An excerpt from Melville’s Typee

Started reading Herman Melville’s Typee last week (how’s Moby Dick, Canelli Fart Man?).  The first two paragraphs are Melville’s narrator complaining about being out at sea without seeing land for six months and all the hardships (lack of food and proper sleeping quarters, mainly) that that entails.  And then the next paragraph:

There is but one solitary tenant in the chicken-coop, once a gay and dapper young cock, bearing him so bravely among the coy hens. But look at him now; there he stands, moping all the day long on that everlasting one leg of his. He turns with disgust from the mouldy corn before him, and the brackish water in his little trough. He mourns no doubt his lost companions, literally snatched from him one by one, and never seen again. But his days of mourning will be few; for Mungo, our black cook, told me yesterday that the word had at last gone forth, and poor Pedro’s fate was sealed. His attenuated body will be laid out upon the captain’s table next Sunday, and long before night will be buried, with all the usual ceremonies, beneath that worthy individual’s vest. Who would believe that there could be any one so cruel as to long for the decapitation of the luckless Pedro; yet the sailors pray every minute, selfish fellows, that the miserable fowl may be brought to his end. They say the captain will never point the ship for the land so long as he has in anticipation a mess of fresh meat. This unhappy bird can alone furnish it; and when he is once devoured, the captain will come to his senses. I wish thee no harm, Peter; but as thou art doomed, sooner or later, to meet the fate of all thy race; and if putting a period to thy existence is to be the signal for our deliverance, why- truth to speak- I wish thy throat cut this very moment; for, oh! how I wish to see the living earth again!

I haven’t read anything of Melville’s besides Moby Dick during the 21st Century.  That’s too long to even remember what else of his I’ve read.  Bartleby was one of them, but my memories of that story are that it was too serious and inscrutable for my tastes.  But it’s great to see that the humor of dire humanity that runs all throughout Moby Dick exists in his other works.

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