Herman Melville Quotes (180 Quotes)


    But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God - so better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land!

    I deny their credentials as whales; and have presented them with their passports to quit the Kingdom of Cetology.

    Now, as you well know, it is not seldom the case in this conventional world of ours-watery or otherwise; that when a person placed in command over his fellow-men finds one of them to be very significantly his superior in general pride of manhood, straightway against that man he conceives an unconquerable dislike and bitterness; and if he had a chance he will pull down and pulverize that subaltern's tower, and make a little heap of dust of it.

    Thou hast but enraged, not insulted me, sir; but for that I ask thee not to beware of Starbuck; thou wouldst but laugh; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man.

    But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.


    I leave a white and turbid wake; pale waters, paler cheeks, where'er I sail. The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them; but first I pass.


    Thou saw'st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them.

    But the only thing to be considered here, is this - what kind of oil is used in coronations? Certainly it cannot be Olive Oil, or Maccasar Oil, nor Caster Oil, nor Bear's Oil, nor Train Oil, nor Cod-Liver Oil. What then can it possibly be but Sperm Oil in it's unmanufactured unpolluted state, the sweetest of all oils?

    I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him.

    Out of the trunk, the branches grow; out of them, the twigs. So, in productive subjects, grow the chapters.

    To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet from out of idleness, and not from out of toil.

    But what is worship? - to do the will of God - that is worship. And what is the will of God? - to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me - that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man.


    Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.


    Can it be, then, that by that act of physical isolation, he signifies his spiritual withdrawal for the time, from all outward worldly ties and connections?



    Two hundred years ago an old Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a shoemaker's last. And in this same last or shoe, that old woman of the nursery tale with the swarming brood, might very comfortably be lodged, she and all her progeny.

    Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?

    In the serene weather of the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant-the mast-head; nay, to a dreamy meditative man it is delightful. There you stand, a hundred feet above the silent decks, striding along the deep, as if the masts were gigantic stilts, while beneath you and between your legs, as it were, swim the hugest monsters of the sea, even as ships once sailed between the boots of the famous Colossus at old Rhodes.




    In truth, a mature man who uses hair oil, unless medicinally, that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere.

    Seldom have I known any profound being that had anything to say to this world, unless forced to stammer out something by way of getting a living. Oh! happy that the world is such an excellent listener!

    What could be more full of meaning?-for the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part; all the rest come in its rear; the pulpit leads the world.

    Doesn't the devil live forever; who ever heard that the devil was dead? Did you ever see any person wearing mourning for the devil?

    It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.

    So seemed it to me, as I stood at her helm, and for long hours silently guided the way of this fire-ship on the sea. Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others. The continual sight of the fiend shapes before me, capering half in smoke and half in fire, these at last begat kindred visions in my soul, so soon as I began to yield to that unaccountable drowsiness which ever would come over me at a midnight helm.

    Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.

    For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for it.


    So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right.



    From beneath his slouched hat Ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the Pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop.



    Yet Dives himself, he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace of frozen sighs, and being a president of a temperance society, he only drinks the tepid tears of orphans.


    He lived in the world, as the last of the Grisly Bears lived in settled Missouri.And as Spring and Summer had departed, that wild Logan of the woods, burying himself in the hollow of a tree, lived out the winter there, sucking his own paws; so, in his inclement, howling old age, Ahab's soul, shut up in the caved trunk of his body, there fed upon the sullen paws of its gloom!

    Looking into his eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering images of those thousand-fold perils he had calmly confronted through life.

    That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, so far within us, that it remains intact though all the outer character seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor-ruined man.

    You might almost say, that this strange uncompromisedness in him involved a sort of unintelegence; for in his numerous trades, he did not seem to work so much by reason or instinct, or simply because he had been tuitored into it, or by any intermixture of all of these , even or uneven; but merely by a kind of deaf and dumb , sponteneous literal process.






    More Herman Melville Quotations (Based on Topics)


    Man - World - God - Soul - Life - Truth - Death & Dying - Madness - Joy & Excitement - Mind - Christianity - Books - Vice & Virtue - Time - Hope - Law & Regulation - Heaven - War & Peace - Work & Career - View All Herman Melville Quotations

    More Herman Melville Quotations (By Book Titles)


    - Bartleby, the Scrivener
    - Moby-Dick

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