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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 79 The Prairie.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 79 The Prairie. Post by :crafty Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :690

Click below to download : Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 79 The Prairie. (Format : PDF)

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 79 The Prairie.

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.

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 Shakespeare's or Melancthon's rise
so 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, semi-crescentic 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 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.

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