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To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the
head of this Leviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist
or Phrenologist has as yet undertaken. Such an enterprise
would seem almost as hopeful as for Lavater to have scrutinized
the wrinkles on the Rock of Gibraltar, or for Gall to have
mounted a ladder and manipulated the Dome of the Pantheon.
Still, in that famous work of his, Lavater not only treats of the
various faces of men, but also attentively studies the faces of
horses, birds, serpents, and fish; and dwells in detail upon the
modifications of expression discernible therein. Nor have Gall
and his disciple Spurzheim failed to throw out some hints touching
the phrenological characteristics of other beings than man.
Therefore, though I am but ill qualified for a pioneer, in the application
of these two semi-sciences to the whale, I will do my
endeavor. I try all things; I achieve what I can.


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Physiognomically regarded, the Sperm Whale is an
anomalous creature. He has no proper nose. And since the
nose is the central and most conspicuous of the features; and
since it perhaps most modifies and finally controls their combined
expression; hence it would seem that its entire absence, as an
external appendage, must very largely affect the countenance
of the whale. For as in landscape gardening, a spire, cupola,
monument, or tower of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable
to the completion of the scene; so no face can be physiognomically
in keeping without the elevated open-work belfry of
the nose. Dash the nose from Phidias's marble Jove, and what
a sorry remainder! Nevertheless, Leviathan is of so mighty a
magnitude, all his proportions are so stately, that the same deficiency
which in the sculptured Jove were hideous, in him is
no blemish at all. Nay, it is an added grandeur. A nose to
the whale would have been impertinent. As on your physiognomical
voyage you sail round his vast head in your jolly-boat,
your noble conceptions of him are never insulted by the reflection
that he has a nose to be pulled. A pestilent conceit, which
so often will insist upon obtruding even when beholding the
mightiest royal beadle on his throne.

In some particulars, perhaps the most imposing physiognomical
view to be had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full
front of his head. This aspect is sublime.

In thought, a fine human brow is like the East when
troubled with the morning. In the repose of the pasture, the
curled brow of the bull has a touch of the grand in it. Pushing
heavy cannon up mountain defiles, the elephant's brow is
majestic. Human or animal, the mystical brow is as that great
golden seal affixed by the German emperors to their decrees.
It signifies—“God: done this day by my hand.” But in most
creatures, nay in man himself, very often the brow is but a
mere strip of alpine land lying along the snow line. Few are
the foreheads which like Shakspeare's or Melancthon's rise so


Page 386
high, and descend so low, that the eyes themselves seem clear,
eternal, tideless mountain lakes; and all above them in the
forehead's wrinkles, you seem to track the antlered thoughts
descending there to drink, as the Highland hunters track the
snow prints of the deer. But in the great Sperm Whale, this
high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so
immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view,
you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in
beholding any other object in living nature. For you see no
one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed; no
nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper; nothing
but that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with
riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships,
and men. Nor, in profile, does this wondrous brow diminish;
though that way viewed, its grandeur does not domineer upon
you so. In profile, you plainly perceive that horizontal, semicrescentic
depression in the forehead's middle, which, in man, is
Lavater's mark of genius.

But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has the Sperm
Whale ever written a book, spoken a speech? No, his great
genius is declared in his doing nothing particular to prove it.
It is moreover declared in his pyramidical silence. And this
reminds me that had the great Sperm Whale been known to
the young Orient World, he would have been deified by their
child-magian thoughts. They deified the crocodile of the Nile,
because the crocodile is tongueless; and the Sperm Whale has
no tongue, or at least it is so exceedingly small, as to be incapable
of protrusion. If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical
nation shall lure back to their birth-right, the merry May-day
gods of old; and livingly enthrone them again in the now
egotistical sky; in the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted
to Jove's high seat, the great Sperm Whale shall lord it.

Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics.
But there is no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every


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man's and every being's face. Physiognomy, like every other
human science, is but a passing fable. If then, Sir William
Jones, who read in thirty languages, could not read the simplest
peasant's face in its profounder and more subtle meanings, how
may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of the
Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow before you. Read
it if you can.