Chapters

27 Knights and Squires CHAPTER 27 KNIGHTS AND SQUIRES Stubb was the second mate. He was a native of Cape Cod; and hence, according to local usage, was called a Cape-Cod-man. A happy-go-lucky; neither craven nor valiant; taking perils as they came with an indifferent air; and while engaged in the most imminent crisis of the chase, toiling away, calm and col-lected as a journeyman joinerjourneyman joiner: carpenter working for wages, not self-employed. engaged for the year. Good-humored, easy, and careless, he presided over his whale-boat as if the most deadly encounter were but a dinner, and his crew all invited guests. He was as particular about the comfortable arrangement of his part of the boat, as an old stage-driver is about the snugness of his box. When close to the whale, in the very death-lock of the fight, he handled his unpitying lance coolly and off-handedly, as a whistling tinkertinker: traveling mender of pots and pans. his hammer. He would hum over his old rigadigrigadig: word imitating the tune’s lyrics. tunes while flank and flank with the most exasperated monster. Long usage had, for this Stubb, converted the jaws of death into an easy chair. What he thought of death itself, there is no telling. Whether he ever thought of it at all, might be a question; but, if he ever did chance to cast his mind that way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor, he took it to be a sort of call of the watchwatch: those men on duty at the time. to tumble aloft, and bestir themselves there, about something which he would find out when he obeyed the order, and not sooner. What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going, unfearing man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a world full of grave peddlers, all bowed to the ground with their packs; what helped to bring about that almost impious good-humor of his; that thing must have been his pipe. For, like his nose, his short, black little pipe was one of the regular features of his face. You would almost as soon have expected him to turn out of his bunk without his nose as without his pipe. He kept a whole row of pipes there ready loaded, stuck in a rack, within easy reach of his hand; and, whenever he turned in, he smoked them all out in succession, lighting one from the other to the end of the chapter; then loading them again to be in readiness anew. For, when Stubb dressed, instead of first putting his legs into his trowsers, he put his pipe into his mouth. I say this continual smoking must have been one cause, at least, of his peculiar disposition; for every one knows that this earthly air, whether ashore or afloat, is terribly infected with the nameless miseries of the numberless mortals who have died exhaling it; and as in time of the cholera, some people go about with a camphorated handkerchief to their mouths; so, likewise, against all mortal tribulations, Stubb’s tobacco smoke might have operated as a sort of disinfecting agent. The third mate was Flask, a native of Tisbury, in Martha’s Vineyard. A short, stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning whales, who somehow seemed to think that the great Leviathans had personally and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of honor with him, to destroy them whenever encountered. So utterly lost was he to all sense of reverence for the many marvels of their majestic bulk and mystic ways; and so dead to anything like an apprehension of any possible danger from encountering them; that in his poor opinion, the wondrous whale was but a species of magnified mouse, or at least water-rat, requiring only a little circumvention and some small application of time and trouble in order to kill and boil. This ignorant, unconscious fearlessness of his made him a little waggish in the matter of whales; he followed these fish for the fun of it; and a three years’ voyage round Cape Horn was only a jolly joke that lasted that length of time. As a carpenter’s nails are divided into wrought nails and cut nailswrought nails and cut nails: the first are forged by a blacksmith; a machine chops iron wire into cheaper cut nails.; so mankind may be similarly divided. Little Flask was one of the wrought ones; made to clinch tight and last long. They called him King-Post on board of the Pequod; because, in form, he could be well likened to the short, square timber known by that name in Arctic whalers; and which by the means of many radiating side timbers inserted into it, serves to brace the ship against the icy concussions of those battering seas. Now these three mates—Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were momentous men. They it was who by universal prescriptionREVISION NARRATIVE: by universal prescription // The British edition reads “by universal consent,” a revision of some consequence. In law, “prescription” is generally a laying down of rules; however, “consent” suggests an arrangement by mutual agreement. It seems unlikely that an editor would make such a change, and since the revision to “consent” underscores a democratic aspect of whaling in keeping with Melville's larger agenda of stressing political applications of whaling, the revision is likely to be his. However, in keeping with its fluid-text protocol of not mixing versions, MEL does not emend to reflect revisions but instead annotates them in the reading text. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. commanded three of the Pequod’s boats as headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which Captain Ahab would probablyAhab would probably marshal his forces: Though both American and British versions print “probably,” the editors of the NN Moby-Dick revise the text so that Ahab would “presently” marshal his forces. They reason that Ahab does in fact, and not “probably,” arrange his mates in the manner described; they also speculate that “presently,” as written in Melville’s hand, might have been mistranscribed as “probably.” However, “presently” makes little sense here, for Ahab does not marshal his forces for several chapters and several days in the narrative. Moreover, Melville’s likely revision of “prescription” to “consent” in the preceding sentence underscores the implications of “probably,” for if the assignment of mates to boats involves some consensual negotiations, the final arrangement is a probability, not a certitude prescribed or mandated exclusively by Ahab’s authority. MEL makes no change. marshal his forces to descend on the whales, these three headsmen were as captains of companies. Or, being armed with their long keen whaling spears, they were as a picked trio of lancers; even as the harpooneers were flingers of javelins. And since in this famous fishery, each mate or headsmanheadsman: Also called boatheader and was in charge of the whaleboat. Before the mid-19th century, the captain and mates (here Ahab, Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask) served as headsmen., like a GothicGothic: medieval. Knight of old, is always accompanied by his boat-steerer or harpooneer, who in certain conjunctures provides him with a fresh lance, when the former one has been badly twisted, or elbowed in the assault; and moreover, as there generally subsists between the two, a close intimacy and friendliness; it is therefore but meetbut meet: (archaic) only proper., that in this place we set down who the Pequod’s harpooneers were, and to what headsman each of them belonged. First of all was Queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate, had selected for his squiresquire: knight’s attendant.. But Queequeg is already known. Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay HeadGay Head: present-day Aquinnah, Massachusetts., the most westerly promontory of Martha’s Vineyard, where there still exists the last remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers. Tashtego’s long, lean, sablesable: heraldic term for black. hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding eyes—for an Indian, Oriental in their largeness, but Antarctic in their glittering expression—all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor of the unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest of the great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests of the mainmain: mainland.. But no longer snuffing in the trail of the wild beasts of the woodland, Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great whales of the sea; the unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the infallible arrow of the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe snaky limbs, you would almost have credited the superstitions of some of the earlier Puritans, and half believed this wild Indian to be a son of the Prince of the Powers of the AirPrince of the Powers of the Air: Satan (see Ephesians 2.2), thought by some American Puritans to possess Native Americans.. Tashtego was Stubb the second mate’s squire. Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black negro-savage, with a lion-like tread—an AhasuerusAhasuerus: mighty king of Persia in the book of Esther. to behold. Suspended from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the sailors called them ring-boltsring-bolts: large iron rings bolted through the deck., and would talk of securing the top-sail halyardshalyards: ropes for raising and lowering sails. to them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily shipped on board of a whaler, lying in a lonely bay on his native coast. And never having been anywhere in the world but in Africa, Nantucket, and the pagan harbors most frequented by whalemen; and having now led for many years the bold life of the fishery in the ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what manner of men they shipped; Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues, and erect as a giraffe, moved about the decks in all the pomp of six feet five in his socks. There was a corporeal humility in looking up at him; and a white man standing before him seemed a white flag come to beg truce of a fortress. Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus Daggoo, was the Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man beside him. As for the residue of the Pequod’s company, be it said, that at the present day not one in two of the many thousand men before the mast employed in the American whale fishery, are Americans born, though pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the same with the American whale fishery as with the American army and military and merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in the construction of the American Canals and Railroads. The same, I say, because in all these cases the native American liberally provides the brains, the rest of the world as generously supplying the muscles. No small number of these whaling seamen belong to the AzoresAzores: Portuguese islands 700 miles west of the mainland., where the outward bound Nantucket whalers frequently touch to augment their crews from the hardy peasants of those rocky shores. In like manner, the Greenland whalers Greenland whalers . . . Shetland Islands: British ships hunting for whales near Greenland, across the North Atlantic Ocean, stopped at these islands north of the Scottish mainland. sailing out of Hull or LondonHull or London: Hull in Yorkshire on the North Sea and London were major whaling ports; the British whaling industry declined in the 1830s., put in at the Shetland Islands, to receive the full complement of their crew. Upon the passage homewards, they drop them there again. How it is, there is no telling, but Islanders seem to make the best whalemen. They were nearly all Islanders in the Pequod, IsolatoesIsolatoes: Melville’s word. too, I call such, not acknowledging the common continent of men, but each Isolato living on a separate continent of his own. Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were! An Anacharsis ClootzAnacharsis Clootz: In 1790, Prussian Jean-Baptiste du Val-de-Grace, Baron Cloots (1755–1794), self-named Anacharsis, led a delegation of foreigners representing mankind into the new French National Assembly, a scene dramatically presented in Melville’s source, Carlyle’s The French Revolution. deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all the ends of the earthisles of the sea ... ends of the earth: The phrase "isles of the sea" occurs in Isaiah 24.15, Esther 10.1, and three times in Maccabees (Apocrypha). "Ends of the earth” appears repeatedly throughout the Bible., accompanying Old Ahab in the Pequod to lay the world’s grievances before that barthat bar: God’s courtroom. from which not very many of them ever come back. Black Little Pip—he never did—oh, no! he went before. REVISION NARRATIVE: Pip—he never did—oh, no! he went before. Poor Alabama boy! // Pip is the Pequod's cabin boy, not seen until Ch. 40. The British edition revises this foreshadowing of Pip's death by removing the statement that he dies “before” the rest of the crew to give: “Pip—he never did! Poor Alabama boy!” Indeed, Pip is one of the last to die, although his madness, resulting from his being cast away at sea, is a kind of mental departure that may be construed as a version of death. Nevertheless, Melville undoubtedly made this revision. One explanation is that he had originally intended Pip to die at sea rather than be saved and go mad, and that he had forgotten to correct this now-false foreshadowing until he found it and corrected it while reviewing the copy of the American version of Moby-Dick that he sent to England. The NN edition fulfills Melville's apparent intention by adopting the revision; however, with its fluid-text policy of not mixing versions, MEL does not make the change in the text but notes the revision here. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. Poor Alabama boyPoor Alabama boy!: Here, in Ch. 27, Pip is from the slave state of Alabama, but in Ch. 93, "The Castaway," he resides in "his native Tolland County in Connecticut." This inconsistency in birthplace is an unresolved contradiction in Moby-Dick, although it seems certain that in developing Pip for his role in the final third of the novel, Melville needed Pip to be free, not enslaved. While Pip’s “native” Connecticut did not abolish slavery until 1848, its earlier Gradual Emancipation Act of 1784 had reduced the number of slaves statewide to six; therefore, Black cabin-boy Pip is presumably free, but only recently so (given Ishmael’s dating of his inscription, in Ch. 85, as “1850”), and never entirely free because of his blackness. Further complications arise in Ch. 99, "The Doubloon"; here we learn that Pip’s father also resides in "old Tolland county," and, by Connecticut law, it would have been likely that while Pip was born free, his father would have been born a slave. Stubb’s remark in Ch. 93 that "a whale would sell for thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama," is meant to remind Pip that his freedom is contingent upon color and marketplace. Presumably, Pip is free, but American slavery defines him regardless of his nativity.! On the grim Pequod’s forecastle, ye shall ere long see him, beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time, when sent for, to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid strike instrike in: join in. with angels, and beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here, hailed a hero there!