Moby-Dick boasts not only one of literature’s great beginnings, but also one of literature’s great endings. Having replaced Fedallah as Ahab’s bowsman, Ishmael has an ideal vantage to the final events of Ahab’s quest. After he is thrown clear of Ahab’s boat in the final chase, Ishmael floats far enough on the periphery (figuratively, perhaps, as well as literally) to live to tell the tale. Alone escaping the all-consuming vortex created by the Pequod as it sinks, the vortex offers back to Ishmael a means of survival — Quequeg’s coffin — which he uses to stay afloat until rescued by another ship. Meanwhile, the sharks and sea-hawks leave Ishmael unharmed. If we didn’t know better by now, we might be led to think that Ishmael has been marked like a Cain to wander unmolested, telling the Pequod’s tale. Either way, at the end of Moby-Dick, Ishmael the storyteller sits poised at the beginning of his tale.

Speaking of endings and beginnings, this is the end of my work here as well. Three years ago, I started reading Moby-Dick and writing the songs recorded and written about throughout this blog. In the course of those three years I got married, had a baby, changed jobs, began to learn a new instrument, and undergone as many other of the smaller changes life presents us with in the course of time. I’ve learned a lot in the process as well, as a songwriter, as a musician, as a recorder of music, as a reader, as a writer, and as a person. That learning has made my ending here something of a beginning, too — I’ve already started working on my next two projects. Thanks to all for listening, reading, and commenting — it’s been fun.


Now but clipped of wing,
I circle ’round an empty scene
As if cradled in descent
By solitude.

Dirge of wandering,
Buoyed by a lost belief,
Irrevocable as all
Eternal vows.

There’s always a peace that lives between the punished
And the punisher, therein lies the defeat.

In the desert marked,
A signal to the world of sharks
That a punished man must live
To tell the tale.

Oh, the many morbid things
That the Fates obliquely sing
To the poets
Through a man come tumbling down.

You can call me Ishmael,
May the muse speak through me well
As I sing to you
The world’s most principle song.

And how
Looms in the middle of it all

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 24, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea July 26, 2011

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Patrick, why isnt there more commentary by you Marxists on the symbolism of the red flag going down with the ship – both Hawthorne and Melville so interested in the psychology of revolution – & as the Call Me Melville summer winds down, thanks so much for your songs and commentary and it was a delight to meet you! Julia

  2. Hi Julia,

    I’m flattered for you to identify me as a Marxist, but I’m not sure I deserve the credential! To be honest, I don’t remember why I chose to focus on something other than the red flag in my blog commentary, but I do remember making a conscious effort not to read the entirety of Moby-Dick through any one lens–Marxist, religious, or otherwise. Instead, I found the book directing me toward thinking about how those types of analysis influence a reader’s understanding of narrative, both the constructed narrative of literature, and in the equally constructed narrative we create for ourselves in day to day life. Those ideas led me to direct my lyrics in “Loomings” and “Epilogue” toward thinking about Ishmael’s role as narrator of the story, and the story’s role as narrator of Ishmael.

    I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the summer of reading and listening, and very happy to have met you at Arrowhead.

    All the Best,

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