June 27, 2014

The White Whale: America’s Voyage 1851 and 2014

On Moby Dick, first published in 1851, and recast for July 4th, 2014

pequodstorm.jpg

Humanity on its raft. The raft on the endless ocean. From his present dissatisfaction man reasons that there was some catastrophic wreck in the past, before which he was happy; some golden age, some Garden of Eden. He also reasons that somewhere ahead lies a promised land, a land without conflict. Meanwhile, he is miserably en passage; this myth lies deeper than religious faith. -- JohnFowles, The Aristos

How fares the good ship America during this, the 238th year of our voyage? Many would say that with its new captain setting a new course it sails on into fairer days and calmer waters now that our demons at home and abroad are being mollified and made more sociable. Many others, now more than half, would say that we tack between Scylla and Charybdis with a more than fair chance of being driven onto a lee shore by the gusting headwinds. All would agree our present position was unforseeable even two years ago and that our present passage is fraught with danger.

Dangerous passages are nothing new to the good ship America. She’s weathered many but never one quite so close run as that of 1860 to 1865 when a fire in the minds of Americans burned so hot they required the blood of 620,000 to quench them. We did not sail into that maelstrom in a year or so. We were bound there, some would say, from the founding.

I think, however, that the Civil War first loomed on the horizon during the rise of Transcendentalism in New England. That period began in the early 19th century and flowered during the literary period of 1850 to 1855 that is known as the American Renaissance. Transcendentalism was the first secular Great Awakening and perhaps its most enduring. Emerson and Thoreau are the chief avatars of the movement as it is known today and much of contemporary American progressivism bears the marks of those two men.

I’m not interested in them at present. Once entrancing both Emerson and Thoreau have come to seem softer to me of late. Both have taken on the consistency of store-bought bread. Instead I’d like to look at the more rugged work of an outlier of transcendentalism, a prophet who came late to the dance, Herman Melville.

Melville was, unlike many other transcendentalists, the very opposite of an intellectual dilettante. He was an Abraham in a land of Lutherans. Melville was a man with a harsh experience with ships and how they fare upon stormy seas. Melville was a man with rough hands. Melville was a man that, having voyaged further out, did – for a few years at least – see deeper in. And in seeing deeper in and leaving behind a record of that vision in his masterwork, Melville still has something to say to us today about the state of America, the experimental nation.

Long sea voyages have strange effects on writers as the mystical and melancholy work of Conrad shows most clearly. The same effects, at first submerged, were to surface in the work of Melville in one gigantic book and then submerge again raising only ripples on the surface of his subsequent writing. Prophecy is a harsh task master and more often that not consumes the vessels through which it speaks. So it was, in the end, with Melville.


As a young man Melville stood many long watches on the long nights in the dark oceans in the early 19th century. Decades later, those voyages and night watches would haunt and inspire Melville as he struggled to finish the career-ending vision that had gripped him in transcendentalist New England in 1850. At first, his book was to be just another adventurous sea story like Typee or its sequel Omoo. In this case, however, the destination was not to be the exotic south sea islands, but a whale as big as an island. Indeed, Melville in contemporary correspondence doesn’t refer to his book as Moby Dick but The Whale. It was only in the last stages that the book’s title became Moby Dick, a variant of a monstrous real whale of the time Mocha Dick, for reasons that Melville never clarified. Perhaps he just liked the sound of it.

Melville’s first books had been successful and, I imagine, that at some point Melville imagined that The Whale would be as well. It was not to be. In his lifetime the book was to earn him only a bit over $500. Moby Dick was not a formula novel. It was not, as they say in publishing, “the same thing only different” that his readers were expecting. It was just plain different, and therefore unpopular. Although he no doubt intended at the beginning for Moby Dick to be a rousing whale hunt on the high seas ending in tragedy, it seems that at a certain point something else, something other, took over the writing of the book and drove Melville before it. In the process, the book broke him financially, spiritually, and physically. As it was finally written, Moby Dick was to be and become many things, but “commercial” was not among them.

In Melville’s day, stories of long voyages to the far Pacific read like science fiction voyages to distant stars and alien worlds read today. As such they were much sought after by readers of the time since the novel was the television of the 19th century. His first couple of books about his youthful adventures both exotic and guardedly erotic had enjoyed such large sales he’d be able to move his family to the country to continue to spin his yarns of the far oceans, cannibals, and the hunt for that singular source of light and lubrication in his era, the sperm whale. In the beginning Moby Dick was just going to be another ripping yarn about adventure in the seas where few men had gone before. But that changed when he meant Nathanial Hawthorne and began reading a bit too much of the Old Testament.

Hawthorne was an older man when Melville and he first became friends following an enforced conversation in a cave during a surprise thunderstorm. Following that encounter their friendship grew apace during most of the time that Melville was actively composing the novel, but fade soon after for reasons still unclear even though the novel is dedicated to Hawthorne. Perhaps the intense state that Melville had worked himself into proved to be too tiring for Hawthorne. We’ll never know. Still, it is amusing to think of Hawthorne and Melville strolling about the woods near Pittsfield and Lenox, Massachusetts discussing Melville’s latest effort and Hawthorne saying, in an off-hand manner, “You know, Herman, this is a pretty good whaling story you’ve got here, but how about taking one more pass at it and adding a little more, I don’t know, depth and resonance to it?”

At the same time it’s clear from his letters that Melville was obsessively reading in the Old Testament, with an emphasis on Solomon and the prophets and finding that “Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe.” Those resonant jeremiads were clearly having an effect on him along with the pervasive atmosphere of transcendentalism. They were the material he began to bring to his composition and revision of Moby Dick. That and whatever he gleaned from his conversations with Hawthorne, a man celebrated as one of the greatest American writers of his day and who retains that position even into the 21st century.

That Moby Dick had gripped Melville past all reason is confirmed in a letter from his wife revealing that he

"wrote White Whale or Moby-Dick under unfavourable circumstances— would sit at his desk all day not writing anything till four or five o'clock—then ride to the village after dark—would be up early and out walking before breakfast—sometimes splitting wood for exercise. Published White Whale in 1851.—Wrote Pierre: published 1852. We all felt anxious about the strain on his health in Spring of 1853."

This is not the picture of a writer having an easy time of it. It was the struggle with the book that brought out the mystic that was never far beneath the surface in Herman Melville; a mystic that was perhaps first called during the long night watches of his youth. Now as he reached a successful middle age those faint mystical beginnings blended with the “fine hammered steel of Ecclesiastes” and the mystical energy of the New England transcendentalists of the 1850s to suffuse Moby Dick.

Scholars have long noted that the rhythms of Shakespeare in the most transported passages of the novel shape it, but it seems to me that the enduring and strange power of the book comes from someplace deeper than style. The haunting power of the book arises from the deeps of the human soul; from some place in Melville’s psyche that understood, at some moment, that what he was involved in creating as he composed the novel was not merely another ripping sea yarn of hunting down a source of oil and lubrication for his era, but something that could stand, in time, as it does, for the great ship of state on which he and all other Americans of his time, and ours, crewed into an unknown future.

At some point Moby Dick turned from yarn to allegory. And it is as an allegory, as a downward trending Pilgrims Progress that Moby Dick should be read. It is a book that is not so much written as it is received. On a very real level, Melville is taking dictation from something other and larger than himself. D. H. Lawrence in his “Classic Studies in American Literature” would probably have that something as “The Spirit of Place,” and to avoid contention I’ll leave it at that.

From fierce Jeremiads flung out of a bow-shaped pulpit, to brief meditations on avatars such as Bulkington, to longer explorations of “The Whiteness of the Whale,” Moby Dick is not only our greatest American novel to date, it is also a vision of our shared fate here on the storm-tossed decks of this ship of state. Moby Dick is the American allegory; our dark Pilgrim's Progress.

Like all great works, Moby Dick repays re-reading at different stages of life. Its vision of the deeper truths of the American experiment may find a different focus, be different in different passages and chapters at different times, strike deeper chords, but the vision persists. And even if the vision inspires, it still terrifies as one’s reading finds concordant echoes in contemporary events. Like its ostensible subject, Moby Dick is the Leviathan of American allegories. To steal a phrase from Melville’s contemporary Whitman, “It is vast. It contains multitudes.”

I’ve read Melville’s masterpiece, the composition of which pretty much brought an end to his career as a writer, many times over the years. Of late, I keep returning to a particular chapter as a harbinger of the dangerous shoals and lees on which our ship of state is currently tossed -- The Try-Works.

Ostensibly, The Try-Works is about cooking down the carcass of a whale into its oil late at night on the decks of the ill-fated Pequod. But like all things in Moby Dick, that is only the stage set for a more sonorous drama and deeper meditation.

It was about nine o'clock at night that the Pequod's try-works were first started on this present voyage. It belonged to Stubb to oversee the business.

Stubb is the pipe-smoking and contemplative second mate of the Pequod. He’s not the intellectual that Starbuck is, nor the blunt and uncompromising Flask. Instead, he’s affable enough with a kind of homespun wisdom to him as he moves too and fro wrapped in the constant smudge of his pipe.

"All ready there? Off hatch, then, and start her. You cook, fire the works."

The works, a kind of vast kettle set over a fire pit, draw their heat from the very beast they are melting to the fluid on which so much in the early 19th century depended. As Melville describes the process,

No wood is used, except as a means of quick ignition to the staple fuel. In a word, after being dried out, the crisp, shriveled blubber, now called scraps or fritters, still contains considerable of its unctuous properties. These fritters feed the flames.

So far, so good and so… prosaic. A straight forward bit of information about how the industry of whaling was carried out. Moby Dick is packed full of these moments and morsels of information about the technology of whaling. But then, as so often happens in the book, a strange kind of vision overcomes Ishmael and we see, with him, deeper into the moment that the mere burning of fat to make a fire.

Like a plethoric burning martyr, or a self-consuming misanthrope, once ignited, the whale supplies his own fuel and burns by his own body. Would that he consumed his own smoke! for his smoke is horrible to inhale, and inhale it you must, and not only that, but you must live in it for the time. It has an unspeakable, wild, Hindoo odor about it, such as may lurk in the vicinity of funereal pyres. It smells like the left wing of the Day of Judgment; it is an argument for the pit.

“An argument for the pit.” Indeed, the smell must have been that and more with its allusion to the burning of corpses on the banks of the Ganges. But it also serves notice that something more is afoot here than a whaling story; something more than some arcane precursor of “The Most Dangerous Catch.” Instead we understand that a darker dream is about to be unfolded and Melville takes us deeper into that darkness.

The wind was freshening; the wild ocean darkness was intense. But that darkness was licked up by the fierce flames, which at intervals forked forth from the sooty flues, and illuminated every lofty rope in the rigging, as with the famed Greek fire.

And laden with that fire the Pequod, emblem of the society that made and launched her, is seen to drive on,

as if remorselessly commissioned to some vengeful deed.

That deed, as we know from what comes before and after, is the hunting and killing of the White Whale; an act that dooms all aboard except the witness and prophet, the one “escaped to tell thee.” But first we have to receive a quick sketch of the Pequod’s crew on deck in that flame-slashed night. It’s an assemblage of which the most ardent supporters of diversity today would be proud. For it’s time, and absent the women, the crew of the Pequod looks like America.

Standing on this were the Tartarean shapes of the pagan harpooners, always the whale-ship's stokers.

These would be Queequeg, the tattooed South Sea island cannibal (reformed), Tashtego, “an unmixed Indian from Gay Head” on Nantucket, Daggoo, a hulking African from Africa, and Fedallah, a Zoroastrian Parsi from India come to the Pequod by way of China.

These men, having slain the whale they are rendering, are the ones who feed its flesh into the pot and provide the ghastly entertainment for other members of the crew:

Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till their eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawny features, now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works.

thewatchonpequod.jpg

All much like a group of today’s workers might, after a long day, repose in an antediluvian sports bar in the blue glow of a flat-screen and watch some odd iron-man challenge unfold:

The harpooners wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander's soul.

(Headlong rushing. Savages. Fire. A corpse. A monomaniac commander. All these images strike the bell of our present day.)

Or so it seems to Ishmael who has drawn for this shift the task of helmsman; of keeping the ship on her true course. Removed from his fellow seamen to the stern, it is a task that lends itself to drowsiness, to dreams and visions:

So seemed it to me, as I stood at her helm, and for long hours silently guided the way of this fire-ship on the sea. Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others. The continual sight of the fiend shapes before me, capering half in smoke and half in fire, these at last begat kindred visions in my soul, so soon as I began to yield to that unaccountable drowsiness which ever would come over me at a midnight helm.

And Ishmael, for a fateful moment, drifts until...

Nothing seemed before me but a jet gloom, now and then made ghastly by flashes of redness. Uppermost was the impression, that whatever swift, rushing thing I stood on was not so much bound to any haven ahead as rushing from all havens astern.

But this moment of feeling as if the ship was lost in a headlong dash towards no particular place but only rushing away from all places and havens previously known passes when Ishmael realizes what has happened. In his drifting semi-slumber, Ishmael has merely turned around and is looking at the darkness behind the ship. He comes back to reality not a moment too soon.

In an instant I faced back, just in time to prevent the vessel from flying up into the wind, and very probably capsizing her.

Because of this reprieve, the ship is made safe and able, for a time at least, to continue on as before, “rushing from all havens astern” and “remorselessly commissioned to some vengeful deed.”

thenightwatch.jpg

This is the nightmare of all those whose time and duty have converged so that they, and not others, are at the helm, charged with the responsibility of keep the ship on its true course, of keeping it from the lee shore, of steering it ahead towards calmer and sunnier seas and climes. It is a task at which the fire that burns and flares in the minds of men will always seek to distract the helmsmen. It is a distraction all helmsmen must, as Melville saw, guard against and avoid.

Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp - all others but liars!

This approaches the core of Melville’s vision. Only the true light, not the light from the fires, lamps, and burning dreams of men is the one to steer by and towards. “All others but liars!”

And not because it is the light that illuminates gentle and fine things only, but because it is the light of the world as it is. Not the Happy World that is always to come and always, strangely, delayed.

Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal Swamp, nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth.

Nor is one to believe the men who emerge from the masses preaching Paradise Now, with only a few modern alterations and additions.

So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true - not true, or undeveloped.

Books and philosophies promising serenity and happiness now must also be ignored if the ship is to remains safe,

With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. "All is vanity". ALL.

Not quite ALL as we see in the conclusion of The Try Works as Melville shares the last and possibly greatest insight of his vision and prophecy. Even in the knowledge that "’All is vanity’. ALL,” there remains the one way for the helmsman to steer the ship clear of disaster. He must, in the end, refuse the promise and the seduction of the refining fire, and stay at his station at the helm of the ship.

But even Solomon, he says, "the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain" (i. e. even while living) "in the congregation of the dead". Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me.

There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.

And so.... from all of that and so much more besides ....how fares the good ship America during this, the 238th year of our voyage?

It is laden with savages,
           burning with fire,
                  carrying a corpse,
and cursed with a monomaniac commander.

Then again, as in the final words of Melville’s vision, even at its lowest swoop it is still “higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”

Still soaring. And still, by the grace of God, sailing on.

And still “The America” and not yet ‘The Pequod.”

Steady on.

finalparagraphmobydick.jpg
Posted by Vanderleun at June 27, 2014 11:12 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

No Bulwer-Lytton Prize for you this year, Melville!

Posted by: Kinch at September 8, 2009 12:51 AM

One of the problems with attempting to comment on VDH's meditations is that there usually isn't anything much one can add which isn't trite. So, I have nothing intelligent at all to say (may just be a function of me, of course:)).... but, will just mention that the UC Press facsimile of the Arion Press edition of Moby Dick is a Good Thing. Buy one for the Fallout Shelter.

Posted by: kinch at September 8, 2009 12:54 AM

erk.. I mean GvdL of course... I can't even get my Vast Right Wing Conspirators names straight!

Posted by: kinch at September 8, 2009 12:55 AM

Travel the soil of this country from ocean to ocean, as I have done a dozen times and just recently, and you see that there's enough energy to light up the world - or burn itself to the bedrock.

The cool manipulating fool in the White House and his snarling congressional bangers are fair set to enrage their citizens into mutiny. They seem not to notice or care that we are the close descendents of the craftiest pioneers, most resolute seafarers and bravest warriors ever to live.

Those who seek to leverage elected leadership into soft despotism are deluding themselves that most Americans have softened irretrievably into pablum-fed charity addicts. An hour at a flyover high school football game or any truck stop in this fine and vulgar country could disabuse them of this conceit.

Gerard is obviously in the grip of the muse. I pity his keyboard, and his tummy, for the poundings they must have been taking.

Posted by: askmom at September 8, 2009 3:57 AM

Thank you. Today I will buy a copy of Moby Dick (my school copy long lost) and read it again.

Posted by: Bob Sykes at September 8, 2009 5:51 AM

Ah - finally the tattoo piece. Masterful exposition Mr. V. I'm off to the library.

Posted by: Western Chauvinist at September 8, 2009 6:09 AM

On point book to read: Heart of the Sea. The true story of the whaleship Essex, and the privations suffered by the survivors of a malicious attack by 80 ft. whale.

Posted by: flannelputz at September 8, 2009 7:04 AM

With Obie and Ahab, we see what happens when the charisma of an intriguing persona meets the demands of near-impossible tasks and the resistance of dissenters. It's no help.

Egoism surfaces.

The "good of the whole" is revealed as a salespitch that hid pure ego and mad ambitions.

No more persuasive talk. Just coercion.

"The time for debating is over."

Really?

WE'LL tell you when it's over, Your Madness.

I wonder who will be The Rachel?

"It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search
after her missing children, only found another orphan."

Posted by: Lance de Boyle at September 8, 2009 7:08 AM

You've accomplished something I believed impossible, Gerard - now I actually want to read Moby Dick. And with a little grace, perhaps at this point in my life it'll even be accessible to me.

Thank you.

Posted by: Julie at September 8, 2009 8:06 AM

"Like all great works, Moby Dick repays re-reading at different stages of life."

Life's lessons learned. I had a rather classical primary education - that's the way it was in the 50s. My bete noire was "Silas Marner" by George Elliott. The second time through I looked forward to the next hour when I faced a quiz on conjugating irregular Latin verbs. The third time? Sheer bliss. Takes a while sometimes.

Couple of very old, very bad jokes to lighten the mood a bit.

Zen student refuses novacaine for a root canal. "I'm trying to transcend dental medication".

'Twarnt till I got to kollege fore I found out Moby Dick wasn't a venereal disease.

Posted by: Roy Lofquist at September 8, 2009 9:04 AM

Oh yes, Julie!

I'm on your donkey, Western Chauvinist.

(Gerard. Wow.)

Posted by: Cathy at September 8, 2009 10:26 AM

Many of us know who the White Whale was according to Melville. Who is the White Whale now?

Posted by: M Bailor at September 8, 2009 10:38 AM

Nice essay.

I remember one night leaving the Livingston Channel heading into Lake Erie on course for the Detroit River Light. It was rough, squally, and I could not see the bow clearly, so I steered according to the plan position indicator of the radar. Keeping the boat centered between the lines of blips that were the spar bouys, gazing on the light of the radar screen and not the blackness which I couldn't see through.

I had never navigated blind like that before, compass and radar alone - we may as well been at the backside of the moon as western Lake Erie.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at September 8, 2009 11:56 AM

Bravo, bravo. As I quietly re-read this marvelous essay, I wonder whither Zion in the extended metaphor. Differently represented to different readers, no doubt. That it's there however is beyond question.

Posted by: Matt Burchett at September 8, 2009 4:00 PM

For those who don't know, the wonderful drawings that Mr. Vanderleun included are by Rockwell Kent, who copiously illustrated a justly famous edition of Moby Dick.

Posted by: pst314 at September 8, 2009 5:20 PM

Bob sykes - try to get ahold of a Modern Library copy with illustrations by Rockwell Kent. Cheers -

Posted by: Das at September 9, 2009 7:24 AM

Moby Dick "our greatest American novel to date"? Sorry, I can't agree. I think Moby Dick is a hack work by a hack writer -- long, unfocused, excessively verbose, excessively full of itself, tangled in its syntax, pathetic in its factual inaccuracies, and a torturous chore to read.

I do, however, agree that "Long sea voyages have strange effects on writers.." Long sea voyages have strange effects on anyone with a fertile imagination.

Posted by: wolfwalker at September 9, 2009 1:56 PM

"Like all great works, Moby Dick repays re-reading at different stages of life."


So true. As a callow schoolboy, one reads Fyodor Dostoyevsky and ranks him with all the other dead authors of dead prose. But in one's forties, one reads or re-reads Karamazov and feels the urge to hurry to his grave at the Nevsky Monastery, dig him up, and kiss the bones of his hand.

Posted by: B Lewis at November 14, 2011 10:31 PM

"’All is vanity’. ALL,"

So, true. All is vanity. King Solomon is so right.

In a not too distant past, my hated rival had become my boss. Or more specifically, the person who despised me became my boss. For the eight years of his reign, he and his crony's gave me a variety of humiliations and torments on a continual basis. But for reasons I will not say at this time, I chose to stay as I had a dream I wanted to attain and that meant that I endure the unending harrassment.

Miserable I was. Tormented too. For Years.

One day... near the end, I ... realized ... that I could choose to be miserable or choose not to be miserable - from all the abuse.

I had a choice in how I met the truth that was my troubles.

...and then he was fired.

The saying 'The beatings will continue until moral improves' got a whole new meaning after that. :)

Posted by: Cond0010 at November 15, 2011 12:11 PM

I always wondered how the story would read without the influence of Hawthorne. How I hated reading his books! With the heavy introspection and pulpit pounding fallen away, the Pequod would likely rest forgotten along with many of its contemporaries. Who today would know of Moby Dick if Melville had not framed the story with Calvinist oak? Has anyone else never heard of Mocha Dick?

Posted by: Matt at June 28, 2014 4:24 AM

Ahab pursued Moby Dick as the embodiment of the Devil on Earth, a flesh and blood evil. A killer.

And in his monomaniacal pursuit of the demon whale, Ahab himself became corrupted, as did all the men of the Pequod. Starbuck tried to sway him with logic and a recall to true Christian virtue, but even the pagan Quequay (?) knew they were damned and doomed.

The Leftist Progressives are damning us all by the pursuit of their various social devils, and just as the Transcendentalists may or may not have had some minor influence on the occurrance of that greatest American Tragedy, the Civil War, so to will today's Progressives lead us down into something terrible, in the vain belief and the Satanic pursuit of "heaven on earth". God will judge us harshly and mete out a proper rebuke.

And Ishmael alone survived. In times of danger and despair, find a coffin to float on.

Posted by: David at June 28, 2014 8:31 AM

From another time and clime, take heart and calloused fist, from Longfellow --
"Sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!"

And as Churchill assured us and his Briton brethren (2-9-1941, after quoting the lines above,
"We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down ... and we will finish the job."

So choose -- to win or lose!

Posted by: Howard Nelson at June 28, 2014 8:48 AM

Another fine essay, that somehow I managed to miss (well, it has gone up to 11....)

This time around it's attracted le Spam, I see. Whatever the linked gibberish means, I feel comfortable in proclaiming it Marxist, because French.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at June 28, 2014 11:40 AM

I shall root out le spam!

Posted by: Van der Leun at June 28, 2014 12:12 PM

the cart and / or Lillie together with their our heirloom social gathering, employed to be floored with could not see it future. dude and / or Lillie of cracker barrel or clip, only that we could not. i had no clue this was feasible. food string is not around for get together of Thursdays and consequently Fridays as they is otherwise engaged in spending budget. he can quiz sales team the things they already have designed on that day to improve the individual suffer from. it makes a huge perception and helps to create memories to express throughout the business something a publication or piece aren't able to total,should your amount typically the Jayson Blair relationship as an example of well built and moreover reputable help and advice? How about the rhode island Times' scandalous write-up up jake McCain's "Mistress, assuredly, mother takes note of any kind of time after boston environment, no question hiring assiduously a bunch of their certainty investigation but also "integrity" values, in a hurry to create on its certainly front page, paintings of american troops "Raping" Iraqi gals which usually right after are already proved to be bogus. entire world happening is an illustration of classified publishers, by virtue of their ineradicable remains side prejudice, establishing an account whilst serious for the reason that fervently expected so that it is which means. where as were being being Saunders appreciated journalistic "principles" during periods? turned out to be people data for sale ads distributing true additionally highly regarded help and advice,

Posted by: ヴィトン 財布 レディース at June 28, 2014 10:12 PM

Out with le Spam, replaced with venerated and most honorable Spam...

Whack a mole is easier.

Posted by: On the North River at June 29, 2014 9:57 AM

The unintelligible text reminds me of the cut-up techniques Burroughs and Gysin, except they made something out of it.
This spam drivel is maybe computer generated, select a target language and let 'er rip.
Sorry you're being bothered Gerard, it is like a plague of locusts. Have you tried smearing some lamb's blood on your lintel?

Posted by: chasmatic at June 29, 2014 12:10 PM

Agreed. The Kent etchings are just dandy, and stead me well as I wandered amongst the latter-day Queequeg's in the old town. I was reading it every five years or so, and kind of soured on Melville after detecting a certain curious theme in many of the writings. I suppose that's why it's held in such high regard with academia. Superior behaviorists as Phillipe and Jorge liked to say.

Posted by: Will at June 30, 2014 10:02 AM

Great piece. FWIW, Tashtego was a Wampanoag Indian from Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard, not Nantucket. Gay Head is now called Aquinah.

Posted by: tony suruda at June 30, 2014 6:06 PM