George Manville Fenn ~ The Ice-Breaking

DGG fur DMdJDown by the woods in the rocky valley,
Where the babbling waves of the river sally,
Where the pure source gushes
And the wild fount rushes,
There’s the sound of the roar
That is heard on the shore,
Where the tumbling billows the chalk cliffs bore;
For down from each hill
With resistless will,
The floods are fast pouring their waters so chill,
And the West has risen with a cry and a shout,
Dash’d at the North to the Ice-king’s rout;
Then off and away,
For the livelong day
Has rush’d through the woodlands – no longer gay,
Splitting the branches;
While avalanches
Of melting snow
Bend the pine-boughs low,
And the earth with the spoil of the warfare strow.

And now once again
Comes the pitiless rain,
Pouring its torrents from black clouds amain;
Till the river is swollen and bursting its bounds,
And its muttering wrath sweeps in ominous sounds
On the wintry breeze,
Louder and louder by rising degrees.

The Ice-king is routed – his reign is past,
And the frost-bound river is rending fast;
And the West wind sweeps with a mournful sough,
And the flood tears through with the force of a plough.
Splitting and rending,
The ice unbending,
As with mighty burrow,
It carves out a furrow
Of churning wreck;
While, as if at its beck,
The foam-capped streams
Loose the Ice-king’s beams,
And each crystal fragment, with wild weird gleams,
Now sinks – now rises,
As each stream still prises,
Till the loosen’d river in fury rolls
Away through the valley; while icy scrolls
Are swept from the bank, where the snow lay heavy,
And snow-drift and ice joins the West’s rude levy;
Which at barrier scouts,
At each rock mound shouts;
Sweeping along towards the land of the plain,
Tingeing the waters with many a stain;
Foaming along in an eddying sweep,
And gliding in speed where the flood ploughs deep,
Rooting the reeds from their hold on the bank,
And widening its track where the marsh lies dank.

Away tears the river
With an earthquake’s speed,
Over the snow-cover’d lowland mead,
Laughing aloud at each reckless deed,
As the stricken farmers the ruin heed,
Whirling along on its bosom the reed
And the sharp, jagg’d ice and the harmless bead,
With the unchained course of a wild-born steed,
Till the hills where it passes quiver.

Away and away, and still onward away,
And there’s ruin and havoc in lowland this day;
For the waters brown
In their rage tear down,
Menacing shipping and threatening the town;
They’ve beat down the weir,
And dash’d at each pier,
And swept o’er the bank to the widespread mere,
Whose icy sheet,
As though torn by heat,
Has fallen in fragments where torrents meet;
While now for the bridge,
There’s an icy ridge
On the river’s breast,
Swept along by the West,
Whose might shall the strong beams and deep piles wrest,
Till the bridge goes down,
By the flooded town,
Where the lowing kine and the penn’d flocks drown.

But the damm’d stream rages,
For naught assuages
Its thirst for ruin;
And again undoing
The toil of years,
It hurries along till the rocks it wears.

And now there’s a crash and a mighty rattle
As a stalwart mound gives the river battle;
And soon engaging,
The waves leap raging,
Where the mound is gash’d,
By the churn’d ice dash’d,
While from out of the dam,
With the force of a ram,
Comes each huge, strong beam,
On the breast of the stream,
With the speed of an arrow,
Where the banks are narrow;
But the rocky face
Stays the furied race,
As round it the waters in madness enlace;
Lashing and tearing
With rage unsparing,
To beat down the stay
In the deadly fray;
And then, for more ruin, to hurry away;
But the hill stouthearted
The water has parted,
And away in a sever’d stream they tear
Like famish’d lions fresh from their lair,
Devouring, destroying, and bearing away
Each barrier, bank, or each timber’d stay;
Till they slacken their race by the sandy verge
Of the parent sea, whose wild, restless surge
Lashes the shore.
Towards her breast leap the rivers in eager guise,
Lost in the billows that hurrying rise
To welcome the treasures they pour.



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