Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Vagaries of the Sea

The appearance of the sea is for ever changing, since it is affected by particular light settings, moment by moment, and because of the variable effects of wind and tide. William Turner, England’s greatest seascape painter, depicted the vagaries of the sea from its most placid, as in 'The Fighting Temeraire', to its most tempestuous, as in 'The Shipwreck'.
Those who sail the seas know through experience that a variety of visual stimuli upon the water is not just brought about by the effects of innumerable permutations of wind, rain, snow, hail, cloud, mist or fog, but by many types of vessels that ply the sea in the course of their business, whether for profit or pleasure. Such changing scenes have been the reward of mariners since primitive man first ventured out to sea in dugout canoes or papyrus rafts, perhaps to fish or travel afar in search of new lands.
Over the centuries man’s industry, intelligence and technological achievements have enabled him to build a huge variety of vessels, some for peaceful purposes, and others for military use, but their presence has affected the mood and character of the mariner's scene.
In John Masefield's poem, 'Cargoes', we find descriptions of three trading vessels from different eras.
QUINQUIREME of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Paintings by William Turner. The Fighting Temeraire. The Shipwreck.

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