Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Memory of Last Island


Excerpted from A Memory of Last Island, by Lafcadio Hearn (1850 - 1904), first published in 1889
Day breaks through the flying wrack, over the infinite heaving of the sea, over the low land made vast with desolation. It is a spectral dawn: a wan light, like the light of a dying sun.

The wind has waned and veered; the flood sinks slowly back to its abysses--abandoning its plunder -- scattering its piteous waifs over bar and dune, over shoal and marsh, among the silences of the mango-swamps, over the long low reaches of sand-grasses and drowned weeds, for more than a hundred miles. From the shell-reefs of Pointe-au-Fer to the shallows of Pelto Bay the dead lie mingled with the high-heaped drift; from their cypress groves the vultures rise to dispute a share of the feast with the shrieking frigate-birds and squeaking gulls. And as the tremendous tide withdraws its plunging waters, all the pirates of air follow the great white-gleaming retreat: a storm of billowing wings and screaming throats.

And swift in the wake of gull and frigate-bird the Wreckers come, the Spoilers of the dead, savage skimmers of the sea, hurricane-riders wont to spread their canvas-pinions in the face of storms; * * * smugglers by opportunity -- wild channel-finders from obscure bayous and unfamiliar chenieres, all skilled in the mysteries of these mysterious waters beyond the comprehension of the oldest licensed pilot ... .

There is plunder for all -- birds and men. There are drowned sheep in multitude, heaped carcasses of kine. There are casks of claret and kegs of brandy and legions of bottles bobbing in the surf. There are billiard-tables overturned upon the land;--there are sofas, pianos, footstools and music-stools, luxurious chairs, lounges of bamboo. There are chests of cedar, and toilet-tables of rosewood, and trunks of fine stamped leather stored with precious apparel. There are objets de luxe innumerable. There are children's playthings: French dolls in marvellous toilets, and toy carts, and wooden horses * * * There is money in notes and in coin -- in purses, in pocketbooks, and in pockets: plenty of it! There are silks, satins, laces, and fine linen to be stripped from the bodies of the drowned, -- and necklaces, bracelets, watches, finger-rings and fine chains, brooches and trinkets ...

* * *
... Suddenly a long, mighty silver trilling fills the ears of all: there is a wild hurrying and scurrying; swiftly, one after another, the overburdened luggers spread wings and flutter away.

Thrice the great cry rings rippling through the gray air, and over the green sea, and over the far-flooded shell-reefs, where the huge white flashes are,--sheet-lightning of breakers,--and over the weird wash of corpses coming in.

It is the steam-call of the relief-boat, hastening to rescue the living, to gather in the dead.

The tremendous tragedy is over!

1 comment:

James White said...

Can you please tell me how to post
directly to the Peansacola Beach BLOG- not just as a comment- or is
it not open for everyone?

My email is netricsLLC@yahoo.com

Sorry for any inconvenience!

James