Jonas Hallgrimsson

Mount Broadshield (A travel poem from summer 1841)

 Next Poem          

Queen of all our country's mountains,
crowned with snow sublime and pure!
Once you poured from fiery fountains
floods of lava down the moor.
Years have passed since rage and riot
ravaged meadow, glade, and field:
now you bear your name in quiet,
noble, broadly swelling shield!

Bound for Broadshield, I am riding
barren leagues of lava rills.
In the east the sun is striding
upward, gilding dales and hills.
Laboring hoofbeats clatter loudly;
Lambside edges into sight;
northward, Broadshield bulges proudly,
Barn Crag looming on its right.

Baldur, nostrils briskly steaming,
bears me through the frozen sound.
When did lava last go streaming
loudly here across the ground?
Iceland knew no human creatures,
horse or cow; no startled flock
glimpsed its fierce primeval features,
flooded now in depths of rock.

Broadshield's icecap opens! brawling
earthquakes wrench and tear the land,
stunned as if the stars were falling,
strewn to earth by heaven's hand;
spitting like a spray of midges
sparks go hissing through the air;
lava, spewed from rents and ridges,
wreaks destruction everywhere.

Fiery surges snarl and thunder,
smoke is roiling, bluish-grey;
birch and ash-tree both go under,
bush and shrub are seared away;
valley flowers, scorched to vapor,
vanish with a fragrant hiss;
grasses glow like burning paper; ---
God alone beheld all this.

Playful brooks that once went plashing
past the hillsides all around
flee in dismal panic, dashing
down a channel underground.
When their waters reassemble
where the lava ends, they break
out in freedom, flash and tremble,
forming Iceland's greatest lake.

Later Broadshield's leashless violence
lulls, its furnace falls asleep.
Starlight, sifting through the silence,
sows its peace on vale and steep.
Later still the lava's fringes
lurch into the vault below;
thunder rattles heaven's hinges,
haze and dust sweep to and fro.

Thus did fierce resistless forces
fashion Iceland's sacred shrine.
Bound, now, at their burning sources,
Broadshield's restless firewolves pine.
Streams of grass flow down the gracious
glens where lava used to spill;
sited soundly, Iceland's spacious
citadel is standing still.

Who unleashed such lethal power?
Listen! no mere mortal hand
built the battlements that tower
boldly over freedom's land!
God, the prince of force and passion
planned these bulwarks in his mind:
who but God --- and fire --- could fashion
fortress walls of such a kind?

Eastward, stony steeps are leaping
stalwartly from Raven Gorge;
westward, walls of rock are keeping
watch above our nation's forge.
GrĂ­mur Goatshoe, sage and clever,
grasped the promise of this place:
Almanna Gorge, on guard for ever,
girds the councils of my race.
short horizontal line

Highland powers, approve my lonely
passage through your vast domain!
Horse and hound are now my only
helpers, parted from my train.
Curious sights in countless numbers
crowd upon my hungry eye!
Let no ghost assault my slumbers ---
sleeping out beneath the sky!

Next Poem 

 Back to
Jonas Hallgrimsson