Monday, April 16, 2012

Melville's Ships: On the names of ships

By the way, this self same appellative Pandora, has been bestowed upon vessels. There was a British ship by that name, dispatched in quest of the mutineers from the Bounty. But any old tar might have prophesied her fate. Bound home she was wrecked on a reef off New South Wales. Pandora indeed! A pretty name for a ship: fairly smiting Fate in the face. But in this matter of christening ships of war, Christian nations are but too apt to be dare-devils. Witness the following: British names all: - The Conqueror, the Defiance, the Revenge, the Spitfire, the Dreadnought, the Thunderer, and the Tremendous, not omitting the Etna, which in the Roads of Corfu, was struck by lightning, coming nigh almost being consumed by fire from above. but almost potent as Moses' rod, Franklin's proved her salvation.

With the above catalogue, compare we the Frenchman's: quite characteristic of the aspirations of Monsieur: - The Destiny, the Glorious, the Magnanimous, the Magnificent, the Conqueror, the Triumphant, the Indomitable, the Intrepid, the Mont-Blanc. Lastly, the Dons, who have ransacked the theology of the religion for fine names for their fighting ships: stopping not at the designating one of their three deckers,  the Most Holy Trinity. But though at Trafalgar, the Santissima Trinidada thundered like Sinai, her thunders were silenced by the victorious cannonade of the Victory. 

And without being blown into splinters by artillery, how many of these Redoubtable and Invincibles have succumbed to the waves, and like braggarts gone down before hurricanes, with their bravadoes broad on their bows. Much better the American names (barring Scorpions, Hornets and Wasps)Ohio, Virgina, Carolina, Vermont. and if ever these Yankees fight great sea engagements - which heaven forefend! - how glorious, poetically speaking, to range up the whole federated fleet and pour forth a broadside from Florida to Maine! Ay, ay, very glorious indeed! Yet in that proud crowing of cannon, how shall the shade of peace-loving Penn be astounded, to see the mightiest murderer of them all, the great Pennsylvania, a very namesake of his. Truly the Pennsylvanian's guns should be the wooden ones, called by men-of-war's men Quakers. 

But all this is an episode, made up of digressions. time to tack ship and return...

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