The British Sea. HERE, this vast body of Waters is pent within so small a Chanel, that between Britain and the Continent of Europe, the Ocean is not above thirty miles broad. This narrow Sea is call’d by some the Streight of Britain, and by others the Streight of France, and is the Bound of the British Ocean; which by little and little inlarges the distance between the two shores, that were in a manner united; and by an equal retirement of the Land on both sides, divides Britain and France from East to West. Here, the British Ocean begins; in which the first Island (or rather Peninsula) that we meet with, is Selsy, in Saxon , that is, according to Bede, an Isle of SealsSeals. or Sea-calves. But this has been already treated of.In Sussex.
Above this, lies the Isle Vecta,Vecta. call’d in Welsh Guith, in Saxon and (for Єa signifies an Island,)The Isle of Wight, v. Southam. and by us, the Isle of Wight and Whight; which we have described already.
Portland, v. Dorset. As for Portland, which is not now an Isle, but join’d to the Continent; it has likewise been describ’d in Dorsetshire.
From hence, I will cross over to the opposite Coast of France; which, from Beerfleet in Normandy, the Seamen think to be lin’d with rocks and craggs, as far as the very middle of the Chanel. Among these, William the son of Henry the first, and heir apparent to the Crowns of England and Normandy, was cast away (together with his Sister and a Bastard-brother, and others of the greatest of the Nobility who accompany’d him) in the year 1120, as he was sailing from Normandy to England. Hence a Poet of that age,
Abstulit hunc terræ matri maris unda noverca,
Proh dolor! occubuit Sol Anglicus, Anglia plora!
Quæque prius fueras gemino radiata nitore,
Extincto nato vivas contenta parente.
Funus plangendum! privat lapis æquoris unus,
Et ratis una suo principe regna duo.
He from’s dear mother Earth was snatch’d away
By’s cruel Step-mother the barbarous Sea.
Weep, weep, the Light that is for ever gone;
Weep England, that could’st boast a double Sun,
But sadly now must be content with one.
Sad Fate! one Rock beneath deceitful Waves
Two helpless Kingdoms of their Prince bereaves.
Another of the same Age writes thus upon the same occasion;
Dum Normannigenæ Gallis claris superatis,
Anglica regna petunt, obstitit ipse Deus:
Aspera nam fragili dum sulcant æquora cymba,
Intulit excito nubila densa mari.
Dumque vagi cæco rapiuntur tramite nautæ,
Ruperunt imas abdita saxa rates.
Sic mare dum superans tabulata per ultima serpit,
Mersit rege satos, occidit orbis honos.
While Norman Victors o’re the Waves were born;
A fiercer Foe oppos’d their wish’d return.
Now homeward the triumphant Vessel stood,
When sudden tempests rouz’d the sudden flood.
The trembling Pilots fearful of delay,
Thro’ unknown shallows cut their fatal way,
And fell on secret Rocks, an heedless prey.
And conqu’ring billows now by sad degrees
Above the Prince’s Cabbin proudly rise:
Ne’er could the Ocean boast a nobler prize.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52