Moby-Dick™

Leben mit Herman Melville

Belly of a Whale

with 3 comments

Update for That same image selves see in all rivers, in oceans, in lakes and in Welles
and Walgesang in seiner Sprache:

Full texts of







* 1:1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
* 1:2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
* 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
* 1:4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
* 1:5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man to his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
* 1:6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said to him, What mean you, O sleeper? arise, call on your God, if so be that God will think on us, that we perish not.
* 1:7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is on us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
* 1:8 Then said they to him, Tell us, we pray you, for whose cause this evil is on us; What is your occupation? and from where come you? what is your country? and of what people are you?
* 1:9 And he said to them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which has made the sea and the dry land.
* 1:10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said to him. Why have you done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
* 1:11 Then said they to him, What shall we do to you, that the sea may be calm to us? for the sea worked, and was tempestuous.
* 1:12 And he said to them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm to you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is on you.
* 1:13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea worked, and was tempestuous against them.
* 1:14 Why they cried to the LORD, and said, We beseech you, O LORD, we beseech you, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood: for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.
* 1:15 So they look up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
* 1:16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD, and made vows.
* 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
* 2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,
* 2:2 And said, I cried by reason of my affliction to the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and you heard my voice.
* 2:3 For you had cast me into the deep, in the middle of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all your billows and your waves passed over me.
* 2:4 Then I said, I am cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.
* 2:5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
* 2:6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet have you brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
* 2:7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in to you, into your holy temple.
* 2:8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
* 2:9 But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
* 2:10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land.
* 3:1 And the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,
* 3:2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you.
* 3:3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.
* 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
* 3:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
* 3:6 For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
* 3:7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
* 3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
* 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
* 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.
* 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
* 4:2 And he prayed to the LORD, and said, I pray you, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before to Tarshish: for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent you of the evil.
* 4:3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech you, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
* 4:4 Then said the LORD, Do you well to be angry?
* 4:5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
* 4:6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
* 4:7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
* 4:8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
* 4:9 And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even to death.
* 4:10 Then said the LORD, You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
* 4:11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
‘Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters — four yarns — is one of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what depths of the soul does Jonah’s deep sealine sound! what a pregnant lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the fish’s belly! How billow- like and boisterously grand! We feel the floods surging over us; we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters; sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is about us! But what is this lesson that the book of Jonah teaches? Shipmates, it is a two- stranded lesson; a lesson to us all as sinful men, and a lesson to me as a pilot of the living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson to us all, because it is a story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears, the swift punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the deliverance and joy of Jonah. As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of Amittai was in his wilful disobedience of the command of God — never mind now what that command was, or how conveyed — which he found a hard command. But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do — remember that — and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.

‘With this sin of disobedience in him, Jonah still further flouts at God, by seeking to flee from Him. He thinks that a ship made by men, will carry him into countries where God does not reign, but only the Captains of this earth. He skulks about the wharves of Joppa, and seeks a ship that’s bound for Tarshish. There lurks, perhaps, a hitherto unheeded meaning here. By all accounts Tarshish could have been no other city than the modern Cadiz. That’s the opinion of learned men. And where is Cadiz, shipmates? Cadiz is in Spain; as far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed in those ancient days, when the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea. Because Joppa, the modern Jaffa, shipmates, is on the most easterly coast of the Mediterranean, the Syrian; and Tarshish or Cadiz more than two thousand miles to the westward from that, just outside the Straits of Gibraltar. See ye not then, shipmates, that Jonah sought to flee world-wide from God? Miserable man! Oh! most contemptible and worthy of all scorn; with slouched hat and guilty eye, skulking from his God; prowling among the shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas. So disordered, self-condemning is his look, that had there been policemen in those days, Jonah, on the mere suspicion of something wrong, had been arrested ere he touched a deck. How plainly he’s a fugitive! no baggage, not a hat-box, valise, or carpet-bag, — no friends accompany him to the wharf with their adieux. At last, after much dodging search, he finds the Tarshish ship receiving the last items of her cargo; and as he steps on board to see its Captain in the cabin, all the sailors for the moment desist from hoisting in the goods, to mark the stranger’s evil eye. Jonah sees this; but in vain he tries to look all ease and confidence; in vain essays his wretched smile. Strong intuitions of the man assure the mariners he can be no innocent. In their gamesome but still serious way, one whispers to the other — “Jack, he’s robbed a widow;” or,”Joe, do you mark him; he’s a bigamist;” or,”Harry lad, I guess he’s the adulterer that broke jail in old Gomorrah, or belike, one of the missing murderers from Sodom.” Another runs to read the bill that’s stuck against the spile upon the wharf to which the ship is moored, offering five hundred gold coins for the apprehension of a parricide, and containing a description of his person. He reads, and looks from Jonah to the bill; while all his sympathetic shipmates now crowd round Jonah, prepared to lay their hands upon him. Frighted Jonah trembles, and summoning all his boldness to his face, only looks so much the more a coward. He will not confess himself suspected; but that itself is strong suspicion. So he makes the best of it; and when the sailors find him not to be the man that is advertised, they let him pass, and he descends into the cabin.

‘”Who’s there?” cries the Captain at his busy desk, hurriedly making out his papers for the Customs — “Who’s there?” Oh! how that harmless question mangles Jonah! For the instant he almost turns to flee again. But he rallies. “I seek a passage in this ship to Tarshish; how soon sail ye, sir?” Thus far the busy captain had not looked up to Jonah, though the man now stands before him; but no sooner does he hear that hollow voice, than he darts a scrutinizing glance. “We sail with the next coming tide,” at last he slowly answered, still intently eyeing him. “No sooner, sir?” — “Soon enough for any honest man that goes a passenger.” Ha! Jonah, that’s another stab. But he swiftly calls away the Captain from that scent. “I’ll sail with ye,” — he says, — “the passage money, how much is that, — I’ll pay now.” For it is particularly written, shipmates, as if it were a thing not to be overlooked in this history,”that he paid the fare thereof” ere the craft did sail. And taken with the context, this is full of meaning.

‘Now Jonah’s Captain, shipmates, was one whose discernment detects crime in any, but whose cupidity exposes it only in the penniless. In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers. So Jonah’s Captain prepares to test the length of Jonah’s purse, ere he judge him openly. He charges him thrice the usual sum; and it’s assented to. Then the Captain knows that Jonah is a fugitive; but at the same time resolves to help a flight that paves its rear with gold. Yet when Jonah fairly takes out his purse, prudent suspicions still molest the Captain. He rings every coin to find a counterfeit. Not a forger, any way, he mutters; and Jonah is put down for his passage. “Point out my state-room, Sir,” says Jonah now. “I’m travel-weary; I need sleep.” “Thou look’st like it,” says the Captain, “there’s thy room.” Jonah enters, and would lock the door, but the lock contains no key. Hearing him foolishly fumbling there, the Captain laughs lowly to himself, and mutters something about the doors of convicts’ cells being never allowed to be locked within. All dressed and dusty as he is, Jonah throws himself into his berth, and finds the little state-room ceiling almost resting on his forehead. The air is close, and Jonah gasps. then, in that contracted hole, sunk, too, beneath the ship’s water-line, Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowel’s wards.

‘Screwed at its axis against the side, a swinging lamp slightly oscillates in Jonah’s room; and the ship, heeling over towards the wharf with the weight of the last bales received, the lamp, flame and all, though in slight motion, still maintains a permanent obliquity with reference to the room; though, in truth, infallibly straight itself, it but made obvious the false, lying levels among which it hung. The lamp alarms and frightens Jonah; as lying in his berth his tormented eyes roll round the place, and this thus far successful fugitive finds no refuge for his restless glance. But that contradiction in the lamp more and more appals him. The floor, the ceiling, and the side, are all awry. “Oh! so my conscience hangs in me!” he groans, “straight upward, so it burns; but the chambers of my soul are all in crookedness!”

‘Like one who after a night of drunken revelry hies to his bed, still reeling, but with conscience yet pricking him, as the plungings of the Roman race- horse but so much the more strike his steel tags into him; as one who in that miserable plight still turns and turns in giddy anguish, praying God for annihilation until the fit be passed; and at last amid the whirl of woe he feels, a deep stupor steals over him, as over the man who bleeds to death, for conscience is the wound, and there’s naught to staunch it; so, after sore wrestlings in his berth, Jonah’s prodigy of ponderous misery drags him drowning down to sleep.

‘And now the time of tide has come; the ship casts off her cables; and from the deserted wharf the uncheered ship for Tarshish, all careening, glides to sea. That ship, my friends, was the first of recorded smugglers! the contraband was Jonah. but the sea rebels; he will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes on, the ship is like to break. But now when the boatswain calls all hands to lighten her; when boxes, bales, and jars are clattering overboard; when the wind is shrieking, and the men are yelling, and every plank thunders with trampling feet right over Jonah’s head; in all this raging tumult, Jonah sleeps his hideous sleep. He sees no black sky and raging sea, feels not the reeling timbers, and little hears he or heeds he the far rush of the mighty whale, which even now with open mouth is cleaving the seas after him. Aye, shipmates, Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship — a berth in the cabin as I have taken it, and was fast asleep. But the frightened master comes to him, and shrieks in his dead ear, “What meanest thou, O sleeper! arise!” Startled from his lethargy by that direful cry, Jonah staggers to his feet, and stumbling to the deck, grasps a shroud, to look out upon the sea. But at that moment he is sprung upon by a panther billow leaping over the bulwarks. Wave after wave thus leaps into the ship, and finding no speedy vent runs roaring fore and aft, till the mariners come nigh to drowning while yet afloat. And ever, as the white moon shows her affrighted face from the steep gullies in the blackness overhead, aghast Jonah sees the rearing bowsprit pointing high upward, but soon beat downward again towards the tormented deep.

‘Terrors upon terrors run shouting through his soul. In all his cringing attitudes, the God-fugitive is now too plainly known. The sailors mark him; more and more certain grow their suspicions of him, and at last, fully to test the truth, by referring the whole matter to high Heaven, they fall to casting lots, to see for whose cause this great tempest was upon them. The lot is Jonah’s; that discovered, then how furiously they mob him with their questions. “What is thine occupation? whence comest thou? thy country? what people?” but mark now, my shipmates, the behavior of poor Jonah. The eager mariners but ask him who he is, and where from; whereas, they not only receive an answer to those questions, but likewise another answer to a question not put by them, but the unsolicited answer is forced from Jonah by the hard hand of God that is upon him.

‘”I am a Hebrew,” he cries — and then — “I fear the Lord the God of Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!” Fear him, O Jonah? Aye, well mightest thou fear the Lord God then! Straightway, he now goes on to make a full confession; whereupon the mariners became more and more appalled, but still are pitiful. For when Jonah, not yet supplicating God for mercy, since he but too well knew the darkness of his deserts, — when wretched Jonah cries out to them to take him and cast him forth into the sea, for he knew that for his sake this great tempest was upon them; they mercifully turn from him, and seek by other means to save the ship. But all in vain; the indignant gale howls louder; then, with one hand raised invokingly to God, with the other they not unreluctantly lay hold of Jonah.

‘And now behold Jonah taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea; when instantly an oily calmness floats out from the east, and the sea is still, as Jonah carries down the gale with him, leaving smooth water behind. He goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the whale shoots-to all his ivory teeth, like the Lord out of the fish’s belly. But observe his prayer, and so many white bolts, upon his prison. Then Jonah prayed unto learn a weighty lesson. For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and wail for direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that spite of all his pains and pangs, he will still look towards His holy temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. And how pleasing to God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in the eventual deliverance of him from the sea and the whale. Shipmates, I do not place Jonah before you to be copied for his sin but I do place him before you as a model for repentance. Sin not; but if you do, take heed to repent of it like Jonah.’

While he was speaking these words, the howling of the shrieking, slanting storm without seemed to add new power to the preacher, who, when describing Jonah’s sea-storm, seemed tossed by a storm himself. His deep chest heaved as with a ground-swell; his tossed arms seemed the warring elements at work; and the thunders that rolled away from off his swarthy brow, and the light leaping from his eye, made all his simple hearers look on him with a quick fear that was strange to them.

There now came a lull in his look, as he silently turned over the leaves of the Book once more; and, at last, standing motionless, with closed eyes, for the moment, seemed communing with God and himself.

But again he leaned over towards the people, and bowing his head lowly, with an aspect of the deepest yet manliest humility, he spake these words: ‘Shipmates, God has laid but one hand upon you; both his hands press upon me. I have read ye by what murky light may be mine the lesson that Jonah teaches to all sinners; and therefore to ye, and still more to me, for I am a greater sinner than ye. And now how gladly would I come down from this mast-head and sit on the hatches there where you sit, and listen as you listen, while some one of you reads me that other and more awful lesson which Jonah teaches to me as a pilot of the living God. How being an anointed pilot-prophet, or speaker of true things, and bidden by the Lord to sound those unwelcome truths in the ears of a wicked Nineveh, Jonah, appalled at the hostility he should raise, fled from his mission, and sought to escape his duty and his God by taking ship at Joppa. But God is everywhere; Tarshish he never reached. As we have seen, God came upon him in the whale, and swallowed him down to living gulfs of doom, and with swift slantings tore him along”into the midst of the seas,” where the eddying depths sucked him ten thousand fathoms down, and”the weeds were wrapped about his head,” and all the watery world of woe bowled over him. Yet even then beyond the reach of any plummet — “out of the belly of hell” — when the whale grounded upon the ocean’s utmost bones, even then, God heard the engulphed, repenting prophet when he cried. Then God spake unto the fish; and from the shuddering cold and blackness of the sea, the whale came breeching up towards the warm and pleasant sun, and all the delights of air and earth; and”vomited out Jonah upon the dry land;” when the word of the Lord came a second time; and Jonah, bruised and beaten — his ears, like two sea-shells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean — Jonah did the Almighty’s bidding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth to the face of Falsehood! That was it!

‘This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of the living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms from Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed them into a gale! Woe to him who seeks to please rather than to appal! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe to him who, in this world, courts not dishonor! Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway!’

He drooped and fell away from himself for a moment; then lifting his face to them again, showed a deep joy in his eyes, as he cried out with a heavenly enthusiasm, — ‘But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight, than the bottom of the woe is deep. Is not the main-truck higher than the kelson is low? Delight is to him — a far, far upward, and inward delight — who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight, — top-gallant delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is only a patriot to heaven. Delight is to him, whom all the waves of the billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake from this sure Keel of the Ages. And eternal delight and deliciousness will be his, who coming to lay him down, can say with his final breath — O Father! — chiefly known to me by Thy rod — mortal or immortal, here I die. I have striven to be Thine, more than to be this world’s, or mine own. Yet this is nothing; I leave eternity to Thee; for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?’

Shipmates, the sin of Jonah was in his disobedience of the command of God. He found it a hard command. And it was, Shipmates. For all of the things that God would have us do are hard. If we would obey God, we must disobey ourselves. But Jonah still further flaunts at God by seeking to flee from Him. Jonah thinks that a ship, made by man, will carry him into countries where God does not reign.

He prowls among the shipping like a vile burglar hastening to cross the seas. And as he comes aboard, the sailor’s mark him. The ship puts out. But soon the sea rebels. It will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes up. The ship is like to break. The bosun calls all hands to lighten her: boxes, bails, and jars are clattering overboard. The wind is shrieking. The men are yelling.

– I fear the Lord! cries Jonah. The God of Heaven who hath made the sea and the dry land!

Again, the sailors mark him: Wretched Jonah cries out to Him! Cast him overboard. For he knew.

For his sake, this great tempest was upon them.

Now behold Jonah: taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea, into the dreadful jaws awaiting him.

And the Great Whale shuts to all his ivory teeth like so many white bolts upon his prison. And Jonah cries unto the Lord, out of the fish’s belly. But observe his prayer, Shipmates. He doesn’t weep or wail. He feels his punishment is just. He leaves deliverance to God. And even out of the belly of Hell, grounded upon the ocean’s utmost bones, God heard him when he cried.

And God spake unto the Whale. And from the shuddering cold and blackness of the deep, the Whale breeched into the sun and vomited out Jonah on the dry land. And Jonah, bruised and beaten, his ears like two seashells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean, Jonah did the Almighty’s bidding.

And what was that, Shipmates? TO PREACH THE TRUTH IN THE FACE OF FALSEHOOD.

Now Shipmates, woe to him who seeks to pour oil on the troubled waters when God has brewed them into a gale. Yea, woe to him who, as the Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway. But delight is to him who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth stands forth his own inexorable self, who destroys all sin, though he pluck it out from the robes of senators and judges! And Eternal Delight shall be his, who coming to lay him down can say:

– Oh Father, mortal or immortal, here I die.
I have driven to be thine,
more than to be this world’s or mine own,
yet this is nothing
I leave eternity to Thee.

For what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?


Written by Wolf

7. March 2009 at 12:55 am

Posted in Laderaum

3 Responses

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