ever shifting themselves, they shift among the shifting:

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Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Wellingborough Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)
Question: I am troubled with this bold one, because I cannot be sure of if it means “to make a living or a group of men who are on a ship watch. It is not clear to me.

If to every one, life be made up of farewells and greetings, and a"Good-by, God bless you," is heard for every "How d'ye do, welcome, my boy"--then, of all men, sailors shake the most hands, and wave the most hats. They are here and then they are there; ever shifting themselves, they shift among the shifting: and like rootless sea-weed, are tossed to and fro.
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It doesn’t seem to mean anything like that.

    The passage is about a sailor’s life being characterised by an endless series of short-term relationships with other people — repeatedly bidding goodbye to one person or group and hello to the next, with everyone constantly moving on.
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