movement, movement

Take Heart, O Bulkington!

Posted in books, poetry, quotes by amoslanka on May 27, 2009

Herman Melville begins the unreasonably short chapter 23 of Moby Dick by mentioning Bulkington, a man who had landed just a few months ago from a previous four-year whaling voyage, and was already back at sea with the launching of the current expedition. As though land scorches his feet, Bulkington avoids the safety and comfort of port like the plague.

Melville calls the land pitiful to the seaman. Safety, warmth, supper, “all thats kind to our mortalities,” all that brings a man back to port after such a journey. But he goes on,

In the gale, [land] is that ship’s direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through. With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing, fights ‘gainst the very winds that fain would blow her homeward; seeks all the lashed sea’s landlessness again; for refuge’s sake forlornly rushing into peril; her only friend her bitterest foe!

And he soon continues:

Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?

But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God – so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety!

The howling, infinite sea is the same fury of truth, the God, all that one cannot comprehend and one of the right mind would avoid. Yet it be not the mind that push one out to sea..

Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing – straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!

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