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‘Jimmini’
Under a Troubled Master-Eye 14: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Chapter 40
Seven pages of sing-song dialogue greets the menacing night as the sailors on watch drink to the savage contract they have signed. 25 men of 20 nations sing and say as a night-shroud of a squall rises to threatened them all.
The focal character is Pip, the negro tambourine boy who is the one-soul rhythm section for the entire sanguine enterprise.

CHAPTER 40. Midnight, Forecastle.
HARPOONEERS AND SAILORS.
(Foresail rises and discovers the watch standing, lounging, leaning,
and lying in various attitudes, all singing in chorus.)
Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies! Farewell and adieu to you,
ladies of Spain! Our captain’s commanded.—
1ST NANTUCKET SAILOR.
Oh, boys, don’t be sentimental; it’s bad for the digestion! Take a tonic, follow me!
(Sings, and all follow.)
Our captain stood upon the deck,
A spy-glass in his hand,
A-viewing of those gallant whales
That blew at every strand.
Oh, your tubs in your boats, my boys,
And by your braces stand,
And we’ll have one of those fine whales,
Hand, boys, over hand!
So, be cheery, my lads! may your
hearts never fail!
While the bold harpooner is striking the whale!
“2ND NANTUCKET SAILOR. Avast the chorus! Eight bells there! d’ye hear, bell-boy? Strike the bell eight, thou Pip! thou blackling!”
“Pip! little Pip! hurrah with your tambourine!
“PIP. (_Sulky and sleepy._) Don’t know where it is.”

A dance step is described as being done by the crew in “Indian-file” a reminder that agricultural society and even military life had not inculcated in idea of walking single file as hunters did. So, up through World War I walking in single file, like hunters following a game trail, was spoken of as a manner in which civilized men imitated the movement of Indian bands.

“AZORE SAILOR. (Ascending, and pitching the tambourine up the
scuttle.)
“Here you are, Pip; and there’s the windlass-bitts; up you mount! Now, boys!
“(The half of them dance to the tambourine; some go below; some sleep or lie among the coils of rigging. Oaths a-plenty.)
“AZORE SAILOR. (Dancing)
Go it, Pip! Bang it, bell-boy! Rig it, dig it, stig it, quig it, bell-boy! Make fire-flies; break the jinglers!
“PIP.
Jinglers, you say?—there goes another, dropped off; I pound it so.
“CHINA SAILOR.
Rattle thy teeth, then, and pound away; make a pagoda of thyself.
“FRENCH SAILOR.
Merry-mad! Hold up thy hoop, Pip, till I jump through it! Split jibs! tear yourselves!”

Pip is granted narrative usurpation of this smite of fate as the sailors are suddenly fighting for the ship’s life:
“PIP
(shrinking under the windlass).
Jollies? Lord help such jollies!
Crish, crash! there goes the jib-stay! Blang-whang! God! Duck lower, Pip, here comes the royal yard! It’s worse than being in the whirled woods, the last day of the year! Who’d go climbing after chestnuts now? But there they go, all cursing, and here I don’t. Fine prospects to ’em; they’re on the road to heaven. Hold on hard! Jimmini, what a squall! But those chaps there are worse yet—they are your white squalls, they. White squalls? white whale, shirr! shirr! Here have I heard all their chat just now, and the white whale—shirr! shirr!—but spoken of once! and only this evening—it makes me jingle all over like
my tambourine—that anaconda of an old man swore ’em in to hunt him! Oh, thou big white God aloft there somewhere in yon darkness, have mercy on this small black boy down here; preserve him from all men that have no bowels to feel fear!”

It fascinates this reader that Daggoo, Tashtego, Queequig and Ahab, men of heroic type are literally dragging the crew to hell with their urge, tormenting Ahab his mates, and the harpooners their crew members, and that the protagonist, Ishmael is essentially an atomized witness the least of all save Pip and the cook.
However, the most amazing aspect of Melville’s masterpiece, is that he has, with Ishmael, sketched the prototype of the modern witness protagonist in drear relief. And even more telling, a generation before the first American celebrity, John L. Sullivan, captivated the popular industrial mind, that our world of entertainer icons, of singing heroes, guitar heroes and narrative celebrity gods as the apogee of the post-modern experience was predicted in the cringing figure of Pip, a poor soul who would, if Moby Dick were written today, be the hero of the tale.
Here we are, not in Pip’s world, but in a world where he would be king, privy to old whispers of our own sanguine incubus.
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