“…all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude…” (Moby-Dick)

It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea. Fedallah first descried this jet. For of these moonlight nights, it was his wont to mount to the main-mast head, and stand a look-out there, with the same precision as if it had been day. And yet, though herds of whales were seen by night, not one whaleman in a hundred would venture a lowering for them. You may think with what emotions, then, the seamen beheld this old Oriental perched aloft at such unusual hours; his turban and the moon, companions in one sky. But when, after spending his uniform interval there for several successive nights without uttering a single sound; when, after all this silence, his unearthly voice was heard announcing that silvery, moon-lit jet, every reclining mariner started to his feet as if some winged spirit had lighted in the rigging, and hailed the mortal crew. “There she blows!” Had the trump of judgment blown, they could not have quivered more; yet still they felt no terror; rather pleasure. For though it was a most unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively desired a lowering.

From “The Spirit Spout,” Chapter 51 of Melville’s Moby-Dick

 

2 thoughts on ““…all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude…” (Moby-Dick)”

  1. Especially in the sentence you chose to highlight as the title, I can hear my favorite section of Hart Crane’s Voyages –
    “Take this Sea, whose diapason knells on scrolls of silver snowy sentences…”
    And reading further Voyages part II, can’t you hear the nod to Melville?
    “Hasten, while they are true, – sleep, death desire,/ close round one instant in one floating flower.
    Bind us in time, O Seasons clear, and awe./ O minstrel galleons of Carib fire,
    Bequeath us to no earthly shore until / Is answered in the vortex of our grave
    The seal’s wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.”
    Bind us in time, bequeath us to no earthly shore, till is answered in the vortex of our grave, sleep/death/desire closing round in one instant in one floating flower – a vortex looks like a silver snowy flower swallowing all – in the name of desire. Right or wrong, a strong desire is enough that many of us would be sucked into that persuasive vortex and suffer ills just to be one with it. Wonder ye now at the fiery hunt?

    Like

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