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The Imaginary Iceberg

Written by: Elizabeth Bishop | Biography
 | Quotes (9) |
 We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship, 
although it meant the end of travel. 
Although it stood stock-still like cloudy rock 
and all the sea were moving marble. 
We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship; 
we'd rather own this breathing plain of snow 
though the ship's sails were laid upon the sea 
as the snow lies undissolved upon the water. 
O solemn, floating field, 
are you aware an iceberg takes repose 
with you, and when it wakes may pasture on your snows? 

This is a scene a sailor'd give his eyes for. 
The ship's ignored. The iceberg rises 
and sinks again; its glassy pinnacles 
correct elliptics in the sky. 
This is a scene where he who treads the boards 
is artlessly rhetorical. The curtain 
is light enough to rise on finest ropes 
that airy twists of snow provide. 
The wits of these white peaks 
spar with the sun. Its weight the iceberg dares 
upon a shifting stage and stands and stares. 

The iceberg cuts its facets from within. 
Like jewelry from a grave 
it saves itself perpetually and adorns 
only itself, perhaps the snows 
which so surprise us lying on the sea. 
Good-bye, we say, good-bye, the ship steers off 
where waves give in to one another's waves 
and clouds run in a warmer sky. 
Icebergs behoove the soul 
(both being self-made from elements least visible) 
to see them so: fleshed, fair, erected indivisible.



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