[Illustration: KAFFIR LETTER-CARRIER.]
It is a singular sight in India to see the catamarans which put off from some parts of the coast, as soon as ships come in sight, either to bear on board or to convey from thence letters or messages. These frail vessels are composed of thin cocoa-tree logs, lashed together, and big enough to carry one, or, at most, two persons. In one of these a small sail is fixed, and the navigator steers with a little paddle; the float itself is almost entirely sunk in the water, so that the effect is very singular—a sail sweeping along the surface with a man behind it, and apparently nothing to support them. Those which have no sails are consequently invisible and the men have the appearance of treading the water and performing evolutions with a racket. In very rough weather the men lash themselves to their little rafts but in ordinary seas they seem, though frequently washed off, to regard such accidents as mere trifles, being naked all but a wax cloth cap in which they keep any letters they may have to convey to ships in the roads, and swimming like fish. Their only danger is from sharks, which are said to abound. These cannot hurt them while on their floats; but woe be to them if they catch them while separated from that defence. Yet, even then, the case is not quite hopeless, since the shark can only attack them from below; and a rapid dive, if not in very deep water, will sometimes save them.
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[Illustration: Letter C.]
Come, gentle Spring, ethereal mildness, come,
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil’d in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend.
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Hail! Source of Being! Universal Soul
Of heaven and earth! Essential Presence, hail;
To Thee I bend the knee; to Thee my thought
Continual climb; who, with a master hand.
Hast the great whole into perfection touch’d.
By Thee the various vegetative tribes,
Wrapt in a filmy net, and clad with leaves,
Draw the live ether, and imbibe the dew:
By Thee disposed into congenial soils,
Stands each attractive plant, and sucks and swells
The juicy tide—a twining mass of tubes.
At thy command the vernal sun awakes
The torpid sap, detruded to the root
By wintry winds, that now in fluent dance,
And lively fermentation, mounting, spreads
All this innumerous-colour’d scene of things.
As rising from the vegetable world
My theme ascends, with equal wing ascend
My panting Muse! And hark! how loud the woods
Invite you forth in all your gayest trim.
Lend me your song, ye nightingales! oh, pour
The mazy running soul of melody
Into my varied verse! while I deduce
From the first note the hollow cuckoo sings,
The symphony of spring, and touch a theme
Unknown to fame, the passion of the groves.