Chapters

111 The Pacific CHAPTER 111 THE PACIFIC. When gliding by the isles we emerged at last upon the great South Sea; were it not for other things, I could have greeted my dear Pacific with uncounted thanks, for now the long supplication of my youth was answered; that serene ocean rolled eastwards from me a thousand leagues of blue. There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirringsREVISION NARRATIVE: gently awful stirrings // In the British version, the change from “gently” to “gentle” may be a typo; however, the alteration creates a significant tonal variation: “gently awful” suggests stirrings that inspire awe in a gentle way; “gentle awful” suggests stirrings that are both gentle and awe-inspiring at the same time. One version of the Anglican hymn, “Come to Our Poor Nature’s Night,” includes the phrase “Gentle, awful Holy Guest” in reference to the Holy Ghost as a “comforter divine,” and an editor or a printer may have had this lyric in mind when he consciously or unconsciously altered “gently” to “gentle.” To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath; like those fabled undulations of the Ephesian sodEphesian sod: Pierre Bayle, Hawthorne, and Robert Southey all report a fable told by St. Augustine, about Ephesus, a Greek city in Turkey, where the ground moved over the grave of St. John the Evangelist because, though buried, he was not dead. (See Mansfield and Vincent, 814–15) over the buried Evangelist St. John. And meet it is, that over these sea-pastures, wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters’ FieldsREVISION NARRATIVE: wide-rolling watery prairies and Potters’ Fields // Potters' Fields are public burial grounds for paupers, unknown persons, and criminals. As told in Matthew 27.5–7, the original such field, owned by a potter, was bought for that purpose by the Jewish chief priests with the thirty pieces of silver Judas returned to them after repenting his betrayal of Jesus. The two changes found in the British version of this passage may be Melville’s revisions. First, “watery prairies” has been altered to “water prairies.” Thus, instead of an image of plains dotted with pools of water, we are given a metaphor (like the preceding image of “sea-pastures”) that evokes prairie-like expanses of water. Second, “and Potters’ Fields” has been removed entirely so that the final British text reads “wide-rolling water prairies of all four continents.” In this revision, Melville may have felt that the graveyard reference, although used elsewhere in Moby-Dick, detracted from the mystical tone of the passage. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. of all four continents, the waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly; for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulismssomnambulisms: sleepwalking., reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness. To any meditative MagianMagian: Profoundly spiritual; from Magi, wise men of ancient Persia, one of whom may have been Zoroaster (see Ch. 110). Compare “child-magian” in Ch. 79. rover, this serene Pacific, once beheld, must ever after be the sea of his adoption. It rolls the midmost waters of the world, the Indian ocean and Atlantic being but its arms. The same waves wash the moles of the new-built Californian towns, but yesterday planted by the recentest race of men, and lave the faded but still gorgeous skirts of Asiatic lands, older than AbrahamAbraham: The first Jewish patriarch (Genesis 11–50), with whose life the Judeo-Christian era begins.; while all between float milky-ways of coral isles, and low-lying, endless, unknown Archipelagoes, and impenetrable Japansimpenetrable Japans: By its own laws, Japan was closed to virtually all foreigners until U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry forced a limited opening in 1854.. Thus this mysterious, divine Pacific zones the world’s whole bulk aboutREVISION NARRATIVE: zones the world’s whole bulk about // In the British edition, the revision of “whole” to “own,” probably made by Melville, creates an internal rhyme between “own” and “zones,” and may have been performed to enhance the poetic quality of Ishmael’s prose paean to the Pacific. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin.; makes all coasts one bay to it; seems the tide-beating heart of earth. Lifted by those eternal swells, you needs must own the seductive god, bowing your head to PanPan: Greek god normally associated with fertility, but here also related to the oneness of God and nature, coincidentally called pantheism. (See Ch. 35.). But few thoughts of Pan stirred Ahab’s brain, as standing like an iron statue at his accustomed place beside the mizen riggingmizen rigging: the aftermost of the ship's three masts and its associated stays and shrouds, more commonly spelled "mizzen." The mizzen mast is closest to the quarterdeck and the helm, which is the traditional domain for the captain and officers., with one nostril he unthinkingly snuffed the sugary musk from the Bashee isles (in whose sweet woods mild lovers must be walking), and with the other consciously inhaled the salt breath of the new found sea; that sea in which the hated White Whale must even then be swimming. Launched at length upon these almost final waters, and gliding towards the Japanese cruising-ground, the old man’s purpose intensified itself. His firm lips met like the lips of a vice; the Delta of his forehead’s veins swelled like overladen brooks; in his very sleep, his ringing cry ran through the vaulted hull, “Stern all! the White Whale spouts thick blood!”