Saturday, January 03, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 55-60

Chapter 55: Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales

Whale geek:

It is time to set the world right in this matter, by proving such pictures of the whale all wrong.
  • Hindoo -> wrong
  • Egyptian -> wrong
  • Greek -> wrong
  • bookbinder's whale -> wrong
  • old Harris's -> wrong
  • Captain Colnett -> wrong (eye would be 5 feet long)
  • Goldsmith's Animated Nature -> wrong
  • Bernard Germain -> wrong
  • Frederick Couvier -> beyond wrong
  • sign-painters' whales -> wrong

These things are understandable though...
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.

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.
Chapter 56: Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the Pictures of Whaling Scenes

Chapter 57: Of Whales in Paint; in Wood; in Sheet; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars

Your true whale-hunter is as much a savage as an Iroquois. I myself am a savage; owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against him.
  • Crippled beggars with painted boards -> "as good whales as were ever published in Wapping..."
  • skrimshander -> "full of barbaric spirit and suggestiveness"
  • wooden whales cut in profile -> some done with much accuracy
  • brass whales as doorknockers -> seldom remarkable
  • sheet iron whale weather vanes on churches -> too high up to judge
  • cliffs and mountains -> can see profiles if in just the right place
  • stars -> "Thus at the North have I chased Leviathan round and round the Pole with the revolutions of the bright points that first defined him to me."
Chapter 58: Brit
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.
you can hardly regard any creatures of the deep with the same feelings that you do those of the shore. For though some old naturalists have maintained that all creatures of the land are of their kind in the sea; and though taking a broad general view of the thing, this may very well be; yet coming to specialties, where, for example, does the ocean furnish any fish that in disposition answers to the sagacious kindness of the dog?
Does he hunt the dog in the same way I wonder?
Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.
Universal cannibalism...really? Oh, so he's making a metaphorical point.
Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life.
Chapter 59: Squid

Referring to the Spirit-Spout of Chapter 51:
And still, at wide intervals in the silvery night, the lonely, alluring jet would be seen.

...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 anacondas, as if blindly to clutch at any hapless object within reach.
Furlong = 220 yards = 201 meters
As with a low sucking sound it slowly disappeared again, Starbuck still gazing at the agitated waters where it had sunk, with a wild voice exclaimed--"Almost rather had I seen Moby Dick and fought him, than to have seen thee, thou white ghost!"
Chapter 60: The Line

manilla rope

The whalers let the line spool out, attach another if the whale goes deep. I wonder, do they play it like a fish, let it tire, then reel it in? I will find out soon perhaps.
the common sperm whale-line measures something over two hundred fathoms.

1 comment:

MegDC said...

"The Line" is one of my favorite chapters. I just came across printer/artist Justin Quinn's super-cool representation of it, with E's replacing every non-E letter.