Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Horace at your back vi: "And that determined me .. "

  The breast of the man who was the 
  first to dare
  To go out in a little boat upon 
  the waters
  Must have been made of oak and 
  triple bronze,
  Fearing neither the sudden African 
  Contending with the North Wind, 
  nor the storms
  The Hyades threaten, nor what the 
  South Wind, Notus,
  Who rules the Adriatic, is 
  capable of.

Feelingly I read these words from my pocket Horace as I sat on the crumbling volcanic summit of the Esja, having gained Iceland at last after five days of tempestuous buffeting in the North Atlantic sea. What could have impelled me, I sometimes wondered in the height of the storm, to face that terrible voyage? Curiosity, incredible romanticism, and the tedium of Europe. I had resolved to go somewhither, but not to Europe again, that devastated continent I knew too well, nor to America, which somehow I could not yet face; and then, looking at the map of the Temperate Zone to see what corners of the visitable earth remained when these rejected areas had been subtracted, I had seen the forgotten island, tucked away at the top of the page, in the northern ocean, hieroglyphically marked with eternal icecaps, and giant craters, and storm-broken creeks, and inhospitable wastes, and great fishful rivers with romantic unspeakable names.

   So I wrote to Thomas Cook's
   and said that I wanted to go
   to Iceland; and they replied
   that it was impossible to go
   to Iceland; and that deter-
   mined me to go, and I went.

  I, iii
  [fragment, cited in
  the following in Latin]
David Ferry
op. cit.

Hugh Trevor-Roper
September, 1946
The Wartime Journals
op. cit.

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