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Ode To Captain Paery
by [?]

“By the North Pole, I do challenge thee!”
Love’s Labour’s Lost.

[Note: The famous Arctic explorer was engaged for many years, from 1818 onwards, in his various efforts to discover the North-West Passage. He died in 1855.]


Parry, my man! has thy brave leg
Yet struck its foot against the peg
On which the world is spun?
Or hast thou found No Thoroughfare
Writ by the hand of Nature there
Where man has never run!


Hast thou yet traced the Great Unknown
Of channels in the Frozen Zone,
Or held at Icy Bay,
Hast thou still miss’d the proper track
For homeward Indian men that lack
A bracing by the way?


Still hast thou wasted toil and trouble
On nothing but the North-Sea Bubble
Of geographic scholar?
Or found new ways for ships to shape,
Instead of winding round the Cape,
A short cut thro’ the collar?


Hast found the way that sighs were sent to
The Pole–tho’ God knows whom they went to!
That track reveal’d to Pope–
Or if the Arctic waters sally,
Or terminate in some blind alley,
A chilly path to grope?


Alas! tho’ Ross, in love with snows,
Has painted them couleur de rose,
It is a dismal doom,
As Clauclio saith, to Winter thrice,
“In regions of thick-ribbed ice”–
All bright,–and yet all gloom!


‘Tis well for Gheber souls that sit
Before the fire and worship it
With pecks of Wallsend coals,
With feet upon the fender’s front,
Roasting their corns–like Mr. Hunt–
To speculate on poles.


‘Tis easy for our Naval Board–
‘Tis easy for our Civic Lord
Of London and of ease,
That lies in ninety feet of down,
With fur on his nocturnal gown,
To talk of Frozen Seas!


‘Tis fine for Monsieur Ude to sit,
And prate about the mundane spit,
And babble of Cook’s track–
He’d roast the leather off his toes,
Ere he would trudge thro’ polar snows,
To plant a British Jack!


Oh, not the proud licentious great,
That travel on a carpet skate,
Can value toils like thine!
What ’tis to take a Hecla range,
Through ice unknown to Mrs. Grange,
And alpine lumps of brine?


But we, that mount the Hill o’ Rhyme,
Can tell how hard it is to climb
The lofty slippery steep,
Ah! there are more Snow Hills than that
Which doth black Newgate, like a hat,
Upon its forehead, keep.


Perchance thou’rt now–while I am writing–
Feeling a bear’s wet grinder biting
About thy frozen spine!
Or thou thyself art eating whale,
Oily, and underdone, and stale,
That, haply, cross’d thy line!


But I’ll not dream such dreams of ill–
Rather will I believe thee still
Safe cellar’d in the snow,–
Reciting many a gallant story,
Of British kings and British glory,
To crony Esquimaux–


Cheering that dismal game where Night
Makes one slow move from black to white
Thro’ all the tedious year,–
Or smitten by some fond frost fair,
That comb’d out crystals from her hair,
Wooing a seal-skin dear!


So much a long communion tends,
As Byron says, to make us friends
With what we daily view–
God knows the daintiest taste may come
To love a nose that’s like a plum
In marble, cold and blue!


To dote on hair, an oily fleece!
As tho’ it hung from Helen o’ Greece–
They say that love prevails
Ev’n in the veriest polar land–
And surely she may steal thy hand
That used to steal thy nails!