William Morris’ Visit To Iceland

29th August 2014

In July 1871 William Morris took a journey to Iceland, at the time a huge journey. The journey was one of adventure, but partly the journeys purpose was escapism. Morris’s marriage was breaking down at home, his wife of 13 years Jane Burden was having an affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti- his best friend at the time. He left his wife and Rossetti in his martial home Kelmscott Manor, and embarked on his journey to Iceland. It was this journey that he wrote the poem, “Iceland First Seen” which we wish to share with you in a six part series to celebrate the incredible writer Morris was, showcasing his many talents- from poetry to design, his creative side seems to have known no bounds!


“Lo from our loitering ship a new land at last to be seen;
Toothed rocks down the side of the firth on the east guard a weary wide lea,
And black slope the hillsides above, striped adown with their desolate green:
And a peak rises up on the west from the meeting of cloud and of sea,
Foursquare from base unto point like the building of Gods that have been,
The last of that waste of the mountains all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and grey,
And bright with the dawn that began just now at the ending of day.”

-William Morris


Photos published by kind permission of Catherine Gallagher and Robert Askew (copyright 2013)