English poetry

Poems in English

90 North

90 North

At home, in my flannel gown, like a bear to its floe,
I clambered to bed; up the globe’s impossible sides
I sailed all night-till at last, with my black beard,
My furs and my dogs, I stood at the northern pole.

There in the childish night my companions lay frozen,
The stiff fur knocked at my starveling throat,
And I gave my great sigh: the flakes came huddling,
Were they really my end? In the darkness I turned to my rest.

-Here, the flag snaps in the glare and silence
Of the unbroken ice. I stand here,
The dogs bark, my beard is black, and I stare
At the North Pole. . .
And now what? Why, go back.

Turn as I please, my step is to the south.
The world-my world spins on this final point
Of cold and wretchedness: all lines, all winds
End in this whirlpool I at last discover.

And it is meaningless. In the child’s bed
After the night’s voyage, in that warm world
Where people work and suffer for the end
That crowns the pain-in that Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

I reached my North and it had meaning.
Here the actual pole of my existence,
Where all that I have done is meaningless,
Where I die or live by accident alone-

Where, living or dying, I am still alone;
Here where North, the night, the berg of death
Crowd me out of the ignorant darkness,
I see at last that all the knowledge

I wrung from the darkness-that the darkness flung me-
Is worthless as ignorance: nothing comes from nothing,
The darkness from the darkness. Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.



Poem 90 North - Randall Jarrell