But, as yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was going on so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of his own epicurean lips.
"Cook, cook!- where's that old Fleece?" he
cried at length, widening his legs still further, as if to form a more
secure base for his supper; and, at the same time darting his fork into
the dish, as if stabbing with his lance; "cook, you cook!- sail this
The old black, not in any very high glee at having
been previously roused from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable
hour, came shambling along from his galley, for, like many old blacks,
there was something the matter with his knee-pans, which he did not keep
well scoured like his other pans; this old Fleece, as they called him,
came shuffling and limping along, assisting his step with his tongs,
which, after a clumsy fashion, were made of straightened iron hoops;
this old Ebony floundered along, and in obedience to the word of
command, came to a dead stop on the opposite side of Stubb's sideboard;
when, with both hands folded before him, and resting on his two-legged
cane, he bowed his arched back still further over, at the same time
sideways inclining his head, so as to bring his best ear into play.
said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his mouth,
"don't you think this steak is rather overdone? You've been beating this
steak too much, cook; it's too tender. Don't I always say that to be
good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are those sharks now over the
side, don't you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a shindy they
are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to 'em; tell 'em they are welcome to
help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must keep quiet.
Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and deliver my
message. Here, take this lantern," snatching one from his sideboard;
"now then, go and preach to them!"
Sullenly taking the offered
lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck to the bulwarks; and then,
with one hand drooping his light low over the sea, so as to get a good
view of his congregation, with the other hand he solemnly flourished his
tongs, and leaning far over the side in a mumbling voice began
addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling behind, overheard
all that was said.
"Fellow-critters: I'se ordered here to say dat
you must stop dat dam noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin' ob de
lips! Massa Stubb say dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de
hatchings, but by Gor! you must stop dat dam racket!"
interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap on the
shoulder,- "cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn't swear that way when
you're preaching. That's no way to convert sinners, cook!"
"Who dat? Den preach to him yourself," sullenly turning to go.
"No, cook; go on, go on."
"Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:"-
"Right!" exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, "coax 'em to it, try that," and Fleece continued.
you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you,
fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness- 'top dat dam slappin' ob de
tail! How you tink to hear, 'spose you keep up such a dam slapping and
"Cook," cried Stubb, collaring him, "I won't have that swearing. Talk to 'em gentlemanly."
Once more the sermon proceeded.
woraciousness, fellow-critters. I don't blame ye so much for; dat is
natur, and can't be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de
pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den
you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well goberned.
Now, look here, bred'ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping
yourselbs from dat whale. Don't be tearin' de blubber out your
neighbour's mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat
whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale
belong to some one else. I know some o' you has berry brig mout, brigger
dan oders; but then de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so
dat de brigness of de mout is not to swaller wid, but to bit off de
blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get into de scrouge to
"Well done, old Fleece!" cried Stubb, "that's Christianity; go on."
use goin' on; de dam willains will keep a scougin' and slappin' each
oder, Massa Stubb; dey don't hear one word; no use a-preaching to such
dam g'uttons as you call 'em, till dare bellies is full, and dare
bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get 'em full, dey wont hear you
den; for den dey sink in the sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and
can't hear noting at all, no more, for eber and eber."
"Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction, Fleece, and I'll away to my supper."
Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his shrill voice, and cried-
"Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill your dam bellies 'till dey bust- and den die."
cook," said Stubb, resuming his supper at the capstan; "stand just
where you stood before, there, over against me, and pay particular
"All 'dention," said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in the desired position.
said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile; "I shall now go back to
the subject of this steak. In the first place, how old are you, cook?"
"What dat do wid de 'teak, " said the old black, testily.
"Silence! How old are you, cook?"
"'Bout ninety, dey say," he gloomily muttered.
you have lived in this world hard upon one hundred years, cook, and
don't know yet how to cook a whale-steak?" rapidly bolting another
mouthful at the last word, so that morsel seemed a continuation of the
question. "Where were you born, cook?"
"'Hind de hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin' ober de Roanoke."
"Born in a ferry-boat! That's queer, too. But I want to know what country you were born in, cook!"
"Didn't I say de Roanoke country?" he cried sharply.
you didn't, cook; but I'll tell you what I'm coming to, cook. You must
go home and be born over again; you don't know how to cook a whale-steak
"Bress my soul, if I cook noder one," he growled, angrily, turning round to depart.
back here, cook;- here, hand me those tongs;- now take that bit of
steak there, and tell me if you think that steak cooked as it should be?
Take it, I say"- holding the tongs towards him- "take it, and taste
Faintly smacking his withered lips over it for a moment, the
old negro muttered, "Best cooked 'teak I eber taste; joosy, berry
"Cook," said Stubb, squaring himself once more; "do you belong to the church?"
"Passed one once in Cape-Down," said the old man sullenly.
you have once in your life passed a holy church in Cape-Town, where you
doubtless overheard a holy parson addressing his hearers as his beloved
fellow-creatures, have you, cook! And yet you come here, and tell me
such a dreadful lie as you did just now, eh?" said Stubb. "Where do you
expect to go to, cook?"
"Go to bed berry soon," he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke.
"Avast! heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It's an awful question. Now what's your answer?"
dis old brack man dies," said the negro slowly, changing his whole air
and demeanor, "he hisself won't go nowhere; but some bressed angel will
come and fetch him."
"Fetch him? How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And fetch him where?"
"Up dere," said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his head, and keeping it there very solemnly.
then, you expect to go into our main-top, do you, cook, when you are
dead? But don't you know the higher you climb, the colder it gets?
"Didn't say dat t'all," said Fleece, again in the sulks.
said up there, didn't you? and now look yourself, and see where your
tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven by
crawling through the lubber's hole, cook; but, no, no, cook, you don't
get there, except you go the regular way, round by the rigging. It's a
ticklish business, but must be done, or else it's no go. But none of us
are in heaven yet. Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my orders. Do ye
hear? Hold your hat in one hand, and clap t'other a'top of your heart,
when I'm giving my orders, cook. What! that your heart, there?- that's
your gizzard! Aloft! aloft!- that's it- now you have it. Hold it there
now, and pay attention."
"All 'dention," said the old black, with
both hands placed as desired, vainly wriggling his grizzled head, as if
to get both ears in front at one and the same time.
cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad, that have put
it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that, don't you? Well, for
the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my private table here,
the capstan, I'll tell you what to do so as not to spoil it by
overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal to it with
the other; that done, dish it; d'ye hear? And now to-morrow, cook, when
we are cutting in the fish, be sure you stand by to get the tips of his
fins; have them put in pickle. As for the ends of the flukes, have them
soused, cook. There, now ye may go."
But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.
give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch. D'ye hear?
away you sail then.- Halloa! stop! make a bow before you go.- Avast
heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast- don't forget."
gor! whale eat him, 'stead of him eat whale. I'm bressed if he ain't
more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself," muttered the old man, limping
away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock.
Yes, I know this is a long passage, but I couldn't find a good place to cut it. The whole scene smacks of 19th-century racism. Fleece is a caricature. An old, uneducated, superstitious black man whom Melville plays for cheap laughs. Fleece is 90-years-old, and Stubb is treating him like a child. It is not one of the book's greatest moments. It almost reads like a minstrel show.
I point these things out because it drives home the point I'm trying to make today--the type of racism exhibited in this chapter is indicative of a huge problem. A book that's universally hailed as one of the greatest American novels ever written is riddled with racial stereotypes. Racism is a problem that runs deep in the United States.
Today, Donald Trump reversed his policy of separating illegal immigrant children from their parents. These kids are being housed in facilities that basically resemble kennels--chain link fences, cement slabs, several children to a cage. It's despicable, and the President of the United States, until today, has defended the practice, saying immigrants "pour" across the borders and "infest the country." That's right, folks, he's making an analogy that was used in Germany more than 70 years ago to justify the Holocaust. Donald Trump is dehumanizing people to justify his actions. It's right out of the Nazi playbook.
Now, I know you're probably hearing about this situation from all over--newspapers, television, social media, friends, family members. I don't know on what side of the political spectrum you fall. I don't care, really. I grew up in a highly Republican household. The only Democrat my father ever voted for in his entire life was John F. Kennedy. In the 2016 Presidential election, he voted for Donald Trump. People whom I care very deeply about are Republicans.
This isn't about Republican or Democrat. It really isn't. It's about little kids. Scared. Crying. Traumatized. If small children were found in cages in your neighbor's backyard, you'd call the police. That neighbor would be arrested, put in jail, and imprisoned for child abuse, among other things. That is a fact. Yet, when the President of the United States does the same thing, he's "making America great again."
Sadly, this isn't something new for the United States of America. Ask Native Americans and African Americans. Or Japanese Americans. Call them what you want--reservations, plantations, or internment camps--my country has a habit of incarcerating people (including American citizens) who it considers threats to national security. Most of these people were non-white or non-Christian. People who didn't look like "us."
I am ashamed of my country right now. We have become what we are supposed to hate. And there are people using the Bible to defend this. Let me be clear on this: people who think the Bible encourages the victimization of children are not followers of Christ. They are not defenders of family values. They are hypocrites and liars, more demagogues than disciples.
I apologize for the bluntness of this post. I think the time for subtlety has passed.
Saint Marty is thankful tonight that his children are safe and secure and loved, and he prays that ALL children have the same security, the same safety, and the same love.