Sunday, February 7, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 52: The Albatross

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.

In this chapter, the Pequod encounters another whaling ship called the Albatross, which has been out at sea for a long time, and is heading home to Nantucket.  The ship and crew look weather-beaten and weary: “This craft was bleached like the skeleton of a stranded walrus.”  As the two ships approach one another, Ahab calls out, “Ship ahoy!  Have ye seen the white whale?”  But the wind and weather are too loud and stormy, and Ahab cannot hear the other captain’s response.  Ahab calls again to the ship: “Ahoy there!  This is the Pequod, bound round the world!  Tell them (back in Nantucket) to address all future letters to the Pacific Ocean!”

And then Ishmael, as he is wont to do, ponders the idea of sailing round the world and how it’s a metaphor for the futility of all human endeavors: “Round the world!  There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct?  Only though numberless perils to the very point whence we started…were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we cold for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage.  But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or another, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round glob, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.”


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