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“After icebergs!” exclaims a prudent, but imaginary person, as I pencil the title on the front leaf of my note-book.

“Why, after deer and trout among the Adirondack Mountains with John Cheeney, the Leather-stocking of those wilds, who kills his moose and panther with a pistol; or after salmon on the Jaques Cartier and Saguenay, is thought to be quite enough for your summer tourist.

“After buffalo is almost too much for any not at home in the great unfenced, Uncle Sam’s continental parks, where he pastures his herds, and waters them in the Platte and Colorado, and walls out the Pacific with the Rocky Mountains. He is rather a fast hunter who indulges in the chase in those fair fields. It is no boy’s play to commit yourself to mule and horse, the yawls of the prairie, riding yourself sore and thirsty over the gracefully rolling, never-breaking swells, the green seas sparkling with dewy flowers, but never coming ashore. The ocean done up in solid land is weary voyaging to one whose youthful footsteps were over the fields, to the sound of sabbath bells.

“After ostriches, with the ship of the desert, although rather a hot chase for John and Jonathan over broad sands, yellow with the sunshine of centuries, and the bird speeding on legs swift as the spokes of the rapid wheels, is, nevertheless, a pleasure enjoyed now and then.

“But after icebergs is certainly a cool, if not a novel and perilous adventure. A few climb to the ices of the Andes; but after the ices of Greenland, except by leave of government or your merchant prince, is entirely another thing.

“You will do well to recollect, that nature works in other ways in the high north than in the high Cordilleras and Alps, and especially in the latter, where she carefully slides her mer-de-glace into the warm valley, and gently melts it off, letting it run merrily and freely to the sea, every crystal fetter broken into silvery foam. But in Greenland she heaves her mile-wide glacier, in all its flinty hardness, into the great deep bodily, and sends it, both a glory and a terror, to flourish or perish as the currents of the solemn main move it to wintry or to summer climes. After icebergs! Weigh well the perils and the pleasures of this new summer hunting.”

“We have weighed them, I confess, not very carefully; only ‘hefting’ them a little, just enough to help us to a guess that both are somewhat heavier than the ordinary delights and dangers of sporting nearer home. But, Prudens, my good friend, consider the ancient saw, ‘Nothing venture nothing have.’ Not in the least weary of the old, we would yet have something new, altogether new. You shall seek the beauties of scales and of plumage, and the graces of motion and the wild music of voices, among the creatures of the brooks and woodlands. Our game, for once, is the wandering alp of the waves; our wilderness, the ocean; our steed, the winged vessel; our arms, the pencil and the pen; our game-bags, the portfolio, painting-box, and note-book, all harmless instruments, you perceive, with mild report. It is seldom that they are heard at any distance, although, at intervals, the sound has gone out as far as the guns of the battle-field.

January 28
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria