William Morris In Iceland Part 2

5th September 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 Friday 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!

This is part 2 of his poem- please look out for more in this series to celebrate Morris’ writing!


“Ah! what came we forth for to see that our hearts are so hot with desire?

Is it enough for our rest, the sight of this desolate strand,
And the mountain-waste voiceless as death but for winds that may sleep not nor tire?
Why do we long to wend forth through the length and breadth of a land,
Dreadful with grinding of ice, and record of scarce hidden fire,
But that there ‘mid the grey grassy dales sore scarred by the ruining streams
Lives the tale of the Northland of old and the undying glory of dreams?”

-William Morris


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