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The Ice-Cart -- Wilfred Gibson

       
(Poem #622) The Ice-Cart
 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 a 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.
-- Wilfred Gibson
I like today's poem for the vivid trip through the poet's imagination - the
images are glowingly detailed, and move easily from scene to scene, the
whole capturing the feel of an extended reverie admirably. The varying pace
is handled nicely too - the crystalline images setting the scene, the burst
of activity, the drifting snow, all slide effortlessly into each other,
until the vision is abruptly shattered and the narrator is returned to the
'grimy heat' of his surroundings.

Biography:

b. Oct. 2, 1878, Hexham, Northumberland, Eng.
d. May 26, 1962, Virginia Water, Surrey

 British poet who drew his inspiration from the workaday life of ordinary
 provincial English families.

 Gibson was educated privately, served briefly in World War I, and
 thereafter devoted his life to poetry. A period in London in 1912 brought
 him into contact with Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, John
 Drinkwater, and other Georgian poets, with whom he founded the short-lived
 poetry magazine New Numbers. In 1917 he made a long lecture tour of the
 United States. His first poem had appeared in The Spectator in 1897, but it
 was with his realistic presentation of the lives of country folk in
 Stonefolds and On the Threshold (both 1907) that he first exploited the
 themes of contemporary life which distinguished his major works.

          -- EB

Links:

For a vision of an altogether different sort, poem #30
Ice, poem #145

martin

56 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Jack Diamond said...

I have searched for some time for this work remembered from 60 years
ago.there is an error ...it should read" the seal- pack"

mick brown said...

My recollection of this poem, learned in wartime England around 1943 was ..... "floundered after slippery seals through shimmering seas of icy blue".

Maybe our teacher, a fiery irishman named Carlo Loretto, decided to 'improve' Gibson's work? I think perhaps he might have . I also agree with Jack Diamond it should read "Among the seal pack....." Mick Brown.

John & Jacqueline Crook said...

I first heard this poem when I was about 7years old, lets say that was "about" 50 years ago. I have been searching for the words for the last 20 years (using libraries and poetry books) and only today "found it" through this site.

When this was read to us (me) by our English teacher it was a very hot sultry day. Within three lines I was there, swimmimg in cold water and walking ice flows ( although at that time living in the UK I did not know what an ice flow was).

Thanks for allowing me to relive a childhood memory,

John Crook
Lower Sackville
NS Canada.

The McKies said...

I learned this poem as a child at school but couldn't remember who wrote it. I thought that, I'd try to find it on the web. I typed a few words into 'Google' and here I am. As it has been so warm lately, it seemed appropriate. Thank you!
[broken link] http://web.onetel.net.uk/~marsonwae

Clive Collins said...

Clive Collins exSutton Coldfield in Warwickshire

I too read and had to learn this poem in wartime England at school.
I had also forgotton some of the text but there are certain words that I find distinctly odd, "sea-pack" does not make sense and I too recall "SEAL-pack" as one of them.
However, the errors are immaterial and I offer my thanks for the reviving of a memory from 1943.
Kindest regards,

Clive Collins

Gordon Robertson said...

I am 14 and I am studying this poem in my English class and found it very very interesting, I love the way that the author uses such great detail when the office worker is imagining he is a seal, and when I read it I could picture it in my head. I think that this author is very talented and this is a brilliant poem and I'm glad I am studying it.

howard hawker said...

a fine emotive work which i did in the 4th yr .....glad to be cooled by it again,

dr howard hawker

JnBurnham said...

I have searched for this poem in library and bookshops for over 25 years. I'm
new to the internet and as I couldn't remember who wrote it or hardly any of
the words I just typed in "of that intolerable street". It's wonderfull to
read it again. Thankyou.

PamPuig said...

I was delighted to finally find this long lost poem! I studied this some 24
yrs ago for my o level. The first line has come baack to me so many time and
I have been unable to complete it! I am going to save it and read it at my
leisure as I know I shall want to relive the class room situation in which I
learned it!! Thank you so much for printing it!
Pam Puig

Dominic Walshe said...

Like many respondents, I feel I've been reacquainted with an old
friend. As a secondary school pupil, in 1977, I, along with the rest of
my class, was forced to recite this poem by Mrs. Gunn, our English
teacher. At the time, I hated having to recite it, but looking back, it
was probably one of the best day's educational investments that I
made. Now, as an expatriate from England, living in California, I can
empathise with much of the poetic laments expressed in writings by
Wilfred Owen, Wilfred Gibson, and David Sylvian, to name but three.
Mrs. Gunn, perhaps, would be upset to learn that until today, when I
found the poem again, on your web site, I was only able to recite the
first six lines, off-by-heart. Reviewing the poem caused me to revisit
a past that I had long since forgotten, and unlike the individual in the
poem, even if the stimulus were to be rude or otherwise, I'm not sure
that I'll fully awaken.

Dominic T.Walshe

atir said...

As a child in Primary we were taught this poem and I had to recite it for a test.I have thought of it many times but could not recite it all.I was amazed to ask Google and up it came in a flash.I shall read time and time again to evoke memories of 55 years ago.We never realised then how things would change.
Rita Martin
South Yorkshire
England

Bill Cleghorn said...

On a whim I keyed the first line, remembered from school in St Albans,
England around 1954, into Google. Magic! The whole poem, unseen for
50 years, and every line familiar except for two completely forgotten.
I don't remember the teacher, but I do recall that the lines "The carter
cracked a sudden whip: I clutched my stool with startled grip" were held
up to us as a pair of fine examples of the 'transferred epithet'.
Enjoyed the comments posted about the Ice-Cart. Seems Gibson's poem made
quite a splash with my generation. Thanks for this little memory trip.

Bill Cleghorn

Mary Jane Miller said...

I remembered accurately only the last two lines and googled with
success. But I had elided this poem with one by Marjorie Pickthall
called " Dream River" , also on the internet. I found it first and
was surprised to find that it did not continue on with what I now
remember is a separate poem called 'THe Ice Cart". Memory does play
strange tricks. Taken together, the two poems could not be more
unlike, except for the sensual use of language. Gibson's is much
more adventurous in form. Now, 50 years after a grade eight class in
Toronto, I will hear and see both of them complete and on their own.
Thanks to the maker of this site

Mary Jane
--
Mary Jane Miller, Professor,
Chair of Department of Dramatic Arts
School of Fine and Performing Arts
Brock University,
St. Catharines, Ontario,
Canada, L2S 3A1.
: Fax:

Steve Gough said...

Like many others, I learned 'The 'Ice Cart' by heart nearly 60yrs ago but had forgotten some lines. I'm glad to have found it again.I too have the feeling that the words, 'shivering seas' should be 'shimmering seas' and also that there should not be the indefinite article between 'O'er' and 'sapphire'. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Thanks for printing this poem. Regards,
Steve gough
New Zealand.

Lodge Catherine said...

I remember having to learn this poem at junior school in the 1950's. I was
too young to understand it all - too "poetic" - but certain fragments have
always stuck in my mind.

Today it is so hot, and I am really perched on my city office stool and no
ice cart in sight. On an urge I rediscovered this old friend via an internet
search.

BayLa-Union GmbH Steuerberatungsgesellschaft
- Gesch√§ftsf√ľhrungssekretariat -
Catherine Lodge
TelFaxwww.bayla-gruppe.de

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Donald Kerr said...

Like everybody else here, I too remembered this from school days - but could not remember the poet! What a wonderful thing Google is (and inded this website) - my grandson will now benefit!
Pat Kerr

Mike Sadler said...

Greetings all.

I must firstly admit to being a none reader of poetry/verse etc, but I have been sent
a poem about my family and their cottage in Gloucestershire, written by Wilfred W
Gibson after he bought the property sometime around the turn of the 19th century.

The property was known and is still called 'The Olde Nail Shoppe' at Greenway near
Dymock, Gloucestershire, and became known as 'Poets Corner'.

The poem is as follows, and I would like to know if it is the entire poem, so please
email me direct at

With thanks.

Mike Sadler.

**********************************************************************

I dreamt of wings, and waked to hear
through the low sloping ceiling clear
The nesting starlings flutter and scratch
among the rafters of the thatch
Not twenty inches from my head
and lay, half dreaming , in my bed
watching the far elms, bolt- upright
black towers of silence in the night
of stars square framed between the sill....

Of casements and the eaves, until
I drowsed and must have slept a wink
and wakened to a ceaseless clink
of hammers ringing on the air....
and somehow, only half aware
I'd risen, and crept down the stair
Bewildered by strange, smokey gloom,
until I reached the living room
that once had been a nail shed......

And where my hearth had blazed, instead
I saw the nail-forge glowing red;
and through the strife, and smokey glare,
three dreaming women standing there....
With hammers beating red-hot wire,
on tinkling anvils, by the fire...
To ten-a-penny nails; and heard....
Though none looked up or breathed a word...
the song each heart sang to a tune
Of hammers, through a summers noon,
When they had wrought in that red glow
Alive , a hundred years ago.....
The song of girl, of wife and crone, sung
in the heart of each alone.

Peter Dahl said...

I was the son of an American military officer and was attending Form IV of
the British Institute in Madrid, Spain, 1954. As part of our English course
we had to recite a poem from memory. This poem was my recitation. Years
past. I was never sure of the name of the poem and had forgotten the
author's name, but I have never forgotten....the first half...reciting it to
my wife on occasion. I have been looking for it in libraries and other web
sites for the past 20 years. I have just found a diamond in the desert. I
will soon be able to return to Madrid of 1954 and complete my recitation
again. Thank you.

L. Peter Dahl AIA
Milton Pate Architects
2801 Buford Highway
Suite 280
Atlanta, GAtelfax

Russell Kent said...

Like many others I too remember having to learn this poem at school in
the mid fifties (maybe it was required reading?).
A very evocative poem which has stayed with me for fifty years. Best
read during a heat wave.
The Internet is wonderful for finding such shadows from the past.
Thank you for posting it.

Russell Kent

OddRon said...

From Ron Wallace ()

I am yet another who learned this poem in late wartime at school in
Greenford. For some reason it has stuck with me throughout my life together with
the Hiawatha trilogy, The Armada and the dear old Ancient Mariner. I wonder
if as many young people of today can
get the feel of the medium of poetry in telling and instilling a story.
P.S. Is Young Lochinvar still coming out of the West?

Levy said...

From: Malcolm K. Levy malviv@levy

I am not an internet buff but thank goodness my wife is. I've been trying to trace 'The Ice-Cart' for half a century, rattling off lines of it to my family, always worried if I have got it exactly right. At last my 'poetic soul' is at rest.

M.K. Levy
29 Ranulf Road,
London, NW2 2BS

Chris Clark said...

While reading a novel, I read the word 'cart' and later, 'the driver
cracked' and immediately made the intertextual link with 'The Ice Cart', a
poem I taught my class of secondary students some forty odd years ago. I
could remember most of it, which makes me suspect I used it with more than
one class. Oh, how I loved to read it aloud and the wonderful images it
evoked.

Richard Charnley said...

Standing in 'Refrigeration' section at the Science Museum, London looking at an old film of men cutting ice, suddenly out of nowhere the long-forgotten opening lines of this poem came into my head, first learned in Primary School, Sutton Coldfield England in the late 1950s.

George Elder said...

The Ice Cart

I learned most of this poem at school in 1948, Sunderland ,England, just a few miles away from Hexham. I never did learn all of it though it often visits my mind.

Now, through the use of a computer, the internet and your good offices, I can make it complete.

Thank you. I will be looking up more memories

poppylou said...

I loved this poem that I learned at school as part of the Choral Speaking Class and was always transported with the carter....I remembered the first lines, Googled, (good old google) and it's lovely to read it and be transported again. poppylou

Alan Butler said...

It's 94 degrees in the shade today, and for England that's hot. I was doing
a few jobs in the garage, sweating profusely and suddenly parts of this poem
came into my mind. I was out there with the seals and when the screwdriver
dropped from my grasp and cracked on the floor it was that same Ice Man's
whip, from forty-odd years ago in a glass-sided, boiling hot city school.

Thanks to an enlightened English teacher who knew enough to match the lesson
to the weather and who, by so doing, lodged something in my mind that has
never left me.

Alan Butler
Bridlington
England
July 2007

OleJameshBond said...

I have recited the opening lines of this one to myself over the last 30 odd
years whenever it was hot, yet I could not remember its title or author! A
quick search on Google brought it all back!!! I recall falling asleep on a warm
day in school as the English master droned on and on and on reading this one
aloud. When he reached the bit about the carter cracking his whip, he had
noticed that I was dozing in the back row and threw the chalk duster at me,
jerking me awake like the city clerk in the poem!

Jan Bridget said...

We had to learn lots of poems in school; this was the only one I managed to learn (in 1962) in full without getting any of it wrong; and the only one I still remember (apart from about four lines - which I can now add, thank you). Like others I searched and couldn't recall the poet. I have recited this poem many times at night, to help fall asleep and at other times when I have been stressed.

STEPHEN GRAHAM said...

For those of you who were taught this poem many years ago, you might be interested to know that I have just downloaded this resource to teach to a group of Year 7's. What a wonderful poem to capture the idea of idle daydreams on hot days.

Michael Church said...

Hello Bill (Cleghorn)

I have lost your email address - please reply and let us catch up!

Michael Church

The Independent

19 Chadwell Street
London
EC1R 1XD
telfax

Mbsc286 said...

I had to learn this poem for a music festival-- must be 60 years ago in a
Derbyshire village school-- never forgot it but could never find it-- tonight
when i was not able to sleep decided to try the wonder of the inter net!!
I could remember most of it but had a few lines wrong-- so glad
to have found it.
Sue Bye Lousiana

Skaters said...

I have been searching for this for years. I was first read to me in class
during a very hot Australian summer in the early sixties and since my
school days have only ever been able to remembered the first couple of
lines. I don't know why this piece captured me but I am thrilled to find it
again.

Many thanks

Tim Cotter

Brisbane Australia

Sheilagow said...

Have just googled The Ice Cart and delighted to find it in full. It revives
memories of schooldays and I still use the "sleep drifting deep, deep
drifting sleep" line to help me when I wake in the middle of the night and have
trouble dropping off again.

Robinson Ray - Health & Community said...

Like some of the other comments I too remember this poem from one hot
day in school 50 years ago. I have engraved in my mind the line 'The
carter cracked a sudden whip' our teacher slapping his hand down on his
desk to emphasise the office worker waking up from his day dream.

Ray Robinson

Bibliographical Services Unit

Halton Lea Library

Runcorn

WA7 2PF

Halton Borough

P Please don't print this email unless you need to.

Anonymous said...

I was quite pleased to find this poem which I learnt at high school in Jamaica some forty odd years ago. We did it at a choral festival our high school got a gold medal

Anonymous said...

I had to learn this poem in the sixties when I was 12 yrs old for my very formidibal English teacher Miss Bainbridge in Northumberland. I have always loved the poem but could not remember who wrote it so thank you for laying to rest a query of many decades.

Anonymous said...

Will always be grateful to Mr Mapplebeck at Ainthorpe Grove School, Hull for teaching me this wonderful poem 1943/44. Thank you Google. George T

Anonymous said...

I have been searching for this for years. I was first read to me in class
during a very hot Australian summer in the early sixties and since my
school days have only ever been able to remembered the first couple of
lines. javahostindo web hosting indonesia. I don't know why this piece captured me but I am thrilled to find it
again.

Many thanks

DudiOke

Anonymous said...

Ditto to so much of the above. I learned the first 15 lines of this wonderfully evocative poem as an 11 year-old 51 years ago. Through the miracle of the web I have today traced the writer and the remainder of this poem!
Joyous reacquaintance!

Ideas de negocios said...

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, but I am firmly convinced of this and love to learn more about the subject. If possible, acquire knowledge, would you update your blog with more information? It is very helpful to me

Christine Paice said...

I first learnt this poem when I was about 12yrs old at school in Brighton. I am now 60yrs old and I could only ever remember the first 9 lines but somehow they stuck. I also remembered the title and today I have at last found the whole poem again, I always loved it, why I don't know but thanks to this website I can learn the rest again at my leisure.

Anonymous said...

I first learnt this poem when I was at a boarding school in Germany in 1952/53. Unlike several other people, I have always remembered who the poet was and have been able to recite the whole poem ever since. I loved this poem so much then and still do now. Because I remembered the poets name, I was able to get a copy of a poetry book containing this lovely poem.I always bring it to mind whenever there is snow on the ground and drive my family bats by reciting it.

darokqvin said...

I NEED A SUMMARY FOR THIS POEM...
SOME1 PLZ HELP...:(

A. D. Thomas said...

I, too, learnt this poem in my first year in grammar school in 1941/2. The first line I remembered not as " Perched on my city office stool" but rather as " Sitting on my city office stool". This was taught to me as a good example of alliteration.

Anonymous said...

Yes, A. D. Thomas is correct; that is the original version.

Anonymous said...

I,too, was introduced to this poem in my first year at the Sacred Heart Grammar school, Wealdstone in Middlesex in 1965. I can't remember what I thought of it at the time but I do remember the poem and often think about it.
Wonderful!

L.Bagot said...

Again, learn't at school in 1940 as a 12year old. Searched for years,on & off, couldn't recall name of poet. Recalled the opening lines as perched high on my city stool, otherwise more or less as remembered.

Anonymous said...

Just thought I would read this poem again after so many years. It was the chosen poem for the Buxton Music Festival of 1946 (I think) where I won 2nd prize for reciting it. Mother was so proud but I think the adjudicator was sick of hearing the thing by the time I stood on stage!

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Anonymous said...

lovely memories of my early apprenticeship years 'metro vickers in the fifties.Mucky old trafford park was gone in a flash once I lapsed into //// perched on my city office stool///

Anonymous said...

lovely memories of my early apprenticeship years 'metro vickers in the fifties.Mucky old trafford park was gone in a flash once I lapsed into //// perched on my city office stool///

Anonymous said...

lovely memories of my early apprenticeship years 'metro vickers in the fifties.Mucky old trafford park was gone in a flash once I lapsed into //// perched on my city office stool///

Anonymous said...

mum (84 years old) learnt this poem as a child.often in my childhood she would say it out loud to us with such a feeling ,we really lived it and thanks to mum its one of the best ever.Thank you wilfred gibson

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