29 December 2020: Well, the end is in sight! The end of 2020, that is. While the year for most of us has been certainly less than inspirational, we have had the opportunity to get closer to our house mates, more distant from our friends, and more depressed over the constant stream of bad news! We have pretty much turned off the steady flow of "horrible, dreadful, shocking" mass media news blaring from the television and radio. Who needs it?! As long as the liquor cabinet is properly stocked (I have noticed I spend more time at the liquor store than I used to!) we can survive this. And here's hoping 2021 gets brighter!
This Robert Louis Stevenson poem, titled "Christmas at Sea" is a favorite of ours, and has been posted in this site before. We have always received very favorable feedback on it and so, we bring this to you to close out the year.
CHRISTMAS AT SEA
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.
They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day’
But ‘twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave
her the main tops’l, and stood by to go about.
All day we tacked and tacked between the South head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day was cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
life and nature we tacked from head to head.
We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made brought the North Head close aboard.
So’s we saw the cliff and houses and the breakers running high,
coastguard in his garden, with this glass against his eye.
The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every longshore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we
smelled the victuals as the vessel went about.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all the days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.
O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.
And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here
and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.
They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
“All hands to loose t’gallant sails,” I heard the captain call.
“By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,” our first mate, Jackson, cried.
way or the other, Mr. Jackson,” he replied.
She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood;
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
the weary headland, and passed below the light.
And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.
It is possible that some of you eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that the image above is of the U.S. Frigate Constitution. It is indeed and for a good reason: on this date, 29 December, the (now) American Ship of State met, fought and defeated the second of five British men of war off the coast of Brazil in 1812 during the War of 1812. So in her honor, we posted the image.
As this will be the final post of 2020, we here at Maritime Maunder want to wish all of our readers a wonderful new year and offer the hope that it will be a significant improvement over the year ending.
Until next year, then,