Seriously, No Explanation Needed

Previously, on Moby-Dick: Ishmael has tied himself into knots, for an entire chapter, arguing in impassioned prose as to why whaling is the greatest gift to the world and all its inhabitants. And why all those who whale (is “whale” a verb? I whale, you whale, he, she, or it whales) should be sanctified.

You’d think Ishmael would be all tuckered out, and ready to take a nap, preferably in the arms of Queequeg.

If only. Ishmael isn’t through yet. The next title is: “Postscript.”

It begins thusly: “In behalf of the dignity of whaling, I would fain advance naught but substantiated facts [facts expounded upon in excruciating detail in the last chapter]. But after embattling his facts [beating them to death, actually], an advocate [that would be Ishmael, of course] who should wholly suppress a not unreasonable surmise, which might tell eloquently upon his cause—such an advocate, would he not be blame-worthy?”

Well, yes, he would. But that doesn’t stop him.

And so, Ishmael continues. It is “well known,” he reports, that before a king or queen’s coronation ceremony “a certain curious process of seasoning them” is conducted. With salt. Whether a measuring spoon is employed or if the royals are simply sprinkled to taste, he’s not sure. “How they use the salt, precisely—who knows?”

Maybe by sealing the coronee’s head in a plastic bag with the salt, some bread crumbs, and a little paprika?

What Ishmael does know is that “a king’s head is solemnly oiled at his coronation, even as a head of salad.”

Is anyone else getting hungry?

Anyway, Ishmael has no tolerance, in any other circumstance, for guys putting stuff in their hair. It’s okay for royals but, “In common life we esteem but meanly and contemptibly a fellow who anoints his hair, and palpably smells of that anointing. In truth, a mature man who uses hairoil, that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere.” Probably on his head, one would guess.

But back to our king and his big day. Guess what kind of “hairoil” is used for kings at their coronation? Not olive, not “macassar” (nineteenth-century Brylcreem), not castor, not cod-liver, not canola, not “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” not WD-40, but, you guessed it: whale oil! And not just any ol’ whale oil but “the sperm oil in its unmanufactured, unpolluted state, the sweetest of all oils.”

Yes, Ishmael crows, “we whalemen supply your kings and queens with coronation stuff!” So there!

And really, that’s enough said. Seriously.