« AnteriorContinuar »
THE SPIRIT OF THE SEA.
There is a Spirit on that slumbering deep,
His lustrous chariot bright with orient pearl And gems, pluck'd from the caves where sea-nymphs sleep,
Jasper the wheels, inlaid with rosy ber'l, And canopied with crystal-his array
Mocking to scorn man's vain regality,
A union with the sunset and the sky
That Spirit's shape do silver clouds inclose
As with a robe or veil of majesty, Doubling the eyes' deep awe, as they repose
On its resplendent brightness,- far and nigh Old ocean curls his gentlest waves and smiles,
And shakes his sparkling waters in the sun, -
Of his great depths, his glorious ruling one-
Creation's ruler! to the glowing pole
His burning axles gild heaven's stainless blue ;
A thousand starry fires of every hue
In haughty consciousness not earthly thing,
In strength moves on the delegated king, Lord of a boundless empire, in his pride And sovereign will careering wild and wide.
Ere earth he was, his labour shaped its mass,
He trod it far beneath his giant feet Into a solid ball; and where the grass
Grows green and vernal, he his tempests fleet Bid trample, as the conqueror tall and proud
Tramples a prostrate foe ;-his victory o’er, He to his palaces in triumph loud
Of their great deeds, led back his waves, no more To waste the vanquish’d, but, in bounds confined, To smile with calms, and thunder with the wind.
Ofttimes his voice is heard from out the waves
Shouting to his vexed waters, till the shore Trembles to its foundations, and the graves
Rock with their dead, appall’d at the strong roar Of his pale anger ; now in cadence sweet,
Sounding dark mysteries from his depths unknown, He sends his strains, that the far nations greet
From equinoctial to each frigid zone,
He calls his waiting spirits, and they go
Gliding along the billows ere the storm, Seen by the anxious mariners, who know
The presage well of each wild varying form,Now perch'd a lambent fire upon his mast,
Now a wild storm-ship shot at midnight by, Or a tall column moving dark and vast,
Linking black ocean with the blacker sky, Or airy shadows by the lightning shown, Bent on an errand for their lord alone.
He dwells in his abysses-none have seen
His outline,-nought, save his bright vesture's fold Along the horizon, where his car has been
Rolling in pomp of grandeur, gems, and gold ; He is a power unknown and infinite,
Shrouded in mystery ; and his influence
Is felt o'er earth, a universal sense
The wan moon's lover as she sails along
Her airless monthly cirque in solitude,
Along the bosom of her lover rude,
Ere sin has stain'd its visage with a tear ;
Of the hoarse tempest paling her with fear
But now the scene,how beautiful! The light
Plays with the tide of gold that shows no wave Wrinkling the brow of ocean ; not more bright
The lightnings, when the foam-crown'd billows heave
Their snowy lips to greet its forky fires
Their brothers of the element,—and now
Minister forth their homage, and below
The kingly chariot passes ; night comes on,
To close the train of sovereign dignity ;Along his terrible domain, whence shone
But now such floods of glory dazzlingly, Rush forth the winds, that bigh and higher rise
Till ocean vibrates, heaves, and toils, and roars, And maddens into storms that lash the skies
From depths unmeasured—bounding from the shores Wreck-covered, in fierce wrath its hissing spray Hides the lone star that seems to 've lost its way.
Thickening and thickening sbades are hurrying by
After their awful guard, and sire, and lord, The lord of fearful beauty, far and nigh
Stretching his red right-arm and ruling sword From pole to pole,-earth's centre to the sky,
From dreamless darkness to the fields of day, -
Over his vassal waters far away,
He ever dwells within his waters deep;
I've seen him in his wrath, with terror seen I've seen him tranquil as a babe asleep,
Yielding unearthly sounds at shut of e'enI've seen him scatter wrecks and drowning men,
And heard their death-shriek when I could not saveAnd almost slept upon his waters, when
I scarce could think I swam above their grave:
IMPRESSMENT OF SEAMEN. Two Letters, on the “ Impressment of Seamen;" addressed to LORD ALTHORP, in consequence of reading the Report of a Speech of his Lordship's some time ago, in Reprehension of that arbitrary Mode of procuring Seamen for his Majesty's Navy.
MY LORD, I PERCEIVE, by the report of a speech, that your lordship is desirous of getting rid of the necessity for manning the navy by means of that foul blot on our national character—the impressment of seamen; and if your lordship will do me the honour to peruse this Letter, I think it will furnish a few hints, which, improved by your lordship’s better judgment, may lead to the introduction of a system that will render the naval service as popular among our seamen, as the merchant-service is at present.
Seafaring men, my lord, partly from choice and partly from necessity, must spend the best part of their lives at sea; and if the navy were rendered altogether as pleasant and advantageous to them as the merchant-service, there would be no necessity for having recourse to violent measures in order to induce them both to enter and remain in it. In many respects the navy has greatly the advantage of the merchant-service; for, generally speaking, on board his Majesty's ships, the men are better fed, better treated, and less worked than they are in merchant-ships ; they have much better attendance when they are sick; and, finally, those who are maimed, or in any way rendered by service incapable of serving longer, are sure of having a comfortable maintenance (as in or out pensioners of Greenwich Hospital) for the remainder of their lives; while those seamen who meet with any injury in the merchant-service, are turned on shore, without any resource, the moment they are no longer serviceable on board. The wages of seamen in the merchant-service, during war, are undoubtedly, from necessity, much greater than in his Majesty's; but the hope of prize-money, in the estimation of many of them, would outweigh this difference of wages; and, at all events, high wages alone will not account for the desertion of a great many seamen from the navy, when the pay
and prize-money, due to them, would more than make up the difference for some years to come.
With the exception of a very few ships, where an undue severity is practised, I repeat, the comforts and enjoyments of seamen on board a King's ship at sea are far beyond what they can reasonably hope for in the merchant-service. There is, therefore, only one cause which will satisfactorily account for the disinclination of seamen to enter his Majesty's service; and that cause, in my opinion, (and, after nineteen years' experience, I ought to have some knowledge of the disposition and character of British seamen,) may easily be removed, without doing any injury to the navy, or affecting its discipline in the smallest degree.
In the merchant-service, on their return from their voyage, seamen are discharged from their ships and at liberty to visit their friends, or enjoy themselves on shore, in any way they please; but, if they once enter a King's ship, they cannot be sure that they will
be allowed to have one moment's recreation on shore, as long as the war shall last ; and if their friends live at any distance from their usual sea-port, they hardly entertain a hope of ever seeing them again.
This, my lord, is the chief, if not the only cause that seamen, in general, prefer the merchant-service to the navy; and how easily might this cause be removed! If they were allowed to enter for a limited period—say three or four years at the utmost, were süre that they would have permission to recreate themselves on shore, whenever a reasonable opportunity offered ; and that those who came from a distance might occasionally be allowed to visit their relations, there would be no need of press-gangs to drag them into the service. If they were sure of all this, they would give the preference to the navy, and enter freely.
On returning into port after a long absence, sailors are almost mad to get on shore. Give them liberty, and they will soon be glad enough to return; but confine them on board when this humour prevails, and they will desert whenever an opportunity offers. If, my lord, you will take the trouble to make inquiry of officers who served during the late war, you will invariably be told that, taking the navy throughout, nineteen seamen out of every twenty, that deserted from their ships, did it solely because they were not permitted to go on shore and enjoy themselves when their ships were in port. To give one instance, out of a great many that have come to my own knowledge, I was first-lieutenant of the Herald, when she was re-fitting in Malta, at the same time with the Magnificent. The Magnificent's men were not permitted to go on shore on leave, but great numbers deserted from her in spite of every precaution; while the Herald's men, who were allowed to go on shore as much as they pleased, when duty permitted, not only came back (every one of them) as their leave expired, but the report they made of the comfort they enjoyed' on board, induced no less than six good seamen and a boy to quit a merchant-ship then lying in the harbour, and enter on board the Herald. If this plan of indulging the men with liberty on shore, whenever the opportunity offered, were universally adopted in the navy,
desertion would be diminished at least tenfold, while the number of volunteers would be increased in the same proportion.
The real cause of the dislike, which seamen in general have to enter the navy, is the apprehension of not having occasional leave, and the conviction that, after once entering, if they should find the service ever so disagreeable, they can have no chance (except by desertion, at the peril of severe punishment,) to escape from it, so long as the war shall last. If his Majesty would consent to remove this cause, as far as it can be done consistently with the good of the service, we should not require the aid of press-gangs to procure men for the navy. The law, however, might still be allowed to remain as a dead letter.
1 I challenge contradiction when I say that the Herald, at that time, was as efficient as any ship of her rate in the Mediterranean ; and was frequently admitted to be so, both by Lord Collingwood and Sir Alexander Ball,