Friday, November 7, 2014

In the Kingdom of Ice

I picked up a copy of Booktalk in the library this week and found the blurb for Hampton Sides' new book, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette. And, hooray, my library had a copy in, so I grabbed it off the shelf and tucked it under my arm, slightly surprised that everyone else in the library that day weren't flocking to read another gruesome story of icy death. I can't wait to sit down and read.

The front pages of the book include this poem, "The Sinking of the Jeannette" by Joachim Ringelnatz.

In the kingdom of ice, far from the world,
    lamentations rise from the ship,
As she battles the slabs and the growling swirls,
    and writhes in their throttling grip.
The crusted floes crack in fits and in sprees,
    and in fury flog her planked hide,
Spent sailors fall upon supplicant knees,
    yearning for kith and hearthside.
The hungry ice clutches more tightly,
    to check the flight of its prey,
The captain's command rings forthrightly,
    "All hands quit while ye may!"
See how the rough men pine and weep,
    as she falters and slips,
High in the masts, the haunted winds whine,
    a dirge to the truest of ships
That bore them so long, yet now in the murk,
    the proud boat twists to her bed,
And when the day hath ended its work,
    Northern Lights paint her grave purple-red.

Ringelnatz was the pen name for German writer, Hans Böttiche.

Here is a humorous poem written by Ringelnatz in German.

Die Ameisen

In Hamburg lebten zwei Ameisen
die wollten nach Australien reisen.
Bei Altona auf der Chaussee
Da taten ihnen die Beine weh.
Und da verzichteten sie weise
Dann auf den letzten Teil der Reise.

Translated as a limerick:

The Ants

There once were two ants in Westphalia
Who wanted to go to Australia.
But cursing their feet
In a Belgian street
They gave up the trip as a failya.

This one reminds me of "The Ant Explorer," posted here

Explore more Poetry Friday with Diane at Random Noodling.


  1. "The Sinking of the Jeanette" reminds me of the narrative poems my father used to recite to us when we were little: "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" and the opening of "The Song of Hiawatha" were two of his favorites. The same elements are here: emotion, adventure, great sounds.

  2. Whenever I see ice, I do think kingdom. I love the line "twists to her bed." Madelyn

  3. I've been waiting to listen to this title on audio. I'm on a committee that puts together book discussion kits and we're always interested in adding some nonfiction titles. When you finish the book, I'd love to hear what you thought of it, and especially if you think it would make for a good discussion!

  4. Oh, yes, "twists in her bed" really gave a human element to the great ship and its grave. The second one was so funny!

  5. Maybe because it's been so windy here, these lines really struck me: "High in the masts, the haunted winds whine,
    a dirge to the truest of ships" Also, the ending.
    Let us know what you think of the book!

  6. Ooh. I know a certain hubby who will be getting this book for Christmas! Thanks for the heads up!

  7. What crackling, strong words in that poem! (And thanks for the comic relief of the second.) Must say, whenever I hear some historical bit or new book about explorers - especially in the ice! - I always think of you. ;0)

  8. I like this line: "High in the masts, the haunted winds whine," This poem reminds me of "The Wreck of the Hesperus."

  9. Oh that hungry ice! Just finishing edits on my Antarctica book... ice on my mind. KINGDOM does sound right up your iceberg, my friend. xo