"A Damp, Drizzly November In My Soul"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The greatest story of the greatest whale hunt in history begins with a confession by the narrator, Ishmael, that he took to the sea to escape himself and life. Like many Americans of his day, the author Herman Melville had taken to the whale-ship when he could find nothing to do on land to earn his living. If Ishmael carried to the Pequod "a damp, drizzly November" in his soul, he was to be chilled into even a grimmer December with the monomaniacal Captain Ahab on his wild, diabolical hunt for the albino whale Moby Dick. Finally, all men aboard this star-crossed ship were to die–including Ishmael's friend, the outlandishly tattooed cannibal Queequeg–before Ishmael would return to tell the tale. The power of rhetoric and the tone of the work can be illustrated in the following lines:

. . . Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.