Chapters

Chapter 27 Chapter 27 The silence at the moment of execution and for a moment or two continuing thereafter, a silence but emphasisedemphasized by the regular wash of the sea against the hull or the flutter of a sail caused by the helmsman's eyes being tempted astray, this emphasisedemphasized silence was gradually was disturbed (double was in MS)was gradually disturbedwas gradually disturbed] Originally, HM wrote that the helmsman "was presently disturbed." In a series of pencil revisions, he deleted "presently" (but not "was"), added a caret before "was," and inserted above the base line "this empasised silence was gradually," thereby unnecessarily repeating the word "was." Assuming that HM intended to delete the base line "was," MEL emends by removing it. by a sound not easeily (MS)easily to be verbally rendered. Whoever has heard the freshet-wave of a torrent suddenly swelled by pouring showers in tropical mountains, showers not shared by the plain; whoever has heard the first muffled murmer (MS)murmur of its sloping advance through precipitous woods, may form some conception of the sound now heard. The seeming remoteness of its source was because of its murmerous (MS)murmurous indistinctness since it came from close-by, even from the men massed on the ship's open deck. Being InarticulateBeing inarticulateBeing inarticulate,] Before penciling "Before" in the margin, HM had capitalized "inarticulate" and did not undo the change after further revision. See the MS thumbnail for more details of the revision., it was dubious in significance further than it seemed to indicate some capricious revulsion of thought or feeling such as mobs ashore are liable to, in the present instance possibly implying a sullen revocation on the men's part of their involuntary echoing of Billy's benediction. But ere the murmer (MS)murmur had time to wax into clamor it was met by a strageticstrategic command, the more telling that it came with abrupt unexpectedness: "Pipe down the starboard watch] (no comma in MS)watch, Boatswain, and see that they go." Shrill as the shriek of the sea-hawk The silver (capitalization in MS)sea-hawk the silversea-hawk the silver] HM originally started the sentence with "The silver" but he added "Shrill ... sea-hawk" above the line without lowercasing "The." MEL emends here by supplying "the." whistles of the Boatswain and his matesmates] Originally, in ink, HM wrote "Mates" and immediately added, in ink, a small mark indicating a decapitalization of the word. NN retains "Mates." pierced that ominous low sound, dissipating it; and yeildingyielding to the mechanism of disiplinediscipline the throng was thinned by one half. For the remainder most of them were set to temporary employments connected with trimming the yards and so forth, business readily to be got up to serve occasion by any officer-of-the-deck. Now EachNow eachNow each] HM added "Now" in pencil next to "Each" without lowercasing it. proceeding that follows a mortal sentence pronounced at sea by a drum-head court is characterized by promptitude not perceptably (MS)perceptibly merging into hurry, thothough bordering that. The hammock, the one which had been Billy's bed when alive, having already been ballasted with shot and otherwise prepared to serve for his canvas coffin, the last officeoffice] HS and NN both transcribe HM's manuscript inscription of this word in the singular, but, for their reading texts, they emend to the plural "offices", meaning "last rites" for the dead. However, authorial precedent for the singular "office" is found in the American version of Moby-Dick, Ch. 28: "If ever Captain Ahab should be tranquilly laid out ... then, whoever should do that last office for the dead, would find a birth-mark on him from crown to sole." Nor did HM's British editor of the The Whale change the word but published the singular form as well (see vol. 1, ch. 27). Given HM's preference for "office," MEL retains his original wording in the singular. of the sea-undertakers, the Sail-Maker's Mates, were now speedily completed. When everything was in readiness a second call for all hands made necessary by the strageticstrategic movement before mentioned was sounded and now to witness burial. The details of this closing formality it needs not to give. But when the tilted plank let slide its freight into the sea, a second strange human murmer (MS)murmur was heard, blended now with another inarticulate sound proceeding from certain larger sea-fowl whose attentioncertain larger sea-fowl whose attention] In this lengthy and revised passage, HM makes the "attention" of the sea-fowl the subject of the verb "flew" (see the MS thumbnail for more details). NN claims that the revisions "left the syntax unsatisfactory," and adopts the copyedited phrase that first appeared in the HS text: "certain larger sea-fowl who, their attention having been attracted ... flew screaming to the spot" (HS 67; 431). MEL retains HM's sentence structure to signal that the subject-verb disagreement is closer to illogical than ungrammatical. having been attracted by the peculiar commotion in the water resulting from the heavy sloped dive of the shotted hammock, into the sea flewhammock into the sea, flewhammock into the sea, flew] HM added "into the sea" after "hammock," but did not reposition the comma after "hammock." MEL adds the comma after "sea" to retain the pause originally intended after "hammock." screaming to the spot. So near the hull did they come, that the stridor or bony creak of their gaunt double-jointed pinions was audible. As the ship under light airs passed on, leaving the burial-spot astern, they still kept circling it low down with the moving shadow of their outstretched wings and the croaked requiem of their cries. Upon sailors as superstitious as those of the age preceeding ours, men-of-war's men too who had just beheld the prodigy of repose in the form suspended in air, and now foundering in the deeps; to such mariners the action of the sea-fowl tho'though dictated by mere animal greed for prey, was big with no prosaic significance. An uncertain movement began among them, in which some encroachment was made. It was tolerated but for a moment. For suddenly the drum beat to quarters, which familiar sound happening at least twice every day, had upon the present occasion a signal peremptoriness in it. True martial discipline long continued superinduces in average man a sort of impulse docility [of omitted in MS]impulse of docilityimpulse of docility] Originally, HM wrote "an instinct whose operation much resembles that of a natural one." In pencil, and in several steps, he revised to "a sort of impulse of docility whose operation much resembles the effect of an instinct." However, in an intervening step, he considered revising "impulse of docility" by deleting "of" but did not apparently finish the revision. HS and NN read the resulting text—"impulse docility"—as two oscillating options, and they retain "impulse" only. MEL restores "of" and emends to "impulse of docility." [To view this leaf, click on the following leaf image thumbnail and then click on "previous leaf."] whose operation at the official word of command much resembles in its promptitude the effect of an instinct. The drum-beat dissolved the multitude, distributing most of them along the batterisbatteries of the two covered gun-decks. There, as wontas wont] Meaning "by habit" or "as is their wont." HS and NN emend to "as wonted," which seems to mean "as they were accustomed to do." MEL retains HM's word. [To view this leaf, click on the next leaf image thumbnail and then click on "previous leaf."], the guns' crews stood by their respective cannon erect and silent. In due course the First Officer, sword under arm and standing in his place on the quarter-deck formally recievedreceived the successive reports of the sworded Lieutenants commanding the sections of batteries below; the last of which reports being made the summed report he delivered with the customary salute to the Commander. All this occupied time, which in the present case, was the object in beating to quarters at an hour prior to the customary one. That such variance from usage was authorisedauthorized by an officer like Captain Vere, a martinet as some deemed him, was evidence of the necessity for unusual action implied in what he deemed to be temporarily the mood of his men. "With mankind[quote] (no comma in MS)mankind," he would say (no comma in MS)say, "forms, measured forms are everything; and that is the import couched in the story of Orpheus with his lyre spell-binding the wild denizens of the wood." And this he once applied to the disruption of forms going on across the Channel and the consequcesconsequences thereof. At this unwonted muster at quarters, all proceeded as at the regular hour. The band on the quarter-deck played a sacred air. (period in MS)air, After (capitalized in MS)after which the Chaplain went thro'through the customary morning service. That done, the drum beat the retreat; and toned by music and religious rites subserving the discipline &and purposes of war, the men in their wonted orderly manner, dispersed to the places allotted them when not at the guns. And now it was full day. The fleece of low-hanging vapor had vanished, licked up by the sun that late had so glorified it. And the circumambient air in the clearness of its serenity was like smooth white marble in the polished block not yet removed from the marble-dealer's yard.