THE RYME OF THE WHITE WHALE'S REVENGE
Ronald Gordon Ziegler, Ph. D.
PART I -- ENCOUNTER
Far beneath the swelling darkness
of the free and froathing foam
lurk the grand leviathan
that rule the depths that they do roam.
Midst the trembling, teeming waters
lie mysteries unknown to man
that have drawn him throughout the ages
yet confuse him to understand.
It was an ancient seafarer
whose voice was heard throughout the room
one wintery night in old Nantucket
as I sat with ale in Witte's Saloon:
"Thar she blows, thar she blows!
Cap'n! Thar she blows!" shouts he,
and the room falls into silence
to see what could the matter be.
"The salt's got to him," said one sailor
pointing up behind the bar
at a painting of a white whale
breeching there beneath the stars.
Then the room does turn to laughter:
"Too much salt and rum," says one,
but the bearded old man shouted louder:
"Thar she blows agin' the sitting sun!"
And one among those drunken fishers
shouts, "Hark, my lads, what madness grows
among us seamen! Give me whiskey!"
And this in the old man's face he throws.
Now four arms grab hold of him
and carry him across the floor:
"Enough of all your drunken folly,"
and cast him sprawling out the door.
And in the damp and dreary darkness
hear I the echoes of his call:
"Thar she blows, ye salted seagulls!"
but drowned in the laughter of the hall.
And on and on as it diminished
came his curses growing dim
as he wandered off into the night time
and the crowd within laughed at him.
"Hark, my lad, if ye ventured
down the way a turn or two,
you'd find his mad ravings there, as well,"
said the sailing man I sat next too.
And he continued, "They'll find the bones
of that weary, maddened salt one morn
washing up in the drift or crumpled
in an alley -- victim of past-bred scorn."
And thus it was three mornings later
when they found him, silent now,
frozen as a fish out of water
from a heavy blow upon the brow.
PART II -- THE FUNERAL
In this same Nantucket village
stands a sailors' chapel there
where over many an empty casket
have been said a final prayer.
As I was drawn three days later
to that church, the wintery wind
bit at my skin with icy misting
-- to an empty silence I ventured in.
Such sacrilege did I ponder
that none should come to bid adieu
until the holy father entered
asking, "What was this old man to you?"
Not an answer had I to give him,
nor did he hesitate to hear,
but turned and gave a service
that fell upon none but my ear.
"And God prepared a great fish to swallow
Jonah," quoth he from the Book,
"But his wretched soul's condemnation
was a memory only. He was but a cook."
They sailed one springtide to the ocean
never to return again save one,
and he lived haunted by the verdict
that left his heart and soul undone."
"Nor did he ever sail from the day
he was rescued from the eternal deep
and was brought back to this island.
Rest came to him but with this sleep."
"There was none to hear his story.
Now peace comes to his weary bones
and tormented heart that left him recluse.
He is buried as he lived, alone."
None there was to bear his coffin
wrought from some old discarded board
perhaps from some perished vessel
-- a fitting hold for one so scored.
The priest said no more, but blessing
slowly with a cross, he sang
a hymn that echoed in the hollow
chapel and off the rafters rang.
Then I ventured into the darkness,
cutting yet with winter's blast,
dimly lit by an eclipsed fullness.
of a moon which no shadows cast.
Walking by the olden tavern
laughter and song within assumed
a fitting tribute to the perished.
I went on and headed to my room.
Yet from the distance, from the shadows,
I thought that I could hear him yet:
"Hark ye, friend, thar she blows there!"
as I hurried to escape the wet.