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Amid soft breezes which do stray
When regal Autumn's bounteous hand With wide-spread glory clothes the land,— When to the valleys, from the brow
Of each resplendent slope, is rolled
A ruddy sea of living gold,— We bless, we bless the Plow.
Again, my mates, what glows Beneath the hammer's potent blows?
Clink, clank! We forge the giant chain, Which bears the gallant vessel's strain, 'Mid stormy winds and adverse tides.
Secured by this, the good ship braves
Which thunder on her sides.
Anxious no more, the merchant sees
The mist drive dark before the breeze,
The storm-cloud on the hill;
Calmly he rests, though far away
Reliant on our skill.
Say, on what sands these links shall sleep,
Fathoms beneath the solemn deep;
By Afric's pestilential shore,—
By many an iceberg, lone and hoar,—
By many a palmy Western isle, Basking in Spring's perpetual smile,— By stormy Labrador.
Say, shall they feel the vessel reel,
Hurrah! Cling, clang!
Once more, what glows,
Gang, clang! A burning torrent, clear
Around and up in the dusky air,
The sword!—a name of dread; yet when
Upon the freeman's thigh 'tis bound, While for his altar and his hearth, While for the land that gave him birth,
The war-drums roll, the trumpets sound, How sacred is it then! Whenever, for the truth and right, It flashes in the van of fight,— Whether in some wild mountain pass, As that where fell Leonidas,— Or on some sterile plain, and stern, A Marston or a Bannockburn,—
Or 'mid fierce crags and bursting rills,
Still, still, whene'er the battle-word
Then Heaven bless the Sword!
LXIIL—AMONG THE ICEBERGS.
WE were twenty days out from Boston, and had made throughout an average run of a hundred miles a day. The schooner had proved herself an excellent seaboat. The coast of Greenland was about ten leagues away, obscured by a cloud. We had not yet, however, sighted the land, but we had made our first iceberg, we had seen the "midnight sun," and we had come into the endless day.
2. The first iceberg was made the day before we passed the Arctic Circle. The dead white mass broke upon us out of a dense fog, and was mistaken by the lookout for land when he first caught the sound of breakers beating upon it. It was floating directly in our course, but we had time enough to clear it. Its form was that of an irregular pyramid, about three hundred feet at its base, and perhaps half as high.
3. Its summit was at first obscured; but at length the mist broke away, disclosing the peak of a glittering spire, around which the white clouds were curling and dancing in the sunlight. There was something very impressive in the stern indifference with which it received the lashings of the sea. The waves threw their liquid arms about it caressingly, but it deigned not even a nod of recognition, and sent them reeling backward, moaning and lamenting.
4. As the fog lifted and rolled itself up like a scroll over the sea to the westward, iceberg after iceberg burst into view, like castles in a fairy tale. It seemed, indeed, as if we had been drawn by some unseen hand into a land of enchantment, rather than that we had come of our own free will into a region of stern realities, in pursuit of stern purposes;—as if the elves of the North had, in sportive playfulness, thrown a veil about our eyes, and enticed us to the very "seat eternal of the gods."
5. It would be difficult to imagine a scene more solemnly impressive than that which was disclosed by the sudden change in the clouded atmosphere. From my1 diary I copy the following brief description of it:
"Midnight.—I have just come below, lost in the wondrous beauty of the night. The sea is smooth as glass; not a ripple breaks its dead surface, not a breath of air stirring. The sun hangs close upon the northern horizon; the fog has broken up into light clouds; the icebergs lie thick about us; the dark headlands stand boldly out against the sky; and the clouds and sea and bergs and mountains are bathed in an atmosphere of crimson and gold and purple most singularly beautiful."
6. In all my former experience in this region of startling novelties, I had never seen anything to equal what I witnessed that night. The air was warm almost as a summer's night at home, and yet there were the icebergs and the bleak mountains, with which the fancy, in this land of green hills and waving forests, can associate nothing but cold repulsiveness. The sky was bright and soft and strangely inspiring as the skies of Italy. The bergs had wholly lost their chilly aspect, and, glittering in the blaze of the brilliant heavens, seemed, in the distance, like masses of burnished metal or solid flame. Nearer at hand they were huge blocks of Parian marble, inlaid with mammoth gems of pearl and opal.
7. One in particular exhibited the perfection of the grand. Its form was not unlike that of the Coliseum, and it lay so far away that half its height was buried beneath the line of blood-red waters. The sun, slowly rolling along the horizon, passed behind it, and it seemed as if the old Roman ruin had suddenly taken fire. Nothing, indeed, but the pencil of the artist could depict the wonderful richness of this sparkling fragment of Nature.
8. In the shadows of the bergs the water was a rich green, and nothing could be more soft and tender than the gradations of color made by the sea shoaling on the sloping tongue of a berg close beside us. The tint increased in intensity where the ice overhung the water, and a deep cavern near by exhibited the solid color of the malachite mingled with the transparency of the emerald; while, in strange contrast, a broad streak of cobalt blue ran diagonally through its body.
9. The bewitching character of the scene was heightened by a thousand little cascades which leaped into the sea from these floating masses,—the water being discharged from lakes of melted snow and ice which reposed in quietude far up in the valleys separating the high icy hills of their upper surface. From other bergs large pieces were now and then detached,—plunging down into the water with deafening noise, while the slow moving swell of the ocean resounded through their broken archways.
10. I had been watching this scene for hours, lost in
reverie and forgetfulness, when I was brought suddenly to
my senses by the master's mate, who came to report, " Ice
close aboard, sir." We were drifting slowly upon a berg
about the height of our topmasts. The boats were quickly
lowered to pull us off, and, the schooner once more in
safety, I went to bed.
Isaac L Hayes.