April 20th, 2004

hungry

Understanding Athelind's Argot: An Ishmael Day.

Everyone's heard of Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick. Some have actually seen one cinematic adaptation or another.

Damned few people have actually read the book. I myself have only gotten about a third of the way into it -- not because the book itself is the tedious experience that so many much-ballyhooed "classics" seem to be, but because of an ill-timed move and a misplaced copy.

However, the opening passage immediately resonated with me. A lot of people can quote that oft-repeated first line -- but it's what comes after that speaks to me.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Today is an Ishmael day.

Watch your hat. I have no ship on which to sail.
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    Call me Ishmael.
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Eye of the Dragon

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Sea Fever

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.


John Masefield (1878)
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