Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Dream of the Maldive Shark

The bonds shared by those predators and their diminutive pilot fish posses has been a source of fascination for ages. A book about sailing published in 1832 even remarked about what appeared to be a sense of loyalty between them:

“The beautiful little fish called the pilot-fish, which always accompanies the shark, has been known to follow a ship for six weeks after the shark to which it belonged was taken!” - Source

Before I went to sleep the other night, I was working on memorizing Melville's Maldive Shark. Somewhere in the night, I started "dream memorizing" it - which happens every now and then. In a sort of half-awake, not wanting to fully awaken state, I will recite a poem to lull myself back to sleep. As the words echoed, I wondered, once again,  if Melville intended the shark to be an ambivalent analogy for what goes in the great blank for the word "God", in the same slippery-fish manner as M. Dick. In the dream, it was suddenly and undeniably obvious the human role with regard to the "pale ravener" was that of the pilot fish, all of humanity shared in this, we were all servant ministers to this lethargic and dull dotard deity, obediently leading it to it's prey, taking shelter in the port of serrated teeth, the charnel of maw. I awoke like Archimedes and quickly scanned the written poem for verification, but the "undeniably obvious" radiant solution to the mystery of the poem had vanished.

What in the dream seemed the Key to a Great Mystery, the discovery of a great treasure hidden behind the wall of one of Melville's poems - as if the occult face of a being beyond our world was looking up from the inside of the poem as I was looking down from the outside - now, in the light of day, was merely a curious literary insight. These mysteries in dream that defy remembering frustrate and fascinate me. In the dream, I am wielding a burning sword of fire that can cut through the fabric of reality itself; when I awaken, I am only holding the pencil I fell asleep with the night before.

For in the dream of the Maldive Shark, I knew where to lead the Pale Ravener. I knew what it fed upon, what satisfied its insatiable appetite. I knew what it was and where to find it.

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril’s abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat—
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.