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OnTheShore

From Chapter Eight of Post Captain, a novel by Patrick O'Brian, a surrealistic image as Dr. Stephen Maturin walks alone on the beach:

So he paced this strange, absolute and silent landscape of firm damp sand with rivulets running to its edges and the lapping sea, eating bread with one hand and cold beef with the other. He was so low to the sea that Deal and its coast were out of sight; he was surrounded by an unbroken disc of quiet grey sea, and even the boat, which lay off an inlet at the far rim of the sand, seemed a great way off, or rather upon another plane. Sand stretched before him, gently undulating, with here and there the black half-buried carcasses of wrecks, some massive, others ribbed skeletons, in a kind of order whose sense escaped him, but which he might seize, he thought, if only his mind would make a certain shift, as simple as starting the alphabet at X — simple, if only he could catch the first clue. A different air, a different light, a sense of overwhelming permanence and therefore a different time; it was not at all unlike a certain laudanum-state. Wave ripples on the sand: the traces of annelids, solens, clams: a distant flight of dunlins, close-packed, flying fast, all wheeling together and changing colour as they wheeled.

His domain grew larger with the ebbing of the tide; fresh sandpits appeared, stretching far, far away to the north under the cold even light; islands joined one another, gleaming water disappeared, and only on the far rim of his world was there the least noise — the lap of small waves, and the remote screams of gulls.

It grew smaller, insensibly diminishing grain by grain; everywhere there was a secret drawing-in, apparent only in the widening channels between the sandbanks, where the water was now running frankly from the sea.

(cf. MasterAndCommander (4 Mar 2005), PostCaptain (12 Oct 2006), ...)


TopicLiterature - TopicPoetry - Datetag20061107


(correlates: PostCaptain, ExtremeClarity, 13 Comments on Migraine Visions, ...)