Works in the Collection

A Taste of Olson

In Cold Hell, In Thicket
It Was. But it Ain't
This
Human Universe
A Foot is to Kick With
Call Me Ishmael
Projective Verse
Bagatto
The Moebius Strip
ABCs
A Lustrum for You, E.P.
La Preface

To Bet

 

CALL ME ISHMAEL

 

A Moby-Dick manuscript

It is beautifully right to find what I take to be rough notes for Moby-Dick in the Shakespeare set itself. They are written in Melville's hand, in pencil, upon the last fly-leaf of the last volume, the one containing Lear, Othello and Hamlet. I transcribe them as they stand:

Ego non baptizo te in nomine Patris et
Filii et Spiritus Sancti--sed in nomine
Diaboli.--madness is undefinable--
It & right reason extremes of one,
--not the (black art) Goetic but Theurgic magic--
seeks converse with the Intelligence, Power, the
Angel.

The Latin is a longer form of what Melville told Hawthorne to be the secret motto of Moby-Dick. In the novel Ahab howls it as an inverted benediction upon the harpoon he has tempered in savage blood:

Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli.
I do not baptize thee in the name of the father, but in the name of the devil.

The change in the wording from the notes to the novel is of extreme significance. It is not for economy of phrase. The removal of Christ and the Holy Ghost--Filii et Spiritus Sancti--is a mechanical act mirroring the imaginative. Of necessity, from Ahab's world, both Christ and the Holy Ghost are absent. Ahab moves and has his being in a world to which They and what They import are inimical: remember, Ahab fought a deadly scrimmage with a Spaniard before the altar at Santa, and spat into the silver calabash. The conflict in Ahab's world is abrupt, more that between Satan and Jehovah, of the old dispensation than the new. It is the outward symbol of the inner truth that the name of Christ is uttered but once in the book and then it is torn from Starbuck, the only possible man to use it, at a moment of anguish, the night before the fatal third day of the chase.

For more information about Call Me Ishmael and Olson's study of Melville, please see Olson's Melville Project.