Moby Dick
Moby Dick

Logical Patterns and Poetic Metaphors

Por Eduardo Zeind Palafox

The “logical thinker”, as Borges affirms (1), can find “patterns” in poetic metaphors. I will try to indicate some logical patterns in eight books.

I have reread an Hispanic, classic book, called Martín Fierro, and there is the next metaphor: “with the only friend, the knife” (2). The reader will tolerate my poor English translations. Moby Dick has a similar metaphor, which says: “those spades, your friends” (3). A friend and a dangerous metal, to be what they are, are permanent, constant objects. Both fight against their enemies and are reciprocal fonts of symbolism and have a vital, a long-run objective, viz: the glory. The reader will note that the concepts of identity, of Manicheism, of simultaneity and of teleology are the scaffold of the aforesaid metaphors. But we should be more acute.

The great book of Cervantes, the Quixote, has the metaphor conformed by the term “gulf” and the idea of “misery”, which says: “amid gulf of his error” (4). Defoe, in his Robinson Crusoe, has poured the same metaphor, which says: “the deepest gulf of human misery” (5). A gulf and the human grief are an immensity, and an immensity is, before the human mind, something permanent. The inhuman gulf, here, is the Manichaean contrary of bliss. The sea gives to the human grief the idea of heroism, and the human grief gives to the sea the idea of conscience. The human being wants to be eternal, but when he dies, “the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago” (6), as the final of Moby Dick sings. The hypothetical immortality of the human soul and the sublime mystery of the sea are in mutuality and are in pursuit of eternity.

A tale queued by Hans Christian Andersen, called The Shoes of Fortune (7), contains the following metaphoric line, which talks about the police and the wind: “for that dispels like a whirlwind all the visions of an unfettered imagination”. There is the same metaphor in a poem written by Pablo Neruda, who sung: “The interests are like cyclones,/ break the soil and all living being” (8). Both metaphors represent a relation between the terms “politic” and “wind”, that is, between the permanent philosophical concepts of “corruption” and “natural force”. The concept of “integrity”, or in better words, the notion of a more solid substance than the malefic air (9) or the hypocrite policy, for example, the mystery water, or the fertile earth, or the virtue of the Meditations written by Marcus Aurelius, here is a Manichaean contrary. Politics and wind are, by qualitative exchange or reciprocity, either an “invisible malice” or an “evil force”, respectively. And the final end or teleology of both is chaos (10).

The Bible abridges and poeticizes the principal human metaphor, namely: the metaphor of “I”. From this metaphor comes the metaphor of “God”. In the New Living Translation Bible we can read (Job 27: 6): “My conscience is clear for as long as I live” (11). The sensorial adjective “clear” has been settled after the abstract word “conscience”. Walt Whitman, who is a “new prophet”, as Rubén Darío says, has breathed the same metaphor, and in his Song of Myself we can read: “Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul” (12). “Soul” and “conscience” are words that represent the idea of “I”. The human mind cannot imagine what is death, therefore, the “I” will be something eternal, permanent. An eternal object cannot be a composed substance, thus, it is simple, or poetically worded, “clear”. The Manichaean enemies of clearness and of eternity are obscurity and mortality. Soul or conscience, and clearness, by qualitative relation are “transparent eyes” or “words without lie”. And God, logically, is the final end of our soul.

The four abstract mental operations or “patterns” of the metaphor maker are: a) a relation of two seemingly permanent objects, which appears as a pantheistic analogy; b) a dialectic fight between the permanent objects and their contraries, which puts a moral content; c) a resemantization of the objects, which amuses our imagination; d) a knotting between the objects and the idea of “Destiny”, which involves us in a tragic plot


  1. This Craft of Verse, “The Metaphor”.

  1. The Spaniard text says (verses 1443 and 1444): “sin más amparo que el cielo,/ ni otro amigo que el facón”.

  1. Moby Dick, chapter 72, “The Monkey-Rope”.

  1. The Spaniard lines ask (Quixote, I, XIV): “¿qué mucho que se anegase en la mitad del golfo de su desatino?”.

  1. Robinson Crusoe, chapter 4, “Life and Travel in South America”.

  1. Moby Dick, chapter 135, “The Chase - Third Day”.

  1. Fairy Tales. I handle an English version.

  1. The Spaniard texts says: “Los intereses son como ciclones,/ rompen la tierra y todo lo que vive”.

  1. The forces of wind, for instance, are represented in the old Greek mythology as harpies. The Greek harpies, as Alfonso Reyes says, are “mischievous airs” (“ventarrones traviesos”). See Religión griega by Alfonso Reyes.

  1. The contrary is the concept of “Holy Spirit”, which is understood more fully in Greek, and says: “πνευµατος αγιου” (Matthew 1: 18). Little by little I get the Greek language, dear reader.

  1. The King James Bible says “heart”, and the Neovulgata says “cor”.

  1. Song of Myself, “Song 3”.

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