Saturday, January 10, 2009

Moby Dick: Chapters 93-99

Chapter 93: The Castaway

Pip...was at bottom very 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. ...even blackness has its brilliancy
Sigh. Not so so funny, nor anything to smile at. So Pip never went in the boats, until he was needed to sub for an oarsman. He promptly got caught in the rope and went overboard.

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

Curses all around, and Pip is warned next time they won't stop for him.
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...

But had Stubb really abandoned the poor little negro to his fate? No; he did not mean to, at least.
Pip is cracked open to God, or experiences enlightenment, sees the miser-merman...
By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him; but from that hour 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. ...So man'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.
Chapter 94: A Squeeze of the Hand

Another job done by Ishmael:
...when the proper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully manipulated... 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!
Kum bye ya, my lord, kum bye ya...oh lord, kum bye ya. Oh, sorry, such sweet contact high of childhood I was remembering...or is sperm of the whale hallucinogenic?
I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking 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.... 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.
Terms of whalemen about whalestuff: slobgollion; gurry; nippers; squilgee (wait, not squilgee).
Toes are scarce among veteran blubber-room men.
Chapter 95: The Cassock

Queequeg's idol:
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...
I was so confused reading this chapter in the book, until I got to the online annotated all hinges around what the grandissimus is. Oh those poor high school students who have to read the book but aren't likely allowed to talk about this. The not teh ghey blog talked about this, right? What? No? (I still haven't a chance to read the blog...but it looks like they didn't stick with it.) Scraped, stretched, dried, and cut...
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...
Chapter 96: The Try-Works

The try-works don't just serve as the giant stove-tops for boiling whale oil...when cool and clean they:
  1. Provide a nap-space for old sailors to curl up like a cat.
  2. While employed in polishing them--one man in each pot, side by side--many confidential communications are carried on, over the iron lips.
  3. 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 geometry all bodies gliding along the cycloid, my soapstone for example, will descend from any point in precisely the same time.
They burn the whale's flesh to heat the pots, and it smells and smokes like burning flesh. Or a Hindoo...funeral pyre, or the left wing of the day of judgment.

The harpooneers add blubber and keep the fires hot beneath. Herman creates quite the vision of devil's helpers.
...they pitched hissing masses of blubber into the scalding pots, or stirred up the 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.
This excites Ishmael's mystical imagination as he slips into a dreamlike state while watching the pagans caper.
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....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.
Perhaps he learned his lesson, as he exhorts his audience not to dream at the helm.
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.
He's an excitable boy. I think what he concludes is true, but how he arrives at it is completely encased in his karmic conditioning about devils and hell and evil. Somehow I think Queequeg will turn out to be the virtuous one, perhaps the martyr. (No I don't know, and don't you tell me if you know how it ends.) How I wonder would that fit in Ishmael's quaky world view?

Chapter 97: The Lamp

Shortest. Chapter. Ever. least in MD that I can remember.
Merchantmen --> in the dark
Whalemen --> in the light
He burns, too, the purest of oil, in its unmanufactured, and, therefore, unvitiated state; a fluid unknown to solar, lunar, or astral contrivances ashore. It is sweet as early grass butter in April.
Chapter 98: Stowing Down and Clearing Up

Dirty as all get out:
In the sperm fishery, this is perhaps one of the most remarkable 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.
Cleaner than June Cleaver's kitchen:
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....the crew themselves proceed to their own ablutions; 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.
And then the next "There she blows!"

Chapter 99: The Doubloon

...but in the multiplicity of other things requiring narration...
Hey! He said multiplicity. Come to think of it, you don't really see that word used much. That could be part of why I am liking this so much. My mind fills in those related details just as Ishmael does. I look at the implications, the significances, the transformative possibilities. has not been added how that sometimes in these walks, when most plunged in his mood, [Ahab] was wont to pause in turn at each spot, and stand there strangely eyeing the particular object before him. ...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 significance might lurk in them.
This sparks apparent significance for others as well.

I think this is Ahab, but could be Starbuck:
Born in throes, 't is 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.

Starbuck: 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.

Stubb: personalized zodiac
Flask: 960 cigars that he could buy
Manxman (old hearse driver): the signs say "it must be a month and a day"
Queequeg (according to Stubb): takes it for an old button off some king's trowsers
Fedallah: he bows
Pip: has been studying grammar
"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?

Oh, the gold! the precious, precious gold!--the green miser'll hoard ye soon! Hish! hish! God goes 'mong the worlds blackberrying.
Ah, Stubb is participating in navel-gazing. I am reminded of my high school band director, who intermittently scolded certain people for talking during band, and would order them to gaze at their some point he defined that directive as meaning they should shut up. It wasn't until much later in life that I learned he was referring to meditation, the contemplative act of just sitting, and that 'gaze at your navel' was a derogatory reference to contemplative meditation. I don't think Melville is necessarily referring to navel-gazing, but the thought works anyway.

I was going to include the next chapter in my schedule for this week, but I think here at divinations is a good place to stop.

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