All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Last Silver Ship
The air had a strong, salty tang to it as the cool breeze blew across my face, tossing my shoulder-length curls behind me. I should probably cut it soon. The other men on the ship said if I let it get much longer, they’d start calling me Jasmine instead of James.
“This ship is going on a voyage around the world!” Those had been the words that had tempted me to join this ship on its journey, despite my lack of experience with sailing. Usually a sea captain would have laughed in my face and told me to scamper back home to my mother before she missed me. But not too many seasoned sailors were signing up for a dangerous voyage without a guarantee of riches or even a safe return, so the captain was really taking whoever he could get. Besides, he was a nice man, and I think he could tell I really needed this.
Orphanages, workhouses, and even the grimy streets of London had been my home throughout the years of my childhood. I was almost a man now and I had little education, no money, and negative prospects. If I hadn’t been allowed to join this ship, I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done—probably starved in a back alley somewhere near Cheapside. Of course, I could always starve on this ship too, or drown, or die of some illness…
I pondered these lovely thoughts as I watched the sun dip below the horizon, turning the tossing waves a deep red. I glanced over the deck of the ship and caught the eye of an older shipman named Fitzwilliam. He nodded once to me before returning to what he was doing. I smiled slightly with pride. Despite my young age, I had the rest of the crew’s respect. They told me they admired my willingness and determination to not only survive but learn. One had even told me I shouldn’t be here on this ship headed off into the unknown, but that I belonged at one of the colleges back in London with all the learned young gentlemen. Sometimes, when I’m lying in my bunk below deck at night, I wonder if I’d have been able to learn all the things that those boys learn in school: history and different languages and art.... Then I usually sigh, roll over, and go to sleep because the point is that I’m not one of those boys and I didn’t learn all those things. I am James Smith, and I am on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and that’s all.
As the sky turned black and the stars began to pop out like little lanterns, the deck cleared out of crew members until it was just me and one other man left. His name was Peter and I think he was supposed to be keeping an eye on things, but to me he just appeared to be keeping an eye on the back of his eyelids. I chuckled inwardly and turned back to the sea. I’d wake him in a little while, before I went below deck.
I watched the waves roll against the side of the ship, small water droplets occasionally splashing up onto my face. It was soothing, like watching clouds drift overhead. My eyelids felt heavy and they slowly drifted together. I wasn’t falling asleep though. I was still perfectly awake, perfectly aware of my head resting in my palm of my hand as I leaned against the side rail of the ship, perfectly conscious of the crashing waves that seemed to sound more and more distant....
“Na ‘Aear, na ‘Aear! My´l lain nallol, / I sûl ribiel ai falf ‘loss reviol…”
I jerked awake, looking around. What was that? How long had I been asleep? The mom had moved a little overheard, and Peter’s head had fallen back as he snored loudly across the desk. Frowning, I turned back to the sea—and almost jumped out of my skin. There was another ship, not a stone’s throw away! I opened my mouth to shout, but the yell was stuck in my throat. I couldn’t say anything; it felt I’d swallowed a jar of paste or something (I had no trouble breathing, mind you).
My eyes, once they beheld the ship, seemed unable to look away. It was like none I’d ever seen before. The craftsmanship was so delicate- and precise-looking, and even the wood itself seemed foreign, being silver in color. At first, I’d thought it must have been a trick of the moonlight, but as the ship neared I saw that my eyes hadn’t deceived me—the ship was made of silver wood. And as it moved closed, I noticed another thing: there was no wind. The ship’s sail, made of a beautiful, iridescent fabric I’d never seen before, was hanging limply on the mast, much like my ship’s dirty white one. But unlike my ship, this ship was moving, gliding forward as if being rowed by invisible oars. Drifting on the still wind and the ocean waves, I thought I heard a voice coming from the ship, singing…
“Na annûn hae, ias Anor dannol. / Cair vith, cair with, lastal hain canel, / Lamath in-gwaithen; i gwennin no nin? / Gwannathon, gwannathon taur i onnant nin; / An midui orath vin a dennin ianth vin. / Trevedithon ‘aear land erui ciriel. / Falvath enainn lo Mathedfalas dannol, / Lamath vilui vi Tol Gwannen cannen, / Vi Tol Ered, ned Bar-in-Edhili Edain ú-gennir, / Las lais ú-dhannar: dôr en-gwaith nín an-uir!”
The voice singing sounded…almost indescribable. It was the most beautiful voice I had ever heard, but also the saddest. Every line seemed to drip with melancholy. In the back of my mind, I vaguely remembered a tale that one of the older shipmates had told me one night, about these creatures called sirens that lured fishermen to their deaths by singing to them. But I also was fairly sure that he’d said sirens were ladies (kind of) and I didn’t believe this was a lady singing. The voice wasn’t particularly high or deep. I just felt for some reason that it was a man singing.
By now the ship was passing by mine. My mind was screaming for me to go and alert the rest of the crew, but I was glued to the spot. It felt like I was in some kind of trance. As their deck became parallel with mine, I saw that there were only two people above as well. The first was a broad but squat man sitting in a chair. He had a long gray beard, which I could barely see his wrinkled face through. The second man was standing behind the other man’s chair. He was unusually tall and willowy…he reminded me of a tree but more graceful, not as stiff.
The shorter man looked at me first. He observed me with dark, narrowed eyes. Taking a pull from the pipe in his meaty hand, he tilted his head back to look at his companion.
“Ah, you’ve confused the lad,” he chuckled gruffly, his accent unlike any I’d ever heard before. The other didn’t respond, but instead looked at me. His face was neither young nor old. Not as if he was between childhood and old age, but almost as if he had no age at all. Don’t ask me how that’s possible—I don’t know. It’s just the only way I could describe him. Looking into his gray eyes was like looking into the ocean. The depths kept going down and down until I couldn’t see any further, yet I knew there was more that I couldn’t see or understand. It was a look of immense knowledge, of someone who has seen many things. Suddenly, his lips curved into the tiniest of smiles, and a twinkle seemed to flash in the deep depths of those gray irises. Then, those lips parted and he began to sing.
“To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying, / The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying. / West, west away, the round sun is falling. / Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling, / The voices of my people that have gone before me? / I will leave, I will leave the woods that bore me; / For our days are ending and our years failing. / I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing. / Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling, / Sweet are the voice in the Lost Isle calling, / In Eressëa, in Elvenhome that no man can discover, / Where the leaves fall not: land of my people forever!”
“Aye, boy! Wake up!”
My head snapped up and my eyes flashed open.
“Huh, what?” I stammered, wheeling around. Peter was standing beside me, his hand on my shoulder.
“What d’you think yer doing, sleeping ‘gainst that rail?” he asked, furrowing his bushy eyebrows at me. “You could fall in and be drowned and none o’ us would’a been any wiser.”
“I-I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” I sputtered. “I was a’watching this ship—”
“Ship?” he interrupted me. “What ship?
“That ship,” I turned and pointed—but it was gone. “Well…it was there. It was all silver, and it moved without the wind or oars or nothing. There were these two men on board. One was a really short, old man, and he was smoking a pipe. And the other was a tall man who was young…no he wasn’t…but he wasn’t old neither…and he sang a song, but the words made no sense…” I trailed off as his laughter cut into my description.
“I think you’ve been dreaming, boy,” he snorted, patting my shoulder. “Must’ve ate something that’s gone off. You ‘aven’t been drinking the sea water, ‘ave you? That’ll make you see some strange sights, boy.”
“But—” I began, but he’d already turned away.
“Go get to bed,” he called over his shoulder as he walked back across the desk. “You sound like you need a nice, sleep—not by them rails—hah!”
I opened my mouth to respond, but then closed it again. It hadn’t seemed like a dream. It had felt so real! I looked out over the water again. It was black and empty; no mysterious silver ship in sight. Closing my eyes, I tried to remember, but it was disappearing from me like an early morning fog. There had been two man, I think…and a ship…and, and…singing? What were the lines?
“Las lais ú-dhannar: dôr en-gwaith nín an-uir!”
What in the world was that gibberish? I frowned, opening my eyes and staring out into the empty sea. Had it really been just a dream?