“Ahab’s Boat and Crew — Fedallah” offers one of many hints that Ahab may be far too rational and cunning to consider insane. In deft premeditation, Ahab does not request a boat or crew from the Pequod’s owners, who are also his friends, knowing that they would not trust him with the voyage at all if he were allowed to hunt. Instead, Ahab waits until the Pequod is well on its way, then takes one of the spare boats as his own, customizing the knee brace and adding an extra layer of wood to the bottom to support his ivory leg.
On top of all this, Ahab hires his own crew and harpooneer at his own private expense, stowing them secretly on board until the first chase. Of course, despite the multi-ethnic crew of the Pequod these men seem extraordinarily foreign, shrouded in mystery and set apart as they are from the crew at large. Add to that an association with Ahab, mysteriously compelled in a suicidal mission, ranting and raving about overthrowing God and such, and these men seem outright devilish to the rest of the crew, perhaps even being the controlling spiritual agents of Ahab’s mad quest. At the head of Ahab’ private crew stands Fedallah, for whom Ishmael evokes images of Genesis, when angels and devils interbred with mankind, and in so doing further implies Ahab as a man caught in a war between the earthly agents of heaven and hell.
Chapter 50: Ahab’s Boat and Crew — Fedallah
Stand in the boat with a new leg.
Knee in the cleat, it’s a new day.
Lift up the lance, make it bloody,
All on one, not two legs.
And all men with two legs are but a hobbling wight
When thrown deep into the tangle of a dangerous fight.
Cover the deck with a new sheath.
Walking erect, would you believe?
He points at the whale as a brute thief
But never asks no relief.
And nobody’s gonna give this Captain Ahab a boat
So he finances the crew that’s gonna keep him afloat.
Wouldn’t you know, heading the crew
Is the devil’s due?
Wouldn’t you know, dim as the dusk,
He’s the devil’s tusk?
Wouldn’t you know, fevered in dreams
See we phantom things?
Wouldn’t you know?
Wouldn’t you know?
(c) and (p) 2010 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 8, 2010
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea May 11, 2011