Friday, September 10, 2010

Father Mapple's Pulpit

In the book Moby Dick, Ishmael enters the mariners' chapel where all the seamen go the Sunday before setting to sea. Never before have I read a book where an entire chapter of the book is devoted to describing in amazing detail the pulpit of a church. And yet, here we have it in Melville's masterpiece:

Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that had achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in the likeness of a ship’s bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on a projecting piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship’s fiddle-headed beak.

What could be more full of meaning?—for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick Chapter 8
I love this book. It has already produced within me such tremendous sentiments and sensations as I have never experienced before in reading a book. It's only a shame that I waited until I was almost 30 years old before reading it.

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