Text - "Heart of Darkness" Joseph Conrad

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He was the only man of us who still "followed the sea." The worst that
could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a
seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may
so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home
order, and their home is always with them--the ship; and so is their
country--the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is
always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign
shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past,
veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance;
for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself,
which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny.
For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree
on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent,
and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen
have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the
shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity
to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not
inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it
out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these
misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination
of moonshine.

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow.
It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and
presently he said, very slow--"I was thinking of very old times, when
the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago--the other day
.... Light came out of this river since--you say Knights? Yes; but
it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the
clouds. We live in the flicker--may it last as long as the old earth
keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings
of a commander of a fine--what d'ye call 'em?--trireme in the
Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the
Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries--a
wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too--used to build,
apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we
read. Imagine him here--the very end of the world, a sea the colour
of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a
concertina--and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you
like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,--precious little to eat
fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian
wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in
a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay--cold, fog, tempests,
disease, exile, and death--death skulking in the air, in the water, in
the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes--he did
it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about
it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his
time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he
was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at
Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful
climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga--perhaps too
much dice, you know--coming out here in the train of some prefect, or
tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp,
march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the
utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the
wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of
wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to
live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And
it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination
of the abomination--you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing
to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."