Fun with Alliteration

Timing, they say, is everything, and Ahab made a critical blunder when he spilled the beans about his secret goal to slay the whale Moby Dick. Says Ishmael: “He impulsively and perhaps somewhat prematurely revealed the prime but private purpose of the Pequod’s voyage.” In short, he spoke too soon.

Sure the “savage crew had hailed the announcement of his quest.” But how long would their passion for the pursuit last? Pretty soon they’d be pissed off when they picked up that they’d been played. “Ahab had indirectly laid himself open to the unanswerable charge of usurpation; and with perfect impunity, both moral and legal, his crew if so disposed could refuse all further obedience to him, and even violently wrest from him the command.”

“Doh!” declares Ahab. “Indeed I am a doofus. Darn! But the deed is done. And with due diligence I must do damage control. Diminish the deception. [Deeply deliberating] I divine it! Dazzle them with distractions! My officers and men must have some nearer things to think of than Moby Dick.”

It is doubtful that dames will do it. Besides, there is a dearth of them.

The obvious answer: Money. “I will not strip these men of all hopes of cash—aye cash,” says Ahab. While they unwittingly pursue Moby Dick, he’ll lead them in regular old whale hunting as well. “For even the high lifted and chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse two thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way. Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object, too many would have turned from it in disgust.”

But money can’t buy love, as the lads from Liverpool once lipped. Which leads us to Ishmael and Queequeg. While Ahab ponders his position, those two lazily lounge on the deck on “a cloudy sultry afternoon”—ostensibly weaving mats. “I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the threads.” Whoa, Ishmael, TMI.

Their wefting, woofing, and warping continues until the threads become “one single, ever returning, unchanging vibration,” ending abruptly with a man’s cry. It is “a sound so strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly.”

The sound, as it turns out, emanates from “that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego.” who yells, ‘There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!’ ”

“ ‘Where-away?’ ”

“ ‘On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!’ ”

And here’s a fun fact: “The Sperm Whale blows as the clock ticks, with the same undeviating and reliable uniformity. And thereby the whalemen distinguish this fish from other tribes of his genus.”

That tick-tocking fish could teach the Captain a thing or two about timing.