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XIV.–FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF A YOUNG
SAILOR. berth min-utes
bilge-wa-ter sep-ar-at-ing hauled o-bliged' com-plete-ly in-ter-min-gling an-chor steer-age
con-fu-sion in-ex-press-i-ble bare-ly
ac-com-plished re-flec-tion in-tel-lect-u-al boat-swain af-fect-ed
re-mem-ber oc-ca-sion-al-ly hal yards be-gin-ning pit-i-a-ble un-in-telli-gi-ble
[RICHARD HENRY DANA, Jun. (b. 1815, d. 1881), a native of Cambridge, Massachussetts, and son of the American poet of the same name. In 1834 Mr. Dana made the voyage described in “Two Years before the Mast” to California, then almost an unknown region; and as a result of his experiences wrote this exceedingly interesting narrative, depicting in its true colours the real life of the common sailor.]
1. “ With all my imperfections on my head," I joined the crew.
We hauled out into the stream, and came to anchor for the night. The next morning was Saturday; and, a breeze having sprung up from the southward, we took a pilot on board, hove up our anchor, and began beating down the bay.
2. I took leave of those of my friends who came to see me off, and had barely opportunity to take a last look at the city, and well-known objects, as no time is allowed on board ship for sentiment. As we drew down into the lower harbour we found the wind ahead in the bay, and were obliged to come to anchor in the roads. We remained there through the day and a part of the night.
3. About midnight the wind became fair, and having called the captain I was ordered to call all hands. How I accomplished this I do not know; but I am quite sure that I did not give the true, hoarse, boatswain call of “ A-a-ll ha-a-a-nds ! up anchor, a-ho-oy!" In a short time every one was in motion, the sails loosed, the yards braced, and we began to heave up the anchor, which was our last hold
upon Yankee-land. 4. I could take but little part in these preparations. My little knowledge of a vessel was all at fault. Unintelligible orders were so rapidly given, and so immediately executed, there was such a hurrying about, such an intermingling of strange cries and stranger actions, that I was completely bewildered. There is not so helpless and pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning a sailor's life.
5. At length began these peculiar, long-drawn sounds, which denote that the crew are heaving at the windlass, and in a few minutes we were under way. The noise of the water thrown from the bows began to be heard, the vessel leaned over from the damp night breeze, and rolled with the heavy ground-swell, and we had actually begun our long, long journey. This was literally bidding "good-night” to my native land.
6. The first day we passed at sea was the Sabbath. As we were just from port, and there was a great deal to be done on board, we were kept at work all day. At night the watches were set, and everything put into
sea' order. I had now a fine time for reflection. I felt for the first time the perfect silence of the sea. The officer was walking the quarter-deck, where I had no riglit to go; one or two men were talking on the forecastle, whom
had little inclination to join ; so that I was left open to the full impression of every thing about me.
7. However much I was affected by the beauty of the sea, the bright stars, and the clouds driven swiftly over them, I could not but remember that I was separating myself from all the social and intellectual enjoyments of life. Yet, strange as it may seem, I did then and afterwards take pleasure in these reflections, hoping by them to prevent my becoming insensible to the value of what I was leaving
8. But all my dreams were soon put to flight by an order from the officer to trim the yards, as the wind was getting ahead. I could plainly see, by the looks the sailors occasionally cast to windward, and by the dark clouds that were fast coming up, that we had bad weather to prepare for, and had heard the captain say that he expected to be in the Gulf Stream by twelve o'clock. In a few minutes “eight bells was struck, the watch called, and we went below.
9. I now began to feel the first discomforts of a sailor's life. The steerage in which I lived was filled with coils of rigging, spare sails, old junk, and ship stores, which had not been stowed away. Moreover, there had been no berths built for us to sleep in, and we were not allowed to drive nails to hang our clothes upon.
10. The sea, too, had risen, the vessel was rolling heavily, and every thing was pitched about in grand confusion. I shortly heard the rain-drops falling on deck, thick and fast. The watch had evidently their hands full of work, for I could hear the loud and repeated orders of the mate, the trampling of feet, the creaking of blocks, and all the indications of a coming storm.
11. When I got upon deck, a new scene and a new experience were before me. The little brig was close hauled upon the wind, and lying over, as it then seemed to me, nearly upon her beam-ends. The heavy head sea was beating against her bows with the noise and force almost of a sledge hammer, and flying over the deck, drenching us completely through. The top-sail halyards had been let go, and the great sails were filling out and backing against the masts with a noise like thunder. The wind was whistliny through the rigging, loose ropes Hyiny about; loud, and to me unintelligible, orders were constantly given, and rapidly executed; and the sailors were “singing out” at the ropes in their hoarse and peculiar strains.
12. In addition to all this, I had not got my “sea-legs on," was dreadfully sick, with hardly strength enough to hold on to anything; and it was pitch dark. my state when I was ordered aloft, for the first time, to reef topsails.
13. How I got along I cannot now remember. I “ laid out” on the yards, and held on with all my strength. I could not have been of much service, for I remember having been sick several times before I left the topsail-yard. Soon, however, all was snug aloft, and we were again allowed to go below.
14. This I did not consider much of a favour, for the confusion of everything below, and that inexpressible
sickening smell caused by the shaking-up of the bilgewater in the hold, made the steerage but an indifferent refuge from the cold, wet decks. I had often read of the nautical experiences of others, but I felt as though there could be none worse than mine; for, in addition to every other evil, I could not but remember that this was only the first night of a two-year's voyage.—R. H. Dana.
SUMMARY.—“With all my imperfections on my head," I joined the crew for my first voyage. My little knowledge of a vessel was all wrong. The orders were given so quickly as to be unintelligible; while they were obeyed so rapidly that I was altogether confused. Our first day at sea was the Sabbath, but as there was much to be done we were kept hard at work all day. When night came on I realised the solemn silence of the sea, and I felt how greatly I was separated from all the social and intellectual enjoyments of life. I began to feel also the discomforts of a sailor's life. The steerage was in a state of disorder, and the approach of a storm made matters worse. Although sick I had to mount aloft, and I soon was familiar with the troubles which surround the life on the ocean wave. Watch—that is, the men who attend to managing a ship for an
allotted time-four hours. Eight bells—here means twelve o'clock at night. Ex-e-cut-ed, carried out.
Roads, place where ships may In-dif-fer-ent, not very good. lie at anchor a distance from Lit'er-al-ly, according to the the shore,
very meaning of the words. Un-in-tel-li-gi-ble, not underNau-tic-al, maritime, seafaring. stood.
QUESTIONS. Whose experience is contained | night came on? In what state in this lesson? When did he em- was the steerage ? What was bark? In what state? How was he required to do in the rigging? the first day spent? What con- How was this done? In what fused him? How did he feel when state was the steerage ?
EXERCISES.-1. Parse and analyse-I now began to feel the first dis. comforts of a sailor's life.
2. Nouns are formed by adding ment, mony, ness, ry, which mean “ the state of being, condition, or quality ;” as, agreement, state of being of one mind; matrimony, state of being married; happiness, state of being happy; slavery, ate of being a slave. Give the exact meaning of the following words-punishment, acrimony (acris, sharp), gentleness, rivalry.