+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

light of the red beacon, these Norfolk seas are
literally coagulated with herrings, and the nets
bring them up in tumbling heaps of loose and
spangled silver. A single Yarmouth boat has
been known to bring in from twelve to
sixteen lasts, each last being ten barrels, or ten
thousand herrings!

Oak-logs, the crow is informed, are used to
smoke the best herrings; but the Birmingham
bloater being of a lower caste is seasoned
by hazel wood and fir loppings. A smoke
house, half malt-kiln, half "oast" house, is
a large oblong tower, forty or fifty feet high,
without floors. Above are transverse
compartments divided by partitions of horizontal rails.
In these open racks or "loves" lie the laths
or " speets." The herring, arriving by cart from
the beach to fulfil his destiny for the good of
a higher species, is first thrown with his fellows
into a brick recess, sprinkled with salt, and
left for several days. The duration of the
vaporous purgatory depends on the destination
of the fish. If he be a Belgravian bloater, a
bloated aristocrat, he merely hangs twenty-
four hours until he begins to swell with self-
importance, and is prepared for packing; if a
"Straits man" for the Mediterranean ports, he
lingers longer; if he be a mere black herring,
for the chandlers, or the tally shop, he serves
his full ten days, and emerges hard, dark, and
salt. On emerging from their bath the herrings
are run through the gills by gangs of skilful
women called "ryvers," who "speet" them on
long sticks; eight women speeting eight lasts
of herrings (thirteen thousand two hundred
herrings to a last) in a day. For each last the
women get three shillings and ninepence. The
speets are then placed by climbing men on the
loves, tier by tier, until the smoke-house is
full. The fire is then lighted, the oil begins
to distil, and the herrings slowly turn yellow,
dusky orange, dingy red, or black, according
to the duration of the smoking. "Last scene
of all that ends this strange eventful history,"
comes the packer, who removes the speets, and
strips the fish into the barrels in the radiating
order in which they are to lie, until each barrel
has its regulated seven hundred and fifty
(thirteen dozen to the hundred).

The scenes on the old jetty when the
mackerel boats are coming in and the fish
auctions are beginning, are very picturesque.
This moment there is nothing visible but a few
bald flag-staves marking the auction stands,
tangles of straw, piles of madder-coloured nets,
heaps of baskets and empty oily tubs, some old
mermaids in blue aprons, and some old fishermen
in oilskin dreadnaughts and long boots.
Some tan-coloured sails lop round in sight.
Instantly the jetty comes to life. The ferry
boats mounted with iron skates are shoved down
to the water and warped out; the tubs are
also rolled down and got ready. The boats
come in, crowded with mackerel baskets. The
nautical women gather round the auctioneer,
who stands with a red book in one hand, and
a bell in the other. He rings the bell, and
announces, with true Saxon brevity: "Here I
have so many hundred and so many quarters
at so much a hundred." The baskets are
instantly emptied into tubs half full of water,
and the women wash and pack the perishable
fish in layers (sixty mackerel to a basket), six
score to the hundred, the largest fish on the
top. Straw is spread over the fish, down go
the lids of the baskets, scaly hands tie the
reddened strings, scaly hands lift the loads into
quick railway carts, and off they fly to
expectant London and hungry Birmingham.

But the editorial trumpet sounds, and the
crow must strike off towards Cromer and the
northern part of the North Sea: first recalling
that on this dangerous north shore, brave
Captain Manby, in 1808, tested his apparatus
for saving the crews of stranded ships by
throwing them a line attached to a shot from a
mortar. By night, fireworks are used with this
apparatus, which burst at the height of three
hundred yards, and diffuse a clear light over
every object, so that the aim can be properly
directed. In twenty years the Manby system
saved fifty-eight vessels, and four hundred and
ten human beings. Turner, never tired of the
sea, painted a fine grave picture of the
Yarmouth sands at twilight, with the Manby mortar
just discharging its shell.

Swift now on the wing over the Denes broad
green levels, with dull patches here and there
of loose sand, sprinkled with selfheal, stone-
crop, and sand-wort. Poising over the Nelson
Column, our black friend, who needs no stair-
cases, no towers along the steep, catches at one
glance of his intelligent eye, miles of the flat
level across Breyden water, along the Yare, and
sees from Gorleston heights to the Suffolk cliffs,
stretching towards Lowestoft. Yarmouth way
lies the great sapphire pavement of the sea,
speckled with flocks of brown fishing-boats.
He sees, too, the light-ships marking the
entrance, and a tossing line of froth where the
shoals begin, as he looks towards Amsterdam.



MY life is as a weary bridge of sighs,
"A palace and a prison on each hand;"
But I have left my youth's bright palaces,
And passed the portals of love's fairy land,
And entered on that dark and dreary path
Which every earth-born traveller must tread,
Wherein the soul no joy or solace hath,
No refuge from its anguish or its dread,
Save in that prison-house the grave.
Regret, remorse, for time misspent and gone,
Jailors, whose cruelty I dare not brave,
Walk at my side, and goad me sternly on.
While through the arches moan continually
The stranded wrecks of life's fast ebbing sea.


Oh, say not thus; thy life is as a stair,
Of which the first steps lean upon the earth;
With each ascent you rise to purer air:
Below are clouds; above the stars have birth.
Though fair and sunny Earth's alluring bowers,
Break through her dear enchantments and pursue
Thy path right onward; all those fruits and flowers
O'er which thou treadest now shall bloom anew,
And live eternal through eternal hours!
And as you higher climb, and from your view