Reading Melville at Sea: Chapter 8

I am getting very bored describing what happens in each chapter. I am also beginning to wonder if any one cares what I have to say about Moby Dick.  It really doesn’t matter, does it?  Whether anyone out there reads or likes what I have to say about this book, or anything at all.  That is the beauty of it. 

I shall therefore observe as I like, on what I fancy.  And I do like the maritime pulpit and chapel and salty minister Melville describes.  But the best line in this chapter is the last.

“Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”

But what does it mean?  It seems to be a variation on Shakespeare’s famous “all the world’s a stage.”  The idea of the world as a ship on its passage out, a vessel always beginning a voyage that is never finished, makes a good deal of sense, astronomically, cosmically.  The world turns and turns and turns in its endless passage around the sun in a solar system that travels round the spiral Milky Way galaxy, which itself moves through the universe.  We can’t measure whether the universe is going somewhere, since it is ALL that we know, but we do know that the universe, the ALL, is expanding, and everything in it moving away from everything else.  Or we think we know this.  

But the idea of the pulpit as a prow, as, in Ishmael’s words, “earth’s foremost part,” makes little sense to me.  Whatever could he mean?  It seems an awfully religious statement for someone who demonstrates little faith.  “From thence [i.e., the pulpit] it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt.”  The “God” invoked here would seem to be the angry, monotheistic deity Christians worship.  Yet the next line indicates the polytheistic faith of sailors: “From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul invoked for favorable winds.” 

What is Melville up to now, I wonder? 

 The world is a ship traveling through the Bahamas?  What could this possibly mean?

If only my son, B, who is currently facing homelessness and total despair, could book a passage.  He hates the sun and hot weather.  How would he manage?  I don’t know how to help him.

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