*I am aware that down to the present time, the fish styled Lamatins and Dugongs (Pig-fish and Sow-fish of the Coffins of Nantucket) are included by many naturalists among the whales. But as these pig-fish are a noisy, contemptible set, mostly lurking in the mouths of rivers, and feeding on wet hay, and especially as they do not spout, I deny their credentials as whales; and have presented them with their passports to quit the Kingdom of Cetology.
First: According to magnitude I
divide the whales into three primary BOOKS (subdivisible into CHAPTERS),
and these shall comprehend them all, both small and large.
FOLIO WHALE; II. the OCTAVO WHALE; III. the DUODECIMO WHALE. As the
type of the FOLIO I present the Sperm Whale; of the OCTAVO, the Grampus;
of the DUODECIMO, the Porpoise. FOLIOS. Among these I here include the
following chapters:- I. The Sperm Whale; II. the Right Whale; III. the
Fin Back Whale; IV. the Humpbacked Whale; V. the Razor Back Whale; VI.
the Sulphur Bottom Whale.
BOOK I. (Folio), CHAPTER I. (Sperm
Whale).- This whale, among the English of old vaguely known as the
Trumpa whale and the Physeter whale, and the Anvil Headed whale, is the
present Cachalot of the French, and the Pottsfich of the Germans, and
the Macrocephalus of the Long Words. He is, without doubt, the largest
inhabitant of the globe; the most formidable of all whales to encounter;
the most majestic in aspect; and lastly, by far the most valuable in
commerce; he being the only creature from which that valuable substance,
spermaceti, is obtained. All his peculiarities will, in many other
places, be enlarged upon. It is chiefly with his name that I now have to
do. Philologically considered, it is absurd. Some centuries ago, when
the sperm whale was almost wholly unknown in his own proper
individuality, and when his oil was only accidentally obtained from the
stranded fish; in those days spermaceti, it would seem, was popularly
supposed to be derived from a creature identical with the one then known
in England as the Greenland or Right Whale. It was the idea also, that
this same spermaceti was that quickening humor of the Greenland Whale
which the first syllable of the word literally expresses. In those
times, also, spermaceti was exceedingly scarce, not being used for
light, but only as an ointment and medicament. It was only to be had
from the druggists as you nowadays buy an ounce of rhubarb. When, as I
opine, in the course of time, the true nature of spermaceti became
known, its original name was still retained by the dealers; no doubt to
enhance its value by a notion so strangely significant of its scarcity.
And so the appellation must at last have come to be bestowed upon the
whale from which this spermaceti was really derived.
And we continue with our lesson in nineteenth-century whale science. Of course, Melville is incorrect in one of his assertions: the sperm whale is NOT the largest inhabitant of the globe. That distinction belongs to the blue whale. For the sake of his narrative, Melville needs to make the sperm whale into the largest, most terrifying creature on the planet. I get that. I'm a writer.
Narrative is an important part of Easter weekend--from the story of Christ's passion to His resurrection tomorrow morning. Whether you are a believer or not, it's an incredibly moving tale. It strikes at the core of humanity--betrayal and torture, sacrifice and forgiveness, and then, at the end, salvation for the world.
I don't want to be all evangelical here, because the people in Washington, D. C., right now have given evangelicals a bad name. Evangelicals are associated, now, with intolerance and hatred, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacy, subjugation of the poor, and misogyny. By the way, that's an abbreviated list.
Keep in mind, though, that the REAL story of Easter is about love and forgiveness and acceptance. Regardless of how humankind has distorted the essential message of the Gospels, that's what it's all about. And that narrative uplifts me. Gives me hope for the world. The Donald Trumps of the world aren't going to win. Love wins in the end.
That's the narrative for today and tomorrow. Light over darkness. Compassion over intolerance. Love over hate. Hope over despair.
Saint Marty is thankful today for the message of Easter.
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