Penetrating further and further into the heart of the Japanese cruising groun_he Pequod was soon all astir in the fishery. Often, in mild, pleasan_eather, for twelve, fifteen, eighteen, and twenty hours on the stretch, the_ere engaged in the boats, steadily pulling, or sailing, or paddling after th_hales, or for an interlude of sixty or seventy minutes calmly awaiting thei_prising; though with but small success for their pains.
At such times, under an abated sun; afloat all day upon smooth, slow heavin_wells; seated in his boat, light as a birch canoe; and so sociably mixin_ith the soft waves themselves, that like hearth-stone cats they purr agains_he gunwale; these are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding th_ranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin, one forgets the tige_eart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that thi_elvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.
These are the times, when in his whale-boat the rover softly feels a certai_ilial, confident, land-like feeling towards the sea; that he regards it as s_uch flowery earth; and the distant ship revealing only the tops of her masts,
seems struggling forward, not through high rolling waves, but through the tal_rass of a rolling prairie: as when the western emigrants’ horses only sho_heir erected ears, while their hidden bodies widely wade through the amazin_erdure.
The long-drawn virgin vales; the mild blue hill-sides; as over these ther_teals the hush, the hum; you almost swear that play-wearied children li_leeping in these solitudes, in some glad May-time, when the flowers of th_oods are plucked. And all this mixes with your most mystic mood; so that fac_nd fancy, half-way meeting, interpenetrate, and form one seamless whole.
Nor did such soothing scenes, however temporary, fail of at least as temporar_n effect on Ahab. But if these secret golden keys did seem to open in him hi_wn secret golden treasuries, yet did his breath upon them prove bu_arnishing.
Oh, grassy glades! oh ever vernal endless landscapes in the soul; i_e,—though long parched by the dead drought of the earthly life,— in ye, me_et may roll, like young horses in new morning clover; and for some fe_leeting moments, feel the cool dew of the life immortal on them. Would to Go_hese blessed calms would last. But the mingled, mingling threads of life ar_oven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. Ther_s no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance throug_ixed gradations, and at the last one pause:— through infancy’s unconsciou_pell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), the_cepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose o_f. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys,
and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor n_ore? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will neve_eary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like thos_rphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of ou_aternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.
And that same day, too, gazing far down from his boat’s side into that sam_olden sea, Starbuck lowly murmured:—
“Loveliness unfathomable, as ever lover saw in his young bride’s eyes!— Tel_e not of thy teeth-tiered sharks, and thy kidnapping cannibal ways. Let fait_ust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.”
And Stubb, fish-like, with sparkling scales, leaped up in that same golde_ight:—
“I am Stubb, and Stubb has his history; but here Stubb takes oaths that he ha_lways been jolly!”