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'Twas not when thou wast dying,
It came—the hour of parting !
Why should the tie be sever'd
Beyond life's troubled ocean,
THE ICE ISLAND.
BY DR. R. M. BIRD.
MASTLEss, helmless, gaping at every seam, and groaning and crashing at every pitch over the rolling surges, yet supported above the water by the buoyancy of the cargo, our miserable 'bark still struggled with the tempest. Sailors without further duty, and passengers without further hope, were seen in various parts lashing themselves to the rigging, and commending their souls to heaven.
It is always awful to die ; but when perishing in the unvisited solitudes of the deep, while the heavens and the seas are at war with each other, and nature herself seems to encourage the anarchy of her elements, awe is swallowed up in a more subduing horror. It was night, too, and there was a moon in the sky, but a moon that
Wandered darkling in the eternal space
covered and concealed by massy volumes of vapour, which, except when shooting forth sheets of living flame, enveloped the great abyss with impenetrable darkness. The
uproar of the tempest was such as may be recalled by those who have witnessed similar scenes. Thunder that crashed, and rattled, and yelled through the firmament; winds that howled and whistled through the
bleak air ; and billows that put forth their voices in a hoarse, harsh roar-made up the music of the tempest.
A sudden dying away of the wind, and an unaccountable tranquillity-a comparative tranquillity of the waters, filled our souls with transport; and many of us were expressing our joy with loud shouts and congratulations, when a voice, deep and hoarse, but thrillingly distinct, exclaimed among us—The ice islands !".
66 The ice islands! It is not so : it cannot be," replied a dozen trembling voices ; “ It cannot be the ice islands!!
“ It is, it is,” replied the same hoarse, deep voice; 6 and God have mercy on us all!”
A flash of lightning, bright and universal, as if the whole sky were for an instant in a conflagration, revealed our situation to us. Masses of ice—the same that we had, in the evening, gazed upon with such pleasure and admiration (stretched about us to the northwest, rolling and rocking in the waves; and near to us, very near to us, towered a vast and tremendous bulk, like some gigantic mountain, with its citadels and towers, undermined and sent drifting about in the shoreless seas. The flash was but momentary, yet it was sufficient to fill us with horror : and even after complete darkness had been restored the dashing of the billows over these floating desolations, heard above the general roar of the tempest; the grinding and crashing of the fragments, as they struck against each other with a violence, which, on the solid land, would have caused a shock like an earthquake; continued and aggravated our apprehension into a wild, ungovernable horror, little short of madness.
6 We are under its lee !-It is upon us !” shouted a voice that rang like the peal of a trumpet in our ears; and at the same instant another bright and wide spread
flash discovered the tremendous object moving swiftly towards us. As if to increase the horrors of the scene, by blasting our eyes with continued sight of it, the moon, like a wan and haggard ghost, at the same time burst through the clouds; and although the horizon around, on all quarters, still remained in frightful gloom, a circumscribed central spot, embracing within its limits the terrific island and the devoted vessel, now lay in a state of vivid illumination. There came the mighty desolation, its grand cathedral-like summits reflecting and refracting the lunar rays in many a wild and fantastic spectrum, and nodding to the force of the billows that drove it onwards.
I possess but little of that philosophic indifference of death which is found in some men : my fears distracted
I remember nothing of the catastrophe but a loud, clamorous shock; a sinking of the broken deck; a whirling of the watery chaos ; a wild and congregated shriek, so piercing, so horrible, that even the savage waves seemed to restrain their fury for an instant, to listen ; and then I sank insensible among the waters.
I awoke as from a painful and horrid dream, disturbed by something striking with repeated blows upon the back of my head-I lay on my face--and turning sluggishly round, I was startled by the rushing of wings. An albatross, or sea-eagle, or some fowl of the deep, darted with shrill cries before my vision. I put my hand to my head ; it was bleeding and mangled. My limbs were stiff and sore, and in many places severely lacerated.
I rose, and found myself in a hollow or cavern of the ice, the bottom of which was filled with fissures, underneath which I could hear the rumbling and dashing of waves; and fearing lest this frail floor, should give way,
and precipitate me again into the abyss from which I had so providentially and mysteriously escaped, I crawled to the entrance of the cavern.
The sun was up ; the waves were at rest, or rather were rolling onward with a regular and sluggish motion, scarcely sufficient to disturb the equilibrium of my icy float. Other ice bergs were seen at a distance, shining like fire in the sunbeams.
Where were my companions ? I shouted aloud: nothing answered me: the silence of death was on my island.
A harsh scream struck my ear. A bird of prey was hovering in the air a rod or two from me, and occasionally darting swiftly into a hollow of the ice, from which it issued again with wild cries. I approached the spot. Before me lay the corse of a young man, whose good humour and mirth had often, in dull and weary hours, enlivened the spirits of his fellow voyagers. Although his body was dreadfully mangled, and his face contorted and in some measure mutilated by the voracious fowl, I soon recognised him, and for a moment endeavoured to please myself with the thought that he was not wholly dead. This however was soon proved by his glassy and sunken eyes, his motionless heart, and the general rigidity of his limbs.
A black ribbon was hung round his neck; I drew it forth, and discovered the miniature of a beautiful young
I wrapped it, together with his watch and pocket-book, in his neck-cloth, determining, if saved myself, to transmit them to his friends, as mournful mementos of his unhappy end. I then lifted the body in my arms, and approaching a brink of the ice, rolled it into
I would gladly have kept it by me, and made society of it, but a horrid suspicion that famine might before long tempt me to a repast abhorrent to my present