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from the fixity of the scenes amidst which we move. Being ever with us, our nature has linked itself to their nature ; all we have done or suffered seems to have been observed and recorded too by mysterious, silent witnesses—the walls of our house, books of our library, or the ancient elms of our village lanes. We should not feel thus had we lived in a hundred different places instead of one ; each would have acquired too small a portion of our confidence to possess that wonderful power by which familiar scenes rule the soul and secure her love.
The sailor is ever in motion ; his skies, lands, and seas are constantly changing ; earth meets him under all her aspects, and he is on visiting terms with every land from the equator to the pole. Fixity he has none; the very stars change in their courses for him. At one time the Bear takes his departure, at another the Southern Cross gleams nightly on the waters. These constant movements and ceaseless introductions to things new, in heaven, earth, and seas, have for some a powerful charm. Such minds are the Arabs of nature, dwellers in tents ; “ here to-day, gone to-morrow ;” delighting in rapidly varying, rather than in concentrated emotion.
" A life on the ocean wave is distinguished in almost innumerable respects from life on land ; it must, therefore, exhibit human nature under many peculiar aspects.
As the reader will, in the following pages, see the sailor struggling with calamities—at one time driven far over the wild waters by contending tempests, at another dashed like a sea-wced on the desolate shore, or silently enduring the horrors of famine, amid impenetrable chains of ice—so it is desirable that some general description of sea life should precede such adventures. When we are about to lead à friend through an unknown land, it is natural to place before him a map of the regions through which he must pass, the rivers he will probably cross, and the mountains, the gigantic shadows of which will fall each sunset along his path. So let the writer now place this outline of “ Life at Sea,' with its thousand lights and shadows, variable as the multitudinous heavings of the ocean itself, before the reader, ere he enters into a closer acquaintance with the perils encountered on the deep.
The very words “Life at Sea" have in them something to
arrest attention ; for though most of us may have seen the sea, and have moved along its paths, few can say that their home is on the deep ; and, therefore, to the majority of men, “ Life at Sea” presents scenes wholly different from those which mark the life of their towns, villages, and hamlets. To have a fixed house, the site of which we can point out and register by its street and number, if in a large town ; or by grove, green, or wood, if in the country, is the lot of nearly every reader of these pages ; nor can hc, without a strong effort, imagine a different state of things. Our home stands in a certain place ; we leave it with the full expectation of seeing the well-known walls in the same place when we return; that it should move a hundred miles off is out of the imagination's range. Thus we gain certain notions about localities and firity, quite opposed to the diversities of a sea life, where all is motion. But if we would present a natural picture of that strange life which so many thousands pass on the changing waves, we must take the representations of its peculiar dangers, joys, and sublime phenomena, as drawn by the sons of ocean-by sailors themselves. Vain is the attempt of the mere landsman to paint the diversified life of the deep, trusting to the raree-show exhibitions of his own fancy: his seas and storms may be very artistic, and his events most suitable to the theatres of London's alleys, but all will be a daub, tantalizing to the eye, and disgusting to the experienced. This attempt to describe “Life at Sea ” is therefore drawn, in all its essentials, from the delineations of men to whom the ocean had become a familiar friend—who have listened to its cry of wrath, or delighted in the harmonies of its rippling waters, as, laving some bright isle of the tropical seas, they play joyfully beneath the sun of a ceaseless summer. Whilst listening to the reports of these numerous witnesses, it has been deemed expedient to select the experience of one, and follow him through the awful and the beautiful, the grand and even the little, as they successively met him during his sojourn on the sea. This will give à unity to the picture, and preserve the truthfulness of the delineation. The observer to whom allusion is made has preserved his impressions in a work entitled “ Two Years before the Mast,” from which, as opportunities offer, various extracts will be taken to complete this view of “ Life at Sea.” He had lived in the closest intercourse, not with passengers nor officers only, but with the true “ Jack himself,” being literally a working sailor, and admitted into all the corners of the forecastle, where alone the seaman can be thoroughly studied. “ It is there
hear sailors talk, learn their ways, their peculiarities of feeling, as well as speaking and acting. No man can be a sailor, or know what sailors are, unless he has lived in the forecastle with them, eaten of their dish, and drunk of their cup.
We have had numerous novels aiming at a representation of sailors' lives, but many of these give little insight into the peculiar pleasures or sorrows of sea life. One reason may be that fow common sailors have written narratives of their adventures and mode of life ; to them there is nothing novel in their daily round of danger and duty; hence, as Dana says, “ a voice from the forecastle has rarely yet been heard.”
The following sketch comprises many of the events which happened in a voyage of two years' length on the coast of South America. The account was drawn up by R. H. Dana, Esq., of Boston, in the United States, who became a common sailor during that period.
His example is a singular instance of a young man leaving the studies of his college, and suspending professional pursuits, to share the dangers of sailors, in a small merchant-vessel ; and his narrative presents a true and faithful portraiture of life at sea.
The ship in which he had thus engaged to spend two years of his life was named the " Pilgrim,” her destination being the western coast of America, and her object to collect a cargo of hides from the buffalo-hunters. The vessel set sail on the 14th of August, 1834. Few of our readers can have felt the transition from college-rooms to the deck of a merchant-ship, from classics or mathematics to tar and ropes. Dana thus describes his first transition state :—“The change from the tight dress-coat, silk cap, and kid gloves of an undergraduate at Cambridge, to the loose duck trowsers, checked shirt, and tarpauline hat of a sailor, though somewhat of a transformation,' was soon made, and I supposed that I should pass very well for jack-tar. But it is impossible to deceive the practised eye in these matters; and while I supposed myself to be looking as salt as Neptune himself, I was no doubt known for a landsman by every one on board as soon as I love in sight. A sailor has a peculiar cut to his clothes, and a way of wearing them that no green hand can get. The trowsers tight round the hips, and thence hanging long and loose round the feet, a superabundance of checked shirt, a low-crowned hat, worn on the back of the head, with half a fathom of black ribbon hanging over the left eye, with sundry other minutiæ, are signs the want of which betrays the beginner at once. Besides the points in my dress which were out of the way, doubtless my complexion and hands were enough to distinguish me from the regular salt, who, with a sunburnt cheek, wide step, and rolling gait, swings his bronzed and toughened hands athwart-ships, half open, as though just ready to grasp a rope.”
However various the habits of sailors may be, and there are many diversities in the great family, not one can be mistaken for the dweller on firm, unmoving land. Let us, before following Dana on his track, note the various classes of sailors. First comes the man-of-war’s-man, counting himself the only thorough, well-behaved, and fully educated seaman, and regarding the whole mercantile marire as a most miserable imitation of himself. He is the sea-aristocrat, and treasures up with pride the stories of the deeds which have made his name famous through all lands. No descendant of an ancient house can contemplate his heraldic devices, suggestive of great deeds in the past, with more elevated feeling than the true man-of-war's-man regards the torn shreds of flags once floating amid the storm of battle ; or the bits of wood—sound heart of oak, you may be sure-cut from the battered hulls of the old Victorys and Dreadnoughts. The associations of the man-of-war’s-man are of a more stirring kind than those of the equally useful mercantile Jack ; and he has therefore more elevation of character, more pride, and more energy than the sailor of commerce, who is in truth rather despised by the true king's seaman. This notion of dignity pervades every rank, from the captain on the quarter-deck--who surveys his beautiful frigate, or line-of-battle-ship, with feelings somewhat akin to those of the ancient northern sea kingsto the humblest sailor, whose manner clearly utters every sentiment in “ Ye mariners of England.” It is in men-of
war that sea life is most impressively developed, and surrounded with all that power which tells so forcibly on the imagination. These ocean-cities, with their eight hundred o: thousand men, present a singular concentration of all the passions, which on land diffusing themselves over a wider space, become diluted and unromantic, but gathering force between decks, display their capricious and wild vigour to the astonishment of landsmen. If all the inhabitants of a country town were shut up for a year within its boundaries, some startling manifestations of eccentricity would enliven the annals of the borough ; how much more must this be the case in a ship of war, where a host of men are limited to a space not larger than a town street. It is therefore in such ships that "Life at Sea " presents its most perfect developments. Consider, too, the various scenes through which the sailor on board a man-of-war passes. To-day in port-tomorrow in the storm of battle ; one hour pacing the deck, with a mind disporting in easy reverie, calm as the smoke which rises so steadily from his tobacco-pipe--the next dashing into an enemy's harbour, with shot whistling round, and his best friend laid dead, with oar in hand, on the boat-seat before him. The mind does not pass through such rapid changes without acquiring habits, at which men accustomed to float easily along the monotonous stream of life gaze in wonderment. The dash, the cool daring, the seeming recklessness, and nautical peculiarities, arise from these hasty transitions from peace to war, from mirth to death. What is the great event in the life of a sailor in a ship of
The battle, unquestionably; and as the course of the ensuing narratives will not lead to such a scene, it may
be expected that this important aspect of the mariner’s life should be presented in this place. But surely few are ignorant of that “Life of Nelson,” which displays all the tumult and stern decision of naval conflicts, or of those numerous works exhibiting the struggles and triumphs of England's navy. Such readers cannot need a formal description of a sea-fight, and had far better recall, by the aid of imagination, the conflicts of which they must have read. Let us, however, if the reader please, imagine ourselves, some bright morning during a time of war, on board a first-rate English frigate, far out at
The crew have just breakfasted ; a pleasant breeze is