“I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me” (Moby-Dick)

Literature, Writers

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say,—Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now, since by many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of attainable felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fireside, the country; now that I have perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case eternally. In thoughts of the visions of the night, I saw long rows of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.

From “A Squeeze of the Hand,” Chapter 94 of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick.

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2 thoughts on ““I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me” (Moby-Dick)

  1. As good a time as any to remember the good times I had reading Moby-Dick for a college course with two professors who co-teach a new course every year, and have foul, dirty, playful senses of humor. I don’t remember where exactly the passage is, but a line in Moby-DIck led them to spend the rest of the year randomly shouting “Grease the bottoms!” at each other.

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