At Sea

Imagine a man all alone in a rowboat out at sea. He left at dusk, and soon it is dark. There’s a moon out, and the waves are lit with silvery moonlight.

The sea has a greenish-black tint to it; otherwise it is unseen and empty, a vast heaving thing that tosses about his boat. The sea is monstrous, everlasting, and impersonal — and yet it laps and bucks and tosses at his side at every moment, like a dog looking for attention. So unfeeling, so incomparably large, and yet so insistent, so troubled and petty.

Waves break on the frail wooden bows of the little rowboat. (Ah but back at the docks those oaken rails seemed so solid!) Cold water, salten, biting, cutting. Crystals of drying salt, drying even in the freezing night air, chafing skin and soul alike.

There were paddles at some point but now the paddles are gone. Or are they? No matter, they’re useless anyway. Ropy, feeble, wiry or strong, the arms of a man are nothing against the patient maw of the tossing sea.

Against that cold, that lapping, that certainty of freezing starvation drowning… a star in the sky.

The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep and untroubled sleep.


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