Saturday, April 10, 2010

Of religion, culture and productivity (updated)

I've been a little remiss in keeping up with Richard Henry Dana's blog over at "Two Years Before the Mast" and hope to do some formatting and scheduling so it will update more regularly.

Meanwhile, if you haven't visited or haven't done so lately, the current piece is well worth a look. Dana seems to vacillate between scorn for the unproductive crews of ships from Italy, Mexican California and the Sandwich Islands and envy of their more frequent holidays and liberties.

Here's a sample, but the rest is very much worth a read. The crew of the Pilgrim is aloft tarring the ship on the Monday after Easter:

After breakfast, we had the satisfaction of seeing the Italian ship's boat go ashore, filled with men, gayly dressed, as on the day before, and singing their barcarollas. The Easter holidays are kept up on shore for three days; and, being a Catholic vessel, her crew had the advantage of them. For two successive days, while perched up in the rigging, covered with tar and engaged in our disagreeable work, we saw these fellows going ashore in the morning, and coming off again at night, in high spirits.

So much for being Protestants. There's no danger of Catholicism's spreading in New England, unless the Church cuts down her holidays; Yankees can't afford the time. American shipmasters get nearly three weeks' more labor out of their crews, in the course of a year, than the masters of vessels from Catholic countries. As Yankees don't usually keep Christmas, and shipmasters at sea never know when Thanksgiving comes, Jack has no festival at all.

PS -- In other blog news, Weekly Storybook is now featuring oral histories from the WPA Writers Project. The current story is a droll recounting by his son of a preacher's inglorious attempt to eke out a second income as a Nebraska farmer in the 19th century.


Brian Fies said...

I'm a loyal reader, and think your concept of posting Dana's journal in "real time" in ingenious. I'm really enjoying it.

As a Californian (although Dana hasn't gotten north to my neck of the woods yet), I imagine I get a little extra charge out of it. I can look out the window while reading and imagine that his weather then was like mine now. I've been to many of the same sites, notably the missions, which are still recognizably the places he described. He's a good reporter writing about landscapes, beaches, and places I know. The more things change . . .

Something you might look into just occurred to me. Every California schoolkid has to do a unit on the missions (I think in fourth or fifth grade). Usually this involves building sugar-cube models, etc. With your NIE experience, I wonder if there'd be a way to hook Dana's story into that curriculum, with appropriate teachers guides, lesson plans and such. Something to mull.

Much appreciated, thanks for doing it.

Ronnie said...

Loving the Dana - and now the WPA! What a blessing that idea was...