Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

'Tis wonderful !-and yet, my boy, just such
Is life. Life is a sea as fathomless,
As wide, as terrible, and yet sometimes
As calm and beautiful. The light of Heaven
Smiles on it, and 'tis decked with every hue
Of glory and of joy. Anon, dark clouds
Arise, contending winds of fate go forth,
And hope sits weeping o'er a general wreck.

And thou must sail upon this sea, a long,
Eventful voyage. The wise may suffer wreck,
The foolish must. 0! then, be early wise !
Learn from the mariner his skilful art
To ride upon the waves, and catch the breeze,
And dare the threatening storm, and trace a path
'Mid countless dangers, to the destined port
Unerringly secure. 0! learn from him
To station quick eyed Prudence at the helm,
To guard thy sail from Passion's sudden blasts,
And make Religion thy magnetic guide,
Which, though it trembles as it lowly lies,
Points to the light that changes not, in Heaven.

Farewell—Heaven smile propitious on thy course,
And favoring breezes waft thee to the arms
Of love paternal.— Yes, and more than this
Blest be thy passage o'er the changing sea
Of life; the clouds be few that intercept
The light of joy ; the waves roll gently on
Beneath thy bark of hope, and bear thee safe
To meet in peace thine other FatherGod.

LESSON XVIII.

Inscription for the entrance into a wood.-BRYANT. STRANGER, if thou hast learnt a truth which needs Experience more than reason, that the world Is full of guilt and misery; and hast known Enough of all its sorrows, crimes and cares To tire thee of it-enter this wild wood And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze

That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pain’d thee in the haunts of men,
And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse
Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,
But not in vengeance. Misery is wed
To guilt. And hence these shades are still the abodes
Of undissembled gladness; the thick roof
Of green and stirring branches, is alive
And musical with birds, that sing and sport
In wantonness of spirit; while, below,
The squirrel,* with raised paws and form erect,
Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the glade
Try their thin wings, and dance in the warm beam
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in, and sheds a blessing on the scene.
Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy
Existence, than the winged plunderer
That sucks its sweets. The massy rocks themselves,
The old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees,
That lead from knoll to knoll, a causey rude,
Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots
With all their earth upon them, twisting high,
Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet
Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o'er its bed
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks,
Seems with continuous laughter to rejoice
In its own being Softly tread the marge,
Lest from her midway perch, thou scare the wren
That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,
That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,
Like one that loves thee, nor will let thee pass
Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.

LESSON XIX.

Feelings excited by a long voyage-visit to a new continent.

W. IRVING. To an American visiting Europe, the long voyage he has to make is an exceilent preparative. From the moment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy until you step on the opposite shore, and are launched at once into the bustle and novelties of another world.

* Pron. squerril.

I have said that at sea a!l is vacancy. I should correct the expression. To one given up to day-dreaming, and fond of losing himself in reveries, a sea voyage is full of subjects for meditation ; but then they are the wonders of the deep, and of the air, and rather tend to abstract the mind from worldly themes. I delighted to loll over the quarter. railing, or climb to the main-top on a calm day, and muse for hours together on the tranquil bosom of a summer's sea; or to gaze upon the piles of golden clouds just peering above the horizon, fancy them some fairy realms, and people them with a creation of my own, or to watch the gentle undulating billows rolling their silver volumes, as if to die away on those happy shores.

There was a delicious sensation of mingled security and awe, with which I looked down from my giddy height on the monsters of the deep at their uncouth gambols. Shoals of porpoises tumbling about the bow of the ship; the grampus slowly heaving his huge form above the surface; or the ravenous shark, darting like a spectre, through the blue waters. My imagination would conjure* up all that I had heard or read of the watery world beneath me; of the finny herds that roam its fathomless valleys ; of shapeless monsters that lurk among the very foundations of the earth ; and those wild phantasms that swell the tales of fishermen and sailors.

Sometimes a distant sail gliding along the edge of the ocean would be another theme of idle speculation. How interesting this fragment of a world hastening to rejoin the great mass of existence !-What a glorious monument of human invention, that has thus triumphed over wind and wave; has brought the ends of the earth in communion; has established an interchange of blessings, pouring into the steril regions of the north all the luxuries of the south; diffused the light of knowledge and the charities of cul. tivated life; and has thus bound together those scattered portions of the human race, between which nature seemed to have thrown an insurmountable barrier !

We one day descried some shapeless object drifting at a distance. At sea, every thing that breaks the monotony of the surrounding expanse attracts attention. It proved to be the mast of a ship that must have been completely

* Pron. kūn'-jur.

[ocr errors]

wrecked; for there were the remains of handkerchiefs, by which some of the crew had fastened themselves to this spar, to prevent their being washed off by the waves. There was no trace by which the name of the ship could be ascertained. The wreck had evidently drifted about for many months; clusters of shell-fish had fastened about it, and long sea-weeds flaunted at its sides. But where, thought I, is the crew? Their struggle has long been over ;—they have gone down amidst the roar of the tempest ;-their bones lie whitening in the caverns of the deep. Silence-oblivion, like the waves, have closed over them, and no one can tell the story of their end.

What sighs have been wafted after that ship! what prayers offered up at the deserted fire-side of home! How often has the mistress, the wife, and the mother, pored over the daily news, to catch some casual intelligence of this rover of the deep! How has expectation darkened into anxiety-anxiety into dread—and dread into despair ! Alas ! not one memento shall ever return for love to cherish. All that shall ever be known is, that she sailed from her port, " and was never heard of more.”

The sight of the wreck, as usual, gave rise to many dismal anecdotes. This was particularly the case in the evening, when the weather, which had hitherto been fair, began to look wild and threatening, and gave indications of one of those sudden storms that will sometimes break in upon the serenity of a summer voyage As we sat round the dull light of a lamp, in the cabin, that made the gloom more ghastly, every one had his tale of shipwreck and disaster. I was particularly struck with a short one related by the captain.

“ As I was once sailing,” said he, “ in a fine stout ship across the banks of Newfoundland, one of the heavy fogs that prevail in those parts rendered it impossible for me to see far a-head, even in the day-time; but at night the weather was so thick that we could not distinguish any object at twice the length of our ship. I kept lights at the masthead, and a constant watch forward to look out for fishingsmacks, which are accustomed to lie at anchor on the banks. The wind was blowing a smacking breeze, and we were going at a great rate through the water. Suddenly the watch gave the alarm of 'a sail a-head!' but it was scarcely uttered till we were upon her. She was a small schooner at anchor, with her broadside towards us. The crew were all asleep, and had neglected to hoist a light. We struck her just a-mid-ships. The force, the size, and weight of our vessel, bore her down below the waves; we passed over her, and were hurried on our course.

“ As the crashing wreck was sinking beneath us, I had a glimpse of two or thrce half-naked wretches, rushing from her cabin; they had just started from their beds to be swallowed shrieking by the waves. I heard their drowning cry mingling with the wind. The blast tha: bore it to our ears, swept us out of all further hearing. I shall never forget that cry! It was some time before we could put the ship about, she was under such headway: We returned, as nearly as we could guess, to the place where the smack was anchored. We cruised about for several hours in the dense fog. We fired several guns, and listened if we might hear the halloo' of any survivors; but all was sileni-we never heard nor saw any thing of them more !"

It was a fine sunny morning when the thrilling cry of “ land !” was given from the mast-head. I question whether Columbus, when he discovered the new world, felt a more delicious throng of sensations than rush into an American's bosom when he first comes in sight of Europe. There is a volume of associations in the very name.

It is the land of promise, teeming with every thing of which his childhood has heard, or on which his studious years have pondered.

From that time until the period of arrival, it was all feverish excitement. The ships of war that prowled like guardian giants round the coast; the headlands of Ireland, stretching out into the channel; the Welsh mountains, towering into the clouds; all were objects of intense interest. As we sailed up the Mersey, I reconnoitred the shores with a telescope. My eye dwelt with delight on neat cottages, with their trim shrubberies and green grass plots. I saw the mouldering ruins of an abbey overrun with ivy, and the taper spire of a village church rising from the brow of a neighboring hill-all were characteristic of England.

The tide and wind were so favorable, that the ship was enabled to come at once at the pier. It was thronged with people; some idle lookers-on, others eager expectants of friends or relatives. I could distinguish the merchant to whom the ship belonged. I knew him by his calculating brow and restless air. His hands were thrust into his pockets; he was whistling thoughtfully, and walking to and fro,

« VorigeDoorgaan »