How would paraphrase this line from Moby Dick: "Time itself now held long breaths with keen surprise."
This line is referring to the suspense felt on board the Pequod.
Personifying time, the line suggests that even an inanimate and unfeeling, definitively impersonal thing like time has become animated by an overwhelming sense of suspense and surprise. We might go so far as to say that line claims a universal suspense in this moment, so potent as to become absolute and ubiquitous.
Though this may be something of an overstatement, the line is clearly suggesting a suspense of great potency.
To paraphrase the line, we might say, "The suspense and surpise of the moment had become universal," or "The suspense and surprise of the moment had become truly overwhelming."