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

Were child's play to confront, compared with this.
Inch by inch famine in the silent frost
The cold anatomies of our dear friends,
One by one carried in their rigid sheets
To lay beneath the snowtill he that's last,
Creeps to the lonely horror of his berth
Within the vacant ship, and while the bears
Grope round and round, thinks of his distant home
Those dearest to himglancing rapidly
Through his past lifethen with a wailful sigh
And a brief prayer, his soul becomes a blank.

1st Man. This is despairI'll hear no more of it.
We have provisions still.

2nd Man. And for how long?

1st Man. A flock of wild birds may pass over us,
And some our shots may reach.

2nd Man. And by this chance
Find food for one day more.

1st Man. Yes, and thank God;
For the next day may preservation come,
And rescue from old England.

2nd. Man. All our fuel
Is nearly gone; and as the last log burns
And falls in ashes, so may we foresee
The frozen circle sitting round.

1st Man. Nay, nay
Our boats, loose spars, our masts, and half our decks
Must serve us ere that pass. But, if indeed
Nothing avail, and no help penetrate
To this remote place, inaccessible
Perchance for years, except to some wild bird
We came here knowing all this might befal,
And set our lives at stake. God's will be done.
I, too, have felt the horrors of our fate:
Jammed in a moving field of solid ice,
Borne onward day and night we knew not where,
Till the loud cracking sounds reverberating
Far distant, were soon followed by the rending
Of the vast pack, whose heaving blocks and wedges,
Like crags broke loose, all rose to our destruction
As by some ghastly instinct. Then the hand
Of winter smote the all-congealing air,
And with its freezing tempest piled on high
These massy fragments which environ us:—
Cathedrals many-spired, by lightning riven
Sharp-angled chaos-heaps of palaced cities,
With splintered pyramids, and broken towers
That yawn for ever at the bursting moon
And her four pallid flame-spouts. Now, appalled
By the long roar o' the cloud-like avalanche
Now, by the stealthy creeping of the glaciers
In silence tow'rds our frozen ships. So Death
Hath often whispered to me in the night;
And I have seen him in the Aurora-gleam
Smile as I rose and came upon the deck;
Or when the icicle's prismatic glance
Bright, flashing,—and then, colourless, unmoved ice
Emblem'd our passing life, and its cold end.
Oh, friend in many perils, fail not now!
Am I not, e'en as thou art, utterly sick
Of my own heavy heart, and loading clothes?—
A mindthat in its firmest hour hath fits
Of madness for some change, that shoot across
Its steadfastness, and scarce are trampled down.
Yet, friend, I will not let my spirit sink,
Nor shall mine eyes, e'en with snow-blindness veiled,
Man's great prerogative of inward sight
Forego, nor cease therein to speculate
On England's feeling for her countrymen;
Whereof relief will some day surely come.

2nd. Man. I well believe it; but perhaps too
late.

1st. Man. Then, if too late, one noble task remains,
And one consoling thought. We, to the last,
With firmness, order, and considerate care,
Will act as though our death-beds were at home,
Grey heads with honour sinking to the tomb;
So future times shall record bear that we,
Imprisoned in these frozen horrors, held
Our sense of duty, both to man and God.

The muffled beat of the ship's bell sounds for evening prayers.
The two men return: they ascend the steps in the snow
then the ladderand disappear beneath the snow-covered
housing of the deck.

A CORONER'S INQUEST.

IF there appeared a paragraph in the
newspapers, stating that her Majesty's
representative, the Lord Chief Justice of the
Queen's Bench, had held a solemn Court in the
parlour of the 'Elephant and Tooth-pick,' the
reader would rightly conceive that the Crown
and dignity of our Sovereign Lady had suffered
some derogation. Yet an equal abasement
daily takes place without exciting especial
wonder. The subordinates of the Lord Chief
Justice of the Queen's Bench (who is, by an
old law, the Premier Coroner of all England)
habitually preside at houses of public entertainment;
yet they are no less delegates of Royalty
as the name of their office implies *—than
the ermined dignitary himself, when
surrounded with all the pomp and circumstance
of the law's majesty at Westminster. This
is quite characteristic of our thoroughly
commercial nation. An action about a money-debt
is tried in an imposing manner in a spacious
edifice, and with only too great an excess of
formality; but for an inquest into the sacrifice
of a mere human life, ' the worst inn's
worst room ' is deemed good enough. In
order rightly to determine whether Jones
owes Smith five pounds ten, the Goddess of
Justice is surrounded with the most imposing
insignia, and worshipped in an appropriate
temple: but when she is invoked to decide
why a human spirit,

        ' Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd,
        No reckoning made, is sent to its account
        With all its imperfections on its head;'

she is thrust into the ' Hole in the Wall,'
the 'Bag o' Nails,' or the parlour of the
' Two Spies.'

* It is derived from a coronâ (from the crown), because
the coroner, says Coke, " hath conusance in some pleas
which are called placita coronœ."

Desirous of having aural and ocular
demonstration of the curious manner in which
the office of Coroner is now fulfilled, we were
attracted, a few weeks since, to the Old Drury
Tavern, in Vinegar-yard, Drury-lane. Having
made our way to a small parlour, we
perceived the Majesty of England, as personated