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of the pool. She was quite upon an even keel—that is to say, her deck lay in a plane parallel with that of the water—but this latter sloped at an angle of more than forty-five degrees, so that we seemed
to be lying upon our beam-ends. I could not help observing, never5 theless, that I had scarcely more difficulty in maintaining my hold
and footing in this situation, than if we had been upon a dead level; and this, I suppose, was owing to the speed at which we revolved.
“The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the 10 profound gulf; but still I could make out nothing distinctly, on
account of a thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and tottering bridge which Mussulmans say is the only pathway
between Time and Eternity. This mist, or spray, was no doubt 15 occasioned by the clashing of the great walls of the funnel, as they
all met together at the bottom-but the yell that went up to the heavens from out of that mist, I dare not attempt to describe.
“Our first slide into the abyss itself, from the belt of foam above, had carried us to a great distance down the slope; but our farther 20 descent was by no means proportionate. Round and round we
swept—not with any uniform movement, but in dizzying swings and jerks, that sent us sometimes only a few hundred yards—sometimes nearly the complete circuit of the whirl. Our progress downward,
at each revolution, was slow, but very perceptible. 25 “Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid ebony on
which we were thus borne, I perceived that our boat was not the only object in the embrace of the whirl. Both above and below us were visible fragments of vessels, large masses of building timber
and trunks of trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces of 30 house furniture, broken boxes, barrels, and staves. I have already
described the unnatural curiosity which had taken the place of my original terrors. It appeared to grow upon me as I drew nearer and nearer to my dreadful doom. I now began to watch, with a strange
interest, the numerous things that floated in our company. I must 35 have been delirious--for I even sought amusement in speculating
upon the relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below. "This fir tree,' I found myself at one time saying, 'will certainly be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and disap
pears,'—and then I was disappointed to find that the wreck of a 5 Dutch merchant ship overtook it and went down before. At length,
after making several guesses of this nature, and being deceived in all—this fact—the fact of my invariable miscalculation, set me upon a train of reflection that made my limbs again tremble, and
my heart beat heavily once more. 10 "It was not a new terror that thus affected me, but the dawn of
a more exciting hope. This hope arose partly from memory, and partly from present observation. I called to mind the great variety of buoyant matter that strewed the coast of Lofoden, having been
absorbed and then thrown forth by the Moskoe-ström. By far the 15 greater number of the articles were shattered in the most extraordi
nary way-so chafed and roughened as to have the appearance of being stuck full of splinters—but then I distinctly recollected that there were some of them which were not disfigured at all. Now I
could not account for this difference except by supposing that the 20 roughened fragments were the only ones which had been completely
absorbed—that the others had entered the whirl at so late a period of the tide, or, from some reason, had descended so slowly after entering, that they did not reach the bottom before the turn of the
flood came, or of the ebb, as the case might be. I conceived it possi25 ble, in either instance, that they might thus be whirled up again to
the level of the ocean, without undergoing the fate of those which had been drawn in more early or absorbed more rapidly. I made, also, three important observations. The first was, that as a general
rule, the larger the bodies were, the more rapid their descent; the 30 second, that, between two masses of equal extent, the one spherical,
and the other of any other shape, the superiority in speed of descent was with the sphere; the third, that, between two masses of equal size, the one cylindrical, and the other of any other shape, the cylin
der was absorbed the more slowly. Since my escape, I have had sev35 eral conversations on this subject with an old schoolmaster of the
district; and it was from him that I learned the use of the words 'cylinder' and 'sphere.' He explained to me-although I have forgotten the explanation-how what I observed was, in fact, the nat
ural consequence of the forms of the floating fragments, and showed 5 me how it happened that a cylinder, swimming in a vortex, offered
more resistance to its suction, and was drawn in with greater difficulty, than an equally bulky body, of any form whatever.
“There was one startling circumstance which went a great way in enforcing these observations, and rendering me anxious to turn 10 them to account, and this was that, at every revolution, we passed
something like a barrel, or else the yard or the mast of a vessel, while many of these things, which had been on our level when I first opened my eyes upon the wonders of the whirlpool, were now
high up above us, and seemed to have moved but little from their 15 original station.
"I no longer hesitated what to do. I resolved to lash myself securely to the water-cask upon which I now held, to cut it loose from the counter, and to throw myself with it into the water. I
attracted my brother's attention by signs, pointed to the floating 20 barrels that came near us, and did everything in my power to make
him understand what I was about to do. I thought at length that he comprehended my design-but, whether this was the case or not, he shook his head despairingly, and refused to move from his station
by the ringbolt. It was impossible to reach him; the emergency 25 admitted of no delay; and so, with a bitter struggle, I resigned
him to his fate, fastened myself to the cask by means of the lashings which secured it to the counter, and precipitated myself with it into the sea, without another moment's hesitation.
“The result was precisely what I had hoped it might be. As it 30 is myself who now tell you this tale—as you see that I did escape
and as you are already in possession of the mode in which this escape was effected, and must therefore anticipate all that I have farther to say-I will bring my story quickly to conclusion. It
might have been an hour, or thereabout, after my quitting the 35 smack, when, having descended to a vast distance beneath me, it
made three or four wild gyrations in rapid succession, and, bearing my loved brother with it, plunged headlong, at once and forever, into the chaos of foam below. The barrel to which I was attached
sunk very little farther than half the distance between the bottom 5 of the gulf and the spot at which I leaped overboard, before a great
change took place in the character of the whirlpool. The slope of the sides of the vast funnel became momently less and less steep. The gyrations of the whirl grew, gradually, less and less violent.
By degrees, the froth and the rainbow disappeared, and the bottom 10 of the gulf seemed slowly to uprise. The sky was clear, the winds
had gone down, and the full moon was setting radiantly in the west, when I found myself on the surface of the ocean, in full view of the shores of Lofoden, and above the spot where the pool of the Moskoe
ström had been. It was the hour of the slack, but the sea still 15 heaved in mountainous waves from the effects of the hurricane. I
was borne violently into the channel of the Ström, and in a few minutes was hurried down the coast into the 'grounds' of the fishermen. A boat picked me up-exhausted from fatigue—and (now that the
danger was removed) speechless from the memory of its horror. 20 Those who drew me on board were my old mates and daily com
panions, but they knew me no more than they would have known a traveler from the spirit-land. My hair, which had been raven-black the day before, was as white as you see it now. They say, too, that
the whole expression of my countenance had changed. I told them 25 my story—they did not believe it. I now tell it to you—and I can
scarcely expect you to put more faith in it than did the merry fishermen of Lofoden."
HELPS TO STUDY
Notes and Questions Locate the scene of this story on Ramus's description of the whirl. your map.
pool ? How does the hero account for his How does the “Encyclopedia apparent age ?
Britannica” account for the What do you learn from Jonas vortex
What was the theory of Kircher?
the hero's story of his experi
ence in the Maelström. What tempted him into the whirl
pool ? Account for his miscalculation as
to the time of the slack.
What three observations did the
hero make How did he make his escape From this story what do you think
of Poe's powers of imagination
and description? What other authors have you read
that have similar powers ?
Words and Plırases for Discussion.
deplorably desolate” “belt of foam”
"collision of waves"
EDGAR ALLAN POE
ONCE upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. 5 “ 'Tis some visitor," I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door:
Only this and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
Eagerly I wished the morrow ;-vainly I had sought to borrow 10 From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore, For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore:
Nameless here for evermore.