ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)
[personal profile] ambrmerlinus
Chapter 133: The Chase – First Day

It's gloomy business as usual aboard the Pequod until Ahab... well...

pg. 573: he suddenly thrust out his face fiercely, snuffing up the sea air as a sagacious ship's dog will

I probably shouldn't be surprised by this point.

Anyway, yeah, Ahab can smell Moby Dick coming and adjusts the ship's course accordingly. Fuck compasses! Fuck sextants! Fuck charts! All you need to hunt whales is a good nose.

Ahab is hoisted in his little basket once again, and then–

pg. 574: "There she blows!–there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!

Boats are lowered, except for Starbuck, who will be remaining aboard as a ship-keeper. Even now, someone could accidentally hit Ahab in the back of the head with a paddle, and no one would be the wiser. Yet only Fedallah seems to think this could possibly end badly.

pg. 575: A pale, death-glimmer lit up Fedallah's sunken eyes; a hideous motion gnawed his mouth.

The boats approach Moby Dick himself.

pg. 575-576: the tall but shattered pole of a recent lance projected from the White Whale's back [...] A gentle joyousness–a mighty mildness of repose in swiftness, invested the gliding whale. Not the white bull Jupiter swimming away with ravished Europa clinging to his graceful horns; his lovely, leering eyes sideways intent upon the maid; with smooth bewitching fleetness, ripping straight for the nuptial bower in Crete; not Jove, not that great majesty Supreme! did surpass the glorified White Whale as he so divinely swam.

And then he dives. Ahab thinks it'll be about an hour before he shows up again, so the boats settle in to wait.

pg. 577: But suddenly as he peered down and down into its depths, he profoundly saw a white living spot no bigger than a white weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and magnifying as it rose, till it turned, and then there were plainly revealed two long crooked rows of white, glistening teeth, floating up from the undiscoverable bottom. It was Moby Dick's open mouth and scrolled jaw; his vast, shadowed bulk still half blending with the blue of the sea. The glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like an open-doored marble tomb and giving one sidelong sweep with his steering oar, Ahab whirled the craft aside from this tremendous apparition.

Oh shit.

pg. 577: Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled for an instant, the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner of a biting shark, slowly and feelingly taking its bows full within his mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high up into the open air, and one of the teeth caught in a row-lock. The bluish pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of Ahab's head, and reached higher than that. In this attitude the white whale now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her mouse.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit.

pg. 577: With unastonished eyes Fedallah gazed, and crossed his arms;

...Fedallah, you have belatedly become my favorite.

pg. 578: then it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from its gripe.

Nothing Ahab does should shock me anymore.

Moby Dick proceeds to bite Ahab's boat in half, with the crew getting the hell out of the way at the last second. Then the whale swims in circles, trapping Ahab's crew in a whirlpool. To save the captain and their crewmates, the sailors remaining on the Pequod aim the ship at the whale and drive him off. Everyone is fished out of the water, and Ahab orders the ship to chase on after Moby Dick, to engage him again the next day.

Chapter 134: The Chase – Second Day

pg. 584: The ship tore on; leaving such a furrow i the sea as when a cannon-ball, missent, becomes a plough-share and turns up the level field.

The crew, meanwhile, has been whipped into a mutiny-free frenzy.

pg. 585: They were one man, not thirty. For as the one ship that held them all; though it was put together of all contrasting things–oak, and maple, and pine wood; iron, and pitch, and hemp–yet all these ran into each other in the one concrete hull, which shot on its way, both balanced and directed by the long central keel; even so, all the individualities of the crew, this man's valor, that man's fear; guilt and guiltiness, all varieties were welded into oneness, and were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab their one lord and keel did point to.

Ahab is swung in his little basket up to the rigging, just in time to see Moby Dick breach. The boats are lowered (Ahab got a new one) and the chase is on once more.

pg. 587: But ere that close limit was gained, and while yet all three boats were plain as the ship's three masts to his eye; the White Whale churning himself into furious speed, almost in an instant as it were, rushing among the boats with open jaws, and a lashing tail, offered appalling battle on every side; and heedless of the irons darted at him from every boat, seemed only intent on annihilating each separate plank of which those boats were made. But skilfully manoeuvred, incessantly wheeling like trained chargers in the fields; the boats for a while eluded him; though, at times, but by a plank's breadth, while all the time, Ahab's unearthly slogan tore every other cry but his to shreds.

Of course, since Moby Dick is already covered in discarded weaponry, and is having new lances and harpoons darted at him every time he passes a boat, eventually things start getting tangled.

pg. 588: Caught and twisted–corkscrewed in the mazes of the line, loose harpoons and lances, with all their bristling barbs and points, came flashing and dripping up to the chocks in the bows of Ahab's boat.

Basically, a giant pile of nautical barbed wire is rushing at his face.

Ahab cuts the lines and lets the metal mess sink into the sea. Meanwhile, Moby Dick uses the remaining uncut lines to smash Stubb and Flask's boats together and dive under. While the crew is untangling that mess, the whale comes up again and smashes the bottom of Ahab's boat with his forehead. Once again, the Pequod bears down on the whale and drives him off so the displaced crewmen can be retrieved.

pg. 589: But when [Ahab] was helped to the deck, all eyes were fastened upon him; as instead of standing by himself he still half-hung upon the shoulder of Starbuck, who had thus far been the foremost to assist him. His ivory leg had been snapped off, leaving but one short sharp splinter.


While discussing his re-lost limb, Ahab notices something else is missing.

pg. 590: Muster the men. Surely I have not seen him yet. By heaven it cannot be!–missing?–quick! call them all."

The old man's hinted thought was true. Upon mustering the company, the Parsee was not there.

"The Parsee!" cried Stubb–"he must have been caught in–"

"The black vomit wrench thee!–run all of ye above, alow, cabin, forecastle–find him–not gone–not gone!"

But quickly they returned to him with the tidings that the Parsee was nowhere to be found.

"Aye, Sir," said Stubb–"caught among the tangles of your line–I thought I saw him dragging under."

My line! my line? Gone?–gone? What means that little word?–What death-knell rings in it, that old Ahab shakes as if he were the belfry.

RIP Fedallah, whose badassery we only recently perceived.

Ahab's solution to the problem is, of course, hunting Moby Dick with even greater fervor. Starbuck attempts to intervene.

pg. 590-591: "Great God! but for one single instant show thyself," cried Starbuck; "never, never wilt thou capture him, old man–In Jesus' name no more of this, that's worse than devil's madness. Two days chased; twice stove to splinters; thy very leg once more snatched from under thee; thy evil shadow gone–all good angels mobbing thee with warnings:–what more wouldst thou have?–Shall we keep chasing this murderous fish till he swamps the last man? Shall we be dragged by him to the bottom of the sea? Shall we be towed by him to the infernal world? Oh, oh–Impiety and blasphemy to hunt him more!"


But of course, Ahab will have none of it.

pg. 591: "Starbuck, of late I've felt strangely moved to thee; ever since that hour we both saw–thou know'st what, in one another's eyes.

Ahab I am raising an eyebrow so hard at you right now.

pg. 591: But in this matter of the whale, be the front of thy face to me as the palm of this hand–a lipless, unfeatured blank.

AHAB: Talk to the hand, Starbuck.

pg. 591: Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fate's lieutenant; I act under orders. Look thou, underling! that thou obeyest mine.–Stand round me, men. Ye see an old man cut down to the stump; leaning on a shivered lance; propped up on a lonely foot. 'Tis Ahab–his body's part; but Ahab's soul's a centipede, that moves upon a hundred legs. I feel strained, half stranded, as ropes that tow dismasted frigates in a gale; and I may look so. But ere I break, ye'll hear me crack; and till ye hear that, know that Ahab's hawser tows his purpose yet. Believe ye, men, in the things called omens? Then laugh aloud and cry encore! For ere they drown, drowning things will twice rise to the surface; then rise again, to sink for evermore. So with Moby Dick–two days he's floated–to-morrow will be the third. Aye, men, he'll rise once more,–but only to spout his last! D'ye feel brave men, brave?"

"As fearless fire," cried Stubb.

"And as mechanical," muttered Ahab.

I will say this for Ahab; he sure can speechify.

Chapter 135: The Chase – Third Day

pg. 592: Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels; that's tingling enough for mortal men!

Sun rises, Pequod keeps chasing Moby Dick, but in a wacky turn of events they seem to have overshot him and are now ahead. Ahab turns the ship around and finally they catch up to the whale and lower away. Just before they go, Ahab has a few words with his first mate.

pg. 595-596: "Starbuck!"


"For the third time my soul's ship starts upon this voyage, Starbuck."

"Aye, Sir, thou wilt have it so."

"Some ships sail from their ports, and ever afterwards are missing, Starbuck!"

"Truth, Sir: saddest truth."

"Some men die at ebb tide; some at low water; some at the full of the flood:–and I feel now like a billow that's all one crested comb, Starbuck. I am old;–shake hands with me, man."

Their hands met; their eyes fastened; Starbuck's tears the glue.

"Oh, my captain, my captain!–noble heart–go not–go not!–see, it's a brave man that weeps; how great the agony of the persuasion then!"

"Lower away!"–cried Ahab, tossing the mate's arm from him. "Stand by the crew!"

And then they made out.

No, but seriously, this is some sad shit. Ahab leaves Starbuck and the other shipkeepers behind. And as he's going...

pg. 596: "The sharks! the sharks!" cried a voice from the low cabin-window there; "O master, my master, come back!"

D: D: D: All of my tears for Pip.

And indeed, Ahab's boat is trailed by a whole peck o' sharks. Ishmael has a theory on why that is.

pg. 596: whether it was that Ahab's crew were all such tiger-yellow barbarians, and therefore their flesh more musky to the senses of the sharks–a matter sometimes well known to affect them

I question your science, Ishmael.

Moby Dick breaches, and he's brought along a present for Ahab.

pg. 598: While Daggoo and Queequeg were stopping the strained planks; and as the whale swimming out from them, turned, and showed one entire flank as he shot by them again at that moment a quick cry went up. Lashed round and round to the fish's back; pinioned in the turns upon turns in which, during the past night, the whale had reeled the involutions of the lines around him, the half torn body of the Parsee was seen; his sable raiment frayed to shreds; his distended eyes turned full upon old Ahab.

The harpoon dropped from his hand.

This book is so metal.

Ahab recovers quickly from the shock of seeing his ex-harpooneer trussed up and trotted out on the back of a whale.

pg. 598: Down, men! the first thing that but offers to jump form this boat I stand in, that thing I harpoon.

Moby Dick, meanwhile, is so over Ahab and has turned to swim away. Ahab pursues, though the sharks that follow his boat are biting his crewmen's oars to eensy pieces.

And then the whale goes after the Pequod.

pg. 601: Meantime, for that one beholding instant, Tashtego's mast-head hammer remained suspended in his hand; and the red flag, half-wraping him as with a plaid, then streamed itself straight out from him, as his own forward-flowing heart; while Starbuck and Stubb, standing upon the bowsprit beneath, caught sight of the down-coming monster just as soon as he.

"The whale, the whale! Up helm, up helm! Oh, all ye sweet powers of air, now hug me close! Let not Starbuck die, if die he must, in a woman's fainting fit. Up helm, I say–ye fools, the jaw! the jaw! Is this the end of all my bursting prayers? all my life-long fidelities? Oh, Ahab, Ahab, lo, thy work. Steady! helmsman, steady. Nay, nay! Ip helm again! He turns to meet us! Oh, his unappeasable brow drives on towards one, whose duty tells him he cannot depart. My God, stand by me now!"

"Stand not by me, but stand under me, whoever you are that will now help Stubb; for Stubb, too, sticks here. I grin at thee, thou grinning whale! Who ever heled Stubb, or kept Stubb awake, but Stubb's own unwinking eye? And now poor Stubb goes to bed upon a mattress that is all too soft; would it were stuffed with brushwood! I grin at thee, thou grinning whale! Look ye, sun, moon, and stars! I call ye assassins of as good a fellow as ever spouted up his ghost. For all that, I would yet ring glasses with ye, would ye but hand the cup! Oh, oh! oh, oh! thou grinning whale, but there'll be plenty of gulping soon! Why fly ye not, O Ahab! For me, off shoes and jacket to it; let Stubb die in his drawers! A most mouldy and over salted death, though;–cherries! cherries! cherries! Oh, Flask, for one red cherry ere we die!"

"Cherries? I only wish that we were where they grow. Oh, Stub, I hope my poor mother's drawn my part-pay ere this; if not, few coppers will now come to her, for the voyage is up."

RIP the mates. And as for the whale–

pg. 601-602: Retribution, swift vengeance, eternal malice were in his whole aspect, and spite of all that mortal man could do, the solid white buttress of his forehead smote the ship's starboard bow, till men and timbers reeled. Some fell flat upon their faces. Like dislodged trucks, the heads of the harpooneers aloft shook on their bull-like necks. Through the breach, they heard the waters pour, as mountain torrents down a flume.

"The ship! The hearse!–the second hearse!" cried Ahab from the boat; "its wood could only be American!"

Dude, I really don't think the composition of your ship is your biggest concern right now, considering it was just smashed to pieces by a fucking whale.

Regardless of my opinion, Ahab flips his shit.

pg. 602: Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"

The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward; with igniting velocity the line ran through the groove;–ran foul. Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him round the neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone. Next instant, the heavy eye-splice in the rope's final end flew out of the stark-empty tub, knocked down an oarsman, and smiting the sea, disappeared into its depths.

RIP Ahab; if only you had the courtesy to not drag everyone else down with you.


Fun fact: the British edition, which was published first, neglected to include the epilogue, leaving readers confused and angry. I will not be so cruel.

pg. 605: The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth?–Because one did survive the wreck.

Surprise, it's Ishmael! Turns out Queequeg's coffin was airtight enough to float upwards while the whale's whirlpool dragged everyone else down, and Ishmael grabbed hold of it. This marks the third time Queequeg has saved someone from drowning.

pg. 605: On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.



The Rant of Notre Dame was done in 12 entries. Moby-Dick, or the Rant clocks in at 40.

This book, you guys. This fucking book.

It's huge. It's wordy. It could use a few good rounds with a nightmare-mode editor and a red pen. It's a product of its time in terms of racism, colonialism, and pseudoscience. Its use of semicolons and dashes is enough to drive any lover of proper punctuation to murder.

It's also America's answer to Shakespeare.

(Also-also, it's really, really gay.)

And perhaps this opinion is somewhat unpopular, but I find I prefer Stubb's "I grin at thee, thou grinning whale!" over Ahab's parting words. Shorter, simpler, and imho, more defiant, though Ahab's speech is still great, of course, and oft-quoted if mis-quoted for a reason.

And finally, THANK YOU to everyone who's read this rant, and special thanks to those of you who sent comments, messages, notes, asks, emails, and otherwise told me you appreciated it. You have brought literal tears to my very real eyeballs. Thank you so much for reading, I love you all in a way that is friendship.



LivieLightyear, who makes super awesome art, much of it relating to a certain book you may have heard of recently, including a totally sweet animation.

Taniwha by norah; aka the first eighteen chapters of Moby-Dick from Queequeg's perspective. Probably the most beautiful and well-researched fanfic I have ever had the privilege of reading. (Warning for the author having a queer take on Queequeg and Ishmael's relationship, though it's less explicit than your average romance novel.) It's one of perhaps three Moby-Dick fanfics available on the whole wide internet, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.



So this one time I took a screenprinting class and then grossly misused the skills I learned to create t-shirts with the opening paragraphs of Chapter 11 on them. Because I could.

Text is as follows:

Chapter 11: Nightgown

We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs over mine, and then drawing them back; so entirely sociable and free and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what little nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt like getting up again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.

Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us, leaning against the head-board with our four knees draw up close together, and our two noses



Fuck if I know.


For more adventures in Moby-Dick, check out the Moby-Dick, or The Rant tag. Alternatively, you can start from the beginning.

Date: 2012-01-02 09:47 pm (UTC)
ivorygates: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivorygates
oh my god it's OVER? i am desolate! this has been a wonderful, wonderful read, and you are awesome. THANK YOU SO MUCH for doing this.

Date: 2012-01-02 10:46 pm (UTC)
ivorygates: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivorygates
I'm so glad! Crit that is funny and true and illuminating and even autobiographical is rare as hen's teeth, and yours is a delight.

Date: 2012-01-02 11:42 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Thank you for this; it's been a delight to read. (Also? The Rant of Notre Dame!? How did I miss that?)

And Ahab did it better than Khan. Blasphemy, I know.

Date: 2012-01-03 12:56 am (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Thanks! I shall go read it posthaste.


ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)

February 2012

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