Qui n’a plus qu’un moment a vivre
N’a plus rien a dissimuler.
Quinault — Atys.
Of my country and of my family I have little to say.
Ill usage and length of years have driven me from the one, and estranged me from the other.
Hereditary wealth afforded me an education of no common order,
and a contemplative turn of mind enabled me to methodise the stores which early study very diligently garnered up.
Beyond all things, the works of the German moralists gave me great delight;
not from any ill-advised admiration of their eloquent madness, but from the ease with which my habits of rigid thought enabled me to detect their falsities.
I have often been reproached with the aridity of my genius; a deficiency of imagination has been imputed to me as a crime;
and the Pyrrhonism of my opinions has at all times rendered me notorious.
Indeed, a strong relish for physical philosophy has, I fear, tinctured my mind with a very common error of this age —
I mean the habit of referring occurrences, even the least susceptible of such reference, to the principles of that science.
Upon the whole, no person could be less liable than myself to be led away from the severe precincts of truth by the ignes fatui of superstition. I have thought proper to premise thus much, lest the incredible tale I have to tell should be considered rather the raving of a crude imagination, than the positive experience of a mind to which the reveries of fancy have been a dead letter and a nullity.
After many years spent in foreign travel, I sailed in the year 18—, from the port of Batavia,
in the rich and populous island of Java, on a voyage to the Archipelago of the Sunda islands.
I went as passenger — having no other inducement than a kind of nervous restlessness which haunted me as a fiend.
Our vessel was a beautiful ship of about four hundred tons, copper-fastened, and built at Bombay of Malabar teak.
She was freighted with cotton-wool and oil, from the Lachadive islands.
We had also on board coir, jaggeree, ghee, cocoa-nuts, and a few cases of opium.
The stowage was clumsily done, and the vessel consequently crank.
We got under way with a mere breath of wind, and for many days stood along the eastern coast of Java,
without any other incident to beguile the monotony of our course than the occasional meeting with some of the small grabs of the Archipelago to which we were bound.
One evening, leaning over the taffrail, I observed a very singular, isolated cloud, to the N. W.
It was remarkable, as well for its color, as from its being the first we had seen since our departure from Batavia.
Edgar Allan Poe
Tales, Volume I / Erzählungen, Band I
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