« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
did not at all seem to stagger him, for he proceeded with his fables, which the same youth appeared to swallow with still more complacency than ever-confirmed, as it were, by the extreme candour of that concession. With these prodigies he wheedled us on till we came in sight of the Reculvers, which one of our own company (having been the voyage before) immediately recognising, and pointing out to us, was considered by us as no ordinary seaman.
All this time sat upon the edge of the deck quite a different character. It was a lad, apparently very poor, very infirm, and very patient. His eye was ever on the sea, with a smile ; and, if he caught now and then some snatches of these wild legends, it was by accident, and they seemed not to concern him. The waves to him whispered more pleasant stories. He was as one, being with us, but not of us. He heard the bell of dinner ring without stirring; and when some of us pulled out our private storesour cold meat and our salads -he produced none, and seemed to want none. Only a solitary biscuit he had laid in ; provision for the one or two days and nights to which these vessels then were oftentimes obliged to prolong their voyage. Upon a nearer acquaintance with him, which he seemed neither to court nor decline, we learned that he was going to Margate, with the hope of being admitted into the infirmary there for sea-bathing. His disease was a scrofula, which appeared to have eaten all over him. He expressed great hopes of a cure; and when we asked him whether he had any friends where he was going, he replied, “ he had no friends."
These pleasant, and some mournful passages with the first sight of the sea, co-operating with youth, and a sense of holydays, and out-of-door adventure, to me that had been pent up in populous cities for many months before-have left upon my mind the fragrance as of summer days gone by, bequeathing nothing but their remembrance for cold and wintry hours to
Will it be thought a digression (it may spare some unwelcome comparisons) if I endeavour to account for the dissatisfaction which I have heard so many persons confess to have felt (as I did myself feel in part on this occasion) at the sight of the sea for the first time? I think the reason usually given —referring to the incapacity of actual objects for satisfying our preconceptions of them--scarcely goes deep enough into the question. Let the same person see a lion, an elephant, a mountain, for the first time in his life, and he shall perhaps feel himself a little mortified. The things do not fill up
that space which the idea of them seemed to take up in his mind.
But they have still a correspondency to his first notion, and in time grow up to it, so as to produce a very similar impres. sion : enlarging themselves (if I may say so) upon familiarity. But the sea remains a disappointment. Is it not, that in the latter we had expected to behold, (absurdly, I gran', but, I am afraid, by the law of imagination unavoidably,) not a definite object, as those wild beasts, or that mountain compassable by the eye, but all the sea at once, THE COMMENSURATE ANTAGONIST OF THE EARTH! I do not say we tell ourselves so much, but the craving of the mind is to be satisfied with nothing less. I will suppose the case of a young person of fifteen (as I then was) knowing nothing of the sea but from description. He comes to it for the first time—all that he has been reading of it all his life, and that the most enthusiastic part of life-all he has gathered from narratives of wandering seamen; what he has gained from true voyages, and what he cherishes as credulously from romance and poetry; crowding their images, and exacting strange tributes from expectation. He thinks of the great deep, and of those who go down unto it; of its thousand isles, and of the vast continents it washes, of its receiving the mighty Plate, or Orellana, into its bosom, without disturbance or sense of augmentation ; of Biscay swells, and the mariner
“For many a day, and many a dreadful night,
Incessant labouring round the stormy cape;" of fatal rocks, and the “still-vexed Bermoothes ;" of great whirlpools, and the waterspout; of sunken ships, and sumless treasures swallowed up in the unrestoring depths; of fishes and quaint inonsters, to which all that is terrible on earth
“ Be but as buggs to frighten babes withal,
Compared with the creatures in the sea's entral ;" of naked savages and Juan Fernandez; of pearls and shells ; of coral beds, and of enchanted isles ; of mermaids' grots—
I do not assert that in sober earnest he expects to be shown all these wonders at once, but he is under the tyranny of a mighty faculty, which haunts him with confused hints and shadows of all these ; and when the actual object opens first upon him, seen (in tame weather, too, most likely) from our unromantic coasts--a speck, a slip of seawater, as it shows to him -- what can it prove but a very unsatisfying and even diminutive entertainment? Or if he has come to it from the mouth of a river, was it much more than the river widening? and, even out of sight of land, what had he but a flat watery horizon about him, nothing comparable to the vast o'er-curtaining sky, his familiar object, seen daily without dread or amazement? Who, in similar circumstances, has not been tempted to exclaim with Charoba, in the poem of Gebir-
Is this the mighty ocean? is this all ?" I love town or country ; but this detestable Cinque Port is neither. I hate these scrubbed shoots, thrusting out their starved foliage from between the horrid fissures of dusty innutritious rocks; which the amateur calls “ verdure to the edge of the sea.” I require woods, and they show me stunted coppices. I cry out for the water-brooks, and pant for fresh streams and inland murmurs. I cannot stand all day on the naked beach, watching the capricious hues of the sea, shifting like the colours of a dying mullet. I am tired of looking out at the windows of this island-prison. I would fain retire into the interior of my cage.
While I gaze upon the sea, I want to be on it, over it, across it. It binds me in with chains, as of iron. My thoughts are abroad. I should not so feel in Staffordshire. There is no home for me here. There is no sense of home at Hastings. It is a place of fugitive resort, a heterogeneous assemblage of sea-mews and stock-brokers, Amphitrites of the town, and misses that coquet with the ocean. If it were what it was in its primitive shape, and what it ought to have remained, a fair honest fishing-town, and no more, it were something—with a few straggling fishermen's huts scattered about, artless as its cliffs, and with their materials filched from them, it were something. I could abide to dwell with Meschek; to assort with fisher-swains and smugglers. There are, or I dream there are, many of this latter occupation here. Their faces become the place. I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief. He robs nothing but the revenue-an abstraction I never greatly cared about. I could go out with them in their mackerel boats, or about their ostensible business, with some satisfaction. I can even tolerate those poor victims to monotony, who from day to day pace along the beach, in endless progress and recurrence, to watch their illicit countrymen-townsfolk or brethren perchance-whistling to the sheathing and unsheathing of their cutlasses, (their only solace,) who under the mild name of preventive service keep up a legitimated civil warfare in the deplorable absence of a foreign one, to show their detestation of run hollands, and zeal for old England. But it is the visitants from town, that come here to say that they have been here, with no more relish of the sea than a pond perch or a dace might be supposed to have, that are my aversion. I feel like a foolish dace in these regions, and have as little toleration for myself here as for them. What can they want here? If they had a true relish of the ocean, why have
they brought all this land-luggage with them? or why pitch their civilized tents in the desert ? What mean these scanty book-rooms-marine libraries, as they entitle them—if the sea were, as they would have us believe, a book to read strange matter in ?" what are their foolish concert-rooms, if they come, as they would fain be thought to do, to listen to the music of the waves ? All is false and hollow pretension. They come because it is the fashion, and to spoil the nature of the place. They are mostly, as I have said, stockbrokers; but I have watched the better sort of them—now and then, an honest citizen, (of the old stamp,) in the simplicity of his heart, shall bring down his wife and daughters to taste the sea-breezes. I always know the date of their arrival. It is easy to see it in their countenance. A day or two they go wandering on the shingles, picking up cockle-shells, and thinking them great things; but, in a poor week, imagination slackens: they begin to discover that cockles produce no pearls, and then-oh then !-if I could interpret for the pretty creatures (I know they have not the courage to consess it themselves) how gladly would they exchange their seaside rambles for a Sunday walk on the greensward of their accustomed Twickenham meadows !
I would ask of one of these sea-charmed emigrants, who think they truely love the sea, with its wild usages, what would their feelings be, if some of the unsophisticated aborigines of this place, encouraged by their courteous questionings here, should venture, on the faith of such assured sympathy between them, to return the visit, and come up to see-London. I must imagine them with their fishing-tackle on their back, as we carry our town necessaries. What a sensation would it cause in Lothbury? What vehement laughter would it not excite among
" The daughters of Cheapside, and wives of Lombard-street." I am sure that no town-bred or inland-born subjects can feel their true and natural nourishment at these sea-places. Nature, where she does not mean us for mariners and vagabonds, bids us stay at home. The salt foam seems to nourish a spleen. I am not half so good-natured as by the milder waters of my natural river. I would exchange these sea-gulls for swans, and scud a swallow for ever about the banks of Thamesis.
A PRETTY severe fit of indisposition which, under the name of a nervous fever, has made a prisoner of me for some weeks past, and is but slowly leaving me, has reduced me to an incapacity of reflecting upon any topic foreign to itself. Expect no 1:ealthy conclusions from me this month, reader; I can offer you only sick men's dreams.
And tr. iy the whole state of sickness is such ; for what else is it but a magnificent dream for a man to lie abed, and draw daylight curtains about him; and, shutting out the sun, to induce a total oblivion of all the works which are going on under it? To become insensible to all the operations of life, except the beatings of one feeble pulse ? If there be a regal solitude, it is a sick-bed.
How the patient lords it there; what caprices he acts without control ! how kinglike he sways his pillow—tumbling, and tossing, and shifting, and lowering, and thumping, and flatting, and moulding it to the ever-varying requisitions of his throbbing temples.
He changes sides oftener than a politician. Now he lies full length, then half length, obliquely, transversely, head and feet quite across the bed; and none accuses him of tergiversation. Within the four curtains he is absolute. They are his Mare Clausum.
How sickness enlarges the dimensions of a man's self to himself! he is his own exclusive object. Supreme selfishness is inculcated upon him as his only duty. "Tis the two tables of the law to him. He has nothing to think of but how to get well. What passes out of doors, or within them, so he hear not the jarring of them, affects him not.
A little while ago he was greatly concerned in the event of a lawsuit, which was to be the making or the marring of his dearest friend. He was to be seen irudging about upon this man's errand to fifty quarters of the town at once, jogging this witness, refreshing that solicitor. The cause was to come on yesterday. He is absolutely as indifferent to the decision, as if it were a question to be tried at Peking. Peradventure, from some whispering going on about the house, not intended for his hearing, he picks up enough to make him understand that things went cross-grained in the court yesterday, and his friend is ruined. But the word “friend” and the word “ruin"