Sunday, August 30, 2015

typing infinity

"There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves." --Moby-Dick (The Mast-Head)
So Ishmael muses from the mast-head, looking down. Arrived at the Continental Divide, the narrating Captain of U. S. Dragoons looks down from a "lofty bluff" above the South Pass, likewise with ocean and infinity on his mind: 
"A continent is spread beneath me: a new world in ocean-midst: the great ocean, at whose ever-heaving surge typing infinity — man trembled and forbore many thousand years ...."  --September 1852 Scenes Beyond the Western Border; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army
Not only the conceit, but also the grammar is close to Melville's--as evidenced in the hyphenated modifier "ever-heaving." Compounds with the intensifier "ever" occur dozens of times in Melville's Pierre. Dozens, really? Let's count 'em. More than twenty-four, actually, since we ought to count "ever-interrupting and ever-marring world" as two.
    1. ever-shifting Nature
    2. ever-encroaching appetite for God.
    3. ever-sweet interpreter [Nature, again]
    4. ever-sacred being
    5. ever-interrupting and ever-marring world
    6. ever-growing business
    7. ever-adaptive sort of motive
    8. ever-present self
    9. ever-nameless
    10. ever-sacred memory
    11. ever-primeval wilderness
    12. ever-creative fire
    13. ever-recurring intervals
    14. ever-hospitable grave
    15. ever-creeping and condensing haze of ambiguities
    16. ever-abiding shadows
    17. ever-flowing
    18. ever-shifting shadowy vistas
    19. ever-welling mystery
    20. ever-shipwrecked character
    21. ever-increasing admiration
    22. ever-elastic regions of evanescent invention
    23. ever-devouring and omnivorous melancholy
    24. ever-baffled artist
      And "ocean-midst" (another compound) recalls Pico as Melville had just described it a late chapter of his new novel.
      Ilha do Pico vista da Fajã Grande, Calheta, ilha de São Jorge, Açores, Portugal
      Mount Pico
      José Luís Ávila Silveira/Pedro Noronha e Costa via Wikimedia Commons
      "Pierre is a peak inflexible in the heart of Time, as the isle-peak, Piko, stands unassaultable in the midst of waves." Pierre, or The Ambiguities (August 1852)

       “More isles! more isles!” cried Babbalanja, erect, and gazing abroad. “And lo! round all is heaving that infinite ocean."  --Mardi, and a Voyage Thither

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