From a mighty cataclysm was a beverage born in the Land of Fire and Ice.

Old even in boyhood, faint and ill,
.  And sleepless on my couch of woe,
.  I sip this beverage, which I owe
To Geyser’s depths and Hecla’s hill,
In fields where ice lies layer on layer,
.  And lava hardens o’er the whole—
.  And the Circle of the Arctic Pole
Looks forth on snow-crags ever bare—
Where fierce volcanic fires burn blue
Through many a meteor-lighted night,
.  ‘Mid springs that foam in boiling might,
These blandly-bitter lichens grew.
Where, from the mountain’s furnace-lair,
.  From thousand smoke-enveloped cones,
.  Colossal blocks of red-hot stones
Are night by night uphurled in air—
(Like blood-red Saga-birds of yore)
.  While o’er the immeasurable snows
.  A sea of burning resin flows
Bubbling like molten metal ore—
Where from the Jokuls to the strand
.  The dimmed eye turns from smoke to steam
.  Only to track some sulphur-stream
That seethes along the blasted land—
Where clouds lie black on cinder-piles,
.  And all night long the lone Seal moans
.  As, one by one, the mighty stones
Fall echoing down on far-off isles—
Where, in a word, hills vomit flame,
.  And storms for ever lash the sea,
.  There sprang this bitter moss for me,
Thence this astringent potion came.
Yes, and my heart beats lightlier now,
.  My blood begins to dance along:
.  I now feel strong—Oh, more than strong!
I feel transformed I know not how!
The Meteor-lights are in my brain—
.  I see through smoke the Desolate Shore—
.  The raging Torrent sweeps once more
From Hecla’s crater o’er the plain.
Deep in my breast the Boiling Springs
.  Beneath apparent ice are stirred—
.  My thoughts are each a Saga-bird,
With tongues of livid flame for wings!
Ha!—what if this green beverage be
.  The Chalice of my future Life—
.  If now, as in yon Isle, the strife
Of Snow and Fire be born in me!
Oh, be it thus!  Oh, let me feel
.  The lava-flood in every vein!
.  Be mine the Will that conquers Pain—
The heart of rock—the nerves of steel!
Oh, let the flames that burn unfed
.  Within me wax until they glow,
.  Volcano-like, through even the snow
That in few years shall strew my head!
And, as the stones that Hecla sees
.  Flung up to heaven through fiery rain,
.  Descend like thunderbolts again
Upon the distant Faroëse,
So let the rude but burning rhymes
.  Cast from the cauldron of my breast
.  Again fall flashing down, and rest
On human hearts in farthest climes!
                  –  James Clarence Mangan
Ferdinand Freiligrath’s original poem, Moos-Thee (1826) –




Collected poems of Mangan –





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2 responses to “Mangan’s ICELAND-MOSS TEA.

  1. Dawn writes :

    I unfortunately do not speak German. What observations do you make as you compare Mangan’s poem with Freiligrath’s?

    I wonder if he was drinking his Iceland-Moss virgin or spiked.

    More likely his beverage of choice was a flagon of rum or a mysteriously labelled opiate tincture of some sort.

    Mangan’s translation of the Tea poem is actually a fairly close one, unlike the crack of his outrageous upsetting of The Metempsychosis by the Austrian poet Castelli. Therein the Dubliner really does a job Irishing it up with the most startling acrobatic features, or, as D. J. O’Donoghue terms it, “his marvellous power of rhyme and his daring metrical enterprises” –

    It seems to me a pos’tive truth, admitting of no modi-
          Fication, that the human soul, accustomed to a lodging
    Inside a carnal tenement, must, when it quits one body,
          Instead of sailing to and fro, and profitlessly dodging
    About from post to pillar without either pause or purpose,
    Seek out a habitation in some other cozy corpus,
    And when, by luck, it pops on one with which its habits
                                                                                                  match, box
    Itself therein instanter, like a sentry in a watch-box.

    In Clarence Mangan there was a comic librettist unfulfilled. The loss is ours, perhaps, but for solace we will see plenteous humorous verses in these pages — counterbalance to his “High-Dutch floods, that Reason cannot dam”.

    Cheers for tears,


  2. Dawn writes :

    Thank you for this!


    Indeed it was my pleasure.


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