Me reading (4:45).
UPDATE 5/06 – Links to reading intentionally broken.
3. A shaggy kind of woollen cloth used for overcoats.
2. trans. To build (something) in or into a wall. Obs.
I have not previously but am now going to start informing you whenever the present sentence from Moby-Dick is one of the several quotations cited by the OED. It is now.
Isle of Desolation
Well, “Isle of Desolation” is an old name for the largest of the Kerguelen Islands, in the south Indian ocean. But that’s obviously not what Melville means because he adds “off Patagonia.” A-ha! Google was thoroughly unhelpful with this, but I eventually dug it up: Isla Desolación (seen at center here) is on the coast of Chile and marks the western entrance to the Strait of Magellan. Almost never called by its English name these days, apparently.
1. a. ‘The fore-end of a ship or boat; being the rounding part of a vessel forward, beginning on both sides where the planks arch inwards, and terminating where they close, at the rabbet of the stem or prow, being larboard or starboard from that division’. Smyth Sailor’s Word-bk. Also in pl. ‘bows’, i.e. the ‘shoulders’ of a boat.
I put this here for the plural.
cave of Elephanta
An elaborate temple complex to Śiva/Shiva on an island near Mumbai/Bombay, carved out of solid rock and full of sculpture. Melville’s point? My guess is that he’s saying that the blessings of the Christian god are as inaccessible to these lost souls and their widows as the blessings of the Hindu god would be irrelevant (and is thereby putting in another little dig at the absurdity of Christianity when viewed on a global scale). But he might also be saying something about how remote and irrelevant a place the cave of Elephanta is, and that all places are the same to these dead because their bodies are nowhere. Or something. I’d appreciate any thoughts or input.
In Kent, England, a stretch along the English Channel noted for being the location of hundreds of shipwrecks.
In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included
I give up. In what census? He seems to be saying that they are included. If this is a riddle, I can’t solve it, and if it’s just simple, I can’t see it straight. Please explain this to me.
Having read the whole passage several times I’m now willing to venture that he might simply mean “In what sense, exactly, do we believe the dead are still alive? Because clearly we do believe something of the sort – listen to the following contradictions…” Which mostly makes sense, but it’s still a bit odd. Maybe I’m just letting the syntax worry me. Anyway, weigh in, readers.
so significant and infidel a word
Am I right in thinking he just means “dead”? It’s not that likely to be “prefix”ed to someone’s name, and he hasn’t actually used the word in its adjectival form yet, so I’m a bit confused.
3. concr. That which is forfeited; a pecuniary penalty, a fine. ? Obs.
death-forfeitures upon immortals
This puzzled me but now I’m pretty sure I get it – he’s saying “the church tells us that the soul is immortal and death is an illusion, but when it comes to the practical matter of getting life insurance to pay up, that seems to go out the window.” I.e. all of us are the supposed “immortals.” I think that’s right, especially given the rest of the passage. But tell me if you understand this differently.
2. trans. To break a hole in (a boat); to break to pieces; also, to break (a hole in a boat). to stave in, to crush inwards, make a hole in.
Somehow I missed this one when it first appeared back in the Excerpts.
2. An official document granting certain privileges from a sovereign or government; spec. in the Army, a document conferring nominal rank on an officer, but giving no right to extra pay.
b. transf. and fig.
The sediment deposited in the containing vessel from wine and some other liquids.
2. pl. b. fig. Basest part, ‘dregs’, ‘refuse’.
This sentence is quoted in OED.
A general question to the audience, at this point, regarding my comprehension. I’m afraid I may have lost the gist of the argument. Our narrator first seems to comment wonderingly/skeptically on the oddity of believing that we are in some respect immortal and that Adam is still lying in some horrible paralysis, or on being scared of the dead, etc. – and says that religious faith feeds off of these “dead doubts” “like a jackal,” which sounds pretty disgusted to me. And yet then he’s saying, as though it’s his peculiarity, that he believes that the body is nothing compared to the soul, and that the soul is immortal. So his beef with the church is not about the immortal soul, as I had thought – he likes the idea of an immortal soul. Rather, he’s accusing mankind of thinking of death in terms that are too earthbound. And yet, then, why shouldn’t we wonder at knocking in a tomb, etc? I guess this is sort of a transcendentalist’s distinction: there is a soul and a spiritual “beyond” but they are natural phenomena, not establishments created by a man-like God or mediated by a man-made church. Fear of ghosts and promises of heaven are an oyster’s view of the afterlife, which is actually something far purer. Is that what he’s saying?
I imagine his thoughts on this subject will be restated as the book progresses (or will be made more clearly and intentionally complex – for now I just feel personally uncertain).
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