A desire to take to sea


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I caught this passage read out on Radio 4 but forget why if for whom – but the inclination of a troubled soul to set ou on their travels. I feel the same whenever I am by the sea – airports do the same, Gare de Nords and now St.Pancras International – but never bus stations.

‘Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship’.

Herman Melville, (1851) Moby Dick, opening lines.

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