Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

cause, his

was

as

Such generous friendship, such unshaken was, like him, happy also in the opporzeal,

tunity of his death. It is not for me No words can speak it, but our tears can tell.

to settle the account between Sir StafOh, candid truth! oh, faith without a

ford Northcote, his colleagues, and his stain !

party; but when one thinks of how he Oh, manners gently firm, and nobly died and what hastened, if it did not plain!

ath, two thoughts, one There is much more I should like to bitter and one consoling, are forced say; as to his services to this county, upon

the mind. It was said some which he loved so well, that he once years ago by a great cynic, with too said to me, tbat of course Devonshire much truth, that gratitude is a factor was less beautiful in winter than in of very small importance in English summer, but that Devonshire in winter politics. It must also be said that

more beautiful than any other the life of Sir Stafford Northcote county in summer,-to this neighbour- demonstrates that English politics do hood, to this city, to this Society. But not lower the character or corrupt the as to this last matter you know what heart; and that the Leader of the he was and the value of his services House of Commons may be a man of to you as your President; while I can simple life and true piety, a steadfast feel at any rate the burden you have friend, a generous foe, a sincere beimposed on me in electing me liever, and a good man. his successor. Time, however, and One closing word and I have done. your patience are alike exhausted. I I have spoken of him throughout as will end therefore what I have to say Sir Statford Northcote, and I have with no attempt to sum it up. I have done so on purpose. When Sir Robert tried to put before you, as I saw him, Peel offered Robert Southey a baroa person who, taken altogether, was a netcy, he asked him “to adorn the very definite, a very remarkable, I distinction of the baronetcy by conhad almost said an unique, character. senting to accept the title.” In like Holder of an ancient baronetcy, of manner Sir Stafford Northcote might good but not large estate, with no well

say,

with Lord Thurlow, that particular advantages of connection, the peerage solicited him, not he the with a reputation from school and peerage.

He conferred, not received, college high indeed but not extraordi honour by changing his old name to nary, he ended by filling some of the

" Ita fit,” says the wellgreatest offices in the country. He known passage of Boethius, in the was Secretary of State, Chancellor of De Consolatione Philosophiae, the Exchequer, First Lord of the Trea non virtutibus ex dignitate, sed ex sury, Leader of the House of Com

virtute dignitatibus honor accedat." mons, and when out of office Leader

Great qualities gain nothing from of his party in that House, and lastly dignities, but dignities increase in an English earl. He has had his honour by the great qualities of those bust, his statue, his picture, in his who accept them. In almost the life and after his death, painted and last letter I ever received from him set up by subscriptions, to which men he signed himself, “Ever yours affecof all classes, of all shades of opinion, tionately, S. H. N., sive tu mavis religious and political, have most IDDESLEIGH. I do not prefer it. I heartily contributed. A rare example therefore use the freedom permitted of the force of a good and high cha me by my friend, and end this poor racter. But if, like Agricola, he was tribute to his memory with the name happy in the clear light of his life, he of Stafford Northcote.

COLERIDGE.

a new one.

6 ut

168

PICTURES AT SEA.

moon

more

ONCE in the Bay of Bengal I wit- strongly in the glimmering faces of nessed from the deck of a ship named

the men.

I was but a lad at the time, the Hougoumont, a sight the like of making my second voyage, and so which, had I read a description of it, was comparatively unseasoned ; and I should have believed impossible in I was awed and alarmed by this Nature. The weather had been gloomy sullen gloom, whose preternatural comand sullen throughout the day : the plexion made you think of having swell was a jumble of sombre green floated into some sunless world of folds sulkily shouldering one another waters over which no star ever sparkas they ran, and I noticed that led, no

ever rose, and whose they likewise moved very sluggishly as atmosphere was to blacken yet as oil might, or water thick with ooze. the deeper solitudes were penetrated. A light air slipped from one swinging One yearned for a flash of lightuing, brow to another, but it had not weight for the growl of distant thunder, for enough to steady the canvas, and the any quality of the familiar to neutralise ship rolled dismally, burying her sides the superstitious fears inspired by this with a regular sea-sawing of the afternoon darkness, imperturbably tincchannels lifted foaming; whilst the turing its substance into the raven hue blows of the sails against the masts of midnight. We spoke in whispers. sent blasts of noise like the explosions The mate receiving his orders from the of nine pounders vibrating through captain, who delivered them in a low the dusky air.

voice, would approach the men close The look of the sky was before repeating them, as though be menacing than the warnings of the durst not break the stillness by bawling. glass, low as the mercury stood. That There was an inconsolable sobbing of a hurricane was not far off was not to be water alongside; and at long intervals, doubted; but we believed ourselves to audible only at moments when the be on the southern verge of it, and that breathless hang of the ship upon the we should therefore escape the central slope of some liquid brow left the rage, though it was more than probable fabric death-like, you heard a sort of that we should encounter the lighter moaning noise in the air, vague and tempest flying off the black wing of indeterminable, echoes no doubt from the storm-fiend as be passed. At five the field of battle that was yet leagues o'clock in the afternoon, though the distant. sun then stood many degrees above At eight o'clock it was pitch dark. the horizon, it was so dark that the The atmosphere was now breathless. men had to feel about for the ropes. Though I had been on deck since six, The ship having been stripped of her I had not witnessed once in any canvas, the noises aloft were small and quarter of the horizon the faintest weak; whilst the straining sounds from glare of lightning. A dim and rusty bulkheads and strong fastenings in the tinge of red had filtered into the west cabins and hold were so mufiled by when the sun set, but the ugly illumibattened batches and tarpaulined sky nation faded quickly. I went below lights that they scarcely caught the to turn in, but finding that others of

The dismaying influence of the the watch I belonged to remained on dark still shadow on high showed deck I came back, and leaning over the

ear.

[merged small][ocr errors]

poop-rail, stood straining my eyes single break amid the compacted against the amazing blindness of the masses of vapour under which it night, in vain search of any break of rolled I had never beheld before, I radiance upon the sea-line. The con have never beheld since, and to be fused swell rolled to the ship in a plain – comprehending its cyclonic huddle of liquid blocks of blackness, significance-I never wish to behold amid which large rich clouds of phos- again. The mysterious magical light phor flashed with the mild play of was upon the sails, upon the decks, sheet lightning. On a sudden, a young upon

the faces and forms of the midshipman who was standing near crew; but the sea lay black as bade me in a soft voice look right thunder under it. Everything was astern. The ship's head lay about shadowless in it: nothing cast an west-south-west, and over the taff image. I extended my arm over the rail in the ebon void there I wit white top of a hencoop, but the limb nessed a very delicate hectic, a kind of threw no shadow. The radiance was pinkish tinge, sifting through the circumambient, encompassing as mist blackness. It resembled the slow is, but clear as glass. Looking upfloating upwards of a prodigious body wards I could see the vane at the of red smoke, or of smoke coloured royal-masthead standing like a black with the flames of a continent on fire streak in the mystic sheen ; and to the immeasurably distant. Its space on very flying jibboom end the ship floated the horizon when first viewed might as plain to the gaze as ever she could be measured by the breadth of our have been submitted by the full moon taffrail ; but in a short time it had riding high. rolled along past either quarter till it What was the hidden luminary that occupied the whole of the sea-line shed this light ? Whence arose this astern, meanwhile continually ascend effulgent midnight mist? The illuming as though formed of a substance ination might have passed for the apart from the clouds; and it grew setting of the sun, going down on the clearer and brighter as its surface en wrong side of the world.

It was an larged, and presently the whole of the atmospheric effect, beautiful, thrilling, eastern and southern sky was aglow marvellous, and terrifying too. Many, with it. There is no colour or combi. I doubt not, have witnessed the same nation of colours that I am acquainted spectacle under the heights in which with by which I should be able to that pale strange shining happened. define the astonishing complexion of It was enough to make all bands of us this light. I must speak of it as suppose that a tempest of cyclonic force pink, though a painter would not thus would burst upon us soon; and when

Its westernmost verge did in about half an hour the lustre, after not extend beyond our mastheads; waning into a tarnished orange, died nevertheless the radiance cast a phan out into impenetrable blackness, we tasmal illumination upon the black stood by ready for what we made sure sky down to the confines of the ocean, was to follow. It blew indeed, though and the sinuous sea-line was plain the

not with hurricane power.

There was whole horizon round, as though limned so much lightning for fifteen or twenty with a trembling sweep of a brush minutes that the sky seemed filled dipped in Indian ink.

with yellow and violet darts writhing In my brief eight years of seafaring their burning lengths like serpents as life I have seen the ships I was in they vanished in the sea that flashed coloured by some strange, many lovely, back whole sheets of fire to the lancing and a few terrifying lights; but the of the levin brands. The weather then like of this midnight lustre, crimsoning grew commonplace enough : plenty of the sooty heavens without revealing a wet, a high foaming sea : the ship

express it.

the sea.

hove to under storm-trysail plunging as it seems to strike the dark and and labouring with screaming rigging: distant sea-line over which a few stars an ashen dawn with sulphur-coloured are peeping like eyes of gigantic shapes, scud blowing up from the horizon like whose shadowy forms the imagination smoke from the chimneys of a city of will not find it hard to distinguish. factories ; and then at noon a tine day, A sailing - ship moving quietly a roasting sun overhead, and the vessel, onwards, or lying restfully in the under fast-drying canvas, lazily stem

heart of a calm, offers a surface upon ming the high swell left by the gale. which the magic brushes of the moon

So much for one atmospheric effect will paint a hundred lovely things. of a tropical storm. One turns will The clear, sharp shadows resemble jet ingly to the gentle oceanic picture. inlaid upon the ivory of the planks. As on shore, so at sea : it is out of The spaces of splendour upon the moonlight that you obtain the daintiest yards between the black dyes, wrought and most fairy-like effects. What is by the interception of the reflection of there tenderer in all nature than the the end of a boom or the clew of a spectacle of moon-rise on the ocean, sail, are like bands of shining silver. when the orb, standing hidden a There is nothing fairer than the minute or two behind some delicate spectacle of a sleeping ship with her line of vapour, whose extremities her canvas hanging silent from the yards, beams colour to the aspect of lunar stealing out to the light of the moon rainbows, sheds a silver streak of icy that soars sparkling as if wet from light upon the black line of the sea

The white glory gushes veilboard, until it looks like liquid ivory like to the trucks high aloft in the in the act of arching over in a gush of clear obscure, and sinks wanly from brilliant whiteness, as froth from the sail to sail until the fabric, that a head of a breaker! I think one misses little while before was but a deeper the best of the moonlight effects when shade upon the evening dusk, gleams on board a steamer. There is little or out into an inexpressible loveliness of nothing in the fabric, for ever storm phantom form and airy substance. ing along, for the crystal beam to beau Stars, bright as Coleridge's tiny sun tify. The structure, vibrating to the amid the branches, sparkle in brass thunder of her engines, rushes onwards and glass ; and along the rails there too swiftly for glorification by those is a diamond twinkling of dew, and

It is from the deck of the sheen upon the canvas seems to the sailing-ship that you command in overflow the bolt-ropes and frame the perfection the wonders and splendours irradiated spaces

with slender of the oceanic amphitheatre. Then atmosphere of light delicate as mist. you witness in such wise, that your To the small swaying of the vessel the heart receives into it, the whole moonshine on her decks flows like spirit of the scenic grandeurs of that running rivulets of quicksilver : the mighty stage: the glowing galleries shadows alternate with the brightness, of the west : the burning pavilions and the reflected filigree of the rigging into which the sun retires : the cloud crawling to the swing of the structure pinion smitten into a mild glory by makes one think of the thin boughs of Venus blazing jewel-like in a sphere a leafless tree stirred by the wind of light, in which the adjacent stars against some snow-clad rise. are hidden

as by moonshine: the One moonlight effect I recall with gathering of the storm-cloud of a delight.

It was a dark, tropical glassy and livid brow, with the restless evening : there was a light air blowing, lifting of the waters to its purple of sufficient weight to keep the sails shadow: the flight of the falling body asleep, and a long troubled swell was of fire bursting into a storm of sparks heaving from the north. The stars

cold rays.

a full

shone very clearly, but the night lay and a sleep. But enough of such dark upon the ocean, and you only moralizing. knew where the sea-line was by A fine effect is often produced by a observing where the luminaries ceased conflict of moonlight and lightning. I to shine. On a sudden a pale greenish witnessed a magnificent scene of this hue in the east announced the rising kind in the Indian Ocean, the island of the moon. The rugged horizon ran of Amsterdam in sight on the starin ink against that lunar dawn, and board quarter.

There was as the orb lifted her brilliant disk moon in the north, and in the south clear of the ebon welter the outline of hung a vast bank of clouds charged with a sailing-ship showed to the right of fire and thunder. The early gusts of this her. Soon she had climbed right over electric storm broke away great wings the vessel : her glorious wake ran of vapour from the shoulder of the fan-like in a turbulent surface of silver main body, and sent them speeding far along the heaving waters; and in athwart the moon. The shining of the middle of this radiant river sailed the luminary was ghastly, rendered so the ship, the wind right astern of her, by the alternations of her own light, her yards square, studding sails darting wildly over the edge of the out on both sides--but all of the driven clouds, with the quick dazzle of deepest dye of blackness. There is the southern flashes. Her beams nothing in language to convey this seemed to be coloured by the electric picture-to express this vision, rather leapings. It was the eye, of course, I see it now --the stately rolling of that carried the reflection of the blue the dark pyramids of cloths, an and sun-bright darts to the northern occasional flash of white fire from her illumination; but the effect was as side or decks, and the mild glory over though the lightning struck its own her stern showing in arches of silver hellish quality into the fabric of the under the curves of her sails. As she silver beams as they fell from the passed out of the moon's reflection she rims of the flying clouds. The comgrew pale, mist-like, elusive. It is bined illumination put a new and indeed the atmospheric effects of the monstrous face upon the ocean. It sea which make it so rich in symbolism. made you think of a dead sea comThe deep is eternity materialised, so plexioned to a very mockery of vitality to speak. I always regard the ocean by the light of such flames as those as a form of infinity rendered compass

from which Milton's Fiend rose to able to human intelligence by an steer his flight to dry land. apparition of confines which yet do The effects of lightning upon the not bound it. It is certain that we ocean are full of dramatic surprises. find in it our most pregnant imagery Moonlight is all sweetness and softness of life and death. The picture of the and blandness; but the revelations ship I have just written about of the electric dart are startling, with abounded in human significance, the something of a tragic nature in them. I full force of which you would have was once becalued in highly phos. understood had you watched the phorescent waters, but the surface was stately, spacious-winged fabric drawing so still that the few gleams visible in out from the throbbing and palpitating the dark profound were faint as the river of silver moonlight, passing in reflection of a star riding upon the spectral pallor, and vanishing among heave of the hidden swell. A cloud the folds of the liquid dusk astern. gathered overhead, and its sooty belly It was something to accept as seemed to lean for support upon our illustration of that form of unreality scarcely swaying trucks. Suddenly it which the poet indicates in speaking rained. One should spend some of life as a dream between a sleep months in Jamaica to understand the

an

« VorigeDoorgaan »