The Franklin Expedition, 1845-1848

When you set out to find your Northwest Passage
and cross to an empty region of the map

with a passionate desire to know what lies beyond,
sailing the thundering ice fields on the ocean,

feeling her power move you from below;
when all summer the sun's hypnotic eye

won't blink, and the season slowly passes, an endless
dream in which you're forever diving into pools,

fame's image forever rising up to meet you;
when the fall comes, at last, triumphantly,

and you enter Victoria's narrow frozen strait,
and your Terror and Erebus freeze in the crushing floes;

in that long winter night among the steeples
of jagged ice, and the infinite, empty plain of wind and snow,

when the sea refuses to be reborn in spring,
three winters pass without a thaw, and the men,

far from their wives and children, far from God,
are murdering one another over cards;