RootsWeb: IRELAND-L [IRELAND] &Antarctica& — Derek MAHON (b. Belfast, Co. Antrim, 1941)

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/IRELAND/2002-12/1038857608


ANTARCTICA

“I am just going outside, and may be some time.”
The others nod, pretending not to know.
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

He leaves them reading and begins to climb,
Goading his ghost into the howling snow;
He is just going outside and may be some time.

The tent recedes beneath its crust of rime,
And frostbite is replaced by vertigo:
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

Need we consider it some sort of crime,
This numb self-sacrifice of the weakest? No,
He is just going outside and may be some time —

In fact, for ever. Solitary enzyme,
Though the night yield no glimmer there will glow,
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

He takes leave of the earthly pantomime
Quietly, knowing it is time to go.
“I am just going outside and may be some time.”
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

— Derek Mahon

This refers to the ill-fated Scott Expedition:

“Friday, March 16, or Saturday, 17. Lost track of dates, but think the last correct. Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn’t go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and we induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come.

“Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates’ last thoughts were of his mother, but immediately before he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and to the very last was able and willing to discuss outside subjects. He did not–would not–give up hope till the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning–yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since.”

SCOTT’S LAST EXPEDITION

CAPTAIN R. F. SCOTT, R.N., C.V.O.

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