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Chapter 132 The Symphony

  • It was a clear steel-blue day. The firmaments of air and sea were hardl_eparable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air was transparentl_ure and soft, with a woman’s look, and the robust and man-like sea heave_ith long, strong, lingering swells, as Samson’s chest in his sleep.
  • Hither, and thither, on high, glided the snow-white wings of small, unspeckle_irds; these were the gentle thoughts of the feminine air; but to and fro i_he deeps, far down in the bottomless blue, rushed mighty leviathans, sword-
  • fish, and sharks; and these were the strong, troubled, murderous thinkings o_he masculine sea.
  • But though thus contrasting within, the contrast was only in shades an_hadows without; those two seemed one; it was only the sex, as it were, tha_istinguished them.
  • Aloft, like a royal czar and king, the sun seemed giving this gentle air t_his bold and rolling sea; even as bride to groom. And at the girdling line o_he horizon, a soft and tremulous motion— most seen here at th_quator—denoted the fond, throbbing trust, the loving alarms, with which th_oor bride gave her bosom away.
  • Tied up and twisted; gnarled and knotted with wrinkles; haggardly firm an_nyielding; his eyes glowing like coals, that still glow in the ashes of ruin;
  • untottering Ahab stood forth in the clearness of the morn; lifting hi_plintered helmet of a brow to the fair girl’s forehead of heaven.
  • Oh, immortal infancy, and innocency of the azure! Invisible winged creature_hat frolic all round us! Sweet childhood of air and sky! how oblivious wer_e of old Ahab’s close-coiled woe! But so have I seen little Miriam an_artha, laughing-eyed elves, heedlessly gambol around their old sire; sportin_ith the circle of singed locks which grew on the marge of that burnt-ou_rater of his brain.
  • Slowly crossing the deck from the scuttle, Ahab leaned over the side an_atched how his shadow in the water sank and sank to his gaze, the more an_he more that he strove to pierce the profundity. But the lovely aromas i_hat enchanted air did at last seem to dispel, for a moment, the cankerou_hing in his soul. That glad, happy air, that winsome sky, did at last strok_nd caress him; the step-mother world, so long cruel—forbidding—now thre_ffectionate arms round his stubborn neck, and did seem to joyously sob ove_im, as if over one, that however wilful and erring, she could yet find it i_er heart to save and to bless. From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped _ear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one we_rop.
  • Starbuck saw the old man; saw him, how he heavily leaned over the side; and h_eemed to hear in his own true heart the measureless sobbing that stole out o_he centre of the serenity around. Careful not to touch him, or be noticed b_im, he yet drew near to him, and stood there.
  • Ahab turned.
  • “Starbuck!”
  • “Sir.”
  • “Oh, Starbuck! it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky. On such _ay—very much such a sweetness as this—I struck my first whale—a boy-
  • harpooneer of eighteen! Forty—forty— forty years ago!—ago! Forty years o_ontinual whaling! forty years of privation, and peril, and storm-time! fort_ears on the pitiless sea! for forty years has Ahab forsaken the peacefu_and, for forty years to make war on the horrors of the deep! Aye and yes,
  • Starbuck, out of those forty years I have not spent three ashore. When I thin_f this life I have led; the desolation of solitude it has been; the masoned,
  • walled-town of a Captain’s exclusiveness, which admits but small entrance t_ny sympathy from the green country without—oh, weariness! heaviness! Guinea-
  • coast slavery of solitary command!—when I think of all this; only half-
  • suspected, not so keenly known to me before— and how for forty years I hav_ed upon dry salted fare— fit emblem of the dry nourishment of my soul!—whe_he poorest landsman has had fresh fruit to his daily hand, and broken th_orld’s fresh bread to my mouldy crusts—away, whole oceans away, from tha_oung girl-wife I wedded past fifty, and sailed for Cape Horn the next day,
  • leaving but one dent in my marriage pillow— wife? wife?—rather a widow wit_er husband alive? Aye, I widowed that poor girl when I married her, Starbuck;
  • and then, the madness, the frenzy, the boiling blood and the smoking brow,
  • with which, for a thousand lowerings old Ahab has furiously, foamingly chase_is prey—more a demon than a man!—aye, aye! what a forty years’ fool—fool—ol_ool, has old Ahab been! Why this strife of the chase? why weary, and pals_he arm at the oar, and the iron, and the lance? how the richer or better i_hab now? Behold. Oh, Starbuck! is it not hard, that with this weary load _ear, one poor leg should have been snatched from under me? Here, brush thi_ld hair aside; it blinds me, that I seem to weep. Locks so grey did neve_row but from out some ashes! But do I look very old, so very, very old,
  • Starbuck? I feel deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as though I were Adam,
  • staggering beneath the piled centuries since Paradise. God! God! God!—crack m_eart!—stave my brain!— mockery! mockery! bitter, biting mockery of gre_airs, have I lived enough joy to wear ye; and seem and feel thus intolerabl_ld? Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it i_etter than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God. By th_reen land; by the bright hearthstone! this is the magic glass, man; I see m_ife and my child in thine eye. No, no; stay on board, on board!—lower no_hen I do; when branded Ahab gives chase to Moby Dick. That hazard shall no_e thine. No, no! not with the far away home I see in that eye!”
  • “Oh, my Captain! my Captain! noble soul! grand old heart, after all! wh_hould any one give chase to that hated fish! Away with me! let us fly thes_eadly waters! let us home! Wife and child, too, are Starbuck’s—wife and chil_f his brotherly, sisterly, play-fellow youth; even as thine, sir, are th_ife and child of thy loving, longing, paternal old age! Away! let u_way!—this instant let me alter the course! How cheerily, how hilariously, _y Captain, would we bowl on our way to see old Nantucket again! I think, sir,
  • they have some such mild blue days, even as this, in Nantucket.”
  • “They have, they have. I have seen them—some summer days in the morning. Abou_his time—yes, it is his noon nap now— the boy vivaciously wakes; sits up i_ed; and his mother tells him of me, of cannibal old me; how I am abroad upo_he deep, but will yet come back to dance him again.”
  • “‘Tis my Mary, my Mary herself! She promised that my boy, every morning,
  • should be carried to the hill to catch the first glimpse of his father’s sail!
  • Yes, yes! no more! it is done! we head for Nantucket! Come, my Captain, stud_ut the course, and let us away! See, see! the boy’s face from the window! th_oy’s hand on the hill!”
  • But Ahab’s glance was averted; like a blighted fruit tree he shook, and cas_is last, cindered apple to the soil.
  • “What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening,
  • hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; tha_gainst all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, an_amming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in m_wn proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is i_, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself;
  • but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but b_ome invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one smal_rain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, doe_hat living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in thi_orld, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike. And all the time, lo!
  • that smiling sky, and this unsounded sea! Look! see yon Albicore! who put i_nto him to chase and fang that flying-fish? Where do murderers go, man! Who’_o doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? But it is a mild, mil_ind, and a mild looking sky; and the airs smells now, as if it blew from _ar-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of th_ndes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay. Sleeping?
  • Aye, toil we how we may, we all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, an_ust amid greenness; as last year’s scythes flung down, and left in the half-
  • cut swarths—Starbuck!”
  • But blanched to a corpse’s hue with despair, the Mate had stolen away.
  • Ahab crossed the deck to gaze over on the other side; but started at tw_eflected, fixed eyes in the water there, Fedallah was motionlessly leanin_ver the same rail.