The Poetical Works of Thomas Hood, by Thomas Hood

Ode to Captain Paery

“By the North Pole, I do challenge thee!”

Love’s Labour’s Lost.


Parry, my man! has thy brave leg

Yet struck its foot against the peg

On which the world is spun?

Or hast thou found No Thoroughfare

Writ by the hand of Nature there

Where man has never run!


Hast thou yet traced the Great Unknown

Of channels in the Frozen Zone,

Or held at Icy Bay,

Hast thou still miss’d the proper track

For homeward Indian men that lack

A bracing by the way?


Still hast thou wasted toil and trouble

On nothing but the North-Sea Bubble

Of geographic scholar?

Or found new ways for ships to shape,

Instead of winding round the Cape,

A short cut thro’ the collar?


Hast found the way that sighs were sent to

The Pole — tho’ God knows whom they went to!

That track reveal’d to Pope —

Or if the Arctic waters sally,

Or terminate in some blind alley,

A chilly path to grope?


Alas! tho’ Ross, in love with snows,

Has painted them couleur de rose,

It is a dismal doom,

As Clauclio saith, to Winter thrice,

“In regions of thick-ribbed ice”—

All bright — and yet all gloom!


’Tis well for Gheber souls that sit

Before the fire and worship it

With pecks of Wallsend coals,

With feet upon the fender’s front,

Roasting their corns — like Mr. Hunt —

To speculate on poles.


’Tis easy for our Naval Board —

’Tis easy for our Civic Lord

Of London and of ease,

That lies in ninety feet of down,

With fur on his nocturnal gown,

To talk of Frozen Seas!


’Tis fine for Monsieur Ude to sit,

And prate about the mundane spit,

And babble of Cook’s track —

He’d roast the leather off his toes,

Ere he would trudge thro’ polar snows,

To plant a British Jack!


Oh, not the proud licentious great,

That travel on a carpet skate,

Can value toils like thine!

What ’tis to take a Hecla range,

Through ice unknown to Mrs. Grange,

And alpine lumps of brine?


But we, that mount the Hill o’ Rhyme,

Can tell how hard it is to climb

The lofty slippery steep,

Ah! there are more Snow Hills than that

Which doth black Newgate, like a hat,

Upon its forehead, keep.


Perchance thou’rt now — while I am writing —

Feeling a bear’s wet grinder biting

About thy frozen spine!

Or thou thyself art eating whale,

Oily, and underdone, and stale,

That, haply, cross’d thy line!


But I’ll not dream such dreams of ill —

Rather will I believe thee still

Safe cellar’d in the snow —

Reciting many a gallant story,

Of British kings and British glory,

To crony Esquimaux —


Cheering that dismal game where Night

Makes one slow move from black to white

Thro’ all the tedious year —

Or smitten by some fond frost fair,

That comb’d out crystals from her hair,

Wooing a seal-skin dear!


So much a long communion tends,

As Byron says, to make us friends

With what we daily view —

God knows the daintiest taste may come

To love a nose that’s like a plum

In marble, cold and blue!


To dote on hair, an oily fleece!

As tho’ it hung from Helen o’ Greece —

They say that love prevails

Ev’n in the veriest polar land —

And surely she may steal thy hand

That used to steal thy nails!


But ah, ere thou art fixed to marry,

And take a polar Mrs. Parry,

Think of a six months’ gloom —

Think of the wintry waste, and hers,

Each furnish’d with a dozen furs,

Think of thine icy dome!


Think of the children born to blubber!

Ah me! hast thou an Indian rubber

Inside! — to hold a meal

For months — about a stone and half

Of whale, and part of a sea calf —

A fillet of salt veal! —


Some walrus ham — no trifle but

A decent steak — a solid cut

Of seal — no wafer slice!

A reindeer’s tongue and drink beside!

Gallons of sperm — not rectified!

And pails of water-ice!


Oh, canst thou fast and then feast thus?

Still come away, and teach to us

Those blessed alternations —

To-day to run our dinners fine,

To feed on air and then to dine

With Civic Corporations —


To save th’ Old Bailey daily shilling,

And then to take a half-year’s filling

In P.N.‘s pious Row —

When ask’d to Hock and haunch o’ ven’son,

Thro’ something we have worn our pens on

For Longman and his Co.


O come and tell us what the Pole is —

Whether it singular and sole is —

Or straight, or crooked bent —

If very thick or very thin —

Made of what wood — and if akin

To those there be in Kent?


There’s Combe, there’s Spurzheim, and there’s Gall,

Have talk’d of poles — yet, after all,

What has the public learn’d?

And Hunt’s account must still defer —

He sought the poll at Westminster —

And is not yet return’d!


Alvanly asks if whist, dear soul,

Is play’d in snow-towns near the Pole,

And how the fur-man deals?

And Eldon doubts if it be true,

That icy Chancellors really do

Exist upon the seals!


Barrow, by well-fed office grates,

Talks of his own bechristen’d Straits,

And longs that he were there;

And Croker, in his cabriolet,

Sighs o’er his brown horse, at his Bay,

And pants to cross the mer!


O come away, and set us right,

And, haply, throw a northern light

On questions such as these:—

Whether, when this drown’d world was lost.

The surflux waves were lock’d in frost,

And turned to Icy Seas!


Is Ursa Major white or black?

Or do the Polar tribes attack

Their neighbors — and what for?

Whether they ever play at cuffs,

And then, if they take off their muffs

In pugilistic war?


Tells us, is Winter champion there,

As in our milder fighting air?

Say, what are Chilly loans?

What cures they have for rheums beside,

And if their hearts get ossified

From eating bread of bones?


Whether they are such dwarfs — the quicker

To circulate the vital liquor —

And then, from head to heel —

How short the Methodists must choose

Their dumpy envoys not to lose

Their toes in spite of zeal?


Whether ’twill soften or sublime it

To preach of Hell in such a climate —

Whether may Wesley hope

To win their souls — or that old function

Of seals — with the extreme of unction —

Bespeaks them for the Pope?


Whether the lamps will e’er be “learn’d”

Where six months’ “midnight oil” is burn’d

Or Letters must confer

With people that have never conn’d

An A, B, C, but live beyond

The Sound of Lancaster!


O come away at any rate —

Well hast thou earn’d a downier state —

With all thy hardy peers —

Good lack, thou must be glad to smell dock,

And rub thy feet with opodeldock,

After such frosty years.


Mayhap, some gentle dame at last,

Smit by the perils thou hast pass’d.

However coy before,

Shall bid thee now set up thy rest

In that Brest Harbor, woman’s breast,

And tempt the Fates no more!

The famous Arctic explorer was engaged for many years, from 1818 onwards, in his various efforts to discover the North-West Passage. He died in 1855.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55