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latch-key under the mat? a chart of the undertow?

"Physiognomy, like ever other human science, is but a passing fable. If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, coule not read the simplest peasant's face in it profounder and more subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow before you. Read it if you can."

-end of chapter 79, page 380 in the Penguin edition

And I think that that is the thesis of the book, or the key. Or it may be the key for me.

On the other hand, just a little earler at the end of chapter 76 (pg 370):

"Unless you own the whole whale [i.e. comprehend the tremendous might and awfulness of the whale], you are but a provincial and sentimentalist in Truth. But clear Truth is a thing for salamander giants only to encounter; how small the chances for the provincials then? What befel the weakliing youth lifting the dread goddess's veil at Sais*?"

I think that these two quotes illustrate the the tensions around knowing in this book ...

*Full text of the poem here:

And the last stanza, which narrates the fate of the young man who looked at what he wasn't supposed to look at:

He speaks, and, with the word, lifts up the veil.
Would you inquire what form there met his eye?
I know not,--but, when day appeared, the priests
Found him extended senseless, pale as death,
Before the pedestal of Isis' statue.
What had been seen and heard by him when there
He never would disclose, but from that hour
His happiness in life had fled forever,
And his deep sorrow soon conducted him
To an untimely grave. "Woe to that man,"
He warning said to every questioner,
"Woe to that man who wins the truth by guilt,
For truth so gained will ne'er reward its owner."


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