The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 202

As he spoke, I became
aware of a dull, sullen glare of red light which streamed down the sides
of the vast chasm where we lay, and threw a fitful brilliancy upon our
deck. Casting my eyes upwards, I beheld a spectacle which froze the
current of my blood. At a terrific height directly above us, and upon
the very verge of the precipitous descent, hovered a gigantic ship of,
perhaps, four thousand tons. Although upreared upon the summit of a wave
more than a hundred times her own altitude, her apparent size exceeded
that of any ship of the line or East Indiaman in existence. Her huge
hull was of a deep dingy black, unrelieved by any of the customary
carvings of a ship. A single row of brass cannon protruded from her open
ports, and dashed from their polished surfaces the fires of innumerable
battle-lanterns, which swung to and fro about her rigging. But what
mainly inspired us with horror and astonishment, was that she bore up
under a press of sail in the very teeth of that supernatural sea, and of
that ungovernable hurricane. When we first discovered her, her bows
were alone to be seen, as she rose slowly from the dim and horrible gulf
beyond her. For a moment of intense terror she paused upon the giddy
pinnacle, as if in contemplation of her own sublimity, then trembled and
tottered, and--came down.

At this instant, I know not what sudden self-possession came over my
spirit. Staggering as far aft as I could, I awaited fearlessly the ruin
that was to overwhelm. Our own vessel was at length ceasing from her
struggles, and sinking with her head to the sea. The shock of the
descending mass struck her, consequently, in that portion of her frame
which was already under water, and the inevitable result was to hurl me,
with irresistible violence, upon the rigging of the stranger.

As I fell, the ship hove in stays, and went about; and to the confusion
ensuing I attributed my escape from the notice of the crew. With little
difficulty I made my way unperceived to the main hatchway, which was
partially open, and soon found an opportunity of secreting myself in the
hold. Why I did so I can hardly tell. An indefinite sense of awe, which
at first sight of the navigators of the ship had taken hold of my mind,
was perhaps the principle of my concealment. I was unwilling to trust
myself with a race of people who had offered, to the cursory glance I
had taken, so many points of

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Page 98
By D.
Page 99
1 vol.