“…and the pulpit is its prow.”

Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that had achieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in the likeness of ship’s bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on a projecting piece of scroll work, fashioned after a ship’s fiddle-headed beak.

What could be more full of meaning?- for the pulpit is ever the earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first described, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.

Ishmael is describing the pulpit of the seaside chapel in an early chapter of Moby Dick. I’m halfway through the novel (for the first time) and have been consistently surprised by it, including lots of LOL moments and, as quoted above, the consistent and nuanced role of religion throughout Melville’s novel.

Author: David Swanson

Pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville. Collecting signs of life.

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