Friday, May 29, 2015

The Flying Dutchmen

Today the Flying Dutchman is still a folklore of the sea. It is fun to read and see what our 19th Century characters read and saw as folklore and fear when traveling at sea. Enjoy this tidbit about the Flying Dutchman. It was written into an Opera in 1843 by Robert Wagner.

THE legend of the Flying Dutchman is the most picturesque and romantic of the many tales current among sailors half-acentury ago. It is also, perhaps, the best-known nautical legend. Novelists have used it as their theme; poets have embellished the tale with their verse; dramatists have familiarized the public with it, and it has been the subject of modern opera. The tale is told with variations in nearly every maritime country, and folklore tales of wonderful spectral and phantom ships are abundant. The usually accepted version of the story is thus given by M. Jal: *"An unbelieving Dutch captain had vainly tried to round Cape Horn against a head-gale. He swore he would do it, and, when the gale increased, laughed at the fears of his crew, smoked his pipe and drank his beer. He threw overboard some of them who tried to make him put into port. The Holy Ghost descended on the vessel, but he fired his pistol at it, and pierced his own hand and paralyzed his arm. He cursed God, and was then condemned by the apparition to navigate always without putting into port, only having gall to drink and red-hot iron to eat, and eternally to watch. He was to be the evil genius of the sea, to torment and punish sailors, the sight of his storm-tossed bark to carry presage of ill fortune to the luckless beholder. He sends white squalls, all disasters, and tempests. Should he visit a ship, wine sours, and all food becomes beans—the sailor's bete noir. Should he bring or send letters, none must touch them, or they are lost. He changes his mien at will, and is seldom seen twice under the same circumstances. His crew are all old sinners of the sea, sailor thieves, cowards, murderers, and such. They eternally toil and suffer, and have little to eat or drink. His ship is the true purgatory of the faithless and idle mariner."
*This is the Phantom Ship, of which Scott sings:
"Or of that Phantom Ship, whose form
Shoots like a meteor through the storm;
When the dark scud comes driving hard,
And lowered is every topsail yard,
And canvas, wove in earthly looms,
No more to brave the storm presumes!
Then, 'mid the war of sea and sky,
Top and topgallant hoisted high,
Full spread and crowded every sail,
The Demon Frigate braves the gale;
And well the doom'd spectators know
The harbinger of wreck and woe."

As the hero is a Dutchman, we should properly refer to Holland for the true version of the tale.
Several authorities give this as follows: "Falkenberg was a nobleman, who murdered his brother and his bride in a fit of passion, and was condemned therefor forever to wander toward the north. On arriving at the seashore, he found awaiting him a boat, with a man in it, who said, 'F.xpectamus te' He entered the boat, attended by his good and his evil spirit, and went on board a spectral bark in the harbor. There he still lingers, while these spirits play dice for his soul. For six hundred years the ship has wandered the seas, and mariners still see her in the German ocean, sailing northward, without helm or helmsman. She is painted gray, has colored sails, a pale flag, and no crew. Flames issue from the masthead at night."

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