Charles G. D. Roberts

Here you will find the Long Poem The Iceberg of poet Charles G. D. Roberts

The Iceberg

I was spawned from the glacier,
 A thousand miles due north
 Beyond Cape Chidley;
 And the spawning,
 When my vast, wallowing bulk went under,
 Emerged and heaved aloft,
 Shaking down cataracts from its rocking sides,
 With mountainous surge and thunder 
 Outraged the silence of the Arctic sea.

 Before I was thrust forth
 A thousand years I crept,
 Crawling, crawling, crawling irresistibly,
 Hid in the blue womb of the eternal ice,
 While under me the tortured rock
 And over me the immeasurable desolation slept.

 Under the pallid dawning
 Of the lidless Arctic day
 Forever no life stirred.
 No wing of bird --
 Of ghostly owl low winnowing
 Or fleet-winged ptarmigan fleeing the pounce of death, --
 No foot of backward-glancing fox
 Half glimpsed, and vanishing like a breath, --
 No lean and gauntly stalking bear,
 Stalking his prey.
 Only the white sun, circling the white sky.
 Only the wind screaming perpetually.

 And then the night --
 The long night, naked, high over the roof of the world,
 Where time seemed frozen in the cold of space, --
 Now black, and torn with cry
 Of unseen voices where the storm raged by,
 Now radiant with spectral light
 As the vault of heaven split wide
 To let the flaming Polar cohorts through,
 And close ranked spears of gold and blue,
 Thin scarlet and thin green,
 Hurtled and clashed across the sphere
 And hissed in sibilant whisperings,
 And died.
 And then the stark moon, swinging low,
 Silver, indifferent, serene,
 Over the sheeted snow.

 But now, an Alp afloat,
 In seizure of the surreptitious tide,
 Began my long drift south to a remote
 And unimagined doom.
 Scornful of storm,
 Unjarred by thunderous buffetting of seas,
 Shearing the giant floes aside,
 Ploughing the wide-flung ice-fields in a spume
 That smoked far up my ponderous flanks,
 Onward I fared,
 My ice-blue pinnacles rendering back the sun
 In darts of sharp radiance;
 My bases fathoms deep in the dark profound.

 And now around me
 Life and the frigid waters all aswarm.
 The smooth wave creamed
 With tiny capelin and the small pale squid, --
 So pale the light struck through them.
 Gulls and gannets screamed
 Over the feast, and gorged themselves, and rose,
 A clamour of weaving wings, and hid
 Momently my face.
 The great bull whales
 With cavernous jaws agape,
 Scooped in the spoil, and slept,
 Their humped forms just awash, and rocking softly, --
 Or sounded down, down to the deeps, and nosed
 Along my ribbed and sunken roots,
 And in the green gloom scattered the pasturing cod.

 And so I voyaged on, down the dim parallels,
 Convoyed by fields
 Of countless calving seals
 Mild-featured, innocent-eyed, and unforeknowing
 The doom of the red flenching knives.
 I passed the storm-racked gate
 Of Hudson Strait,
 And savage Chidley where the warring tides
 In white wrath seethe forever.
 Down along the sounding shore
 Of iron-fanged, many-watered Labrador
 Slow weeks I shaped my course, and saw
 Dark Mokkowic and dark Napiskawa,
 And came at last off lone Belle Isle, the bane
 Of ships and snare of bergs.
 Here, by the deep conflicting currents drawn,
 I hung,
 And swung,
 The inland voices Gulfward calling me
 To ground amid my peers on the alien strand
 And roam no more.
 But then an off-shore wind,
 A great wind fraught with fate,
 Caught me and pressed me back,
 And I resumed my solitary way.

 Slowly I bore
 South-east by bastioned Bauld,
 And passed the sentinel light far-beaming late
 Along the liners' track,
 And slanted out Atlanticwards, until
 Above the treacherous swaths of fog
 Faded from the view the loom of Newfoundland.

 Beautiful, ethereal
 In the blue sparkle of the gleaming day,
 A soaring miracle
 Of white immensity,
 I was the cynosure of passing ships
 That wondered and were gone,
 Their wreathed smoke trailing them beyonf the verge.
 And when in the night they passed --
 The night of stars and calm,
 Forged up and passed, with churning surge
 And throb of huge propellers, and long-drawn
 Luminous wake behind,
 And sharp, small lights in rows,
 I lay a ghost of menace chill and still,
 A shape pearl-pale and monstrous, off to leeward,
 Blurring the thin horizon line.

 Day dragged on day,
 And then came fog,
 By noon, blind-white,
 And in the night
 Black-thick and smothering the sight.
 Folded therein I waited,
 Waited I knew not what
 And heeded not,
 Greatly incurious and unconcerned.
 I heard the small waves lapping along my base,
 Lipping and whispering, lisping with bated breath
 A casual expectancy of death.
 I heard remote
 The deep,