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Chapter 48

HOMEWARD BOUND

CONCLUSION.


We slid out of St. Katharine's Dock at noon on the appointed day, and with a pair of sooty steamboats hitched to our vessel, moved slowly down the Thames in mist and drizzling rain. I stayed on the wet deck all afternoon, that I might more forcibly and joyously feel we were again in motion on the waters and homeward bound! My attention was divided between the dreary views of Blackwall, Greenwich and Woolwich, and the motley throng of passengers who were to form our ocean society. An English family, going out to settle in Canada, were gathered together in great distress and anxiety, for the father had gone ashore in London at a late hour, and was left behind. When we anchored for the night at Gravesend, their fears were quieted by his arrival in a skiff from the shore, as he had immediately followed us by railroad.

My cousin and B---- had hastened on from Paris to join me, and a day before the sailing of the "Victoria," we took berths in the second cabin, for twelve pounds ten shillings each, which in the London line of packets, includes coarse but substantial fare for the whole voyage. Our funds were insufficient to pay even this; but Captain Morgan, less mistrustful than my Norman landlord, generously agreed that the remainder of the fare should be paid in America. B---- and I, with two young Englishmen, took possession of a State-room of rough boards, lighted by a bull's-eye, which in stormy weather leaked so much that our trunks swam in water. A narrow mattrass and blanket, with a knapsack for a pillow, formed a passable bed. A long entry between the rooms, lighted by a feeble swinging lamp, was filled with a board table, around which the thirty-two second cabin passengers met to discuss politics and salt pork, favorable winds and hard sea-biscuit.

We lay becalmed opposite Sheerness the whole of the second day. At dusk a sudden squall came up, which drove us foaming towards the North Foreland. When I went on deck in the morning, we had passed Dover and Brighton, and the Isle of Wight was rising dim ahead of us. The low English coast on our right was bordered by long reaches of dazzling chalky sand, which glittered along the calm blue water.

Gliding into the Bay of Portsmouth, we dropped anchor opposite the romantic town of Ryde, built on the sloping shore of the green Isle of Wight. Eight or nine vessels of the Experimental Squadron were anchored near us, and over the houses of Portsmouth, I saw the masts of the Victory--the flag-ship in the battle of Trafalgar, on board of which Nelson was killed. The wind was not strong enough to permit the passage of the Needles, so at midnight we succeeded in wearing back again into the channel, around the Isle of Wight. A head wind forced us to tack away towards the shore of France. We were twice in sight of the rocky coast of Brittany, near Cherbourg, but the misty promontory of Land's End was our last glimpse of the old world.

On one of our first days at sea, I caught a curlew, which came flying on weary wings towards us, and alighted on one of the boats. Two of his brethren, too much exhausted or too timid to do likewise, dropped flat on the waves and resigned themselves to their fate without a struggle. I slipped up and caught his long, lank legs, while he was resting with flagging wings and half-shut eyes. We fed him, though it was difficult to get anything down his reed-shaped bill; but he took kindly to our force-work, and when we let him loose on the deck, walked about with an air quite tame and familiar. He died, however, two days afterwards. A French pigeon, which was caught in the rigging, lived and throve during the whole of the passage.

A few days afterwards, a heavy storm came on, and we were all sleepless and sea-sick, as long as it lasted. Thanks, however, to a beautiful law of memory, the recollection of that dismal period soon lost its unpleasantness, while the grand forms of beauty the vexed ocean presented, will remain forever, as distinct and abiding images. I kept on deck as long as I could stand, watching the giant waves over which our vessel took her course. They rolled up towards us, thirty or forty feet in height--dark gray masses, changing to a beautiful vitriol tint, wherever the light struck through their countless and changing crests. It was a glorious thing to see our good ship mount slowly up the side of one of these watery lulls, till her prow was lifted high in air, then, rocking over its brow, plunge with a slight quiver downward, and plough up a briny cataract, as she struck the vale. I never before realized the terrible sublimity of the sea. And yet it was a pride to see how man--strong in his godlike will--could bid defiance to those whelming surges, and bravo their wrath unharmed.

We swung up and down on the billows, till we scarcely knew which way to stand. The most grave and sober personages suddenly found themselves reeling in a very undignified manner, and not a few measured their lengths on the slippery decks. Boxes and barrels were affected in like manner; everything danced around us. Trunks ran out from under the berths; packages leaped down from the shelves; chairs skipped across the rooms, and at table, knives, forks and mugs engaged in a general waltz and break down. One incident of this kind was rather laughable. One night, about midnight, the gale, which had been blowing violently, suddenly lulled, "as if," to use a sailor's phrase, "it had been chopped off!" Instantly the ship gave a tremendous lurch, which was the signal for a general breaking loose. Two or three others followed, so violent, that for a moment I imagined the vessel had been thrown on her beam ends. Trunks, crockery and barrels went banging down from one end of the ship to the other. The women in the steerage set up an awful scream, and the German emigrants, thinking we were in terrible danger, commenced praying with might and main. In the passage near our room stood several barrels, filled with broken dishes, which at every lurch went banging from side to side, jarring the board partition and making a horrible din. I shall not soon forget the Babel which kept our eyes open that night.

The 19th of May a calm came on. Our white wings flapped idly on the mast, and only the top-gallant sails were bent enough occasionally to lug us along at a mile an hour. A barque from Ceylon, making the most of the wind, with every rag of canvass set, passed us slowly on the way eastward. The sun went down unclouded, and a glorious starry night brooded over us. Its clearness and brightness were to me indications of America. I longed to be on shore. The forests about home were then clothed in the delicate green of their first leaves, and that bland weather embraced the sweet earth like a blessing of heaven. The gentle breath from out the west seemed made for the odor of violets, and as it came to me over the slightly-ruflled deep, I thought how much sweeter it were to feel it, while "wasting in wood-paths the voluptuous hours."

Soon afterwards a fresh wind sprung up, which increased rapidly, till every sail was bent to the full. Our vessel parted the brine with an arrowy glide, the ease and grace of which it is impossible to describe. The breeze held on steadily for two or three days, which brought us to the southern extremity of the Banks. Here the air felt so sharp and chilling, that I was afraid we might be under the lee of an iceberg, but in the evening the dull gray mass of clouds lifted themselves from the horizon, and the sun set in clear, American beauty away beyond Labrador. The next morning we were enveloped in a dense fog, and the wind which bore us onward was of a piercing coldness. A sharp look-out was kept on the bow, but as we could see but a short distance, it might have been dangerous had we met one of the Arctic squadron. At noon it cleared away again, and the bank of fog was visible a long time astern, piled along the horizon, reminding me of the Alps, as seen from the plains of Piedmont.

On the 31st, the fortunate wind which carried us from the Banks, failed us about thirty-five miles from Sandy Hook. We lay in the midst of the mackerel fishery, with small schooners anchored all around us. Fog, dense and impenetrable, weighed on the moveless ocean, like an atmosphere of wool. The only incident to break the horrid monotony of the day, was the arrival of a pilot, with one or two newspapers, detailing the account of the Mexican War. We heard in the afternoon the booming of the surf along the low beach of Long Island--hollow and faint, like the murmur of a shell. When the mist lifted a little, we saw the faint line of breakers along the shore. The Germans gathered on deck to sing their old, familiar songs, and their voices blended beautifully together in the stillness.

Next morning at sunrise we saw Sandy Hook; at nine o'clock we were telegraphed in New York by the station at Coney Island; at eleven the steamer "Hercules" met us outside the Hook; and at noon we were gliding up the Narrows, with the whole ship's company of four hundred persons on deck, gazing on the beautiful shores of Staten Island and agreeing almost universally, that it was the most delightful scene they had ever looked upon.

And now I close the story of my long wandering, as I began it--with a lay written on the deep.



HOMEWARD BOUND.

    Farewell to Europe! Days have come and gone
    Since misty England set behind the sea.
    Our ship climbs onward o'er the lifted waves,
    That gather up in ridges, mountain-high,
    And like a sea-god, conscious in his power,
    Buffets the surges. Storm-arousing winds
    That sweep, unchecked, from frozen Labrador,
    Make wintry music through the creaking shrouds.
    Th' horizon's ring, that clasps the dreary view,
    Lays mistily upon the gray Atlantic's breast.
    Shut out, at times, by bulk of sparry blue,
    That, rolling near us, heaves the swaying prow
    High on its shoulders, to descend again
    Ploughing a thousand cascades, and around
    Spreading the frothy foam. These watery gulfs,
    With storm, and winds far-sweeping, hem us in,
    Alone upon the waters!

Days must pass-- Many and weary--between sea and sky. Our eyes, that long e'en now for the fresh green Of sprouting forests, and the far blue stretch Of regal mountains piled along the sky, Must see, for many an eve, the level sun Sheathe, with his latest gold, the heaving brine, By thousand ripples shivered, or Night's pomp Brooding in silence, ebon and profound, Upon the murmuring darkness of the deep, Broken by flashings, that the parted wave Sends white and star-like throujch its bursting foam. Yet not more dear the opening dawn of heaven Poured on the earth in an Italian May, When souls take wings upon the scented air Of starry meadows, and the yearning heart Pains with deep sweetness in the balmy time, Than these gray morns, and days of misty blue, And surges, never-ceasing;--for our prow Points to the sunset like a morning ray, And o'er the waves, and through the sweeping storms, Through day and darkness, rushes ever on, Westward and westward still! What joy can send The spirit thrilling onward with the wind, In untamed exultation, like the thought That fills the Homeward Bound?

Country and home! Ah! not the charm of silver-tongued romance, Born of the feudal time, nor whatsoe'er Of dying glory fills the golden realms Of perished song, where heaven-descended Art Still boasts her later triumphs, can compare With that one thought of liberty inherited-- Of free life giv'n by fathers who were free, And to be left to children freer still! That pride and consciousness of manhood, caught From boyish musings on the holy graves Of hero-martyrs, and from every form Which virgin Nature, mighty and unchained, Takes in an empire not less proudly so-- Inspired in mountain airs, untainted yet By thousand generations' breathing--felt Like a near presence in the awful depths Of unhewn forests, and upon the steep Where giant rivers take their maddening plunge-- Has grown impatient of the stifling damps Which hover close on Europe's shackled soil. Content to tread awhile the holy steps Of Art and Genius, sacred through all time, The spirit breathed that dull, oppressive air-- Which, freighted with its tyrant-clouds, o'erweighs The upward throb of many a nation's soul-- Amid those olden memories, felt the thrall. But kept the birth-right of its freer home, Here, on the world's blue highway, comes again The voice of Freedom, heard amid the roar Of sundered billows, while above the wave Rise visions of the forest and the stream. Like trailing robes the morning mists uproll, Torn by the mountain pines; the flashing rills Shout downward through the hollows of the vales; Down the great river's bosom shining sails Glide with a gradual motion, while from all-- Hamlet, and bowered homestead, and proud town-- Voices of joy ring up into heaven!

Yet louder, winds! Urge on our keel, ye waves, Swift as the spirit's yearnings! We would ride With a loud stormy motion o'er your crests, With tempests shouting like a sudden joy-- Interpreting our triumph! 'Tis your voice, Ye unchained elements, alone can speak The sympathetic feeling of the free-- The arrowy impulse of the Homeward Bound!


* * * * * * *


Although the narrative of my journey, "with knapsack and staff," is now strictly finished, a few more words of explanation seem necessary, to describe more fully the method of traveling which we adopted. I add them the more willingly, as it is my belief that many, whose circumstances are similar to mine, desire to undertake the same romantic journey. Some matter-of-fact statements may be to them useful as well as interesting.

We found the pedestrian style not only by far the best way to become acquainted with the people and sceneryof a country, but the pleasantest mode of traveling. To be sure, the knapsack was, at first, rather heavy, our feet were often sore and our limbs weary, but a few days walking made a great difference, and after we had traveled two weeks, this disappeared altogether. Every morning we rose as fresh and strong as if it had been the first day--even after a walk of thirty miles, we felt but little fatigue. We enjoyed slumber in its fullest luxury, and our spirits were always light and joyous. We made it a rule to pay no regard to the weather, unless it was so bad as to render walking unhealthy. Often, during the day, we rested for half an hour on the grassy bank, or sometimes, if it was warm weather, lay at full length in the shade with our knapsacks under our heads. This is a pleasure which none but the pedestrian can comprehend.

We always accepted a companion, of whatever kind, while walking--from chimney-sweeps to barons. In a strange country one can learn something from every peasant, and we neglected no opportunity, not only to obtain information, but impart it. We found everywhere great curiosity respecting America, and we were always glad to tell them all they wished to know. In Germany, we were generally taken for Germans from some part of the country where the dialect was a little different, or, if they remarked our foreign peculiarities, they supposed we were either Poles, Russians, or Swiss. The greatest ignorance in relation to America, prevails among the common people. They imagine we are a savage race, without intelligence and almost without law. Persons of education, who had some slight knowledge of our history, showed a curiosity to know something of our political condition. They are taught by the German newspapers (which are under a strict censorship in this respect) to look only at the evil in our country, and they almost invariably began by adverting to Slavery and Repudiation. While we admitted, often with shame and mortification, the existence of things so inconsistent with true republicanism, we endeavored to make them comprehend the advantages enjoyed by the free citizen--the complete equality of birth--which places America, despite her sins, far above any other nation on earth. I could plainly see, by the kindling eye and half-suppressed sigh, that they appreciated a freedom so immeasurably greater than that which they enjoyed.

In large cities we always preferred to take the second or third-rate hotels, which are generally visited by merchants and persons who travel on business; for, with the same comforts as the first rank, they are nearly twice as cheap. A traveler, with a guide-book and a good pair of eyes, can also dispense with the services of a courier, whose duty it is to conduct strangers about the city, from one lion to another. We chose rather to find out and view the "sights" at our leisure. In small villages, where we were often obliged to stop, we chose the best hotels, which, particularly in Northern Germany and in Italy, are none too good. But if it was a post, that is, a town where the post-chaise stops to change horses, we usually avoided the post-hotel, where one must pay high for having curtains before his windows and a more elegant cover on his bed. In the less splendid country inns, we always found neat, comfortable lodging, and a pleasant, friendly reception from the people. They saluted us on entering, with "Be you welcome," and on leaving, wished us a pleasant journey and good fortune. The host, when he brought us supper or breakfast, lifted his cap, and wished us a good appetite--and when he lighted us to our chambers, left us with "May you sleep well!" We generally found honest, friendly people; they delighted in telling us about the country around; what ruins there were in the neighborhood--and what strange legends were connected with them. The only part of Europe where it is unpleasant to travel in this manner, is Bohemia. We could rarely find a comfortable inn; the people all spoke an unknown language, and were not particularly celebrated for their honesty. Beside this, travelers rarely go on foot in those regions; we were frequently taken for traveling handworker, and subjected to imposition.

With regard to passports, although they were vexatious and often expensive, we found little difficulty when we had acquainted ourselves with the regulations concerning them. In France and Germany they are comparatively little trouble; in Italy they are the traveler's greatest annoyance. Americans are treated with less strictness, in this respect, than citizens of other nations, and, owing to the absence of rank among us, we also enjoy greater advantages of acquaintance and intercourse.

The expenses of traveling in England, although much greater than in our own country, may, as we learned by experience, be brought, through economy, within the same compass. Indeed, it is my belief, from observation, that, with few exceptions, throughout Europe, where a traveler enjoys the same comfort and abundance as in America, he must pay the same prices. The principal difference is, that he only pays for what he gets, so that, if he be content with the necessities of life, without its luxuries, the expense is in proportion. I have given, at times, through the foregoing chapters, the cost of travel and residence in Europe, yet a connected estimate will better show the minimum expense of a two years' pilgrimage:


    Voyage to Liverpool, in the second cabin  . . . . . . . . . . . $24.00
    Three weeks' travel in Ireland and Scotland  . . . . . . . . .  25.00
    A week in London, at three shillings a day . . . . . . . . . .    4.50
    From London to Heidelberg  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   15.00
    A month at Heidelberg, and trip to Frankfort . . . . . . . . .   20.00
    Seven months in Frankfort, at $10 per month  . . . . . . . . .   70.00
    Fuel, passports, excursions and other expenses . . . . . . . .   30.00
    Tour through Cassel, the Hartz, Saxony, Austria, Bavaria, etc.   40.00
    A month in Frankfort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   10.00
    From Frankfort through Switzerland, and over the Alpsto Milan .  15.00
    From Milan to Genoa  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      60
    Expenses from Genoa to Florence  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   14.00
    Four months in Florence  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   50.00
    Eight day's journey from Florence to Rome, two weeks in
       Rome, voyage to Marseilles and journey to Paris . . . . . .   40.00
    Five weeks in Paris  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   15.00
    From Paris to London . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    8.00
    Six weeks in London, at three shillings a day  . . . . . . . .   31.00
    Passage home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   60.00
                                                                    ------
                                                                   $472.00


The cost for places of amusement, guides' fees, and other small expenses, not included in this list, increase the sum total to $500, for which the tour may be made. Now, having, I hope, established this to the reader's satisfaction, I respectfully take leave of him.


THE END.

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Bayard Taylor