In Moby-dick, a phrase goes,

up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke.

  1. What does it mean?
  2. "cottage" is used without an article and "smoke" with one. How is any meaning changed from their original sense? (what is cottage without a?)
  • 2
    If you replaced "yonder" with "that" would you use an article?
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 5 at 18:20
  • What does what mean? Is there a word that you don't understand? Or don't you understand the inflections used in some of those words? Or do you not understand the syntax of how they fit together?
    – tchrist
    Aug 5 at 19:20

2 Answers 2


It is poetical language describing a cottage that is far away with smoke slowly rising from the chimney.

The cottage is adequately noted as the one "yonder" (far away), so it doesn't need "the."


yonder is an determiner or adjective adjective that describes a particular cottage.

determiner or adjective
in the place or direction shown; over there

Because it indicates a specific direction it is an effective determiner, drawing attention to one and only one cottage, therefore similar to the use of the definite article "the".

"goes a sleepy smoke" tells us that smoke is coming slowly (sleepily) from the cottage. Use of the indefinite article "a" indicates that this is not any particular smoke (for example black, white, yellow, thin, thick) but just some smoke, similar in some way to any other smoke.

So Melville is inviting you to see a particular cottage in some specific direction and to see that smoke of some undefined sort is rising slowly from it (presumably from the chimney!)

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