Moby Dick, or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Tor Classics, New York, 1996
This book was mooched.
Moby Dick Monday is a read-along organized by Ti at Book Chatter.
I’ve reached Chapter 41, where we learn about Moby Dick through Ismael’s wordy ramblings. To get here I’ve read through Ismael’s descriptions of the Pequod and her inhabitants, his learned monograph on Cetology, a lovely evening meal with explanations of seating arrangements and a lesson on Main-heads and Crow’s Nests.
There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted 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! From page 167/168.
Ah, the gentle rocking of this ship.
And to finally meet the infamous Captain Ahab. I absolutely loved his calling together of all and sundry, the offer of the gold piece for the white whale and his sharing of the grog. I am rather astounded by Melville’s playfulness, his use of so many forms and tropes. The whole scene on the deck in Chapter 40 had me giggling.
But there does seem to be a bit of dissention in the ranks, at least as far as Starbuck is concerned, and I wonder where this will lead to, if someone will end up strung up from the yardarm. Listen to the two men’s thoughts.
Ahab from Chapter 37: Sunset
‘Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, 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… 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! From page 177.
Starbuck from Chapter 38:Dusk
My soul is more than matched; she’s overmanned; and by a madman! Insufferable sting, that sanity should ground arms 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. From page 178.
I am thoroughly enjoying this read-along and can not wait to read what others think of this whale of an American classic.
Ti at Book Chatter
Jill/Softdrink of Fizzy Thoughts
Jill of RhapsodyinBooks
Dar of Peeking Between the Pages
Eva of A Striped Armchair
Wisteria from Bookworm’s Dinner
Claire from kiss a cloud (will join us in 2010)