« IndietroContinua »
Wito all our new arts of building ta, than the apparition of one of our and navigating ships, and with all help great ocean steamers, crossing their path from the mighty powers that send them and defying their snail's paced career; on their way in face of wind and tide, such a steamer, for example, as our the sea is still a stubborn fact that we Scotia, that took us out of New York can neither set aside nor easily get over. harbor, May 12, 1869, and landed us, in We call it, indeed, a noble element, and a little over eight days, in Ireland, early perhaps every boy of pluck can remem- in the morning of May 21st. ber that it was an early passion with Such a vessel does a great deal tohim to go to sea. It is clear, also, that wards fulfilling the vision of the Apocamanly sport often takes the same direc- lypse, “ there shall be no more sea," yet tion, and many who like a fast horse, that vision is by no means wholly fullike, also, a fast yacht, whilst it is filled, and the storms of this last winter equally clear that the owner does not have buried in the sea many precious often ride his fast horse nor sail much lives and hopeful fortunes and housein his fast yacht. We may as well say, hold joys. We make less of the dishonestly, that the mass of men would comforts and dangers of the Atlantic like to get rid of the sea altogether, and passage than the people of Europe that all our arts of mechanism and pow- and I was surprised to hear so many ers of civilization are trying to do so. persons abroad say, that only the fearWe are doing all we can to bridge or ful voyage kept them from going to tunnel our rivers and bays, to make rail- America. Yet there is a certain recogroads and land-routes between points nition of the fact of danger even in our that before were connected only by free-and-easy treatment of the subject, water, and to shorten, as much as possi- and when a vessel sails, the friends who ble, all voyages. There is, perhaps, no go and those who stay show quite a one work of man that embodies more different feeling from that which speeds thought, skill, and force, than one of the land-traveller on his way. There is our great ocean steamers. It has taken little of kissing, embracing, weeping, the whole human race, with all its ex- and waving of handkerchiefs when a perience and education, for ages; with railway-train starts, although for a jourall its mastery of the arts of working ney to the Pacific coast—about as long wood and metal; all its marvellous as the Atlantic voyage. Indeed, an emknowledge of the elements of fire, air, barkation has always considerable paand water; all its science of the ocean- thos about it, and any one whose eyes beds and channels, the magnetic cur- are clear of tears may make quite a rents, and of the order of the stars and study of the human face and its loves sun, to build and work that ship. How and fears and hopes. In every passenmagnificent is the massiveness and mi- ger-ship there is some delicate invalid nuteness of her structure; what strength whose health is watched with great soin her solid bulk, and what delicacy in licitude, and whose return is sadly unthe sweep of her curves, and the exqui- certain; and there, too, is always some site adjustments of her machinery! It one whose high health and active spirit is hard to imagine any thing that could may give equal solicitude, and make more have surprised the old sea-kings anxious parents dread the play of those of Scandinavia, or the new sea-kings young and unchecked passions in those who were with Columbus and Hendrik new and perilous fields of daring and Hudson in the Half Moon and the Pin- pleasure abroad.
We had our share of pathos and tears, look out for—one without, and the but good-cheer more abounded, and the other within; in short, that there is a sunshine above fell on faces not unwill- swell within the stomach that tends to ing to return its smile. Some of the rise to meet the swelling of the waves. mirth was on a large scale, and the A friend asked me, a few weeks ago, if friends of one family on board followed there was any record of seasickness us far down into the bay in a steamer among the ancients, and I could not reof their own. They bad, indeed, a jolly call any; yet who can understand that time of it, and asked some of us, not of the human constitution should so change their clique, to join in their generous as ever to have been wholly insensible festivity; but I was not in the mood for to the rolling of the waves of the sea it, and found company enough in the and the violent rocking of a vessel ? baskets of sweet flowers that our own The ancients did not, indeed, launch friends had brought to us at parting, to out into mid-ocean, yet the waters on bestow upon us, as far as possible, the which they sailed are among the very bright and fragrant blessing of the land worst for the peace of the modern stomupon our way over the waste of waters, ach, and I have no sea-griefs so memowhere no roses or lilies bloom. I could rable as those experienced in passing not but think, however, of the undoubt- from Ireland to England, from England ed hcartiness of the merry companions to France, and from Italy to France. I on that little attendant steamer, and crossed the Atlantic to Queenstown own that there must be something re- without losing a meal, either by loss of markable in the man whom they came appetite or surrender of food actually to cheer. He was an actor-I will not taken; yet the Irish Sea and the Engsay only an actor, for I will not apply lish Channel brought my head down in disparaging terms to any honorable utter helplessness, and the dashing man, and I could not but think that it waves of the Mediterranean turned the was in an ancient play that the famous inner man topsyturvy, and emptied him, words were said, “I saw a man, and apparently, of all food and drink. It whatever is human I do not think may be that the ancients were more strange to me." Would it not be well spare in their diet, and more tough in if men of larger culture and more body and habit, than we, and were not abounding means and shining position seasick. It is, I think, more probable would do as much as this actor and his that they were sick at first, very much family to touch the hearts of people, as we are, and too proud to say any and make them wish him a good voy- thing about a subject that so little illusage and a safe and speedy return? Some trates the heroic side of human characof us had many proofs of being remem- ter in an age that so glorified pluck and bered by friends on shore, and our table, insisted upon the stiff upper lip, which that night and the next day, was a bed seasickness is so apt to let down in limp of choice flowers, which probably van- despair. isbed before their time of wilting, be- I have had some experience of this cause the stewards were impatient of malady, and have tried to get what the trouble of taking care of them, and light I could from medical men and over-greedy for the pretty baskets which their books. The causes are not wholly held them. They vanished too soon, clear, nor does any remedy seem to be but there was some comfort in seeing unfailing. Improved ventilation, cleanthem only in their prime, before any liness on shipboard, take away some of dimming of their colors or fainting of its worst features; and they who voyage their fragrance.
in a clean, well-aired vessel have no idea These partings belong to sea-going, of the suffering that comes from the and they are followed by an experience close atmosphere and foul bilge-water less pathetic but more pitiful. We soon of some of the old packet-ships. I learn for ourselves there are two seas to bave suffered more from a short coasting-voyage along our Atlantic shore in scientific look; but he will allow me to this way, than from all those weeks on say my say, and add a few words to his the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It is prescription. It seems to me best for a small matter merely to have the stom- the voyager to take his place in the ach emptied of its contents, just as a open air, as near the centre of the ship pitcher, when overturned, is emptied of as he can, where the motion is least, and its water, if the inner man resumes at to fix his eye, as far as he can, upon once his normal condition, and the some stationary object in a plucky spirpitcher is soon right side up and ready it, as if the ship, like a spirited, thorto be filled again, such as is the case oughbred horse, were his friend, and its with the form of seasickness that comes movements were all well-meant. As to from the mere tossing of the vessel. the habit of gorging with food and This is about all of the trial that I liquor—so common at sea-it appears have, of late, had upon six stormy seas, to me to be a great mistake, and it is a excepting a certain torpor that comes deadening rather than a healing of a from the working of certain vessels, man, to stapefy him with meat and such as the narrow French propellers, drink. If any stimulus is needed, a which, like gigantic cradles, seem to glass or two of sherry, or, still better, rock stout men and women to sleep in of dry champagne, with its cleansing spite of themselves. The other excep- acid and gentle tonic, is the thing; and tion came from the closeness of the air perhaps I owe much of the comfort of in the cabins toward morning, and the the Atlantic passage to the kind friend tendency to headache, which an open at my elbow, who spared of his abunskylight or a walk on deck at once dance for my stomach's sake and threatquickly removes.
ened infirmity. Yet no man should I suppose that seasickness is partly boast of his exemption from this pest physical and partly mental, the physi- of the sea; and it is a startling lesson cal part coming from the violent mo- on the vanity of human hopes to watch tion, and the accompanying unsteadiness the odd transformation that comes over of all objects of vision; the mental part a ship's passengers as soon as they get coming from a certain fear and anxiety into rough water. How much courage, that demoralize all the forces within, gayety, and grace vanish at once! That and break the connection between the plucky young fellow, who was waving members and the commander-in-chief, his handkerchief and shouting adieu to the rational will. It is an important his friends, is flat upon his back; and question how to set matters right, or to that stout, haughty man, who trod the keep them so-how to remedy, or, still deck as if he owned ship and ocean, is better, to prevent, seasickness. I have sitting with his head upon his hand, as just looked into the only medical book if he had nothing in the world to call that I have at hand of recent date, and his own. That pretty girl, whose rosy I find this paragraph:
lips dispensed those charming words of “ Seasickness: recumbent posture; farewell, is now leaning over the ship’s ammonia ; brandy; whiskey ; chloro rail and parting her lips for a very form by inhalation, or a few drops on different utterance; and that dashing sugar; a tight belt round the body; bride, in silk bright as the sunshine, Chapman's ice-bags to spine."
wilts down into a mere bundle of The unhappy man who should try clothes, and makes up by her loyalty all these specifics, even at his best dis- for the ground what she loses by her cretion, might find himself in the hands slovenliness, as she droops her head of a harder customer than old Neptune, upon her husband's shoulder in the and prefer the malady to the cure. Dr. wifely confidence that the Bible and Tanner, of the Royal College of Sur- the Prayer-Book do not forbid. Many geons, probably knows all about the ridiculous sights are seen, such as call matter, and his book on diseases has a for great forbearance on the part of all men whose stoical stomachs give them the blue waters, as the moon is parted little fellow-feeling for such infirmi- from the earth by the blue ether. It is ties. It becomes such men of iron to wonderful how few vessels come within remember that they, too, are mortal, sight of you on the Atlantic passage of and the day will come when pain and some three thousand miles, and that, sickness, in some of their thousand generally, none comes within speaking forms, will reach them, and bring down distance until the pilot hails you on their proud heads.
your arrival on the foreign coast, and I confess to being astonished at the takes up the charge which the pilot performances of some of these stout held until he left the coast of home. wortbies with the knife and fork in the Whole days will pass when you need fulness of their health, partly, perhaps, sharp eyes to see a single sail. What because of the sea-tradition, that one
loneliness this would be on land !-to cannot eat or drink too much on board travel day after day through forest or ship, and partly because they had noth- over plain, and rarely see a human ing else to do. Five mortal meals- habitation. breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, supper,
The result is likely to be, that you with the intervals diversified, sometimes are more aware of how much you need with the strong cup and bottle ;-bow and love the great world from which could human nature stand all this? you are shut out-how much you care What surprised me most, was the dis- for your own family and friends in parposition to rise to the climax as the ticular, and society and civilization in feasting continued, and to end, like a general—and how unwilling you are to song or a symphony, with some startling take your own trunk and personal crash, some marvellous swell and ca- goods, and sign away your share in the dence of the larder, as when some pas- great human race to which you belong. senger, who had been eating and drink- All those arts, that perfection of utility, ing all day, ended with a gin-sling or those treasures of beauty, those marbrandy-smasher, a dish of Welsh rarebit kets, schools, museums, homes, churches or of devilled bones. Had I not seen --they are far away, and we can, for these feats, I should have thought them the time, no more reach them than we impossible. I did not know what mu- can climb to the moon. How dear they sic was in the human throat till I heard become, then, to us, and how much we Dario and Badiali, Jenny Lind and would give to walk in our familiar garSontag sing; nor did I know what den, chat and frolic with that little things the human throat could swallow, child, sit at the household table, or till I beheld the performances at the stroll into our club! We begin to have table of the good steamer Scotia, in the a certaju fellow-feeling even for the peryear of grace 1869. Man is surely a sons whom we do not generally wish progressive creature, and there is no much to see on shore, and we forgive limit to his music or his maw.
the sneaks or tyrants who have done us Let seasickness and the stomach pass, wrong, and feel like leaving our card for the present, whilst we consider some with the bores from whom we have of the higher aspects of life at sea, in sometimes run away. Anchorites not view, especially, of the world from of the desert of sand, but of the desert which we are shut out and the world of waters, we are prompted to forgive wbich we are shut up in. With all the our enemies, and draw nearer to man as increase of navigation, and the helps of well as to God in cur seclusion from signals and pilot-boats, and the un- our customary world. It is wholesome doubted power of a certain common for us to ask ourselves how much we law of humanity among sailors and have done for this great human fellowcommanders, the sea is a lonely place, ship to which we now feel unquestionand the slip is almost as much sepa- ably that we beions, and whether it is rated from the land and its people by any wiser or better from our having lived in it. Perhaps the great mass of that copies of your magazine go upon human society, with all its kingdoms every ocean, sea, and prominent river of life and zones of feeling, rises clear- on the globe, and help to keep the voyly before us, and we see somewhat more ager within the grasp of the refineclearly to what kingdom we belong, ments of civilization and the charities and how frigid, torrid, or temperate is and sanctities of the home. the belt of affections in which we dwell. But we must not forget that, if the
Precious, then, becomes to us the pet sailor is shut out of the land-world, and portion of our social world, that we can sometimes in agony learns that, in storm take with us especially the pet books or fire, there are none outside of his litthat we can keep hold of in the absence tle vessel on whom he can call for help, of the choice circles of readers that have there is another world in which he freegiven them such interpreters. One is ly moves and is shut up in for the time. not much inclined to read at sca; It is well for him to make the most of often, when the waves leave you at it; and he is a wise traveller who, inpeace, they lull you into a languid medi- stead of railing at the discomforts of the tation that easily goes off into dream- voyage, and trying to sleep or to stuff land; yet, when you are really in the and drink himself into stupidity, keeps mood for it, a live book is a great de- his eyes and ears open, eager to learn light. It is not well to trust to the all that he can of the wisdom of the chance of ship-libraries, much as they sea. It at once appears how vulgar is have improved of late, and you do well to the generalization that dismisses the put a few small and fruity volumes into ocean with one sweeping word, as if it your trunk. I read Emerson's “Eng- were only water, and salt-water, too. land” on the way over, for the second Water, indeed, it is, just as land is land, time, and Byron's "Childe Harold” on and man is man, and woman is woman; the way back, after I do not know how yet how water differs from itself under many times before, and it was wonder- various circumstances, even as land difful to note how much there is in those fers from land, man from man, or womtwo little books-how much of old an from woman! Extremes meet in all England our Yankee philosopher has things; and, if philosophy generalizes distilled into that rare vase of wisdom in order to gather particulars under and beauty, and how much of passion master principles, folly generalizes in and fire that vagrant English cynic has order to shun the need of observation gathered from Europe and Greece into and of thought by huddling things dihis four little phials of wrath. What a verse together into one pudding-stone marvel is this omnipresence of the hu- of blockheadism. Thus many a silly man mind in books! Where we are cut fop, who discriminates sharply between off from the paths of men, and letters the shapes and colors of coats and pando not reach us, and the electric wire taloons, and many an empty flirt, who refuses to give us its message, the great is smart to note the qualities of ribbons human mind still keeps up its vital con- and laces, and can even see differences nection, and we are in presence of the in the monotonous dulness of her score power which, next to God himself, most of admirers, will hardly look a second holds mankind in fellowship. The time at the sea, or forgive this royal blessing of the whole sea-going world ocean for unsettling her delicate stombe upon the authors and publishers of ach. But if we will only note the ocean good books! and no small share of the fairly, how fascinating is its infinite vablessing rests upon you, dear publishers, riety! and Cleopatra is a plodding who do so much to wed the arts of lite- mope in comparison with this everrature and design together, and make changing majesty and beauty. thought pictorial to the eye as well as The day or night at sea is something musical to the e:ir by your illustrated quite itself, and not as it is at land. classics and serials. I have no doubt The day begins squarely on the second,