Gudgeons and ginger-cakes, pull!

Just in case you wished you were, right now, right this minute, instead of staring at a computer screen, in a whaleboat in the far seas, amid the salt and spray and dazzling sun, pulling an oar for a school of whales, as an able seaman under the command of Captain Ahab (who perhaps you do not yet realize is mad, though he did make you swear that odd oath in Chapter 36, not twelve chapters past) in the boat of Stubbs, the mate:

“Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my little ones,” drawlingly and soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew, some of whom still showed signs of uneasiness. “Why don’t you break your backbones, my boys? […]Pull, then, do pull; never mind the brimstone devils are good fellows enough. So, so; there you are now; that’s the stroke for a thousand pounds; that’s the stroke to sweep the stakes! Hurrah for the gold cup of sperm oil, my heroes! Three cheers, men- all hearts alive! Easy, easy; don’t be in a hurry- don’t be in a hurry. Why don’t you snap your oars, you rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So, so, so, then:- softly, softly! That’s it- that’s it! long and strong. Give way there, give way! The devil fetch ye, ye ragamuffin rapscallions; ye are all asleep. Stop snoring, ye sleepers, and pull. Pull, will ye? pull, can’t ye? pull, won’t ye? Why in the name of gudgeons and ginger-cakes don’t ye pull?- pull and break something! pull, and start your eyes out! Here,” whipping out the sharp knife from his girdle; “every mother’s son of ye draw his knife, and pull with the blade between his teeth. That’s it- that’s it. Now ye do something; that looks like it, my steel-bits. Start her- start her, my silverspoons! Start her, marling-spikes!”

On the other hand, in case you wished you were Herman Melville right now, keep in mind that this huge whale of the book, Moby Dick, ruined his career as a novelist, and sent him back to his day job, to die in drunken obscurity and misery many years later. Moby Dick never sold through its advance. How like a loyal crewman on a doomed ship, seeking to capture something greater than words can capture, only to have it turn on you and sink you!

Still, immortality is something, is it not? How often have writers started awake on moonless midnights, sobbing, their floating hair in disarray, wishing they had written a line like: “Why in the name of gudgeons and ginger-cakes don’t ye pull?” or even “Call me Ishmael.” ?

Is it the better part of wisdom to pray the Muse to smite you with her white-hot harpoon, that you might be drawn, O poet, up out of the ocean of banality, and render up some ambrosial words mere mortals cannot digest? Or the better part to pray she passes you by, the glancing-eyed goddess, so that you might cobble up some workmanlike product that will make your next sale? There is a certain romance to paying your bills, after all.