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  • From Queequeg in his Coffin

The Daily Dick: Musings on the Greatest Novel Ever

"This tattooing had been the work of a departed prophet and seer of his island, who, by those hieroglyphic marks, had written out on his body a complete theory of the heavens and the earth, and a mystical treatise on the art of attaining truth; so that Queequeg in his own proper person was a riddle to unfold; a wondrous work in one volume; but whose mysteries not even himself could read, though his own live heart beat against them; and these mysteries were therefore destined in the end to moulder away with the living parchment whereon they were inscribed, and so be unsolved to the last."


Musing: This is one of my favorite passages in Moby-Dick. I love the idea that we are all "a wondrous work in one volume." Just like the tattoos on Queequeg's body, this paragraph must be slowly unpacked as well. We will never completely understand ourselves, Melville seems to say. And we will die a mystery too. The skin as a living parchment - the beauty of the words.

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