The Mirror of the Sea by Joseph Conrad is a memoir composed of vignettes covering his life at sea. His career as a sailor spanned the transition period from sail to steam. I had read most of Conrad’s works before I encountered this volume of prose that frequently borders on poetry. I have enclosed a sample below. Conrad’s fiction draws upon his life’s experiences (as what fiction does not), and the attentive reader can trace the parallels between his life and his fiction. The Mirror and the Sea is well worth reading for the Conrad aficionado.
“The West Wind is the greatest King. The East rules between the tropics. They have shared each ocean between them. Each has his genius of supreme rule. The King of the West never intrudes upon the recognized dominion of his kingly brother. He is a barbarian, of a Northern type. Violent without craftiness, and furious without malice, one may imagine him seated masterfully with a double-edged sword on his knees upon the painted and gilt clouds of the sunset, bowing his shock head of golden locks, a flaming beard over his breast, imposing, colossal, mighty-limbed, with a thundering voice, distended cheeks, and fierce blue eyes, urging the speed of his gales. The other, the East King, the king of blood-red sunrises, I represent to myself as a spare Southerner with clear-cut features, black-browed and dark-eyed, grey-robed, upright to sunshine, resting a smooth-shaven cheek in the palm of his hand, impenetrable, secret, full of wiles, fine-drawn, keen—meditating aggressions.”