The Raft Of The Medusa Essay
The French Review
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By misfortune, they had struck the reef at high tide, and as the seas grew violent, attempts to free the ship failed. The frigate was assuredly lost: It was decided to build a raft. A raft was made, and well made. One hundred and fifty was to be the complement of the raft. Those onboard had wine, a little brandy, some water, and a small portion of sodden biscuit. They had been given no compass or chart. With neither oars nor rudder, there was no means of controlling the raft.
In the first night, a storm got up and threw the machine about with great violence. By daybreak, the air was filled with cries, and all prepared themselves for death. The next day, the seas were calm, and for many, hope was rekindled. It was during this day that those on the raft began to experience their first delusions. Some fancied that they saw land, others thought they espied vessels coming to save them.
The second night was more terrible than the first. A group of men, certain that they were lost, broke open a cask of wine to soothe their last moments by abandoning the power of reason, in which they succeeded, until the seawater spilled and spoiled the wine. Thus doubly maddened, these disordered men determined to send all to the common destruction, and to this end attacked the ropes that bound the raft together. The mutineers being resisted, a pitched battle took place among the waves and the darkness of the night before order was restored. But at midnight, the soldiery rose again, and attacked their superiors with knives and sabers. Men were thrown in the sea, bludgeoned, stabbed. Two barrels of wine were thrown overboard and the last of the water. By the time the villains were subdued, the raft was laden with corpses.
The third day was calm and fine. They took repose, but cruel dreams added to the horrors already inflicted by hunger and thirst. The raft now carried less than half of its original complement.
On the fourth morning, they perceived that a dozen of their fellows had died in the night. The bodies were given to the sea, except for one, that was reserved against their hunger. It was from this day onwards that all learned to consume human flesh. The next night was to bring a fresh supply: Once more, a terrible combat ensued and blood washed over the fatal raft. There remained no more than thirty onboard. Barely a man lay without wounds into which salt water constantly flowed and piercing cries were heard.