Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, January 03, 2005

Writing down "the unwritten life"

As yet, however, the sperm whale, scientific or poetic, lives not in any literature. Far above all other hunted whales, his is an unwritten life.

... My object here is simply to project the draught of a systemization of cetology. I am the architect, not the builder.

But it is a ponderous task; no ordinary letter-sorter in the Post-office is equal to it. To grope down into the bottom of the sea after them; to have one’s hands among the unspeakable foundations, ribs, and very pelvis of the world; this is a fearful thing.

What am I that, I should essay to hook the nose of this Leviathan! The awful tauntings in Job might well appal me: “Will he (the leviathan) make a covenant with thee? Behold the hope of him is vain!” But I have swum through libraries and sailed through oceans; I have had to do with whales with these visible hands; I am earnest, and I will try.

-- Melville, “Cetology,” in Moby Dick


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