Page:Twenty years before the mast - Charles Erskine, 1896.djvu/337

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Twenty Years Before the Mast.

those who can pay homage to his eloquence. The judge records his opinions, and his name will be referred to in coming time. The senator, through the press, speaks to a listening nation. The artist, who imparts life to the canvas, leaves behind him the impress of his genius; and the writer of romance keeps alive a world of ideal sympathy and passion.

The brave soldiers from all over our country parade the streets, and are cheered by their admiring fellow- citizens. But there is nothing of this inspiring nature to sustain the sailor in his conflict with the mighty deep. I have battled the ocean’s storms for twenty years, and am aware that no language can give reality to the story of my experience. I have been swept from the vessel’s deck and saved by a miracle,—none near to hear my despairing cry or witness my agony.

How often have my shipmates and myself faced death? The lightnings have flashed, the thunders have roared, the storms shrieked, and the whirling waters have threatened to engulf us; but alone in mid-ocean we contended for mastery, and a line in the log-book is the only record of the peril we confronted.

As the sailor lives, so he dies. There is no audience but those who share his dangers. He lies down afar from home and friends, with no one to tell to the world the story of his battles, so bravely fought, though lost; no one to witness his suffering, or note the courage with which he faced his last moment.

It is now sixty years since my dear mother gave me her parting blessing, and I sailed on my first voyage. Now on taking my bearings, overhauling a range of my