Moby Dick Chapter 45 The Affidavit
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/270 ... m#2HCH0045
A long chapter, presenting testimony of the malevolent intelligence and individual personality of the sperm whale in its hostility to those who would turn it into candles. And yet,
Melville has obviously learnt from Cervantes the felicitous skill of stating exactly the opposite of his real meaning, with this assertion that his novel is bereft of allegory.
I do not know where I can find a better place than just here, to make mention of one or two other things, which to me seem important, as in printed form establishing in all respects the reasonableness of the whole story of the White Whale, more especially the catastrophe. For this is one of those disheartening instances where truth requires full as much bolstering as error. So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory.
Many people think lightly that the sperm whale abbatoir is as gentle as the slitting of the throat of a bleating sheep. And yet
Moby Dick was partly based on this story of the Essex, and its Captain Pollard as an Odysseus of the high seas.
The Sperm Whale is in some cases sufficiently powerful, knowing, and judiciously malicious, as with direct aforethought to stave in, utterly destroy, and sink a large ship; and what is more, the Sperm Whale HAS done it.
First: In the year 1820 the ship Essex, Captain Pollard, of Nantucket, was cruising in the Pacific Ocean. One day she saw spouts, lowered her boats, and gave chase to a shoal of sperm whales. Ere long, several of the whales were wounded; when, suddenly, a very large whale escaping from the boats, issued from the shoal, and bore directly down upon the ship. Dashing his forehead against her hull, he so stove her in, that in less than "ten minutes" she settled down and fell over. Not a surviving plank of her has been seen since. After the severest exposure, part of the crew reached the land in their boats. Being returned home at last, Captain Pollard once more sailed for the Pacific in command of another ship, but the gods shipwrecked him again upon unknown rocks and breakers; for the second time his ship was utterly lost, and forthwith forswearing the sea, he has never tempted it since. At this day Captain Pollard is a resident of Nantucket. I have seen Owen Chace, who was chief mate of the Essex at the time of the tragedy; I have read his plain and faithful narrative; I have conversed with his son; and all this within a few miles of the scene of the catastrophe.
And more for those who consider whales lightly, as lacking character and intent, much as the captain of the Titanic regarded a certain iceberg, consider the nameless Commodore J.
Further to Melville's infinite respect for his maritime foe