Heinrich Zimmermann, Palatinian wanderer,
has worked as belt maker in the Rhineland,
brazier and gilder in Geneva, bell founder
in Lyons, sword maker in Paris, laborer
in a London sugar refinery. Curious about life
beyond civilization, he has joined the Discovery
as an ordinary seaman. Now, two years later
he is here writing down his observations
near a cove Cook calls "Friendly":
They advanced toward us
in two parties of 40 or 50 canoes
and paddled around the ships,
encircling them three times.
Fearing an attack
we loaded our guns, but at that moment
they struck up a very beautiful song,
beating time with their paddles.
We were greatly astonished
at the exactness of their rhythm
and the charm of their music
in spite of their harsh voices.
In each party there was one member
dressed like a harlequin
in many coloured garments, which he changed
holding different masks before his face
and went through all kinds
of farcical acting.
Somewhere else Mozart is 22,
William Blake is 21, Wordsworth
and Beethoven are 7, Coleridge is 6.
The world is changing. “Bliss was it
in that dawn to be alive,” wrote
Wordsworth a few years later,
“but to be young was very heaven!”
The average age of Cook’s crew is 23.
A ripening of the time, a kind of rose bud of the Romantic sensibility, which was about to bloom in Europe. You know what that was about: identifying yourself as the hero of your own novel: le roman. Romance, in the wider sense of the word. Adventure. Possibility. Having a role in the great narrative of history. Seeing your name in print. |