Though essaying but a sportive sail, I was driven from my course by a blast re sistless; and ill-provided, young, and bowed by the brunt of things before my prime, still fly before the gale. ... If after all these fearful fainting trances, the verdict be, the golden haven was not gained; yet in bold quest thereof, better to sink in boundless deeps than float on vulgar shoals; and give me, ye gods, an utter wreck, if wreck I do.
Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.
Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning.
I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb. Ineffable socialities are in me. I would sit down and dine with you and all the gods in old Rome's Pantheon. It is a strange feeling--no hopefulness is in it, no despair. Content--that is it; and irresponsibility; but without licentious inclination.
Start her, now; give 'em the long and strong stroke, Tashtego. Start her, Tash, my boy-start her, all; but keep cool, keep cool-cucumbers is the word-easy, easy-only start her like grim death and grinning devils, and raise the buried dead perpendicular out of their graves, boys-that's all. Start her!
I don't know but a book in a man's brain is better off than a book bound in calf--at any rate it is safer from criticism. And taking a book off the brain, is akin to the ticklish & dangerous business of taking an old painting off a panel--you have to scrape off the whole brain in order to get at it with due safety--& even then, the painting may not be worth the trouble.
That hour in the life of a man when first the help of humanity fails him, and he learns that in his obscurity and indigence humanity holds him a dog and no man: that hour is a hard one, but not the hardest. There is still another hour which follows, when he learns that in his infinite comparative minuteness and abjectness, the gods do likewise despise him, and own him not of their clan.
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