E P I L O G U EREVISION NARRATIVE: EPILOGUE // The entire “Epilogue” was omitted from the British edition. Since it is the only evidence of Ishmael’s survival, the omission caused Melville undeserved embarrassment when British reviewers marveled at the ineptitude of a narrative whose narrator seems to die with the rest of the crew. The British edition also prints “Etymology” and “Extracts” (properly positioned in the front) as an "Appendix." One explanation for the omission of the “Epilogue” and misplacement of “Etymology” and “Extracts” is that the American sheets for these features may have been sent to England separately from the rest of the sheets, and that in the last-minute flurry to get the book published, the “Epilogue” was simply overlooked. To compare American "Epilogue" and British "Appendix" pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin.
"and i only am escaped alone to tell thee."“And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” Job: Repeated phrase used by messengers who tell Job of his terrible losses, brought about by Satan and culminating in the deaths of his children (Job 1.14–19).
The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth? —Because one did survive the wreck.
It so chanced, that after the Parsee’s disappearance, I was he whom the Fates ordained to take the place of Ahab’s bowsman, when that bowsman assumed the vacant post; the same, who, when on the last day the three men were tossed from out the rocking boat, was dropped astern. So, floating on the margin of the ensuing scene, and in full sight of it, when the half-spent suction of the sunk ship reached me, I was then, but slowly, drawn towards the closing vortex. When I reached it, it had subsided to a creamy pool. Round and round, then, and ever contracting towards the button-like black bubble at the axis of that slowly wheeling circle, like another Ixionlike another Ixion I did revolve: King in Greek mythology punished by being bound for eternity to a revolving fiery wheel; also mentioned in Redburn (Ch. 25). Ishmael’s surviving to tell the tale after being spun around the whirlpool resembles the protagonist-narrator’s survival in Poe’s “Descent into the Maelström” (1841). I did revolve. Till, gaining that vital centre, the black bubble upward burst; and now, liberated by reason of its cunning spring, and, owing to its great buoyancy, rising with great force, the coffin life-buoy shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side. Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft and dirge-like main. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Racheldevious-cruising Rachel: following an erratic course. See also "Rachel, weeping for her children" in Ch. 128., that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.
f i n i s.