Writing about the North and the viking raid brought back the memory of William Morris's trip to Iceland, and of course the recent disruption by the volcano in Iceland. I note that Fiona McCarthy is bringing out another book in July about William Morris and his trip to this far off land, first to escape the unhappy consequences of his marriage but also to see the land of the old sagas. Morris also brought back a little Icelandic pony for his daughters, which I believe used to pull the lawnmower around, but my Morris books are'nt here, so cannot check, though I do have a copy of Mackail's biography of him, plus of course E.P.Thompson's socialist analysis of him. (And of course why do I make note of that? but a feeling that I have a lot of possessions elsewhere and I should be getting rid of stuff - the great angst of guilt!)
Normally Morris's poetry is heavy, dull and long, this one though has managed to capture the feel, the first sighting of a new land, and that sense of time that drowns out a past history often violent.
Iceland First Seen by Wm Morris
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, striped adown with their desolate green:
And a peak rises up on the west from the meeting of cloud and of sea,
Foursquare from base unto point like the building of Gods that have been,
The last of that waste of the mountains all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and grey,
And bright with the dawn that began just now at the ending of day.
Ah! what came we forth for to see 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?
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 grey grassy dales 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,
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 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;
Yet sure when the world shall awaken, this too shall be mighty to save. ...
Some incredible photos .......
And this is the picture that haunts me, the rows of houses on the other side, above this town will be the desolate moors, but huddled by the sea, this is the place where boats for centuries have sailed in, mostly with their catches from the sea but sometimes the great dragon ships of the vikings as well.........