Chapter 113: The Forge

In “The Forge,” we see the true extent of Ahab’s torment. The previous chapter catalogs the broken life of the ship’s blacksmith, Perth, and as Ahab and Perth interact in “The Forge,” we see a contrast in each man’s emotional ruin. Both men feel that they are irreparably injured in body and spirit. Perth claims he can’t be burned by his forge because he’s one big scar already. Ahab notices the resignation in Perth’s voice, and says he has no patience for “misery in others that is not mad.” Seeing Perth smoothing the folds and creases in an old harpoon blade, Ahab tells him that were it possible, he would let Perth bring down his “heaviest hammer between my eyes” to smooth the creases in Ahab’s brow. Ahab feels that not even death will ease his passion.

Ahab then makes a really intense harpoon for killing Moby-Dick, which involves razors and horseshoe nails for barbs. Ahab insists on having the newly forged harpoon tempered not in water, but in the blood of his harpooneers. As Perth lowers the hot harpoon into the bucket of blood, Ahab says a phrase in Latin that translates to “I baptize you not in the name of the father, but in the name of the devil!”*

People always say the opposite of love is indifference, and I think it’s safe to say that the opposite of indifference is the feelings Ahab has for Moby-Dick. In Ahab’s mind, Moby-Dick reciprocates those feelings. And so I give you: “The Forge.”

*According to the endnotes in my copy of Moby-Dick, Melville wrote a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne that claimed this line as the “secret motto” of Moby-Dick.

Ch 113: The Forge

Pierce my heart!
Lift the lonely curse of mystery.
Hold me fast
And forgive the choice we never had.

I’ve heard the hollow ring of ivory on the deck.
I’ve felt the final sting of needles and pins.

Smooth your brow!
Beat the creases into destiny.
Forge your steel.
Temper all intent in liberty.

I’ve heard the hollow ring of ivory on the deck.
I’ve felt the final sting of needles and pins.

Tell me, blacksmith,
Do you live in the devil’s heat
Without a singe?
Do you sharpen the killer’s beak
Without a singe?

Pierce my heart!
But I’ll break the bond between us.
Fighters fight —
Oh it’s nothing, only the natural order.

I’ve heard the hollow ring of ivory on the deck.
I’ve felt the final sting of needles and pins.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 7, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea January 25, 2009

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