Moby Dick: or, the White Whale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 623 pages of information about Moby Dick.

Physiognomically regarded, the Sperm Whale is an anomalous creature.  He has no proper nose.  And since the nose is the central and most conspicuous of the features; and since it perhaps most modifies and finally controls their combined expression; hence it would seem that its entire absence, as an external appendage, must very largely affect the countenance of the whale.  For as in landscape gardening, a spire, cupola, monument, or tower of some sort, is deemed almost indispensable to the completion of the scene; so no face can be physiognomically in keeping without the elevated open-work belfry of the nose.  Dash the nose from Phidias’s marble Jove, and what a sorry remainder!  Nevertheless, Leviathan is of so mighty a magnitude, all his proportions are so stately, that the same deficiency which in the sculptured Jove were hideous, in him is no blemish at all.  Nay, it is an added grandeur.  A nose to the whale would have been impertinent.  As on your physiognomical voyage you sail round his vast head in your jollyboat, your noble conceptions of him are never insulted by the reflection that he has a nose to be pulled.  A pestilent conceit, which so often will insist upon obtruding even when beholding the mightiest royal beadle on his throne.

In some particulars, perhaps the most imposing physiognomical view to be had of the Sperm Whale, is that of the full front of his head.  This aspect is sublime.

In thought, a fine human brow is like the East when troubled with the morning.  In the repose of the pasture, the curled brow of the bull has a touch of the grand in it.  Pushing heavy cannon up mountain defiles, the elephant’s brow is majestic.  Human or animal, the mystical brow is as that great golden seal affixed by the German Emperors to their decrees.  It signifies—­“God:  done this day by my hand.”  But in most creatures, nay in man himself, very often the brow is but a mere strip of alpine land lying along the snow line.  Few are the foreheads which like Shakespeare’s or Melancthon’s rise so high, and descend so low, that the eyes themselves seem clear, eternal, tideless mountain lakes; and all above them in the forehead’s wrinkles, you seem to track the antlered thoughts descending there to drink, as the Highland hunters track the snow prints of the deer.  But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature.  For you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed; no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper; nothing but that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men.  Nor, in profile, does this wondrous brow diminish; though that way viewed its grandeur does not domineer upon you so.  In profile, you plainly perceive that horizontal, semi-crescentic depression in the forehead’s middle, which, in a man, is Lavater’s mark of genius.

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
Moby Dick: or, the White Whale from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.