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

Miscellaneous: Polar Regions

The Arctic Voyager

By Henry Timrod (1829–1867)

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 bourn, 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!