In chapter 3 of Moby-Dick:

The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with a heathenish array of monstrous clubs and spears. ... one was sickle-shaped, with a vast handle sweeping round like the segments made in the new-mown grass by a long-armed mower.

Does it mean that the handle can be used to sweep the weapon like that?

2 Answers 2


Like much of Meville, this is not an easy passage to read due to the ambiguity in punctuation and length. In his description of The Spouter-Inn, Melville describes several of the implements used in whale craft at the time hung on a wall.

One such implement Melville describes as being

having a crescent shaped blade

with a vast handle sweeping round
with a large, extensive handle all around
sweeping -> extensive
round -> around

like the segments made in the new-mown grass
like stalk segments in newly cut hay
he compares the general shape to a cut hay stalk with its top curled over

by a long-armed mower
by a scythe

Such an tool would have probably been used to cut the blubber of a whale.

Something like second from the left (below)

(source: org.uk)


"Sweeping round" describes the shape of the club's handle. The form of the club is visually sweeping around in a circular fashion, the way hay falls when cut by a mower. But there is no person in the sentence actually performing this action.

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