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       Mardi: and A Voyage Thither, Vol. I, p.1

         Part # of Mardi: and A Voyage Thither series by Herman Melville
Mardi: and A Voyage Thither, Vol. I

  Produced by Geoff Palmer




  VOL. I




  Not long ago, having published two narratives of voyages in thePacific, which, in many quarters, were received with incredulity,the thought occurred to me, of indeed writing a romance of Polynesianadventure, and publishing it as such; to see whether, the fictionmight not, possibly, be received for a verity: in some degree thereverse of my previous experience.

  This thought was the germ of others, which have resulted in Mardi.New York, January, 1849.



  CHAPTER 1. Foot in Stirrup 2. A Calm 3. A King for a Comrade 4. A Chat in the Clouds 5. Seats secured and Portmanteaus packed 6. Eight Bells 7. A Pause 8. They push off, Velis et Bemis 9. The Watery World is all before Them 10. They arrange their Canopies and Lounges, and try to make Things comfortable 11. Jarl afflicted with the Lockjaw 12. More about being in an open Boat 13. Of the Chondropterygii, and other uncouth Hordes infesting the South Seas 14. Jarl's Misgivings 15. A Stitch in time saves Nine 16. They are Becalmed 17. In high Spirits they push on for the Terra Incognita 18. My Lord Shark and his Pages 19. Who goes there? 20. Noises and Portents 21. Man ho! 22. What befel the Brigantine at the Pearl Shell Islands 23. Sailing from the Island they pillage the Cabin 24. Dedicated to the College of Physicians and Surgeons 25. Peril a Peace-maker 26. Containing a Pennyweight of Philosophy 27. In which the past History of the Parki is concluded 28. Suspicions laid, and something about the Calmuc 29. What they lighted upon in further searching the Craft, and the Resolution they came to 30. Hints for a full length of Samoa 31. Rovings Alow and Aloft 32. Xiphius Platypterus 33. Otard 34. How they steered on their Way 35. Ah, Annatoo! 36. The Parki gives up the Ghost 37. Once more they take to the Chamois 38. The Sea on Fire 39. They fall in with Strangers 40. Sire and Sons 41. A Fray 42. Remorse 43. The Tent entered 44. Away! 45. Reminiscences 46. The Chamois with a roving Commission 47. Yillah, Jarl, and Samoa 48. Something under the Surface 49. Yillah 50. Yillah in Ardair 51. The Dream begins to fade 52. World ho! 53. The Chamois Ashore 54. A Gentleman from the Sun 55. Tiffin in a Temple 56. King Media a Host 57. Taji takes Counsel with himself 58. Mardi by Night and Yillah by Day 59. Their Morning Meal 60. Belshazzar on the Bench 61. An Incognito 62. Taji retires from the World 63. Odo and its Lord 64. Yillah a Phantom 65. Taji makes three Acquaintances 66. With a fair Wind at Sunrise they sail 67. Little King Peepi 68. How Teeth were regarded in Valapee 69. The Company discourse, and Braid-Beard rehearses a Legend 70. The Minstrel leads of with a Paddle-Song; and a Message is received from Abroad 71. They land upon the Island of Juam 72. A Book from the Chronicles of Mohi 73. Something more of the Prince 74. Advancing deeper into the Vale, they encounter Donjalolo 75. Time and Temples 76. A pleasant Place for a Lounge 77. The House of the Afternoon 78. Babbalanja solus 79. The Center of many Circumferences 80. Donjalolo in the Bosom of his Family 81. Wherein Babbalanja relates the Adventure of one Karkeke in the Land of Shades 82. How Donjalolo, sent Agents to the surrounding Isles; with the Result 83. They visit the Tributary Islets 84. Taji sits down to Dinner with five-and-twenty Kings, and a royal Time they have 85. After Dinner 86. Of those Scamps the Plujii 87. Nora-Bamma 88. In a Calm, Hautia's Heralds approach 89. Braid-Beard rehearses the Origin of the Isle of Rogues 90. Rare Sport at Ohonoo 91. Of King Uhia and his Subjects 92. The God Keevi and the Precipice of Mondo 93. Babbalanja steps in between Mohi and Yoomy; and Yoomy relates a Legend 94. Of that jolly old Lord, Borabolla; and that jolly Island of his, Mondoldo; and of the Fish-ponds, and the Hereafters of Fish 95. That jolly old Lord Borabolla laughs on both Sides of his Face 96. Samoa a Surgeon 97. Faith and Knowledge 98. The Tale of a Traveler 99. "Marnee Ora, Ora Marnee."100. The Pursuer himself is pursued101. The Iris102. They depart from Mondoldo103. As they sail104. Wherein Babbalanja broaches a diabolical Theory, and in his own Person proves it


  CHAPTER IFoot In Stirrup

  We are off! The courses and topsails are set: the coral-hung anchorswings from the bow: and together, the three royals are given to thebreeze, that follows us out to sea like the baying of a hound. Outspreads the canvas--alow, aloft-boom-stretched, on both sides, withmany a stun' sail; till like a hawk, with pinions poised, we shadowthe sea with our sails, and reelingly cleave the brine.

  But whence, and whither wend ye, mariners?

  We sail from Ravavai, an isle in the sea, not very far northward fromthe tropic of Capricorn, nor very far westward from Pitcairn'sisland, where the mutineers of the Bounty settled. At Ravavai I hadstepped ashore some few months previous; and now was embarked on acruise for the whale, whose brain enlightens the world.

  And from Ravavai we sail for the Gallipagos, otherwise called theEnchanted Islands, by reason of the many wild currents and eddiesthere met.

  Now, round about those isles, which Dampier once trod, where theSpanish bucaniers once hived their gold moidores, the Cachalot, orsperm whale, at certain seasons abounds.

  But thither, from Ravavai, your craft may not fly, as flies thesea-gull, straight to her nest. For, owing to the prevalence ofthe trade winds, ships bound to the northeast from the vicinity ofRavavai are fain to take something of a circuit; a few thousand milesor so. First, in pursuit of the variable winds, they make all hasteto the south; and there, at length picking up a stray breeze, theystand for the main: then, making their easting, up helm, and awaydown the coast, toward the Line.

  This round-about way did the Arcturion take; and in all conscience aweary one it was. Never before had the ocean appeared so monotonous;thank fate, never since.

  But bravo! in two weeks' time, an event. Out of the gray of themorning, and right ahead, as we sailed along, a dark object rose outof the sea; standing dimly before us, mists wreathing and curlingaloft, and creamy breakers frothing round its base.--We turned aside,and, at length, when day dawned, passed Massafuero. With a glass,we spied two or three hermit goats winding down to the sea, in aravine; and presently, a signal: a tattered flag upon a summit beyond.Well knowing, however, that there was nobody on the island but two orthree noose-fulls of runaway convicts from Chili, our captain had nomind to comply with their invitation to land. Though, haply, he mayhave erred in not sending a boat off with his card.

  A few days more and we "took the trades." Like favors snappishlyconferred, they came to us, as is often the case, in a very sharpsquall; the shock of which carried away one of our spars; also ourfat old cook off his legs; depositing him plump in the scuppers toleeward.

  In good time making the desired longitude upon the equator, a fewleagues west of the Gallipagos, we spent several weeks chassezingacross the Line, to and fro, in unavailing search for our prey. Forsome of their hunters believe, that whales, like the silver ore inPeru, run in veins through the ocean. So, day after day, daily; andweek after week, weekly, we traversed the self-same longitudinalintersection of the self-same Line; till we were almost ready toswear that we felt the ship strike every time her keel crossedthat imaginary locality.

  At length, dead before the equatorial breeze, we threaded our waystraight along the very Line itself. Westward sailing; peering right,and peering left, but seeing naught.

  It was during this weary time, that I experienced the first symptomsof that bitter impatience of our monotonous craft, which ultimatelyled to the adventures herein recounted.

  But hold you! Not a word against that rare old ship, nor its crew.The sailors were good fellows all, the half, score of p
agans we hadshipped at the islands included. Nevertheless, they were notprecisely to my mind. There was no soul a magnet to mine; none withwhom to mingle sympathies; save in deploring the calms with which wewere now and then overtaken; or in hailing the breeze when it came.Under other and livelier auspices the tarry knaves might havedeveloped qualities more attractive. Had we sprung a leak, been"stove" by a whale, or been blessed with some despot of a captainagainst whom to stir up some spirited revolt, these shipmates of minemight have proved limber lads, and men of mettle. But as it was,there was naught to strike fire from their steel.

  There were other things, also, tending to make my lot on ship-boardvery hard to be borne. True, the skipper himself was a trump; stoodupon no quarter-deck dignity; and had a tongue for a sailor. Let medo him justice, furthermore: he took a sort of fancy for me inparticular; was sociable, nay, loquacious, when I happened to standat the helm. But what of that? Could he talk sentiment or philosophy?Not a bit. His library was eight inches by four: Bowditch, andHamilton Moore.

  And what to me, thus pining for some one who could page me aquotation from Burton on Blue Devils; what to me, indeed, wereflat repetitions of long-drawn yarns, and the everlasting stanzasof Black-eyed Susan sung by our full forecastle choir? Stalerthan stale ale.

  Ay, ay, Arcturion! I say it in no malice, but thou wast exceedinglydull. Not only at sailing: hard though it was, that I could haveborne; but in every other respect. The days went slowly round andround, endless and uneventful as cycles in space. Time, and time-pieces; How many centuries did my hammock tell, as pendulum-like itswung to the ship's dull roll, and ticked the hours and ages. Sacredforever be the Areturion's fore-hatch--alas! sea-moss is over itnow--and rusty forever the bolts that held together that old seahearth-stone, about which we so often lounged. Nevertheless, ye lostand leaden hours, I will rail at ye while life lasts.

  Well: weeks, chronologically speaking, went by. Bill Marvel's storieswere told over and over again, till the beginning and end dovetailedinto each other, and were united for aye. Ned Ballad's songs weresung till the echoes lurked in the very tops, and nested in the buntsof the sails. My poor patience was clean gone.

  But, at last after some time sailing due westward we quitted the Linein high disgust; having seen there, no sign of a whale.

  But whither now? To the broiling coast of Papua? That region of sun-strokes, typhoons, and bitter pulls after whales unattainable. Farworse. We were going, it seemed, to illustrate the Whistonian theoryconcerning the damned and the comets;--hurried from equinoctial heatsto arctic frosts. To be short, with the true fickleness of his tribe,our skipper had abandoned all thought of the Cachalot. In desperation,he was bent upon bobbing for the Right whale on the Nor'-West Coastand in the Bay of Kamschatska.

  To the uninitiated in the business of whaling, my feelings at thisjuncture may perhaps be hard to understand. But this much let me say:that Right whaling on the Nor'-West Coast, in chill and dismal fogs,the sullen inert monsters rafting the sea all round like Hartz forestlogs on the Rhine, and submitting to the harpoon like half-stunnedbullocks to the knife; this horrid and indecent Right whaling,I say, compared to a spirited hunt for the gentlemanly Cachalot insouthern and more genial seas, is as the butchery of white bears uponblank Greenland icebergs to zebra hunting in Caffraria, where thelively quarry bounds before you through leafy glades.

  Now, this most unforeseen determination on the part of my captain tomeasure the arctic circle was nothing more nor less than a tacitcontravention of the agreement between us. That agreement needs notto be detailed. And having shipped but for a single cruise, I hadembarked aboard his craft as one might put foot in stirrup for aday's following of the hounds. And here, Heaven help me, he was goingto carry me off to the Pole! And on such a vile errand too! For therewas something degrading in it. Your true whaleman glories in keepinghis harpoon unspotted by blood of aught but Cachalot. By my halidome,it touched the knighthood of a tar. Sperm and spermaceti! It wasunendurable.

  "Captain," said I, touching my sombrero to him as I stood at thewheel one day, "It's very hard to carry me off this way to purgatory.I shipped to go elsewhere."

  "Yes, and so did I," was his reply. "But it can't be helped. Spermwhales are not to be had. We've been out now three years, andsomething or other must be got; for the ship is hungry for oil, andher hold a gulf to look into. But cheer up my boy; once in the Bay ofKamschatka, and we'll be all afloat with what we want, though it benone of the best."

  Worse and worse! The oleaginous prospect extended into an immensity ofMacassar. "Sir," said I, "I did not ship for it; put me ashoresomewhere, I beseech." He stared, but no answer vouchsafed; and for amoment I thought I had roused the domineering spirit of the sea-captain,to the prejudice of the more kindly nature of the man.

  But not so. Taking three turns on the deck, he placed his handon the wheel, and said, "Right or wrong, my lad, go with us you must.Putting you ashore is now out of the question. I make no port tillthis ship is full to the combings of her hatchways. However, you mayleave her if you can." And so saying he entered his cabin, likeJulius Caesar into his tent.

  He may have meant little by it, but that last sentence rung in my earlike a bravado. It savored of the turnkey's compliments to theprisoner in Newgate, when he shoots to the bolt on him.

  "Leave the ship if I can!" Leave the ship when neither sail nor shorewas in sight! Ay, my fine captain, stranger things have been done.For on board that very craft, the old Arcturion, were four tallfellows, whom two years previous our skipper himself had picked up inan open boat, far from the farthest shoal. To be sure, they spun along yarn about being the only survivors of an Indiaman burnt down tothe water's edge. But who credited their tale? Like many others, theywere keepers of a secret: had doubtless contracted a disgust for someugly craft still afloat and hearty, and stolen away from her, offsoundings. Among seamen in the Pacific such adventures not seldomoccur. Nor are they accounted great wonders. They are but incidents,not events, in the career of the brethren of the order of South Searovers. For what matters it, though hundreds of miles from land, if agood whale-boat be under foot, the Trades behind, and mild, warm seasbefore? And herein lies the difference between the Atlantic andPacific:--that once within the Tropics, the bold sailor who has amind to quit his ship round Cape Horn, waits not for port. He regardsthat ocean as one mighty harbor.

  Nevertheless, the enterprise hinted at was no light one; and Iresolved to weigh well the chances. It's worth noticing, this way weall have of pondering for ourselves the enterprise, which, forothers, we hold a bagatelle.

  My first thoughts were of the boat to be obtained, and theright or wrong of abstracting it, under the circumstances. But tosplit no hairs on this point, let me say, that were I placed in thesame situation again, I would repeat the thing I did then. Thecaptain well knew that he was going to detain me unlawfully: againstour agreement; and it was he himself who threw out the very hint,which I merely adopted, with many thanks to him.

  In some such willful mood as this, I went aloft one day, to stand myallotted two hours at the mast-head. It was toward the close of aday, serene and beautiful. There I stood, high upon the mast, andaway, away, illimitably rolled the ocean beneath. Where we then werewas perhaps the most unfrequented and least known portion of theseseas. Westward, however, lay numerous groups of islands, loosely laiddown upon the charts, and invested with all the charms of dream-land.But soon these regions would be past; the mild equatorial breezeexchanged for cold, fierce squalls, and all the horrors of northernvoyaging.

  I cast my eyes downward to the brown planks of the dull, ploddingship, silent from stem to stern; then abroad.

  In the distance what visions were spread! The entire western horizonhigh piled with gold and crimson clouds; airy arches, domes, andminarets; as if the yellow, Moorish sun were setting behind some vastAlhambra. Vistas seemed leading to worlds beyond. To and fro, and allover the towers of this Nineveh in the sky, flew troops of birds.Watching them long, one crossed my sight, flew through
a low arch,and was lost to view. My spirit must have sailed in with it; fordirectly, as in a trance, came upon me the cadence of mild billowslaving a beach of shells, the waving of boughs, and the voices ofmaidens, and the lulled beatings of my own dissolved heart, allblended together.

  Now, all this, to be plain, was but one of the many visions one hasup aloft. But coming upon me at this time, it wrought upon me so,that thenceforth my desire to quit the Arcturion became little shortof a frenzy.


  Next day there was a calm, which added not a little to my impatienceof the ship. And, furthermore, by certain nameless associationsrevived in me my old impressions upon first witnessing as a landsmanthis phenomenon of the sea. Those impressions may merit a page.

  To a landsman a calm is no joke. It not only revolutionizes hisabdomen, but unsettles his mind; tempts him to recant his belief inthe eternal fitness of things; in short, almost makes an infidel ofhim.

  At first he is taken by surprise, never having dreamt of a state ofexistence where existence itself seems suspended. He shakes himselfin his coat, to see whether it be empty or no. He closes his eyes, totest the reality of the glassy expanse. He fetches a deep breath, byway of experiment, and for the sake of witnessing the effect. If areader of books, Priestley on Necessity occurs to him; and hebelieves in that old Sir Anthony Absolute to the very last chapter.His faith in Malte Brun, however, begins to fail; for the geography,which from boyhood he had implicitly confided in, always assured him,that though expatiating all over the globe, the sea was at leastmargined by land. That over against America, for example, was Asia.But it is a calm, and he grows madly skeptical.

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