Finding Melville’s Whale: The Quarter-deck (Chapter 36)

Thanks to everyone who stuck around during our blog vacation. Our adventure into Moby Dick continues with chapter 36 – The Quarter-deck. 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 Quarter-deck

Ahab, standing upon the deck, his leg
locked into an augered hole, asks “ye pull
to what tune?” “A dead whale or a stove boat!”

A dead whale or a stove boat. He withdraws
a gold coin and hammers it to the mast.
“Gold to whomever raises me a white whale!

The whale that took my leg and left me lame!”
And the crew murmurs, for the harpooners
know the beast that Ahab has sworn vengeance.

Leviathan! with a quick and mighty spout,
whose body, marked by a dozen harpoons
is as white as the sea foam – Moby Dick.

And they raise a whaleman’s toast to vengeance.
“Death to the White Whale! Death to Moby Dick!”
And only Starbuck knows it is madness.

Finding Melville’s Whale: The Mast Head (Chapter 35)

Thanks to everyone who stuck around during our blog vacation. Our adventure into Moby Dick continues with chapter 35 – The Mast Head. 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 Mast Head

Upon his perch, one hundred feet above
the rolling pitch, deepest blue, a whaleman
loses himself to the sea, becomes her.

Grasping the cross-bar, he sheds all meaning,
binding his body with the ships timbers,
joining in holy union with the waves

beneath her hull. And from this vantage he
shall sight the monster rising from the deep
and call out to his shipmates, “Whale! Whale-ho!”

Yet lost in revelry, a thoughtful man
may falter in his union with the ship
and find the sea an unforgiving fate.

Finding Melville’s Whale: The Cabin Table (Chapter 34)

Thanks to everyone who stuck around during our blog vacation. Our adventure into Moby Dick continues with chapter 34 – The Cabin Table. 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 Cabin Table

Down went Ahab, to the Captain’s Table
to dine silently among men of rank,
then Starbuck, then Stubb, then Flask at the last.

The poor officer ranked forth among men
who must eat last and finish first, hunger
is his eternal companion.

After the officers finish their meals,
it is time for the harpooners to dine,
the great savages, ranked above the crew.

Not by beef or bread are giants made,
nor are their brutal manners forgotten,
yet the cabin is theirs for the eating.

Pity poor Dough-boy, he must satisfy
their ravenous appetite and abide
the cannibal customs of savage men.

Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapters 17-33

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 17 through 33:

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Finding Melville’s Whale: The Specksynder (Chapter 33)

Chapter 33 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 Specksynder

Such it is on a whale ship that officers,
even captains, serve at the harpoons’ will.
And though the captain is the lord of his ship,

the harpooner is its only master.
And so, while the crew sleeps before the mast,
harpooner and officer dwell astern.

It must always be, on such a journey,
that the savage seamen of lesser rank
reside apart from their superiors.

A disinterested Ahab regards
this distinction as a formality.
He demands obedience, not manners.

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.