by: Herman Melville (1819-1891)

      SAW a ship of martial build
      (Her standards set, her brave apparel on)
      Directed as by madness mere
      Against a stolid iceberg steer,
      Nor budge it, though the infatuate ship went down.
      The impact made huge ice-cubes fall
      Sullen, in tons that crashed the deck;
      But that one avalanche was all--
      No other movement save the foundering wreck.
      Along the spurs of ridges pale,
      Not any slenderest shaft and frail,
      A prism over glass-green gorges lone,
      Toppled; nor lace of traceries fine,
      Nor pendant drops in grot or mine
      Were jarred, when the stunned ship went down.
      Nor sole the gulls in cloud that wheeled
      Circling one snow-flanked peak afar,
      But nearer fowl the floes that skimmed
      And crystal beaches, felt no jar.
      No thrill transmitted stirred the lock
      Of jack-straw needle-ice at base;
      Towers undermined by waves--the block
      Atilt impending--kept their place.
      Seals, dozing sleek on sliddery ledges
      Slipt never, when by loftier edges
      Through very inertia overthrown,
      The impetuous ship in bafflement went down.
      Hard Berg (methought), so cold, so vast,
      With mortal damps self-overcast;
      Exhaling still thy dankish breath--
      Adrift dissolving, bound for death;
      Though lumpish thou, a lumbering one--
      A lumbering lubbard loitering slow,
      Impingers rue thee and go down,
      Sounding thy precipice below,
      Nor stir the slimy slug that sprawls
      Along thy dead indifference of walls.

"The Berg" was originally published in John Marr and Other Sailors. Herman Melville. Privately printed, 1888.




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