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tempted, but succeeded in sending up some pretty light floculent cirri from some of his sonnets and local descriptions: his odes, however, gravitated most ponderously;-Sotheby, whose originals could not manage to extricate themselves from the level of the stru→ tus; but his admirable translation of the Georgics, and of Oberon, were buoyed into a purer atmosphere; Hodgson was in the same scrape; his Lady Jane Gray, his Friends, &c. were converted into prone hazy vapour; while his translation did better for him, as his Juvenal rose with some degree of alacrity;-Sir James Bland Burgess, whose Richard Coeur de Lion had really, at this late date, hardly any right to come and suffocate us in a muggy fog: we cannot indeed complain, upon the same footing, of his Dragon Knight, for since it is only a year or two old, it had the true undoubted privilege of trying its fate in the pot, even though it issued in vapour of so thick a consistence, that there was infinite danger of its giving catarrh and sore throat to his majesty's faithful lieges,-the stratus was deadly heavy about this region of it; -Herbert, whose Scandinavian Helga and Hedin betrayed no inclination to soar; and poor Pia Della Pietra still remained in a vapour-bath; but whether it were malaria or not, I did not venture into it to try. Some others followed, whose names I could not dis cover; but the last I distinguished was that of William Thomas Fitzgerald, whose verses indeed seemed mostly to be contained in newspapers and
periodicals; they were soused into the pot, anniversary-addresses, songs of victory, congratulatory odes, and most lacrymose monodies-and came out, forming a perfect drizzle, and making one's neckcloth feel like a dishclout.
Those who think I have been dreaming, will expect now to be told that some unexpected jog awoke me, or that the pot burst with a bounce, and that I found it to be all illusion. No such thing-the conclusion was on this wise. The barrow being empty, Mr Titlepage's shopman got between the handles, and soberly wheeled it off the ground. Mr Titlepage himself made me a bow, and retired. Next morning I found that the pot had been removed, but the ground remained blackened and scorched where the fire had been kindled, and it does so to this hour. I have more admiration than ever for Mr Howard's classifica tion of the clouds into seven genera; and as the old works of most of our existing poets are now "resolved into air-thin air," I am happy in the expectation that they will set to work again, and supply us with a fresh stock. It will be satisfactory to know that you believe in what I have told you; (for what signifies it my being a trifle or so crazy, when 1 only relate to you plain matters of fact which actually happened to me?) but if you range yourself with the disbelievers, I shall not fret; only you must then expect no more communications from
Yours as you use me,
THE FLOATING BEACON.
ONE dark and stormy night we were on a voyage from Bergen to Christiansand in a small sloop. Our captain suspected that he had approached too near the Norwegian coast, though he could not discern any land, and the wind blew with such violence, that we were in momentary dread of being driven upon a lee-shore. We had en deavoured, for more than an hour, to keep our vessel away; but our efforts proved unavailing, and we soon found that we could scarcely hold our own. A clouded sky, a hazy atmosphere, and irregular showers of sleety rain, combined to deepen the obscurity of night, and nothing whatever was vi
sible, except the sparkling of the distant waves, when their tops happened to break into a wreath of foam. The sea ran very high, and sometimes broke over the deck so furiously, that the men were obliged to hold by the rigging, lest they should be carried away; Our captain was a person of timid and irresolute character, and the dangers that environed us made him gradually lose confidence in himself. He often gave orders, and countermanded them in the same moment, all the while taking small quantities of ardent spirits at intervals. Fear and intoxication soon stupified him completely, and the crew ceased to consult him,
or to pay any respect to his authority, than ever.
About midnight our main-sail was
The sea knocked the boat so violently and constantly against the side of the sloop, that we feared the former would be injured or upset, if we did not immediately row away; but, anxious as we were to preserve our lives, we could not reconcile ourselves to the idea of abandoning the captain, who grew more obstinate the more we attempted to persuade him to accompany us. At length, one of the crew leapt on board the sloop, and having seized hold of him, tried to drag him along by force; but he struggled resolutely, and soon freed himself from grasp of the seaman, who immediately resumed his place among us, and urged that we should not any longer risk our lives for the sake of a drunkard and a madman. Most of the party declared they were of the same opinion, and began to push off the boat; but I entreated them to make one effort more to induce their infatuated commander to accompany us. At that moment he came up from the cabin, to which he had descended a little time before, and we immediately perceived that he was more under the influence of ardent spirits
He abused us all in the
grossest terms, and threatened his crew with severe punishment, if they did not come on board, and return to their duty. His manner was so violent, that no one seemed willing to attempt to constrain him to come on board the boat; and after vainly representing the absurdity of his conduct, and the danger of his situation, we bid him farewell, and rowed
The sea ran so high, and had such a terrific appearance, that I almost wished myself in the sloop again. The crew plied the oars in silence, and we heard nothing but the hissing of the enormous billows as they gently rose up, and slowly subsided again, without breaking. At intervals, our boat was elevated far above the surface of the ocean, and remained, for a few moments, trembling upon the pinnacle of a surge, from which it would quietly descend into a gulph, so deep and awful, that we often thought the dense black mass of waters which formed its sides, were on the point of over-arching us, and bursting upon our heads. We glided with regular undulations from one billow to another; but every time we sunk into the trough of the sea, my heart died within me, for I felt as if we were going lower down than we had ever done before, and clung instinctively to the board on which I sat.
Notwithstanding my terrors, I frequently looked towards the sloop. The fragments of her mainsail, which remained attached to the yard, and fluttered in the wind, enabled us to discern exactly where she lay, and shewed, by their motion, that she pitched about in a terrible manner. We occasionally heard the voice of her unfortunate commander, calling to us in tones of frantic derision, and by turns vociferating curses and blasphemous oaths, and singing sea-songs with a wild and frightful energy. I sometimes almost wished that the crew would make another effort to save him, but, next moment, the principle of self-preservation repressed all feelings of humanity, and I endeavoured, by closing my ears, to banish the idea of his sufferings from my mind.
After a little time the shivering canvass disappeared, and we heard a tumultuous roaring and bursting of billows, and saw an unusual sparkling of the sea about a quarter of a mile
One of the sailors cried out that the sloop was now on her beam ends, and that the noise, to which we listened, was that of the waves breaking over her. We could sometimes perceive a large black mass heaving it self up irregularly among the flashing surges, and then disappearing for a few moments, and knew but too well that it was the hull of the vessel. At intervals, a shrill and agonized voice uttered some exclamations, but we could not distinguish what they were, and then a long-drawn shriek came across the ocean, which suddenly grew more furiously agitated near the spot where the sloop lay, and, in a few moments, she sunk down, and a black wave formed itself out of the waters that had engulfed her, and swelled gloomily into a magnitude greater than that of the surrounding billows.
The seamen dropped their oars, as if by one impulse, and looked expressively at each other, without speaking a word. Awful forebodings of a fate similar to that of the captain, appeared to chill every heart, and to repress the energy that had hitherto excited us to make unremitting exertions for our common safety. While we were in this state of hopeless inaction, the man at the helm called out that he saw a light a-head. We all strained our eyes to discern it, but, at the moment, the boat was sinking down be tween two immense waves, one of which closed the prospect, and we remained in breathless anxiety till a rising surge elevated us above the level of the surrounding ocean. A light like a dazzling star then suddenly flashed upon our view, and joyful exclamations burst from every mouth. "That," cried one of the crew, "must be the floating beacon which our captain was looking out for this afternoon. If we can but gain it, we'll be safe enough yet." This intelligence cheered us all, and the men began to ply the oars with redoubled vigour, while I employed myself in baleing out the water that sometimes rushed over the gunnel of the boat when a sea happened to strike her.
An hour's hard rowing brought us so near the light-house that we almost ceased to apprehend any further danger; but it was suddenly obscured from our view, and, at the same time, a confused roaring and dashing commenced at a little distance, and rapid
ly increased in loudness. perceived a tremendous billow rolling towards us. Its top, part of which had already broke, overhung the base, as if unwilling to burst until we were within the reach of its violence. The man who steered the boat, brought her head to the sea, but all to no purpose, for the water rushed furiously over us, and we were completely immersed. I felt the boat swept from under me, and was left struggling and groping about in hopeless desperation, for something to catch hold of. When nearly exhausted, I received a severe blow on the side from a small cask of water which the sea had forced against me. I immediately twined my arms round it, and, after recovering myself a little, began to look for the boat, and to call to my companions; but I could not discover any vestige of them, or of their vessel. However, I still had a faint hope that they were in existence, and that the intervention of the billows concealed them from my view. I continued to shout as loud as possible, for the sound of my own voice in some measure relieved me from the feeling of awful and heart-chilling loneliness which my situation inspired; but not even an echo responded to my cries, and, convinced that my comrades had all perished, I ceased looking for them, and pushed towards the beacon in the best manner I could. A long series of fatiguing exertions brought me close to the side of the vessel which contained it, and I called out loudly, in hopes that those on board might hear me and come to my assistance, but no one appearing, I waited patiently till a wave raised me on a level with the chains, and then caught hold of them, and succeeded in getting on board.
As I did not see any person on deck, I went forwards to the sky-light, and looked down. Two men were seated below at a table, and a lamp, which was suspended above them, being swung backwards and forwards by the rolling of the vessel, threw its light upon their faces alternately. One seemed agitated with passion, and the other surveyed him with a scornful look. They both talked very loudly, and used threatening gestures, but the sea made so much noise that I could not distinguish what was said. After a little time, they started up, and seemed to be on the point of closing and wrestling toge
ther, when a woman rushed through a small door and prevented them. I beat upon deck with my feet at the same time, and the attention of the whole party was soon transferred to the noise. One of the men immediately came up the cabin stairs, but stopped short on seeing me, as if irresolute whether to advance or hasten below again. I approached him, and told my story in a few words, but instead of making any reply, he went down to the cabin, and began to relate to the others what he had seen. I soon followed him, and easily found my way into the apartment where they all were. They appeared to feel mingled sensations of fear and astonishment at my presence, and it was some time before any of them entered into conversation with me, or afforded those comforts which I stood so much in need of.
After I had refreshed myself with food, and been provided with a change of clothing, I went upon deck, and surveyed the singular asylum in which Providence had enabled me to take refuge from the fury of the storm. It did not exceed thirty feet long, and was very strongly built, and completely decked over, except at the entrance to the cabin. It had a thick mast at midships, with a large lantern, containing several burners and reflectors, on the top of it; and this could be lowered and hoisted up again as often as required, by means of ropes and pullies. The vessel was firmly moored upon an extensive sand-bank, the beacon being intended to warn seamen to avoid a part of the ocean where many lives and vessels had been lost in consequence of the latter running aground. The accommodations below decks were narrow, and of an inferior description; however, I gladly retired to the birth that was allotted me by my entertainers, and fatigue and the rocking of billows combined to lull me into a quiet and dreamless sleep.
Next morning, one of the men, whose name was Angerstoff, came to my bedside, and called me to breakfast in a surly and imperious manner. The others looked coldly and distrustfully when I joined them, and I saw that they regarded me as an intruder and an unwelcome guest. The meal passed without almost any conversation, and I went upon deck whenever it was over. The tempest of the preceding night had in a great measure
abated, but the sea still ran very high, and a black mist hovered over it, through which the Norwegian coast, lying at eleven miles distance, could be dimly seen. I looked in vain for some remains of the sloop or boat. Not a bird enlivened the heaving expanse of waters, and I turned shuddering from the dreary scene, and asked Morvalden, the youngest of the men, when he thought I had any chance of getting ashore. "Not very soon, I'm afraid," returned he. "We are visited once a-month by people from yonder land, who are appointed to bring us supply of provisions and other necessaries. They were here only six days ago, so you may count how long it will be before they return. Fishing boats sometimes pass us during fine weather, but we won't have much of that this moon at least."
No intelligence could have been more depressing to me than this. The idea of spending perhaps three weeks in such a place was almost insupportable, and the more so, as I could not hasten my deliverance by any exertions of my own, but would be obliged to remain, in a state of inactive suspense, till good fortune, or the regular course of events, afforded me the means of getting ashore. Neither Angerstoff nor Morvalden seemed to sympathize with my distress, or even to care that I should have it in my power to leave the vessel, except in so far as my departure would free them from the expence of supporting me. They returned indistinct and repulsive answers to all the questions I asked, and appeared anxious to avoid having the least communication with me. During the greater part of the forenoon, they employed themselves in trimming the lamps, and cleaning the reflectors, but never conversed any. I easily perceived that a mutual animosity existed between them, but was unable to discover the cause of it. Morvalden seemed to fear Angerstoff, and, at the same time, to feel a deep resentment towards him, which he did not dare to express. Angerstoff apparently was aware of this, for he behaved to his companion with the undisguised fierceness of determined hate, and openly thwarted him in every thing.
Marietta, the female on board, was the wife of Morvalden. She remained chiefly below decks, and attended to the domestic concerns of the vessel.
She was rather good-looking, but so reserved and forbidding in her manners, that she formed no desirable acquisition to our party, already so heartless and unsociable in its character. When night approached, after the lapse of a wearisome and monotonous day, I went on deck to see the beacon lighted, and continued walking back wards and forwards till a late hour. I watched the lantern, as it swung from side to side, and flashed upon different portions of the sea alternately, and sometimes fancied I saw men struggling among the billows that tumbled around, and at other times imagined I could discern the white sail of an approaching vessel. Human voices seemed to mingle with the noise of the bursting waves, and I often listened intently, almost in the expectation of hearing articulate sounds. My mind grew sombre as the scene itself, and strange and fearful ideas obtruded themselves in rapid succession. It was dreadful to be chained in the middle of the deep to be the continual sport of the quietless billowsto be shunned as a fatal thing by those who traversed the solitary ocean. Though within sight of the shore, our situation was more dreary than if we had been sailing a thousand miles from it. We felt not the pleasure of moving forwards, nor the hope of reaching port, nor the delights arising from favourable breezes and genial weather. When a billow drove us to one side, we were tossed back again by another; our imprisonment had no variety or definite termination; and the calm and the tempest were alike uninteresting to us. I felt as if my fate had already become linked with that of those who were on board the vessel. My hopes of being again permitted to mingle with mankind died away, and I anticipated long years of gloom and despair in the company of these repulsive persons into whose hands fate had unexpectedly consigned me.
Angerstoff and Morvalden tended the beacon alternately during the night. The latter had the watch while I remained upon deck. His appearance and manner indicated much perturba tion of mind, and he paced hurriedly from side to side, sometimes muttering to himself, and sometimes stopping suddenly to look through the skylight, as if anxious to discover what
was going on below. He would then gaze intently upon the heavens, and next moment take out his watch, and contemplate the motions of its hands. I did not offer to disturb these reveries, and thought myselfaltogether unobser ved by him, till he suddenly advanced to the spot where I stood, and said, in a loud whisper," There's a villain below-a desperate villain—this is true-he is capable of any thingand the woman is as bad as him."-I asked what proof he had of all this.
"Oh, I know it," returned he; "that wretch Angerstoff, whom I once thought my friend, has gained my wife's affections. She has been faithless to me-yes, she has. They both wish I was out of the way. Perhaps they are now planning my destruction. What can I do? It is very terrible to be shut up in such narrow limits with those who hate me, and to have no means of escaping, or defending myself from their infernal machinations."-"Why do you not leave the beacon," inquired I, "and abandon your companion and guilty wife?”
"Ah, that is impossible," answered Morvalden; "if I went on shore I would forfeit my liberty. I live here that I may escape the vengeance of the law, which I once outraged for the sake of her who has now withdrawn her love from me. What ingratitude! Mine is indeed a terrible fate, but I must bear it. And shall I never again wander through the green fields, and climb the rocks that encircle my native place? Are the weary dashings of the sea, and the moanings of the wind, to fill my ears continually, all the while telling me that I am an exile?-a hopeless despairing exile. But it won't last long," cried he catching hold of my arm; they will murder me!-I am sure of it-I never go to sleep without dreaming that Angerstoff has pushed me overboard."
"Your lonely situation, and inactive life, dispose you to give way to these chimeras," said I; " you must endeavour to resist them. Perhaps things aren't so bad as you suppose."
"This is not a lonely situation," replied Morvalden, in a solemn tone. "Perhaps you will have proof of what I say before you leave us. Many vessels used to be lost here, and a few are wrecked still; and the skeletons and corpses of those who have perished lie all over the sand-bank. Sometimes, at