Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Scotland
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII.  1876–79.
Iceland-Moss Tea
Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)
Translated by James Clarence Mangan

OLD even in boyhood, faint and ill,
  And sleepless on my couch of woe,
  I sip this beverage, which I owe
To geysers’ depths and Hecla’s hill.
In fields where ice lies layer on layer,        5
  And lava hardens o’er the whole,
  And the circle of the Arctic Pole
Looks forth on snow-crags ever bare;
Where fierce volcanic fires burn blue,
  Through many a meteor-lighted night,        10
  Mid springs that foam in boiling might,
These blandly bitter lichens grew.
Where from the mountain’s furnace-lair,
  From thousand smoke-enveloped cones,
  Colossal blocks of red-hot stones        15
Are, night by night, uphurled in air
(Like blood-red saga-birds of yore),
  While o’er the immeasurable snows
  A sea of burning resin flows,
Bubbling like molten metal ore;        20
Where, from the jökuls to the strand,
  The dimmed eye turns from smoke and steam
  Only to track some sulphur-stream
That seethes along the blasted land;
Where clouds lie black on cinder-piles,        25
  And all night long the lone seal moans,
  As, one by one, the mighty stones
Fall echoing down on far-off isles;
Where, in a word, hills vomit flame,
  And storms forever lash the sea,—        30
  There sprang this bitter moss for me,
Thence this astringent potion came.
Yes! and my heart beats lightlier now,
  My blood begins to dance along:
  I now feel strong,—O, more than strong!        35
I feel transformed, I know not how.
The meteor-lights are in my brain,—
  I see through smoke the desolate shore,—
  The raging torrent sweeps once more
From Hecla’s crater o’er the plain.        40
Deep in my breast the boiling springs
  Beneath apparent ice are stirred,—
  My thoughts are each a saga-bird,
With tongues of living flame for wings!
Ha! if this green beverage be        45
  The chalice of my future life,—
  If now, as in yon isle, the strife
Of snow and fire be born in me,—
O, be it thus! O, let me feel
  The lava-flood in every vein!        50
  Be mine the will that conquers pain,
The heart of rock, the nerves of steel!
O, let the flames that burn unfed
  Within me wax until they glow,
  Volcano-like, through even the snow        55
That in few years shall strew my head!
And, as the stones that Hecla sees
  Flung up to heaven through fiery rain
  Descend like thunderbolts again
Upon the distant Faröese,        60
So let the rude but burning rhymes
  Cast from the caldron of my breast
  Again fall flashing down, and rest
On human hearts in farthest climes!

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