Chapter 39: First Night-Watch

After Ahab’s first crazy rant on the quarter-deck, wherein he reveals his true purposes for the Pequod’s voyage, Ishmael disappears as narrator for a while, and we get to see a series of miniature plays revealing the various reactions of the mates and crew. In “First Night-Watch,” we see Stubb decide that “a laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer,” and so he will react with laughter to Ahab’s unsettling speech.

Stubb’s decision here comes on the heels of a recent coming-to-terms with his first unsettling experience with Ahab. Some days prior, Ahab kicked Stubb in response to Stubb’s polite (albeit insensitive) request that Ahab pad his ivory leg when walking the deck at night. Through an outlandish interpretation of an outlandish dream (partly involving a merman telling Stubb that he is wise to understand the great honor in a kick from a great man with an exotic prosthetic), Stubb decides that all is well and good with his station aboard the Pequod, and he can proceed business as usual. Both decisions suggest a Stubb unwilling to be changed by circumstance, and unwilling to be broken by that over which he has no control.

In “The First Night-Watch,” Stubb sings the first cheerful verse of a song, seen below as the first verse of this week’s song. I added a few more verses as per Stubb’s thoughts (as well as his lingering discomfort) in the chapter. This week’s song also features my first attempts at foley arts!*

*I cheated, however, and used a prerecorded thunder clap.

Chapter 39: First Night-Watch

We’ll drink tonight with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting
As bubbles that swim, on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting.

The captain’s spite did fill the night
With terrors yet revealed.
Unfortunate gaffe, so let’s have a laugh,
And hope that his head is healed.

I never foresaw such a good guffaw
From something so unnerving,
But destiny wins what our fate begins,
And life goes on, unswerving.

He gave the first mate an appropriate,
Unsettled sort of feeling,
Just as I felt when the man did pelt
Me, sending me a-reeling!

I’m perfectly sane, but a merman came,
Bestowed me of a title.
A laugh, now, to dub the wisest Stubb
And save him from reprisal.

Never my wife, in her lonely life,
To cry and count my earnings.
She’s having some beers with the harpooneers,
And comforting their yearnings.

Every man shored to a higher lord,
Beholden to his bidding,
“Curses and balls!” Aye, it’s Starbuck calls,
I must see what he’s giving.

We’ll drink tonight with hearts as light,
To loves as gay and fleeting
As bubbles that swim, on the beaker’s brim,
And break on the lips while meeting.

(c) and (p) 2009 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 13, 2009
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea August 20, 2010

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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