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Chapter 97 The Lamp

  • Had you descended from the Pequod’s try-works to the Pequod’s forecastle,
  • where the off duty watch were sleeping, for one single moment you would hav_lmost thought you were standing in some illuminated shrine of canonized king_nd counsellors. There they lay in their triangular oaken vaults, each marine_ chiselled muteness; a score of lamps flashing upon his hooded eyes.
  • In merchantmen, oil for the sailor is more scarce than the milk of queens. T_ress in the dark, and eat in the dark, and stumble in darkness to his pallet,
  • this is his usual lot. But the whaleman, as he seeks the food of light, so h_ives in light. He makes his berth an Aladdin’s lamp, and lays him down in it;
  • so that in the pitchiest night the ship’s black hull still houses a_llumination.
  • See with what entire freedom the whaleman takes his handful of lamps—often bu_ld bottles and vials, though—to the copper cooler at the tryworks, an_eplenishes them there, as mugs of ale at a vat. He burns, too, the purest o_il, in its unmanufactured, and, therefore, unvitiated state; a fluid unknow_o solar, lunar, or astral contrivances ashore. It is sweet as early gras_utter in April. He goes and hunts for his oil, so as to be sure of it_reshness and genuineness, even as the traveller on the prairie hunts up hi_wn supper of game.