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Its colours changing, when from clouds and sun,
In limpid blue, and evanescent green." Poets have dilated on the beauty of the rising sun at sea, but Dana prefers the period before sunrise—the break of day.
“ Much has been said of sunrise at sea ; but it will not compare with sunrise on
ore. It wants the accompaniment of the songs of birds, the awakening hum of men, and the glancing of the first beams upon trees, hills, and spires, to give it life and spirit. But though the actual rising of the sun at sea is not so beautiful, yet nothing will compare with the early breaking of day upon the wide ocean.” Then the limitless plain below, and the boundless arch above, seem to give and reflect in beautiful harmony the soft tints and fushes which steal out so gently from the depth of the sky as the morning advances. The extent of view, obstructed by no bills, broken by no city-walls or towers, enables the observer to take in at one glance the whole circle of sea and sky, and to note the contrast between the dull western horizon yet wrapped in its mantle of night, and the soft light in the east, which first resembles an almost imperceptiblo flush, then decpening in beauty and spreading in its glory, at last tinges the innumerable waves with its splendour. Bright indeed, and calmly beautiful, is the first opening of the eyelids of the morning, when the swelling sails of the solitary ship receive upon their expanded forms the newly-created light. The very silence of the sea harmonizes well with the breaking of the day, when the world is waking, but not yet engaged in its busy whirl. It is then that mystery seems busy upon all things, and creation appears placed for a moment between the glimmering incertitude of the world in its primeval state -when light had risen upon the waters, but the “greater light to rule the day ” was not yet fitted for its work—and the more fully developed earth. The songs of birds, the hum of waking multitudes, or even the gush of breezes through the first leaves, would disturb, by their variety of sound, the solemn grandeur of day-break on the sea. The one sound of the ocean, wave with wave according, alone comports with the sublime feelings with which the growth of the day is watched. Calmness is the great characteristic of the day-break
at sea; no sudden gush of beauty startles, but slowly, step by step, the heavens reach their magnificent glow, filling the soul of the observer gradually with images of richness ; not hurrying him away by instantaneous revelations of grandeur which dazzle the eye, and leave but an indistinct remembrance of the gorgeous vision. Therefore it is that some regard daybreak at sea as far superior to sunrise, and certainly not to be compared with the dawning upon land, where the field of view is limited, or the emotions disturbed by objects which interfere with the deep stillness so appropriate to this phe
Moonlight on the open sea is not to be compared with moonlight on land, where the beauty arises from the combination of light and shadow, joined to a certain poetic obscurity thrown over the well-known hills and valleys, which not only excites the imagination by its novelty, but fills it with rich outlines and an endless variety of forms. At sea all is uniform at night ; no distant mountains throwing out their sharp outlines against the sky relieve the monotony of the ocean, over which a dull mist settles, shrouding the waters with its leaden sombreness. Thus the break of day is the scene of grandeur peculiar to the sea, unless some should prefer the almost supernatural stillness which often rests upon the deep after sunset ; but this we have in some seasons upon the land, when evening comes down with its magical quiet in the recesses of lonely mountains, hushing the air to a deep repose, and calling out the low, melancholy song of the rock-nightingale.
Sometimes the iceberg appears to diversify the scenery, and impress all with feelings both of beauty and danger. Here is one that appeared in the month of July, when the vessel was off Cape Horn :
“ There lay floating on the ocean, several miles off, an immense irregular mass, its top and points covered with snow, and its centre of a deep indigo colour. This was an iceberg, and of the largest size, as one of our men said who had been in the northern ocean. As far as the eye could reach, the sea was of a deep blue colour, the waves running high and fresh, and sparkling in the light ; and in the midst lay this immense mountain-island, its cavities and valleys thrown into deep shade, and its points and pinnaclos glittering in the sun. No description can give any idea of the strangeness, splendour, and the sublimity of the sight. Its great size--for it must have been from two to three miles in circumference, and several hundred feet in height; its slow motion, as its base rose and sank in the water, and its high points nodded against the clouds ; the dashing of the waves upon it, which breaking high with foam, lined its base with a white crust ; and the thundering sound of the cracking of the mass, and the breaking and tumbling down of huge pieces, together with its nearness and approach, which added a slight element of fear-all combined to give it the character of true sublimity. The main body of the mass was, as I have said, of an indigo colour, its base crusted with frozen foam, and as it
thin and transparent towards the edges and top, its colour shaded off from a deep blue to the whiteness of snow.
The ice-islands at other times present magnificent views : “It required little fancy to imagine them to be animate masses, which had broken loose from the thrilling regions of thickribbed ice,' and were working their way by wind and current, some alone and some in fleets, to milder climes. No pencil has ever yet given anything like the true effect of an iceberg. In a picture they are huge, uncouth masses, stuck in the sea ; while their chief beauty and grandeur, their slow, stately motions, the whirling of the snow about their summits, and the fearful groaning
and cracking of their parts, the picture cannot give. This is the large iceberg, while the small and distant islands, floating on the smooth sea, in the light of a clear day look like floating fairy isles of sapphire.”
Far different from the ice-bergs, and more dangerous, are the ice-fields, which are low, long tracts of ice floating on the sea, and often encircling ships with their fatal chains. These may be seen, when far off, by the peculiar white light with which they cover the horizon, announcing to distant vessels the approach of the frozen mass. Often does the first flash of sun-light reveal to startled mariners the approach of dangerous fields, which sail along, in their gloomy desolation, like fragments of a shattered world suffered to float within the circle of inhabited seas. Numbers of small icefields sometimes precede the large masses, heralding their slow-march, and often driving in the stout ribs of the whaler or Hudson's Bay ship. Shipwrecked crews have
sometimes found a melancholy home upon these ice-fields, which
prove the most dangerous of refuges for the sailor, as the low temperature of the ice draws from the human body its heat, and exposes the sufferers to the most intense anguish. These fields and the ice-bergs are, however, in general surveyed from that safe distance which enables the observer to regard them as points in the scenery of the ocean instead of ship-crushing masses.
Storms, too, have a peculiar grandeur, though the sailor has little time to admire the sublimity of a wave, which may beat in the timbers of the thick-ribbed ship, and cause the loss of a brave crew. The following description will enable the landsmen to form some idea of a tempest:
:-“A light breeze had been blowing for some hours during the first part of the night, which had gradually died away, and before midnight it was a dead calm, and a heavy black cloud had shrouded the whole sky. When our watch came on deck, at twelve o'clock, it was as black as Erebus ; the studding-sails were all taken in, and the royals furled ; not a breath was stirring ; the sails hung heavy and motionless from the yards; and the perfect stillness, and the darkness which was almost palpable, were truly appalling. Not a word was spoken, but every one stood as though waiting for something to happen. We could hear the captain walking the deck, but it was too dark to see anything more than one's hand before the face. We found all hands looking aloft, and there, directly over where we had been standing, upon the main top-gallant masthead, was à ball of light, which the sailors name a corposant (corpus sanctus), and which the mate called us to look at. They were all watching it carefully, for sailors have a notion that if the corposant rises in the rigging, it is a sign of fair weather, but if it comes lower down, there will be a storm. Unfortunately, as an omen, it came down, and showed itself on the top-gallant yard-arm. We were off the yard in good season, for it is held a fatal sign to have the pale light of the corposant thrown
one's face. As it was, the English lad did not feel comfortable at having it so near him. In a few minutes it disappeared, and showed itself again on the fore topgallant yard, and, after playing about for some time, vanished. But our attention was withdrawn from watching this by a perceptible increase of the darkness, which seemed suddenly to add a new shade of blackness to the night. In a few minutes low, grumbling thunder came from the south-west. Every sail was taken in but the topsails ; still no squall appeared to be coming. A few puffs lifted the topsails, but they fell again to the mast, and all was as still as ever. A moment more, and a terrific flash and peal broke simultaneously upon us, and a cloud appeared to open directly over our heads, and let down the water in one body, like a falling ocean. We stood motionless and almost stupified, yet nothing had been struck. Peal after peal rattled over our heads, with a sound which seemed actually to stop the breath in the body, and the * speedy gleams' kept the whole ocean in a glare of light. The violent fall of rain lasted but a few minutes, and was succeeded by occasional drops and showers ; but the lightning continued incessant for several hours, breaking the midnight darkness with irregular and blinding flashes ; during all which time there was not a breath stirring, and we lay motionless, like a mark to be shot at-probably the only object on the surface of the ocean for miles and miles. The rain fell at intervals in heavy showers, and we stood drenched through, and blinded by the flashes, which broke the Egyptian darkness with a brightness which seemed almost malignant ; while the thunder rolled in peals, the concussion of which appeared to shake the very ocean. A ship is not often injured by lightning, for the electricity is separated by the great number of points she presents and the quantity of iron scattered in various parts. The electric fluid ran over our anchors, topsail sheets and ties, yet no harm was done to us. We went below at four o'clock, leaving things in the same state. It is not easy to sleep when the very
may tear the ship in two, or set her on fire, or where the deathlike calm may be broken by the blast of a hurricane taking the masts out of the ship. But a man is no sailor if he cannot sleep when he turns in, and turn out when he is called ; and when at seven bells, the customary • All the larboard watch a-hoy !' brought us on deck, it was a fine, clear, sunny morning; the ship going leisurely along wih a good breeze.
Take another specimen of a high sea struggling with the power and skill of the sailor :-“I stood on the forecastle, looking at the seas, which were rolling high as far as the eye could reach, their tops white with foam, and the body of