Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The angry decrees of renovated war had closed the gates of the south; the north alone lay expanded before me. If she is less enchanting, thought I, perhaps she is the less known; and wherever man is (women of course included) there must be variety: she has hitherto been contemplated, clad in fur, and gliding with the swiftness of a light cloud before the wind, upon her roads of shining snow. I will take a peep at her in her summer garb, and will endeavour to form a nosegay of polar flowers.

There is always a little bustle of action and confusion of ideas, when a man, about to slip from his friends, is in the agonics of packing up. My mind alternately darted from my portmanteau to the political appearances with which I was surrounded; and, with all the vanity which generally belongs to a traveller, I resolved to commemorate the period of my flight, by a cursory comment upon the state of my country, which, by the time the last strap was buckled, was simply this : A great man had succeeded a good one in the direction of its august destinies, and another being, who may be considered as the wonder of the west, was pre. paring amidst the blaze of brilliant novelties to mount the throne of a new dynasty; amongst them was a threat to cover the shores of England with his hostile legions. Nine hundred and ninetynine Englishmen, out of one thousand, had started into martial array, on the sound of the haughty menace-patriotism, with the bright velocity of a wild-fire, ran through the valley and over the mountain, till at last it was discovered that we might be invaded whenever we pleased. Ministers were more puzzled by their friends than their enemies; where streams were expected to flow, torrents rolled headlong; and, whatever may be our animosities, we are at least under an everlasting obligation to the French, for having enabled us to contemplate such a spectacle of loyalty. How I happened to leave my country at this time, it may be proper to explain : Devonshire offered, to her lasting honour, twenty thousand volunteer defenders of their homes and altars, nine thousand were only wanted or could be accepted ; in the latter, a spirited body of my fellow townsmen, who honoured me by an election to command them, were not included ; after encountering (and it was equal to a demi-campaign) the scrutinizing eye of militiamen, and the titter of nursery-maids, until awkwardness yielded to good discipline, and improvement had taught our observers to respect us, we found that our intended services were superfludus, and I was at full liberty to go to any point of the compass; so, after the touching scene of bidding adieu to an aged and a beloved mother, whilst she poured upon me many a half-stifled prayer and benediction, I hastened to the capital, where, having furnished myself with the necessary passports and letters of introduction to our embassadors from the minister of foreign affairs, a circular letter of credit and bills from the house of Ransom, Morland, and company, upon their foreign correspondents, and with a packet of very handsome letters of private introduction, which were swelled by the kindness of Mr. Grill, the Swedish consul, and a passport (indispensably necessary to the visitor of Sweden) from the baron Silverhjelm, the enlightened and amiable representative of a brave and generous nation, I proceeded to Harwich, and at midnight passed under the barrier arch of its watch-tower, which was thrown into strong picturesque varieties of shade, by its propitious light, which from the top flung its joyous lustre over many a distant wave, so gladdening to the heart of the homeward mariner.

In the morning we went (I had a companion with me) to the packet-agency office, where we paid four guineas each for our passage to Husum; ll. 118. 6d. for provisions on board (seldom tasted); after which, douceurs of 10s. 6d, each remained to be paid to the mate, and 78. each to the crew, and 58. a-piece to a personage who contributes so largely to human happiness, and particularly to that of Englishmen, the cook; we also paid ten guineas for the freight of a chariot belonging to an acquaintance at Petersburg, 28. per ton on the tonnage of the vessel, and 18. in the pound upon the value of the said carriage; this accomplished, I had nothing further to do, but to amuse the time until four o'clock in the afternoon, when the foreign mail from London arrives.

The church-yard lay adjoining to the inn: in this solemn spot, we are not always enabled to indulge in those serious and salutary reflections, which it ought alone to inspire ; the quaint or ridiculous effusions of the village schoolmaster, and the sexton, those prolific mortuary laureates, too often awaken an irresistible smile, by commemorating the ravages of death in some pious pun or holy conundrum; a perversion which well merits the interposition of the ecclesiastical officer whose power extends over these regions of the dead. I had not wandered far, before a fresh plain slab attracted my notice, and, by its inscription, informed me that it was raised to the memory of captain Christensen, of Krajore in Norway, who fell by the bite of his dog, when mad; the tale was simply, but touchingly, told, and drew from me the following lines :

Ah! hapless stranger! who, without a tear,

Can this sad record of thy fate survey?
No angry tempest laid thee breathless here,

Nor hostile sword, nor Nature's soft decay.

The fond companion of thy pilgrim feet,

Who watch'd when thou would'st sleep, and moan'd if miss'd,
Until he found his master's face so sweet,

Impress'd with death the hand he oft had kiss'd.

And here, remov'd from love's lamenting eye,

Far from thy native catract's awful sound;
Far from thy dusky forest's pensive sigh,

Thy poor remains répose on alien ground.
Yet Pity oft shall sit beside thy stone,
And sigh as tho’ she mourn’d a brother gone.

Soon after we had quitted the tomb of the poor Norwegian, the mail arrived, and at five o'clock a favouring breeze bore us from the lessening shore. Now, as I am one of those unhappy beings who, like Gonzalo in the Tempest; would at any time give one thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground; and as there may

be many more who may find the rocking of the ocean somewhat unfriendly to the regularity of appetite; let me advise them to lay in some anchovies, lemons, oranges, and a little brandy: and as we are upon the subject of travelling economy, let me also recommend the packing up of a pair of leather sheets and a leather pillow-case, in addition to their linen ones; the former will prevent the penetration of damp, and repel vermin. As we passed Orfordness-castle, the sun was setting in great glory; and several ships working to windward, and alternately crossing each other, presented the most graceful figures: it was such a scene as the chaste spirit of Vernet might have hovered over with delight. The next day, we saw the topmasts of our brave blockaders off the Texel. It was painful to contemplate the effects of a dire necessity which forces us to harass a people, who in their hearts cherish no animosity, but against the tyranny which separates them from us. A noble frigate from the squadron passed us under a croud of sail, “ breasting the lofty surge;" she proudly dashed through the foam of the ocean, and to the eye of Fancy looked like the palace of Neptune. Her appearance reminded me of the nervous, spirited, and Chatham-like exclamation of a celebrated wit, upon the same subject : “ an English man-of-war is “the thing after all : she speaks all languages; is the best ne

gotiator, and the most profound politician, in this island ; she

was Oliver Cromwell's embassador; she is one of the honestest “ ministers of state that ever existed, and never tells a lie ; nor “ will she suffer the proudest Frenchman, Dutchman, or Spaniard, 6 to bamboozle or give her a saucy answer.”

On the third day, a very singular object presented itself; it was Helogoland, a vast lofty perpendicular rock rising out of the ocean, and distant about forty-five miles from the nearest shore: it is only one mile in circumference, yet upon its bleak and bladeless, top, no less than three thousand people live in health, prosperity, and happiness. The hardy inhabitants subsist principally by fishing and piloting, and are occasionally enriched by the destroying angel of the tempest, when the terrified observer, looking down upon

the angry storm, might, in the moving language of the clown in the Winter's Tale, exclaim, “Oh! the most piteous cry of the poor • souls, sometimes to see 'em and not to see 'em ; now the ship “ boring the moon with her mainmast, and anon swallowed with

yest and froth.” But to the honour of the brave Helogolanders, they never augment the horrors of the enraged element. Humanity and honourable interest impel them gallantly to face the storm, and snatch the sinking mariner, and the sad remains of his floating fortune, from the deep: they never suffer the love of gain to excite any other exclamation than that of thanks to God; not that the storm has happened, but that the ocean has not swallowed up all the wreck from them. How unlike a body of barbarians who infest the west of England, and prefer plunder to the preservation of life, and who have been even known to destroy it, whilst struggling with the waves, for the sake of a ring or a bauble, and who

[ocr errors]

are accustomed in the spring of every year to speak of the last wreck season as a good or a bad one, according to the violence or moderation of the preceding winter!*

The Helogolanders are a fine healthy race of people, remarkably fair, live in small huts, and sleep on shelves ranged one above another, and are governed by a chief who is deputed from the government of Denmark. They are obliged to victual their island from the shore. What a spot for contemplation, to view

« Th' ambitious ocean swell, and rage, and foam,
“ To be exalted with the threatning clouds !”

We entered the river of Husum about four o'clock in the morning, in a stiff gale attended with rain. The clouds in the west were dark and squally, with here and there a streak of copper

colour ; in the east the sun was gently breaking. Whilst I was contemplating this picturesque appearance, and occasionally regarding the anxious eye and gesture of our Danish pilot, who by the aid of buoys and floating poles conducted us with admirable skill through a narrow, and the only navigable, part of the river, which lies be. tween two long lofty sand-banks , the effect of the scene was encreased by an owl of yellow plumage, endeavouring to reach our ship: the poor bird we supposed had been blown off the coast ; his wing touched the extremity of the boom, but, exhausted with fatigue, he dropped breathless in the water. A sailor, who was looking over the sides, with a quaint imprecation of mercy, pitied the dying bird.

The shore as we advanced looked low, flat, and muddy, sur. mounted here and there with a solitary farm-house and wind-mill; but the river presented a scene of considerable gaiety. Boats put off from the little islands which appear on either side of the river, filled with hardy men, women, and boys; the ladies wore large black glazed pasteboard bonnets, glittering in the sun : they were all going to the great fair at Husum. We cast anchor about four miles from that town, whose tall spire appeared full in our view: a large boat filled with these good holiday folks came alongside, and received us, baggage and all. As we proceeded up the river, which became narrower as we advanced, and which seemed more

* I allude to the wreckers of Hope Cove, near Kingsbridge.

« AnteriorContinuar »