Thursday, January 01, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 48-54

Chapter 48: The First Lowering

The Phantoms = 1 Chinese, 4 from the Manillas (Phillipinos) some honest white mariners supposed to be the paid spies and secret confidential agents on the water of the devil, their lord

honest = racist? is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what wondrous habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain an erect posture in his boat, even when pitched about by the most riotously perverse and cross-running seas.
Flask was a phenomenon. Ishmael was with Starbuck's crew. The most rational man turned out the be the scariest of all. Bottom line: pursue the profit. The crew was almost lost, but then was found.
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.
Is he trying to imply Ahab has sold his soul? I guess that's what the biblical Ahab did by abandoning the Jewish God and following Baal along with his wife.

Chapter 49: The Hyena
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.
I thought I might as well go below and make a rough draft of my will. ...It may seem strange that of all men sailors should be tinkering at their last wills and testaments, but there are no people in the world more fond of that diversion.
Chapter 50: Ahab's Boat and Crew; Fedallah

Ahab raised a secret crew so he could go out too, though he was not expected to.

He was such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their dreams...when the memory of the first man was a distinct recollection, and all men his descendants, unknowing whence he came, eyed each other as real phantoms, and asked of the sun and the moon why they were created and to what end; when though, according to Genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the daughters of men, the devils also, add the uncanonical Rabbins, indulged in mundane amours.
Chapter 51: The Spirit-Spout
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.
Chapter 52: The Albatross

The ship called Goney aka Albatross is looking pretty ragged after several years at sea.

...then, in accordance with their singular ways, shoals of small harmless fish, that for some days before had been placidly swimming by our side, darted away with what seemed shuddering fins, and ranged themselves fore and aft with the stranger's flanks. Though in the course of his continual voyagings Ahab must often before have noticed a similar sight, yet, to any monomaniac man, the veriest trifles capriciously carry meanings.

"Swim away from me, do ye?" murmured Ahab, gazing over into the water. There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before evinced.
But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.

Chasing this demon phantom seems to be key to the need for religion?

Chapter 53: The Gam

Whalers would exchange letters and news, and had a ritual exchange of officers as part of that tradition, unlike any other ships of the sea.
...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.
GAM. Noun--A social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats' crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.
Chapter 54: The Town-Ho's Story
...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. ...the secret part of the tragedy...never reached the ears of Captain Ahab or his mates.
Tashtego gave away the secret in his sleep. I wondered that it would be in English...but being an Indian perhaps he grew up bilingual and was as apt to dream in English as his native language. The crew did not give up the secret to the officers. That secret, a partial mutiny due to the angry first mate, who in the end was killed by Moby Dick. Sounds like a divine intervention. Ishmael tells the tale as he 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've read this book a dozen times and more and have yet to detect a false note in Melville's sentencing. What deep pleasure The Whale always brings me.