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.