed by another party. But others 
are by no means so scrupulous. < 

Some fifty years ago there was a curious case of whale-trover 
litigated in England, wherein the plaintiffs set forth that after a 
hard chase of a whale in the Northern seas ; and when indeed 
they (the plaintiffs) had succeeded in harpooning the fish ; they 
were at last, through peril of their lives, obliged to forsake not 
only their lines, but their boat itself. Ultimately the defendants 
(the crew of another ship) came up with the whale, struck, 
killed, seized, and finally appropriated it before the very eyes ol 
the plaintiffs. And when those defendants were remonstrated 
with, their captain snapped his fingers in the plaintiffs' teeth, 
and assured them that by way of doxology to the deed he had 


done, he would now retain their line, harpoons, and boat, which 
had remained attached to the whale at the time of the seizure- 
Wherefore the plaintiffs now sued for the recovery of the 
value of their whale, line, harpoons, and boat. 

Mr. Erskine was counsel for the defendants ; Lord Ellen- 
borough was the judge. In the course of the defence, the witty 
Erskine went on to illustrate his position, by alluding to a 
recent crim. con. case, wherein a gentleman, after in vain trying 
to bridle his wife's viciousness, had at last abandoned her upon 
the seas of life ; but in the course of years, repenting of that 
step, he instituted an action to recover possession of her. Ers- 
kine was on the other side ; and he then supported it by saying, 
that though the gentleman had originally harpooned the lady, 
and had once had her fast, and only by reason of the great 
stress of her plunging viciousness, had at last abandoned her ; 
yet abandon her he did, so that she became a loose-fish ; and 
therefore when a subsequent gentleman re-harpooned her, the 
lady then became that subsequent gentleman's property, along 
with whatever harpoon might have been found sticking in 

Now in the present case Erskine contended that the exam- 
ples of the whale and the lady were' reciprocally illustrative 
of 'each other. 

These pleadings, and the counter pleadings, being duly heard, 
the veiy learned judge in set terms decided, to wit, — That as 
for the boat, he awarded it to the plaintiffs, because they had 
merely abandoned it to save their lives ; but that with regard to 
the controverted whale, harpoons, and line, they belonged to the 
defendants ; the whale, because it was a Loose-Fish at the time 
of the final capture ; and the harpoons and line because when 
the fish made off with them, it (the fish) acquired a property in 
those articles ; and hence anybody who afterwards took the 
fish had a right to them. Now the plaintiffs afterwards took 
the fish ; ergo, the aforesaid articles were theirs. 


A common man looking at this decision of the very learned 
Judge, might possibly object to it. But ploughed up to the 
primary rock of the matter, the two great principles laid down 
in the twin whaling laws previously quoted, and applied and 
elucidated by Lord Ellenborough in the above cited case ; these 
two laws touching Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish, I say, will, on 
reflection, be found the fundamentals of all human jurispru-' 
dence ; for notwithstanding its complicated tracery of sculpture, 
the Temple of the Law, like the Temple of the Philistines, has 
but two props to stand on. 

Is it not a saying in every one's mouth, Possession is half of 
the law : that is, regardless of how the thing came into pos- 
session ? But often possession is the whole of the law. What 
are the sinews and souls of Russian serfs and Republican slaves 
but Fast-Fish, whereof possession is the whole of the law ? 
"What to the rapacious landlord is the widow's last mite but a 
Fast-Fish ? What is yonder undetected villain's marble 
mansion with a door-plate for a waif ; what is that but a Fast- 
Fish ? What is the ruinous discount which Mordecai, the 
broker, gets from poor Woebegone, the bankrupt, on a loan to 
keep Woebegone's family from starvation ; what is that ruinous 
discount but a Fast-Fish ? What is the Archbishop of Save- 
soul's income of £100,000 seized from the scant bread and 
cheese of hundreds of thousands of broken-backed laborers (all 
sure of heaven without any of Savesoul's help) what is that 
globular 100,000 but a Fast-Fish ? What are the Duke of 
Dunder's hereditary towns and hamlets but Fast-Fish ? What 
to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor Ireland, but a ' 
Fast-Fish ? What to that apostolic lancer, Brother Jonathan, 
is Texas but a Fast-Fish ? And concerning all these, is not 
Possession the whole of the law ? 

But if the doctrine of Fast- Fish be pretty generally applica- 
ble, the kindred doctrine of Loose-Fish is still more widely so. 
That is internationally and universally applicable. 


What was America in 1492 but a Loose-Fish, in which 
Columbus struck the Spanish standard by way of waiting it 
for his royal master and mistress ? What was Poland to the 
Czar ? What Greece to the Turk ? What India to England ? 
What at last will Mexico be to the United States ? All Loose- 

What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World 
but Loose-Fish ? What all men's minds and opinions but 
Loose-Fish ? What is the principle of religious belief in them 
but a Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling 
verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish ? What 
is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish ? And what are you, 
reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too ? 



" De balena vero sufficit, si rex habeat caput, et regina caudam." 

Br acton, I. 3, c. 3. 

Latin from the books of the Laws of England, which taken 
along with the context, means, that of all whales captured by 
anybody on the coast of that land, the King, as Honorary 
Grand Harpooneer, must have the head, and the Queen be 
respectfully presented with the tail. A division which, in. the 
whale, is much like halving an apple ; there is no intermediate 
remainder. Now as this law, under a modified form, is to this 
day in force in England; and as it offers in. various respects a 
strange anomaly touching the general law of Fast and Loose- 
Fish, it is here treated of in a separate chapter, on the same 
courteous principle that prompts the English railways to be at 
the expense of a separate car, specially reserved for the accommo- 
dation of royalty. In the first place, in curious proof of the 


fact that the above-mentioned law is still in force, I proceed to 
lay before you a circumstance that happened within the last 
two years. 

It seems that some honest mariners of Dover, or Sandwich, or 
some one of the Cinque Ports, had after a hard chase succeeded 
in killing and beaching a fine whale which they had originally 
descried afar off from the shore. Now the Cinque Ports are partially 
or somehow under the jurisdiction of a sort of policeman or beadle, 
called a Lord Warden. Holding the office directly from the 
crown, I believe, all the royal emoluments incident to the Cinque 
Port territories become by assignment his. By some writers 
this office is called a sinecure. But not so. Because the Lord 
"Warden is busily employed at times in fobbing his perquisites ; 
which are his chiefly by virtue of that same fobbing of them. 

Now when these poor sun-burnt mariners, bare-footed, and 
with their trowsers rolled high up on their eely legs, had wear- 
ily hauled their fat fish high and dry, promising themselves a 
good £150 from the precious oil and bone; and in fantasy 
sipping rare tea with their wives, and good ale with their 
cronies, upon the strength of their respective shares ; up steps a 
very learned and most Christian and charitable gentleman, with 
a copy of Blackstone under his arm ; and laying it upon the 
whale's head, he says — " Hands off! this fish, my masters, is a 
Fast-Fish. I seize it as the Lord Warden's." Upon this the 
poor mariners in their respectful consternation — so truly English 
— knowing not what to say, fall to vigorously scratching their 
heads all round ; meanwhile ruefully glancing from the whale 
to the stranger. But that did in nowise mend the matter, or at 
all soften the hard heart of the learned gentleman with the 
copy of Blackstone. At length one of them, after long scratch- 
ing about for his ideas, made bold to speak. 

" Please, sir, who is the Lord Warden ?" 

" The Duke." 

" But the duke had nothing to do with taking this fish ?" 


" It is his." 

" We have been at great trouble, and peril, and some 
expense, and is all that to go to the Duke's benefit ; we getting 
nothing at all for our pains but our blisters ?" 

" It is his." 

" Is the Duke so veiy poor as to be forced to this desperate 
mode of getting a livelihood V 

" It is his." 

" I thought to relieve my old bed-ridden mother by part of 
my share of this whale." 

" It is his." 

" Won't the Duke be content with a quarter or a half?" 

" It is his." 

In a word, the whale was seized and sold, and his Grace the 
Duke of Wellington received the money. Thinking that viewed 
in some particular lights, the case might by a bare possibility in 
some small degree be deemed, under the circumstances, a rather 
hard one, an honest clergyman of the town respectfully ad- 
dressed a note to his Grace, begging him to take the case of 
those unfortunate mariners into full consideration. To which my 
Lord Duke in substance replied (both letters were published) 
that he had already done so, and received the money, and 
would be obliged to the reverend gentleman if for the future he 
(the reverend gentleman) would decline meddling with other 
people's business. Is this the still militant old man, standing 
at the corners of the three kingdoms, on all hands coercing alms 
of beggars ? 

It will readily be seen that in this case the alleged right of 
the Duke to the whale was a delegated one from the Sovereign. 
We must needs inquire then on what principle the Sovereign is 
originally invested with that right. The law itself has already 
been set forth. But Plowdon gives us the reason for it. Says 
Plowdon, the whale so caught belongs to the King and 
Queen, " because of its superior excellence. " And by the 


soundest commentators this has ever been held a cogent argu- 
ment in such matters. 

But why should the King have the head, and the Queen the 
tail ? A reason for that, ye lawyers ! 

In his treatise on " Queen-Gold," or Queen-pinmoney, an old 
King's Bench author, one William Prynne, thus discourseth : 
" Ye tail is ye Queen's, that ye Queen's warbrobe may be sup- 
plied with ye whalebone.'' Now this was written at a time 
when the black limber -bone of the Greenland or Right whale 
was largely used in ladies' bodices. But this same bone is not 
in the tail ; it is in the head, which is a sad mistake for a saga- 
cious lawyer like Piynne. But is the Queen a mermaid, to be 
presented with a tail ? An allegorical meaning may lurk here. 

There are two royal fish so styled by the English law 
writers — the whale and the sturgeon ; both royal property under 
certain limitations, and nominally supplying the tenth branch 
of the crown's ordinary revenue. I know not that any other 
author has hinted of the matter ; but by inference it seems to 
me that the sturgeon must be divided in the same way as the 
whale, the King receiving the highly dense and elastic head 
peculiar to that fish, which, symbolically regarded, may possibly 
be humorously grounded upon some presumed congeniality. 
And thus there seems a reason in all things, even in law. 



* In vain it was to rake for Ambergriese in the paunch of this Leviathan, 
insufferable fetor denying not inquiry." 

Sir T. Browne, V. E. 

It was a week or two after the last whaling scene recounted, 
and when we were slowly sailing over a sleepy, vapory, mid-day 


sea, that the many noses on the Pequod's deck proved more 
vigilant discoverers than the three pairs of eyes aloft. A 
peculiar and not very pleasant smell was smelt in the sea. 

"I will bet something now," said Stubb, "that somewhere 
hereabouts are some of those drugged whales we tickled the 
other day. I thought they would keel up before long." 

Presently, the vapors in advance slid aside ; and there in the 
distance lay a ship, whose furled sails betokened that some sort 
of whale must be alongside. As we glided nearer, the stranger 
showed French colore from his peak ; and by the eddying cloud 
of vulture sea-fowl that circled, and hovered, and swooped 
around him, it was plain that the whale alongside must be what 
the fishermen call a blasted whale, that is, a whale that has 
died unmolested on the sea, and so floated an unappropriated 
corpse. It may well be conceived, what an unsavory odor such 
a mass must exhale ; worse than an Assyrian city in the plague, 
when the living are incompetent to bury the departed. So intolera- 
ble indeed is it regarded by some, that no cupidity could per- 
suade them to moor alongside of it. Yet are there those who 
will still do it ; notwithstanding the fact that the oil obtained 
from such subjects is of a very inferior quality, and by no means 
of the nature of attar-of-rose. 

Coming still nearer with the expiring breeze, we saw that the 
Frenchman had a second whale alongside ; and this second 
whale seemed even more of a nosegay than the first. In truth, 
it turned out to be one of those problematical whales that seem 
to dry up and die with a sort of prodigious dyspepsia, or indi- 
gestion ; leaving their defunct bodies almost entirely bankrupt 
of anything like oil. Nevertheless, in the proper place we shall 
see that no knowing fisherman will ever turn up his nose at 
such a whale as this, however much he may shun blasted whales 
in general. 

The Pequod had now swept so nigh to the stranger, that Stubb 
vowed he recognised his cutting spade-pole entangled in the 


lines that were knotted round the tail of one of these 

" There's a pretty fellow, now," he banteringly laughed, 
standing in the ship's bows, " there's a jackal for ye ! I well 
know that these Crappoes of Frenchmen are but poor devils in 
the fishery ; sometimes lowering their boats for breakers, mis- 
taking them for Sperm Whale spouts ; yes, and sometimes sail- 
ing from their port with their hold full of boxes of tallow 
candles, and cases of snuffers, foreseeing that all the oil they 
will get won't be enough to dip the Captain's wick into ; ■ aye, 
we all know these things ; but look ye, here's a Crappo that is 
content with our leavings, the drugged whale there, I mean ; 
aye, and is content too with scraping the dry bones of that 
other precious fish he has there. Poor devil ! I say, pass round 
a hat, some one, and let's make him a present of a little oil for 
dear charity's sake. For what oil he'll get from that drugged 
whale there, wouldn't be fit to burn in a jail ; no, not in a con- 
demned cell. And as for the other whale, why, I'll agree to 
get more oil by chopping up and trying out these three masts 
of ours, than he'll get from that bundle of bones ; though, now 
that I think of it, it may contain something worth a good deal 
more than oil ; yes, ambergris. I wonder now if our old man 
has thought of that. It's worth trying. Yes, I'm in for it ;'' 
and so saying he started for the quarter-deck. 

By this time the faint air had become a complete calm ; so 
that whether or no, the Pequod was now fairly entrapped in the 
smell, with no hope of escaping except by its breezing up 
again. Issuing from the cabin, Stubb now called his boat's 
crew, and pulled off for the stranger. Drawing across her bow, 
he perceived that in accordance with the fanciful French taste, 
the upper part of her stem-piece was carved in the likeness of a 
huge drooping stalk, was painted green, and for thorns had 
copper spikes projecting from it here and there ; the whole 
.terminating in a symmetrical folded bulb of a bright red color* 


Upon her head boards, in large gilt letters, he read " Bouton 
de Rose," — Rose-button, or Rose-bud ; and this was the romantic 
name of this aromatic ship. 

Though Stubb did not understand the Bouton part of the 
inscription, yet the word rose, and the bulbous figure-head put 
together, sufficiently explained the whole to him. 

" A wooden rose-bud, eh ?" he cried with his hand to his nose, 
" that will do very well ; but how like all creation it smells !" 

Now in order to hold direct communication with the 
people on deck, he had to pull round the bows to the starboard 
side, and thus come close to the blasted whale ; and so talk 
over it. 

Arrived then at this spot, with one hand still to his nose, he 
bawled — " Bouton-de-Rose, ahoy ! are there any of you Bou- 
ton-de-Roses that speak English ?" 

"Yes," rejoined a Guernsey-man from the bulwarks, who 
turned out to be the chief-mate. 

"Well, then, my Bouton-de-Rose-bud, have you seen the 
White Whale ?" 

" What whale r 

" The White Whale — a Sperm Whale — Moby Dick, have ye 
seen him ?" 

" Never heard of such a whale. Cachalot Blanche ! White 
Whale — no." 

" Very good, then ; good bye now, and I'll call again in a 

Then rapidly pulling back towards the Pequod, and seeing 
Ahab leaning over the quarter-deck rail awaiting his report, he 
moulded his two hands into a trumpet and shouted — " No, Sir ! 
No !" Upon which Ahab retired, and Stubb returned to the 

He now perceived that the Guernsey-man, who had just got 
into the chains, and was using a cutting-spade, had slung his 
nose in a sort of ba^. 


"What's the matter with your nose, there?" said Stubb. 
"Broke it?" 

" I wish it was broken, or that I didn't have any nose at all !" 
answered the Guernsey-man, who did not seem to relish the job 
he was at very much. "But what are you holding yours for?" 

" Oh, nothing ! It's a wax nose ; I have to hold it on. Fine 
day, aint it ? Air rather gardenny, I should say ; throw us a 
bunch of posies, will ye, Bouton-de-Rose ?" 

" What in the devil's name do you want here ?" roared the 
Guernsey-man, flying into a sudden passion. 

" Oh ! keep cool — cool ? yes, that's the word ; why don't you 
pack those whales in ice while you're working at 'em ? But 
joking aside, though ; do you know, Rose-bud, that it's all non- 
sense trying to get any oil out of such whales ? As for that 
dried up one, there, he hasn't a gill in his whole carcase." 

"I know that well enough; but, d'ye see, the Captain 
here won't believe it ; this is his first voyage ; he was a Cologne 
manufacturer before. But come aboard, and mayhap he'll be- 
lieve you, if he won't me ; and so I'll get out of this dirty 

" Anything to oblige ye, my sweet and pleasant fellow," re- 
joined Stubb, and with that he soon mounted to the deck. 
There a queer scene presented itself. The sailors, in tasselled 
caps of red worsted, were getting the heavy tackles in readiness 
for the whales. But they worked rather slow and talked very 
fast, and seemed in anything but a good humor. All their 
noses upwardly projected from their faces like so many jib- 
booms. Now and then pairs of them would drop their work, 
and run up to the mast-head to get some fresh air. Some think- 
ing they would catch the plague, dipped oakum in coal-tar, and 
at intervals held it to their nostrils. Others having broken the 
stems of their pipes almost short off at the bowl, were vigorously 
puffing tobacco-smoke, so that it constantly filled their olfacto- 1 


Stubb was struck by a shower of outcries and anathemas pro- 
ceeding from the Captain's round-house abaft; and looking in 
that direction saw a fiery face thrust from behind the door, which 
was held ajar from within. This was the tormented surgeon, 
who, after in vain remonstrating against the proceedings of the 
day, had betaken himself to the Captain's round-house {cabinet 
he called it) to avoid the pest ; but still, could not help yelling 
out his entreaties and indignations at times. 

Marking all this, Stubb argued well for his scheme, and turn- 
ing to the Guernsey-man had a little chat with him, during 
which the stranger mate expressed his detestation of his Cap- 
tain as a conceited ignoramus, who had brought them all into so 
unsavory and unprofitable a pickle. Sounding him carefully, 
Stubb further perceived that the Guernsey-man had not the 
slightest suspicion concerning the ambergris. He therefore held 
his peace on that head, but otherwise was quite frank and con- 
fidential with him, so that the two quickly concocted a little 
plan for both circumventing and satirizing the Captain, without 
his at all dreaming of distrusting their sincerity. According to 
this little plan of theirs, the Guernsey-man, under cover of an 
interpreter's office, was to tell the Captain what he pleased, but 
as coming from Stubb ; and as for Stubb, he was to utter any 
nonsense that should come uppermost in him during the inter- 

By this time their destined victim appeared from his cabin. 
He was a small and dark, but rather delicate looking man for a 
sea-captain, with large whiskers and moustache, however ; and 
wore a red cotton velvet vest with watch-seals at his side. To 
this gentleman, Stubb was now politely introduced by the 
Guernsey-man, who at once ostentatiously put on the aspect of 
interpreting between them. 

" What shall I say to him first ?" said he. 

" Why," said Stubb, eyeing the velvet vest and the watch 
and seals, " you may as well begin by telling him that he looks 


. * 

a sort of babyish to me, though I don't pretend to be a 

" He says, Monsieur," said the Guernsey-man, in French, 
turning to his captain, " that only yesterday his ship spoke 
a vessel, whose captain and chief-mate, with six sailors, had all 
died of a fever caught from a blasted whale they bad brought 
alongside." i 

Upon this the captain started, and eagerly desired to know 

" What now ?" said the Guernsey-man to Stubb. 

" Why, since he takes it so easy, tell him that now I have 
eyed him carefully, I'm quite certain that he's no more fit 
to command a whale-ship than a St. Jago monkey. In fact, tell 
him from me he's a baboon." 

" He vows and declares, Monsieur, that the other whale, the 
dried one, is far more deadly than the blasted one ; in fine, 
Monsieur, he conjures us, as we value our lives, to cut loose from 
these fish." 

Instantly the captain ran forward, and in a loud voice com- 
manded his crew to desist from hoisting the cutting-tackles, and 
at once cast loose the cables and chains confining the whales to 
the ship. 

" What now ?" said the Guernsey-man, when the captain had 
returned to them. 

" Why, let me see ; yes, you may as well tell him now that 
— that — in fact, tell him I've diddled him, and (aside to him- 
self) perhaps somebody else." 

" He says, Monsieur, that he's very happy to have been 
of any service to us." 

Hearing this, the captain vowed that they were the grateful 
parties (meaning himself and mate) and concluded by inviting 
Stubb down into his cabin to drink a bottle of Bordeaux. 

" He wants you to take a glass of wine with him," said the 


" Thank him heartily ; but tell him it's against my prin- 
ciples to drink with the man I've diddled. In fact, tell him 
I must go." 

" He says, Monsieur, that his principles won't admit of his 
drinking ; but that if Monsieur wants to live another day to 
drink, then Monsieur had best drop all four boats, and pull the 
ship away from these whales, for it's so calm they won't 

By this time Stubb was over the side, and getting into 
his boat, hailed the Guernsey-man to this effect, — that having a 
long tow-line in his boat, he would do what he could to help 
them, by pulling out the lighter whale of the two from the 
ship's side. While the Frenchman's boats, then, were engaged 
in towing the ship one way, Stubb benevolently towed away at 
his whale the other way, ostentatiously slacking out a most 
unusually long tow-line. 

Presently a breeze sprang up ; Stubb feigned to cast off from 
the whale ; hoisting his boats, the Frenchman soon increased 
his distance, while the Pequod slid in between him and Stubb's 
whale. Whereupon Stubb quickly pulled to the floating body, 
and hailing the Pequod to give notice of his intentions, at once 
proceeded to reap the fruit of his unrighteous cunning. Seizing 
his sharp boat-spade, he commenced an excavation in the body, 
a little behind the side fin. You would almost have thought he 
was digging a cellar there in the sea ; and when at length 
his spade struck against the gaunt ribs, it was like turning 
up old Roman tiles and pottery buried in fat English loam. 
His boat's crew were all in high excitement, eagerly helping 
their chief, and looking as anxious as gold-hunters. 

And all the time numberless fowls were diving, and ducking, 
and screaming, and yelling, and fighting around them. Stubb 
was beginning to look disappointed, especially as the horrible 
nosegay increased, when suddenly from out the very heart of 
this plague, there stole a faint stream of perfume, which flowed 


through the tide of bad smells without being absorbed by it, as 
one river will flow into and then along with another, withont 
at all blending with it for a time. 

" I have it, I have it," cried Stubb, with delight, striking 
something in the subterranean regions, " a purse ! a purse !" 

Dropping his spade, he thrust both hands in, and drew out 
handfuls of something that looked like ripe Windsor soap, 
or rich mottled old cheese ; very unctuous and savory withal. 
You might easily dent it with your thumb; it is of a hue 
between yellow and ash color. And this, good friends, is amber- 
gris, worth a gold guinea an ounce to any druggist. Some six 
handfuls were obtained ; but more was unavoidably lost in the 
sea, and still more, perhaps, might have been secured were it not 
for impatient Ahab's loud command to Stubb to desist, and come 
on board, else the ship would bid them good bye. 



Now this ambergris is a very curious substance, and so 
important as an article of commerce, that in 1791 a certain 
Nantucket-born Captain Coffin was examined at the bar of the 
English House of Commons on that subject. For at that time, 
and indeed until a comparatively late day, the precise origin of 
ambergris remained, like amber itself, a problem to the learned. 
Though the word ambergris is but the French compound for 
grey amber, yet the two substances are quite distinct. For 
amber, though at times found on the sea-coast, is also dug up in 
some far inland soils, whereas ambergris is never found except 
upon the sea. Besides, amber is a hard, transparent, brittle, 
odorless substance, used for mouth-pieces to pipes, for beads 
and ornaments ; but ambergris is soft, waxy, and so highly fra- 


grant and spicy, that it is largely used in perfumery, in pastiles, 
precious candles, hair-powders, and pomatum. The Turks use it 
in cooking, and also cany it to Mecca, for the same purpose that 
frankincense is carried to St. Peter's in Rome. Some wine mer- 
chants drop a few grains into claret, to flavor it. 

Who would think, then, that such fine ladies and gentlemen 
should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious 
bowels of a sick whale ! Yet so it is. By some, ambergris 
is supposed to be the cause, and by others the effect, of the 
dyspepsia in the whale. How to cure such a dyspepsia it were 
hard to say, unless by administering three or four boat loads of 
Brandreth's pills, and then running out of harm's way, as labor- 
ers do in blasting rocks. 

I have forgotten to say that there were found in this amber- 
gris, certain hard, round, bony plates, which at first Stubb 
thought might be sailors' trousers buttons ; but it afterwards 
turned out that they were nothing more than pieces of small 
squid bones embalmed in that manner. 

Now that the incorruption of this most fragrant ambergris 
■should be found in the heart of such decay ; is this nothing? 
Bethink thee of that saying of St. Paul in Corinthians, about 
corruption and incorruption ; how that we are sown in dishonor, 
but raised in glory. And likewise call to mind that saying 
of Paracelsus about what it is that maketh the best musk. Also 
forget not the strange fact that of all things of ill-savor, Cologne- 
water, in its rudimental manufacturing stages, is the worst. 

I should like to conclude the chapter with the above appeal, 
but cannot, owing to my anxiety to repel a charge often made 
against whalemen, and which, in the estimation of some already 
biased minds, might be considered as indirectly substantiated by 
what has been said of the Frenchman's two whales. Elsewhere 
in this volume the slanderous aspersion has been disproved, that 
the vocation of whaling is throughout a slatternly, untidy 
business. But there is another thing to rebut. They hint that 


all whales always smell bad. Now how did this odious stigma 
originate ? 

I opine, that it is plainly traceable to the first arrival of the 
Greenland whaling ships in London, more than two centuries 
ago. Because those whalemen did not then, and do not now, 
try out their oil at sea as the Southern ships have always done ; 
but cutting up the fresh blubber in small bits, thrust it through 
the bung holes of large casks, and carry it home in that man- 
ner ; the shortness of the season in those Icy Seas, and the sud- 
den «and violent storms to which they are exposed, forbidding 
any other course. The consequence is, that upon breaking into 
the hold, and unloading one of these whale cemeteries, in the 
Greenland dock, a savor is given forth somewhat similar to that 
arising from excavating an old city grave-yard, for the founda- 
tions of a Lying-in Hospital. 

I partly surmise also, that this wicked charge against whalers 
may be likewise imputed to the existence on the coast of Green- 
land, in former times, of a Dutch village called Schmerenburgh 
or Smeerenberg, which latter name is the one used by the 
learned Fogo Von Slack, in his great work on Smells, a text- 
book on that subject. As its name imports (smeer, fat ; berg, 
to put up ), this village was founded in order to afford a place 
for the blubber of the Dutch whale fleet to be tried out, with- 
out being taken home to Holland for that purpose.' It was a 
collection of furnaces, fat-kettles, and oil sheds ; and when the 
works were in full operation certainly gave forth no very 
pleasant savor. But all this is quite different with a South Sea 
Sperm Whaler ; which in a voyage of four years perhaps, after 
completely filling her hold with oil, does not, perhaps, consume 
fifty days in the business of boiling out ; and in the state that 
it is casked, the oil is nearly scentless. The truth is, that living 
or dead, if but decently treated, whales as a species are by no 
means creatures of ill odor ; nor can whalemen be recognised, 
as the people of the middle ages affected to detect a Jew in the 



company, by the nose. Nor indeed can the whale possibly be 
otherwise than fragrant, when, as a general thing, he enjoys such 
high health ; taking abundance of exercise ; always out of 
doors ; though, it is true, seldom in the open air. I say, that 
the motion of a Sperm Whale's flukes above water dispenses a 
perfume, as when a musk-scented lady rustles her dress in a 
warm parlor. What then shall I liken the Sperm Whale to 
for fragrance, considering his magnitude ? Must it not be to 
that famous elephant, with jewelled tusks, and redolent with 
myrrh, which was led out of an Indian town to do hont>r to 
Alexander the Great ? 



It was but some few days after encountering the Frenchman, 
that a most significant event befell the most insignificant of the 
Pequod's crew ; an event most lamentable ; and which ended in 
providing the sometimes madly merry and predestinated craft 
with a living and ever accompanying prophecy of whatever 
shattered sequel might prove her own. 

Now, in the whale ship, it is not eveiy one that goes in the 
boats. Some few hands are reserved called ship-keepers, whose 
province it is to work the vessel while the boats are pursuing 
the whale. As a general thing, these ship-keepers are as hardy 
fellows as the men comprising the boats' crews. But if there 
happen to be an unduly slender, clumsy, or timorous wight in 
the ship, that wight is certain to be made a ship-keeper. It 
was so in the Pequod with the little negro Pippin by nick-name, 
Pip by abbreviation. Poor Pip ! ye have heard of him before ; 
ye must remember his tambourine on that dramatic midnight, 
so gloomy-jolly. 


In outer aspect, Pip and Dough-Boy made a match, like a 
black pony and a white one, of equal developments, though of 
dissimilar color, driven in one eccentric span. But while hapless 
Dough-Boy was by nature dull and torpid in his intellects, Pip, 
though over tender-hearted, was at bottom veiy bright, with 
that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness peculiar to his tribe ; a 
tribe, which ever enjoy all holidays and festivities with finer, 
freer relish than any other race. For blacks, the year's calendar 
should show naught but three hundred and sixty-five Fourth of 
Julys and New Year's Days. Nor smile so, while I write that 
this little black was brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy ; 
behold yon lustrous ebony, panelled in king's cabinets. But 
Pip loved life, and all life's peaceable securities ; so that the 
panic-striking business in which he had somehow unaccounta- 
bly become entrapped, had most sadly blurred his brightness ; 
though, as ere long will be seen, what was thus temporarily sub- 
dued in him, in the end was destined to be luridly illumined by 
strange wild fires, that fictitiously showed him off to ten times 
the natural lustre with which in his native Tolland County in 
Connecticut, he had once enlivened many a fiddler's frolic on 
the green ; and at melodious even-tide, with his gay ha-ha ! 
had turned the round horizon into one star-belled tambourine. 
So, though in the clear air of day, suspended against a blue- 
veined neck, the pure-watered diamond drop wiH healthful 
glow ; yet, when the cunning jeweller would show you the 
diamond in its most impressive lustre, he lays it against a 
gloomy ground, and then lights it up, not by the sun, but by 
some unnatural gases. Then come out those fiery effulgenees, 
infernally superb; then the evil-blazing diamond, once the 
divinest symbol of the crystal skies, looks like some crown-jewel 
stolen from the Bang of Hell. But let us to the story. 

It came to pass, that in the ambergris affair Stubb's after- 
oarsman chanced so to sprain his hand, as for a time to become 
quite maimed ; and, temporarily, Pip was put into his place. 


The first time Stubb lowered with him, Pip evinced much 
nervousness ; bul happily, for that time, escaped close contact 
with the whale ; and therefore came off not altogether dis- 
creditably ; though Stubb observing him, took care, afterwards, 
to exhort him to cherish his courageousness to the utmost, for 
he might often find it needful. 

Now upon the second lowering, the boat paddled upon the 
whale ; and as the fish received the darted iron, it gave its 
customary rap, which happened, in this instance, to be right 
under poor Pip's seat. The involuntary consternation of the 
moment caused him to leap, paddle in .hand, out of the boat ; 
and in such a way, that part of the slack whale line coming 
against his chest, he breasted it overboard with him, so as to 
become entangled in it, when at last plumping into the water. 
That instant the stricken whale started on a fierce run, the line 
swiftly straightened ; and presto ! poor Pip came all foaming 
up to the chocks of the boat, remorselessly dragged there by 
the line, which had taken several turns around his chest and 

Tashtego stood in the bows. He was full of the fire of the 
hunt. He hated Pip for a poltroon. Snatching the boat- 
knife from its sheath, he suspended its sharp edge over the line, 
and turning towards Stubb, exclaimed interrogatively, " Cut ?" 
Meantime Pip's blue, choked face plainly looked, Do, for God's 
sake ! All passed in a flash. In less than half a minute, this 
entire thing happened. . 

" Damn him, cut !" roared Stubb ; and so the whale was 
lost and Pip was saved. 

So soon as he recovered himself, the poor little negro was 
assailed by yells and execrations from the crew. Tranquilly 
permitting these irregular cursings to evaporate, Stubb then in 
a plain, business-like, but still half humorous manner, cursed 
Pip officially ; and that done, unofficially gave him much 
wholesome advice. The substance was, Never jump from a 


boat, Pip, except — but all the rest was indefinite, as the 
soundest advice ever is. Now, in general, Stick to the boat, is 
your true motto in whaling ; but cases will sometimes happen 
when Leap from the boat, is still better. Moreover, as if 
perceiving at last that if he should give undiluted conscientious 
advice to Pip, he would be leaving him too wide a margin to 
jump in for the future ; Stubb suddenly dropped all advice, and 
concluded with a peremptory command, "Stick to the boat, 
Pip, or by the Lord, I wont pick you up if you jump ; mind 
that. We can't afford to lose whales by the likes of you ; a 
whale would sell for thirty times what you would, Pip, in 
Alabama. Bear that in mind, and don't jump any more." 
Hereby perhaps Stubb indirectly hinted, that though man loved 
his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which propensity 
too often interferes with his benevolence. 

But we are all in the hands of the Gods ; and Pip jumped 
again. It was under very similar circumstances to the first 
performance ; but this time he did not breast out the line ; and 
hence, when the whale started to run, Pip was left behind on 
the sea, like a hurried traveller's trunk. Alas ! Stubb was but 
too true to his word. It was a beautiful, bounteous, blue day ; 
the spangled sea calm and cool, and flatly stretching away, all 
round, to the horizon, like gold-beater's skin hammered out to 
the extremest. Bobbing up and down in that sea, Pip's ebon 
head showed like a head of cloves. No boat-knife was lifted 
when he fell so rapidly astern. Stubb's inexorable back was 
turned upon him ; and the whale was winged. In three 
minutes, a whole mile of shoreless ocean was between Pip and 
Stubb. Out from the centre of the sea, poor Pip turned his 
crisp, curling, black head to the sun, another lonely castaway, 
though the loftiest and the brightest. 

Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open ocean is as easy 
to the practised swimmer as to ride in a spring-carriage ashore. 


But the awful lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concen- 
tration of self in the middle of such a heartless immensity, my 
God! who can tell it? Mark, how when sailors in a dead 
calm bathe in the open sea — mark how closely they hug their 
ship and only coast along her sides. 

But had Stubb really abandoned the poor little negro to his 
fate ? No ; he did not mean to, at least. Because there were 
two boats in his wake, and he supposed, no doubt, that they 
would of course come up to Pip very quickly, and pick him up ; 
though, indeed, such considerations towards oarsmen jeopardized 
through their own timidity, is not always manifested by the 
hunters in all similar instances ; and such instances not unfre- 
quently occur ; almost invariably in the fishery, a coward, so 
called, is marked with the same ruthless detestation peculiar to 
military navies and armies. 

But it so happened, that those boats, without seeing Pip, 
suddenly spying whales close to them on one side, turned, and 
gave chase ; and Stubb's boat was now so far away, and he and 
all his crew so intent upon his fish, that Pip's ringed horizon 
began to expand around him miserably. By the merest chance 
the ship itself at last rescued him; but from that horn - the 
little negro went about the deck an idiot ; such, at least, they 
said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but 
drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. 
Bather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange 
shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before 
his passive eyes ; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his 
hoarded heaps ; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile 
eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral 
insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal 
orbs. He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the loom, and 
spoke it ; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So 
■nan's insanity is heaven's sense ; and wandering from all mortal 


reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to 
reason, is absurd and frantic ; and weal or woe, feels then 
uncompromised, indifferent as his God. 

For the rest, blame not Stubb too hardly. The thing is 
common in that fishery ; and in the sequel of the narrative, it 
will then be seen what like abandonment befell myself. 



That whale of Stubb's, so dearly purchased, was duly brought 
to the Pequod's side, where all those cutting and hoisting opera- 
tions previously detailed, were regularly gone through, even to 
the baling of the Heidelburgh Tun, or Case. 

While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were 
employed in dragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled 
with the sperm ; and when the proper time arrived, this same 
sperm was carefully manipulated ere going to the try-works, of 
which anon. 

It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, 
with several others, I sat down before a large Constantine's bath 
of it, I found it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there 
rolling about in the liquid part. It was our business to squeeze 
these lumps back into fluid. A sweet and unctuous duty ! No 
wonder that in old times this sperm was such a favorite cos- 
metic. Such a clearer ! such a sweetener ! such a softener ! 
such a delicious mollifier ! After having my hands in it for only 
a few minutes, my fingers felt like eels, and began, as it were, 
to serpentine and spiralize. 

As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck ; after the 
bitter exertion at the windlass ; under a blue tranquil sky ; the 


ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as 
I bathed my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infil- 
trated tissues, woven almost within the hour ; as they richly 
broke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like 
fully ripe grapes their wine ; as I snuffed up that uncontami- 
nated aroma, — literally and truly, like the smell of spring 
violets ; I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a 
musky meadow ; I forgot all about our horrible oath ; in that 
inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it ; I 
almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that 
sperm is of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger : while 
bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or 
petulence, or malice, of any sort whatsoever. 

Squeeze ! squeeze ! squeeze ! all the morning long ; I squeezed 
that sperm till I myself almost melted into it ; I squeezed that 
sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me ; and I found 
myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mis- 
taking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, 
affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget ; 
that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking 
up into their eyes sentimentally ; as much as to say, — Oh ! my 
dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social 
acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy ! Come ; 
let us squeeze hands all round ; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves 
into each other ; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the 
very milk and sperm of kindness. 

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever ! For 
now, since by many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have 
perceived that in all cases man must eventually lower, or at 
least shift, his conceit of attainable felicity ; not placing it any- 
where in the intellect or the fancy ; but in the wife, the heart, 
the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side, the country ; now 
that I have perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case eter- 
nally. In thoughts of the visions of the night, I saw long rowa 


of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of sper- 


Now, while discoursing of sperm, it behooves to speak of 
other things akin to it, in the business of preparing the sperm 
whale for the try-works. 

First comes white-horse, so called, which is obtained from 
the tapering part of the fish, and also from the thicker portions 
of his flukes. It is tough with congealed tendons — a wad of 
muscle — but still contains some oil. After being severed from 
the whale, the white-horse is first cut into portable oblongs ere 
going to the mincer. They look much like blocks of Berkshire 

Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmen- 
tary parts of the whale's flesh, here and there adhering to the 
blanket of blubber, and often participating to a considerable 
degree in its unctuousness. It is a most refreshing, convivial, 
beautiful object to behold. As its name imports, it is of an** 
exceedingly rich, mottled tint, with a bestreaked snowy and 
golden ground, dotted with spots of the deepest crimson and 
purple. It is plums of rubies, in pictures of citron. Spite of 
reason, it is hard to keep yourself from eating it. I confess, 
that once I stole behind the foremast to try it. It tasted some- 
thing as I should conceive a royal cutlet from the thigh of 
Louis le Gros might have tasted, supposing him to have been 
killed the first day after the venison season, and that particular 
venison season contemporary with an unusually fine vintage of 
the vineyards of Champagne. 

There is another substance, and a very singular one, which 
turns Up in the course of this business, but which I feel it to be 
very puzzling adequately to describe. It is called slobgollion ; 
an appellation original with the whalemen, and even so is the 
nature of the substance. It is an ineffably oozy, stringy affair, 
most frequently found in the tubs of sperm, after a prolonged 



squeezing, and subsequent decanting. I hold it to be the won- 
drously thin, ruptured membranes of the case, coalescing. 

Gurry, so called, is a term properly belonging to right whale- 
men, but sometimes incidentally used by the sperm fishermen. 
It designates the dark, glutinous substance which is scraped 
off the back of the Greenland or right whale, and much of 
which covers the decks of those inferior souls who hunt that 
ignoble Leviathan. 

Nippers. Strictly this word is not indigenous to the whale's 
vocabulary. But as applied by whalemen, it becomes so. A 
whaleman's nipper is a short firm strip of tendinous stuff cut 
from the tapering part of Leviathan's tail : it averages an inch 
in thickness, and for the rest, is about the size of the iron part 
of a hoe. Edgewise moved along the oily deck, it operates like 
a leathern squilgee ; and by nameless blandishments, as of magic, 
allures along with it all impurities. 

But to learn all about these recondite matters, your best way 
is at once to descend into the blubber-room, and have a long 
talk with its inmates. This place has previously been mentioned 
as the receptacle for the blanket-pieces, when stript and hoisted 
from the whale. When the proper time arrives for cutting up 
its contents, this apartment is a scene of terror to all tyros, 
especially by night. On one side, lit by a dull lantern, a space 
has been left clear for the workmen. They generally go in 
pairs, — a pike-and-gaff-man and a spade-man. The whaling- 
pike is similar to a frigate's boarding-weapon of the same name. 
The gaff is something like a boat-hook. With his gaff, the 
gaffman hooks on to a sheet of blubber, and strives to hold it 
from slipping, as the ship pitches and lurches about. Mean- 
while, the spade-man stands on the sheet itself, perpendicularly 
chopping it into the portable horse-pieces. This spade is sharp 
as hone can make it ; the spademan's feet are shoeless ; the 
thing he stands on will sometimes irresistibly slide away from 
him, like a sledge. If he cuts off one of his own toes, or one 


of his assistants', would you be very much astonished ? Toes 
are scarce among veteran blubber-room men. 



Had you stepped on board the Pequod at a certain juncture 
of this post-mortemizing of the whale ; and had you strolled 
forward nigh the windlass, pretty sure am I that you would 
have scanned with no small curiosity a very strange, enig- 
matical object, which you would have seen there, lying along 
lengthwise in the lee scuppers. Not the wondrous cistern in 
the whale's huge head ; not the prodigy of his unhinged lower 
jaw ; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail ; none of these 
would so surprise you, as half a glimpse of that unaccountable 
cone, — longer than a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter 
at the base, and jet : black as Yojo, the ebony idol of Queequeg. 
And an idol, indeed, it is ; or, rather, in old times, its likeness 
was. Such an idol as that found in the secret groves of Queen 
Maachah in Judea ; and for worshipping which, king Asa, her 
son, did depose her, and destroyed the idol, and burnt it for an 
abomination at the brook Kedron, as darkly set forth in the 
15 th chapter of the first book of Kings. 

Look at the sailor, called the mincer, who now comes along, 
and assisted by two allies, heavily backs the grandissimus, as 
the mariners call it, and with bowed shoulders, staggers off 
with it as if he were a grenadier carrying a dead comrade from 
the field. Extending it upon the forecastle deck, he now pro- 
ceeds cylindrically to remove its dark pelt, as an African hunter 
the pelt of a boa. This done he turns the pelt inside out, like 
a pantaloon leg ; gives it a good stretching, so as almost to 


double its diameter ; and at last hangs it, well spread, in the 
rigging, to dry. Ere long, it is taken down ; when removing 
some three feet of it, towards the pointed extremity, and then 
cutting two slits for arm-holes at the other end, he lengthwise 
slips himself bodily into it. The mincer now stands before you 
invested in the full canonicals of his calling. Immemorial to all 
his order, this investiture alone will adequately protect him, 
while employed in the peculiar functions of his office. 

That office consists in mincing the horse-pieces of blubber 
for the pots ; an operation which is conducted at a curious 
wooden horse, planted endwise against the bulwarks, and with 
a capacious tub beneath it, into which the minced pieces drop, 
fast as the sheets from a rapt orator's desk. Arrayed in decent 
black ; occupying a conspicuous pulpit ; intent on bible leaves ; 
what a candidate for an archbishoprick, what a lad for a Pope 
were this mincer !* 



Besides her hoisted boats, an American whaler is outwardly 
distinguished by her try-works. She presents the curious 
anomaly of the most solid masonry joining with oak and hemp 
in constituting the completed ship. It is as if from the open 
field a brick-kiln were transported to her planks. 

The try-works are planted between the foremast and main- 
mast, the most roomy part of the deck. The timbers beneath 

*' Bible leaves ! Bible leaves ! This is the invariable cry from the 
mates to the mincer. It enjoins him to be careful, and cut his work into 
as thin slices as possible, inasmuch as by so doing the business of boiling 
out the oil is much accelerated, and its quantity considerably increased, 
besides perhaps improving it in quality. 


are of a peculiar strength, fitted to sustain the weight of an 
almost solid mass of brick and mortar, some ten feet by eight 
square, and five in height. The foundation does not penetrate 
the deck, but the masonry is firmly secured to the surface by 
ponderous knees of iron bracing it on all sides, and screwing it 
down to the timbers. On the flanks it is cased with wood, and 
at top completely covered by a large, sloping, battened hatch- 
way. Removing this hatch we expose the great try-pots, two 
in number, and each of several barrels' capacity. When not in 
use, they are kept remarkably clean. Sometimes they are 
polished with soapstone and sand, till they shine within like 
silver punch-bowls. During the night-watches some cynical 
old sailors will crawl into them and coil themselves away there 
for a nap. While employed in polishing them — one man in 
each pot, side by side — many confidential communications are 
carried on, over the iron lips. It is a place also for profound 
mathematical meditation. It was in the left hand try-pot of 
the Pequod, with the soapstone diligently circling round me, 
that I was first indirectly struck by the remarkable fact, that 
in geometiy all bodies gliding along the cycloid, my soapstone 
for example, will descend from any point in precisely the same 

Removing the fire-board from the front of the try-works, the 
bare masonry of that side is exposed, penetrated by the two 
iron mouths of the furnaces, directly underneath the pots. 
These mouths are fitted with heavy doors of iron. The intense 
heat of the fire is prevented from communicating itself to the 
deck, by means of a shallow reservoir extending under the 
entire inclosed surface of the works. By a tunnel inserted at 
the rear, this reservoir is kept replenished with water as fast as 
it evaporates. There are no external chimneys ; they open 
direct from the rear wall. And here let us go back for a 

It was about nine o'clock at night that the Pequod's try-works 


were first started on this present voyage. It belonged to Stubb 
to oversee the business. 

"All ready there? Off hatch, then, and start her. You 
cook, fire the works." This was an easy thing, for the carpen- 
ter had been thrusting his shavings into the furnace throughout 
the passage. Here be it said that in a whaling voyage the first 
fire in the try-works has to be fed for a time with wood. After 
that no wood is used, except as a means of quick ignition to 
the staple fuel. In a word, after being tried out, the crisp, 
shrivelled blubber, now called scraps or fritters, still contains 
considerable of its unctuous properties. These fritters feed the 
flames. Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming 
misanthrope, once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and 
burns by his own body. "Would that he consumed his own 
smoke ! for his smoke is horrible to inhale, and inhale it you 
must, and not only that, but you must five in it for the time. 
It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such as may 
lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left 
wing of the day of judgment ; it is an argument for the pit. 

By midnight the works were in full operation. We were 
clear from the carcase ; sail had been made ; the wind was 
freshening; the wild ocean darkness was intense. But that 
darkness was licked up by the fierce flames, which at intervals 
forked forth from the sooty flues, and illuminated every lofty 
rope in the rigging, as with the famed Greek fire. The burning 
ship drove on, as if remorselessly commissioned to some venge- 
ful deed. So the pitch and sulphur-freighted brigs of the bold 
Hydriote, Canaris, issuing from their midnight harbors, with 
broad sheets of flame for sails, bore down upon the Turkish 
frigates, and folded them in conflagrations. 

The hatch, removed from the top of the works, now afforded 
a wide hearth in front of them. Standing on this were the 
Tartarean shapes of the pagan harpooneers, always the whale- 
ship's stokers. With huge pronged poles they pitched hissing 


masses of blubber into the scalding pots, or stirred up tbe fires 
beneath, till the snaky flames darted, curling, out of the doors 
to catch them by the feet. The smoke rolled away in sullen 
heaps. To every pitch of the ship there was a pitch of the 
boiling oil, which seemed all eagerness to leap into their faces. 
Opposite the mouth of the works, on the further side of the 
wide wooden hearth, was the windlass. This served for a sea- 
sofa. Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed, 
looking into the red heat of the fire, till their eyes felt scorched 
in their heads. Their tawny features, now all begrimed with 
smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting 
barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely 
revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works'. As they 
narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of 
terror told in words of mirth ; as their uncivilized laughter 
forked upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace ; 
as to and fro, in their front, the harpooneers wildly gesticulated 
with their huge pronged forks and dippers ; as the wind howled 
on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and 
yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the 
blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the 
white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all 
sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and 
laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that 
blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her 
monomaniac commander's soul. 

So seemed it to me, as I stood at her helm, and for long 
hours silently guided the way of this fire-ship on the sea. 
Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better 
saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others. The 
continual sight of the fiend shapes before me, capering half in 
smoke and half in fire, these at last begat kindred visions in my 
soul, so soon as I began to yield to that unaccountable drowsi- 
ness which ever would come over me at a midnight helm. 


But that night, in particular, a strange (and ever since inex- 
plicable) thing occurred to me. Starting from a brief standing 
sleep, I was horribly conscious of something fatally wrong. 
The jaw-bone tiller smote my side, which leaned against it ; in 
my ears was the low hum of sails, just beginning to shake in 
the wind ; I thought my eyes were open ; I was half conscious 
of putting my fingers to the lids and mechanically stretching 
them still further apart. But, spite of all this, I could see no 
compass before me to steer by ; though it seemed but a minute 
since I had been watching the card, by the steady binnacle 
lamp illuminating it. Nothing seemed before me but a jet 
gloom, now and then made ghastly by flashes of redness. 
Uppermost was the impression, that whatever swift, rushing 
thing I stood on was not so much bound to any haven ahead 
as rushing from all havens astern. A stark, bewildered feeling, 
as of death, came over me. Convulsively my hands grasped 
the tiller, but with the crazy conceit that the tiller was, some- 
how, in some enchanted way, inverted. My God ! what is the 
matter with me ? thought I. Lo ! in my brief sleep I had 
turned myself about, and was fronting the ship's stern, with 
my back to her prow and the compass. In an instant I faced 
back, just in time to prevent the vessel from flying up into 
the wind, and very probably capsizing her. How glad and 
how grateful the relief from this unnatural hallucination of the 
night, and the fatal contingency of being brought by the lee ! 

Look not too long in the face of the fire, man ! Never 
dream with thy hand on the helm ! Turn not thy back to the 
compass ; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller ; believe 
not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look 
ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be 
bright ; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the 
morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, 
golden, glad sun, the only true lamp — all others but Hal's ! 

Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal Swamp, 


nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the 
millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. 
The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this 
earth, and winch is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, 
that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, 
that mortal man cannot be true — not true, or undeveloped. 
With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of 
Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesi- 
astes is the fine hammered steel of woe. " All is vanity." All. 
This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's 
wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks 
fast crossing grave-yards, and would rather talk of operas than 
hell ; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of 
sick men ; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabe- 
lais as j>assing wise, and therefore jolly ; — not that man is fitted 
to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould 
with unfa thorn ably wondrous Solomon. 

But even Solomon, he says, " the man that wandereth out 
of the way of understanding shall remain" (i. e. even while 
living) " in the congregation of the dead." Give not thyself 
up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee ; as for the 
time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe ; but there is 
a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some 
souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and 
soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. 
And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in 
the mountains ; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain 
eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though 
they soar. 

474 THE LAMP. 



Had you descended from the Pequod's try-works to the 
Pequod's forecastle, where the off duty watch were sleeping, for 
one single moment you would have almost thought you were 
standing in some illuminated shrine of canonized kings and 
counsellors. There they lay in then* triangular oaken vaults, 
each mariner a chiselled muteness ; a score of lamps flashing 
upon his hooded eyes. 

In merchantmen, oil for the sailor is more scarce than the 
milk of queens. To dress in the dark, and eat in the dark, and 
stumble in darkness to his pallet, this is his usual lot. But the 
whaleman, as he seeks the food of light, so he lives in light. 
He makes his berth an Aladdin's lamp, and lays him down in 
it; so that in the pitchiest night the ship's black hull still 
houses an illumination. 

See with what entire freedom the whaleman takes his hand- 
ful of lamps — often but old bottles and vials, though — to the 
copper cooler at the try-works, and replenishes them there, as 
mugs of ale at a vat. He burns, too, the purest of oil, in its 
unmanufactured, and, therefore, unvitiated state ; a fluid un- 
known to solar, lunar, or astral contrivances ashore. It is 
sweet as early grass butter in April. He goes and hunts for 
his oil, so as to be sure of its freshness and genuineness, even 
as the traveller on the prairie hunts up his own supper of game. 




Already lias it been related how the great leviathan is afar 
off descried from the mast-head ; how he is chased over the 
watery moors, and slaughtered in the valleys of the deep ; how 
he is then towed alongside and beheaded ; and how (on the 
principle which entitled the headsman of old to the garments 
in which the beheaded was killed) his great padded surtout 
becomes the property of his executioner ; how, in due time, he 
is condemned to the pots, and, like Shadracb, Meshach, and 
Abednego, his spermaceti, oil, and bone pass unscathed through 
the fire ; — but now it remains to conclude the last chapter of 
this part of the description by rehearsing — singing, if I may — 
the romantic proceeding of decanting off his oil into the casks 
and striking them down into the hold, where once again levia- 
than returns to his native profundities, sliding along beneath 
the surface as before ; but, alas ! never more to rise and blow. 

While still warm, the oil, like hot punch, is received into the 
six-barrel casks ; and while, perhaps, the ship is pitching and 
rolling this way and that in the midnight sea, the enormous 
casks are slewed round and headed over, end for end, and some- 
times perilously scoot across the slippery deck, like so many 
land slides, till at last man-handled and stayed in their course ; 
and all round the hoops, rap, rap, go as many hammers as can 
play upon them, for now, ex officio, eveiy sailor is a cooper. 

At length, when the last pint is casked, and all is cool, then 
the great hatchways are unsealed, the bowels of the ship are 
thrown open, and down go the casks to their final rest in the 
sea. This done, the hatches are replaced, and hermetically 
closed, like a closet walled up. 


In the sperm fishery, this is perhaps one of the most remark- 
able incidents in all the business of whaling. One day the 
planks stream with freshets of blood and oil ; on the sacred 
quarter-deck enormous masses of the whale's head are profanely 
piled ; great rusty casks lie about, as in a brewery yard ; the smoke 
from the try-works has besooted all the bulwarks ; the mariners 
go about suffused with unctuousness ; the entire ship seems 
great leviathan himself; while on all hands the din is deafening. 

But a day or two after, you look about you, and prick your 
ears in this self-same ship ; and were it not for the tell-tale boats 
and try-works, you would all but swear you trod some silent 
merchant vessel, with a most scrupulously neat commander. 
The unmanufactured sperm oil possesses a singularly cleansing 
virtue. This is the reason why the decks never look so white 
as just after what they call an affair of oil. Besides, from the 
ashes of the burned scraps of the whale, a potent ley is readily 
made ; and whenever any adhesiveness from the back of the 
whale remains clinging to the side, that ley quickly exterminates 
it. Hands go diligently along the bulwarks, and with buckets 
of water and rags restore them to their full tidiness. The soot 
is brushed from the lower rigging. All the numerous imple- 
ments which have been in use are likewise faithfully cleansed 
and put away. The great hatch is scrubbed and placed upon 
the try-works, completely hiding the pots ; every cask is out of 
sight ; all tackles are coiled in unseen nooks ; and when by the 
combined and simultaneous industry of almost the entire ship's 
company, the whole of this conscientious duty is at last con- 
cluded, then the crew themselves proceed to their own ablu- 
tions ; shift themselves from top to toe ; and finally issue to the 
immaculate deck, fresh and all aglow, as bridegrooms new- 
leaped from out the daintiest Holland. 

Now, with elated step, they pace the planks in twos and 
threes, and humorousl} r discourse of parlors, sofas, carpets, and 
fine cambrics ; propose to mat the deck ; think of having hang- 


ings to the top ; object not to taking tea by moonlight on the 
piazza of the forecastle. To hint to such musked mariners of 
oil, and bone, and blubber, were little short of audacity. They 
know not the thing you distantly allude to. Away, and bring 
us napkins ! 

But mark : aloft there, at the three mast heads, stand three 
men intent on spying out more whales, which, if caught, infalli- 
bly will again soil the old oaken furniture, and drop at least one 
small grease-spot somewhere. Yes ; and many is the time, 
when, after the severest uninterrupted labors, which know no 
night ;* continuing straight through for ninety-six hours ; when 
from the boat, where they have swelled their wrists with all day 
rowing on the Line, — they only step to the deck to carry vast chains, 
and heave the heavy windlass, and cut and slash, yea, and in 
their very sweatings to be smoked and burned anew by the com- 
bined fires of the equatorial sun and the equatorial try-works ; 
when, on the heel of all this, they have finally bestirred themselves 
to cleanse the ship, and make a spotless dairy room of it ; many 
is the time the poor fellows, just buttoning the necks of their 
clean frocks, are startled by the cry of " There she blows !" and 
away they fly to fight another whale, and go through the whole 
weary thing again. Oh ! my friends, but this is man-killing ! 
Yet this is life. For hardly have we mortals by long toilings 
extracted from this world's vast bulk its small but valuable 
sperm ; and then, with weary patience, cleansed ourselves from 
its defilements, and learned to live here in clean tabernacles of 
the soul ; hardly is this done, when — There she blows ! — the 
ghost is spouted up, and away we sail to fight some other 
world, and go through young life's old routine again. 

Oh ! the metempsychosis ! Oh ! Pythagoras, that in bright 
Greece, two thousand years ago, did die, so good, so wise, so 
mild ; I sailed with thee along the Peruvian coast last voyage 
— and, foolish as I am, taught thee, a green simple boy, how to 
Bplice a rope ! 




Ere now it has been related how Ahab was wont to pace his 
quarter-deck, taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle 
and mainmast ; but in the multiplicity of other things requiring 
narration it has not been added how that sometimes in these 
walks, when most plunged in his mood, he was wont to pause 
in turn at each spot, and stand there strangely eyeing the par- 
ticular object before him. When he halted before the binnacle, 
with his glance fastened on the pointed needle in the compass, 
that glance shot like a javelin with the pointed intensity of his 
purpose ; and when resuming his walk he again paused before 
the mainmast, then, as the same riveted glance fastened upon 
the riveted gold coin there, he still wore the same aspect of 
nailed firmness, only dashed with a certain wild longing, if not 

But one morning, turning to pass the doubloon, he seemed 
to be newly attracted by the strange figures and inscriptions 
stamped on it, as though now for the first time beginning to 
interpret for himself in some monomaniac way whatever signi- 
ficance might lurk in them. And some certain significance 
lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round 
world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the .cartload, 
as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the 
Milky Way. 

Now this doubloon was of purest, virgin gold, raked some- 
where out of the heart of gorgeous 'hills, whence, east and west, 
over golden sands, the head-waters of many a Pactolus flows. 
And though now nailed amidst all the rustiness of iron bolts 


and the verdigris of copper spikes, yet, untouchable and imma- 
culate to any foulness, it still preserved its Quito glow. Nor, 
though placed amongst a ruthless crew and every hour passed 
by ruthless hands, and through the livelong nights shrouded 
with thick darkness which might cover any pilfering approach, 
nevertheless every sunrise found the doubloon where the sunset 
left it last. For it was set apart and sanctified to one awe- 
striking end ; and however wanton in their sailor ways, one and 
all, the mariners revered it as the white whale's talisman. 
Sometimes they talked it over in the weary watch by night, 
wondering whose it was to be at last, and whether he would 
ever live to spend it. 

Now those noble golden coins of South America are as 
medals of the sun and tropic token-pieces. Here palms, 
alpacas, and volcanoes ; sun's disks and stars ; ecliptics, horns- 
of-plenty, and rich banners waving, are in luxuriant profusion 
stamped ; so that the precious gold seems almost to derive an 
added preciousness and enhancing glories, by passing through 
those fancy mints, so Spanishly poetic. 

It so chanced that the doubloon of the Pequod was a most 
wealthy example of these things. On its round border it bore 
this bright coin came from a country planted in the middle of 
the world, and beneath the great equator, and named after it ; 
and it had been cast midway up the Andes, in the unwaning 
clime that knows no autumn. Zoned by those letters you saw 
the likeness of three Andes' summits ; from one a flame ; a tower 
on another ; on the third a crowing cock ; while arching over 
all was a segment of the partitioned zodiac, the signs all marked 
with their usual cabalistics, and the keystone sun entering the 
equinoctial point at Libra. 

Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, 
was now pausing. 

"There's something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and 


towers, and all other grand and lofty things ; look here, — three 
peaks as proud as Lucifer. The firm tower, that is Ahab ; the 
volcano, that is Ahab ; the courageous, the undaunted, and 
victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab ; all are Ahab ; and this 
round gold is but the image of the rounder globe, Avhich, like 
a magician's glass, to each and every man in turn but mirrors 
back his own mysterious self. Great pains, small gains for 
those who ask the world to solve them ; it cannot solve itself. 
Methinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face ; but see ! 
aye, he enters the sign of storms, the equinox ! and but six 
months before he wheeled out of a former equinox at Aries ! 
From storm to storm ! So be it, then. Born in throes, 'tis fit 
that man should live in pains and die in pangs ! So be it, then ! 
Here's stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then." 

" No fairy fingers can have pressed the gold, but devil's claws 
must have left their mouldings there since yesterday," murmured 
Starbuck to himself, leaning against the bulwarks. "The oil- 
man seems to read Belshazzar's awful writing. I have never 
marked the coin inspectingly. He goes below ; let me read. 
A dark valley between three mighty, heaven-abiding peaks, that 
almost seem the Trinity, in some faint earthly symbol. So in 
this vale of Death, God girds us round ; and over all our gloom, 
the sun of Righteousness still shines a beacon and a hope. If 
we bend down our eyes, the dark vale shows her mouldy soil ; 
but if we lift them, the bright sun meets our glance half way, 
to cheer. Yet, oh, the great sun is no fixture ; and if, at mid- 
night, we would fain snatch some sweet solace from him, we 
gaze for him in vain ! This coin speaks wisely, mildly, truly, 
but still sadly to me. I will quit it, lest Truth shake me 

" There now's the old Mogul," soliloquized Stubb by the try- 
works, " he's been twigging it ; and there goes Starbuck from the 
same, and both with faces which I should say might be some- 
where within nine fathoms long. And all from looking at a piece 


of gold, which did I have it now on Negro Hill or in Corlaer's 
Hook, I'd v ot look at it very long ere spending it. Humph ! in my 
poor, insigniticant opinion, I regard this as queer. I have seen 
doubloons before now in my voyagings ; your doubloons of old 
Spain, your doubloons of Peru, your doubloons of Chili, your 
doubloons of Bolivia, your doubloons of Popayan ; with plenty 
of gold moidores and pistoles, and joes, and half joes, and quar- 
ter joes. What then should there be in this doubloon of the 
Equator that is so killing wonderful ? By Golconda ! let me 
read it once. Halloa ! here's signs and wonders truly ! That, 
now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome calls the zodiac, and 
what my almanack below calls ditto. I'll get the almanack 
and as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll's arith- 
metic, I'll try my hand at raising a meaning out of these queei 
curvicues here with the Massachusetts calendar. Here's the 
book. Let's see now. Signs and wonders ; and the sun, he's 
always among 'em. Hem, hem, hem ; here they are — here 
they go — all alive : — Aries, or the Ram ; Taurus, or the Bull 
and Jimimi ! here's Gemini himself, or the Twins. Well ; the 
sun he wheels among 'em. Aye, here on the coin he's just 
crossing the threshold between two of twelve sitting-rooms all 
in a ring. Book ! you lie there ; the fact is, you books must 
know your places. You'll do to give us the bare words and 
facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts. That's my small 
experience, so far as the Massachusetts calendar, and Bowditch 's 
navigator, and Daboll's arithmetic go. Signs and wonders, 
eh ? Pity if there is nothing wonderful in signs, and significant 
in wonders ! There's a clue somewhere ; wait a bit ; hist — - 
hark ! By Jove, I have it ! Look you, Doubloon, your zodiac 
here is the life of man in one round chapter ; and now I'll read 
it off, straight out of the book. Come, Almanack ! To begin : 
there's Aries, or the Ram — lecherous dog, he begets us ; then, 
Taurus, or the Bull — he bumps us the first thing ; then Gemini, 
or the Twins — that is, Virtue and Vice ; we try to reach Vir- 



tue, when lo ! comes Cancer the Crab, and drags us back ; and 
here, going from Virtue, Leo, a roaring Lion, lies in the path — 
he gives a few fierce bites and surly dabs with his paw ; we 
escape, and hail Virgo, the Virgin ! that's our first love ; we 
marry and think to be happy for aye, when pop comes Libra, or 
the Scales — happiness weighed and found wanting ; and while 
we are very sad about that, Lord ! how we suddenly jump, as 
Scorpio, or the Scorpion, stings us in rear ; we are curing the 
wound, when whang come the arrows all round ; Sagittarius, or 
the Archer, is amusing himself. As we pluck out the shafts, 
stand aside ! here's the battering-ram, Capricornus, or the 
Goat ; full tilt, he comes rushing, and headlong we are tossed ; 
when Aquarius, or the Water-bearer, pours out his whole deluge 
and drowns us ; and to wind up with Pisces, or the Fishes, we 
sleep. There's a sermon now, writ in high heaven, and the sun 
goes through it every year, and yet comes out of it all alive 
and hearty. Jollily he, aloft there, wheels through toil and 
trouble ; and so, alow here, does jolly Stubb. Oh, jolly's the 
word for aye ! Adieu, Doubloon ! But stop ; here comes little 
King-Post ; dodge round the try-works, now, and let's hear 
what he'll have to say. There ; he's before it ; he'll out with 
something presently. So, so ; he's beginning." 

" I see nothing here, but a round thing made of gold, and 
whoever raises a certain whale, this round thing belongs to him. 
So, what's all this staring been about ? It is worth sixteen 
dollars, that's true ; and at two cents the cigar, that's nine hun- 
dred and sixty cigars. I wont smoke dirty pipes like Stubb, 
but I like cigars, and here's nine hundred and sixty of them ; 
so here goes Flask aloft to spy 'em out." 

" Shall I call that wise or foolish, now ; if it be really wise it 
has a foolish look to it ; yet, if it be really foolish, then has it a 
sort of wiseish look to it. But, avast ; here comes our old 
Manxman — the old hearse-driver, he must have been, that is, 
before he took to the sea. He luffs up before the doubloon ; 


halloa, and goes round on the other side of the mast ; why, 
there's a horse-shoe nailed on that side ; and now he's back 
again ; what does that mean ? Hark ! he's muttering — voice 
like an old worn-out coffee-mill. Prick ears, and listen !" 

" If the White Whale be raised, it must be in a month and 
a day, when the sun stands in some one of these signs. I've 
studied signs, and know their marks ; they were taught me two 
score years ago, by the old witch in Copenhagen. Now, in 
what sign will the sun then be ? The horse-shoe sign ; for there 
it is, right opposite the gold. And what's the horse-shoe sign ? 
The lion is the horse-shoe sign — the roaring and devouring 
Hon. Ship, old ship ! my old head shakes to think of thee." 

" There's another rendering now ; but still one text. All sorts 
of men in one kind of world, you see. Dodge again ! here 
comes Queequeg — all tattooing — looks like the signs of the 
Zodiac himself. What says the Cannibal ? As I live he's com- 
paring notes ; looking at his thigh bone ; thinks the sun is in 
the thigh, or in the calf, or in the bowels, I suppose, as the old 
women talk Surgeon's Astronomy in the back country. And by 
Jove, he's found something there in the vicinity of his thigh — I 
guess it's Sagittarius, or the Archer. No : he don't know what 
to make of the doubloon ; he takes it for an old button off some 
king's trowsers. But, aside again ! here comes that ghost- devil, 
Fedallah ; tail coiled out of sight as usual, oakum in the toes of 
his pumps as usual. What does he say, with that look of 
his ? Ah, only makes a sign to the sign and bows himself ; 
there is a sun on the coin — fire worshipper, depend upon it. 
Ho ! more and more. This way comes Pip — poor boy ! would 
he had died, or I ; he's half horrible to me. He too has been 
watching all of these interpreters — myself included — and look 
now, he comes to read, with that unearthly idiot face. Stand 
away again and hear him. Hark ! 

" I look, you look, he looks ; we look, ye look, they look." 

"Upon my soul, he's been studying Murray's Grammar! 


Improving his mind, poor fellow ! But what's that he says 
now — hist!" 

" I look, you look, he looks ; we look, ye look, they look." 

" Why, he's getting it by heart — hist ! again." 

" I look, you look, he looks ; we look, ye look, they look." 

" Well, that's funny." 

" And I, you, and he ; and we, ye, and they, are all hats ; and 
I'm a crow, especially when I stand a'top of this pine tree here. 
Caw ! caw ! caw ! caw ! caw ! caw ! Ain't I a crow ? And 
where's the scare-crow ? There he stands ; two bones stuck 
into a pair of old trowsers, and two more poked into the sleeves 
of an old jacket." 

" Wonder if he means me ? — complimentary ! — poor lad ! — 
I could go hang myself. Any way, for the present, I'll quit 
Pip's vicinity. I can stand the rest, for they have plain wits ; 
but he's too crazy-witty for my sanity. So, so, I leave him 

" Here's the ship's navel, this doubloon here, and they are all 
on fire to unscrew it. But, unscrew your navel, and what's the 
consequence ? Then again, if it stays here, that is ugly, too, for 
when aught's nailed to the mast it's a sign that things grow 
desperate. Ha, ha ! old Ahab ! the White Whale ; he'll nail ye ! 
This is a pine tree. My father, in old Tolland county, cut down 
a pine tree once, and found a silver ring grown over in it ; some 
old darkey's wedding ring. How did it get there ? And so 
they'll say in the resurrection, when they come to fish up this 
old mast, and find a doubloon lodged in it, with bedded oysters 
for the shaggy bark. Oh, the gold! the precious, precious 
gold ! — the green miser '11 hoard ye soon ! Hish ! hish ! God 
goes 'mong the worlds blackberrying. Cook ! ho, cook ! and 
cook us ! Jenny ! hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, Jenny, Jenny ! and 
get your hoe-cake done !" 





" Ship, ahoy ! Hast seen the White Whale ?" 

So cried Ahab, once more hailing a ship showing English 
colors, bearing down under the stern. Trumpet to mouth, the 
old man was standing in his hoisted quarter-boat, his ivory leg 
plainly revealed to the stranger captain, who was carelessly 
reclining in his own boat's bow. He was a darkly-tanned, burly, 
good-natured, fine-looking man, of sixty or thereabouts, dressed 
in a spacious roundabout, t*hat hung round him in festoons of 
blue pilot-cloth ; and one empty arm of this jacket streamed 
behind him like the broidered arm of a huzzar's surcoat. 

" Hast seen the White Whale ?" 

" See you this ?" and withdrawing it from the folds that had 
hidden it, he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone, termi- 
nating in a wooden head like a mallet. 

" Man my boat !" cried Ahab, impetuously, and tossing ahout 
the oars near him — " Stand by to lower !" 

In less than a minute, without quitting his little craft, he and 
his crew were dropped to the water, and were soon alongside 
of the stranger. But here a curious difficulty presented itself. 
In the excitement of the moment, Ahab had forgotten that since 
the loss of his leg he had never once stepped on board of any 
vessel at sea but his own, and then it was always by an inge- 
nious and very handy mechanical contrivance peculiar to the 
Pequod, and a thing not to be rigged and shipped in any other 


vessel at a moment's warning. Now, it is no very easy matter 
for anybody — except those who are almost hourly used to it, 
like whalemen — to clamber up a ship's side from a boat on the 
open sea ; for the great swells now lift the boat high up towards 
the bulwarks, and then instantaneously drop it half way down 
to the kelson. So, deprived of one leg, and the strange ship 
of course being altogether unsupplied with the kindly invention, 
Ahab now found himself abjectly reduced to a clumsy landsman 
again; hopelessly eyeing the uncertain changeful height he 
could hardly hope to attain. 

It has before been hinted, perhaps, that eveiy little untoward 
circumstance that befel him, and which indirectly sprang from 
his luckless mishap, almost invariably irritated or exasperated 
Ahab. And in the present instance, all this was heightened 
by the sight of the two officers of the strange ship, leaning over 
the side, by the perpendicular ladder of nailed cleets there, and 
swinging towards him a pair of tastefully-ornamented man- 
ropes ; for at first they did not se5m to bethink them that a 
one-legged man must be too much of a cripple to use their sea 
bannisters. But this awkwardness only lasted a minute, be- 
cause the strange captain, observing at a glance how affaire 
stood, cried out, " I see, I see ! — avast heaving there ! Jump, 
boys, and swing over the cutting-tackle." 

As good luck would have it, they had had a whale alongside 
a day or two previous, and the great tackles were still aloft, and 
the massive curved blubber-hook, now clean and dry, was still 
attached to the end. This was quickly lowered to Ahab, who 
at once comprehending it all, slid his solitary thigh into the 
curve of the hook (it was like sitting in the fluke of an anchor, 
or the crotch of an apple tree), and then giving the word, held 
himself fast, and at the same time also helped to hoist his own 
weight, by pulling hand-over-hand upon one of the running 
parts of the tackle. Soon he was carefully swung inside the 
high bulwarks, and gently landed upon the capstan head. 


With his ivory arm frankly thrust forth in welcome, the other 
captain advanced, and Ahab, putting out his ivory leg, and 
crossing the ivory arm (like two sword-fish blades) cried out in 
his walrus way, " Aye, aye, hearty ! let us shake bones together ! 
— an arm and a leg ! — an arm that never can shrink, d'ye see ; 
and a leg that never can run. Where did'st thou see the 
White Whale ? — how long ago ?" 

"The White Whale," said the Englishman, pointing his 
ivory arm towards the East, and taking a rueful sight along it, 
as if it had been a telescope ; " There I saw him, on the Line, 
last season." 

" And he took that arm off, did he ?" asked Ahab, now slid- 
ing down from the capstan, and resting on the Englishman's 
shoulder, as he did so. 

" Aye, he was the cause of it, at least ; and that leg, too ?" 
" Spin me the yarn," said Ahab ; " how was it ?" 
"It was the first time in my life that I ever cruised on the 
Line," began the Englishman. " I was ignorant of the White 
Whale at that time. Well, one day we lowered for a pod of 
four or five whales, and my boat fastened to one of them ; a 
regular circus horse he was, too, that went milling and milling 
round so, that my boat's crew could only trim dish, by sitting 
all their sterns on the outer gunwale. Presently up breaches 
from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale, with a 
milky-white head and hump, all crows' feet and wrinkles." 

" It was he, it was he !" cried Ahab, suddenly letting out his 
suspended breath. 

" And harpoons sticking in near his starboard fin." 
" Aye, aye — they were mine — my irons," cried Ahab, exult- 
ingly — " but on !" 

" Give me a chance, then," said the Englishman, gootl- 
humoredly. " Well, this old great-grandfather, with the white 
head and hump, runs all afoam into the pod, and goes to 
snapping furiously at my fast-line." 


" Aye, I see ! — wanted to part it ; free the fast-fish — an old 
trick — I know him." 

" How it was exactly," continued the one-armed commander, 
" I do not know ; but in biting, the fine, it got foul of his teeth, 
caught there somehow ; but we didn't know it then ; so that 
when we afterwards pulled on the line, bounce we came 
plump on to his hump ! instead of the other whale's that went 
off to windward, all fluking. Seeing how matters stood, and 
what a noble great whale it was — the noblest and biggest I 
ever saw, sir, in my life — I resolved to capture him, spite of the 
boiling rage he seemed to be in. And thinking the hap-hazard 
line would get loose, or the tooth it was tangled to migbt draw 
(for I have a devil of a boat's crew for a pull on a whale-line) ; 
seeing all this, I say, I jumped into my first mate's boat — Mr. 
Mounttop's here (by the way, Captain — Mounttop ; Mounttop 
— the captain) ; — as I was saying, I jumped into Mounttop's 
boat, which, d'ye see, was gunwale and gunwale with mine, 
then ; and snatching the first harpoon, let this old great-grand- 
father have it. But, Lord, look you, sir — hearts and souls alive, 
man — the next instant, in a jiff, I was blind as a bat — both 
eyes out — all befogged and bedeadened with black foam — the 
whale's tail looming straight up out of it, perpendicular in the 
air, like a marble steeple. No use sterning all, then ; but as I 
was groping at midday, with a blinding sun, all crown-jewels ; 
as I was groping, I say, after the second iron, to toss it over- 
board — down comes the tail like a Lima tower, cutting my boat 
in two, leaving each half in splinters ; and, flukes first, the white 
hump backed through the wreck, as though it was all chips. 
We all struck out. To escape his terrible Sailings, I seized 
hold of my harpoon-pole sticking in him, and for a moment 
clung to that like a sucking fish. But a combing sea dashed me 
off, and at the same instant, the fish, taking one good dart for- 
wards, went down like a flash ; and the barb of that cursed 
second iron towing along near me caught me here" (clapping 


his hand just below his shoulder) ; " yes, caught rue just here, 
I say, and bore roe down to Hell's flames, I was thinking ; when, 
when, all of a sudden, thank the good God, the barb ript its 
way along the flesh — clear along the whole length of my arm 
— came out nigh my wrist, and up I floated ; — and that gentle- 
man there will tell you the rest (by the way, captain — Dr. 
Bunger, ship's surgeon: Bunger, my lad, — the captain). Now, 
Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn." 

The professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out, had 
been all the time standing near them, with nothing specific 
visible, to denote his gentlemanly rank on board. His face was 
an exceedingly round but sober one ; he was dressed in a faded 
blue woollen frock or shirt, and patched trowsers ; and had thus 
far been dividing his attention between a marlingspike he held 
in one hand, and a pill-box held in the other, occasionally cast- 
ing a critical glance at the ivory limbs of the two crippled 
captains. But, at his superior's introduction of him to Ahab, 
he politely bowed, and straightway went on to do his captain's 

" It was a shocking bad wound," began the whale-surgeon ; 
" and, taking my advice, Captain Boomer here, stood our old 
Sammy — " 

" Samuel Enderby is the name of my ship," interrupted the 
one-armed captain, addressing Ahab ; " go on, boy." 

" Stood our old Sammy off to the northward, to get out of 
the blazing hot weather there on the Line. But it was no use 
— I did all I could ; sat up with him nights ; was very severe 
with him in the matter of diet — " 

" Oh, very severe !" chimed in the patient himself ; then 
suddenly altering his voice, " Drinking hot rum toddies with me 
every night, till he couldn't see to put on the bandages ; and 
sending me to bed, half seas over, about three o'clock in the 
morning. Oh, ye stars ! he sat up with me indeed, and was 
very severe in my diet. Oh ! a great watcher, and very dieteti- 



cally severe, is Dr. Bunger. (Bunger, you clog, laugh out ! 
why don't ye ? You know you're a precious jolly rascal.) But, 
heave ahead, boy, I'd rather be killed by you than kept alive 
by any other man." 

" My captain, you must have ere this perceived, respected 
sir" — said the imperturbable godly-looking Bunger, slightly bow- 
ing to Ahab — " is apt to be facetious at times ; he spins us 
many clever things of that sort. But I may as well say — en 
passant, as the French remark — that I myself — that is to say, 
Jack Bunger, late of the reverend clergy — am a strict total 
abstinence man ; I never drink — " 

" Water !" cried the captain ; " he never drinks it ; it's a sort 
of fits to him ; fresh water throws him into the hydrophobia ; 
but go on — go on with the arm story." 

" Yes, I may as well," said the surgeon, coolly. " I was about 
observing, sir, before Captain Boomer's facetious interruption, 
that spite of my best and severest endeavors, the wound kept 
getting worse and worse ; the truth was, sir, it was as ugly 
gaping wound as surgeon ever saw ; more tban two feet and 
several inches long. I measured it with the lead line. In short, 
it grew black ; I knew what was threatened, and off it came. 
But I had no hand in shipping that ivory arm there ; that 
thing is against all rule" — pointing at it with the marlingspike 
— " that is the captain's work, not mine ; he ordered the car- 
penter to make it ; he had that club-hammer there put to the 
end, to knock some one's brains out with, I suppose, as he tried 
mine once. He flies into diabolical passions sometimes. Do 
ye see this dent, sir" — removing his hat, and brushing aside his 
hair, and exposing a bowl-like cavity in his skull, but which 
bore not the slightest scarry trace, or any token of ever having 
been a wound — " Well, the captain there will tell you how that 
came here ; he knows." 

" No, I don't," said the captain, " but his mother did ; he 
was bora with it. Oh, you solemn rogue, you — you Bunger ! 


was there ever such another Bunger in the watery world ? 
Bunger, when you die, you ought to die in pickle, you dog; 
you should be preserved to future ages, you rascal." 

" What became of the White Whale ?" now cried Ahab, who 
thus far had been impatiently listening to this bye-play between 
the two Englishmen. 

" Oh !" cried the one-armed captain, " Oh, yes ! Well ; after 
he sounded, we didn't see him again for some time ; in fact, as 
I before hinted, I didn't then know what whale it was that had 
served me such a trick, till some time afterwards, when coming 
back to the Line, we heard about Moby Dick — as some call 
him — and then I knew it was he." 

" Did'st thou cross his wake again V 


"But could not fasten?" 

" Didn't want to try to : ain't one limb enough ? What 
should I do without this other arm ? And I'm thinking Moby 
Dick doesn't bite so much as he swallows.'' 

" Well, then," interrupted Bunger, " give him your left arm 
for bait to get the right. Do you know, gentlemen" — very 
gravely and mathematically bowing to each Captain in succes- 
sion — " Do you know, gentlemen, that the digestive organs of 
the whale are so inscrutably constructed by Divine Providence, 
that it is quite impossible for him to completely digest even 
a man's arm ? And he knows it too. So that what you take 
for the White Whale's malice is only his awkwardness. For he 
never means to swallow a single limb ; he only thinks to terrify 
by feints. But sometimes he is like the old juggling fellow, 
formerly a patient of mine in Ceylon, that making believe swal- 
low jack-knives, once upon a time let one drop into him in good 
earnest, and there it stayed for a twelvemonth or more ; when I 
gave him an emetic, and he heaved it up in small tacks, d'ye 
see. No possible way for him to digest that jack-knife, and 
fully incorporate it into his general bodily system. Yes, Cap- 


tain Boomer, if you are quick enough about it, and have a mind 
to pawn one arm for the sake of the privilege of giving decent 
burial to the other, why in that case the arm is yours ; only let 
the whale have another chance at you shortly, that's all." 

" No, thank ye, Bunger," said the English Captain, " he's 
welcome to the arm he has, since I can't help it, and didn't 
know him then; but not to another one. No more White 
Whales for me ; I've lowered for him once, and that has satis-j 
fied me. There would be great glory in killing him, I know 
that ; and there is a ship-load of precious sperm in him, but, 
hark ye, he's best let alone ; don't you think so, Captain ?" — 
glancing at the ivoiy leg. 

" He is. But he will still be hunted, for all that. What is 
best let alone, that accursed thing is not always what least allures. 
He's all a magnet ! How long since thou saw'st him last ? 
Which way heading ?" 

" Bless my soul, and curse the foul fiend's," cried Bunger, 
stoopingly walking round Ahab, and like a dog, strangely 
snuffing; "this man's blood — bring the thermometer ! — it's at 
the boiling point ! — his pulse makes these planks beat ! — sir !" — 
taking a lancet from his pocket, and drawing near to Ahab's 

" Avast !" roared Ahab, dashing him against the bulwarks — 
" Man the boat ! Which way heading ?" 

" Good God !" cried the English Captain, to whom the ques- 
tion was put. " What's the matter ? He was heading east, I 
think. — Is your Captain crazy ?" whispering Fedallah. 

But Fedallah, putting a finger on his lip, slid over the bul- 
warks to take the boat's steering oar, and Ahab, swinging the 
cutting-tackle towards him, commanded the ship's sailors to 
stand by to lower. 

In a moment he was standing in the boat's stern, and the 
Manilla men were springing to their oars. In vain the English 
Captain hailed him. With back to the stranger ship, and face 


set like a flint to his own, Ahab stood upright till alongside of 
the Pequod. 



Eke the English ship fades from sight, be it set down here, 
that she hailed from London, and was named after the late 
Samuel Enderby, merchant of that city, the original of the 
famous whaling house of Enderby & Sons ; a house which in 
my poor whaleman's opinion, comes not far behind the united 
royal houses of the Tudors and Bourbons, in point of real his- 
torical interest. How long, prior to the year of our Lord 17*75, 
this great whaling house was in existence, my numerous fish- 
documents do not make plain ; but in that year (1775) it fitted 
out the first English ships that ever regularly hunted the Sperm 
Whale ; though for some score of years previous (ever since 1726) 
our valiant Coffins and Maceys of Nantucket and the Vineyard 
had in large fleets pursued that Leviathan, but only in the North 
and South Atlantic : not elsewhere. Be it distinctly recorded 
here, that the Nantucketers were the first among mankind to 
harpoon with civilized steel the great Sperm Whale ; and that 
for half a century they were the only people of the whole 
globe who so harpooned him. 

In 1778, a fine ship, the Amelia, fitted out for the express 
purpose, and at the sole charge of the vigorous Enderbys, 
boldly rounded Cape Horn, and was the first among the nations 
to lower a whale-boat of any sort in the great South Sea. The 
voyage was a skilful and lucky one ; and returning to her berth 
with her hold full of the precious sperm, the Amelia's example 
was soon followed by other ships, English and American, 
and thus the vast Sperm Whale grounds of the Pacific were 


thrown open. But not content with this good deed, the inde- 
fatigable house again bestirred itself : Samuel and all his Sons — 
how many, their mother only knows — -and under their imme- 
diate auspices, and partly, I think, at their expense, the British 
government was induced to send the sloop-of-war Rattler on a 
whaling voyage of discovery into the South Sea. Commanded 
by a naval Post-Captain, the Rattler made a rattling voyage of 
it, and did some service ; how much does not appear. But this 
is not all. In 1819, the same house fitted out a discovery 
whale ship of their own, to go on a tasting cruise to the remote 
waters of Japan. That ship — well called the " Syren " — made 
a noble experimental cruise ; and it was thus that the great 
Japanese Whaling Ground first became generally known. The 
Syren in this famous voyage was commanded by a Captain 
Coffin, a Nantucketer. 

All honor to the Enderbies, therefore, whose house, I think, 
exists to the present day ; though doubtless the original Samuel 
must long ago have slipped his cable for the great South Sea 
of the other world. 

The ship named after him was worthy of the honor, being a 
very fast sailer and a noble craft every way. I boarded her once 
at midnight somewhere off the Patagonian coast, and drank 
good flip down in the forecastle. It was a fine gam we had, 
and they were all trumps — every soul on board. A short life 
to them, and a jolly death. And that fine gam I had — long, 
very long after old Ahab touched her planks with his ivory 
heel — it minds me of the noble, solid, Saxon hospitality of that 
ship ; and may my parson forget me, and the devil remember 
me, if I ever lose sight of it. Fli