From The Titanic: The Iceberg

E. J. Pratt

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Calved from a glacier near Godhaven coast,

It left the fiord for the sea — a host

Of white flotillas gathering in its wake,

And joined by fragments from a Behring floe

Had circumnavigated it to make

It centre of an archipelago.

Its lateral motion on the Davis Strait

Was casual and indeterminate,

And each advance to southward was as blind

As each recession to the north. No smoke

Of steamships nor the hoist of mainsails broke

The polar wastes — no sounds except the grind

Of ice, the cry of curlews and the lore

Of winds from mesas of eternal snow;

Until caught by the western undertow,

It struck the current of the Labrador

Which swung it to its definite southern stride.

Pressure and glacial time had stratified

The berg to the consistency of flint,

And kept inviolate, through clash of tide

And gale, façade and columns with their hint

Of inward altars and of steepled bells

Ringing the passage of the parallels.

But when with months of voyaging it came

To where both streams — the Gulf and Polar — met,

The sun which left its crystal peaks aflame

In the sub-arctic noons, began to fret

The arches, flute the spires and deform

The features, till the batteries of storm,

Playing above the slow-eroding base,

Demolished the last temple touch of grace.

Another month, and nothing but the brute

And palaeolithic outline of a face

Fronted the transatlantic shipping route.

A sloping spur that tapered to a claw

And lying twenty feet below had made

It lurch and shamble like a plantigrade;

But with an impulse governed by the raw

Mechanics of its birth, it drifted where

Ambushed, fog-grey, it stumbled on its lair,

North forty-one degrees and forty-four,

Fifty and fourteen west the longitude,

Waiting a world-memorial hour, its rude

Corundum form stripped to its Greenland core.

E. J. Pratt, “From The Titanic: The Iceberg” from Complete Poems 1882–1964. Copyright © 1989 by University of Toronto Press. Reprinted by permission of University of Toronto Press.