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‘That Certain Sultanship of His Brain’
Under a Troubled Master-Eye #7: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Chapter 33


The Specksynder

The title of the chapter indicates a class of NCO onboard a whaling ship meaning “fat-cutter” in German, which is the harpooner, a type of rare warrior which is a throwback to man’s earliest use of the spear to impose his will upon the great beasts of the world. The harpooner must live apart, behind the mast instead of forward of the mast, socially equal to the crew but their heroic superior who may sit at the Captain’s table, that altar of inequity upon the seas.

Ahab, in “all of his grim Nantucket shagginess” moved before the mind’s eye of Ishmael with the perpetuity of dream, with much of this lingering spell having been cast by Ahab’s “sultanship,” his masculine authority should we say, by which the three warrior relics among the crew, one Polynesian, one Amerindian and one African, the men who would have been heroes of old, felt a kinship with Ahab that did not exist between the austere and maniacal captain and his officers, but pulsed like the living heart of the hunt about him and his harpooners, as if the four of them existed to drag the Pequod and her crew back into some primeval age—yet in odd service to the sissy sibilants of HOLY ECONOMY. Below Ishmael crafts this anachronistic relationship as the Faultline along which the quest for THE WHALE on one hand and whale oil on the other must fracture.

“For be a man’s intellectual superiority what it will, it can never assume the practical, available supremacy over other men, without the aid of some sort of external arts and entrenchments, always, in themselves, more or less paltry and base. This it is, that forever keep’s God’s true princes of the Empire from the world’s hustings [1]; and leaves the highest honours that the air can give, to those men who become famous more through their infinite inferiority to the choice hidden handful of the Divine Inert, then through their undoubted superiority to the dead level of the mass.”

Notes

-1. Hustings, are the meeting and campaigning associated with an election, of the elevation of a man to authority, in Melville’s criticism inevitably the elevation of a puppet, rather than a man, to false, sham authority as a proxy actor for an unseen will.

A Well of Heroes

https://www.amazon.com/Well-Heroes-Literary-Impressions-Robert/dp/1534808256/ref=sr_1_6/180-6301626-9959864?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467037854&sr=1-6&keywords=james+lafond

https://www.amazon.com/Well-Heroes-One-James-LaFond-ebook/dp/B06WP3YKB5/ref=sr_1_62?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511039403&sr=1-62&refinements=p_27%3AJames+LaFond

http://jameslafond.blogspot.com/

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