« EelmineJätka »
country have been effaced by other footsteps: it is only in the dust of Carthage that they have remained solitary, like the vestiges of a son of the desert on the snows of Canada. Even in the savannahs of Atala, the herbage has given place to cultivated crops; three high-roads now lead to the Natchez, and if Chactas were still living, he might be a deputy to the congress at Washington. Nay, more I have received a Cherokee pamphlet, in which those savages compliment me in English "eminent writer and conductor of the public press.
Voyages and travels ought to be included in English Literature. Many changes have taken place in the manner of writing them, from the time of Ralegh, Hudson, Baffin, Shaw, Anson, Chandler, to the latest explorers of land and sea. It would require a volume to notice the voyages of Captains Cook and Vancouver, the thousand and one tours in India, the discoveries of Mungo Park, Laing, Clapperton, and the brothers Lander, and those of Captains Parry, Franklin, and Ross. Were I to allow my fondness for voyages and travels to run away with me, I should never get away from Timbuctoo, the banks of the Niger, or the valleys of the Himalaya. Nevertheless, that I may not omit this great branch of English literature, I shall quote a few passages from the last
journal of Captain Ross. I am particularly interested in that arctic world, the discovery of which was one of the day-dreams of my youth.
Captain Ross, having left England in 1829, for the purpose of seeking a north-west passage, penetrated Lancaster Strait, and to Prince Regent's Inlet. Stopped by the ice in the gulf to which he has given the name of Boothia, he remained four years blocked up on the west coast of that gulf. Being obliged to forsake his ship, the Victory, he turned back over the surface of a frozen ocean, in quest of Baffin's Bay, where he had the good fortune to fall in with the Isabella whaler, which took him on board. By an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, the Isabella was the same vessel in which Captain Ross had performed his first voyage in 1818.
During the four years of his detention among the ice, the captain discovered the magnetic pole, and the western polar sea, separated from the eastern sea merely by a very narrow isthmus. Let us now turn to the sufferings of the voyagers, and the kind of desolate poetry of those regions. The captain gives this description of hyperborean
"Is there any one that loves the sight of ice and snow I imagine now that I always doubted this; I am quite sure of it at present. It deforms
all landscape, destroys all keeping,' by confounding distances, and with that proportions, and with that too, more and worse than all else, the harmony of colouring; giving us a motley patchwork of black and white, in place of those sweet gradations and combinations of colour which Nature produces in her summer mood, even amid the most deformed and harsh of landscapes.
"These are the objections to a snow landscape, which even the experience of a day may furnish; how much more when, for more than half a year, all the element above head is snow, when the gale is a gale of snow, the fog a fog of snow, when the sun shines but to glitter on the snow, which is, yet does not fall, when the breath of the mouth is snow, when snow settles on the hair, the dress, the eyelashes, when snow falls around us and fills our chambers, our beds, our dishes, should we open a door, should the external air get access to our penetralia; when the crystal stream in which we must quench our thirst is a kettle of snow with a lamp of oil; when our sofas are of snow and our houses of snow when snow was our decks, snow our awnings, snow our observatories, snow our larders, snow our salt; and when all the other uses of snow should be of no avail, our coffins and our graves were to be graves and coffins of snow!
"Is not this more than enough of snow to suf
fice for admiration? Is it not worse that, during ten months in a year, the ground is snow, and ice, and slush; that, during the whole year, its tormenting, chilling, odious presence is ever before the eye? Who more than I has admired the glaciers of the extreme north? who more has loved to contemplate the icebergs sailing from the Pole before the tide and the gale, floating along the ocean, through calm and through storm, like castles, and towers, and mountains, gorgeous in colouring and magnificent, if often capricious in form? And have I, too, not sought amid the crashing and the splitting and the thundering roarings of a sea of moving mountains for the subline, and felt that Nature could do no more? In all this there has been beauty, horror, danger, every thing that could excite they would have excited a poet even to the verge of madness. But to see, to have seen, ice and snow, to have felt snow and ice for ever, and nothing for ever but snow and ice, during all the months of a year; to have seen and felt but uninterrupted and unceasing ice and snow during all the months of four years-this it is that has made the sight of those most chilling and wearisome objects an evil which is still in our recollection, as if the remembrance would never cease."
Commander Ross, the captain's nephew, set out on an excursion to a horde of Esquimaux. In the
course of his narrative, he says, "The guides were now completely at fault, as they could not see twenty yards before them, from the thick drifting of the snow-storm; so that we were obliged to give up all further attempts for the present and to consent to their building a snow hut.
"This was completed in half an hour; and certainly never did we feel better pleased with this kind of architecture, which in so very short a time produced for us a dwelling affording shelter at least as perfect as we could have obtained within the best house of stone. It was, indeed, barely large enough to hold our party of four; but, in the wretched plight that we now were, even a worse accommodation than this would have been most acceptable. Our clothes were so penetrated by the fine snow-dust, and frozen so hard, that we could not take them off for a long time, and not till the warmth of our bodies had begun to soften them, We also suffered exceedingly from thirst; so that while the Esquimaux were busied with the arrangements of their building, we were employed in melting snow by the aid of a spirit lamp. The quantity which we thus produced in a short time was sufficient for the whole party; while the delight of our guides was only equalled by their surprise; since with them the same operation is the work of