« VorigeDoorgaan »
proaches the edge of the horizon,-that mysterious and everchanging line bounding the visible sphere and dividing it from the invisible,-grows darker, until upon its rim, where it clasps the sky, it is black; the result of perspective, heightened by the contrast between the dark water and the fair sky.
What an infinity of angles the wind makes the sea make! Like the agitation of one overmastering thought upon the world of mind. Each medium reflects it similarly, yet with a marked difference. One, like a Bacon or a Newton, heaves it heavenward, flashing it white and beautiful. Its very foam attests the strength of the billow. Another receives the power, and with docile humility, projects but a tiny drop-it may be, but a drop from the spray of the mightier wave.
The officers are accustomed every log, to drop a bucket, and take the temperature of the water. This is reported, perhaps to Greenwich; and there the immense repertory of isolated, meaningless facts is put into the crucible of generalization, and comes out vital principles of navigation. So much for a bucket of salt water, and the Baconian system of induction.
We are almost to Cape Clear, the southern point of Ireland. I am a living witness that the account Tacitus gives of these parts is an unmitigated fabrication. Thule, Ultima Thule, is generally acknowledged to be Ireland, I believe. Tacitus says,
that the seas around Thule were a mass of sluggish stagnation, hardly yielding to the stroke of the oar, and never agitated by winds and tempests. About as authentic and probable as Juvenal's poetic account of the sun, which he affirms could be heard hissing in the waters of the Herculean Gulf.
Audit Hercules stridentem gurgite solem.
All on the look-out for land! Man at the mast-head and officers with glasses! The hour of enfranchisement draws nigh. Wearied with gazing into the dim distance, I went below, to return on deck at dark. Clambering up the taffrail I saw—
horror of horrors! within twenty-five yards of us, a huge black
I observed an oval line of a most ethereal fineness upon the right. It grew, with our panting steamer's progress, into form, grand and palpable, until Holyhead burst upon us. With a glass we viewed the immense work begun by government here. A harbor is being built for the Cunard and mail steamers. Already it is connected with Liverpool by cars. As we hove in sight, we ran up signals, which were carried to Liverpool before us, as was indicated by the line of steam which began to flow throughout the distant landscape.
"We took a pilot aboard and received from him one newspaper, which was cut into shreds and devoured by fourteen passengers The breath of the fresh landscape is around." Now I can write like a native of this round earth; for land is all about us. The cliffs of Old England stand out in definite outline. Light-houses and mansions attest the presence of a superior civilization. How many thronging associations flit through the mind, as I recall, that here, not in fancy's eye, but in reality, stands the little isle of power-the home of OLD COKE and CROMWELL, of SPENCER and CowPER, of CHATHAM and CANNING, and all the host of glorious minds with whom so much of life has been passed. Aye; in very truth, my eye has greeted
the land of WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE and GUY FAWKES, JOHN MILTON and TITUS OATES; the ideal realm of JOHN FALSTAFF and LITTLE NELL; the theatre of Roundheads and Cavaliers. Yonder, verily, just over to my right, actually grew into life that vigorous feudalism out of which rose the fabric of our own common law. These remembrances come over me wildly and strangely. Old England! Yes; God bless her! With ears in my eyes, I beseech Heaven's best benison upon her. I forget her, as the land of ruth and wrong; I remember her only as the land of noble deeds and generous hearts. Her literature, from Chaucer's first uncouth song to D'Israeli's last sarcasm, floats through the memory like a vivid power, transforming every prejudice into praise, and even wrong into glory. //
But I am ahead of my reckoning. I am not yet done with the Ocean. Such an event as crossing the Atlantic by a backwoods Buckeye, deserves a fuller treatment. Of course, in this gossiping of mine, you will not expect me to confine myself to any system. I reproduce only hasty impressions hastily; pretending to no insight, simply to sight; to no profundity in reading character and discussing vital principles, simply to superficial glances and occasional hearings.
Now that the horrors of sickness are over, the ocean presents itself under another sky. I have spoken of our "volant home," the noble steamship. Ours was not tested very strongly by Neptune; yet not a fear as to the result intruded itself into our minds. It requires a good share of confidence in a vessel, to step from the firm set earth upon its fragile planks, which are to be upborne by so unstable an element. It instils a thrilling awe, to feel yourself moving away to some mysterious realm, the existence of which seems to hang only upon the prompture of Faith. The divorce from the old and familiar has begun. Day after day, you are
"Borne darkly, fearfully afar," reaching no shore, and night after night, you hear, by your very pillow, the
"Ever drifting, drifting, drifting,
Currents of the restless main."
Yet to know that the potent water-breath, we call steam, car mate the Ocean in his wildest Saturnalia, gives all the joy of security, while it does not rob us of the vague mystery. Let the Sea King try his strongest, to crack our vessel's joints and sinews-cheerily sing the sailors, and merrily laugh and skip about the boat the frolicksome children. No drifting at the pleasure of the elements, with our vessel; but a straight path and a steady one. Vulcan, amid his coal smoke below, is the controlling spirit; and reeling Neptune drops his trident in the fire.
Can it be that here indeed is the rock-ribbed coast of England? Yes; for the tokens are evident. The rocks are all fissured, and gray as the hoar-frost with salt. Irregular masses seem to have been heaped ashore. No footing is found upon which to stand. The rocks impress one strangely, not alone because they form an outline of the isle of our ancestors, but (we must own it) because that isle affords our poor physical frames a steady foothold, and an uninterrupted appetite. How much of the crockery ware is burned into this human "wessel of wrath," along with the exquisite porcelain?
We are about to turn up the Mersey, and to leave our open seaward for a narrower path. Perhaps from this point one may fully appreciate the glories of the ocean; for its roll no longer disturbs the mind. CAMPBELL has embalmed in the splendor of his verse, more of the beauty and sublimity of the sea, than any other poet, BYRON not excepted. He loved to retire from the bustle of London, Edinburgh, or Glasgow, and from the height of St. Leonard's (on solid ground-mind you!) listen to its murmurs, which to him were dearer than all the applause of the world. He found peacefulness in its din, and repose in its restlessness. He looked out upon the depths, amid the storms, and saw the lightning sink half way over the main, like a wearied bird too weak to sweep its space. He saw it in the calm,
when the firmament of stars found in it a gorgeous mirror for their Infinitude! What a fine thought is that of his, which calls the sky the mistress of the sea, giving from her brow his moods, morning's milky white, noon's sapphire, and the saffron glow of evening. So beautiful did it seem to his poetic eye, that he wondered not that Love's own Queen was fabled to have come from the bosom of the sea! He likens it to creation's common (a purely Anglo-Saxon metaphor), which no human power can parcel or inclose. This idea is akin to that of MADAME DE STAEL, which Byron engrafted upon his immortal Apostrophe. "Man," she says, "may plough the earth, and cut his way through mountains, or construct rivers into canals to transport his merchandise, but if his fleets for a moment furrow the ocean, its waves as instantly efface this slight mark of servitude, and it again appears as it was the first day of the creation." Or, as Byron phrases it,
"Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow,
Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now."
The figure, however, which pleases my taste most is that of the mirror. It has been used by BAILEY, in his "Angel World," to illustrate the most stupendous truth which the human mind may entertain; the mysterious combination of the Eternal Father with the everlasting Son, the union of Infinite Justice with all-gracious Love,——
"The unseen likeness of the INEFFABLE ONE,
Each like the other, as the sky and sea,
Material though the ocean be, it has a power to penetrate into the mind's immaterial recesses, to inspire it with Beauty, and elevate it with the emotions of Religion.
Have I written too much upon this theme? My Jeremiad on sea-sickness required an antidote to do justice to the element which has borne me over its bosom so safely.