Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Castaway

But it so happened, that those boats, without seeing Pip, suddenly spying whales close to them on one side, turned, and gave chase; and Stubb’s boat was now so far away, and he and all his crew so intent upon his fish, that Pip’s ringed horizon began to expand around him miserably. By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him; but from that hour the little negro went about the deck an idiot; such, at least, they said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.

Moby Dick, chapter 93 “The Castaway”, by Herman Melville

One of my favorite passages so far, being now about three-quarters of the way through the greatest American classic. In all honesty, though, it is just one selection of many – a dozen? two dozen? – that I’ve noted, all giving me chills, stirring my imagination, creating vivid oil paintings upon my inner silver screen, reeling dormant emotions to the surface. For the longest time I felt Bradbury my literary master, and he no doubt still is and remains so, but I think in my most natural, non-self-edited writing self, Melville comes closest to the ideal I write to in my mind’s Eye.

O to write like Melville in Moby Dick!

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