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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Melville's marvellous cock

Did I get your attention? Now that title is a fine example of clickbait, is it not?



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Today I'm sick- not working, not going out (oh the sun!), so I'll have plenty of time to read and write.

After leaving the Pequod, I remained at sea for some time and was about to venture far out into the Straits of Florida, but later decided to return to Herman and follow him instead, and now am back on land. 
"In all parts of the world many high-spirited revolts from rascally despotisms had of late been knocked on the head; many dreadful casualties, by locomotive and steamer, had likewise knocked hundreds of high-spirited travelers on the head (I lost a dear friend in one of them); my own private affairs were also full of despotisms, casualties, and knockings on the head, when early one morning in spring, being too full of hypoes to sleep, I sallied out to walk on my hillside pasture."
No, that's not Ishmael. Speaking is the narrator of "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo! or, The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano". The story was published in 1853, hence 2 years after Moby Dick. Miserable, and angry at the world, Ishmael goes to sea, our narrator goes for a country walk. 
I'd like to draw your attention to this passage:
"Whose cock is that? [...] Bless me it makes my blood bound—I feel wild. [...] Marvelous cock! [...] Yes, yes; even cocks have to succumb to the universal spell of tribulation: jubilant in the beginning, but down in the mouth at the end."
"Oh, noble cock! [...] my dear and glorious cock...", muses our narrator.
And this passage:
"'Well, well,' he drawled, 'I don't know—the Widow Crowfoot has a cock—and Squire Squaretoes has a cock—and I have a cock...'"
Later in the story, when asked, another character says: 
"I know of no gentleman who has what might well be called an extraordinary cock."
And when our narrator has a chance to behold the cock: 
"A cock, more like a field marshal than a cock. A cock, more like Lord Nelson with all his glittering arms on, standing on the Vanguard's quarter-deck going into battle, than a cock. A cock, more like the Emperor Charlemagne in his robes at Aix la Chapelle, than a cock.
Such a cock!" 
Of course Melville's talking about a rooster- what else do you think?
Now, after joking around (which hopefully gets some people interested in reading "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo! or, The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano"), I'll leave it to other people (or myself when I'm better) to talk about the social/ philosophical/ religious meaning of the story and its artistic merits. 


"I stood awhile admiring the cock, and wondering at the man."

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