Page images
PDF
EPUB

the sea.

with water, to be set on fire, and too firmly united to be broken up by any means at hand. It was unavoidably left, therefore, as found, to be still tossed by the sea, and to become, perchance, to after voyagers, as it had been to ourselves, the subject of curiosity, surmise, and gloomy association.

Tuesday, November 19. — With the full promise of a speedy arrival at Madeira, we had for days been indulging ourselves with bright visions of that “pride of the Atlantic,' when, greatly to our disappointment and chagrin, a settled head wind compelled us to lay a reluctant course for Gibraltar, causing her landscapes of loveliness to fade as suddenly from our view as the 'shadowy promontories and gilded peaks' of the famed Saint Brandan, in an adjoining section of the ocean, were wont to vanish from the eager gaze of curious dreamers of yore.

To-day we have evidence of an approach to another land of promise, in a visit of winged messengers of a most unexpected kind; some dozens of the migratory and devastating locusts of southern Europe, Asia, and Africa, which have boarded our ship, though a hundred and seventy miles from the nearest coast, that of Portugal. Much speculation among the crew has been excited by these strangers : many are incredulous of their being from the continent, and are disposed to think they originated on board, or were hatched upon A bale of liay, the remains of provender for our live stock, has been looked on with searching suspicion by some as the source of the phenomenon; while one of the apprentice boys was heard to solve the difficulty, in answer to the question of a compeer, What are they, and where did they come from ? much in the way in which Alexander the Great unloosed the Gordian knot, by the reply: they? and where did they come from?- why arn't they sea-grasshoppers, to be sure; and where should they come from, but out of the

Were it not for well authenticated facts, proving beyond question the great distance to which these insects have been borne, the more intelligent of our company could scarce have believed, that creatures so diminutive and apparently so frail, could sustain themselves in a flight of more than a hundred and fifty miles, though' moving on the very wings of the wind. This land of Teneriffe has more than once been visited by myriads of them from the Barbary coast; and marvellous but well attested statements exist of the manner of their arrival, their numbers and ravages. Col. Needham, in a letter to Sir Hans Sloane, describing an invasion, as it may justly be called, of this island by them in 1649, says, that Numbers falling into the sea, others lighted upon them, and others again upon these, till a mass was formed above the sea, exceeding the height of the largest ship. Those not submerged, after being revived and rëinvigorated by the sun, again taking wing, covered the whole island, laying ‘waste the vine' and barking the fig-tree,' with a devastation of four months' continuance.'

Those taken on board, and preserved by us, are from two to three inches in length, with brown spotted wings and reddish bodies and legs. They were examined with great interest, not merely from a knowledge of the habits and history of their species, the immense

• What are

sea ?'

numbers in which they congregate; in clouds, according to Thevenot, of the almost incredible magnitude of sixteen and eighteen miles in length, and from nine to twelve in breadth, covering

a whole region of country, when they alight, to the depth of inches, etc., etc.; but, more especially, as instruments which a wise and just Providence has chosen, in many instances, to convert into messengers of His displeasure and wrath, by devastations terminating in famine and the pestilence which walketh in darkness and wasteth at noon-day; visitations so terrible as to have been heralded by the voice of phophecy in figures and language of fearful sublimity : Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain ; let all the inhabitants of the earth tremble, for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand! A day of darkness and of gloominess; a day of clouds and thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountain.' The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wildness : yea, nothing shall escape them.' • The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble; the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it!

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21. — Yesterday, at day-break, we made the mountains of Portugal, overlooking Cape St. Vincent - a landmark by which it had been previously determined to test the fidelity of our chronometers. Satisfied of the correctness of the position they had given us, we soon afterward laid a course for the Straits of Gibraltar, in the confidence of reaching them to-day, should the favoring wind with which we were hurried onward continue in its freshness. The night was as brilliant and beautiful as sailor or landsman ever gazed on, and the morning all that enthusiasm itself could desire for giving full effect to the scenery of the Straits : and never could a ship have passed through them under auspices more propitious for an unfading impression of their beauty and a magnificence; a beauty and magnificence worthy the portals of the old world, and the approach to regions of unrivalled interest, alike to the scholar and the christian.

Land having been early reported, I hastened, shortly after daylight, to an open port, for a full view of it; and could scarce repress an exclamation of delight at the grandeur and glorious coloring of the picture by which I was at once rivetted in admiration. It was a section of Africa, intervening between Cape Spartel and Apes' Hill—the Abyla of antiquity : not Africa, such as it becomes associated to us in the books of our childhood, with characteristic imagery of sandy deserts and arid wastes, and here and there a tufted palm tree to relieve the regularity of the horizon, but Africa in her mountain wildness, with range towering beyond range in picturesque and beautiful outline, from the sea-side to cloud-capt peaks far in the interior, all rugged and seemingly drear, it is true, but bathed now in colors at once so soft yet brilliant, so varied and so gay, that I thought I had never before seen them equalled.

As I dwelt with enthusiasm on the magnificent spectacle, it seemed as if little effort of the imagination would be requisite to create, from such glowing and speaking beauty in the opening day, the imagery by which mythologists have personified it ; and I could almost fancy that I should soon see, amidst the saffron light upon the mountain tops, the bright and rosy Hours hastening in joyous group to usher forth the Goddess of the Morning, as depicted by Guido, in an inspiration of his genius on the ceilings of the Palazzo Rospigliosi, in Rome. But in their stead came the 'glorious king of day,' and with his first rays a blue mist, shrouding the whole scene in obscurity, and transforming it in appearance to a massive wall against the eastern sky, terminating at the distance of fifteen or twenty miles ahead of us, in the grotesque profile of Apes' Hill.

The rising sun, in marring the distinctness and beauty of the landscape on the African coast, however, brought that of the European shore in full illumination, and by changing my position to the opposite side of the ship, I found new objects of interest and association in the perpendicular cliffs of Trafalgar, overtopped far inland by the white dwellings and crowning church towers of Medina Sidonia, a city on a hill, such as cannot be hid; while Tarifa, famed in chronicles of the olden time, for deeds of daring alike in the Spaniard and the Moor, with castellated walls and towering beacon light, lay stretched upon

the water, in the direction we were proceeding. An English writer, in describing the scenery in the midst of which we were at this time, confirms the correctness of our own impressions, in the following language: "We speak,' he remarks, 'from personal knowledge, when we say, that the rival mountains of Africa and Europe, vying with each other in grandeur and sublimity, the narrow passage at the entrance, giving the idea of the waters of the Atlantic having forced their way, in spite of every obstacle which nature opposed to them, all enlivened by a brilliant sun and a tint of coloring peculiar to southern latitudes, constitute a panorama of unequalled scenery, of which it is difficult to form any just idea, but from actual observation.'

The wind freshened as the day advanced, and with studding-sails below and aloft, and the additional impetus of the rapid current setting from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean, we rushed forward with the fleetness of a courser arriving at the goal. The scenery on either side seemed that of a rapidly changing panorama; and it being known that with so favoring a wind we should not stop at Gibraltar, the whole ship's company were left at liberty to indulge in the enjoyment of it. The customary observances of naval etiquette in a near approach to port were dispensed with; a kind of saturnalia granted, in which eager curiosity and beaming delight marked every countenance. All points of the ship, from the bowsprit to the tafsrail, affording the best views, were allowed to be occupied by officers of every grade, while the ports, the tops, and even the lower rigging, were equally crowded with enthusiastic gazers of the crew.

Tarita seemed scarcely passed, before Ceuta, within the Straits on the African side, was seen in the distance, but time only afforded for a moment's examination of it, with a glass, as it stretched in whiteness along the water's edge, overhung by fortress-covered hills, when the universal announcement of the Rock! the Rock!' - as Gibraltar became rapidly disclosed from behind the projecting promontory

which had till then concealed it — directed every eye to this unique and stupendous mass of limestone, rising from its isolated base in the colossal outline of a lion in repose.

Among the varied and exciting associations crowding on the mind, in connexion with this celebrated strong-hold, the feeling predominating in my own bosom was one of lively remembrance and kindness toward those, now sojourning there, whose friendship had long since been won in a different section of the world. Aware of our expected arrival, and assured of a visit from us, I could easily imagine them giving utterance to their surprise, in perceiving us thus to rush by, in the exclamation :

"Where art thou going, gallant ship,

With sails before the wind,
While the ocean with a roaring sweep

Is racing on behind ?'

It is now scarce ten o'clock at night, but we are already more than a hundred miles from our position in the morning. The wind has increased almost to a gale, a high sea is running, and the entire scene on deck one of sublimity approaching to fearfulness. Gigantic waves, glowing with phosphoric light, seemingly so much fire, come behind and around us, as if in readiness every moment to break on board with overwhelming power. Still with reduced sail we fly onward, even with accelerated speed, and hope by the morning to be off Cape d'East, and before called to make another date, to be safely at moorings in Port Mahon.

[blocks in formation]

When the driving rain of the hurricane The timbers creak, the sea-birds shriek,

Puts the light of the light-house out, There's lightning in yon blası!
And the growling thunder sounds its gong Hard to the leaward ! mariners,
On the whirlwind's battle-rout,

For the storm is gathering fast !
Ha! ha! do you think,

Ha! ha! to-nighi
That the valiant shrink'?

Boys, we must fight;
No! no! -- we are bold and brave! But the winds which o'er us yell
And we love to fight

Shall never scare
In the wild midnight,

The mariner
With the storin on the mountain-wave! In his wingéd citadel !

[blocks in formation]

With storm-daring pinion and sun-gazing eye,
The Gray Forest Eagle is king of the sky:
Oh ! little he loves the green valley of flowers,
Where sunshine and song cheer the bright summer hours,
For he hears in those haunts only music, and sees
Only rippling of waters, and waving of trees;
There the red-robin warbles, the honey-bee hums,
The timid quail whistles, the shy partridge drums;
And if those proud pinions, perchance, sweep along,

There's a shrouding of plumage, a bushing of song:
The sunlight falls stilly on leaf and on moss,
And there's nought but his shadow black gliding across ;
But the dark gloomy gorge, where down plunges the foam
Of the fierce rock-lash'd torrent, he claims as his home;
There he blends his keen shriek with the roar of the flood,
And the many-voiced sounds of the blast smitten wood;
From the crag-grasping fir-top, where morn hangs it wreath,
He views the mad waters white writhing beneath ;
On a limb of that moss-bearded hemlock far down,
With bright azure mantle and gay mottled crown,
The kingfisher watches, while o'er him his foe,
The fierce hawk, sails circling, each moment more low:
Now pois'd are those pinions and pointed that beak,
His dread swoop is ready, when hark! with a shriek,
His eye-balls red blazing, high bristling his crest,
His snake-like neck arcb'd, talons drawn to his breast,
With the rush of the wind-gust, the glancing of light,
The Gray Forest Eagle shoots downward his flight:
One blow of those talons, one plunge of that neck,
The strong hawk hangs lifeless, a blood-dropping wreck ;
And as dives the free kingfisher, dart-like on high
With his prey soars the Eagle, and melts in the sky.

A fitful red glaring, a low rumbling jar,
Proclaim the storm-demon yet raging afar ;
The black cloud strides upward, the lightning more red,
And the roll of the thunder more deep and more dread;
A thick pall of darkness is cast o'er the air,
And on bounds the blast with a howl from its lair :
The lightning darts zig-zag and fork'd through the gloom,
And the bolt launches o'er with crash, rattle, and boom :
The Gray Forest Eagle, where, where has he sped !
Does he shrink to his eyrie, and shiver with dread?
Does the glare blind his eye? Has the terrible blast,
On the wing of the sky-king a fear-fetter cast ?
No, no, the brave Eagle! he thinks not of fright,
The wrath of the tempest but rouses delight;,
To the flash of the lightning his eye casts a gleam,
To the shriek of the wild blast, he echoes his scream,
And with front like a warrior that speeds to the fray,
And a clapping of pinions, he's up and away:
Away, oh! away soars the fearless and free!
What recks he ihe sky's strife, its monarch is he;
The lightning darts round him, undaunted his sight,
The blast sweeps against him, unwaver'd his flight;
High upward, still upward he wheels, till his form
Is lost in the black scowling gloom of the storm.
The tempest sweeps o'er with its terrible train,
And the splendor of sunshine is glowing again,
Again smiles the soft tender blue of the sky,

Wak'd bird-voices warble, fann'd leaf-voices sigh ;
YOL. XVII.

14

« PreviousContinue »