Finding Melville’s Whale: The Lee Shore (Chapter 23)

Chapter 23 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 Lee Shore

Bulkington, this book is his epitaph.
A man so driven that he spent no more
than four days ashore before the mast called

him back to take the helm of the Pequod.
The truth of ships and men who crave the sea
is that the coastline is their darkest foe

and the howling wind a cruel tormentress.
The sea, wide and deep, is sanctuary.
The earth, hateful rocks to crack head and hull.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 22 – Merry Christmas

Chapter 22 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.

Merry Christmas

Starbuck, the chief mate, and Stubb, the second mate,
rush to fill the threefold captain’s orders.
With the anchor raised, the sails filled with wind,

and Ishmael brimming with doubt, the Pequod
departs Nantucket Harbor, with Bildad,
the pilot, driving her into the sea.

Free of the harbor, Bildad and Peleg
linger aboard, jealous of the journey,
then depart, leaving the unseen captain,

Ahab, The lone Atlantic reaches out
and pulls them in. An unseen hand, for an
unseen captain commands and unseen fate.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 21 – Going Aboard

Chapter 21 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.

Going Aboard

“Avast!” cries the prophet as Queequeg and
Ishmael, make their way towards the Pequod.
“Go with those grim ghosts aboard that vessel,

I shall see you soon enough, when at last
the Grand Jury convenes.” On board, stillness
as both timber and crew rest at the dock.

Finding a crew member sleeping in his bunk,
Queequeg sits upon him and lights his pipe.
A convenient use for a lesser man.

And still, in the quiet of the cabin,
among exile, savage, and sleeping man,
none have lain eyes on the ghostly Ahab.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 20 – All Astir

Chapter 20 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.

All Astir

The day after the prophet’s pronouncement
the Pequod’s crew were made to load their chests
and be ready at any time to sail.

A three year cruise demands three year’s ration.
The Pequod was stocked with all the supplies
essential to a whaling crew’s comfort

and spares of all gear, save captain and crew.
Bildad’s sister, kindly Aunt Charity
took care to stock the ship with niceties.

Yet still, no sign of the ghostly Ahab,
a captain whose presence is faith alone.
Queequeg and Ishmael would sail the next morn.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 19 – The Prophet

Chapter 19 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 Prophet

“Shipmates have yea shipped?” the poxed old man asked
Ishmael and Queequeg as they disembarked
from the Pequod. Yes, their papers are signed.

Then so are your souls, if you have any,
is the shabby prophet’s accusation.
Most whalers do not, it’s wasted on them.

But Old Thunder has enough soul to spare.
Obey him, for he lay dead for three days
before rising, his leg lost to the beast.

The prophet looks upon them with pity.
Turning to leave, Ishmael asks for his name.
Elijah, the lonely prophet replied.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 18 – His Mark

Chapter 18 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments.

His Mark

And so Ishmael and Queequeg board their ship
and meet their three-fold captain, but one third
of their holy host is missing, the ghost.

The captains demand a statement of faith.
Ishmael steps forward to testify that
Queequeg is of the brotherhood of man.

On the Pequod’s deck, Peleg examines
Queequeg, challenges the harpooner’s arm.
Leaping into a whaleboat, Queequeg hurls

his massive harpoon and strikes a tar spot
across the deck. Peleg needs nothing more.
So, in the register, he makes his mark.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 17 – The Ramadan

Chapter 17 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments.

The Ramadan

No peace for pagans nor god-fearing men,
they are all broken. So, without judgement,
He leaves Queequeg to his tribal sabbath.

At the end of the day, Ishmael returns
to find the door locked and the room silent.
For all his banging, nothing stirs within.

Ishmael grabs the ax from the wall, charges
and is stopped by the landlady who will
have none wreck her inn for any reason.

She gets a key. Inside, Queequeg is still,
silently praying to his idols, gods
as much as Ishmael’s. He rises and eats.

Finding Melville’s Whale: The four Coffins

The Essex being struck by a sperm whale

Nested within the story of Ishmael, Queequeg, Herman Melville, and Moby Dick are four Coffins. The first two are within the story itself – Peter Coffin, the innkeeper who unites Ishmael with Queequeg, and Queequeg’s Coffin, built on premonition of death, that carries Ishmael to safety after the Pequod is destroyed. These two coffins bookend the epic voyage of the Pequod and it’s crew, but their occurrence parallels two other Coffins, and the fate of the whaleship Essex.

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Finding Melville’s Whale: The first 16 chapters

Thanks to everyone who’s followed along with us on our journey through the maritime classic – Moby Dick. I hope the pace is not too slow or too fast for anyone.

For those just joining us, we’re reading through Moby Dick a few chapters a week. You can follow along with your own copy or use the excellent Power Moby Dick website, complete will full text and annotations. Updates are posted every Tuesday and Thursday, with occasional Sundays. Each update includes a short summary (in verse) of the chapter. Reproduced below are the entries from chapters 1 through 16:

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Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 16 – The Ship

Chapter 16 of Herman Melville’s classic – Moby Dick. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments.

The Ship

Pequod, the ship Ishmael has selected
garnished in the bones of the whales she’s killed.
A skeletal tent rises from her deck.

And within, one third the Pequod’s captains,
Peleg. He questions Ishmael’s intentions
and experience, of which he has none.

And then Bildad, a captain and a quaker,
who, though he has sworn no harm to fellow man,
will gladly spill whale blood upon the sea.

The true captain remains ashore, Ahab.
Who will guide the Pequod to whaling ground.
This will be Ishmael and Queequeg’s voyage.