Chapters

95 The Cassock CHAPTER 95 THE CASSOCK. Had you stepped on board the Pequod at a certain juncture of this post-mortemizing of the whale; and had you strolled forward nigh the windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no small curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would have seen there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers. Not the wondrous cistern in the whale’s huge head; not the prodigy of his unhinged lower jaw; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail; none of these would so surprise you, as half a glimpse of that unaccountable coneunaccountable cone: the whale’s penis. ,—longer than a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter at the base, and jet-black as Yojo, the ebony idol of Queequeg. And an idol, indeed, it is; or, rather, in old times, its likeness was. Such an idol as that found in the secret groves of Queen Maachah in Judea; and for worshipping which, king Asa, her son, did depose her, and destroyed the idol, and burnt it for an abomination at the brook Kedron, as darkly set forthas darkly set forth in . . . Kings: “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron” (1 Kings 15.11–13). Ishmael points to and imitates the biblical handling of the subject darkly (obscurely) by not saying that the idols were phalluses. in the 15th chapter of the first book of Kings. Look at the sailor, called the mincer, who now comes along, and assisted by two allies, heavily backs the grandissimusgrandissimus: big one; here the whale’s penis., as the mariners call it, and with bowed shoulders, staggers off with it as if he were a grenadier carrying a dead comrade from the field. Extending it upon the forecastle deck, he now proceeds cylindrically to remove its dark pelt, as an African hunter the pelt of a boa. This done he turns the pelt inside out, like a pantaloon leg; gives it a good stretching, so as almost to double its diameter; and at last hangs it, well spread, in the rigging, to dry. Ere long, it is taken down; when removing some three feet of it, towards the pointed extremity, and then cutting two slits for arm-holes at the other end, he lengthwise slips himself bodily into it. The mincer now stands before you invested in the full canonicalscanonicals: clerical garments, but here the whale’s foreskin. of his calling. Immemorial to all his order, this investiture alone will adequately protect him, while employed in the peculiar functions of his office. That office consists in mincing the horse-pieces of blubber for the pots; an operation which is conducted at a curious wooden horse, planted endwise against the bulwarks, and with a capacious tub beneath it, into which the minced pieces drop, fast as the sheets from a rapt orator’s desk. Arrayed in decent black; occupying a conspicuous pulpit; intent on bible leavesbible leaves: thin slices (like pages in a Bible) into which the mincer cuts the horse-pieces.; what a candidate for an archbishoprickarchbishoprick: This seemingly scandalous pun probably escaped the censors because the spelling was sanctioned by the authoritative Murray’s Grammar (see note in Ch. 99). Dennis Berthold, noting the whole sentence—“What a candidate for an archbishoprick, what a lad for a Pope were this mincer!”—sees an allusion to the “cassock”-wearing Archbishop John Hughes of New York, who minced words in supporting both the Irish rebellion against England and the return of the Pope to Rome in May, 1850 after he had been driven out by Italian republican revolutionaries the previous year. (See "Class Acts: The Astor Place Riots and Melville's 'The Two Temples,'" American Literature 71.), what a lad for a Pope were this mincer!* ______________________________________________ * [Melville's Note] Bible leaves! Bible leaves! This is the invariable cry from the mates to the mincer. It enjoins him to be careful, and cut his work into as thin slices as possible, inasmuch as by so doing the business of boiling out the oilREVISION NARRATIVE: boiling out the oil // An editor or perhaps a printer dropped “out” from the British edition. The process Melville mentions in his footnote (more fully discussed in Ch. 96) is the extraction of the oil from the blubber by boiling. Thus, “out” is crucial to the meaning, and an experienced whaler like Melville would not have made this erroneous deletion. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin. is much accelerated, and its quantity considerably increased, besides perhaps improving it in quality. ______________________________