**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Voyaging At Sea
by [?]

Dawn. Along the water-line a pale leaden streak appears, and little tremulous ripples of gray run gently upwards, until a broad band of mingled white and scarlet shines with cold radiance. The mystery of the sea is suddenly removed, and we can watch the strange serpentine belts that twine and glitter all round from our vessel to the horizon. The light is strong before the sun appears; and perhaps that brooding hour, when Nature seems to be turning in her sleep, is the best of the whole day. The dew lies thickly on deck, and the chill of the night hangs in the air; but soon a red arc looms up gorgeously at the sea-line; long rays spread out like a sheaf of splendid swords on the blue; there is, as it were, a wild dance of colour in the noble vault, where cold green and pink and crimson wind and flush and softly glide in mystic mazes; and then–the sun! The great flaming disc seems to poise for a little, and all around it–pierced here and there by the steely rays–the clouds hang like tossing scarlet plumes.

Like a warrior-angel sped
On a mighty mission,
Light and life about him shed–
A transcendent vision!

Mailed in gold and fire he stands,
And, with splendours shaken,
Bids the slumbering seas and lands
Quicken and awaken.

Day is on us. Dreams are dumb,
Thought has light for neighbour;
Room! The rival giants come–
Lo, the Sun and Labour!

After witnessing that lordly spectacle, who can wonder at Zoroaster? As the lights from east and west meet and mingle, and the sky rears its blue immensity, it is hard to look on for very gladness.

I shall suppose that we are on a small vessel–for, if we sail in a liner, or even in an ordinary big steamer, it is somewhat like moving about on a floating factory. The busy life of a sailor begins, for Jack rarely has an idle minute while he is on deck. Landsmen can call in help when their house needs repairing, but sailors must be able to keep every part of their house in perfect order; and there is always something to be done. But we are lazy; we toil not, neither do we tar ropes, and our main business is to get up a thoroughly good appetite while we watch the deft sailor-men going about their business. It is my belief that a landsman might spend a month without a tedious hour, if he would only take the trouble to watch everything that the men do and find out why it is done. Ages on ages of storm and stress are answerable for the most trifling device that the sailor employs. How many and many lives were lost before the Norsemen learned to support the masts of their winged dragons by means of bull’s-hide ropes! How many shiploads of men were laid at the mercy of the travelling seas before the Scandinavians learned to use a fixed rudder instead of a huge oar! Not a bolt or rope or pulley or eyelet-hole has been fixed in our vessel save through the bitter experience of centuries; one might write a volume about that mainsail, showing how its rigid, slanting beauty and its tremendous power were gradually attained by evolution from the ugly square lump of matting which swung from the masthead of Mediterranean craft. But we must not philosophise; we must enjoy. The fresh morning breeze runs merrily over the ripples and plucks off their crests; our vessel leans prettily, and you hear a tinkling hiss as she shears through the lovely green hillocks. Sometimes she thrusts away a burst of spray, and in the midst of the white spurt there shines a rainbow. It may happen that the rainbows come thickly for half an hour at a time, and then we seem to be passing through a fairy scene. Go under the main-yard and look away to leeward. The wind roars out of the mainsail and streams over you in a cold flood; but you do not mind that, for there is the joyous expanse of emerald and snow dancing under the glad sun. There is something unspeakably delightful in the rushing never-ending procession of waves that passes away, away in merry ranks to the shining horizon; and all true lovers of the sea are exhilarated by the sweet tumult. Remember I am talking about a fine day; I shall come to the bad weather in good time. On this ineffable morning a lady may come up and walk briskly in the crisp air; but indeed women are the best and coolest of sailors in any weather when once their preliminary troubles are over. The hours fly past, and we hail the announcement of breakfast with a sudden joy which tells of gross materialism. I may say, by-the-way, that our lower nature, or what sentimental persons call our lower nature, comes out powerfully at sea, and men of the most refined sort catch themselves in the act of wondering time after time when meals will be ready. For me I think that it is no more gross to delight in flavours than it is to delight in colours or harmonies, and one of my main reasons for dwelling on the delights of the sea lies in the fact that the voyager learns to take an exquisite, but quite rational, delight in the mere act of eating. I know that I ought to speak as though dinner were an ignoble institution; I know that the young lady who said, “Thanks–I rarely eat,” represented a class who pretend to devote themselves to higher joys; but I decline to talk cant on any terms, and I say that the healthy, hearty hunger bestowed by the open sea is one of God’s good gifts.