Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Friday, December 03, 2004

Ishmael and the Whale's head

(A whale caught by the crew of the Pequod is tethered to the ship, and the first task is to dig up from the whale’s head its most precious cargo, the spermacetti oil. Tashtego, one of the harpoonist/"savages" whose ferocity is crucial to the enterprise’s success, jumps onto the head and starts to ladle up the oil with a long-handled bucket. He falls in, and nearly suffocates/drowns inside, but is retrieved in the nick of time. Ishmael comments,)

Now, had Tashtego perished in that head, it would have been a very precious perishing; smothered in the very whitest and daintiest of fragrant spermacetti: coffined, hearsed, and tombed in the secret innermost chamber and sanctum sanctorum of the whale. Only one sweeter end can readily be recalled -- the delicious death of an Ohio honey-hunter, who seeking honey in the crotch of a hollow tree, found such exceeding store of it, that leaning too far over, it sucked him in, so that he died embalmed. How many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato’s honey head, and sweetly perished there? (377)


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