The intense Pequod sailed on . . .
As the Pequod nears its ultimate encounter with Moby Dick, the density of portent becomes almost overwhelming for a reader. Either Ishmael knows that the mystery of omen makes for good tension-building, or he simply tends toward the side of human nature that seeks explanation in times of senseless plight — a last ditch to find meaning or purpose in suffering.
In “The Pequod meets the Delight,” the tragedy of others brings Ahab’s hubris into sharp relief. The Delight recently encountered Moby Dick and lost five men in the fray. Its whale boats are splintered, and its crew down-trodden. Much like in his encounter with the Rachel, Ahab shows that he has lost all touch of compassion, turning his back on dire human need in order to speed his course on to face the very thing that caused that need in the first place.
In the process of flying the burial of a killed member of the Delight’s crew, Queequeg’s coffin comes into view hanging from the taffrail of the Pequod. In one clear sense, we can interpret this image as portent of coming death. But for those familiar with the coffin’s ultimate significance in the story, we can see the image also as prophesy of salvation buoyed on the care shown during the dire sickness of a friend. Of course, I myself take the image as Freud himself might — sometimes a coffin is just a coffin.
Chapter 131: The Pequod meets the Delight
It was a wind-blown summer’s day,
Time was passing like an open book in the breeze,
Colors bled out into the nothing new,
Then we passed her in her grievance.
All eyes turned to the shattered boat,
Splintered planks as sun-bleached corpse,
Then a hammock sown into a sheath
Around a lifeless memory.
And Ahab trumpets for catastrophe,
And strikes his purpose into their misery.
The ship cries out for resurrection, now,
But death comes first, and then a sea of tears.
There hangs a coffin on the taffrail
For all to see as we speed away
Into his everlasting promises.
The coffin waits to save a solitary soul.
(c) and (p) 2010 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 20, 2010
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea December 26, 2010