Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Tuesday Poem: The Ice Cart by Wilfred Gibson

Perched on my city office-stool,
 I watched with envy, while a cool
 And lucky carter handled ice. . . .
 And I was wandering in a trice,
 Far from the grey and grimy heat
 Of that intolerable street,
 O'er sapphire berg and emerald floe,
 Beneath the still, cold ruby glow
 Of everlasting Polar night,
 Bewildered by the queer half-light,
 Until I stumbled, unawares,
 Upon a creek where big white bears
 Plunged headlong down with flourished heels
 And floundered after shining seals
 Through shivering seas of blinding blue.
 And as I watched them, ere I knew,
 I'd stripped, and I was swimming too,
 Among the seal-pack, young and hale,
 And thrusting on with threshing tail,
 With twist and twirl and sudden leap
 Through crackling ice and salty deep -
 Diving and doubling with my kind,
 Until, at last, we left behind
 Those big, white, blundering bulks of death,
 And lay, at length, with panting breath
 Upon a far untravelled floe,
 Beneath a gentle drift of snow -
 Snow drifting gently, fine and white,
 Out of the endless Polar night,
 Falling and falling evermore
 Upon that far untravelled shore,
 Till I was buried fathoms deep
 Beneath the cold white drifting sleep -
 Sleep drifting deep,
 Deep drifting sleep. . . .

 The carter cracked a sudden whip:
 I clutched my stool with startled grip.
 Awakening to the grimy heat
 Of that intolerable street.

Copyright Wilfred Gibson, 1872-1962

Drowning in the intense heat that is covering Italy at the moment, I keep thinking of ice and polar bears and cool places.  Can't sleep, don't feel like eating, don't have the energy to do anything, except in the middle of the night when it's cooler.  So, when it came to choosing a Tuesday Poem, this one came instantly to mind.  My cousin Jean had to learn it by heart for school and I remember one summer holiday when she kept repeating it over and over - can't read the poem now without hearing her fourteen year old voice reciting it.

Wilfred Gibson isn't much known now, but he was born in Hexham, near where I live in England, and, though he left as an adult and went to London, he spent most of his life writing about Northumberland (check out The Kielder Stone). He was a friend of Rupert Brooke and Edwin Muir and he's currently labelled a 'Georgian' poet and rather overlooked.

The Tuesday Poets are an international group who try to post a poem every Tuesday and take turns to edit the main website.  Check us out on this link. 


  1. I love the freshness of the imagination in this poem. from an office stool to swimming with the seals.And the polar bears plunging headlong down with flourished heels. That's so how it is but would never of thought to use the word flourished!The It's been rather chilly in NZ but I think I prefer that to a heatwave. Hope it ends soon.

    1. Thanks Helen - it has been so hot they're calling it the 'Days of Fire' here. Over 40 and rising. I would happily join the polar bears!

  2. Never seen this poem before but I love it! Vivid images come to mind.