Thursday, March 12, 2009

Death-longing eyes

Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death
is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; it is but the first salutation to the possibilities of the immense Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored; therefore, to the death-longing eyes of such men, who still have left in them some interior compunctions against suicide, does the all-contributed and all-receptive ocean alluringly spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and wonderful, new-life adventures; and from the hearts of infinite Pacifics, the thousand mermaids sing to them--"Come hither, broken-hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate death; here are wonders supernatural, without dying for them. Come hither! bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and abhorring, landed world, is more oblivious than death. Come hither! put up THY gravestone, too, within the churchyard, and come hither, till we marry thee!"

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, chapter 121

A fascinating quote, that. Never mind that the cause of it was a man driven to destitution by drink - from such prosaic beginnings it opens up a strange metaphysical universe. I've just been replying to a comment on a previous post, about Cormac McCarthy's Outer Dark, and the above passage, which I read this morning, came back to me. Melville's influence on McCarthy is well-known, of course, and McCarthy would certainly recognise the 'region of the strange Untried'. I think it is from (or to) just that strange region that the three strangers in Outer Dark are journeying.

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