"After many failures Starbuck contrived to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching it on a waif pole, handed it to Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope. There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair."
Musing: Come on - clap for these lines, will you? The men, having just escaped death, sit in a sinking boat hoping one of the other ships will see the lantern and come to rescue them. Queequeg, the pagan, holds the light. I wonder how many people the last line could refer to? The repetition of the "there, then he sat" reminds me of an incantation. And in all of this futile fight with the whale, the candle ends up being the imbecile. What a thing to consider!