Steering north-eastward from the Crozetts, we fell in with vast meadows o_rit, the minute, yellow substance, upon which the Right Whale largely feeds.
For leagues and leagues it undulated round us, so that we seemed to be sailin_hrough boundless fields of ripe and golden wheat.
On the second day, numbers of Right Whales were seen, who, secure from th_ttack of a Sperm-Whaler like the Pequod, with open jaws sluggishly swa_hrough the brit, which, adhering to the fringing fibres of that wondrou_enetian blind in their mouths, was in that manner separated from the wate_hat escaped at the lips.
As morning mowers, who side by side slowly and seethingly advance thei_cythes through the long wet grass of marshy meads; even so these monster_wam, making a strange, grassy, cutting sound; and leaving behind them endles_waths of blue upon the yellow sea.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_9)
But it was only the sound they made as they parted the brit which at al_eminded one of mowers. Seen from the mast-heads, especially when they pause_nd were stationary for a while, their vast black forms looked more lik_ifeless masses of rock than anything else. And as in the great huntin_ountries of India, the stranger at a distance will sometimes pass on th_lains recumbent elephants without knowing them to be such, taking them fo_are, blackened elevations of the soil; even so, often, with him, who for th_irst time beholds this species of the leviathans of the sea. And even whe_ecognized at last, their immense magnitude renders it very hard really t_elieve that such bulky masses of overgrowth can possibly be instinct, in al_arts, with the same sort of life that lives in a dog or a horse.
Indeed. in other respects, you can hardly regard any creatures of the dee_ith the same feelings that you do those of the shore. For though some ol_aturalists have maintained that all creatures of the land are of their kin_n the sea; and though taking a broad general view of the thing, this may ver_ell be; yet coming to specialties, where, for example, does the ocean furnis_ny fish that in disposition answers to the sagacious kindness of the dog? Th_ccursed shark alone can in any generic respect be said to bear comparativ_nalogy to him.
But though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants of the seas hav_ver been regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and repelling; though w_now the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita, so that Columbus saile_ver numberless unknown worlds to discover his one superficial western one;
though, by vast odds, the most terrific of all mortal disasters hav_mmemorially and indiscriminately befallen tens and hundreds of thousands o_hose who have gone upon the waters; though but a moment’s consideration wil_each that, however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and howeve_uch, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for eve_nd for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, an_ulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by th_ontinual repetition of these very impressions, man has lost that sense of th_ull awfulness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.
The first boat we read of, floated on an ocean, that with Portuguese vengeanc_ad whelmed a whole world without leaving so much as a widow. That same ocea_olls now; that same ocean destroyed the wrecked ships of last year. Yea,
foolish mortals, Noah’s flood is not yet subsided; two thirds of the fai_orld it yet covers.
Wherein differ the sea and the land, that a miracle upon one is not a miracl_pon the other? Preternatural terrors rested upon the Hebrews, when under th_eet of Korah and his company the live ground opened and swallowed them up fo_ver; yet not a modern sun ever sets, but in precisely the same manner th_ive sea swallows up ships and crews.
But not only is the sea such a foe to man who is an alien to it, but it i_lso a fiend to its own off-spring; worse than the Persian host who murdere_is own guests; sparing not the creatures which itself hath spawned. Like _avage tigress that tossing in the jungle overlays her own cubs, so the se_ashes even the mightiest whales against the rocks, and leaves them there sid_y side with the split wrecks of ships. No mercy, no power but its ow_ontrols it. Panting and snorting like a mad battle steed that has lost it_ider, the masterless ocean overruns the globe.
Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide unde_ater, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath th_oveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty o_any of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of man_pecies of sharks. Consider once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea;
all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since th_orld began.
Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth;
consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strang_nalogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds th_erdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full o_eace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half known life. Go_eep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!