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‘Of Some Mighty Woe’
Under a Troubled Master-Eye #2: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Chapter 28
© 2019 James LaFond
Ishmael, the alienated sailor, new to the whaling trade, is locked in apprehension over the prophecies of “that outlandish prophet of the wharves,” Elijah, who warned him against shipping, a warning that seemed fitting now that he found himself serving among a crew who were “a far more barbaric, heathenish, and motely set than any tame merchant-ship companies” which he had previously shipped with. Do note that Melville shipped on merchants and a man-of-war and deserted the whaling ship he served on in the Marquis Islands due to the tyranny of the captain.
“Foreboding shivers ran over” Ishmael, when first he glimpsed the austere Ahab, seemingly part Puritan and part Barbarian. The crew, especially the Indians, regarded him with awe and would not discuss his injuries directly, seeming to sense that Ahab’s branding and maiming was a potential curse upon them all. They were engaged in war upon the most mysterious aspects of the natural world in its vastest expanse and their chieftain was an unbridled fanatic.
The Pequod was named after a defeated Indian tribe and had been describes as a “cannibal of a craft” and Ahab seemed made to command it:
“Captain Ahab stood erect, looking straight out beyond the ship’s ever-pitching prow. There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate, unsurrenderable willfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of glance. Not a word he spoke; nor did his officers say aught to him; though by all their minutest gestures and expressions, they plainly showed the uneasy, if not painful, consciousness of being under a troubled master-eye. And not only that, but moody stricken Ahab stood before them with crucifixion in his face; in all the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe… the clouds that layer upon layer were piled upon his brow, as ever all clouds choose the loftiest peaks to pile themselves upon.
Ahab, however, is not inhuman, as his countenance lightens from dark to gray with the sailing into warmer latitudes:
“…as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May, trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest, most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some green sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants… More than once did he put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any other man, would have soon flowered out into a smile.”
With those hints of reclusive character, Melville, speaking through Ishmael, a man who could be any of us trying to measure up in a new endeavor, sketches a vision of a managerial figure of civilization, scared by his service to the sissy world, leading his crew back into Time in an elemental struggle to challenge The Deep, a concept of enigma that confounded even most gods of antiquity and was not even corralled by the One Jealous God that the crew’s employer’s ostensibly served.
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‘Under a Troubled Master-Eye’
under a troubled master-eye
‘The Night-Cloaked Deck’
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songs of aryаs
plantation america
honor among men
'in these goings down'
fiction anthology one
blue eyed daughter of zeus
dark, distant futures
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