A QUICK LOOK

"Thus, I give up the spear!"

[Note: Lines in italics are from the text]

And so our story begins . . .

Whenever it is a damp, drizzly

November in my soul . . .

whenever nothing pleases me,

when what sufficed only yesterday

chafes today,

I am drawn to - yea, seduced by -

the nearest body of water,

by my own ungraspable image

that glimmers back at me,

beyond which lie 
worlds and adventures 
I have only dreamed of
to sweep away the
daily drudgery of practicality.

Oh, to be a simple sailor,

afloat and adrift,
and get paid for it, too.

(Chapter 1)

My own thoughts on the white whale and his brethren ...

Man hunts whale

whale does not hunt man.

And yet could, for there are

many more whales than ships,

a whale outweighs man and is in

his element in the vast ocean, while

man needs to be propped up in

wooden buckets that crack and

break like teacups when the

mighty forces of weather and 

waves work against him.

And all the while, the

whale glides by or

slips below

to reemerge at his leisure

when the sea is smooth as glass.

(Chapter  57)

All is ready for the Pequod to set sail: the crew is on board, the larder stocked.

But no Captain. For days, the men are in limbo, waiting...

A ship in the harbor

a ship not at sea

is no ship at all

strange and solitary.

A ship with no captain

though in sunlight it gleams

is not yet alive

only mere joints and beams.

But when sails unfurl

and Ahab walks the deck

and the salt spray stings

the back of my neck

Then the Pequod will reign

and come into its own,

with the deep blue its kingdom

and the white waves its throne.

(Chapter  16)

A 19th century whaler in Nantucket, about to embark on a 3-year voyage, knows there's a strong likelihood he will not return. On his final morning he attends services at the chapel . . .

Certainty

is thy savior.

In a perilous

inconstant world,

with death

to our left

and our right,

we look to Thee

Who never wavers

Whose word is law

Whose punishment

is swift.

I am adrift when

in doubt

but afloat in Thy

Certainty.

(Chapter 9)

When things on board get dull, A lively tale is just the thing -

but reality proves far more frightening...

Take us away

from the porch or the hammock

from monotony’s dulling glare,

Spin us a tale full of

grit, spit and spirit

and make us all wish we were there.

The stakes must be high

for those risking it all

and the hero, tall and well–featured.

And if you can,

let there be Moby-Dick -

that hideous, milky-white creature.

“The White Whale!

 The White Whale!”

A chorus of woe rises up

with excitement and dread,

but despite all the

fury and flurry of men,

tis not Moby-Dick

who lies dead.

(Chapter  54)

New to whaling, our narrator looks at it with an objective eye...

 “He swam the seas
before the continents
broke water,”
Ishmael muses,
as he eyes the slaughter.
Are they declining, asks
the man with a conscience?
Will they be diminished
says the man, with prescience.
To cheer himself, he turns
to other beasts hunted
and finds them all
equally confronted.
Buffalos, elephants
brothers to the whale,
Living creatures turned into
products for sale.
(Chapter 105)

Chasing the world's largest mammal in a rowboat is not for the faint of heart...

Woe to that sailor, whiskers and all,
when the fluke of a whale upon him does fall
and the oars and the crew and the harpoons do fly
til he’s floatin’ on his back starin’ up at the sky.
And the planks of the boat around him they sprawl
very much as a juggler tosses his balls.
Yea, a grudging respect is all he can feel
for a wallop that lands with the weight of steel.
A mere man can offer little resistance.
Tis something to admire – 
but from a distance.
(Chapter 86)

What is there to hold onto, after all...

A
Sailor

is anchored
to his ship
His ship
to the ocean
The ocean
to the planet
The planet
which feels steady and
solid as granite
floats and spins
held down
by He
who planned it
and the whims
of those who stand on’t.
(Ch 121)

Tis an enigma whether you're from the 19th or the 21st century . . .

Man stares out over the vast ocean,
at gray blue swells
as far as the eye can see,
and feels reduced to
the size of a thimble or 
a cork that bobs powerlessly
on the endless surface, no more
substantial than a dot on a map
and as insignificant 
as the gargantuan leviathan
who, spotted miles away, 
seems but a dot himself  
on the boundless vista.

Man stares next into earth’s vast history,
at eons of time and space 
and experience without his presence,
and feels dwarfed once again,
an infinitesimal speck,
but this time not joined
by the Ancient Whale,
who populated the planet
and explored the seas
some 40 million years ago,
when man ‘twas not 
even a dream.
(Chapter 104)

And when all is said and done, Captain Ahab ...

Tis not the whale
who fouls the waters
filled with rage and
past forgetting.
Tis not the whale
who hunts the man
and curses a day he
keeps regretting.
Tis man alone who
plots and schemes
and lies awake
and cannot dream.
Tis man alone
who seals his fate
by losing his soul
to so much hate.
(Chapter 111)