Chapter 64: Stubb’s Supper

. . . while the valiant butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other’s live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks, also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away under the table at the dead meat . . .

Early in “Stubb’s Supper,” Ishmael parallels Stubb with a group of sharks, both of whom feast greedily on Stubb’s recently caught whale. Having one black crew member, Daggoo, cut his steak from the whale, and a black cook, Fleece, prepare the steak, Stubb settles down to enjoy the spoils of his hunt. Stubb quickly finds fault with the cook’s preparation, and calls him to deck to answer for the mistake. Ishmael turns the ensuing exchange into a masterful commentary on race and power.

The cook, Fleece, enters as a minstrel show, shuffling and arthritic, to stand formally before Stubb. As Stubb begins to lay into poor Fleece, however, Ishmael gives us a Fleece who responds with a nuanced mixture of deference and defiance, submitting to Stubb’s humiliating order to preach to the sharks overboard, but turning his sermon into a spiteful prayer for death to oppressors.

Of course, Stubb has all the power in this exchange, and so he turns Fleece’s rebellion into entertainment. After all, not unlike the sharks, Stubb likes his meat rare and tough, and in the end, that’s exactly the meal Fleece gives him.

Chapter 64: Stubb’s Supper

When I die, I’ll go to heaven,
When I die upon the sea.
When I die, I’ll go to heaven —
The blessed angels will deliver me!

Stiff of leg, with nature’s reason,
So the minstrel shows betray,
But I’ll preach another season
To the sharks who wouldn’t listen to be saved!

Oh, they feed upon the river,
And they feed upon the sea,
And they feed until they wither
With the burden that they gathered in their greed.

Sharks own the river,
Sharks own the sea,
Sharks don’t deliver,
But the blessed angles will deliver me!

When I die, I’ll go to heaven,
When I die upon the sea.
When I die, I’ll go to heaven —
The blessed angels will deliver me!

(c) and (p) 2009 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 17, 2009
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea May 8, 2010

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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