Filleadh ón Antartach [Return from Antarctica]

Filleadh ón Antartach [Return from Antarctica]

Dundee Antarctic Whaling Expedition 1892-3 by William Gordon Burn Murdoch via Wikimedia Commons


by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh

He can still hear it:
the glaciers rasping,
their ratcheting in the distance,
the snow-quiet.

And still he remembers
gulping unsullied freshness
to clarify his lungs,
the holy coldness blessing his skin.

He gave his heart
to that stinging brightness,
that taciturn redoubt,
that uncluttered country.

But no choice except a return
to dampness and home.
He had to turn
his back on blankness.

On so many nights
his wife asks him tentatively
to abandon the kitchen
and join her upstairs.

He loves the irregular loneliness
of each tap-drip
and it’s music to him
the refrigerator’s drone:

basso profundo
slow in the recital,
grinding sighs that call out
to his being’s every melting element.

Translated from the Irish by Billy Ramsell

Cloiseann sé fós é:
díoscán an oighir,
tormáil i bhfad uaidh,
ciúnas an tsneachta.

Is cuimhin leis go fóill
an t-aer úr a shlogadh,
an dá scamhóg aige glanta,
fuacht naofa ag beannú a chnis.

Thug sé grá a chroí
don ghoimh gheal,
don díseart tostach
don tírdhreach glan.

Ach b’éigean dó filleadh ar an taiseacht
is ar an mbaile.
Bhí air cúl a thabhairt
don mbáine.

Is iomaí oíche
a iarrann a bhean air go caoin
an chistin a fhágaint
is dul léi a luí.

Is aoibhinn leis
uaigneas an tsileáin ón sconna.
Is ceol aige
srannán an reoiteora:

Nótaí doimhne
á seimint go mall,
Gliúscáil ochlánach
a labhair le gach ball dá bheo.

via Poetry Foundation

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  • Lovely. ‘The uncluttered country’ made me think of Hamlet’s ‘undiscovered country’ and Ella Wheeler Wilcox’ poem of the same name. Love the painting. At this minute I am at the southernmost coast of New Zealand sitting up in bed looking at the ocean crashing and watching the squally weather drift up from Antartica.

    • Now I had to go look up the Ella Wheeler Wilcox poem. I like it.

      Man has explored all countries and all lands,
      And made his own the secrets of each clime.
      Now, ere the world has fully reached its prime,
      The oval earth lies compassed with steel bands,
      The seas are slaves to ships that touch all strands,
      And even the haughty elements sublime
      And bold, yield him their secrets for all time,
      And speed like lackeys forth at his commands.

      Still, though he search from shore to distant shore,
      And no strange realms, no unlocated plains
      Are left for his attainment and control,
      Yet is there one more kingdom to explore.
      Go, know thyself, O man! there yet remains
      The undiscovered country of thy soul!

      “at the southernmost coast of New Zealand sitting up in bed looking at the ocean crashing and watching the squally weather drift up from Antartica.”

      That sounds lovely. What a picture.