Author(s): Herman Melville
'Command the murderous chalices!...Drink ye harpooners! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat's bow - Death to Moby Dick!'. So Captain Ahab binds his crew to fulfil his obsession - the destruction of the great white whale. Under his lordly but maniacal command the Pequod's commercial mission is perverted to one of vengeance. To Ahab, the monster that destroyed his body is not a creature, but the symbol of 'some unknown but still reasoning thing'. Uncowed by natural disasters, ill omens, even death, Ahab urges his ship towards 'the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale'.
Herman Melville was born in August 1, 1819, in New York City, the son of a merchant. Only twelve when his father died bankrupt, young Herman tried work as a bank clerk, as a cabin-boy on a trip to Liverpool, and as an elementary schoolteacher, before shipping in January 1841 on the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific. Deserting ship the following year in the Marquesas, he made his way to Tahiti and Honolulu, returning as ordinary seaman on the frigate United States to Boston, where he was discharged in October 1844. Books based on these adventures won him immediate success. By 1850 he was married, had acquired a farm near Pittsfield, Massachussetts (where he was the impetuous friend and neighbor of Nathaniel Hawthorne), and was hard at work on his masterpiece Moby-Dick.Literary success soon faded; his complexity increasingly alienated readers. After a visit to the Holy Land in January 1857, he turned from writing prose fiction to poetry. In 1863, during the Civil War, he moved back to New York City, where from 1866-1885 he was a deputy inspector in the Custom House, and where, in 1891, he died. A draft of a final prose work, Billy Budd, Sailor, was left unfinished and uncollated, packed tidily away by his widow, where it remained until its rediscovery and publication in 1924.