Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Miscellaneous: Polar Regions


By James Montgomery (1771–1854)

(From Greenland)

’T IS sunset: to the firmament serene

The Atlantic wave reflects a gorgeous scene;

Broad in the cloudless west a belt of gold

Girds the blue hemisphere; above, unrolled,

The keen clear air grows palpable to sight,

Embodied in a flush of crimson light,

Through which the evening star, with milder gleam,

Descends, to meet her image in the stream.

Far in the east, what spectacle unknown

Allures the eye to gaze on it alone?

Amidst black rocks, that lift on either hand

Their countless peaks, and mark receding land;

Amidst a tortuous labyrinth of seas,

That shine around the arctic Cyclades;

Amidst a coast of dreariest continent,

In many a shapeless promontory rent;

O’er rocks, seas, islands, promontories spread,

The Ice-Blink rears its undulated head,

On which the sun, beyond the horizon shrined,

Hath left his richest garniture behind;

Piled on a hundred arches, ridge by ridge,

O’er fixed and fluid, strides the Alpine bridge,

Whose blocks of sapphire seem to mortal eye

Hewn from cerulean quarries of the sky;

With glacier-battlements, that crowd the spheres,

The slow creation of six thousand years,

Amidst immensity it towers sublime,—

Winter’s eternal palace, built by Time:

All human structures by his touch are borne

Down to the dust; mountains themselves are worn

With his light footsteps; here forever grows,

Amid the region of unmelting snows,

A monument, where every flake that falls

Gives adamantine firmness to the walls.

The sun beholds no mirror, in his race,

That shows a brighter image of his face;

The stars, in their nocturnal vigils, rest

Like signal-fires on its illumined crest;

The gliding moon around the ramparts wheels,

And all its magic lights and shades reveals;

Beneath, the tide with idle fury raves

To undermine it through a thousand caves;

Rent from its roof, though thundering fragments oft

Plunge to the gulf; immovable aloft,

From age to age, in air, o’er sea, on land,

Its turrets heighten, and its piers expand.

Midnight hath told his hour; the moon, yet young,

Hangs in the argent west her bow unstrung;

Larger and fairer, as her lustre fades,

Sparkle the stars amidst the deepening shades:

Jewels, more rich than night’s regalia, gem

The distant Ice-Blink’s spangled diadem;

Like a new morn from orient darkness, there

Phosphoric splendors kindle in mid-air,

As though from heaven’s self-opening portals came

Legions of spirits in an orb of flame,—

Flame, that from every point an arrow sends

Far as the concave firmament extends:

Spun with the tissue of a million lines,

Glistening like gossamer the welkin shines:

The constellations in their pride look pale

Through the quick-trembling brilliance of that veil.

Then, suddenly converged, the meteors rush

O’er the wide south; one deep vermilion blush

O’erspreads Orion glaring on the flood,

And rabid Sirius foams through fire and blood;

Again the circuit of the pole they range,

Motion and figure every moment change,

Through all the colors of the rainbow run,

Or blaze like wrecks of a dissolving sun;

Wide ether burns with glory, conflict, flight,

And the glad ocean dances in the light.