Chapter 120 consists of a very brief exchange between Starbuck and Ahab, wherein Ahab denies Starbuck his very reasonable and routine request to take the top-sails down during the storm, as they are tearing loose in the high winds. Ahab, with his proclivity for turning every natural occurrence into greater metaphor for life (or investing it with some personified malevolence), explains in an aside that “Loftiest trucks were made for wildest winds, and this brain-scud of mine now sails amid the cloud-scud. Shall I strike that?” In other words, the top-sails boldly reach into the heavens to find their wind, much like Ahab boldly reaching into the heavens with his grievances, and just like he’s not giving up, they won’t give up, either.
But the Greeks had a word for this, right? It’s hubris, plain and simple, that Ahab not only admits to, but celebrates. And since Ahab doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would never have read a Greek myth, you have to ask yourself where Ahab thinks he’s going with this one. Is the Pequod’s voyage no more than an elaborate suicide, or does Ahab really think he can be the first ever to win this sort of fight?
Chapter 120: The Deck towards the End of the First Night Watch
When the going gets tough,
The tough get going!
You see, the winds are getting rough
With no signs of slowing.
Just like a steeple on a bluff
Feels the worst of the blowing,
So the loftiest truck feels the worst of adversity.
Malady weighs for the rest of my days,
But I know the tempest will push me through.
Lift every sail, the worst we can fail
Is Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
(c) and (p) 2010 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 17, 2010
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea January 8, 2011