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Footprints On Sea Shore-by Nathaniel Hawthorne-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Footprints On Sea Shore

Written by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Category:Fiction, Classics, Speculative, Mystery

Page 1:

It must be a spirit much unlike my own, which can keep itself in
health and vigor without sometimes stealing from the sultry sunshine
of the world, to plunge into the cool bath of solitude. At intervals,
and not infrequent ones, the forest and the ocean summon me–one with
the roar of its waves, the other with the murmur of its boughs–forth
from the haunts of men. But I must wander many a mile, ere I could
stand beneath the shadow of even one primeval tree, much less be lost
among the multitude of hoary trunks, and hidden from earth and sky by
the mystery of darksome foliage. Nothing is within my daily reach
more like a forest than the acre or two of woodland near some suburban
farm-house. When, therefore, the yearning for seclusion becomes a
necessity within me, I am drawn to the sea-shore, which extends its
line of rude rocks and seldom-trodden sands, for leagues around our
bay. Setting forth at my last ramble, on a September morning, I
bound myself with a hermit’s vow, to interchange no thoughts with man
or woman, to share no social pleasure, but to derive all that day’s
enjoyment from shore, and sea, and sky,–from my soul’s communion with
these, and from fantasies, and recollections, or anticipated
realities. Surely here is enough to feed a human spirit for a single
day. Farewell, then, busy world! Till your evening lights shall
shine along the street,–till they gleam upon my sea-flushed face, as
I tread homeward,–free me from your ties, and let me be a peaceful

Highways and cross-paths are hastily traversed, and, clambering down a
crag, I find myself at the extremity of a long beach. How gladly does
the spirit leap forth, and suddenly enlarge its sense of being to the
full extent of the broad, blue, sunny deep! A greeting and a homage
to the Sea! I descend over its margin, and dip my hand into the wave
that meets me, and bathe my brow. That far-resounding roar is Ocean’s
voice of welcome. His salt breath brings a blessing along with it.
Now let us pace together–the reader’s fancy arm in arm with mine–
this noble beach, which extends a mile or more from that craggy
promontory to yonder rampart of broken rocks. In front, the sea; in
the rear, a precipitous bank, the grassy verge of which is breaking
away, year after year, and flings down its tufts of verdure upon the
barrenness below. The beach itself is a broad space of sand, brown
and sparkling, with hardly any pebbles intermixed. Near the water’s
edge there is a wet margin, which glistens brightly in the sunshine,
and reflects objects like a mirror; and as we tread along the
glistening border, a dry spot flashes around each footstep, but grows
moist again, as we lift our feet. In some spots, the sand receives a
complete impression of the sole, square toe and all; elsewhere it is
of such marble firmness, that we must stamp heavily to leave a print
even of the iron-shod heel. Along the whole of this extensive beach
gambols the surf wave: now it makes a feint of dashing onward in a
fury, yet dies away with a meek murmur, and does but kiss the strand;
now, after many such abortive efforts, it rears itself up in an
unbroken line, heightening as it advances, without a speck of foam on
its green crest. With how fierce a roar it flings itself forward, and
rushes far up the beach!

As I threw my eyes along the edge of the surf, I remember that I was
startled, as Robinson Crusoe might have been, by the sense that human
life was within the magic circle of my solitude. Afar off in the
remote distance of the beach, appearing like sea-nymphs, or some
airier things, such as might tread upon the feathery spray, was a
group of girls. Hardly had I beheld them, when they passed into the
shadow of the rocks and vanished. To comfort myself–for truly I
would fain have gazed a while longer–I made acquaintance with a flock
of beach birds. These little citizens of the sea and air preceded me
by about a stone’s-throw along the strand, seeking, I suppose, for
food upon its margin. Yet, with a philosophy which mankind would do
well to imitate, they drew a continual pleasure from their toil for a
subsistence. The sea was each little bird’s great playmate. They
chased it downward as it swept back, and again ran up swiftly before
the impending wave, which sometimes overtook them and bore them off
their feet. But they floated as lightly as one of their own feathers
on the breaking crest. In their airy flutterings, they seemed to rest
on the evanescent spray. Their images–longlegged little figures,
with gray backs and snowy bosoms–were seen as distinctly as the
realities in the mirror of the glistening strand. As I advanced, they
flew a score or two of yards, and, again alighting, recommenced their
dalliance with the surf wave; and thus they bore me company along the
beach, the types of pleasant fantasies, till, at its extremity, they
took wing over the ocean, and were gone. After forming a friendship
with these small surf-spirits, it is really worth a sigh, to find no
memorial of them, save their multitudinous little tracks in the sand.

When we have paced the length of the beach, it is pleasant, and not
unprofitable, to retrace our steps, and recall the whole mood and
occupation of the mind during the former passage. Our tracks, being
all discernible, will guide us with an observing consciousness through
every unconscious wandering of thought and fancy. Here we followed
the surf in its reflux, to pick up a shell which the sea seemed loath
to relinquish. Here we found a sea-weed, with an immense brown leaf,
and trailed it behind us by its long snake-like stalk. Here we seized
a live horseshoe by the tail, and counted the many claws of the queer
monster. Here we dug into the sand for pebbles, and skipped them upon
the surface of the water. Here we wet our feet while examining a
jelly-fish, which the waves, having just tossed it up, now sought to
snatch away again. Here we trod along the brink of a fresh-water
brooklet, which flows across the beach, becoming shallower and more
shallow, till at last it sinks into the sand, and perishes in the
effort to bear its little tribute to the main. Here some vagary
appears to have bewildered us; for our tracks go round and round, and
are confusedly intermingled, as if we had found a labyrinth upon the
level beach. And here, amid our idle pastime, we sat down upon almost
the only stone that breaks the surface of the sand, and were lost in
an unlooked-for and overpowering conception of the majesty and
awfulness of the great deep. Thus, by tracking our footprints in the
sand, we track our own nature in its wayward course, and steal a
glance upon it, when it never dreams of being so observed. Such
glances always make us wiser.

This extensive beach affords room for another pleasant pastime. With
your staff you may write verses–love-verses, if they please you best
–and consecrate them with a woman’s name. Here, too, may be inscribed
thoughts, feelings, desires, warm out-gushings from the heart’s secret
places, which you would not pour upon the sand without the certainty
that, almost ere the sky has looked upon them, the sea will wash them
out. Stir not hence till the record be effaced. Now–for there is
room enough on your canvas–draw huge faces,–huge as that of the
Sphinx on Egyptian sands,–and fit them with bodies of corresponding
immensity, and legs which might stride half-way to yonder island.
Child’s play becomes magnificent on so grand a scale. But, after all,
the most fascinating employment is simply to write your name in the
sand. Draw the letters gigantic, so that two strides may barely
measure them, and three for the long strokes! Cut deep, that the
record may be permanent! Statesmen, and warriors, and poets have
spent their strength in no better cause than this. Is it
accomplished? Return, then, in an hour or two, and seek for this
mighty record of a name. The sea will have swept over it, even as
time rolls its effacing waves over the names of statesmen, and
warriors, and poets. Hark, the surf wave laughs at you!

Passing from the beach, I begin to clamber over the crags, making my
difficult way among the ruins of a rampart, shattered and broken by
the assaults of a fierce enemy. The rocks rise in every variety of
attitude; some of them have their feet in the foam, and are shagged
half-way upward with sea-weed; some have been hollowed almost into
caverns by the unwearied toil of the sea, which can afford to spend
centuries in wearing away a rock, or even polishing a pebble. One
huge rock ascends in monumental shape, with a face like a giant’s
tombstone, on which the veins resemble inscriptions, but in an unknown
tongue. We will fancy them the forgotten characters of an
antediluvian race; or else that Nature’s own hand has here recorded a
mystery, which, could I read her language, would make mankind the
wiser and the happier. How many a thing has troubled me with that
same idea! Pass on, and leave it unexplained. Here is a narrow
avenue, which might seem to have been hewn through the very heart of
an enormous crag, affording passage for the rising sea to thunder back
and forth, filling it with tumultuous foam, and then leaving its floor
of black pebbles bare and glistening. In this chasm there was once an
intersecting vein of softer stone, which the waves have gnawed away
piecemeal, while the granite walls remain entire on either side. How
sharply, and with what harsh clamor, does the sea rake hack the
pebbles, as it momentarily withdraws into its own depths! At
intervals, the floor of the chasm is left nearly dry; but anon, at the
outlet, two or three great waves are seen struggling to get in at
once; two hit the walls athwart, while one rushes straight through,
and all three thunder, as if with rage and triumph. They heap the
chasm with a snow-drift of foam and spray. While watching this scene,
I can never rid myself of the idea that a monster, endowed with life
and fierce energy, is striving to burst his way through the narrow
pass. And what a contrast, to look through the stormy chasm, and
catch a glimpse of the calm bright sea beyond!

Filed in: Classics, Fiction, Mystery, Speculative

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