Already has it been related how the great leviathan is afar off descried fro_he mast-head; how he is chased over the watery moors, and slaughtered in th_alleys of the deep; how he is then towed alongside and beheaded; and how (o_he principle which entitled the headsman of old to the garments in which th_eheaded was killed) his great padded surtout becomes the property of hi_xecutioner; how, in due time, he is condemned to the pots, and, lik_hadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, his spermaceti, oil, and bone pass unscathe_hrough the fire;—but now it remains to conclude the last chapter of this par_f the description by rehearsing—singing, if I may—the romantic proceeding o_ecanting off his oil into the casks and striking them down into the hold,
where once again leviathan returns to his native profundities, sliding alon_eneath the surface :is before; but, alas! never more to rise and blow.
While still warm, the oil, like hot punch, is received into the six-barre_asks; and while, perhaps, the ship is pitching and rolling this way and tha_n the midnight sea, the enormous casks are slewed round and headed over, en_or end, and sometimes perilously scoot across the slippery deck, like so man_and slides, till at last man-handled and stayed in their course; and al_ound the hoops, rap, rap, go as many hammers as can play upon them, for now,
ex officio, every sailor is a cooper.
At length, when the last pint is casked, and all is cool, then the grea_atchways are unsealed, the bowels of the ship are thrown open, and down g_he casks to their final rest in the sea. This done, the hatches are replaced,
and hermetically closed, like a closet walled up.
In the sperm fishery, this is perhaps one of the most remarkable incidents i_ll the business of whaling. One day the planks stream with freshets of bloo_nd oil; on the sacred quarter-deck enormous masses of the whale’s head ar_rofanely piled; great rusty casks lie about, as in a brewery yard; the smok_rom the try-works has besooted all the bulwarks; the mariners go abou_uffused with unctuousness; the entire ship seems great leviathan himself;
while on all hands the din is deafening.
But a day or two after, you look about you, and prick your ears in this self-
same ship! and were it not for the tell-tale boats and try-works, you woul_ll but swear you trod some silent merchant vessel, with a most scrupulousl_eat commander. The unmanufactured sperm oil possesses a singularly cleansin_irtue. This is the reason why the decks never look so white as just afte_hat they call an affair of oil. Besides, from the ashes of the burned scrap_f the whale, a potent lye is readily made; and whenever any adhesiveness fro_he back of the whale remains clinging to the side, that lye quickl_xterminates it. Hands go diligently along the bulwarks, and with buckets o_ater and rags restore them to their full tidiness. The soot is brushed fro_he lower rigging. All the numerous implements which have been in use ar_ikewise faithfully cleansed and put away. The great hatch is scrubbed an_laced upon the try-works, completely hiding the pots; every cask is out o_ight; all tackles are coiled in unseen nooks; and when by the combined and,
simultaneous industry of almost the entire ship’s company, the whole of thi_onscientious duty is at last concluded, then the crew themselves proceed t_heir own ablutions; shift themselves from top to toe; and finally issue t_he immaculate deck, fresh and all aglow as bridegrooms new-leaped from ou_he daintiest Holland.
Now, with elated step, they pace the planks in twos and threes, and humorousl_iscourse of parlors, sofas, carpets, and fine cambrics; propose to mat th_eck; think of having hangings to the top; object not to taking tea b_oonlight on the piazza of the forecastle. To hint to such musked mariners o_il, and bone, and blubber, were little short of audacity. They know not th_hing you distantly allude to. Away, and bring us napkins!
But mark: aloft there, at the three mast heads, stand three men intent o_pying out more whales, which, if caught, infallibly will again soil the ol_aken furniture, and drop at least one small grease-spot somewhere. Yes; an_any is the time, when, after the severest uninterrupted labors, which know n_ight; continuing straight through for ninety-six hours; when from the boat,
where they have swelled their wrists with all day rowing on the Line,—the_nly step to the deck to carry vast chains, and heave the heavy windlass, an_ut and slash, yea, and in their very sweatings to be smoked and burned ane_y the combined fires of the equatorial sun and the equatorial try-works;
when, on the heel of all this, they have finally bestirred themselves t_leanse the ship, and make a spotless dairy room of it; many is the time th_oor fellows, just buttoning the necks of their clean frocks, are startled b_he cry of “There she blows!” and away they fly to fight another whale, and g_hrough the whole weary thing again. Oh! my friends, but this is man-killing!
Yet this is life. For hardly have we mortals by long toilings extracted fro_his world’s vast bulk its small but valuable sperm; and then, with wear_atience, cleansed ourselves from its defilements, and learned to live here i_lean tabernacles of the soul; hardly is this done, when—There she blows!—th_host is spouted up, and away we sail to fight some other world, and g_hrough young life’s old routine again.
Oh! the metempsychosis! Oh! Pythagoras, that in bright Greece, two thousan_ears ago, did die, so good, so wise, so mild; I sailed with thee along th_eruvian coast last voyage—and, foolish as I am, taught thee, a green simpl_oy, how to splice a rope.