Best 44 of Moby dick quotes - MyQuotes
Why don't ye be sensible, Flask? it's easy to be sensible; why don't ye, then? any man with half an eye can be sensible." "I don't know that, Stubb. You sometimes find it rather hard.
You know you’re in a tough place in your life when you decide now’s a good time to start Moby Dick.
in common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow who anoints his hair, and palpably smells of that anointing. In truth, a mature man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally, that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere. As a general rule, he can't amount to much in his totality.
Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn
What business have I with this pipe? This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll smoke no more.
Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right good workmanlike workman, eh!
Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare's? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel's great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all.-Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, he’d mused, that most people will never find their ‘call me Ishmael’.
There is mystery in everything,” Herman whispered, almost to himself. “And so there is poetry in everything. Even something as monstrous as a whale. But how to unlock its poetry.
David Foster Wallace
In school I ended up writing three different papers on "The Castaway" section of Moby-Dick, the chapter where the cabin boy Pip falls overboard and is driven mad by the empty immensity of what he finds himself floating in. And when I teach school now I always teach Crane's horrific "The Open Boat," and get all bent out of shape when the kids find the story dull or jaunty-adventurish: I want them to feel the same marrow-level dread of the oceanic I've always felt, the intuition of the sea as primordial nada, bottomless, depths inhabited by cackling tooth-studded things rising toward you at the rate a feather falls.
He could’ve penned a rendition of Moby Dick in Pig Latin and he wouldn’t have been the wiser.
What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?” “Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder from a score of clubbed voices. “Good!” cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing the hearty animation into which his unexpected question had so magnetically thrown them. “And what do ye next, men?” “Lower away, and after him!” “And what tune is it ye pull to, men?” “A dead whale or a stove boat!
Peter held up the book he had been reading: 'Moby-Dick; or, The Whale'. "To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure this is English," Peter said. "It's taken me most of today to get through a page.
Hay ciertas extrañas ocasiones y coyunturas en este raro asunto entremezclado que llamamos vida, en que uno toma el entero universo por una enorme broma pesada, aunque no llega a discernirle su gracia sino vagamente, y tiene algo más que sospechas de que la broma no es a expensas sino de él mismo.
When I go to sea, I go as a simple sailor, right before the mast, plumb down into the forecastle, aloft there to the royal mast-head. True, they rather order me about some, and make me jump from spar to spar, like a grasshopper in a May meadow. And at first, this sort of thing is unpleasant enough. It touches one's sense of honor, particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes. And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from the schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in time. What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain't a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way—either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content.
It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea. Fedallah first descried this jet. For of these moonlight nights, it was his wont to mount to the main-mast head, and stand a look-out there, with the same precision as if it had been day. And yet, though herds of whales were seen by night, not one whaleman in a hundred would venture a lowering for them. You may think with what emotions, then, the seamen beheld this old Oriental perched aloft at such unusual hours; his turban and the moon, companions in one sky. But when, after spending his uniform interval there for several successive nights without uttering a single sound; when, after all this silence, his unearthly voice was heard announcing that silvery, moon-lit jet, every reclining mariner started to his feet as if some winged spirit had lighted in the rigging, and hailed the mortal crew. “There she blows!” Had the trump of judgment blown, they could not have quivered more; yet still they felt no terror; rather pleasure. For though it was a most unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively desired a lowering.
It was a clear steel-blue day. The firmaments of air and sea were hardly separable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air was transparently pure and soft, with a woman's look, and the robust and man-like sea heaved with long, strong, lingering swells, as Samson's chest in his sleep.
The heroic and often tragic stories of American whalemen were renowned. They sailed the world’s oceans and brought back tales filled with bravery, perseverance, endurance, and survival. They mutinied, murdered, rioted, deserted, drank, sang, spun yarns, scrimshawed, and recorded their musings and observations in journals and letters. They survived boredom, backbreaking work, tempestuous seas, floggings, pirates, putrid food, and unimaginable cold. Enemies preyed on them in times of war, and competitors envied them in times of peace. Many whalemen died from violent encounters with whales and from terrible miscalculations about the unforgiving nature of nature itself. And through it all, whalemen, those “iron men in wooden boats” created a legacy of dramatic, poignant, and at times horrific stories that can still stir our emotions and animate the most primal part of our imaginations. “To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme,” proclaimed Herman Melville, and the epic story of whaling is one of the mightiest themes in American history.
But pity there was none. For all his old age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and be murdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditional inoffensiveness by all to all.
Themes of descent often turn on the struggle between the titanic and the demonic within the same person or group. In Moby Dick, Ahab’s quest for the whale may be mad and “monomaniacal,” as it is frequently called, or even evil so far as he sacrifices his crew and ship to it, but evil or revenge are not the point of the quest. The whale itself may be only a “dumb brute,” as the mate says, and even if it were malignantly determined to kill Ahab, such an attitude, in a whale hunted to the death, would certainly be understandable if it were there. What obsesses Ahab is in a dimension of reality much further down than any whale, in an amoral and alienating world that nothing normal in the human psyche can directly confront. The professed quest is to kill Moby Dick, but as the portents of disaster pile up it becomes clear that a will to identify with (not adjust to) what Conrad calls the destructive element is what is really driving Ahab. Ahab has, Melville says, become a “Prometheus” with a vulture feeding on him. The axis image appears in the maelstrom or descending spiral (“vortex”) of the last few pages, and perhaps in a remark by one of Ahab’s crew: “The skewer seems loosening out of the middle of the world.” But the descent is not purely demonic, or simply destructive: like other creative descents, it is partly a quest for wisdom, however fatal the attaining of such wisdom may be. A relation reminiscent of Lear and the fool develops at the end between Ahab and the little black cabin boy Pip, who has been left so long to swim in the sea that he has gone insane. Of him it is said that he has been “carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro . . . and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps.” Moby Dick is as profound a treatment as modern literature affords of the leviathan symbolism of the Bible, the titanic-demonic force that raises Egypt and Babylon to greatness and then hurls them into nothingness; that is both an enemy of God outside the creation, and, as notably in Job, a creature within it of whom God is rather proud. The leviathan is revealed to Job as the ultimate mystery of God’s ways, the “king over all the children of pride” (41:34), of whom Satan himself is merely an instrument. What this power looks like depends on how it is approached. Approached by Conrad’s Kurtz through his Antichrist psychosis, it is an unimaginable horror: but it may also be a source of energy that man can put to his own use. There are naturally considerable risks in trying to do so: risks that Rimbaud spoke of in his celebrated lettre du voyant as a “dérèglement de tous les sens.” The phrase indicates the close connection between the titanic and the demonic that Verlaine expressed in his phrase poète maudit, the attitude of poets who feel, like Ahab, that the right worship of the powers they invoke is defiance.
Songez à la ruse de la mer et à la manière dont ses créatures les plus redoutables glissent sous l’eau, à peu près invisibles, traîtreusement cachées par les plus suaves tons d’azur. Songez à la beauté et à l’éclat satanique de ses plus impitoyables tribus, à la forme exquise de certains requins. Songez au cannibalisme universel qui règne dans la mer où les créatures de proie s’entre-dévorent, menant une guerre éternelle depuis l’origine du monde. Songez à tout cela et tournez alors vos regards vers cette terre aimable et verte infiniment docile, songez à l’Océan et à la terre, ne retrouvez-vous pas en vous-même leurs pareils ? Car de même que cet océan de terreur entoure les verts continents, de même l’âme de l’homme enferme une Tahiti, île de paix et de joie, cernée par les horreurs sans nombre d’une vie à demi inconnue. Que Dieu te garde ! Ne pousse pas au large de cette île, tu n’y pourrais jamais revenir !
Shakespeare wrote Moby-Dick, using Melville as a Ouija board.
Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act's immutably decreed. 'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates' lieutenant, I act under orders.
Queequeg explained to me that his world was very different from ours. However, one thing he learned quickly, was that within all groups of people there are kind men and there are unkind men.
Do you like Moby Dick?" he asks. "I hate it," she says. "And I don't say that about many things. Teachers assign it, and parents are happy because their kids are reading something of 'quality.' But it's forcing kids to read books like that that make them think they hate reading.
And let me in this place movingly admonish you, ye ship-owners of Nantucket! Beware of enlisting in your vigilant fisheries any lad with lean brow and hollow eye; given to unseasonable meditativeness; and who offers to ship with the Phædon instead of Bowditch in his head. Beware of such an one, I say: your whales must be seen before they can be killed...
They have provided a system which for terse comprehensiveness surpasses Justinian's Pandects and the By-laws of the Chinese Society for the Suppression of Meddling with other People's Business.
She’ll probably have all the work made up and a dozen stories written for The Oracle before I finish that one stupid book report on Moby Dick. I mean, Todd, who really cares about whales?' Todd did, but he let the comment slide by.
When we think of the masterpieces that nobody praised and nobody read, back there in the past, we feel an impatient superiority to the readers of the past. If we had been there, we can’t help feeling, we’d have known that Moby-Dick was a good book—-why, how could anyone help knowing? But suppose someone says to us, “Well, you’re here now: what’s our own Moby-Dick? What’s the book that, a hundred years from now, everybody will look down on us for not having liked?” What do we say then?
From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.
I have negotiated with cannibals in foreign tongues and Arabian sea captains and French criminals. I have bartered with demons and angels! I am not about to let a country doctor take advantage of me.
but the reason why the grave-digger made music must have been because there was none in his spade
American whale oil lit the world. It was used in the production of soap, textiles, leather, paints, and varnishes, and it lubricated the tools and machines that drove the Industrial Revolution. The baleen cut from the mouths of whales shaped the course of feminine fashion by putting the hoop in hooped skirts and giving form to stomachtightening and chest-crushing corsets. Spermaceti, the waxy substance from the heads of sperm whales, produced the brightest- and cleanest-burning candles the world has ever known, while ambergris, a byproduct of irritation in a sperm whale’s bowel, gave perfumes great staying power and was worth its weight in gold.
For there are devils in the deep, but worst are the ones we make.
You could use a moth like that as a symbol in a novel, but it was trite, wasn’t it? The old moth-to-the-flame image had been used and used again. It was the stuff of amateur poetry. And she, having so little experience crafting a story, would be the most in danger of falling into trite approaches. If she wrote a novel, it probably would be about her father. And the male Luna moth would haunt its pages. Everyone would recognize the work as that of a first novelist. “She wrote about herself through the lens of her father.” The really good novelists, Laura thought, put their fathers, and maybe their mothers too, deeper into the stories. Which, she suddenly thought, might redeem Melville just the littlest bit.
To be in the presence of a great leader is to know a blighted soul who has managed to make the darkness work for him. Ishmael says it best: "For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but a disease." In chapter 36, "The Quarter-Deck," Melville show us how susceptible we ordinary people are to the seductive power of a great and demented man.
It is as if James Joyce, for his sins, had been forced to grow up in Queens; as if Sam Beckett had been mugged by Godot in a Flushing comfort station; as if Sid Caesar played the part of Moby Dick in a Roman Polanski movie shot underwater in Long Island City; as if Martin Heidegger has gone into vaudeville...Mr. Mano is Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson and Henderson the Rain King.
But vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound.
In life, the visible surface of the Sperm Whale is not the least among the many marvels he presents. Almost invariably it is all over obliquely crossed and re-crossed with numberless straight marks in thick array, something like those in the finest Italian line engravings. But these marks do not seem to be impressed upon the isinglass substance above mentioned, but seem to be seen through it, as if they were engraved upon the body itself. Nor is this all. In some instances, to the quick, observant eye, those linear marks, as in a veritable engraving, but afford the ground for far other delineations. These are hieroglyphical; that is, if you call those mysterious cyphers on the walls of pyramids hieroglyphics, then that is the proper word to use in the present connexion. By my retentive memory of the hieroglyphics upon one Sperm Whale in particular, I was much struck with a plate representing the old Indian characters chiselled on the famous hieroglyphic palisades on the banks of the Upper Mississippi. Like those mystic rocks, too, the mystic-marked whale remains undecipherable.
The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating them, till they are left living with half a heart and half a lung.
How I snuffed that Tartar air!--how I spurned that turnpike earth!--that common highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and hoofs; and turned me to admire the magnanimity of the sea which will permit no records.
One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their out-reaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.
If you should write a fable for little fishes, you would make them speak like great whales
I don't want truth, Palmer; I want smoke!" Captain Ahearn: Waiting For Willie Pete