Finding Melville’s Whale – Cetology (Chapter 32)

Chapter 32 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

Cetology

Let this be the book of the whale,
chronicle of tortured naturalists.
For who could fathom those great depths
and plum the drum of waves on hull
without a loyal oath, Leviathan!
Lord tyrant of the sea, Sperm Whale!
and this is his kingdom, his loyal court.

Let it first be said, before numbering
the pages of his family
that as certain as they swim in the sea,
the whale is no more than a fish.
A fish remarkable in its warm blood
and lungs, that drive it to the surface,
but, Linnaeus be damned, it is a fish!

These are the three books of the whales’ novel.
Each divided again into
a bookbinder’s twisted taxonomy.
The largest of all, Folios,
those of middling magnitude, Octavoes,
the smallest, duodecimo.
Beyond them, the whales of myth and fable.

FOLIO, Chapter 1, Sperm Whale
          Most formidable of all whales
          and most valuable.
          Within his head, spermaceti,
          the richest oil.

FOLIO, Chapter 2, Right Whale
          The bearer of whalebone, baleen.
          First to be hunted.
          Its tortured taxonomy lies
          entangled with doubt.

FOLIO, Chapter 3, Fin Back
          This solitary, curse-ed Cain,
          swims always alone.
          The whales, in all their forms, deny
          classification.

FOLIO, Chapter 4, Hump Back
          Joyful, but worthless.

FOLIO, Chapter 5, Razor Back
          Unknown to Melville
          and an enigma to modern
          cetologists, none
          have seen anything but his back.

FOLIO, Chapter 6, Sulfur Bottom
          The Blue Whale, never
          chased by whale men of Nantucket.

OCTAVO, Chapter 1, Grampus
          Small in stature, rich in oil.
          His arrival heralds the sperm,
          His larger twin.

OCTAVO, Chapter 2, Black Fish
          Fine oil for a smaller whale.
          He approaches as a pilot
          over the shoals.

OCTAVO, Chapter 3, Narwhal
          The polar beast bears a lone horn
          to split the icy northern sea.
          Curious beast.

OCTAVO, Chapter 4, Killer
          “The killer is never hunted.”
          It is a poor choice for a name,
          for at sea, we are all killers.

OCTAVO, Chapter 5, Thresher
          A flogger of beasts,
          the leviathans’ task-master.

DOUDECIMOES – Porpoises
          The great whale in miniature.
          Some come rich in oil and meat,
          but of their families, nothing
          is certain.

This is but a poor system for naming
and many whales are yet to be counted,
nor will they ever be.

We shall number them as we boil them
and know them only by lamplight
and the stains left in our try-pots.

Finding Melville’s Whale – Queen Mab (Chapter 31)

Chapter 31 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

Queen Mab

There is wisdom yet in the dreams of fools
who question their master, wrathful Ahab
and take to heart a blow by ivory leg.

In the fragile heart of Stubb’s fitful sleep
to be struck by Ahab is an insult
and great honor, no finer man could strike.

“Wise Stubb,” cries the marlin-spiked old humpback
rising from the sea, a royal blessing
in the poor sailor’s tormented slumber.

To Flask, the dream is nothing but foolish.
The Captain will not be challenged. He calls
“keep watch for a white whale and follow me!”

into madness.

Finding Melville’s Whale – The Pipe (Chapter 30)

Chapter 30 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

The Pipe

This is the rage of the Captain, the king,
no more can he find solace in smoke,
the serenity of the pipe
no longer his, he toils
forcing the fog that soothes
angry minds and stills
unquiet men.
He casts it
into
the sea.

The flame
is gone.

Finding Melville’s Whale – Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb (Chapter 29)

Chapter 29 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb

Greybeards – for those who walk the deck at night,
the sky is the solitude, by Ahab,
fragmented, broken, scarred, is ill at ease.

Below, only death, the creaking coffin
of the Pequod’s hull, darkness. Ahab’s tomb
lies beneath the deck, and so he paces.

A peg is not a prop to pace at night.
Each step echoes against the planks, haunting
the dreams of men that are buried below.

Thus emerges Stubb, to beg the Captain
to muffle his post. rage flashes acoss
Ahab’s furrowed brow.

No man of dog would dare to deliver
such a foolish plea.

To a man such as he, Ahab’s Fury
takes root.

Finding Melville’s Whale – Ahab (Chapter 28)

Chapter 28 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

Ahab

It was the knights that ran the ship in those
first many days, well-suited to the task.
Even at sea, no phantom captain seen.

And the, one morning with the changing shift,
Captain Ahab appeared upon the deck,
a sea-foam scar racing across his face

His leg, the polished jaw of a sperm whale,
taken from him off the coast of Japan,
Yet more solid than a sailor’s sea legs.

Into the deck of the Pequod were bored
Slots for his peg to fit, Captain and ship,
had become one in their infernal fate.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Knights and Squires (Chapter 26 and 27)

Chapter 26 and 27 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

Knights and Squires

A fearless man is far more dangerous,
and the first mate, Starbuck, will take no man
into his boat that does not fear the whale.
          For his harpooner, he choses Queequeg.
          The knight, Starbuck, with Queequeg’s spear.

To be so comfortable with destruction
that danger is met with indifference
is to be the second mate, careless Stubb.
          For his harpooner, tawny Tashtego.
          Sir Stubb with Tashtego’s arrows.

Last is a man fashioned of wrought iron,
hunting for fun, no reverence for whales.
Flask, third among the crew, built to endure.
          For his harpooner, the giant Daggoo.
          The empty Flask with Daggoo’s arms.

These were the knights, the whaling men,
and their squires, their harpooners.
Each stands alone on their island,
Together on the Pequod’s deck.

Finding Melville’s Whale: The Advocate (Chapter 24)

Chapter 24 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

The Advocate

Poetry is ill suited for whaling.
Society burns on the blood of whales
yet spurns the butchers. We are all butchers.

Look across the pages of history,
rejoice! The glory of harpoon and man,
in chasing the whale we swallowed the world

as Jonah, by that first leviathan.
The wealth of nations from that royal fish.
Legacy of kings and kindred nobles.

For the whale itself is the dignity
of the southern sky, Cetus. Let no man
have honor lest he kneel before Queequeg.