Even the sailors lose the vivacity of the first of the voyage. The first two or three days we had their quaint and half-doleful singing in chorus as they pulled at the ropes: now they are satisfied with short ha-ho’s, and uncadenced grunts. It used to be that the leader sang, in ever-varying lines of nonsense, and the chorus struck in with fine effect, like this:
“I wish I was in Liverpool town.
Handy-pan, handy O!
O captain! where ’d you ship your crew
Handy-pan, handy O!
Oh! pull away, my bully crew,
Handy-pan, handy O!”
There are verses enough of this sort to reach across the Atlantic; and they are not the worst thing about it either, or the most tedious. One learns to respect this ocean, but not to love it; and he leaves it with mingled feelings about Columbus.
And now, having crossed it,—a fact that cannot be concealed,—let us not be under the misapprehension that we are set to any task other than that of sauntering where it pleases us.
SURFACE CONTRASTS OF PARIS AND LONDON
I wonder if it is the Channel? Almost everything is laid to the Channel: it has no friends. The sailors call it the nastiest bit of water in the world. All travelers anathematize it. I have now crossed it three times in different places, by long routes and short ones, and have always found it as comfortable as any sailing anywhere, sailing being one of the most tedious and disagreeable inventions of a fallen race. But such is not the usual experience: most people would make great sacrifices to avoid the hour and three quarters in one of those loathsome little Channel boats,—they always call them loathsome, though I did n’t see but they are as good as any boats. I have never found any boat that hasn’t a detestable habit of bobbing round. The Channel is hated: and no one who has much to do with it is surprised at the projects for bridging it and for boring a hole under it; though I have scarcely ever met an Englishman who wants either done,—he does not desire any more facile communication with the French than now exists. The traditional hatred may not be so strong as it was, but it is hard to say on which side is the most ignorance and contempt of the other.
It must be the Channel: that is enough to produce a physical disagreement even between the two coasts; and there cannot be a greater contrast in the cultivated world than between the two lands lying so close to each other; and the contrast of their capitals is even more decided,—I was about to say rival capitals, but they have not enough in common to make them rivals. I have lately been over to London for a week, going by the Dieppe and New Haven route at night, and returning by another; and the contrasts I speak of were impressed upon me anew. Everything here in and about Paris was in the green and bloom