Moby Dick HTML version
9. The Sermon
Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered the scattered
people to condense. "Starboard gangway, there! side away to larboard--larboard
gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!"
There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a still slighter
shuffling of women's shoes, and all was quiet again, and every eye on the preacher.
He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit's bows, folded his large brown hands
across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered a prayer so deeply devout that he
seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea.
This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a bell in a ship that is
foundering at sea in a fog--in such tones he commenced reading the following hymn;
but changing his manner towards the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing
exultation and joy--
"The ribs and terrors in the whale, Arched over me a dismal gloom, While all God's sun-
lit waves rolled by, And lift me deepening down to doom.
"I saw the opening maw of hell, With endless pains and sorrows there; Which none but
they that feel can tell-- Oh, I was plunging to despair.
"In black distress, I called my God, When I could scarce believe him mine, He bowed
his ear to my complaints-- No more the whale did me confine.
"With speed he flew to my relief, As on a radiant dolphin borne; Awful, yet bright, as
lightning shone The face of my Deliverer God.
"My song for ever shall record That terrible, that joyful hour; I give the glory to my God,
His all the mercy and the power.
Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the howling of the
storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned over the leaves of the Bible,
and at last, folding his hand down upon the proper page, said: "Beloved shipmates,
clinch the last verse of the first chapter of Jonah--'And God had prepared a great fish to
swallow up Jonah.'"
"Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters--four yarns--is one of the smallest
strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what depths of the soul does Jonah's
deep sealine sound! what a pregnant lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is
that canticle in the fish's belly! How billow-like and boisterously grand! We feel the
floods surging over us; we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters; sea-weed