From a letter from one of the great American poets to another. From Melville while he is still birthing Moby Dick to Hawthorne, his friend.
“My development has been all within a few years past. I am like one of those seeds taken out of the Egyptian Pyramids, which, after being three thousand years a seed and nothing but a seed, being planted in English soil, it developed itself, grew to greenness, and then fell to mould. So I. Until I was twenty-five, I had no development at all. From my twenty-fifth year I date my life. Three weeks have scarcely passed, at any time between then and now, that I have not unfolded within myself. But I feel that I am now come to the inmost leaf of the bulb, and that shortly the flower must fall to the mould.”
So, “I am like one of those seeds…”
So, “From my twenty-fifth year I date my life.”
So, “unfolded within myself.”
So the self as approaching itself and unfolding itself and blossoming.
The images are so sweet, so communicative, so spot on inspiring, so enticing (I want some of what Melville is having!), so alluring. I am filled with a kind of envy but before it itself sprouts it is transformed into a kind of desire to emulate. Yes! Emulation is another response to that which often shows up as envy. Aristotle taught me that in his book on emotion inside his Rhetoric.
Oh Melville. Is not the entire book Moby Dick not a poetic piece describing the everything through the particular literalism found in the description of whale hunting given. Is not Ahab the monomaniacal pursuer of the god? Is not Moby Dick the god? Is the pursuit not best described literally (spoiler alert) as suicidal? Does not the follower of the monomaniacal pursuer of the divine (sailors like Stark or Ishmael) often misunderstand the quest, join for earthly profit, and so end in ruin? Are we not all out to sea wishing for the solidity of land? Does it not pulse underneath the commenest moments of the pursuit of an earthly commodity (whale oil) the longing and striving for the undercurrent of of contact with the divine that brings a kind or rest not providable by any limited and measurable earthly commodity?
I believe (poetically) that Melville did unfold within himself. My scientific proof of this poetic representation of soul development (itself a poetic category) is the earthly commodity called Moby Dick which will shake the reader to his core who has the guts to suffer long enough through its long-winded and ever-slow movement from one part of the whale hunt to another.
Oh Melville! Thank you for the poetry. The use of the literal for the more than the literal can bear.