Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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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,        5
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,        10
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,        15
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        20
  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,        25
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,        30
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.        35
In letters uneffaced,
Upon the block were traced
The grief and hope of man,
And thus the legend ran:
    “We loved her!        40
Words cannot tell how well!
    We loved her!
    God loved her!
And called her home to peace and rest.
    We love her!”        45
 
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        50
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        55
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        60
Take root in the eternal ice,
  And bloom through Polar snows!”

  1881.
 
 
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