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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Rock-Tomb of Bradore

  • H. Y. Hind, in Explorations in the Interior of the Labrador Peninsula (ii. 166) mentions the finding of a rock tomb near the little fishing port of Bradore, with the inscription upon it which is given in the poem.

  • A DREAR and desolate shore!

    Where no tree unfolds its leaves,

    And never the spring wind weaves

    Green grass for the hunter’s tread;

    A land forsaken and dead,

    Where the ghostly icebergs go

    And come with the ebb and flow

    Of the waters of Bradore!

    A wanderer, from a land

    By summer breezes fanned,

    Looked round him, awed, subdued,

    By the dreadful solitude,

    Hearing alone the cry

    Of sea-birds clanging by,

    The crash and grind of the floe,

    Wail of wind and wash of tide.

    “O wretched land!” he cried,

    “Land of all lands the worst,

    God forsaken and curst!

    Thy gates of rock should show

    The words the Tuscan seer

    Read in the Realm of Woe:

    Hope entereth not here!”

    Lo! at his feet there stood

    A block of smooth larch wood,

    Waif of some wandering wave,

    Beside a rock-closed cave

    By Nature fashioned for a grave;

    Safe from the ravening bear

    And fierce fowl of the air,

    Wherein to rest was laid

    A twenty summers’ maid,

    Whose blood had equal share

    Of the lands of vine and snow,

    Half French, half Eskimo.

    In letters uneffaced,

    Upon the block were traced

    The grief and hope of man,

    And thus the legend ran:

    “We loved her!

    Words cannot tell how well!

    We loved her!

    God loved her!

    And called her home to peace and rest.

    We love her!”

    The stranger paused and read.

    “O winter land!” he said,

    “Thy right to be I own;

    God leaves thee not alone.

    And if thy fierce winds blow

    Over drear wastes of rock and snow,

    And at thy iron gates

    The ghostly iceberg waits,

    Thy homes and hearts are dear.

    Thy sorrow o’er thy sacred dust

    Is sanctified by hope and trust;

    God’s love and man’s are here.

    And love where’er it goes

    Makes its own atmosphere;

    Its flowers of Paradise

    Take root in the eternal ice,

    And bloom through Polar snows!”