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Short poem

Herman Melville (1819-1891)

The Berg (A Dream)

              1I saw a ship of martial build
              2(Her standards set, her brave apparel on)
              3Directed as by madness mere
              4Against a stolid iceberg steer,
              5Nor budge it, though the infatuate ship went down.
              6The impact made huge ice-cubes fall
              7Sullen, in tons that crashed the deck;
              8But that one avalanche was all --
              9No other movement save the foundering wreck.

            10Along the spurs of ridges pale,
            11Not any slenderest shaft and frail,
            12A prism over glass-green gorges lone,
            13Toppled; or lace of traceries fine,
            14Nor pendant drops in grot or mine
            15Were jarred, when the stunned ship went down.
            16Nor sole the gulls in cloud that wheeled
            17Circling one snow-flanked peak afar,
            18But nearer fowl the floes that skimmed
            19And crystal beaches, felt no jar.
            20No thrill transmitted stirred the lock
            21Of jack-straw needle-ice at base;
            22Towers undermined by waves -- the block
            23Atilt impending -- kept their place.
            24Seals, dozing sleek on sliddery ledges
            25Slipt never, when by loftier edges
            26Through very inertia overthrown,
            27The impetuous ship in bafflement went down.

            28Hard Berg (methought), so cold, so vast,
            29With mortal damps self-overcast;
            30Exhaling still thy dankish breath --
            31Adrift dissolving, bound for death;
            32Though lumpish thou, a lumbering one --
            33A lumbering lubbard loitering slow,
            34Impingers rue thee and go down,
            35Sounding thy precipice below,
            36Nor stir the slimy slug that sprawls
            37Along thy dead indifference of walls.


5] infatuate: characterized by an insane folly.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Collected Poems of Herman Melville, ed. Howard P. Vincent (Chicago: Packard, 1947): 203-04. PS 2382 V5 Robarts Library
First publication date: 1888
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/6/2

Rhyme: irregular

Other poems by Herman Melville