Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  A Chronicle of Wind and Wave

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Chronicle of Wind and Wave

By Richard Mather (1596–1669)

[Richard Mather’s Journal. Written 1635.]

THE FIRST Sabbath from Milford Haven, and the sixth on shipboard, a fair cool day; wind northerly, good for our purpose. I was exercised in the forenoon, and Mr. Maude in the afternoon. This evening we saw porpoises about the ship, and some would fain have been striking, but others dissuaded because of the Sabbath, and so it was let alone.

Monday morning, wind still northerly; a fair cool day. This morning about seven of the clock our seamen struck a great porpoise, and hauled it with ropes into the ship; for bigness not much less than an hog of twenty or twenty-five shillings a piece, and not much unlike for shape; with flesh, fat and lean, like in color to the fat and lean of an hog….

The seeing of him hauled into the ship, like a swine from the sty to the trestle, and opened upon the deck in view of all our company, was wonderful to us all, and marvellous merry sport and delightful to our women and children; so good was our God unto us, in affording us the day before spiritual refreshing to our souls, and this day morning also delightful recreation to our bodies, at the taking and opening of this huge and strange fish. In the afternoon the “Angel Gabriel” sent their boat to our ship to see how we did, and our master, Captain Taylor, went aboard the “Angel” and took Matthew Michel and me with him. When we came thither we found their passengers that had been sea-sick now well recovered the most of them; and two children that had had the small-pox now well recovered again. We were entreated to stay sup there with their master, etc., and had good cheer, mutton boiled and roasted turkey, good sack, etc. After which loving and courteous entertainment, we took leave and came aboard the “James” again at night.

Tuesday, a fair, hot summer day, but small wind. This day we saw with wonder and delight abundance of porpoises, and likewise some grampuses as big as an ox, puffing and spewing up water as they went by the ship….

Friday, wind still northerly, but very faint. It was a great foggy mist, and exceeding cold as it had been December. One would have wondered to have seen the innumerable numbers of fowl which we saw swimming on every side of the ship, and mighty fishes rolling and tumbling in the waters, twice as long and big as an ox. In the afternoon we saw mighty whales spewing up water in the air, like the smoke of a chimney, and making the sea about them white and hoary (as it is said, Job xli. 32),—of such incredible bigness that I will never wonder that the body of Jonas could be in the belly of a whale…. On Friday, in the evening, we had an hour or two of marvellous delightful recreation, which also was a feast unto us for many days after, while we fed upon the flesh of three huge porpoises, like to as many fat hogs, struck by our seamen and hauled with ropes into the ship; the flesh of them was good meat with salt, pepper and vinegar; the fat like fat bacon, the lean like bull-beef; and on Saturday evening they took another also.

The Lord had not done with us, nor yet had let us see all his power and goodness which he would have us to take knowledge of. And therefore on Saturday morning about break of day, the Lord sent forth a most terrible storm of rain and easterly wind, whereby we were in as much danger as I think ever people were; for we lost in that morning three great anchors and cables, of which cables, one (having cost fifty pounds) never had been in any water before, two were broken by the violence of the waves, and the third cut by the seamen, in extremity and distress, to save the ship and their and our lives…. The Lord let us see that our sails could not save us neither, no more than our cables and anchors; for by the force of the wind and rain the sails were rent in sunder and split in pieces, as if they had been but rotten rags, so that of the foresail and spritsail there was scarce left as much as an hand-breadth, that was not rent in pieces, and blown away into the sea. So that at this time all hope that we should be saved in regard to any outward appearance was utterly taken away, and the rather because we seemed to drive with full force of wind and rain directly upon a mighty rock standing out in sight above the water, so that we did but continually wait, when we should hear and feel the doleful rushing and crushing of the ship upon the rock. In this extremity and appearance of death, as distress and distraction would suffer us, we cried unto the Lord, and He was pleased to have compassion and pity upon us; for by his overruling providence and his own immediate good hand, He guided the ship past the rock, assuaged the violence of the sea, and the wind and rain, and gave us a little respite to fit the ship with other sails…. In all this grievous storm, my fear was the less, when I considered the clearness of my calling from God this way, and in some measure (the Lord’s holy name be blessed for it) He gave us hearts contented and willing that He should do with us and ours what He pleased, and what might be most for the glory of his name, and in that we rested ourselves. But when news was brought unto us into the gunroom that the danger was past, oh, how our hearts did then relent and melt within us! And how we burst out into tears of joy amongst ourselves, in love unto our gracious God, and admiration of his kindness in granting to his poor servants such an extraordinary and miraculous deliverance! His holy name be blessed forever!

This day we went on towards Cape Anne, as the wind would suffer, and our poor sails further, and came within sight thereof the other morning; which Sabbath, being the thirteenth we kept on shipboard, was a marvellous pleasant day, for a fresh gale of wind and clear sunshine weather. This day we went directly before the wind, and had delight all along the coast as we went, in viewing Cape Anne, the bay of Saugust, the bay of Salem, Marvil head, Pullin point, and other places; and came to anchor at low tide in the evening at Nantascot, in a most pleasant harbor, like to which I had never seen, amongst a great many of islands on every side. I was exercised on shipboard both ends of the day. After the evening’s exercise, when it was flowing tide again, we set sail, and came that night to anchor again before Boston, and so rested that night with glad and thankful hearts that God had put an end to a long journey, being a thousand leagues, that is, three thousand miles English, over one of the greatest seas in the world.

Now this our journey, by the goodness of God, was very prosperous unto us every manner of way. First of all, it was very safe and healthful to us…. And a special means of the healthfulness of the passengers by the blessing of God we all conceived to be much walking in the open air, and the comfortable variety of our food; for seeing we were not tied to the ship’s diet, but did victual ourselves, we had no want of good and wholesome beer and bread; and as our land-stomachs grew weary of ship diet, of salt fish and salt beef and the like, we had liberty to change for other food which might sort better with our healths and stomachs; and therefore sometimes we used bacon and buttered pease, sometimes buttered bag-pudding made with currants and raisins, and sometimes drink pottage of beer and oatmeal, and sometimes water pottage well buttered.

And though we had two storms by the way, the one upon Monday the third of August, the other on Saturday the fifteenth of the same, yet our gracious God (blessed and forever blessed be his name) did save us all alive in them both, and speedily assuaged them again. Indeed, the latter of them was very terrible and grievous, insomuch that when we came to land we found many mighty trees rent in pieces in the midst of the bole, and others turned up by the roots by the fierceness thereof; and a bark going from the bay to Marvil head, with planters and seamen therein to the number of about twenty-three, was cast away in the storm, and all the people therein perished except one man and his wife, that were spared to report the news. And the “Angel Gabriel,” being then at anchor at Pemmaquid, was burst in pieces and cast away in the storm, and most of the cattle and other goods, with one seaman and three or four passengers, did also perish therein, besides two of the passengers that died by the way, the rest having their lives given them for a prey. But the “James” and we that were therein, with our cattle and goods, were all preserved alive. The Lord’s name be blessed forever!

It was very delightful, while we took pleasure and instruction in beholding the works and wonders of the Almighty in the deep; the sea sometimes being rough with mighty mountains and deep valleys, sometimes again plain and smooth like a level meadow, and sometimes painted with variety of yellow weeds. Besides, it was a pleasant thing to behold the variety of fowls and mighty fishes swimming and living in the waters. It was comfortable to us by means of the fellowship of divers godly Christians in the ship, and by means of our constant serving God, morning and evening every day, the daily duties being performed one day by Mr. Maude, another by myself, and the Sabbath exercises divided for the most part equally betwixt us two.