Friday, January 21, 2011

Thanks to the comments on yesterday's post and the emails I've received about it, not to mention the unexpected news that a class of college students in California loves my poem "Touching," I'm beginning to feel better. I've been in such a weird funk, for no particular reason . . . and not just about writing but about life in general. I'd like to blame it on our horrible new governor, but honestly not everything is his fault.

I went to a Harmony basketball game last night and watched our boys get trampled by a pack of Jackman-ites who looked and played as if they were at least juniors in high school instead of 12- and 13-year-olds. But the funny thing is that, once again, the Harmony parents came together and loved, loved, loved their hapless calves out there on the floor. And then my own skinny hapless calf, who played incredibly hard against these leviathans, fell asleep in the car on the way home and never woke up again till this morning. Fortunately for him, this morning turned out to be a snow day, so here we all are, sociably trapped together in our little house. And I'm feeling more forgiving about myself and my days.

Here's what I read in Moby-Dick yesterday. Those of you who have finished the book: did you get a little weepy when you read this, or was that just me?

But far beneath this wondrous world upon the surface, another and still stranger world met our eyes as we gazed over the side. For, suspended in those watery vaults, floated the forms of the nursing mothers of the whales, and those that by their enormous girth seemed shortly to be mothers. The lake . . . was to a considerable depth exceedingly transparent; and as human infants when suckling will calmly and fixedly gaze away from the breast, as if leading two different lives at the time; and while yet drawing mortal nourishment, be still spiritually feasting upon some unearthly reminiscence;--even so did the young of these whales seem looking up towards us, but not at us, as if we were but a bit of Gulf-weed in their new-born sight.


Allison said...

Not quite weepy, but definitely wistful. It's a beautiful description of nursing human babies that took me back to those days with my own kids and made me wonder if he wrote this when he was a new father. I meant to peek at some autobiographical information and never got back to it after plowing through the rest of the book.

Dawn Potter said...

Let me know what you find out about that, Allison. I thought this passage was just glorious but terrible, too, in that it is sandwiched into the narration of a massive bloody hunt.

Allison said...

Well, based on a preliminary search, it seems like I was right. Melville's first child was born in 1849; from what I can tell, he was working on Moby Dick in 1850, and it was published in 1851.

Unfortunately, I took Moby Dick back to the library when I finished reading it; I'd like to go back over that passage now in light of your comments.