convergences Screen 18 | Specifics

Mask.Nootka Sound. Cook Collection

Mask.Nootka Sound. Cook Collection.

    An old Briton of most irascible spirit,
known for his care and vigilance,
        had been fixed upon as boat keeper.
    He had been, nevertheless,
so often outwitted and of course reprimanded
                  for neglect of duty
    that he turned as savage
        as the most savage of the savages
with whom he had perpetual quarrels. At last
    on an attempted theft of a metal fitting
        he resolved to take full vengeance
on the offender, offering him a blow
        with a thick heavy piece of wood,
             but missing him it fell
with such force on the side of the canoe
             as to break it
        down to the water's edge.
                      His antagonist,
        withdrawing the canoe out of reach,
was preparing to return the compliment
        by transfixing him with an arrow,
                  having most deliberately
        drawn it to the head for that purpose,
    when Mr. Phillips, who had that instant
purchased a bow and arrow
             from another savage,
        let fly at the menacer. The arrow,
                  passing close to his ear,
             diverted the savage's attention
                  from the man in the boat,
and seeing the number of his enemies increase,
        he quietly laid down his arms
                  and paddled off in peace.
Such hasty violence
             and fearless independent spirit
    is tempered by the phlegm
                  which enters strongly
         into the disposition of these people.

You think these are the actual thoughts of the men who were at Nootka in 1778? Well, you may be right, though I will give you no assurance as to the accuracy and authenticity of the quotations. It does not matter much to me as long as it all fits into my poem. If Anderson or Trevenen or Burney will fill in the space it will save me the trouble. I cannot say everything. Consider, the question of dreams. If each of these persons had his or her normal four dreams on the night of April 16 then there would have been some 10,000 dreams flowing on the shores of that sound. Too much material by far to deal with here, so let us be more restrictive. Consider the dream of Ocupah as he lies drifting in a canoe about seventy yards from the Discovery. Consider the dream of Corporal Harrison whose back is still scarred from those twenty-four lashes he received for attempting to desert in Otaheite. Consider the dreams of Weeaquat's wife as she murmurs and tosses on a cedar bark mat in her uncle's longhouse at Yuquot. Is William Ellis dreaming of Cooshicala's wolf-face mask? Is he dreaming of heights, the nausea caused by rancid train oil in his stomach expressed as vertigo in his nightmare of falling from the ship's rigging in a storm? What is the significance, from a shamanic point of view, of Williamson's terrifying musket in the third dream of Achenoca? And where are those dreams now?