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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
page 3 of 111 (02%)
brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested
unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the
race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a
waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the
venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and
departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And
indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes,
"followed the sea" with reverence and affection, that to evoke the
great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal
current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories
of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles
of the sea. It had known and served all the men of whom the nation is
proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled
and untitled--the great knights-errant of the sea. It had borne all the
ships whose names are like jewels flashing in the night of time, from
the _Golden Hind_ returning with her rotund flanks full of treasure, to be
visited by the Queen's Highness and thus pass out of the gigantic tale,
to the _Erebus_ and _Terror_, bound on other conquests--and that never
returned. It had known the ships and the men. They had sailed from
Deptford, from Greenwich, from Erith--the adventurers and the settlers;
kings' ships and the ships of men on 'Change; captains, admirals, the
dark "interlopers" of the Eastern trade, and the commissioned "generals"
of East India fleets. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all
had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch,
messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the
sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river
into the mystery of an unknown earth! . . . The dreams of men, the seed
of commonwealths, the germs of empires.

The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear