“Oh, God! to think Man ever comes too near his Home!”: Thomas Hood’s Poem “The Lee Shore” as a Source for Moby-Dick
Abstract

Abstract:

Chapter 23 of Moby-Dick, “The Lee Shore,” is constructed around a central simile that likens the enigmatic character Bulkington to a struggling ship that must crowd all sail off shore in order to avoid being wrecked upon the leeward land. Although the comfortable port “would fain give succor,” says the narrator Ishmael, “in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship’s direst jeopardy.” Previous scholars have suggested that Melville’s lee-shore imagery may have been derived from either the whaling narratives of Henry Cheever or the paintings of J. M. W. Turner. I argue that Melville’s source was Thomas Hood’s 1842 poem “The Lee Shore,” which shares with Melville’s chapter the same counterintuitive paradox: that to be safe we must sometimes flee from safety; that a man can be destroyed, in Hood’s words, if he “comes too near his home.”


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