Finding Melville’s Whale: Chapter 9 – The Sermon

Chapter 9 of the classic Moby Dick by Herman Melville, summarized in verse. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments.

The Sermon

And now the captain begins his sermon,
A psalm to all sailors and a warning
to those who would mark their path by moonlight.

Jonah, condemned by god, seeks passage
to the edge of the world, beyond
god’s sight, god’s will, and god’s wrath
but no such edge exists.
Wickedness abides
within. He must
be swallowed
in his
But who,
by virtue
of repentance,
is again made free.
Not by the defiance
but rather the acceptance
of his punishment, thankfulness
for god’s lesson and for god’s mercy.

The lesson belongs not just to Jonah
but to any crew that would sail with such
a sinner among them. Be vigilant.

One comment

  1. Southern Fried Scientist · September 14, 2010

    The sermon and the next chapter together are among my favorite parts of the whole book. I love the contrast between Mapple’s fire and brimstone-style sermon and Ishmael’s complete acceptance of Queequeg’s faith. And then there’s Ahab, so bent with revenge that he can never accept his punishment, but must defy it to the ends of the earth.

    I also had a lot of fun with the summary for this chapter and the next, see if you can find the hidden verse.

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