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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 80 The Nut.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 80 The Nut. Post by :mrtwist Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :1745

Click below to download : Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 80 The Nut. (Format : PDF)

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 80 The Nut.

If the Sperm Whale be physiognomically a Sphinx, to the phrenologist
his brain seems that geometrical circle which it is impossible to
square.

In the full-grown creature the skull will measure at least twenty
feet in length. Unhinge the lower jaw, and the side view of this
skull is as the side of a moderately inclined plane resting
throughout on a level base. But in life--as we have elsewhere
seen--this inclined plane is angularly filled up, and almost squared
by the enormous superincumbent mass of the junk and sperm. At the
high end the skull forms a crater to bed that part of the mass; while
under the long floor of this crater--in another cavity seldom
exceeding ten inches in length and as many in depth--reposes the
mere handful of this monster's brain. The brain is at least twenty
feet from his apparent forehead in life; it is hidden away behind its
vast outworks, like the innermost citadel within the amplified
fortifications of Quebec. So like a choice casket is it secreted in
him, that I have known some whalemen who peremptorily deny that the
Sperm Whale has any other brain than that palpable semblance of one
formed by the cubic-yards of his sperm magazine. Lying in strange
folds, courses, and convolutions, to their apprehensions, it seems
more in keeping with the idea of his general might to regard that
mystic part of him as the seat of his intelligence.

It is plain, then, that phrenologically the head of this Leviathan,
in the creature's living intact state, is an entire delusion. As for
his true brain, you can then see no indications of it, nor feel any.
The whale, like all things that are mighty, wears a false brow to the
common world.

If you unload his skull of its spermy heaps and then take a rear view
of its rear end, which is the high end, you will be struck by its
resemblance to the human skull, beheld in the same situation, and
from the same point of view. Indeed, place this reversed skull
(scaled down to the human magnitude) among a plate of men's skulls,
and you would involuntarily confound it with them; and remarking the
depressions on one part of its summit, in phrenological phrase you
would say--This man had no self-esteem, and no veneration. And by
those negations, considered along with the affirmative fact of his
prodigious bulk and power, you can best form to yourself the truest,
though not the most exhilarating conception of what the most exalted
potency is.

But if from the comparative dimensions of the whale's proper brain,
you deem it incapable of being adequately charted, then I have
another idea for you. If you attentively regard almost any
quadruped's spine, you will be struck with the resemblance of its
vertebrae to a strung necklace of dwarfed skulls, all bearing
rudimental resemblance to the skull proper. It is a German conceit,
that the vertebrae are absolutely undeveloped skulls. But the
curious external resemblance, I take it the Germans were not the
first men to perceive. A foreign friend once pointed it out to me,
in the skeleton of a foe he had slain, and with the vertebrae of
which he was inlaying, in a sort of basso-relievo, the beaked prow
of his canoe. Now, I consider that the phrenologists have omitted an
important thing in not pushing their investigations from the
cerebellum through the spinal canal. For I believe that much of a
man's character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would
rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin
joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice
in my spine, as in the firm audacious staff of that flag which I
fling half out to the world.

Apply this spinal branch of phrenology to the Sperm Whale. His
cranial cavity is continuous with the first neck-vertebra; and in
that vertebra the bottom of the spinal canal will measure ten inches
across, being eight in height, and of a triangular figure with the
base downwards. As it passes through the remaining vertebrae the
canal tapers in size, but for a considerable distance remains of
large capacity. Now, of course, this canal is filled with much the
same strangely fibrous substance--the spinal cord--as the brain; and
directly communicates with the brain. And what is still more, for
many feet after emerging from the brain's cavity, the spinal cord
remains of an undecreasing girth, almost equal to that of the brain.
Under all these circumstances, would it be unreasonable to survey and
map out the whale's spine phrenologically? For, viewed in this
light, the wonderful comparative smallness of his brain proper is
more than compensated by the wonderful comparative magnitude of his
spinal cord.

But leaving this hint to operate as it may with the phrenologists, I
would merely assume the spinal theory for a moment, in reference to
the Sperm Whale's hump. This august hump, if I mistake not, rises
over one of the larger vertebrae, and is, therefore, in some sort,
the outer convex mould of it. From its relative situation then, I
should call this high hump the organ of firmness or indomitableness
in the Sperm Whale. And that the great monster is indomitable, you
will yet have reason to know.

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To scan the lines of his face, or feel the bumps on the head of thisLeviathan; this is a thing which no Physiognomist or Phrenologist hasas yet undertaken. Such an enterprise would seem almost as hopefulas for Lavater to have scrutinized the wrinkles on the Rock ofGibraltar, or for Gall to have mounted a ladder and manipulated theDome of the Pantheon. Still, in that famous work of his, Lavaternot only treats of the various faces of men, but also attentivelystudies the faces of horses, birds, serpents, and fish; and dwells indetail upon the modifications of expression discernible therein.
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