Wednesday, 2 May 2012


More from George Shelvocke's A Voyage round the World by the way of the great South Sea, performed in the years 1719, 20, 21, 22 (1726). I find myself wondering if Robert Browning read this book. It's not in The Browning Collections; but that doesn't mean he necessarily, didn't read it, of course; and there's evidence in the Collections that he liked this sort of thing (for instance, A67: George Anson, Voyage Round the World in the Years 1740-44 [1748]). The reason I wonder is that this description:
On January 19, in the evening, we got safe in between Maritato and the Island of Sebaco, and anchor'd in 6 fathom water, over-against a green field, which is instruction sufficient, there being but that clear spot hereabouts. Our Pilot desir'd we might be going at least 3 hours before day-light, and that then we should be in good time at the plantations; accordingly I went away at the next morning, in our own boat, and order'd the two Lieutenants in the two Piraguas, leaving my Son, and a few with him, to take care, of the ship; our Pilot having us in charge carried us up some part of the river of St. Martin, and out of that into several branches of very narrow Creeks amongst Mangroves, where we had not room to row. I could by no means approve of this navigation, and therefore kept a strict eye upon our guide, and was ready to suspect that he had no good design in his head; we landed just at day-break, and when we came on the bank found ourselves in a fine Savanna, or plain, and after a march of about 3 miles, came to two farm-houses, but those belonging to them made their escapes, except the Wife and Children of one house. [Shelvocke, 299-300]
puts me in mind of this:
The gray sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain's rim;
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.

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