THOUGHTS ON NEW YEAR’S DAY, A.D. 1820.

January 1, 2009

The following is a poem written on board the H.M.S. Hecla in 1820 while it was landlocked in the Arctic circle and was forced to spend the entire winter marooned on Melville Island, enduring months of total darkness and severe cold.  It appeared in the North Georgia Gazette, a newspaper initiated by Sir William Edward Parry, Captain of the Hecla in an effort to distract the officers and crew from the isolation and tedium of the long winter months.  

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For the WINTER CHRONICLE.

 

THOUGHTS ON  NEW YEAR’S DAY, A.D. 1820.

 

_______

 

The moments of chasten’d delight are gone by,

When we left our loved homes o’er new regions to rove,

When the firm manly grasp, and the soft female sigh,

       Mark’d the mingled sensations of friendship and love.

The season of pleasure has hurried away,

       When through far-stretching ice a safe passage we found,[1]

The led us again to the dark rolling sea,

       And the signal was seen “on for Lancaster’s Sound.[2]

 

The joys that we felt when we pass’d by the shore,

       Where no footstep of man had e’er yet been imprest,

When rose in the distance no mountain-tops hoar,

       As the sun of the evening bright gilded the west,[3]

Full swiftly they fled—and that hour too is gone

       When we gain’d the meridian assign’d as a bound,[4]

To entitle our crews to their country’s first boon,

       Hail’d by all as an omen the passage was found.

 

And past with our pleasures, are moments of pain;

       Of anxious suspense, and of eager alarm—

Environ’d by ice, skill and ardour were vain

       The swift moving mass of its force to disarm;

Tho’ dash’d on the beach, and our boats torn away,

       No anchors could hold us, nor cable secure;

The dread and the peril expired with the day,

       When none but high Heaven could our safety ensure.

 

Involved with the ages existent before

       Is the year that has brought us thus far on our way

And gratitude calls us, our God to adore

       For the oft-renew’d mercies its annals display;

The floomy meridian of darkness is past,

       And ere long shall gay Spring and the herbage revive,

O’er the wide waste of ice shall re-echo the blast,

       And the firm prison’d ocean its fetters shall rive.

 

Now dawns the New Year!  But what  mind can expose

       The events that await us before it expires?

In the isles of the south to remember its close,

       Or in regions of frost mourn our frustrate desires!

Yet Hope points the track that our vessels shall force

       Till Pacific’s wide ocean around us we view;

Bright Hope shall expand as we follow our course,

       And the dangers we meet but our courage renew.

 

The friends we have left, at this season of mirth

       Do their bosoms or pleasure or anguish sustain?

Do they deem us yet safe in these wilds of the earth,

       Or whelm’d in the surges that whiten the main?

No longer they now can expect our return,

       No longer they mark ev’ry change of the breeze;

But the thought of despair fond affection will spurn,

       And confident rest on Almighty decrees!

 

With them we but share the proud hope of success,

       And look forward with joy to the days yet to come;

When the heart overflowing, warm tears shall express

       How sincere is the welcome that greets us at home;

Be happiness theirs while we severed remain!—

       Be fortitude firm, and exertion, our own!

Till the shores of Old Albion once more we regain,

       Once more to enjoy every bliss we have known.


[1] Our ships were the first that succeeded in effecting a passage to the westward, through the ice which occupies the middle of Baffin’s Bay in the early part of the summer.

[2] Telegraphic signal made by Hecla, after breaking through the first barrier of ice.

[3] The evening was beautifully clear when we sailed over the spot assigned to CROKER’s MOUNTAINS.

[4] The meridian of 110˚ west, which entitled us to the first reward of 5,000l.

 

posted by Lily

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