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.
“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-
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.