Page images
PDF
EPUB

days, I was strongly attached: he had just arrived from the western world. Twenty summers and winters had he passed in the woody lands on the banks of the Delaware, and so much was he altered in appearance, that, at first, I passed by him, regarding him as a stranger. Time had been busy with him, bleaching his hair like flax, furrowing his cheeks and brow, and impairing the strength of his body and his mind. I could have wept like a child, for affection was strong within me. Well! I must not linger on the scene. Many were the days of his pilgrimage, and his white hairs reminded those who loved him, not only that he had walked long with God on earth, but that he would soon dwell with him in heaven. Since then, I have witnessed his last sigh, closed his dying eyes, and followed him to the grave.

Oh, fear thou not, Christian, to die,

For death is the end of thy woes;
And the sleep of the grave will pa s by

As a night of refreshing repose.

The labourer that rests through the gloom,

At the dawn of the day will arise;
And ere long wilt thou spring from the tomb,

And be winging thy way to the skies.

The stores of wine in the vaults of this place are immense, as well as those of brandy, rum, and hollands; while, in the warehouses, the amount of tea, tobacco, and indigo, is equally astonishing. As I continue my walk round the several quays, I step for a moment into the different warehouses, to mark the different kinds of merchandize that are laid up there. One place is filled with wool, another piled with hemp, and a third occupied with cork, tied up in large bundles. On every hand, something is doing around me; pipes of wine, puncheons of rum, hogsheads of sugar, and boxes of raisins and currants, are hoisted by cranes from the quay to the ships, or from the ships to the quay. I see boxes of fruit, bales of silk, bundles of hides, packages of wool, glue, glass, madder, shell-lac, spices, tallow, oil, wax, gum, whalebone, leather, sponge, and a hundred other commodities, while piles of iron in bars, and logwood in logs, vary the scene.

A party of strangers, judging by the curiosity and wonder visible in their eyes, are now walking along the quay; the ladies are not a little incommoded by the ropes and pullies, the trucks of the workmen, and the packages that intercept their course; yet they take it all with good humour: it would be unreasonable to take it otherwise: the real business of life cannot be allowed to stand still, while we practise its refinements, its courtesies, and civilities.

The outlet of the dock to the river forcibly reminds me of an occurrence which was very near proving fatal. A young friend, about to embark for Sydney, some years ago, had lingered on the quay with her friends, till the vessel had almost quitted the lock, sailing onwards for the Thames; there was but just time for any one to proceed up the rope ladder at her side in safety. My young friend attempted to do this, but faltered. It was a critical moment. Had she fallen into the lock, it would have been her destruction. Perceiving that she had lost her presence of mind, I snatched her away from the ladder, just as the vessel cleared the lock. The remembrance of her perilous situation and escape, even now, makes me draw my breath quicker than ordinary. About a month ago, I again saw her embark with her husband, on her second voyage to Sydney.

I am now looking on a brig, that lies close up to the quay, and I could look at her for an hour, having just picked up the information, from a sailor on board, that she was all but wrecked in the Bay of Biscay. There she is with a chain cable passed twice round her hull, her bows staved in, her bulwarks broken clean off, and her masts carried by the board. Her jurymast is a mere spar, and she carries not a rag deserving the name of a sail. How such a broken craft could ride the waters is wonderful. While I look at her, the Bay of Biscay scene is before me—the roaring winds, the black sky, and the heaving ocean. Hark how her strained timbers creak between the blasts of the tempest! Her mast is struck by the lightning, and now it is carried away. What a fearful crash! He who can mete out the sea in the hollow of his hand, can alone save her crew from destruction! He has commanded the winds to cease. "He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired heaven," Psalm cvii. 29, 30.

When we see the reckless life that sailors too often lead, and when we call to remembrance our own utter unworthiness, well may each of us exclaim, Lord, "what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Psalm viii. 4. How terrible is the wide ocean in its rage! and yet

Life is a sea as fathomless, As wide, as terrible, and yet sometimes
As calm and beautiful. The light of heaven
Smiles on it, and 'tis deck'd with every hue
Of glory and of joy. Anon dark clouds
Arise, contending winds go forth abroad,
And Hope sits weeping o'er a general wreck.
And thou must sail upon this sea, a long
Eventful voyage. The wise may suffer wreck,
The foolish must. Oh, then, be early wise:Learn from the mariner his skilful art,
To ride upon the waves, and catch the breeze,
And dare the threat'ning storm, and trace a path
'Mid countless dangers, to the destined port
Unerringly secure. Oh, learn from him
To station quick-eyed Prudence at the helm,
To guard thyself from Passion's sudden blasts,
And make Religion thy magnetic guide,
Which, though it trembles as it lonely lies,
Points to the light that changes not, in heaven.**

******

I have quitted the London Docks, and am now at those of St. Katharine. It is a sight somewhat strange to see a fleet of merchantmen riding on the waters, occupying a spot where, a short time before, might have been seen huge buildings of substantial masonry, a beautiful church, and a resting-place for the departed dead: yet so it is, for where the river of mammon runs, it sweeps away all that interferes with its free course. The stranger who has not seen the neighbourhood of the Tower and Wapping, for the last twenty years, will look around in vain for the ancient and beautiful church of St. Katharine, once belonging to the old hospital, founded by king Stephen's queen, Matilda. It is gone, together with its burial ground, and the large breweries near. The site they covered is occupied by St. Katharine's Docks. St. Katharine's church is now in the Regent's Park, with its almshouse, master, brethren, sisters, poor scholars, and beadsmen.

The new dock of St. Katharine's occupies a space of twenty-one acres, in which a hundred and twenty fine ships find sufficient room. The quay appears, to-day, more than ordinarily crowded with merchandize and people, though the rain is falling fast and freely. The docks are not improved in their appearance by bad weather; at this moment, the very porters linger, to avoid the wet skin that awaits them should they go forth.

« PreviousContinue »