Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 387 pages of information about Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849.
summits of Samothracia.  In the distance appeared Mount Ida, and at its foot lay stretched the plains of Troy, o’er which the ‘gulfy Simois’ wanders still as it did of old.  There is Cape Sigaeum, and on it the tomb of Patroclus, round which Achilles dragged the godlike Hector’s corpse; there, too, the ashes of Achilles repose near those of his friend; and a little further north, on the Rhoetian promontory, is the tomb of ‘mighty Ajax.’  Homer, Euripides, and Virgil have, it is true, a very small share in the studies of a youthful sailor, as they do not form an essential ingredient of a nautical education; but an English gentleman, although his head be crammed with mathematics and equations, always contrives to pick up enough of classic lore to enable him thoroughly to enjoy such a scene as that we have attempted to describe.  He is much to be pitied who cannot appreciate such enjoyment; but in these days, when the schoolmaster is aboard, and when, by the wise liberality of the Government, our ships are furnished with useful and interesting books, none need of necessity be deprived of the exquisite pleasure which is to be derived from visiting scenes which have been ’dignified either by wisdom, bravery, or virtue.’  We are constantly reminded that ‘knowledge is power;’ but it might be well to impress upon youngsters, that ’knowledge is enjoyment.’  There is, indeed, no acquirement in literature or science that will not at some time or other be productive of real pleasure.

We have lingered on this subject longer than we should have done, for we must now relate how soon the tranquillity of that fair scene was disturbed—­how for a time another light, redder and fiercer than that of the moon, shone on the blue waters of the Hellespont.

Soon after nine o’clock P.M., Captain Blackwood had received from his first lieutenant the report of the safety of the Ajax, and all, except the officers and men who were on duty, had retired to their berths.  A very short time, however, had elapsed, before the stillness of the night was broken by the appalling cry of ‘Fire!’ It must be a fearful sound to hear—­the cry of ‘Fire!’ as awful as the voice of him who

    Drew Priam’s curtain in the dead of night,
    And would have told him half his Troy was burned.

The officer of the watch instantly informed Captain Blackwood of the alarm.  He hastened upon deck, and found too surely that flames were bursting from the after-part.  He gave orders to beat to quarters—­to fire the guns as signals of distress, and directed Lieutenant Wood and a midshipman to proceed in one of the boats to all the ships of the squadron to request assistance.

These orders were promptly given, and promptly obeyed; but who can enter fully into the feelings of Captain Blackwood at that awfully critical moment.  Here was his ship and six hundred men threatened with immediate destruction, and each one of that six hundred looked to him for direction and guidance.

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Narratives of Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy; between 1793 and 1849 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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