Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Storm lines for two hurricanes

A Southerner in exile feels more homesickness when things go very wrong down south than when the days are balmy and fair... There it is fire and sea and the over-heated, looming pause between hurricanes. I remember waking abruptly in the night to the gale pounding like a freight train and the whip-cracks of sundered pines. Here and now it's fine weather, though the leaves are changing; not one will be the same again. I walk home with a child's hand in mine, a tinge of coolness brushing against the skin.

Conrad is grand on storms, but I feel more like Melville this morning.
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Warmer climes but nurse the cruellest fangs; the tiger of Bengal crouches in spiced groves of ceaseless verdue. Skies the most effulgent but basket the deadliest thunders: gorgeous Cuba knows tornadoes that never swept tame northern lands. So, too, it is, that in these resplendent Japanese seas the mariner encounters the direst of storms, the Typhoon. It will sometimes burst from out that cloudless day, like an exploding bomb upon a dazed and sleepy town.

"You see, Mr. Starbuck, a wave has such a great long start before it leaps, all round the world it runs, and then comes the spring! But as for me, all the start I have to meet it, is just across the deck here."

Next morning the not-yet-subsided sea rolled in long slow billows of mighty bulk, and striving in the Pequod's gurgling track, pushed her on like giants' palms outspread. The strong, unstaggering breeze abounded so, that sky and air seemed vast outbellying sails; the whole world boomed before the wind. Muffled in the full morning light, the invisible sun was only known by the spread intensity of his place; where his bayonet rays moved on in stacks. Emblazonings, as of crowned Babylonian kings and queens, reigned over everything. The sea was as a crucible of molten gold, that bubblingly leaps with light and heat.

--from the "rhapsody run mad" (London Spectator, 1851) of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick
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1 comment:

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.