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Touch at Saint Helena.-Visit Napoleon's House.-His Tomb.-The Old Serjeant.-Flying Fish.-Dolphin.-Cowper and Campbell.— The Spectre-bark.-Singular Story.-Anecdotes of the Natives.Varieties of Trees, Animals, &c. Recollections. Contrasts.Natural Scenery.-Schoolboy Days.-Arrival in England.
I KNOW not that I can better lighten of their weight some of the heavy hours of a voyage, than by writing a letter of recollections, and thoughts, and hopes,—that schoolboy word.
Saint Helena must not be passed over without notice, for it was the only land we made; though all that can be said of this miserable place, has been often repeated. I have heard that Napoleon was shocked on landing; and I can easily believe it. To him it must have spoken, "Hope enters not here!" Batteries are placed at every possible point, and its naked and sun-scorched rocks bristle with guns. A
scene more drear, barren, and desolate, I never saw; and its few trees, among which are the cocoa-nut and date, far from enlivening, add, by contrast, to its parched and sterile appearance. I visited the prisoner's tomb; it is very plain, and bears no inscription. This is as it should be; it is enough to know that Napoleon lies there.
I saw the house in which he lived, the room in which he died, and that in which his body lay previous to the funeral: the first is now a granary, the last is a stable. I am no enthusiast with regard to Buonaparte, nor do I bow before the magic of that "name at which the world grew pale;" but I felt a strong sensation of disgust at seeing the vulgar use to which the house is appropriated: it should be left, a lone and melancholy ruin, for the night-winds to moan round.
The old serjeant who has charge of the tomb, produced books, one for the names of visitors, another for their remarks, or thoughts, that might arise on the occasion. Methinks the
Governor must be a humourist, and find amusement in the mawkish sentiment, the absurd effusions of sublimity, and the doleful attempts at humour, to which this direction has given birth. My companion read some, but they are forgotten, except that one lady "shed a silent tear"-a rare thing in a woman; and one gentleman had made a discovery that Napoleon was ambitious. We remained three days, and, much as I hate a ship, felt no regret at leaving St. Helena.
I am writing this under the line, with its tremendous sun, and glassy, glaring sea, its fantastic sultry skies, and sudden gathering squalls. It is the most interesting part of the passage; for the inhabitants of the deep play around the vessel, as if to amuse us in the calm. The shark shoots like a lightning-gleam through the dark-blue waters. The flocks of flying-fish spread their light silvery wings, and skim over the calm water, in which they dip for a moment, and rise again with a renewed power of flight, Happy, joyous things they seem too bright
for their cold element, and rising into the soft sunny air, in the playful exercise of the power that distinguishes them from their finny brethren; but they rise from the wave only to escape the death that lurks in it, and fly from the pursuit of the dolphin-that peacock of the deep. For beauty of ever-varying hues, I never saw any thing to equal the dolphin. When it ascends to the surface of the smooth, clear water, and shows a gleam of shifting, liquid light, or wavering to and fro by the vessel's side, is, at one moment, of a deep rich brown ; then a glance is caught of its dark azure fin; and when the sun touches it, green, yellow, and silver gleams follow, which have faded into some other hue almost ere you can name them. I have seen the sea alive with them all round the ship, darting from the waves in thousands and tens of thousands, while the whole surface of the water was illumed by their ever-radiant colours.
"Within the shadow of the ship,
I watch'd their rich attire,
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black;
Was a flash of golden fire."
A ship is the reverse of poetical, notwithstanding all that Cowper or Campbell can say about it. The first represents his as
"Arm'd with thunder, clad with wings;"
and the last, in a prose passage more beautiful than poetry, in which he describes a launch, with the deep, silent expectation of the assembled multitude, and their final burst of enthusiasm; and when he speaks of the thoughts that arise in the bosom, on seeing her swing round in the calm water,-all the days of battle, all that she had to do and to suffer for her country,-what English heart does not beat more proudly and more quickly! These are ships of war,-and whatever may be the evils of war, it at least redeems every thing connected with it from vulgarity; - but all other vessels, from the stately Indiaman to the coasting trader, are but floating shops. In an imaginative point of view, I grant it noble. When we think of its going forth, like the lone bird