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Chapter 119 The Candles

  • Warmest climes but nurse the cruellest fangs: the tiger of Bengal crouches i_piced groves of ceaseless verdure. Skies the most effulgent but basket th_eadliest thunders: gorgeous Cuba knows tornadoes that never swept tam_orthern lands. So, too, it is, that in these resplendent Japanese seas th_ariner encounters the direst of all storms, the Typhoon. It will sometime_urst from out that cloudless sky, like an exploding bomb upon a dazed an_leepy town.
  • Towards evening of that day, the Pequod was torn of her canvas, and bare-pole_as left to fight a Typhoon which had struck her directly ahead. When darknes_ame on, sky and sea roared and split with the thunder, and blazed with th_ightning, that showed the disabled mast fluttering here and there with th_ags which the first fury of the tempest had left for its after sport.
  • Holding by a shroud, Starbuck was standing on the quarter-deck; at every flas_f the lightning glancing aloft, to see what additional disaster might hav_efallen the intricate hamper there; while Stubb and Flask were directing th_en in the higher hoisting and firmer lashing of the boats. But all thei_ains seemed naught. Though lifted to the very top of the cranes, the windwar_uarter boat (Ahab’s) did not escape. A great rolling sea, dashing high u_gainst the reeling ship’s high teetering side, stove in the boat’s bottom a_he stern, and left it again, all dripping through like a sieve.
  • “Bad work, bad work! Mr. Starbuck,” said Stubb, regarding the wreck, “but th_ea will have its way. Stubb, for one, can’t fight it. You see, Mr. Starbuck, a wave has such a great long start before it leaps, all round the world i_uns, and then comes the spring! But as for me, all the start I have to mee_t, is just across the deck here. But never mind; it’s all in fun: so the ol_ong says;”—(sings.)
  • Oh! jolly is the gale,
  • And a joker is the whale,
  • A’ flourishin’ his tail,—
  • Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty, joky, hoky-poky
  • lad, is the Ocean, oh!
  • The scud all a flyin’,
  • That’s his flip only foamin’;
  • When he stirs in the spicin’,—
  • Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty, joky, hoky-poky
  • lad, is the Ocean, oh!
  • Thunder splits the ships,
  • But he only smacks his lips,
  • A tastin’ of this flip,—
  • Such a funny, sporty, gamy, jesty, joky, hoky-poky
  • lad, is the Ocean, oh!
  • “Avast Stubb,” cried Starbuck, “let the Typhoon sing, and strike his harp her_n our rigging; but if thou art a brave man thou wilt hold thy peace.”
  • “But I am not a brave man; never said I was a brave man;
  • I am a coward; and I sing to keep up my spirits.
  • And I tell you what it is, Mr. Starbuck, there’s no way
  • to stop my singing in this world but to cut my throat.
  • And when that’s done, ten to one I sing ye the doxology
  • for a wind-up.”
  • “Madman! look through my eyes if thou hast none of thine own.”
  • “What! how can you see better of a dark night than anybody else, never min_ow foolish?”
  • “Here!” cried Starbuck, seizing Stubb by the shoulder, and pointing his han_owards the weather bow, “markest thou not that the gale comes from th_astward, the very course Ahab is to run for Moby Dick? the very course h_wung to this day noon? now mark his boat there; where is that stove? In th_tern-sheets, man; where he is wont to stand— his stand-point is stove, man!
  • Now jump overboard, and sing away, if thou must!
  • “I don’t half understand ye: what’s in the wind?”
  • “Yes, yes, round the Cape of Good Hope is the shortest way to Nantucket,” soliloquized Starbuck suddenly, heedless of Stubb’s question. “The gale tha_ow hammers at us to stave us, we can turn it into a fair wind that will driv_s towards home. Yonder, to windward, all is blackness of doom; but t_eeward, homeward—I see it lightens up there; but not with the lightning.”
  • At that moment in one of the intervals of profound darkness, following th_lashes, a voice was heard at his side; and almost at the same instant _olley of thunder peals rolled overhead.
  • “Who’s there?”
  • “Old Thunder!” said Ahab, groping his way along the bulwarks to his pivot- hole; but suddenly finding his path made plain to him by elbowed lances o_ire.
  • Now, as the lightning rod to a spire on shore is intended to carry off th_erilous fluid into the soil; so the kindred rod which at sea some ships carr_o each mast, is intended to conduct it into the water. But as this conducto_ust descend to considerable depth, that its end may avoid all contact wit_he hull; and as moreover, if kept constantly towing there, it would be liabl_o many mishaps, besides interfering not a little with some of the rigging, and more or less impeding the vessel’s way in the water; because of all this, the lower parts of a ship’s lightning-rods are not always overboard; but ar_enerally made in long slender links, so as to be the more readily hauled u_nto the chains outside, or thrown down into the sea, as occasion may require.
  • “The rods! the rods!” cried Starbuck to the crew, suddenly admonished t_igilance by the vivid lightning that had just been darting flambeaux, t_ight Ahab to his post. “Are they overboard? drop them over, fore and aft.
  • Quick!”
  • “Avast!” cried Ahab; “let’s have fair play here, though we be the weaker side.
  • Yet I’ll contribute to raise rods on the Himmalehs and Andes, that all th_orld may be secured; but out on privileges! Let them be, sir.”
  • “Look aloft!” cried Starbuck. “The corpusants! the corpusants!
  • All the yard-arms were tipped with a pallid fire; and touched at each tri- pointed lightning-rod-end with three tapering white flames, each of the thre_all masts was silently burning in that sulphurous air, like three giganti_ax tapers before an altar.
  • “Blast the boat! let it go!” cried Stubb at this instant, as a swashing se_eaved up under his own little craft so that its gunwale violently jammed hi_and, as he was passing a lashing. “Blast it!”—but slipping backward on th_eck, his uplifted eyes caught the flames; and immediately shifting his ton_e cried—“The corpusants have mercy on us all!”
  • To sailors, oaths are household words; they will swear in the trance of th_alm, and in the teeth of the tempest; they will imprecate curses from th_opsail-yard-arms, when most they teeter over to a seething sea; but in all m_oyagings, seldom have I heard a common oath when God’s burning finger ha_een laid on the ship; when His “Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin” has been wove_nto the shrouds and the cordage.
  • While this pallidness was burning aloft, few words were heard from th_nchanted crew; who in one thick cluster stood on the forecastle, all thei_yes gleaming in that pale phosphorescence, like a faraway constellation o_tars. Relieved against the ghostly light, the gigantic jet negro, Daggoo, loomed up to thrice his real stature, and seemed the black cloud from whic_he thunder had come. The parted mouth of Tashtego revealed his shark-whit_eeth, which strangely gleamed as if they too had been tipped by corpusants; while lit up by the preternatural light, Queequeg’s tattooing burned lik_atanic blue flames on his body.
  • The tableau all waned at last with the pallidness aloft; and once more th_equod and every soul on her decks were wrapped in a pall. A moment or tw_assed, when Starbuck, going forward, pushed against some one. It was Stubb.
  • “What thinkest thou now, man; I heard thy cry; it was not the same in th_ong.”
  • “No, no, it wasn’t; I said the corpusants have mercy on us all; and I hop_hey will, still. But do they only have mercy on long faces?—have they n_owels for a laugh? And look ye, Mr. Starbuck—but it’s too dark to look. Hea_e, then; I take that mast-head flame we saw for a sign of good luck; fo_hose masts are rooted in a hold that is going to be chock a’ block wit_perm-oil, d’ye see; and so, all that sperm will work up into the masts, lik_ap in a tree. Yes, our three masts will yet be as three spermaceti candles— that’s the good promise we saw.”
  • At that moment Starbuck caught sight of Stubb’s face slowly beginning t_limmer into sight. Glancing upwards, he cried: “See! see!” and once more th_igh tapering flames were beheld with what seemed redoubled supernaturalnes_n their pallor.
  • “The corpusants have mercy on us all,” cried Stubb, again.
  • At the base of the main-mast, full beneath the doubloon and the flame, th_arsee was kneeling in Ahab’s front, but with his head bowed away from him; while near by, from the arched and overhanging rigging, where they had jus_een engaged securing a spar, a number of the seamen, arrested by the glare, now cohered together, and hung pendulous, like a knot of numbed wasps from _rooping, orchard twig. In various enchanted attitudes like the standing, o_tepping, or running skeletons in Herculaneum, others remained rooted to th_eck; but all their eyes upcast.
  • “Aye, aye, men!” cried Ahab. “Look up at it; mark it well; the white flame bu_ights the way to the White Whale! Hand me those mainmast links there; I woul_ain feel this pulse, and let mine beat against it; blood against fire! So.”
  • Then turning—the last link held fast in his left hand, he put his foot upo_he Parsee; and with fixed upward eye, and high-flung right arm, he stoo_rect before the lofty tri-pointed trinity of flames.
  • “Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once di_orship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour _ear the scar; I now know thee, thou clear spirit, and I now know that th_ight worship is defiance. To neither love nor reverence wilt thou be kind; and e’en for hate thou canst but kill; and all are killed. No fearless foo_ow fronts thee. I own thy speechless, placeless power; but to the last gas_f my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional, unintegral mastery i_e. In the midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here.
  • Though but a point at best; whenceso’er I came; whereso’er I go; yet while _arthly live, the queenly personality lives in me, and feels her royal rights.
  • But war is pain, and hate is woe. Come in thy lowest form of love, and I wil_neel and kiss thee; but at thy highest, come as mere supernal power; an_hough thou launchest navies of full-freighted worlds, there’s that in her_hat still remains indifferent. Oh, thou clear spirit, of thy fire thou mades_e, and like a true child of fire, I breathe it back to thee.”
  • [Sudden, repeated flashes of lightning; the nine flames leap lengthwise t_hrice their previous height; Ahab, with the rest, closes his eyes, his righ_and pressed hard upon them.]
  • “I own thy speechless, placeless power; said I not so? Nor was it wrung fro_e; nor do I now drop these links. Thou canst blind; but I can then grope.
  • Thou canst consume; but I can then be ashes. Take the homage of these poo_yes, and shutter-hands. I would not take it. The lightning flashes through m_kull; mine eyeballs ache and ache; my whole beaten brain seems as beheaded, and rolling on some stunning ground. Oh, oh! Yet blindfold, yet will I talk t_hee. Light though thou be, thou leapest out of darkness; but I am darknes_eaping out of light, leaping out of thee! The javelins cease; open eyes; see, or not? There burn the flames! Oh, thou magnanimous! now do I do glory in m_enealogy. But thou art but my fiery father; my sweet mother, I know not. Oh, cruel! what hast thou done with her? There lies my puzzle; but thine i_reater. Thou knowest not how came ye, hence callest thyself unbegotten; certainly knowest not thy beginning, hence callest thyself unbegun. I kno_hat of me, which thou knowest not of thyself, oh, thou omnipotent. There i_ome unsuffusing thing beyond thee, thou clear spirit, to whom all th_ternity is but time, all thy creativeness mechanical. Through thee, th_laming self, my scorched eyes do dimly see it. Oh, thou foundling fire, tho_ermit immemorial, thou too hast thy incommunicable riddle, thy unparticipate_rief. Here again with haughty agony, I read my sire. Leap! leap up, and lic_he sky! I leap with thee; I burn with thee; would fain be welded with thee; defyingly I worship thee!”
  • “The boat! the boat!” cried Starbuck, “look at thy boat, old man!”
  • Ahab’s harpoon, the one forged at Perth’s fire, remained firmly lashed in it_onspicuous crotch, so that it projected beyond his whale-boat’s bow; but th_ea that had stove its bottom had caused the loose leather sheath to drop off; and from the keen steel barb there now came a levelled flame of pale, forke_ire. As the silent harpoon burned there like a serpent’s tongue, Starbuc_rasped Ahab by the arm—“God, God is against thee, old man; forbear! ‘t is a_ll voyage! ill begun, ill continued; let me square the yards, while we may, old man, and make a fair wind of it homewards, to go on a better voyage tha_his.”
  • Overhearing Starbuck, the panic-stricken crew instantly ran to th_races—though not a sail was left aloft. For the moment all the aghast mate’_houghts seemed theirs; they raised a half mutinous cry. But dashing th_attling lightning links to the deck, and snatching the burning harpoon, Aha_aved it like a torch among them; swearing to transfix with it the firs_ailor that but cast loose a rope’s end. Petrified by his aspect, and stil_ore shrinking from the fiery dart that he held, the men fell back in dismay, and Ahab again spoke:—
  • “All your oaths to hunt the White Whale are as binding as mine; and heart, soul, and body, lungs and life, old Ahab is bound. And that ye may know t_hat tune this heart beats: look ye here; thus I blow out the last fear!” An_ith one blast of his breath he extinguished the flame.
  • As in the hurricane that sweeps the plain, men fly the neighborhood of som_one, gigantic elm, whose very height and strength but render it so much th_ore unsafe, because so much the more a mark for thunderbolts; so at thos_ast words of Ahab’s many of the mariners did run from him in a terror o_ismay.