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Hitherto, in descriptively treating of the Sperm Whale, I
have chiefly dwelt upon the marvels of his outer aspect; or
separately and in detail upon some few interior structural
features. But to a large and thorough sweeping comprehension
of him, it behoves me now to unbutton him still further, and
untagging the points of his hose, unbuckling his garters, and
casting loose the hooks and the eyes of the joints of his innermost
bones, set him before you in his ultimatum; that is to
say, in his unconditional skeleton.

But how now, Ishmael? How is it, that you, a mere oarsman
in the fishery, pretend to know aught about the subterranean
parts of the whale? Did erudite Stubb, mounted upon
your capstan, deliver lectures on the anatomy of the Cetacea;
and by help of the windlass, hold up a specimen rib for exhibition?
Explain thyself, Ishmael. Can you land a full-grown
whale on your deck for examination, as a cook dishes a roastpig?
Surely not. A veritable witness have you hitherto been,


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Ishmael; but have a care how you seize the privilege of Jonah
alone; the privilege of discoursing upon the joists and beams;
the rafters, ridge-pole, sleepers, and under-pinnings, making up
the frame-work of leviathan; and belike of the tallow-vats, dairy-rooms,
butteries, and cheeseries in his bowels.

I confess, that since Jonah, few whalemen have penetrated
very far beneath the skin of the adult whale; nevertheless, I
have been blessed with an opportunity to dissect him in miniature.
In a ship I belonged to, a small cub Sperm Whale was
once bodily hoisted to the deck for his poke or bag, to make
sheaths for the barbs of the harpoons, and for the heads of the
lances. Think you I let that chance go, without using my
boat-hatchet and jack-knife, and breaking the seal and reading
all the contents of that young cub?

And as for my exact knowledge of the bones of the leviathan
in their gigantic, full grown development, for that rare knowledge
I am indebted to my late royal friend Tranquo, king
of Tranque, one of the Arsacides. For being at Tranque, years
ago, when attached to the trading-ship Dey of Algiers, I was
invited to spend part of the Arsacidean holidays with the lord
of Tranque, at his retired palm villa at Pupella; a sea-side glen
not very far distant from what our sailors called Bamboo-Town,
his capital.

Among many other fine qualities, my royal friend Tranquo,
being gifted with a devout love for all matters of barbaric vertù,
had brought together in Pupella whatever rare things the more
ingenious of his people could invent; chiefly carved woods of
wonderful devices, chiselled shells, inlaid spears, costly paddles,
aromatic canoes; and all these distributed among whatever
natural wonders, the wonder-freighted, tribute-rendering waves
had cast upon his shores.

Chief among these latter was a great Sperm Whale, which,
after an unusually long raging gale, had been found dead and
stranded, with his head against a cocoa-nut tree, whose plumagelike,


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tufted droopings seemed his verdant jet. When the vast
body had at last been stripped of its fathom-deep enfoldings,
and the bones become dust dry in the sun, then the skeleton
was carefully transported up the Pupella glen, where a grand
temple of lordly palms now sheltered it.

The ribs were hung with trophies; the vertebræ were carved
with Arsacidean annals, in strange hieroglyphics; in the skull,
the priests kept up an unextinguished aromatic flame, so that
the mystic head again sent forth its vapory spout; while, suspended
from a bough, the terrific lower jaw vibrated over all the
devotees, like the hair-hung sword that so affrighted Damocles.

It was a wondrous sight. The wood was green as mosses of
the Icy Glen; the trees stood high and haughty, feeling their
living sap; the industrious earth beneath was as a weaver's
loom, with a gorgeous carpet on it, whereof the ground-vine
tendrils formed the warp and woof, and the living flowers the
figures. All the trees, with all their laden branches; all the
shrubs, and ferns, and grasses; the message-carrying air; all
these unceasingly were active. Through the lacings of the leaves,
the great sun seemed a flying shuttle weaving the unwearied verdure.
Oh, busy weaver! unseen weaver!—pause!—one word!—
whither flows the fabric? what palace may it deck? wherefore
all these ceaseless toilings? Speak, weaver!—stay thy hand!
—but one single word with thee! Nay—the shuttle flies—the
figures float from forth the loom; the freshet-rushing carpet for
ever slides away. The weaver-god, he weaves; and by that
weaving is he deafened, that he hears no mortal voice; and by
that humming, we, too, who look on the loom are deafened;
and only when we escape it shall we hear the thousand voices
that speak through it. For even so it is in all material factories.
The spoken words that are inaudible among the flying
spindles; those same words are plainly heard without the walls,
bursting from the opened casements. Thereby have villanies
been detected. Ah, mortal! then, he heedful; for so, in all


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this din of the great world's loom, thy subtlest thinkings may
be overheard afar.

Now, amid the green, life-restless loom of that Arsacidean
wood, the great, white, worshipped skeleton lay lounging—a
gigantic idler! Yet, as the ever-woven verdant warp and woof
intermixed and hummed around him, the mighty idler seemed
the cunning weaver; himself all woven over with the vines;
every month assuming greener, fresher verdure; but himself a
skeleton. Life folded Death; Death trellised Life; the grim god
wived with youthful Life, and begat him curly-headed glories.

Now, when with royal Tranquo I visited this wondrous
whale, and saw the skull an altar, and the artificial smoke
ascending from where the real jet had issued, I marvelled that
the king should regard a chapel as an object of vertù. He
laughed. But more I marvelled that the priests should swear
that smoky jet of his was genuine. To and fro I paced before
this skeleton—brushed the vines aside—broke through the ribs
—and with a ball of Arsacidean twine, wandered, eddied long
amid its many winding, shaded colonnades and arbors. But
soon my line was out; and following it back, I emerged from
the opening where I entered. I saw no living thing within;
naught was there but bones.

Cutting me a green measuring-rod, I once more dived
within the skeleton. From their arrow-slit in the skull, the
priests perceived me taking the altitude of the final rib. “How
now!” they shouted; “Dar'st thou measure this our god!
That's for us.” “Aye, priests—well, how long do ye make
him, then?” But hereupon a fierce contest rose among them,
concerning feet and inches; they cracked each other's sconces
with their yard-sticks—the great skull echoed—and seizing that
lucky chance, I quickly concluded my own admeasurements.

These admeasurements I now propose to set before you. But
first, be it recorded, that, in this matter, I am not free to utter
any fancied measurement I please. Because there are skeleton


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authorities you can refer to, to test my accuracy. There is a
Leviathanic Museum, they tell me, in Hull, England, one of the
whaling ports of that country, where they have some fine specimens
of fin-backs and other whales. Likewise, I have heard
that in the museum of Manchester, in New Hampshire, they
have what the proprietors call “the only perfect specimen of a
Greenland or River Whale in the United States.” Moreover,
at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a
certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton
of a Sperm Whale, but of moderate size, by no means of the full-grown
magnitude of my friend King Tranquo's.

In both cases, the stranded whales to which these two skeletons
belonged, were originally claimed by their proprietors upon
similar grounds. King Tranquo seizing his because he wanted
it; and Sir Clifford, because he was lord of the seignories of
those parts. Sir Clifford's whale has been articulated throughout;
so that, like a great chest of drawers, you can open and
shut him, in all his bony cavities—spread out his ribs like a
gigantic fan—and swing all day upon his lower jaw. Locks
are to be put upon some of his trap-doors and shutters; and a
footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at
his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at
the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear
the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the
unrivalled view from his forehead.

The skeleton dimensions I shall now proceed to set down are
copied verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tattooed;
as in my wild wanderings at that period, there was no other
secure way of preserving such valuable statistics. But as I was
crowded for space, and wished the other parts of my body to
remain a blank page for a poem I was then composing—at
least, what untattooed parts might remain—I did not trouble
myself with the odd inches; nor, indeed, should inches at all
enter into a congenial admeasurement of the whale.