I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy billows, onwards.]
A book of ominous yarns, each introduced with poetry of Byron or Shakespeare. It is a book of fictional naval experience which equates the book of life of naval experience as a book to be read.
p. 15-16: "We shall have a dull and lazy night of it, Vangs," said the master’s mate of the forecastle, as he returned forward from adding on the log-slate another "ditto" to the long column of them which recorded the history of the day. The person he addressed stood on the heel of the bowsprit, with his arms folded on his breast, and his gaze fixed intently on the western horizon, from which the daylight had now so completely faded, that it required a practised and keen eye to discern where the sky and water met. He was a tall, square-framed, aged looking seaman, whose thick gray hair shaded a strongly marked and weather-beaten face, and whose shaggy overcoat, buttoned to the throat, covered a form that for forty years had breasted the storms and perils of every sea. He did not turn his head, nor withdraw his eyes from the spot they rested on, as he said, in a low tone, "We shall have work enough before morning, Mr. Garnet."
"Why, where do you read that, Vangs?" inquired the midshipman—" there is nothing of the sort in my reckoning."
"I read it in a book I have studied through many a long cruise, Mr. Garnet, and though my eyes are getting old, I think I can understand its meaning yet….
"Why, Vangs, you are turning prophet," replied the master’s-mate, who was a rattling young fellow, full of blood and blue veins. "I shouldn’t wonder to see you strike tarpauling when the cruise is up, rig out in a Methodist’s broad brim and straight togs, and ship the next trip for parson."
"My cruisings are pretty much over, Mr. Garnet, and my next trip, I am thinking, is one I shall have to go alone—though there’s a sign in the heavens this night makes me fear I shall have but too much company."
"Why, what signs do you talk of, man?" asked the young officer, somewhat startled by the quiet and impressive tone and manner of the old quarter-master. "I see nothing that looks like a change of weather, and yet I see all there is to be seen."
"I talked in the same way, once, I remember," said Vangs, "when I was about your age, as we lay becalmed one night in the old Charlotte East India-man, heaving and pitching in the roll of a ground swell, much as we do now. The next morning found me clinging to a broken topmast, the only thing left of a fine ship of seven hundred tons, which, with every soul on board of her, except me, had gone to the bottom. That was before you were born, Mr. Garnet."
p. 171-72: To one who has never seen religious worship on board of a man-of-war, at sea, the spectacle could not to have an imposing effect. The sailors, dressed fail in their spotless canvass garments, thronging the quarterdeck, and listening with the most serious attention; the marines, drawn up in military order, their belts as white as mountain snow, and their weapons and metal ornaments polished to the last degree of brightness; the officers, arranged about the capstan according to their rank; the chaplain in the midst, using that engine as his pulpit, and reading the solemn and simple service of the Episcopal church; above his head the broad and snowy wings which are wafting the stately vessel on her way; and around, as far as eye can see, and almost as imagination can extend, the measureless, fathomless, unchanging ocean—the image of eternity—these, together, constitute a spectacle of the most impressive description.