A Quote About The Great Lakes from Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This is a quote from Chapter 54 of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, first published in 1851. It is one rather large paragraph, but we'll quote it as is:

"For in their interflowing aggregate, those grand
freshwater seas of ours,--Erie, and Ontario, and 
Huron, and Superior, and Michigan,--possess an ocean-
like expansiveness, with many of the ocean's noblest 
traits; with many of its rimmed varieties of races 
and of climes. They contain round archipelagoes of 
romantic isles, even as the Polynesian waters do; 
in large part, are shored by two great contrasting 
nations, as the Atlantic is; they furnish long maritime 
approaches to our numerous  territorial colonies from 
the East, dotted all round their banks; here and there 
are frowned upon by batteries, and by the goat-like 
craggy guns of lofty Mackinaw; they have heard the fleet
thunderings of naval victories; at intervals, they yield 
their beaches to wild barbarians, whose red painted 
faces flash from out their peltry wigwams; for leagues 
and leagues are flanked by ancient and unentered forests, 
where the gaunt pines stand like serried lines of kings 
in Gothic genealogies; those same woods harboring wild 
Afric beasts of prey, and silken creatures whose exported 
furs give robes to Tartar Emperors; they mirror the paved 
capitals of Buffalo and Cleveland, as well as Winnebago
villages; they float alike the full-rigged merchant ship, 
the armed cruiser of the State, the steamer, and the 
beech canoe; they are swept by Borean and dismasting 
blasts as direful as any that lash the salted wave; they 
know what shipwrecks are, for out of sight of land, 
however inland, they have drowned full many a midnight 
ship with all its shrieking crew."


I'll just add that not only is this great literature, but he points out the dangers of boating on the Great Lakes. People often asked us if we felt safer, after we traded in our 26 foot boat for a 32 foot boat. We would say "The Edmund Fitzgerald was 760 feet long, and still went down in a storm." Better to avoid bad weather than try to ride it out.

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Updated March 23, 2019