Chapter 49: The Hyena

. . . here goes for a cool, collected dive at death and destruction . . .

Ishmael is a little iffy on this whole white whale business. He can’t understand why Ahab would add more danger to the already dangerous pursuit of whaling. Come to think of it, he can’t understand why anyone would intentionally do anything that might lead to injury or death. But his thoughts shift somewhat after his first lowering for a whale, in which Starbuck leads the boat on after a whale in the middle of a squall. The boat gets lost for the night, and only by chance does the Pequod rescue them the next morning.

Starbuck has a reputation as the most prudent of whalers, yet his choice in the first chase seems an awfully reckless one. Worst of all, no one on board seems the least critical of the choice — so this is the world of whaling. With that, Ishmael knows what he’s gotten himself into. All these dangers, coupled with a realization that “at the superlatively critical instant of going on to the whale I must resign my life into the hands of him who steered the boat” — Starbuck in one sense, Ahab in another — snaps in Ishmael, and it all becomes a great cosmic joke. After all, Ishmael is no longer in control. He signed on to the crew, and now all he can do is revisit his last will and testament, and ride it out.

Chapter 49: The Hyena

In the worst of times,
When every angle aligns
To create the last ordeal,

Take the joke,
A great, affectionate poke
From the cosmos to a great contender.

Oh, you row, row, row,
To speed your slow,
Sufficient death.

Now a sailor’s will
And testament do appear
As a way to while to time,

But the prudent sot
Finds humor yet in his lot,
And by sot I mean the great enchanted
Masses of mankind who manage,

Oh!, to row, row, row,
And ho, ho, ho;
To laugh and jest.

(c) and (p) 2010 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 24, 2010
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea January 22, 2011

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