Our approach across Greenlandic seas, we
Took to ice drifting off the bow, our course
Made good on Panther, Newfoundland screw
Steamer, to “Land of Desolation,” seagulls
Circling off Julianashaab, tortuous frith or
Fiord, by barren rock islands flanked, summer
Nights were reading bright on Davis Straight,
South of the Arctic Circle.
Here, we anchored in ten fathom water, the
Rush and rattle of chain, to explore remote
Igalliko Fiord, place of deserted Norse homes,
Running rivers and glaciers descending from
Height. On foot we trekked, my dear Cecily,
Your picture in my diary, amongst grassy
Meadow-lands, reindeer grazing, and
Ancient stone ruins of Red Eric’s clan.
We camped the night, sun descending though
Luminous bright, breeze keeping flies at bay,
With rifle shots we procured our meals, roasting
Fires, we took dinner where Vikings reigned in
Forced exile, in currents of Davis Straight, ice-
Bergs deliberate sway, transcending to pastel
Hues, pinks, lavenders, and aqua blues, as if
Years had clockwork turned a thousand past.
Amongst these bergs, as light dimmed and my
Visions grew, I beheld fourteen open ships of
Sail, swords and pennants raised, Vikings took
To evening breezes, landfall making on these
High-sloped rocky beaches, and to their gods,
Pagan and Christian, they marked in runic hand
Upon lichen-covered stone, ground clearing,
Norse life new-established, year 1135.
With coffee in hand, sketching pristine hills of
High fiords, I think of you, Cecily, and pray you
Are safe in distant New Bedford. Upon reaching
Upernavik, I will post this poem and sketches,
Words inspired by crystal ice fields, accomplish-
Ments of the adventuresome, Norse era and of
Present era, Bradford and Captain Bartlett,
I remain yours, I. I. Hayes, M.D.
This poem is based on opening chapters of “The Land of
Desolation,” Isaac Israel Hayes, M.D., 1871, and his
fictitious fiancé, Cecily Leconte, whose image is on a
1905 hand-colored French postcard.