Adrift in a Hammock
—I have seen from summer waters the pine grove where I daily swing a hammock. So seen, the recessed shade appears like a true cavern cut into the substance of the sky. The straight gray shafts of the trees that stand at its entrance take the guise of natural pillars, upon which, according to the whim of aerial architecture, rests, now a roof of lapis lazuli tint, now the sober canopy of lessening mist.
Without the trouble of raising sail or plying oar, I may go asea ; yielding to the pleasures concentrated in that word fatal to all utilitarian result,— drift! Here I shall rock at ease, lulled to memory, quit of forethought. I shall hut barely recall what the Natural Historian has told me about the stern character of the pine-tree which bears the weight of my netted boat : how. if the central shaft, which figures as a sort of “ star-y pointing ” steering mast, be lopped away, the tree never rests until it has with long effort raised a lateral branch to fill the vacant post. I shall quickly lose the suggested analogy, — that in this respect the pine-tree has its human fellow in a certain order of centred, sincere, unswervable nature, to whom, befall whatever pain, the guiding motive of the life is but the morn firmly stablished.
My hammock is swung between two stanch, many-wintered pines, tressed along the stem with floating green-gray mosses, and crowned, far above me, with whispering feathery branches. It rocks gently from side to side, as the wind takes it ; and it has also a buoyant motion, wavelike, up and down, in the greater swells that affect simultaneously the elated shafts of the trees which Neptune chose for his own, and which support my frail bark. Looking ont past green shrouds and cordage, I have glimpses of bluest sea, — fragmentary, perspectiveless glimpses that suggest bits of the shell of a robin’s egg dropping down through the branches. Also, through the interstices of trunk and foliage, I see the summer-day clouds moving about the horizon, like whitevestured ministrants in some holy place performing their lustral rites, or
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores.”
The voices of many and various grovehaunting birds come to my ear,—among these the oriole’s, a sweet, thrilling, but scarce perfected flute-note. I try to enter into his mood, his views of life. He, too, affects the hammock, but chooses the elm, and not the pine, for his roof-tree. His criticism, turned upon my nest, would doubtless be, that I did not weave it myself, that it is swung too low, and that it does not serve me for rainy days as well as for fair.
So far I have merely been coasting, hugging the shore of earth, as it were. Let me swing farther out to sea, ploughing some “road of the bold ” away towards the starboard. The ship Argo, as followed in the pages of my beloved mythology, and reconstructed in my childhood’s dreams, sailed no liquid sea, encountered no troublous Symplegades, but, swanlike, steered right on through the great deep of the air, with sublimed white sails for wings ! So, havingclosed my eyes, let me voyage, alternately rising and sinking with the motion of the wind waves, until it shall seem possible to land on some silvery stellar coast, — some friendly region of the Martian seaboard, where they will not be wholly strangers who shall run down to greet the strange craft and its idle supercargo.