07 March 2013

Nobody records their flimflams

   'And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.' JOB


Besides, nobody records their flimflams and false prognostics, forasmuch as they are infinite and common; but if they chop upon one truth, that carries a mighty report, as being rare, incredible, and prodigious. So Diogenes, surnamed the Atheist, answered him in Samothrace, who, showing him in the temple the several offerings and stories in painting of those who had escaped shipwreck, said to him, "Look, you who think the gods have no care of human things, what do you say to so many persons preserved from death by their especial favour?" "Why, I say," answered he, "that their pictures are not here who were cast away, who are by much the greater number."—[Cicero, De Natura Deor., i. 37.]

Montaigne, Bk I:XI--Of Prognostications (tr. Cotton)


Entering, I found a small scattered congregation of sailors, and sailors' wives and widows. A muffled silence reigned, only broken at times by the shrieks of the storm. Each silent worshipper seemed purposely sitting apart from the other, as if each silent grief were insular and incommunicable. The chaplain had not yet arrived; and there these silent islands of men and women sat steadfastly eyeing several marble tablets, with black borders, masoned into the wall on either side the pulpit. Three of them ran something like the following, but I do not pretend to quote: -- Sacred To the Memory of JOHN TALBOT, Who, at the age of eighteen, was lost overboard Near the Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia November 1st, 1836. This Tablet Is erected to his Memory By his Sister. Sacred To the Memory of ROBERT LONG, WILLIS ELLERY, NATHAN COLEMAN, WALTER CANNY, SETH MACY, AND SAMUEL GLEIG, Forming one of the boats' crews of the Ship Eliza Who were towed out of sight by a Whale, On the Off-shore Ground in the Pacific, December 31st, 1839. This Marble Is here placed by their surviving Shipmates.  Sacred To the Memory of The late CAPTAIN EZEKIEL HARDY, Who in the bows of his boat was killed by al. Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan, August 3rd, 1833. This Tablet Is erected to his Memory by His Widow.

Shaking off the sleet from my ice-glazed hat and jacket, I seated myself near the door, and turning sideways was surprised to see Queequeg near me. Affected by the solemnity of the scene, there was a wondering gaze of incredulous curiosity in his countenance. This savage was the only person present who seemed to notice my entrance; because he was the only one who could not read, and, therefore, was not reading those frigid inscriptions on the wall.

Moby Dick, "The Chapel"

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