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‘Prouder, Sadder Souls’
Under a Troubled Master-Eye 16: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Chapter 41-B
© 2019 James LaFond
Ishmael’s narration of the legend of Moby Dick brings us to the plight of Ahab, a brutally heroic captain who, among the smashed litter of his boats and crew, swims at the whale with a knife and has his leg ripped off by the beast. Man of Hubris, of which Ahab appears to be the purest embittered archetype, is then placed in ancient wise, in His context among the wonders that made him what he was forgotten ages ago:
“The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil;—Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it…”
“So with a broken throne, the great gods mock that captive king; so like a Caryatid, he patient sits, upholding on his frozen brow the piled entablatures of ages. Wind ye down there, ye prouder, sadder souls! question that
proud, sad king! A family likeness! aye, he did beget ye, ye young
exiled royalties; and from your grim sire only will the old
State-secret come…”
Ahab’s Awful mission, a supernatural quest, is at odds with his charge to make money for his banker masters, his investors, his economic fellows, so much less his fellows than the terrible beast he hunts:
“Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses a Job’s whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals—morally enfeebled also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask. Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge.”
Melville’s character, Flask, a figure of “pervading mediocrity,” is as predictive of the man of the managerial class that is the “blue-pilled” mainstream functionary of our age, as Ishmael is of the “red-pilled” alienated remnant of the masculine age adrift, in the sea of lies that is Modernity
‘Magnitude and Malignity’
under a troubled master-eye
'in these goings down'
on the overton railroad
by the wine dark sea
dark, distant futures
winter of a fighting life
under the god of things
Ruben Chandler     Dec 14, 2019

Damn! By Jove I think I've been inspired to read it again.
JJ Przybylski     Dec 20, 2019

I read the book as a 20 year and missed the rift between Ahab and his paymasters/investors. Now I see that Ahab was a kinda Colonel Kurtz on his very own "touched" mission.

I didn't get the depth of Ahab's crazy metaphysics because, unlike Cervantes, Melville didn't exaggerate for dummies.

Also, Ahab's command was too dark to accept so early in life. I was surrounded by petty scoundrels in Jacksonville, seedy white trash, and I couldn't bring myself to look beyond them to bigger dangers. Like the upper ranks of talented men in the mold of Ahab on one hand, in and the mold of Ahab's masters/investors on the other hand. All who considered me expendable in their otherwise conflicted quests.
James     Dec 20, 2019

As a youth I couldn't wait to get past all of this stuff to the fight with the whale!
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