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But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way—he can better answer than any one else.
And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago.
Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself.
Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity.
It touches one’s sense of honour, particularly if you come of an old established family in the land, the Van Rensselaers, or Randolphs, or Hardicanutes.
With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.
Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? 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.
Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger.