« AnteriorContinuar »
N° 254. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1710.
HOR. 2 Od, iii. $5. Gloriously false
FRANCIS. From my own Apartment; November 22. THERE are no books which I more delight in than in travels, especially those that describe remote countries, and give the writer an opportunity of showiog his parts without incurring any danger of being examined or contradicted. Among all the authors of this kind, our renowned countryman, Sir John Mandeville, las distinguished himself, by the copiousness of his invention; and the greatuess of his genius. The second to Sir John I take to have been Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, a person of infinite adventure, and unbounded imagination. One reads the voyages of these two great wits, with as much astonishment as the travels of Ulysses in Ho. mer, or of the Red Cross Knight in Spenser. All is enchanted ground, and fairy-land.
I have got into my hands, by great chance, several manuscripts of these two eminent authors, which are filled with greater wonders than any of those they have communicated to the public ; and indeed, were they not so well attested, they would appear altogether improbable. I am apt to think the inge: pious authors did not publish them with the rest of their works, lest they should pass for fictions and fables : a caution not unnecessary, when the repuš tation of their veracity was not yet established in
the world. But as this reason has now no further weight, I shall make the public a present of these curious pieces, at such times as I shall find myself unprovided with other subjects.
The present Paper I intend to fill with an extract from Sir John's Journal, in which that learned and worthy knight gives an account of the freezing and thawing of several short speeches, which he made in the territories of Nooa Zembla. I need not in. form my reader, that the author of Hudibras alludes to this strange quality in that cold climate, when, speaking of abstracted notions cloathed in a visible shape, he adds that apt simile,
“ Like words congeal'd in Northern air." Not to keep my reader any longer in suspense, the relation, put into modern language, is as fole laws. :
« We were separated by a storm in the latitude of seventy-three, insomuch, tbat only the ship which I was in, with a Dutch and French vessel, got safe into a creek of Nova Zembla. We landed, in order to refit our vessels, and store ourselves with provisions. The crew of each vessel made them selves a cabbia of turf and wood, at some distance from each other, to fence themselves against the ipclemencies of the wcather, which was severe beyond imagination, We soon observed, that in talking to one another we lost several of our words; and could not hear one another at above two yards distance, and that too when we sat very near the fire. After much perplexity, I found that our words. froze in the air, before they could reach the ears of the persons to whom they were spoken. I was soon confirmed, in this conjecture, when upan the increase of the cold, the whole company grew dumbyor rather deaf; for every man was sensible,
as we afterwards found, that he spoke as well as ever; but the sounds no sooner took air than they were condensed and lost. It was now a miserable spectacle to see us nodding and gaping at one another, every man talking, and no man heard. One might observe a seaman that could hail a ship at a league's distance beckoning with his hands, straine ing his lungs, and tearing his throat; but all in vain : -Nec vox nec verba sequuntur.
OVID. “ Nor voice nor words ensued.
« We continued here three weeks in this dismal plight. At length upon a turn of wind, the air about us began to thaw. Our cabbin was imme. diately filled with a dry clattering sound, which I afterwards found to be the crackling of consonants . that broke above our heads, and were often mixed with a gentle hissing, which I imputed to the letter s, that occurs so frequently in the English tongue. I soon after felt a breeze of whispers rushing by my ear; for those, being of a soft and gentle substance, immediately liquified in the warm wind that blew across our cabbin. These were soon followed by syllables and short words, and at length by entire sentences, that melted sooner or later, as they were more or less congealed; so that we now heard every thing that had been spoken during the whole three weeks that we had been silent, if I may use that expression. It was now very early in the morning, and yet, to my surprise, I heard some. body say, Sir John, it is midnight, and time for the ship's crew to go to bed. This I knew to be the pilot's voice; and, upon recollecting myself, I coöcluded that he had spoken these words to me some days before, though I could not hear them
until the present thaw. My roader will easily ima gine how the whole crew was amazed to hear every man talking, and see no man opening his mouth. In the midst of this great surprise we were all ing we heard a volley of oaths and curses lasting for a; long while, and uttered in a very boarse voice, which I knew belonged to the boatswain, who was a very choleric fellow, and had taken this opportunity of cursing and swearing at me when he thought I could not hear him ; for I had several times given him the strappado on that account, as I did not fail to repeat it for these his pious soliloquies, when I got him on ship-board:
I must not omit the names of several beauties in Wapping, which were heard every now and then, in the midst of a long sigh that accompanied them; as, Dear Kate! Pretty Mrs. Peggy! When shall I see my
Sue again!' This betrayed several amours which had been concealed until that time, and furnished us with a great deal of mirth in our return to England.
" When this confusion of voices was pretty well over, though I was afraid to offer at speaking, as fearing I should not be heard, I proposed a visit to the Dutch cabbin, which lay about a mile further. up in the country. My crew were extremely rejoiced to find they had again recovered their hear-ing; though every man uttered his voice with the same apprehensions that I had done, Et timidè verba intermissu retentat.
OVID, Met. i. 747. “And try'd his tongue, his silence softly broke.
DRYĐEN. 66 At about half-a-mile's distance from our cabbin we heard the groanings of a bear, which at first,
startled us; but, upon inquiry, we were informed by some of our company, that he was dead, and now lay in salt, having been killed upon that very spot about a fortnight before in the time of the frost. Not far from the same place, we were likewise entertained with some posthumous snarls, and bark. ings of a fox.
“ We at length arrived at the little Dutch settlement; and, upon entering the room, found it filled with sighs that smelt of brandy, and several other unsavoury sounds, that were altogether inarticulate. My valet, who was an Irishman, fell into so great a rage at what he heard, that he drew his sword; but not knowing where to lay the blame, he put it up again. We were stunned with these confused noises, but did not hear a single word until about half-an-hour after; which I ascribed to the harsh aud obdurate sounds of that language, which wanted more time than ours to melt, and become audible.
66 After having here met with a very hearty wel. come, we went to the cabbin of the French, who, to make amends for their three weeks silence, were talking and disputing with greater rapidity, and.con. fusion than I ever heard in an assembly, even of that nation. Their language, as I found, upon the first giring of the weather, fell asunder and dissolved. I was here convinced of an crror into which I had before fallen; for I fancied, that for the freezing of the sound, it was necessary for it to be wrapped up, and a3 it were, preserved in breath: but I found my mistake when I heard the sound of a kit playing a minuet over our heads. I asked the occasion of it; upon which one of the company told me that it would play there above a week longor ; for,' says he, finding ourselves bereft of speech, we pre: Tuiled upon one of the company, who had his mus