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The morning of the third day dawned fair and fresh, and
once more the solitary night-man at the fore-mast-head was
relieved by crowds of the daylight look-outs, who dotted every
mast and almost every spar.

“D'ye see him?” cried Ahab; but the whale was not yet in

“In his infallible wake, though; but follow that wake, that's


Page 622
all. Helm there; steady, as thou goest, and hast been going.
What a lovely day again! were it a new-made world, and
made for a summer-house to the angels, and this morning the
first of its throwing open to them, a fairer day could not dawn
upon that world. Here's food for thought, had Ahab time to
think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels; that's
tingling enough for mortal man! to think's audacity. God
only has that right and privilege. Thinking is, or ought to be,
a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our
poor brains beat too much for that. And yet, I've sometimes
thought my brain was very calm—frozen calm, this old skull
cracks so, like a glass in which the contents turned to ice, and
shiver it. And still this hair is growing now; this moment
growing, and heat must breed it; but no, it's like that sort
of common grass that will grow anywhere, between the earthy
clefts of Greenland ice or in Vesuvius lava. How the wild
winds blow it; they whip it about me as the torn shreds
of split sails lash the tossed ship they cling to. A vile wind
that has no doubt blown ere this through prison corridors and
cells, and wards of hospitals, and ventilated them, and now
comes blowing hither as innocent as fleeces. Out upon it!—
it's tainted. Were I the wind, I'd blow no more on such a
wicked, miserable world. I'd crawl somewhere to a cave, and
slink there. And yet, 'tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind!
who ever conquered it? In every fight it has the last and
bitterest blow. Run tilting at it, and you but run through it.
Ha! a coward wind that strikes stark naked men, but will not
stand to receive a single blow. Even Ahab is a braver thing—
a nobler thing than that. Would now the wind but had a
body; but all the things that most exasperate and outrage
mortal man, all these things are bodiless, but only bodiless
as objects, not as agents. There's a most special, a most cunning,
oh, a most malicious difference! And yet, I say again,
and swear it now, that there's something all glorious and gracious


Page 623
in the wind. These warm Trade Winds, at least, that in
the clear heavens blow straight on, in strong and steadfast,
vigorous mildness; and veer not from their mark, however the
baser currents of the sea may turn and tack, and mightiest
Mississippies of the land swift and swerve about, uncertain
where to go at last. And by the eternal Poles! these same
Trades that so directly blow my good ship on; these Trades, or
something like them—something so unchangeable, and full as
strong, blow my keeled soul along! “To it!” “Aloft there!
What d'ye see?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Nothing! and noon at hand! The doubloon goes a-begging!
See the sun! Aye, aye, it must be so. I've oversailed
him. How, got the start? Aye, he's chasing me now; not
I, him—that's bad; I might have known it, too. Fool! the
lines—the harpoons he's towing. Aye, aye, I have run him
by last night. About! about! Come down, all of ye, but the
regular look outs! Man the braces!”

Steering as she had done, the wind had been somewhat
on the Pequod's quarter, so that now being pointed in the
reverse direction, the braced ship sailed hard upon the breeze
as she rechurned the cream in her own white wake.

“Against the wind he now steers for the open jaw,” murmured
Starbuck to himself, as he coiled the new-hauled mainbrace
upon the rail. “God keep us, but already my bones feel
damp within me, and from the inside wet my flesh. I misdoubt
me that I disobey my God in obeying him!”

“Stand by to sway me up!” cried Ahab, advancing to the
hempen basket. “We should meet him soon.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” and straightway Starbuck did Ahab's bidding,
and once more Ahab swung on high.

A whole hour now passed; gold-beaten out to ages. Time
itself now held long breaths with keen suspense. But at last,
some three points off the weather bow, Ahab descried the spout


Page 624
again, and instantly from the three mast-heads three shrieks
went up as if the tongues of fire had voiced it.

“Forehead to forehead I meet thee, this third time, Moby
Dick! On deck there!—brace sharper up; crowd her into
the wind's eye. He's too far off to lower yet, Mr. Starbuck.
The sails shake! Stand over that helmsman with a top-maul!
So, so; he travels fast, and I must down. But let me have
one more good round look aloft here at the sea; there's time
for that. An old, old sight, and yet somehow so young; aye,
and not changed a wink since I first saw it, a boy, from the
sand-hills of Nantucket! The same!—the same!—the same to
Noah as to me. There's a soft shower to leeward. Such lovely
leewardings! They must lead somewhere—to something else
than common land, more palmy than the palms. Leeward!
the white whale goes that way; look to windward, then; the
better if the bitterer quarter. But good bye, good bye, old
mast-head! What's this?—green? aye, tiny mosses in these
warped cracks. No such green weather stains on Ahab's head!
There's the difference now between man's old age and matter's.
But aye, old mast, we both grow old together; sound in our
hulls, though, are we not, my ship? Aye, minus a leg, that's all.
By heaven this dead wood has the better of my live flesh every
way. I can't compare with it; and I've known some ships
made of dead trees outlast the lives of men made of the
most vital stuff of vital fathers. What's that he said? he
should still go before me, my pilot; and yet to be seen
again? But where? Will I have eyes at the bottom of
the sea, supposing I descend those endless stairs? and all
night I've been sailing from him, wherever he did sink
to. Aye, aye, like many more thou told'st direful truth as
touching thyself, O Parsee; but, Ahab, there thy shot fell
short. Good by, mast-head—keep a good eye upon the whale,
the while I'm gone. We'll talk to-morrow, nay, to-night,
when the white whale lies down there, tied by head and tail.”


Page 625

He gave the word; and still gazing round him, was steadily
lowered through the cloven blue air to the deck.

In due time the boats were lowered; but as standing in his
shallop's stern, Ahab just hovered upon the point of the descent,
he waved to the mate,—who held one of the tackle-ropes on
deck—and bade him pause.



“For the third time my soul's ship starts upon this voyage,

“Aye, sir, thou wilt have it so.”

“Some ships sail from their ports, and ever afterwards are
missing, Starbuck!”

“Truth, sir: saddest truth.”

“Some men die at ebb tide; some at low water; some at
the full of the flood;—and I feel now like a billow that's all one
crested comb, Starbuck. I am old;—shake hands with me, man.”

Their hands met; their eyes fastened; Starbuck's tears the

“Oh, my captain, my captain!—noble heart—go not—go
not!—see, it's a brave man that weeps; how great the agony
of the persuasion then!”

“Lower away!”—cried Ahab, tossing the mate's arm from
him. “Stand by the crew!”

In an instant the boat was pulling round close under the stern.

“The sharks! the sharks!” cried a voice from the low cabin-window
there; “O master, my master, come back!”

But Ahab heard nothing; for his own voice was high-lifted
then; and the boat leaped on.

Yet the voice spake true; for scarce had he pushed from the
ship, when numbers of sharks, seemingly rising from out the
dark waters beneath the hull, maliciously snapped at the blades
of the oars, every time they dipped in the water; and in this
way accompanied the boat with their bites. It is a thing not


Page 626
uncommonly happening to the whale-boats in those swarming
seas; the sharks at times apparently following them in the same
prescient way that vultures hover over the banners of marching
regiments in the east. But these were the first sharks that had
been observed by the Pequod since the White Whale had been
first descried; and whether it was that Ahab's crew were all
such tiger-yellow barbarians, and therefore their flesh more
musky to the senses of the sharks—a matter sometimes well
known to affect them,—however it was, they seemed to follow
that one boat without molesting the others.

“Heart of wrought steel!” murmured Starbuck gazing over
the side, and following with his eyes the receding boat—“canst
thou yet ring boldly to that sight?—lowering thy keel among
ravening sharks, and followed by them, open-mouthed to the
chase; and this the critical third day?—For when three days flow
together in one continuous intense pursuit; be sure the first is
the morning, the second the noon, and the third the evening
and the end of that thing—be that end what it may. Oh! my
God! what is this that shoots through me, and leaves me so
deadly calm, yet expectant,—fixed at the top of a shudder!
Future things swim before me, as in empty outlines and skeletons;
all the past is somehow grown dim. Mary, girl! thou
fadest in pale glories behind me; boy! I seem to see but thy
eyes grown wondrous blue. Strangest problems of life seem
clearing; but clouds sweep between—Is my journey's end
coming? My legs feel faint; like his who has footed it all day.
Feel thy heart,—beats it yet?—Stir thyself, Starbuck!—stave it
off—move, move! speak aloud!—Mast-head there! See ye
my boy's hand on the hill?—Crazed;—aloft there!—keep thy
keenest eye upon the boats:—mark well the whale!—Ho!
again!—drive off that hawk! see! he pecks—he tears the
vane”—pointing to the red flag flying at the main-truck—
“Ha! he soars away with it!—Where's the old man now?
sees't thou that sight, oh Ahab!—shudder, shudder!”


Page 627

The boats had not gone very far, when by a signal from the
mast-heads—a downward pointed arm, Ahab knew that the whale
had sounded; but intending to be near him at the next rising, he
held on his way a little sideways from the vessel; the becharmed
crew maintaining the profoundest silence, as the head-beat waves
hammered and hammered against the opposing bow.

“Drive, drive in your nails, oh ye waves! to their uttermost
heads drive them in! ye but strike a thing without a lid; and
no coffin and no hearse can be mine:—and hemp only can kill
me! Ha! ha!”

Suddenly the waters around them slowly swelled in broad
circles; then quickly upheaved, as if sideways sliding from a
submerged berg of ice, swiftly rising to the surface. A low
rumbling sound was heard; a subterraneous hum; and then all
held their breaths; as bedraggled with trailing ropes, and harpoons,
and lances, a vast form shot lengthwise, but obliquely
from the sea. Shrouded in a thin drooping veil of mist, it
hovered for a moment in the rainbowed air; and then fell swamping
back into the deep. Crushed thirty feet upwards, the
waters flashed for an instant like heaps of fountains, then brokenly
sank in a shower of flakes, leaving the circling surface creamed
like new milk round the marble trunk of the whale.

“Give way!” cried Ahab to the oarsmen, and the boats darted
forward to the attack; but maddened by yesterday's fresh irons
that corroded in him, Moby Dick seemed combinedly possessed
by all the angels that fell from heaven. The wide tiers of
welded tendons overspreading his broad white forehead, beneath
the transparent skin, looked knitted together; as head on, he
came churning his tail among the boats; and once more flailed
them apart, spilling out the irons and lances from the two
mates' boats, and dashing in one side of the upper part of their
bows, but leaving Ahab's almost without a scar.

While Daggoo and Queequeg were stopping the strained
planks; and as the whale swimming out from them, turned,


Page 628
and showed one entire flank as he shot by them again; at that
moment a quick ery went up. Lashed round and round to the
fish's back; pinioned in the turns upon turns in which, during
the past night, the whale had reeled the involutions of the lines
around him, the half torn body of the Parsee was seen; his
sable raiment frayed to shreds; his distended eyes turned full
upon old Ahab.

The harpoon dropped from his hand.

“Befooled, befooled!”—drawing in a long lean breath—“Aye,
Parsee! I see thee again.—Aye, and thou goest before; and
this, this then is the hearse that thou didst promise. But I hold
thee to the last letter of thy word. Where is the second hearse?
Away, mates, to the ship! those boats are useless now; repair
them if ye can in time, and return to me; if not, Ahab is
enough to die—Down, men! the first thing that but offers to
jump from this boat I stand in, that thing I harpoon. Ye are
not other men, but my arms and my legs; and so obey me.—
Where's the whale? gone down again?”

But he looked too nigh the boat; for as if bent upon escaping
with the corpse he bore, and as if the particular place of the
last encounter had been but a stage in his leeward voyage, Moby
Dick was now again steadily swimming forward; and had
almost passed the ship,—which thus far had been sailing in the
contrary direction to him, though for the present her headway
had been stopped. He seemed swimming with his utmost
velocity, and now only intent upon pursuing his own straight
path in the sea.

“Oh! Ahab,” cried Starbuck, “not too late is it, even now,
the third day, to desist. See! Moby Dick seeks thee not. It
is thou, thou, that madly seekest him!”

Setting sail to the rising wind, the lonely boat was swiftly
impelled to leeward, by both oars and canvas. And at last
when Ahab was sliding by the vessel, so near as plainly to distinguish
Starbuck's face as he leaned over the rail, he hailed


Page 629
him to turn the vessel about, and follow him, not too swiftly,
at a judicious interval. Glancing upwards, he saw Tashtego,
Queequeg, and Daggoo, eagerly mounting to the three mast-heads;
while the oarsmen were rocking in the two staved boats
which had but just been hoisted to the side, and were busily at
work in repairing them. One after the other, through the port-holes,
as he sped, he also caught flying glimpses of Stubb and
Flask, busying themselves on deck among bundles of new irons
and lances. As he saw all this; as he heard the hammers in
the broken boats; far other hammers seemed driving a nail into
his heart. But he rallied. And now marking that the vane or
flag was gone from the main-mast-head, he shouted to Tashtego,
who had just gained that perch, to descend again for
another flag, and a hammer and nails, and so nail it to the mast.

Whether fagged by the three days' running chase, and the
resistance to his swimming in the knotted hamper he bore; or
whether it was some latent deceitfulness and malice in him:
whichever was true, the White Whale's way now began to abate,
as it seemed, from the boat so rapidly nearing him once more;
though indeed the whale's last start had not been so long a one
as before. And still as Ahab glided over the waves the unpitying
sharks accompanied him; and so pertinaciously stuck to the
boat; and so continually bit at the plying oars, that the blades
became jagged and crunched, and left small splinters in the sea,
at almost every dip.

“Heed them not! those teeth but give new rowlocks to your
oars. Pull on! 'tis the better rest, the shark's jaw than the
yielding water.”

“But at every bite, sir, the thin blades grow smaller and

“They will last long enough! pull on!—But who can tell”—
he muttered—“whether these sharks swim to feast on the whale
or on Ahab?—But pull on! Aye, all alive, now—we near him.
The helm! take the helm; let me pass,”—and so saying, two


Page 630
of the oarsmen helped him forward to the bows of the still flying

At length as the craft was cast to one side, and ran ranging
along with the White Whale's flank, he seemed strangely
oblivious of its advance—as the whale sometimes will—and
Ahab was fairly within the smoky mountain mist, which,
thrown off from the whale's spout, curled round his great,
Monadnock hump; he was even thus close to him; when, with
body arched back, and both arms lengthwise high-lifted to the
poise, he darted his fierce iron, and his far fiercer curse into the
hated whale. As both steel and curse sank to the socket, as if
sucked into a morass, Moby Dick sideways writhed; spasmodically
rolled his nigh flank against the bow, and, without staving
a hole in it, so suddenly canted the boat over, that had it not
been for the elevated part of the gunwale to which he then
clung, Ahab would once more have been tossed into the sea.
As it was, three of the oarsmen—who foreknew not the precise
instant of the dart, and were therefore unprepared for its effects—
these were flung out; but so fell, that, in an instant two of them
clutched the gunwale again, and rising to its level on a combing
wave, hurled themselves bodily inboard again; the third man
helplessly dropping astern, but still afloat and swimming.

Almost simultaneously, with a mighty volition of ungraduated,
instantaneous swiftness, the White Whale darted through
the weltering sea. But when Ahab cried out to the steersman
to take new turns with the line, and hold it so; and commanded
the crew to turn round on their seats, and tow the boat up to
the mark; the moment the treacherous line felt that double
strain and tug, it snapped in the empty air!

“What breaks in me? Some sinew cracks!—'tis whole
again; oars! oars! Burst in upon him!”

Hearing the tremendous rush of the sea-crashing boat, the
whale wheeled round to present his blank forehead at bay; but
in that evolution, catching sight of the nearing black hull of the


Page 631
ship; seemingly seeing in it the source of all his persecutions;
bethinking it—it may be—a larger and nobler foe; of a sudden,
he bore down upon its advancing prow, smiting his jaws
amid fiery showers of foam.

Ahab staggered; his hand smote his forehead. “I grow
blind; hands! stretch out before me that I may yet grope my
way. Is't night?”

“The whale! The ship!” cried the cringing oarsmen.

“Oars! oars! Slope downwards to thy depths, O sea, that
ere it be for ever too late, Ahab may slide this last, last time
upon his mark! I see: the ship! the ship! Dash on, my men!
Will ye not save my ship?”

But as the oarsmen violently forced their boat through the
sledge-hammering seas, the before whale-smitten bow-ends of
two planks burst through, and in an instant almost, the temporarily
disabled boat lay nearly level with the waves; its half-wading,
splashing crew, trying hard to stop the gap and bale out
the pouring water.

Meantime, for that one beholding instant, Tashtego's mast-head
hammer remained suspended in his hand; and the red
flag, half-wrapping him as with a plaid, then streamed itself
straight out from him, as his own forward-flowing heart; while
Starbuck and Stubb, standing upon the bowsprit beneath, caught
sight of the down-coming monster just as soon as he.

“The whale, the whale! Up helm, up helm! Oh, all ye
sweet powers of air, now hug me close! Let not Starbuck die,
if die he must, in a woman's fainting fit Up helm, I say—ye
fools, the jaw! the jaw! Is this the end of all my bursting
prayers? all my life-long fidelities? Oh, Ahab, Ahab, lo, thy
work. Steady! helmsman, steady. Nay, nay! Up helm
again! He turns to meet us! Oh, his unappeasable brow
drives on towards one, whose duty tells him he cannot depart.
My God, stand by me now!”

“Stand not by me, but stand under me, whoever you are


Page 632
that will now help Stubb; for Stubb, too, sticks here. I grin at
thee, thou grinning whale! Who ever helped Stubb, or kept Stubb
awake, but Stubb's own unwinking eye? And now poor Stubb
goes to bed upon a mattrass that is all too soft; would it were
stuffed with brushwood! I grin at thee, thou grinning whale!
Look ye, sun, moon, and stars! I call ye assassins of as good
a fellow as ever spouted up his ghost. For all that, I would
yet ring glasses with ye, would ye but hand the cup! Oh, oh!
oh, oh! thou grinning whale, but there 'll be plenty of gulping
soon! Why fly ye not, O Ahab! For me, off shoes and
jacket to it; let Stubb die in his drawers! A most mouldy and
over salted death, though;—cherries! cherries! cherries! Oh,
Flask, for one red cherry ere we die!”

“Cherries? I only wish that we were where they grow. Oh,
Stubb, I hope my poor mother's drawn my part-pay ere this;
if not, few coppers will now come to her, for the voyage is up.”

From the ship's bows, nearly all the seamen now hung
inactive; hammers, bits of plank, lances, and harpoons, mechanically
retained in their hands, just as they had darted from their
various employments; all their enchanted eyes intent upon the
whale, which from side to side strangely vibrating his predestinating
head, sent a broad band of overspreading semicircular foam
before him as he rushed. Retribution, swift vengeance, eternal
malice were in his whole aspect, and spite of all that mortal man
could do, the solid white buttress of his forehead smote the
ship's starboard bow, till men and timbers reeled. Some fell
flat upon their faces. Like dislodged trucks, the heads of the
harpooneers aloft shook on their bull-like necks. Through the
breach, they heard the waters pour, as mountain torrents down a

“The ship! The hearse!—the second hearse!” cried Ahab
from the boat; “its wood could only be American!”

Diving beneath the settling ship, the whale ran quivering
along its keel; but turning under water, swiftly shot to the surface


Page 633
again, far off the other bow, but within a few yards of
Ahab's boat, where, for a time, he lay quiescent.

“I turn my body from the sun. What ho, Tashtego! let
me hear thy hammer. Oh! ye three unsurrendered spires of
mine; thou uncracked keel; and only god-bullied hull; thou
firm deck, and haughty helm, and Pole-pointed prow,—death-glorious
ship! must ye then perish, and without me? Am I
cut off from the last fond pride of meanest shipwrecked captains?
Oh, lonely death on lonely life! Oh, now I feel my
topmost greatness lies in my topmost grief. Ho, ho! from all
your furthest bounds, pour ye now in, ye bold billows of my
whole foregone life, and top this one piled comber of my death!
Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale;
to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at
thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all
coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither
can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee,
though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the

The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward;
with igniting velocity the line ran through the groove;—ran
foul. Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying
turn caught him round the neck, and voicelessly as Turkish
mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of the boat, ere
the crew knew he was gone. Next instant, the heavy eye-splice
in the rope's final end flew out of the stark-empty tub,
knocked down an oarsman, and smiting the sea, disappeared in
its depths.

For an instant, the tranced boat's crew stood still; then
turned. “The ship? Great God, where is the ship?” Soon
they through dim, bewildering mediums saw her sidelong fading
phantom, as in the gaseous Fata Morgana; only the uppermost
masts out of water; while fixed by infatuation, or fidelity,
or fate, to their once lofty perches, the pagan harpooneers still


Page 634
maintained their sinking lookouts on the sea. And now, concentric
circles seized the lone boat itself, and all its crew, and
each floating oar, and every lance-pole, and spinning, animate
and inanimate, all round and round in one vortex, carried the
smallest chip of the Pequod out of sight.

But as the last whelmings intermixingly poured themselves
over the sunken head of the Indian at the mainmast, leaving a
few inches of the erect spar yet visible, together with long
streaming yards of the flag, which calmly undulated, with
ironical coincidings, over the destroying billows they almost
touched;—at that instant, a red arm and a hammer hovered
backwardly uplifted in the open air, in the act of nailing the
flag faster and yet faster to the subsiding spar. A sky-hawk
that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from
its natural home among the stars, pecking at the flag, and
incommoding Tashtego there; this bird now chanced to intercept
its broad fluttering wing between the hammer and the
wood; and simultaneously feeling that etherial thrill, the submerged
savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his hammer
frozen there; and so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks,
and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive
form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship,
which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged
a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself
with it.

Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf;
a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed,
and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand
years ago.