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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Iceland First Seen
By William Morris (1834–1896)
 
LO from our loitering ship
a new land at last to be seen;
  Toothed rocks down the side of the firth,
  on the east guard a weary wide lea,
And black slope the hillsides above,        5
striped adown with their desolate green:
  And a peak rises up on the west
  from the meeting of cloud and sea,
Foursquare from base unto point
like the building of gods that have been,—        10
  The last of that waste of the mountains
  all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and gray,
  And bright with the dawn that began
  just now at the ending of day.
 
Ah! what came we forth for to see,        15
that our hearts are so hot with desire?
  Is it enough for our rest,
  the sight of this desolate strand,
And the mountain waste voiceless as death
but for winds that may sleep not nor tire?        20
  Why do we long to wend forth
  through the length and breadth of a land
Dreadful with grinding of ice
and record of scarce hidden fire,
  But that there ’mid the gray grassy dales        25
  sore scarred by the ruining streams
  Lives the tale of the Northland of old
  and the undying glory of dreams?
 
O land, as some cave by the sea
where the treasures of old have been laid,        30
  The sword it may be of a king
  whose name was the turning of fight;
Or the staff of some wise of the world
that many things made and unmade;
  Or the ring of a woman, maybe,        35
  whose woe is grown wealth and delight:
No wheat and no wine grows above it,
no orchard for blossom and shade;
  The few ships that sail by its blackness
  but deem it the mouth of a grave;        40
  Yet sure when the world shall awaken,
  this too shall be mighty to save.
 
Or rather, O land, if a marvel
it seemeth that men ever sought
  Thy wastes for a field and a garden        45
  fulfilled of all wonder and doubt,
And feasted amidst of the winter
when the fight of the year had been fought,
  Whose plunder all gathered together
  was little to babble about,        50
Cry aloud from thy wastes, O thou land,
“Not for this nor for that was I wrought.
  Amid waning of realms and of riches
  and death of things worshiped and sure,
  I abide here the spouse of a God,        55
  and I made and I make and endure.”
 
O Queen of the grief without knowledge,
of the courage that may not avail,
  Of the longing that may not attain,
  of the love that shall never forget,        60
More joy than the gladness of laughter
thy voice hath amidst of its wail;
  More hope than of pleasure fulfilled
  amidst of thy blindness is set;
More glorious than gaining of all        65
thine unfaltering hand that shall fail:
  For what is the mark on thy brow
  but the brand that thy Brynhild doth bear?
  Lone once, and loved and undone
  by a love that no ages outwear.        70
 
Ah! when thy Balder comes back
And bears from the heart of the sun
  Peace and the healing of pain,
  and the wisdom that waiteth no more;
And the lilies are laid on thy brow        75
’mid the crown of the deeds thou hast done;
  And the roses spring up by thy feet
  that the rocks of the wilderness wore:
Ah! when thy Balder comes back
and we gather the gains he hath won,        80
  Shall we not linger a little
  to talk of thy sweetness of old,
  Yea, turn back awhile to thy travail
  whence the Gods stood aloof to behold?
 
 
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