Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview
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54
JOURNEY TO RUSSIA 1911

IT is rather surprising that the short sea voyage from Stockholm to St. Petersburg is not better known in the western world. It is enchanting. We left Stockholm at six o'clock in the evening of a fine September day, and as we drew away, the sunset light over the fair city hung a new picture on the walls of my mind. It takes some five hours to reach the Baltic, five hours of constantly changing scenery, one view melting into another like a succession of dissolving panoramas. Hundreds of tiny wooded islands, dotted with châteaux and country houses; winking lighthouse towers: the grey sea and the long black land. Yes, and to my amazement and dismay, the yellow half-moon large and low! Every year I had told my Browning classes that the common interpretation of the famous poem, which places the visit at dusk, is incorrect; or else Browning's astronomy failed him. The half-moon is never low in the early evening in English or American latitudes. But here near the sixtieth parallel in September the half-moon leered at me just over the rim of a rocky hill. To be sure, it was not a precise half, something over, in fact, but close enough to be disquieting. Although it had no business to be there, it supplied the last touch of glory to the scene. We stood on the top deck, and beheld the spacious firmament on high, thick inlaid with patines of bright gold; while the long level light of the impos

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