Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Mariner's Memoir

The Mirror Of the Sea (Folio Society)

The Mirror Of the Sea 

"The West Wind keeps faith with his brother, the King of the Easterly weather. "What we have divided we have divided," he seems to say in his gruff voice, this ruler without guile, who hurls as if in sport enormous masses of cloud across the sky, and flings the great waves of the Atlantic clear across from the shores of the New World upon the hoary headlands of Old Europe, which harbours more kings and rulers upon its seamed and furrowed body than all the oceans of the world together. "What we have divided we have divided; and if no rest and peace in this world have fallen to my share, leave me alone. Let me play at quoits with cyclonic gales, flinging the discs of spinning cloud and whirling air from one end of my dismal kingdom to the other: over the Great Banks or along the edges of pack-ice - this one with true aim right into the bight of the Bay of Biscay, that other upon the fiords of Norway, across the North Sea where the fishermen of many nations look watchfully into my angry eye. This is the time of kingly sport."

The Mirror of the Sea is based on a collection of autobiographical essays first published in various magazines 1904-6 .  Early in his life Joseph Conrad earned his keep as a Master Mariner in sailing ships. In his 'Author's Note' to this work, Conrad states,"Beyond the line of the sea horizon the world for me did n not exist .Within these pages I make a full confession not of my sins but of my emotions. It is the best tribute my piety can offer to the ultimate shapers of my character, convictions, and, in a sense, destiny---to the imperishable sea, to the ships that are no more, and to the simple men who have had their day. " 
Conrad's masterful prose reaches poetic heights in these essays.


mudpuddle said...

Conrad is a singular light... "it's seamed and furrowed body" is wonderful... but he does have a tendency to push personification beyond the bulwarks of poetic possibility... sometimes...

James said...

No one pushes personification so wonderfully as Conrad.