Now, as the business of standing mast-heads, ashore or afloat, is a very ancient and interesting one, let us in some measure expatiate here.
Standing the mast-head becomes a metaphor for seeking out truths that most men cannot see. Just as one scans the sea for the telltale spouts of whales, the ancient Egyptians built high perches from which to observe the stars and investigate the secrets of the universe; Saint Stylites ascended his perch to escape the world and look within himself and find god; Washington, Napolean and Nelson sought lookouts where they could get away from their counsels and think things over alone.
There is something about being alone and gazing that lends itself to considering large questions. Even if you’re alone on a couch smoking a spliff and watching wallpaper peel, you too are standing a mast-head.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “Moby-Dick (Chap. 35: The Mast-Head)” by Herman Melville and leave a comment on the lyrics box