1. Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea.
2. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had
3. the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns—and even convictions.
4. [. . . ] We exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was silence on board the
5. yacht. For some reason or other we did not begin that game of dominoes. We felt
6. meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day was ending in a
7. serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. The water shone pacifically; the sky,
8. without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the
9. Essex marsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises
10. inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to the
11. west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more sombre every minute, as
12. if angered by the approach of the sun [. . . ]
13. Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant
14. but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline
15. of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread
16. out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the
17. earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that
18. comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And
19. indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes,
20. "followed the sea" with reverence and affection, that to evoke
21. the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal
22. current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of
23. men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea.
24. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream,
25. bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the
26. land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated
27. on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth!... The dreams
28. of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires [. . . ]
29. "And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the
30. dark places of the earth."
31. He was the only man of us who still "followed the sea." The worst
32. that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a
33. seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so
34. express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and
35. their home is always with them—the ship; and so is their country—the sea.
36. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the
37. immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the
38. changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by
39. a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman
40. unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as
41. inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a
42. casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole
43. continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of
44. seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the
45. shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin
46. yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a
47. kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow
48. brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are
49. made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.
50. His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted
51. in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very
52. slow—"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here,
53. nineteen hundred years ago—the other day .... Light came out of this river
54. since—you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash
55. of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker—may it last as long as the old
56. earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of
57. a commander [. . . ] Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour
58. of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina
59. —and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks,
60. marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing
61. but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here
62. and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of
63. hay— cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death—death skulking in the air,
64. in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. [. . . ] Land
65. in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery,
66. the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the
67. wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men.
68. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the
69. incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that
70. goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine
71. the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the
72. surrender, the hate."
73. He paused.
74. "Mind," he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm
75. of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose
76. of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower
77. "Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency
78. — the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really.
79. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and
80. nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only
81. brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just
82. an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they
83. could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence,
84. aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very
85. proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which
86. mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion
87. or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into
88. it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a
89. sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—
90. something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to...."
What is the best way to characterize Conrad’s opinion of imperialism?