Chapters

26 Knights and Squires CHAPTER 26 KNIGHTS AND SQUIRES. The chief mate of the Pequod was StarbuckStarbuck: common Nantucket Quaker name., a native of Nantucket, and a Quaker by descent. He was a long, earnest man, and though born on an icy coast, seemed well adapted to endure hot latitudes, his flesh being hard as twice-baked biscuit. Transported to the Indiesthe Indies: India., his live blood would not spoil like bottled ale. He must have been born in some time of general drought and famine, or upon one of those fast days for which his state is famous. Only some thirty arid summers had he seen; those summers had dried up all his physical superfluousness. But this, his thinness, so to speak, seemed no more the token of wasting anxieties and cares, than it seemed the indication of any bodily blight. It was merely the condensation of the man. He was by no means ill-looking; quite the contrary. His pure tight skin was an excellent fit; and closely wrapped up in it, and embalmed with inner health and strength, like a revivified Egyptian, this Starbuck seemed prepared to endure for long ages to come, and to endure always, as now; for be it Polar snow or torrid sun, like a patent chronometerpatent chronometer: exceptionally precise timepiece used in navigation; a major metaphor in Pierre., his interior vitality was warranted to do well in all climates. Looking into his eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering images of those thousand-fold perils he had calmly confronted through life. A staid, steadfast man, whose life for the most part was a telling pantomime of action, and not a tame chapter of sounds.The editors of the NN Moby-Dick revise “sounds” to “words” on the basis of a perceived aesthetic imbalance between “pantomime of action” and “chapter of sounds.” According to their argument, just as “a pantomime consists of actions; [so then] a chapter consists of words (not sounds)” (NN Moby-Dick 849). They further speculate that Melville's inscription of “words” in the unrecovered manuscript might have been misread by an amanuensis (presumably a sister) as “sounds.” While this is not impossible, given Melville’s handwriting, the idea that “chapters” are without “sounds” is debatable. MEL retains the American reading. Yet, for all his hardy sobriety and fortitude, there were certain qualities in him which at times affected, and in some cases seemed well nigh to overbalance all the rest. Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in some organizationsorganizations: personalities. seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance. Outward portents and inward presentiments were his. And if at times these things bent the welded iron of his soul, much more did his far-away domestic memories of his young Cape wifeCape wife: from Cape Cod. and child, tend to bend him still more from the original ruggedness of his nature, and open him still further to those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted men, restrain the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery. “I will have no man in my boat,” said Starbuck, “who is not afraid of a whale.” By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward. “Aye, aye,” said Stubb, the second mate, “Starbuck, there, is as careful a man as you’ll find anywhere in this fishery.” But we shall ere long see what that word “careful” precisely means when used by a man like Stubb, or almost any other whale hunter. Starbuck was no crusader after perils; in him courage was not a sentiment; but a thing simply useful to him, and always at hand upon all mortally practical occasionsREVISION NARRATIVE: mortally practical occasions // Here, Melville's phrasing means something like "deadly work situations." The British edition omits the word “mortally”; the deletion lessens the meaning, though minimally, given the context, and may be authorial, or simply a printer's oversight. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin.. Besides, he thought, perhaps, that in this business of whaling, courage was one of the great staple outfits of the ship, like her beef and her bread, and not to be foolishly wasted. Wherefore he had no fancy for lowering for whales after sun down; nor for persisting in fighting a fish that too much persisted in fighting him. For, thought Starbuck, I am here in this criticalcritical: dangerous, risky. ocean to kill whales for my living, and not to be killed by them for theirs; and that hundreds of men had been so killed Starbuck well knew. What doom was his own father’s? Where, in the bottomless deeps, could he find the torn limbs of his brother? With memories like these in him, and, moreover, given to a certain superstitiousness, as has been said; the courage of this Starbuck which could, nevertheless, still flourish, must indeed have been extreme. But it was not in reasonable nature that a man so organized, and with such terrible experiences and remembrances as he had; it was not in nature that these things should fail in latently engendering an element in him, which, under suitable circumstances, would break out from its confinement, and burn all his courage up. And brave as he might be, it was that sort of bravery chiefly, visibleREVISION NARRATIVE: that sort of bravery chiefly, visible in some intrepid men // The placement of commas affects meaning in this passage. In general, Melville’s comma placement, especially evident in manuscript and before editorial intervention, is more rhetorical than structural; that is, his commas indicate rhythms of speech or word emphasis rather than sentence structure. In the American edition, the comma placement in this sentence indicates something like “it was chiefly that sort of bravery that is visible in some intrepid men.” The British edition drops the comma so that the adverb “chiefly” can modify either “was” or “visible.” However, the editors of the NN Moby-Dick reposition the comma after “bravery” so that the meaning is “it was that sort of bravery that is chiefly visible in some intrepid men.” In keeping with its policy of not mixing versions or, in this case, “improving” Melville’s punctuation, MEL makes no change. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. in some intrepid men, which, while generally abiding firm in the conflict with seas, or winds, or whales, or any of the ordinary irrational horrors of the world, yet cannot withstand those more terrific, because more spiritual terrors, which sometimes menace you from the concentrating brow of an enraged and mighty man. But were the coming narrative to reveal, in any instance, the complete abasement of poor Starbuck’s fortitude, scarce might I have the heart to write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to expose the fall of valor in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be; men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, so far within us, that it remains intact though all the outer character seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor-ruined man. Nor can piety itself, at such a shameful sight, completely stifle her upbraidings against the permitting stars. But this august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture. Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields a pick or drives a spike; that democratic dignity which, on all hands, radiates without end from God; Himself! The great God absolute! The centre and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our divine equality!REVISION NARRATIVE: God and Democracy // On the heels of describing Starbuck’s courage, but also the possible limits of that courage, Ishmael argues that our admiration for such individuals stems from our recognition of an “immaculate manliness” within humankind that underpins all individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. However, where he pushes the argument to encompass kings, democracy, and God, British editors began to cut. Although the phrase “democratic dignity” remains in the British version, the three sentences concluding that paragraph and linking human equality to divine order were expurgated in deference to the monarchy. In the next paragraph, the word “democratic” (in bold) is also removed, reducing “thou great democratic God” to “thou great God!” To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and castaways, I shall hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave round them tragic graces; if even the most mournful, perchance the most abased, among them all, shall at times lift himself to the exalted mounts; if I shall touch that workman’s arm with some ethereal light; if I shall spread a rainbow over his disastrous set of sun; then against all mortal critics bear me out in it, thou just Spirit of Equality, which hast spread one royal mantlemantle: cloak. of humanity over all my kind! Bear me out in it, thou great democraticSee Revision Narrative above God! who didst not refuse to the swart convict, Bunyanswart convict, Bunyan: Swart, from swarthy, means dark. Protestant John Bunyan (1628–1688) wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) and spent more than twelve years in prison., the pale, poetic pearl; Thou who didst clothe with doubly hammered leaves of finest gold, the stumped and paupered arm of old CervantesCervantes: One hand of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), author of Don Quixote (1605/1615), was maimed in war, and his later life was impoverished. Ishmael's "stumped and paupered arm" is Melville's more serious version of a line from Tristram Shandy (1760–1766) by Laurence Sterne (1713–1768), in which the spirit of sweet humor casts its “mystic mantle o’er [Cervantes’] withered stump.”; Thou who didst pick up Andrew JacksonAndrew Jackson: Victor at the Battle of New Orleans (1815) and later U.S. president during Melville’s childhood and adolescence, Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) began life in great poverty but transformed the nation's Democratic Party. Melville's brother Gansevoort, a party operative, knew Jackson, campaigned for Jackson's acolyte James Knox Polk, and was instrumental in carrying New York State thus securing Polk's narrow election as president in 1844. (See Bryant, Melville: A Half Known Life, 2.1117-1122 and 1227.) from the pebbles; who didst hurl him upon a war-horse; who didst thunder him higher than a throne! Thou who, in all Thy mighty, earthly marchings, ever cullest Thy selectest champions from the kingly commons; bear me out in it, O God!