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Poem by Henry Timrod
The Arctic Voyager
Shall I desist, twice baffled? Once by land, And once by sea, I fought and strove with storms, All shades of danger, tides, and weary calms; Head-currents, cold and famine, savage beasts, And men more savage; all the while my face Looked northward toward the pole; if mortal strength Could have sustained me, I had never turned Till I had seen the star which never sets Freeze in the Arctic zenith. That I failed To solve the mysteries of the ice-bound world, Was not because I faltered in the quest. Witness those pathless forests which conceal The bones of perished comrades, that long march, Blood-tracked o'er flint and snow, and one dread night By Athabasca, when a cherished life Flowed to give life to others. This, and worse, I suffered—let it pass—it has not tamed My spirit nor the faith which was my strength. Despite of waning years, despite the world Which doubts, the few who dare, I purpose now— A purpose long and thoughtfully resolved, Through all its grounds of reasonable hope— To seek beyond the ice which guards the Pole, A sea of open water; for I hold, Not without proofs, that such a sea exists, And may be reached, though since this earth was made No keel hath ploughed it, and to mortal ear No wind hath told its secrets.... With this tide I sail; if all be well, this very moon Shall see my ship beyond the southern cape Of Greenland, and far up the bay through which, With diamond spire and gorgeous pinnacle, The fleets of winter pass to warmer seas. Whether, my hardy shipmates! we shall reach Our bourne, and come with tales of wonder back, Or whether we shall lose the precious time, Locked in thick ice, or whether some strange fate Shall end us all, I know not; but I know A lofty hope, if earnestly pursued, Is its own crown, and never in this life Is labor wholly fruitless. In this faith I shall not count the chances—sure that all A prudent foresight asks we shall not want, And all that bold and patient hearts can do Ye will not leave undone. The rest is God's!
Henry Timrod's other poems:
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