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CHAPTER 1

Loomings

Why do they call him "Ishmael"?

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely-- having little or no money in my purse,

and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of

the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself

growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself

involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and

especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to

prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I

account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a

philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing

surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly

the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral

reefs--commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme

downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few

hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from

thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?--Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand

thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated

upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks glasses! of ships from China; some high aloft in the

rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in

lath and plaster-- tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields

gone? What do they here?

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