"'Bad work, bad work! Mr. Starbuck,' said Stubb, regarding the stove boat, 'but the sea will have its way. Stubb, for one, can't fight it.'"
And jolly Stubb proceeds to sing in the teeth of the gale, "Oh! jolly is the gale, And a joker is the whale, A'flourishin' his tail . . ."
"'Avast Stubb,' cried Starbuck, 'let the Typhoon sing; madman! Mark Ahab's boat there -- his stand-point is stove, man! Round the Cape of Good Hope [back where they came from] is the shortest way to Nantucket,' soliloquized Starbuck suddenly. 'Yonder, to windward, all is blackness of doom; but to leeward, homeward, I see it lightens up there; but not with the lightning.'" Starbuck has had it, and wants to go home; but he can't muster the courage to mutiny against . . . "Who's there?"
"'Old Thunder,' said Ahab." Ahab countermands Starbuck's order to throw the ends of the ship's lightning rods in the water. This prevents the electical charges from being harmlessly conducted into the sea, and the masts light up with the electrical discharge -- St. Elmo's Fire or corposants -- "'Look aloft!' cried Starbuck. 'The corpusants! the corpusants!'" . Seeing St. Elmo's Fire, jolly Stubb changed to pleading Stubb: "The corposants have mercy on us all!" Then he tells Starbuck that he takes this as a sign of good luck: the three masts look like three lighted spermaceti candles. And Ahab reassures the sailors transfixed with fright: "Aye, aye, men! Look up at it; mark it well; the white flame but lights the way to the White Whale!" Ahab grabs hold of the end of the lightning rod, puts his foot on the kneeling Fedallah [!], flings up his right arm and makes a long, rambling, raving oration of defiance and adoration:
"Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once did worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour I bear the scar. I now know that thy right worship is defiance. No fearless fool now fronts thee. Of thy fire thou madest me -- a true child of fire. But thou art but my fiery father; my sweet mother I know not! O cruel! what hast thou done with her? Defyingly I worship thee!"
Ahab's scar! [Chapter 28] He'd been struck by lightning while worshipping St. Elmo's fire at sea, probably in the company of Fedallah, long ago. Fire -- the good god of the Parsees -- had punished Ahab, just as Moby Dick had punished Ahab. No wonder Ahab curses the sun and smashes his quadrant. To Ahab, the universe is full of evil pretending to be good. He is now wise to it. The White Whale is the emblem of universal evil, and Parsee or no Parsee, he is out to set things right. "Starbuck grasped Ahab by the arm-- 'God, God is against thee, old man; forbear! 'tis an ill voyage! ill begun, ill continued; let me square the yards, while we may, old man, and make a fair wind of it homewards, to go on a better voyage than this.'" Ahab grabs his harpoon which is spewing forked fire. "All your oaths to hunt the White Whale are as binding as mine; and heart, soul, body, lungs and life, old Ahab is bound." With a blast of his breath he blew out the flame, and they ran from him in a terror of dismay.