Saturday, May 30, 2020

Coolly done

Different things "coolly done": "that" by Queegueg according to Ishmael; "this" by G. P. R. James according to the narrating Captain of U. S. Dragoons in conversation with "I. F." his Imaginary Friend in in the January 1852 installment of Scenes Beyond the Western Border. Later reprinted in Part II of the book version, Scenes and Adventures in the Army (Philadelphia, 1857). Queequeg takes his harpoon to breakfast, and James slanders Americans as unrefined. Coolly.

MOBY-DICK (October-November 1851):
But as for Queequeg—why, Queequeg sat there among them—at the head of the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as an icicle. To be sure I cannot say much for his breeding. His greatest admirer could not have cordially justified his bringing his harpoon in to breakfast with him, and using it there without ceremony; reaching over the table with it. to the imminent jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him. But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and every one knows that in most people's estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly. -- Chapter 5 - Breakfast
"...But this is coolly and deliberately done." 
I. F. — "And what is it?"
—“I say Americanism advisedly; for republicanism is a very different thing, and does not imply rejection of refinement in the higher classes of society."  

James's "coolly done" distinction between Americanism and republicanism is quoted from Chapter 5 of The False Heir (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1843).

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Friday, December 20, 2019

In wintry mourning draped

Winter pine tree draped in snow. William S. Keller, 1979.
via National Park Service
The Desert truly is here— Moral and Natural Wastes.— Gray stunted trees in wintry mourning  draped with moss. Chill winds wail,— wild beasts howl,— and my heart echoes, 'Far—lone—forgot.'  -- March 1853 Scenes Beyond the Western Border; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army 
By wintry hills his hermit-mound
       The sheeted snow-drifts drape.... --Monody by Herman Melville

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Dreaming and philosophizing

“Gods and demi-gods! With one gesture all abysses we may disclose; and before this Mardi's eyes, evoke the shrouded time to come. Were this well? Like lost children groping in the woods, they falter through their tangled paths; and at a thousand angles, baffled, start upon each other. And even when they make an onward move, ’tis but an endless vestibule, that leads to naught.  -- Herman Melville, Mardi: And a Voyage Thither Volume 2, King Media Dreams.
Like lost children groping in the woods, they falter through their tangled paths; and at a thousand angles, baffled, start upon each other.
Did I dream? — Had I slumbered at my post ? — I did dream.

And why not tell my dream? — Life is little better; nay, it is little different. We wander at most in the dark—stumbling on temptations,—walking on the thorns of passions; or in an awful, but obscure light, refracted by the cloudy medium of philosophy. Sleep on, my friend! Though I would question you if I could, in this dark hour, if sympathy may pass the mysterious boundary of dream-land;—if that deathlike seeming calm were of careless oblivion,—or of the soul profoundly disturbed.  --March 1853 Scenes Beyond the Western Border ; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army.
In the book version, "the soul profoundly disturbed" has been revised to read, "some divine despair."

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Rhetorical questions with whom or what then shall I

MOBY-DICK (October-November 1851)
What then shall I liken the Sperm Whale to for fragrance, considering his magnitude? Must it not be to that famous elephant, with jewelled tusks, and redolent with myrrh, which was led out of an Indian town to do honor to Alexander the Great? -- Moby-Dick; or, The Whale chapter 92, Ambergris.
Whom then shall I address? —the mock sentimentalist? and begin the day: "Our slumbers this morning were gently and pleasantly dissolved by the cheerful martins, which sang a sweet reveille at the first blush of Aurora, at our uncurtained couches." Or the statist? "Not a sign of buffalo to-day; it were melancholy and easy to calculate how soon the Indians, deprived of this natural resource, and ignorant of agriculture"— but I should soon get too deep.
I [maginary]. F [riend]. But this soil is devilish shallow.
--July 1852 Scenes Beyond the Western Border; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army (1857).
Scenes Beyond the Western Border
Southern Literary Messenger (July 1852)
Honorable mention, from Clarel Part 3 Canto 26, Vine and The Palm:
Tropic seraph! thou once gone,
Who then shall take thy office on —
Redeem the waste, and high appear,
Apostle of Talassa’s year
And climes where rivers of waters run?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Heedless buffalo and whale

George Catlin, Dying Buffalo, Shot with an Arrow
1832-1833, oil on canvas - Smithsonian American Art Museum 
... wonderful it was to think that a bull, after being wounded and stunned by a twelve-pound shell, should rush upon a great column of horse, and heedless of a hundred shots and twenty wounds, with a bull-dog to his lip, should toss a horse and rider like a feather.... -- Scenes Beyond the Western Border, September 1851; and Scenes and Adventures in the Army, pages 260-261.
Southern Literary Messenger - September 1851

MOBY-DICK (October-November 1851)
... the White Whale churning himself into furious speed, almost in an instant as it were, rushing among the boats with open jaws, and a lashing tail, offered appalling battle on every side; and heedless of the irons darted at him from every boat, seemed only intent on annihilating each separate plank of which those boats were made. -- Moby-Dick chapter 134, The Chase—Second Day.
The word heedless does not appear in the source-text for the affair of the death-defying buffalo, the entry for June 28th in Philip St. George Cooke's 1843 Journal of the Santa Fe Trail. Transcribed by William E. Connelley in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol. 12, No. 1 (June 1925), pages 72-98; and Vol. 12, No. 2 (September 1925), pages 227-255. For Cooke's 1843 journal in manuscript, see National Archives Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General 1822-1860 / 1843 / C / Cooke, P St G / C252; available online via fold3.

Fold3 Image - 292714397
June 28th [1843]

... the command was halted, and riding a very wild horse, I dismounted and approached on foot with a carbine to 25 paces, when the piece snapped, and the bull rose and dashed at me; after passing the spot I had stood on, his attention was drawn off by the di[s]charge of a horseman's pistol; and at another essay I struck him as he ran at speed, full in the side; when, again he rushed at me; again his course was changed; and threatening continually to break through the column, and to frighten the wagon teams he was assailed by many horsemen whom I did not wish to restrain; pistol and carbine shots increased every moment and the frightened horses rendered them dangerous; it seemed a confused action; a doubtful battle: after falling with a great shock, the beast arose and attacked a mounted corporal: tossed his horse like a plaything, goring him in two places: the corporal fell headlong on the bull's horns, his pistol discharged at the same instant, the ball passed through his horse's neck, which then ran off frantically: the man was borne, hanging by his clothes on the horns, for several leaps: a bull dog seized the monster by the lip, and all fell into a confused heap; we next through the dust saw the corporal scrambling desperately from the melee, having wonderfully escaped from injury; the deathless animal again rose, and shook his black and shaggy front, in defiance: then many deliberate carbine shots were fired at him: and he fell and rose repeatedly —while lying down carbine balls were fired with deliberate aim at 10 paces, seemingly without effect: when finally I sent one through the eye into his brain — the shell had broken the shoulder blade. The animal died, and has been eaten; the horse is doing well.
(William E. Connelley, ed., A Journal of the Santa Fe Trail in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol. 12, No. 1 (June 1925), page 97.)
Cooke seems to have regretted the breezy treatment of this episode in the magazine and book versions of Scenes and Adventures in the Army. The rewrite condensed the graphic account he had written in his 1843 army journal, incorporating a summary of the affair into one of the ongoing dialogues between the narrating captain and his "Imaginary Friend." Decades later, Cooke managed to get most of the original version into print, when The United States Army and Navy Journal published his letter to the editor under the title, An American "Bull Fight." From The United States Army and Navy Journal, April 8, 1882, page 819:


To the Editor of the Army and Navy Journal:

SIR: I have been delving into the MS. of an old official journal and have found verbal daguerrotypes of some scenes which your readers may find racy, despite their age. Of course they might receive more polished expression, but it would be almost a pity to alter a hue of a picture freshly drawn from nature. 
We all have read, ad nauseum, of Spanish bull fights, when the poor beast is cornered and nearly every thing prearranged, but here you find a tolerably fair fight between a valiant buffalo and some two hundred “ horse, foot, and " — artillery. Place, Upper Arkansas; time, June, 1843. 
“For six miles we marched through one village of ‘prairie dogs,’ whose shrill barking was incessantly sounding in our cars; but their strange antics scarcely attracted attention when thousands of buffalo, dotting the visible world far and near, were the whole day seen around us; each moment shifting views of chases by officers or traders, fixing the attention with a new interest. In the afternoon from the brow of a small hill we suddenly came in view of hundreds of the huge savage looking animals, grazing and lying about in the most natural manner, only three hundred paces from us. I instantly determined to give the artillerists some desired practice, and to get some experience of the range and effects of the mountain howitzer shells. I directed one myself at a group; the shell passed over it, but in ricochet upset one animal. Another was discharged which passed in their midst in three or four rebounds, and then exploded, creating a wonderful confusion. Still another was directed at a dense group, full five hundred paces off, and on higher ground; it struck rather beyond, exploding beautifully at the same instant, but none were prostrated. I then marched on (rather disgusted in truth with mountain howitzers). In a few minutes, as we approached the bull which had been struck, he raised himself up on his chest; the command was halted. Being mounted on a very wild horse I dismounted and approached him afoot to twenty-five paces, aimed and snapped my carbine. Then the bull rose and rushed at me. After passing the spot I had stood on, his attention was diverted to a horseman and his pistol shot; a moment after, as he was charging past me, I fired and struck him in his side; again he turned and pursued me until his course was changed to a new enemy. The bull seemed set to break through the column; and the baggage train mules, which had come close up, were turning short and trying to run. He was assailed now by many horsemen with a free discharge of pistol shots from riders of prancing horses; it was like a confused and doubtful melee.
“ After falling with a great shock, the bull rose and charged a mounted corporal, tossed his horse like a plaything, goring him in two places; the corporal fell headlong, his pistol at the same instant going off, and the ball passing through his horse‘s neck, which then ran off; but the corporal was caught on a horn, only by his clothes, fortunately, and was thus borne by the bull for several leaps; but a new actor appeared, a bulldog: and he caught the buffalo by his under lip, and then all fell in a confused heap. Next from out the cloud of dust the corporal was seen, desperately scrambling on hands and knees. The deathless animal again rose, and shook at us his shaggy front in defiance. Then many deliberate carbine shots were fired into him, and he fell and rose repeatedly; some were fired close by while he lay, but seemed to have no effect. Finally, I sent a ball through an eye to his brain. The shell had broken a shoulder blade. 
“ The poor bull died, and has been eaten—in defiance of nightmare!” 
P. St. G. Cooke, U. S. A.
In a footnote to his 1925 edition of Cooke's Santa Fe journal, William E. Connelley remarks:
"This is the first instance known to this editor where the buffalo was hunted with artillery and killed with explosive shells fired from cannon."
Another editor, Joseph Macaulay Lowe was more sympathetic to the defiant buffalo:
"(If the writer of this book had have been in command, we would have erected a monument to this gallant foe. — Ed.)"  -- The National Old Trails Road (Kansas City, 1925) page 110.
Lowe called this episode, "The Strangest Battle in History." Cooke again referenced his firsthand narrative of the defiant buffalo bull in A Day's Work of a Captain of Dragoons, published in The United States Army and Navy Journal on July 1, 1882, pages 1106-1107.
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Prairie "Friend" channels Yoomy, and Ahab

“Are all our dreams, then, vain?” sighed Yoomy. “Is this no dawn of day that streaks the crimson East! Naught but the false and flickering lights which sometimes mock Aurora in the north! ..."   -- Mardi; and a Voyage Thither
Friend. — A false and self-consuming fire! that sometimes burns to ashes the hearts and hopes of proud men, and leaves but wrecks, mournfully floating upon the dull currents of life. Scenes and Adventures in the Army, pages 333-4
Revised from the July 1852 installment of Scenes Beyond the Western Border. Revisions include deletion of the interjection "Ay!" spoken by the narrating captain's Imaginary Friend:

 I. F. Ay! it is a fire that consumes; and sometimes burns to ashes the hearts and hopes of proud men.... -- Scenes Beyond the Western Border, July 1852.
Both versions recall the fire-and-ashes imagery used by Ahab in Moby-Dick, chapter 119:
 "Thou canst consume; but I can then be ashes."

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Elk, forests, antlers

Goldsmith's History of the Earth and Animated Nature
The "Dreams" chapter in Melville's Mardi (1849) offers the image of forests as elk-antlers. Here it's all dream vision. In context, the "wide woodlands" are conceived more literally than the figurative elk and antlers. From Mardi: And a Voyage Thither:
... to and fro, toss the wide woodlands: all the world an elk, and the forests its antlers.

Same terms, altered conceit in Scenes Beyond the Western Border ("Elk-Shooting," January 1852); and Scenes and Adventures in the Army ("Splendid Elk Chase"), page 273. Now the narrator supposedly chases real elk with real antlers; so the forest is figurative:
The noble creatures, with a whole forest of antlers, taking the alarm, first began to trot round loftily, with heads tossed high in air....
Detail. Front cover, January 1852 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger

The ensuing prairie dialogue between the narrator and his Imaginary Friend features a detailed critique of The False Heir by G. P. R. James. This section was synopsized as "Literature on the Little Arkansas" on the front cover of the January 1852 issue of The Southern Literary Messenger. The 1857 book version drops "Literature on the Little Arkansas"; the Table of Contents summarizes the same material as "Criticism of J. P. R. James."

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