Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in
my 1 purse , and nothing particular to interest
me 1 on
shore 2 ,
I 1 thought
I 1 would sail about a little and see
the watery part of
the world 4 3
It is a way
I 1 have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation .
I 1 find
myself 1 growing grim about the mouth ; whenever it is a damp , drizzly November in ; whenever
I 1 find
myself 1 involuntarily pausing before
coffin warehouses 5 , and bringing up
; and especially whenever
the rear of every funeral
my 1 hypos get such an upper hand of
me 1 , that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent
me 1 from deliberately stepping into
the street 7 , and methodically knocking
people 8 's hats off -- then ,
I 1 account it high time to get to
sea 9 as soon as
I 1 can .
my 1 substitute for pistol and ball .
With a philosophical flourish
Cato 10 throws
himself 10 upon
his 10 sword ;
I 1 quietly take to
the ship 11 .
There is nothing surprising in this .
they 12 but knew it ,
, some time or other , cherish very nearly the same feelings towards
almost all men in
the ocean 13 with
me 1 .
There now is
, belted round by
insular city of
the Manhattoes 15 24
wharves 16 as
Indian isles 17 by coral reefs -- commerce surrounds
it 24 with her surf .
Right and left ,
the streets 18 take
you 19 waterward .
extreme downtown 20
the battery 172 , where
that noble mole 21 is washed by waves , and cooled by breezes , which a few hours previous were out of sight of
land 22 .
the crowds of water-gazers 23
there 20 .
the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon 24 .
Corlears Hook 25 to
Coenties Slip 26 , and from thence , by
Whitehall 27 , northward .
you 28 see ?
-- Posted like
silent sentinels 29 all around
the town 30 , stand
thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries 31 .
Some 168 leaning against the spiles ;
some 169 seated upon the pier-heads ;
some 170 looking over the bulwarks glasses !
some 171 high aloft in the rigging , as if striving to get a still better seaward peep .
But these are all
landsmen 31 ; of week days pent up in lath and plaster -- tied to counters , nailed to benches , clinched to desks .
How then is this ?
the green fields 33 gone ?
they 31 here ?
But look !
more crowds , pacing straight for the water , and seemingly bound for a dive 34 .
Nothing will content
them 34 but
the extremest limit of the land 35 ; loitering under
the shady lee of yonder warehouses 36 will not suffice .
They 34 must get just as nigh
the water 37 as
they 34 possibly can without falling in .
they 34 stand -- -- leagues .
Inlanders all 173 ,
they 34 come from
lanes 38 and
alleys 39 ,
streets 40 and
avenues 41 , -- north , east , south , and west .
they 34 all unite .
me 1 , does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all
those ships 42 attract
them 34 thither ?
Once more .
you 43 are in
the country 44 ; in
some high land of lakes 45 .
, and ten to one
almost any path
it 46 carries
you 47 down in
a dale 48 , and leaves
there 50 by
a pool in the stream 51 .
There is magic in it .
the most absent-minded of men 52 be plunged in
his 52 deepest reveries -- stand
that man 52 on
his 52 legs , set
his 52 feet a-going , and
he 52 will infallibly lead
you 53 to
water 54 , if
water 55 there be in all
that region 56 .
you 57 ever be athirst in
the great American desert 58 , try this experiment , if happen to be supplied with
a metaphysical professor 61 .
Yes , as
every one 62 knows , meditation and water are wedded for ever .
But here is
an artist 63 .
He 63 desires to paint
the dreamiest , shadiest , quietest , most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco 65 .
What is the chief element
he 63 employs ?
his 63 trees , each with a hollow trunk , as if
a hermit 66 and a crucifix were within ; and
here 67 sleeps , and there sleep
his 63 cattle ; and up from
yonder cottage 69 goes a sleepy smoke .
Deep into distant woodlands 70 winds a mazy way , reaching to
overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue 71 .
But though the picture lies thus tranced , and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon
this shepherd 72 's head , yet all were vain , unless
the shepherd 72 's eye were fixed upon
the magic stream before
him 72 73
the Prairies 74 in June , when for scores on scores of miles
you 75 wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies -- what is the one charm wanting ?
-- Water there is not a drop of water there !
Niagara 76 but a cataract of sand , would
you 77 travel
your 78 thousand miles to see
it 76 ?
, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver , deliberate whether to buy
the poor poet of
Tennessee 80 79
him 79 a coat , which
he 79 sadly needed , or invest
his 79 money in a pedestrian trip to
Rockaway Beach 81 ?
, at some time or other crazy to go
almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in
him 82 82
to sea 83 ?
your 84 first voyage as
a passenger 85 , did
yourself 87 feel such a mystical vibration , when first told that
you 88 and were now out of sight of
land 22 ?
the old Persians 91 hold
the sea 92 holy ?
the Greeks 93 give
a separate deity 94 , and
own brother of
Jove 95 94
Surely all this is not without meaning .
And still deeper the meaning of that story of
Narcissus 96 , who because
he 96 could not grasp the tormenting , mild image
he 96 saw in the fountain , plunged into it and was drowned .
But that same image ,
ourselves 97 see in
all rivers 98 and
oceans 99 .
It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life ; and this is the key to it all .
Now , when
I 1 say that
I 1 am in the habit of going to
sea 100 whenever
I 1 begin to grow hazy about the eyes , and begin to be over conscious of
my 1 lungs ,
I 1 do not mean to have it inferred that
I 1 ever go to
sea 101 as
a passenger 102 .
For to go as
a passenger 103
you 104 must needs have a purse , and a purse is but a rag unless
you 105 have something in it .
passengers 106 get sea-sick -- grow quarrelsome -- do n't sleep of nights -- do not enjoy
themselves 106 much , as a general thing ; -- no ,
I 1 never go as
a passenger 107 ; nor , though
I 1 am something of a salt , do
I 1 ever go to sea as
a Commodore 108 , or
a Captain 109 , or
a Cook 110 .
I 1 abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to
those who like them 111 .
my 1 part ,
I 1 abominate all honorable respectable toils , trials , and tribulations of every kind whatsoever .
It is quite as much as
I 1 can do to take care of
myself 1 , without taking care of
ships 112 ,
barques 113 ,
brigs 114 ,
schooners 115 , and what not .
And as for going as
cook 116 , -- though
I 1 confess there is considerable glory in that ,
a cook 117 being
a sort of officer on ship-board 174 -- yet , somehow ,
I 1 never fancied broiling fowls ; -- though once broiled , judiciously buttered , and judgmatically salted and peppered , there is
no one 118 who will speak more respectfully , not to say reverentially , of a broiled fowl than
I 1 will .
It is out of the idolatrous dotings of
the old Egyptians 119 upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse , that
you 120 see the mummies of those creatures in
huge bakehouses the pyramids 121
No , when
I 1 go to
sea 122 ,
I 1 go as
a simple sailor 123 , right before the mast , plumb down into the fore-castle , aloft there to the royal mast-head .
they 124 rather order
me 1 about some , and make
me 1 jump from spar to spar , like a grasshopper in
a May meadow 125 .
And at first , this sort of thing is unpleasant enough .
It touches one 's sense of honor , particularly if
you 126 come of
an old established family in the land 127 ,
the Van Rensselaers 128 , or
Randolphs 129 , or
Hardicanutes 130 .
And more than all , if just previous to putting
your 131 hand into the tar-pot ,
you 132 have been lording it as
a country schoolmaster 133 , making
the tallest boys 134 stand in awe of
you 135 .
The transition is a keen one ,
I 1 assure
you 136 , from
a schoolmaster 138 to
a sailor 137 , and requires a strong decoction of
Seneca 139 and
the Stoics 140 to enable
you 141 to grin and bear it .
But even this wears off in time .
What of it , if
some old hunks of a sea-captain 142 orders
me 1 to get a broom and sweep down the decks ?
What does that indignity amount to , weighed ,
I 1 mean , in the scales of the New Testament ?
you 143 think
the archangel 144
Gabriel 144 thinks anything the less of
me 1 , because
I 1 promptly and respectfully obey
that old hunks 142 in that particular instance ?
Who ai n't
a slave 145 ?
me 1 that .
Well , then , however
the old sea-captains 142 may order
me 1 about -- however
they 142 may thump and punch
me 1 about ,
I 1 have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right ; that
everybody else 146 is one way or other served in much the same way -- either in a physical or metaphysical point of view , that is ; and so the universal thump is passed round , and all hands should rub each other 's shoulder-blades , and be content .
I 1 always go to
sea 147 as
a sailor 148 , because
they 142 make a point of paying
me 1 for
my 1 trouble , whereas
they 142 never pay
passengers 149 a single penny that
I 1 ever heard of .
On the contrary ,
must pay .
themselves 150 150
And there is all the difference in
the world 4 between paying and being paid .
The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that
the two orchard thieves entailed upon
us 152 151
But being paid , -- what will compare with it ?
The urbane activity with which
a man 153 receives money is really marvellous , considering that
we 154 so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills , and that on no account can
a monied man 155 enter
heaven 156 .
we 157 consign
ourselves 157 to perdition !
I 1 always go to
sea 158 as
a sailor 159 , because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck .
For as in
this world 4 , head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern ( that is , if
you 160 never violate the Pythagorean maxim ) , so for the most part
the Commodore on the quarter-deck 161 gets
his 161 atmosphere at second hand from
the sailors on the forecastle 162 .
He 161 thinks
he 161 breathes it first ; but not so .
In much the same way do the commonalty lead in many other things , at the same time that the leaders little suspect it .
But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt
the sea 163 as
a merchant sailor 164 ,
I 1 should now take it into
my 1 head to go on a whaling voyage ; this
the invisible police officer of the Fates 165 , who has the constant surveillance of
me 1 , and secretly dogs
me 1 , and influences
me 1 in some unaccountable way --
he 165 can better answer than
any one else 166 .
And , doubtless ,
my 1 going on this whaling voyage , formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago .
It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances .
I 1 take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this :