by Hervey Allen
Darkness to northward prevails;
Scarcely a ship goes to Iceland.
Only old Adam of Bremen,
Painting by lamp and at midnight
The face of the planet on vellum,
Writes of the lands to the westward.
Only where Iceland uplifts
The pall of the smoke of Mt. Hekla,
Streaking the midnight sun,
And surprising the north with wild flowers,
The secret was cherished by priests
Who tell of an oar washed from westward,
Carved with the rude runes of Greenland,
Showing the Fair-hairs still dwelt there.
But only the poets have heard
The click of the ice on bone-runners
As the sleds of the Skraelings dashed down
In the twilight of northern summer,
Overwhelming the church at Gardar
With an army of fur-swathed hunters.
Only the poets have known
The crack of the whips, and the dogs' bark,
The shouts and the scurry of lights,
The flicker of swords 'round the houses,
The bleat and the shrieks of the women,
The dwindling " Ohoy " of the Northmen,
As the flames of the town die in starlight,
And silence for five hundred winters
Falls like a death-sheet on Greenland.
But what of the land to the west,
Drenched in the light of the future,
Whose secret was kept by the Northmen,
Waiting, outstretched and expectant,
The glimmering sails of Columbus?
Last updated August 29, 2017