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Shadrach, Meshach and Queequeg

Haruo 15 May 10 - 04:57 AM
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Subject: Shadrach, Meshach and Queequeg
From: Haruo
Date: 15 May 10 - 04:57 AM

In addition to being a hymnist and an Esperantist and a Baptist, I am a part-time Melvillean, and the "owner" of a Google Group, Ishmailites, dedicated to Melville studies. There is currently a thread going on there called Shadrach and song that perhaps some historically-minded Mudcatters may be able to help with. Here is the initial post in the thread, by John Gretchko:

   Melville cites in chapter 98 [of Moby-Dick], "Stowing Down and Clearing Up," how the whale was slaughtered and beheaded and condemned to the pots, but "like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, his spermaceti oil, and bone pass unscathed through the fire." In the Book of Daniel those three Jews are thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow to a golden idol but come out from the furnace unharmed. These three are in stark contrast to the crew of the Pequod who are deadened by fire. Thus fire must not necessarily deaden.

   Also in this first paragraph Melville sings! "but now it remains to conclude the last chapter of this part of the description by rehearsing---singing, if I may---the romantic proceeding of decanting off his oil into the casks and striking then down into the hold." How are the following descriptions in this chapter considered romantic? Melville singing? Could Melville have been reminded of some song involving the three Biblical figures? These three appear in songs today? Were there any such songs involving them in Melville's day?

Any information on folk or art songs of the first half of the 1800s that dealt with the Fiery Furnace Fellows, that Melville might have had in mind when he wrote chapter 98?


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