Moby Dick "The Final Harbor, Whence We Unmoor No More"

Herman Melville

"The Final Harbor, Whence We Unmoor No More"

Context: In its search for whales, and with Captain Ahab looking still for Moby Dick, the whaler "Pequod" sails into the relatively calm waters of the Japanese cruising ground. In mild, pleasant weather the boat crews of the whaling-ship seek their prey, often sitting quietly in their frail whale-boats for an hour or more, waiting for whales to rise to the surface. At such times, says Melville, one forgets the tiger heart and remorseless fangs of the ocean, so beautiful and calm it is. On such occasions, "in his whale-boat the rover softly feels a certain filial, confident, land-like feeling towards the sea; that he regards it as so much flowery earth." Even upon Captain Ahab, that tortured soul, the ocean has a soothing effect temporarily. The sea seems almost like land, says Melville, with blue hillsides where play-wearied children sleep in solitude in "some glad Maytime." It is in such a quiet time that a man may think long and deep, to consider not just this life, but the life of his eternal soul, as Melville suggests:

Oh, grassy glades! oh, ever vernal endless landscapes in the soul; in ye,–though long parched by the dead drought of the earthy life,–in ye, men yet may roll, like young horses in new morning clover; and for some few fleeting moments, feel the cool dew of the life immortal on them. Would to God these blessed calms would last. But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause:–through infancy's unconscious spell, boyhood's thoughtless faith, adolescence' doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood's pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling's father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.