Chapter 116: The Dying Whale

Apparently, when a sperm whale dies, it turns itself toward the sun before passing on. “The Dying Whale” can be a hard chapter to read partly because much of the chapter details the last moments of a life, and anthropomorphically at that — for instance, Ishmael describes the whale’s dying sounds as tuneful prayers.

The other reason this chapter can be an unpleasant read is Ahab. Like a solipsistic friend, Ahab constantly interprets every moment as some greater metaphor in his existence, and that can be tedious. One of the things I love most about Moby-Dick is the recurring idea that there is no higher meaning in the world, only the meaning each individual brings to each experience. However, by the end of the book Ahab is so damaged and off his rocker that the meanings he brings become less and less compelling. “Suckled by the sea”? “Buoyed by the breaths of once living things”? Please!

Chapter 116: The Dying Whale

Oh!, heed the compass of dying whales,
Thick in their blood, passing life away,
Spin in the ocean the ocean upon their tails
To glance the living sun!

I’m nursed at sea!
Darkness buoys me!

Round and round, interceding jest,
A dance for the life-giving median,
A chance offered once at a god’s request
But not upon your death.

I’m nursed at sea!
Darkness buoys me!

Know you that after your begging breaths,
You turn full around to the obvious?
Banked in the passage of living breath
Undone, condensed as one!

I’m nursed at sea!
I’m nursed at sea!

(c) and (p) 2009 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 27, 2009
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea October 2, 2010

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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