« ZurückWeiter »
greatly admired. Instead of being wearisome, our sailing now became enjoyable. The winds were light and the weather charming. Having cheated the English winter, I fairly revelled on the sunny side of the vessel, and passed many a basking hour in building up and reviewing my plans, and amused myself by laying them out for the future. It was not many days before we sighted Sicily, and got a glimpse of Etna, but so indistinct as to be just enough to say we had seen it. Malta we passed in the night, and the winds coming southerly, we were set towards the Island of Candia, and for two or three days coasted along its offings. We were now continually seeing small white sails under the land, which brought up a conversation about pirates. The contingency of falling in with these marauders was formerly prepared against by the Levant traders, for the Company's vessels were duly licensed to carry arms to defend themselves in case of a hostile encounter.
Cruisers were not so plentiful in these waters as to have quite put a stop to acts of piracy; they were still occasionally heard of, and although our captain was not an alarmist, he thought it quite possible that while becalmed so near the land, we might be surprised by a visit from a boat out of some of the many creeks and inlets which abound along the coast of Candia. Demoralized by Turkish rule, some of the Greek sailors are desperate fellows. They have been known to come off under pretence of selling fruit or fish, having concealed on board some twenty or thirty men, and are no sooner alongside than they would leap on board, and take the vessel, and help themselves to whatever they thought proper, and if no opposition were offered they would retire without committing violence, but, if resisted, they would show no mercy.
We thought it right to look to our small arms, and we mounted a couple of brass swivels, with which the schooner was fitted ; these together with our courage we furbished up, and made our vessel look as rakish as possible; so that in case of a visit we might have something of a warlike appearance, and if we could not succeed in warning them off, might at least make an essay to defend ourselves against any unfriendly visitors, as we had no notion of surrendering without a struggle.
It was only a few mornings after we had been becalmed off the island of Candia, and were still in sight of its highland, that we espied a pair of latine sails astern of us; and as the morning mist cleared away, they appeared to be of unusual size. As we were so far at sea, our attention was particularly drawn to them, when we perceived, as we thought, that the vessel was making towards us, or at all events steering the same course with ourselves.
The captain's glass was called for, and sure enough we suspected that before sunset we were destined to have a visit from our newly descried companion. As the breeze freshened we appeared to leave him ; when we had less wind, he decidedly came up with us. The day was very beautiful, and the morning passed away in watching our pursuer, and speculating as to what she could be, and what her object. By dinner time she had so gained upon us, that unless the wind freshened materially, there was no doubt that before night she would be alongside us. When we came on deck after dinner, we could make out she was no mere coaster, and evidently, from the course she was steering, not bent on a coasting voyage.
The subject of pirates was now no longer a matter of joke. With our glasses constantly levelled at the fleuca, we conjectured all kinds of things, until, I believe, we one and all on board made up our minds that an adventure was at hand; for as the afternoon came on we found our enemy, as we imagined her to be, bringing up with her a strong northerly breeze, and now speedily overhauling us; and as she neared us, we plainly saw she was larger than ourselves. We now began to feel the breeze, but not before our companion was so close to us, that we could make out the people on board without the aid of a glass.
Our captain kept the schooner away, and then hauled his wind, to see what the fleuca would do. She did precisely the same. We were now both pretty close on a wind, when after endeavouring to go to windward of us, coming up almost first to our weather then to our lee quarter, she suddenly put her helm a-weather, and ran close under our lee, and as quickly putting her helm a-starboard, threw herself all shaking within pistol-shot of alongside us, and hailed us, asking our reckoning. Our captain ordered the schooner's foretopsail to be backed, and we lay hove to, side by side, for some minutes; and a very pretty object the fleuca presented, as we looked into her. She was low in the water, and a great length, and at least 150 tons burden; and with her lofty and graceful latine sails, made us look quite small and even unsightly. The captain said he was from Geneva and bound to Alexandria. I observed several monks on board, missionaries no doubt on their way to supply some of the convents in the East. Having got the exact bearings of the Cape they bore away and stood to the southward, and we continued our course, but not without some misgivings lest our friend, having taken a survey of us, might return and pay us another, not quite so pleasant a visit, during the night. Precaution was taken to show no lights on deck, but we saw no more of her. The following morning was serene and lovely, and all our hopes were now bent on making the land, and wondering who should get the first glimpse of Mount Lebanon, which is sometimes seen at a great distance at sea.
Towards evening a hand was sent aloft to look out ahead for land, but he strained his eyes in vain; nothing like land could be seen. We were destined to pass another night, which was now our thirty-first in our frail ocean tenement. The next day the weather was hazy, all hands employed in scrubbing the ship and making her smart to go into port. Towards evening the breeze came off the land, and brought with it a perfume not to be mistaken. It was a smell most fragrant, of the dew-moistened wild herbs which cover the mountains of Syria ; grateful indeed to the weary pilgrim as he nears the land which his soul has from its infancy longed after : to him it is “ as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed.”
Although by our soundings we were hourly nearing the land, yet the darkness of the night, together with the mist which overhung the mountain, prevented our seeing the lights usually to be seen in some of the numerous villages with which Lebanon is studded; and it was not until near morning, when the moon rose in solemn grandeur behind what appeared to us to be a thick cloud—it was Mount Sinin, the highest point of the range-that we knew precisely where we were. So exactly, however, had our captain made his land fall, that we were actually in the dark floating with the current round Beirout point into the bay; and by broad daylight, without a pilot, letting go our anchor off the town.
ON OCCASIONAL REFLECTIONS.* If we consider the merciful dispensations of Divine Providence to the pious, or observe the severe inflictions of Divine Justice on the wicked, we shall find powerful engagements to rely on the former, and to dread provoking the latter. If we consider that the world contains a multitude of admirable creatures, chiefly designed for the use of man, so that several of them seem but to cater for one another, we must burst out into mental if not vocal expression of thankfulness and humiliation, to the Father of mercies, for a bounty so ill deserved, and unthankfully returned, and say with David, ““ What is man, that Thou takest knowledge of him, or the son of man, that Thou makest account of him ?» And if further we consider God's munificence in creating so many creatures, which have acted according to the ends they were made for, the necessary use and pleasure of rebellious and unthankful man, we must both be ashamed and disdain, that that creature should be the least grateful that hath received the greatest benefits, and that he should be the most unruly, that hath the most reason to govern himself. If we look upon the fixed stars, which are so many in number, without wanting room, the least of which is bigger than the earth, and contains above ten thousand millions of cubic German leagues, and consequently above threescore times as many English miles of solid measure, we shall with reason say with David; “When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy hands, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou shouldst be mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him ?" In which text it seems, since the sun is not mentioned, that the moon was the chief subject of his meditation, and that it was made in the night; we shall, therefore, add some reflections on the same subject, to confirm what we bave said about the different reflections and similitudes the same affords in respect of its different attributes.
* From “Occasional Reflections,” by Robert Boyle, from which we have before extracted.
If, then, we take notice of the greatest brightness of the moon, and that it is at the full that she is subject to eclipses, it may put us in mind of the mutability of human things, and that prosperity is never the securer for being full and splendid. The next consideration tells us, that as the moon communicates to the earth light, which she receives from the sun, so the ministers of the Gospel communicate the light to the rest of mankind, which they receive from the Sun of Righteousness. To which we may add, that as the moon shines with no other light than what is afforded by the true sun, so the true preachers mix not their own inventions, or human traditions, with the sincere light of revelation, it being the safest for the Church ; it being requisite Christians should receive the true bread of life, as the Jews did the material bread, as Christ first brake the bread which His disciples afterwards gave to the people, so that they might say with S. Paul, "I have received of the LORD that which I delivered unto you." And though the moon hath only a borrowed light from the sun, she gives more to us than the fixed stars, which are supposed to shine by their own light; and so those illiterate fishermen, whom the Sun of Righteousness made the light of the world by the irradiations He vouchsafed them, bestowed greater light upon mankind than the greatest philosophers, who had not the assistance of Divine revelation. And as the same subject, variously considered, may show us some things fit to be avoided, and others fit for imitation, so in the present, we have the emblem of an ungrateful person : for as the moon when nearest to the sun from whom she receives her light, eclipses him to whom she owes her splendour, so ungrateful men abuse the favours which should endear them to their benefactors, to the disadvantage of those that oblige them.
And as the sun and moon thus afford a simile to represent ingratitude, so the moon and the sea furnish us with an example of the contrary; for as a thankful man will be true and obsequious to his benefactor, though he hath lost that prosperity which made him conspicuous and attracted vulgar eyes, so the sea answers the course of the moon, as much when it hath little or none of her light, as when she is at the full. The moon likewise may show us a similitude to represent a liberal person ; for as she imparts to the earth what she receives from the sun, so a liberal person communicates to the indigent what he receives from God. And in respect of intellectual communications, as the moon enjoys not less light for giving so much to the earth, so mental communications impoverish not him that communicates. And as the moon represents the duty of a preacher, so it may of a hearer, for as it would be ungrateful in respect of the author, not to make use of the light of the sun by the moon, or to think her useless, because she communicates not heat as well as light, so it would be ungrateful for us not to acknowledge as hearers, or to be guided by the conspicuous endowments of learning and eloquence of scholars, though they were but illustrated and warmed by the beams they reflect. As the moon, by similitudes, may set forth the virtues and vices of the mind, so it may give us an emblem of our condition; for as the moon sometimes is eclipsed, and undergoes several changes, and at the full is never free from dark spots, so men's minds are partly in the dark and partly in the light, being more or less illustrated with heavenly rays of light and joy; and not only sometimes deserted by disconsolations, but at the best know but in part; and are partly blemished by their native imperfections. And as these similitudes may be appropriated to the mind of man, so they may be applicable to his prosperity and adversity. To which we might add several reflections on the adjuncts of the moon, but we shall proceed to some other considerations within our own globe.
But since the earth contains such a variety of objects, we shall take notice only of some which may be supplied by the objects even of a garden. And first, when we see a tree pruned, one that understands not the reason of it might think the gardener an enemy to the tree, as if he meant to cut it in pieces ; but one that considers that it is not anger, but skill, that made him lop off some branches, and that he designs not to destroy it, but to make it fruitful; and thus, whatever one that knows not the designs of Providence, may think when a Church is exposed to the afflictions of human societies, and persecutions which seem to be divine inflictions, that give men occasion to say of the body, as Isaiah said of the Head, “We esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted :" I say, whatever a carnal man might say of these distresses, a Christian will not thence infer that God hates the Church, or hath left her, since He loved her so well as to give Himself for her, and chastens and rebukes whom He loves.
This is applicable also to believers, so that the great husbandman, or cultivator of the ground, both lets us know, that affictions do not suppose God's hate, that they do not always sup