.. < chapter xxiii 28 THE LEE SHORE >
Some chapters back, one Bulkington was
spoken of, a tall, new-landed mariner, encountered in New Bedford at the inn.
When on that shivering winter's night, the Pequod thrust her vindictive bows
into the cold malicious waves, who should I see
standing at her helm but Bulkington! I looked with sympathetic awe and
fearfulness upon the man, who in mid-winter just landed from a four years'
dangerous voyage, could so unrestingly push off again for still another
tempestuous term. The land seemed scorching to his feet. Wonderfullest
things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs; this
six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave of Bulkington. Let me only say that
it fared with him as with the storm-tossed ship, that miserably drives along
the leeward land. The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in
the port is safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends,
all that's kind to our mortalities. But in that gale, the port, the land, is
that ship's direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of
land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and
through. With all her might she crowds all sail off shore; in so doing,
fights 'gainst the very winds that fain would blow her homeward; seeks all
the lashed sea's landlessness again; for refuge's sake forlornly rushing into
peril; her only friend her bitterest foe! Know ye, now, Bulkington?
Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep,
earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open
independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth
conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore? But as in landlessness
alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God --so, better is
it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the
lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven
crawl to land! Terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain? Take
heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray
of thy ocean-perishing --straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!