« ForrigeFortsæt »
'Twas fire our ship was plunging through,
2. But there was something even more delicately rare in the apparition of the fish, as they turned up in gleaming furrows the latent moonshine which the ocean seemed to have hoarded against these vacant interlunar nights. In the Mediterranean one day, as we were lying becalmed, I observed the water freckled with dingy specks, which at last gathered to a pinkish scum on the surface. The sea had been so phosphorescent for some nights, that when the captain gave me my bath, by dowsing me with buckets from the house on deck, the spray flew off my head and shoulders in sparks.
3. It occurred to me that this dirty-looking scum might be the luminous matter, and I had a pailful dipped up to keep till after dark. When I went to look at it after nightfall, it seemed at first perfectly dead; but when I shook it, the whole broke out into what I can only liken to milky flames, whose lambent silence was strangely beautiful, and startled me almost as actual projection might an alchemist. I could not bear to be the death of so much beauty; so I poured it all overboard again.
4. Another sight worth taking a voyage for is that of the sails by moonlight. Our course was "south and by east, half south," so that we seemed bound for the full moon as she rolled up over our wavering horizon. Then I used to go forward to the bowsprit and look back. Our ship was a clipper, with every rag set, stunsails, sky-scrapers, and all; nor was it easy to believe that such a wonder could be built of canvas as that white, many-storied pile of cloud that stooped over me, or drew back as we rose and fell with the waves.
5. Were you ever alone with the sun? You think it a very simple question; but I never was, in the full sense of the word, till I was held up to him one cloudless day on the broad buckler of the ocean. I suppose one might have the same feeling in the desert. I remember getting something like it years ago, when I climbed alone to the top of a mountain, and lay face up on the hot gray moss, striving to get a notion of how an Arab might feel.
6. In a New England winter, too, when everything is gagged with snow, as if some gigantic physical geographer were taking a cast of the earth's face in plaster, the bare knob of a hill will introduce you to the sun as a comparative stranger. But at sea you may be alone with him day after day, and almost all day long. I never understood before that nothing short of full daylight can give the supremest sense of solitude.
7. Darkness will not do so, for the imagination peoples it with more shapes than ever were poured from the frozen loins of the populous North. The sun, I sometimes think, is a little grouty at sea, especially at high noon, feeling that he wastes his beams on those fruitless furrows. It is otherwise with the moon. She "comforts the night," as Chapman finely says, and I always found her a companionable creature.
8. In the ocean horizon I took untiring delight. It is the true magic-circle of expectation and conjecture,—almost as good as a wishing-ring. What will rise over that edge we sail toward daily and never overtake? A sail? an island? the new shore of the Old World? Something rose every day, which I need not have gone so far to see, but at whose levee I was a much more faithful courtier than on shore.
9. A cloudless sunrise in mid-ocean is beyond comparison for simple grandeur. It is like Dante:s style, bare and perfect. Naked sun meets naked sea, the true classic of Nature. There may be more sentiment in morning on shore,—the shivering fairy-jewelry of dew. the silver point-lace of sparkling hoar-frost,—but there is also more complexity, more
of the romantic.
James Russell Lowelx.
LXXIX.—DEATH OF SAMSON.
OCCASIONS drew me early to this city;
The building was a spacious theater
The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice
Had filled their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and wine,
When to their sports they turned. Immediately
Was Samson as a public servant brought,
In their state livery clad; before him pipes
And timbrels, on each side went armed guards,
Both horse and foot; before him and behind
Archers and slingers, cataphracts* and spears.
At sight of him the people with a shout
Rifted the air, clamoring their god with praise,
Who had made their dreadful enemy their thrall.
He, patient, but undaunted, where they led him,
* Men and horses both in armor.
Which without help of eye might he essayed,
At length, for intermission sake, they led him
He, unsuspicious, led him; which when Samson
Felt in his arms, with head awhile inclined,
And eyes fast fixed he stood, as one who prayed,
Or some great matter in his mind revolved;
At last, with head erect, thus cried aloud:
"Hitherto, lords, what your commands imposed
I have performed, as reason was, obeying,
Not without wonder or delight beheld:
Now, of my own accord, such other trial
I mean to show you of my strength, yet greater,
As with amaze shall strike all who behold."
This uttered, straining all his nerves, he bowed;
As with the force of winds and waters pent,
When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars
With horrible convulsion to and fro
Ho tugged, he shook, till down they came, and drew
The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder,
Upon the heads of all who sat beneath,—
Lords, ladies, captains, counselors, or priests,
Their choice nobility and flower, not only
Of this but each Philistian city round.
Met from all parts to solemnize this feast.
Samson, with these immixed, inevitably
Pulled down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only ?scaped who stood without.
Milton. IXXX.—TRACES OF OCEAN.
WAS it the sound of the distant surf that was in mine ears, or the low moan of the breeze, as it crept through the neighboring wood? Oh, that hoarse voice of Ocean, never silent since time first began—where has it not been uttered? There is stillness amid the calm of the arid and rainless desert, where no spring rises and no streamlet flows, and the long caravan plies its weary march amid the blinding glare of the sand, and the red unshaded rays of the fierce sun. But once again, and yet again, has the roar of Ocean been there. It is his sands that the winds heap up; and it is the skeleton remains of his vassals—shells and fish, and the stony coral—that the rocks underneath enclose.
2. There is silence on the tall mountain-peak, with its glittering mantle of snow, where the panting lungs labor to inhale the thin bleak air; where no insect murmurs and no bird flies, and where the eye wanders over multitudinous hill-tops that lie far beneath, and vast dark forests that sweep on to the distant horizon, and along long hollow valleys where the great rivers begin. And yet once and again, and yet again, has the roar of Ocean been there. The elegies of his more ancient denizens we find sculptured on the crags, where they jut from beneath the ice and the mist-wreath; and his later beaches, stage beyond stage, terrace the descending slopes.
3. Where has the great destroyer not been—the devourer of continents, the blue foaming dragon—whose vocation it is to eat up the land? His ice-floes have alike furrowed the flat steppes of Siberia and the rocky flanks of Schehah lion; and his nummulites and fish lie imbedded in great stones of the pyramids, hewn in the times of the Pharaohs. and in rocky folds of Lebanon still untouched by the tool.
4. So long as Ocean exists there must be disintegration, dilapidation, change; and should the time ever arrive when