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Chapter 80 The Nut

  • If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist his brai_eems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to square.
  • In the full-grown creature the skull will measure at least twenty feet i_ength. Unhinge the lower jaw, and the side view of this skull is as the sid_iew of a moderately inclined plane resting throughout on a level base. But i_ife—as we have elsewhere seen—this inclined plane is angularly filled up, an_lmost squared by the enormous superincumbent mass of the junk and sperm. A_he high end the skull forms a crater to bed that part of the mass; whil_nder the long floor of this crater—in another cavity seldom exceeding te_nches in length and as many in depth reposes the mere handful of thi_onster’s brain. The brain is at least twenty feet from his apparent forehea_n life; it is hidden away behind its vast outworks, like the innermos_itadel within the amplified fortifications of Quebec. So like a choice caske_s it secreted in him, that I have known some whalemen who peremptorily den_hat the Sperm Whale has any other brain than that palpable semblance of on_ormed by the cubic-yards of his sperm magazine. Lying in strange folds,
  • courses, and convolutions, to their apprehensions, it seems more in keepin_ith the idea of his general might to regard that mystic part of him as th_eat of his intelligence.
  • It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan, in th_reature’s living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for his true brain,
  • you can then see no indications of it, nor feel any. The whale, like al_hings that are mighty, wears a false brow to the common world.
  • If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view of it_ear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its resemblance to th_uman skull, beheld in the same situation, and from the same point of view.
  • Indeed, place this reversed skull (scaled down to the human magnitude) among _late of men’s skulls, and you would involuntarily confound it with them; an_emarking the depressions on one part of its summit, in phrenological phras_ou would say—This man had no self-esteem, and no veneration. And by thos_egations, considered along with the affirmative fact of his prodigious bul_nd power, you can best form to yourself the truest, though not the mos_xhilarating conception of what the most exalted potency is.
  • But if from the comparative dimensions of the whale’s proper brain, you dee_t incapable of being adequately charted, then I have another idea for you. I_ou attentively regard almost any quadruped’s spine, you will be struck wit_he resemblance of its vertebrae to a strung necklace of dwarfed skulls, al_earing rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It is a German conceit,
  • that the vertebrae are absolutely undeveloped skulls. But the curious externa_esemblance, I take it the Germans were not the first men to perceive. _oreign friend once pointed it out to me, in the skeleton of a foe he ha_lain, and with the vertebrae of which he was inlaying, in a sort of basso-
  • relieve, the beaked prow of his canoe. Now, I consider that the phrenologist_ave omitted an important thing in not pushing their investigations from th_erebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a man’_haracter will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel you_pine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine never ye_pheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the firm audaciou_taff of that flag which I fling half out to the world.
  • Apply this spinal branch of phrenology to the Sperm Whale. His cranial cavit_s continuous with the first neck-vertebra; and in that vertebra the bottom o_he spinal canal will measure ten inches across, being eight in height, and o_ triangular figure with the base downwards. As it passes through th_emaining vertebrae the canal tapers in size, but for a considerable distanc_emains of large capacity. Now, of course, this canal is filled with much th_ame strangely fibrous substance—the spinal cord—as the brain; and directl_ommunicates with the brain. And what is still more, for many feet afte_merging from the brain’s cavity, the spinal cord remains of an undecreasin_irth, almost equal to that of the brain. Under all these circumstances, woul_t be unreasonable to survey and map out the whale’s spine phrenologically?
  • For, viewed in this light, the wonderful comparative smallness of his brai_roper is more than compensated by the wonderful comparative magnitude of hi_pinal cord.
  • But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the phrenologists, I woul_erely assume the spinal theory for a moment, in reference to the Sper_hale’s hump. This august hump, if I mistake not, rises over one of the large_ertebrae, and is, therefore, in some sort, the outer convex mould of it. Fro_ts relative situation then, I should call this high hump the organ o_irmness or indomitableness in the Sperm Whale. And that the great monster i_ndomitable, you will yet have reason to know.