While now the fated Pequod had been so long afloat this voyage, the log and line had but very seldom been in use. Owing to a confident reliance upon other means of determining the vessel's place, some merchantmen, and many whalemen, especially when cruising, wholly neglect to heave the log; though at the same time, and frequently more for form's sake than anything else, regularly putting down upon the customary slate the course steered by the ship, as well as the presumed average of progression every hour. It had been thus with the Pequod. The wooden reel and angular log attached hung, long untouched, just beneath the railing of the after bulwarks. Rains and spray had damped it; sun and wind had warped it; all the elements had combined to rot a thing that hung so idly. But heedless of all this, his mood seized Ahab, as he happened to glance upon the reel, not many hours after the magnet scene, and he remembered how his quadrant was no more, and recalled his frantic oath about the level log and line. The ship was sailing plungingly; astern the billows rolled in riots.
"Forward, there! Heave the log!"
Two seamen came. The golden-hued Tahitian and the grizzly Manxman. "Take the reel, one of ye, I'll heave."
went towards the extreme stern, on the ship's lee side, where the deck,
with the oblique energy of the wind, was now almost dipping into the
creamy, sidelong-rushing sea.
The Manxman took the reel, and
holding it high up, by the projecting handle-ends of the spindle, round
which the spool of line revolved, so stood with the angular log hanging
downwards, till Ahab advanced to him.
Ahab stood before him, and
was lightly unwinding some thirty or forty turns to form a preliminary
hand-coil to toss overboard, when the old Manxman, who was intently
eyeing both him and the line, made bold to speak.
"Sir, I mistrust it; this line looks far gone, long heat and wet have spoiled it."
hold, old gentleman. Long heat and wet, have they spoiled thee? Thou
seem'st to hold. Oh, truer perhaps, life holds thee; not thou it."
hold the spool, sir. But just as my captain says. With these grey hairs
of mine 'tis not worth while disputing, 'specially with a superior,
who'll ne'er confess."
"What's that? there now's a patched
professor in Queen Nature's granite-founded College; but methinks he's
too subservient. Where wert thou born?"
"In the little rocky Isle of Man, sir."
"Excellent! Thou'st hit the world by that."
"I know not, sir, but I was born there."
the Isle of Man, hey? Well, the other way, it's good. Here's a man from
Man; a man born in once independent Man, and now unmanned of Man; which
is sucked in- by what? Up with the reel! The dead, blind wall butts all
inquiring heads at last. Up with it! So."
The log was heaved. The
loose coils rapidly straightened out in a long dragging line astern,
and then, instantly, the reel began to whirl. In turn, jerkingly raised
and lowered by the rolling billows, the towing resistance of the log
caused the old reelman to stagger strangely.
Snap! the overstrained line sagged down in one long festoon; the tugging log was gone.
crush the quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad sea
parts the log-line. But Ahab can mend all. Haul in here, Tahitian; reel
up, Manxman. And look ye, let the carpenter make another log, and mend
thou the line. See to it."
"There he goes now; to him nothing's
happened; but to me, the skewer seems loosening out of the middle of the
world. Haul in, haul in, Tahitian! These lines run whole, and whirling
out: come in broken, and dragging slow. Ha, Pip? come to help; eh, Pip?"
whom call ye Pip? Pip jumped from the whaleboat. Pip's missing. Let's
see now if ye haven't fished him up here, fisherman. It drags hard; I
guess he's holding on. Jerk him, Tahiti! Jerk him off we haul in no
cowards here. Ho! there's his arm just breaking water. A hatchet! a
hatchet! cut it off- we haul in no cowards here. Captain Ahab! sir, sir!
here's Pip, trying to get on board again."
"Peace, thou crazy loon," cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm. "Away from the quarter-deck!"
greater idiot ever scolds the lesser," muttered Ahab, advancing. "Hands
off from that holiness! Where sayest thou Pip was, boy?"
"Astern there, sir, astern! Lo! lo!"
who art thou, boy? I see not my reflection in the vacant pupils of thy
eyes. Oh God! that man should be a thing for immortal souls to sieve
through! Who art thou, boy?"
"Bell-boy, sir; ship's-crier; ding,
dong, ding! Pip! Pip! One hundred pounds of clay reward for Pip; five
feet high- looks cowardly- quickest known by that! Ding, dong, ding!
Who's seen Pip the coward?"
"There can be no hearts above the
snow-line. Oh, ye frozen heavens! look down here. Ye did beget this
luckless child, and have abandoned him, ye creative libertines. Here,
boy; Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's home henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou
touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven by
my heart-strings. Come, let's down."
"What's this? here's velvet
shark-skin," intently gazing at Ahab's hand, and feeling it. "Ah, now,
had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this, perhaps he had ne'er been
lost! This seems to me, sir, as a man-rope; something that weak souls
may hold by. Oh, sir, let old Perth now come and rivet these two hands
together; the black one with the white, for I will not let this go."
boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse
horrors than are here. Come, then, to my cabin. Lo! ye believers in gods
all goodness, and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient gods
oblivious of suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not
what he does, yet full of the sweet things of love and gratitude. Come! I
feel prouder leading thee by thy black hand, than though I grasped an
"There go two daft ones now," muttered the old
Manxman. "One daft with strength, the other daft with weakness. But
here's the end of the rotten line- all dripping, too. Mend it, eh? I
think we had best have a new line altogether. I'll see Mr. Stubb about
I must admit that I'm not a sailor and don't understand a whole lot of what Melville says in this chapter about logs and lines, loose coils and reels. That's really not the aim of this chapter, however. Melville is putting Ahab and Pip together, as Manxman says, "One daft with strength, and other daft with weakness." Ahab has lost the support of most of his crew, so he turns to Pip, who lost his mind after being abandoned in the ocean for several hours during a whale hunt. Both are mentally unstable. Ahab is dangerous. Pip is harmless.
I have been struggling a good portion of today with a kind of torpor. That's the best word for it. It may be the change of weather in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It's cold. Snow on the ground this morning. Snow still in the trees tonight. It hasn't gotten much above 35 degrees the whole day. I'm not sure if torpor qualifies as losing my mind. Certainly, I've lost my energy.
I also think the whole job insecurity is getting to me, as well. Haven't been sleeping all that well. It's strange. Every time I feel like I'm on somewhat stable ground in my life, the ground shifts, and I find myself facing another challenge. In the last few years, I've proven to be pretty adaptable. I've switched careers twice--surgery to cardiology and back to surgery. I've survived major upheaval at the university and English Department. It has been quite the roller coaster ride.
And now I find myself at another possible crossroads. There's part of me that just wants to go to bed and stay there for about two or three weeks. Or maybe until the end of the year. I know, I know. God never closes a door without opening a window. There's always light at the end of the tunnel. Every storm cloud has a silver lining. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. I've heard and thought of them all.
I feel a little bit like Pip right now, though. Out of my mind. I'm tired of moving from one possible disaster to another. I really think that is the cause of my torpor today. I'm just plain weary.
Please don't think I'm ungrateful for the blessings in my life. I'm so thankful for everything--my wife and kids, my home and jobs, music and poetry. I am grateful for all of this. But, in Trump America, where all decisions are motivated by profit and power, I face yet another challenge to a life that I've worked really hard to build.
Saint Marty is doing his best to hold it together.
There's been a lot of upheaval in my workplace also. Just talking to another coworker whose being pushed out of his job. Several more wishing they could early retire. Very hard to keep one's chin up. Solidarity my friend, solidarity.ReplyDelete