Thursday, July 24, 2014

Father Mapple's Hymn in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Temple de Lyon, Nommé paradis / Jean Perrissin, 1564
Image Credit: Chrétiens et Sociétés XVIe-XXIe siècles
Under the headline "Father Mapple" the Philadelphia Inquirer on November 22, 1851 published a long passage combining segments from chapters 8 and 9 of The Whale.

The Inquirer took this excerpt on Father Mapple from Moby-Dick (the London edition, titled The Whale), reprinting the text of the British edition from "I had not been seated very long . . ." to "Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the first chapter of Jonah, 'and God had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.' "

Seamen's Bethel
Photo: Trip Advisor
. . . like most old-fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one. . . .
Father Mapple rose, and in a mild voice of unassuming authority ordered the scattered people to condense. "Starboard gangway, there! side away to larboard—larboard gangway to starboard! Midships! midships!" There was a low rumbling of heavy sea-boots among the benches, and a still slighter shuffling of women's shoes, and all was quiet again, and every eye on the preacher. He paused a little; then kneeling in the pulpit's bows, folded his large brown hands across his chest, uplifted his closed eyes, and offered a prayer so deeply devout that he seemed kneeling and praying at the bottom of the sea. This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a bell in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog—in such tones he commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy:
"The ribs and terrors in the whale,
    Arch'd over me a dismal gloom, 
While all God's sun-lit waves roll'd by,
    And left me deepening down to doom.

"I saw the opening maw of hell,
    With endless pains and sorrows there:
Which none but they that feel can tell—
    Oh, I was plunging to despair!

"In black distress, I call'd my God,
    When I could scarce believe Him mine,
He bowed his ear to my complaints—
    No more the whale did me confine.

"With speed he flew to my relief,
    As on a radiant dolphin borne:
Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone
    The face of my Deliverer God.

"My songs forever shall record
    That terrible, that joyful hour;
I give the glory to my God,
    His all the mercy and the power."
Nearly all joined in singing this hymn, which swelled high above the howling of the storm. A brief pause ensued; the preacher slowly turned over the leaves of the Bible, and at last, folding his hand down upon the proper page, said: "Beloved shipmates, clinch the last verse of the first chapter of Jonah—" 'And God had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.'  "

The Mapple excerpt printed in the Washington Daily Union (November 30, 1851) stopped at the end of chapter 8 and thus did not include the altered psalm with Melville's radiant dolphin.  The passage from the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 22, 1851) is the first and only newspaper excerpt from I have seen with Mapple's hymn.


  1. In clicking the link to the London triple-decker, I noticed for the first time that this first London edition has an epigraph on the title page: one of the passages from Milton that also appears in the "Extracts." I don't believe that epigraph appears in the first American edition. Was it added by the publisher, or was it Melville's intended design, or do we not know?

  2. Great question. I see the Northwestern-Newberrry edition of Moby-Dick at p930 duly registers the epigraph from Paradise Lost in the Editorial Appendix, List of Substantive Variants. As explained in the Discussions section at 813, N-N omits the epigraph since the "preliminaries" in the first American edition "are more likely to represent Melville's intention than those in E." As for why the epigraph did appear in the English edition, the N-N editors allow that it "could reflect either an earlier intention of Melville's or an attempt on Bentley's part to offer some kind of epigraph at the beginning of his edition as a compensation for moving the 'Extracts' to the end."
    So we don't really know. John Bryant and Haskell Springer at p572 in the Longman Moby-Dick agree, "the reason for this difference is not entirely clear."