Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

ship must inevitably have foundered ; such may possibly have been the fate of the Aurora frigate, and other vessels, whose loss has never been ascertained. The saw-fish, (squalus pristis) is more common, but we met with none very large, though sonjetimes I believe it equals the sword-fish in size ; and they are not unfrequently from fifteen to twenty feet long.

The most interesting scene of animated nature on the ocean, is the shoals of flying-fish (exocetus evolans) abounding in particuliar latitudes, and flying in every direction to escape from a watery foe, thus becoming an easy prey to an aerial enemy. In the Hindoo metempsychosis, where the bodies of the dove, the bee, the ant, and other favourite animals, are assigned as the temporary abode of tender, affectionate, and tranquil spirits, and lions, tigers, and hyenas, for those of ferocious dispositions, the body of the flying-fish would be a fit receptacle for those malicious envious souls, who, like the arch-fiend they imitate, are continually going about seeking whom they may devour. The flyingfish are very beautiful, in form and colour not unlike the

grey mullet, (mugil cephalus) but of a silvery hue, and more brilliant colours, varying from grey to blue and purple.

They are sometimes from twelve to eighteen inches long, and even larger; but generally eight or nine. In some the long pectoral fins are beautifully spotted; by means of these wings, occasionally dipped in the sea, they continue their flight, mostly in a horizontal direction, a few yards above the surface, for a considerable distance; but cannot fly more than a hundred yards at a time without wetting their fins. I have sometime seen them fall upon the deck, and dressed for table ; they seemed more delicate in fla

490

DREADFUL STORM.

vour than the other ocean fish. In Dr. Shaw's Systematic Natural History, one of the most scientific and entertaining zoological works in Europe, he quotes an observation by Captain Tobin, respecting the habits of the exocætus evolans, which appears very curious. “The lower half of the tail in the flying-fish is full twice the length of the upper ; the use of it has always appeared evident to me.

I have by the hour watched the dolphins and bonettas in pursuit of them; when, without wholly immersing themselves, which would have proved fatal to them, they have disposed in their progressive motion the lower part of the tail in such a manner as to supply their wings with moisture, so as to support them above the surface.

I should have had no occurrence to mention during this voyage, had it not been for another tremendous storm, which came upon us after losing the north-east trade wind: it was not of long continuance, but dreadfully terrific, and we had every reason to suppose the ship must inevitably perish. The prognostics were singular, and the alarming aspect gave some little time for preparation, which was not the case on a similar occasion mentioned in a former voyage to England, near the Azores.

Mr. Clarke, in a note to his beautiful edition of Falconer's Shipwreck, exactly describes our awful situation. “ The sun had just given its parting rays, and the last shades of day lingered on the distant waves, when a sky most sublime and threatening, attracted all our attention, and was immediately provided against by the vigilant officers of the watch. To the verge of the horizon, except where the sun had left some portion of its departing rays, a hard, lowering,

[ocr errors]

491

ARRIVAL IN ENGLAND.

blue firmament presented itself ; on this floated light yellow clouds, tinged with various hues of crimson, the never-failing harbingers of a gale. A strong vivid tint was reflected from them on the sails and rigging of the ship, which rendered the scene more dreadful. The very calm that prevailed was portentous-the seabird shrieked as it passed! As the tempest gradually approached, and the wind issued from the treasuries of God, the thick darkness of an autumnal night closed the whole in horrid uncertainty."

It was a dismal and a fearful night;

And on my soul hung the dull weight
Of some intolerable fate!" Cowley.

This concluded our adventures on the voyage from India to Europe; for after encountering the last storm, and getting clear of the sargasso, we were favoured by strong westerly gales, which conveyed us seven or eight miles an hour without intermission, until the 13th of July; when perceiving the water to be discoloured, we sounded, and had ground at eighty fathoms. On the 15th we saw the verdant hills on the coast of Devonshire, and I once more experienced those emotions of pain and pleasure which sicken the heart : they are only to be felt on such occasions, nor can language describe them. When I considered the age of my venerable parents, the uncertainty of their being yet alive, and the variety of circumstances which awaited me at this important era, I found every nerve of sensibility awakened. On landing at Portsmouth, on the 17th, I met a friend, who informed me that parents, relations, friends, all were well, and with fond impatience expecting their long absent children. We were

[blocks in formation]

soon restored to their embraces; and at their respective rural residences enjoyed the most ineffable sensations of love and friendship in the bosom of tranquillity, in the sweetest season of the year ; with nothing to diminish the joy of returning to our native country but a regret for the absence of those left behind in the torrid zone.

“ O quid solutis est beatius curis !

Quum mens onus reponit, ac peregrino
Labore fessi, venimus larem ad nostrum
Desideratoque, acquiescimus lecto."-CATULLUS.

Ah what so happy as a mind at rest,

When cares no more lie heavy on the breast ;
When, tir’d of foreign travel, we return
To our own country, and at length discern
The place which first we knew, which most we love,
And in the bed which nurs'd us, sleep!"-

“OMNIA DEO!"

REFLECTIONS,

493

CONCLUSION.

Purport of the concluding Chapter-Reflections on the Conver

sion of the Hindoos–Sentiments of Dr. Johnson-Sir William Jones, Lord Teignmouth, Holwell, and Sir John Mackintosh Blessings of Christianity in Time and Eternity-Its Benevolence contrasted with the cruel Policy of the Hindoo Religion in various instances — Necessary Moderation in all attempts to Proselyte—The Hindoos compared with the Greeks and Romans when Christianity was preached among them - Religious Sentiments of Socrates, Plato, Seneca, and other eminent Heathens - Appeal for Hindoo Conversion from various motives—Happiness of Christians compared with Unbelievers—Conclusion.

Having, by the Divine blessing, been favoured with health and leisure to pursue my allotted task, and finish the selection from my manuscripts and drawings, I now take leave of my readers, in a concluding chapter; which I hope will not be deemed obtrusive, or irrelevant to the general tenor of these volumnes. It treats of a subject in which I am warmly interested, and on which my mind is so deeply impressed with the necessity of avowing my sentiments (feeble as may be my endeavours) that I cannot remain in a state of neutrality.

I shall avail myself in its discussion of assistance from the various sources of information which have been lately opened, and now flow in copious streams

« AnteriorContinuar »