Herman Melville to Sophia Hawthorne: “Life is a long Dardenelles”

From a letter, a beautiful metaphor for life and heaven.

[T]ho’ we know what we ought to be; & what it would be very sweet & beautiful to be; yet we can’t be it. That is most sad, too. Life is a long Dardenelles*, My Dear Madam, the shores whereof are bright with flowers, which we want to pluck, but the bank is too high; & so we float on & on, hoping to come to a landing-place at last—but swoop! we launch into the great sea! Yet the geographers say, even then we must not despair, because across the great sea, however desolate & vacant it may look, lies all Persia & the delicious lands roundabout Damascus.



*The Dardenelles is the Hellespont, a narrow strait leading to the Aegean Sea.