Saturday, 7 November 2009

Men's Hearts in the Great Alone

I am writing a short review for my university's bi-annual history magazine, Retrospect, about The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic Photography exhibition at the Queen's Gallery, which is bested by a long shot by this article. This semester's theme is "Trial and Retribution"; the feats of these fearless men and the stunning photography of Ponting and Hurley showcased in the exhibition beautifully illustrate the trials we put ourselves through and our retribution against the cruellest facets of nature.

Ernest Shackleton, the famed Antarctic explore described by a friend as "a Viking with a mother's heart", loved the history of adventure, and poetry, and the sea, just like I do. He is particularly fascinating to me as he is possibly my great grandfather's cousin - we've yet to know this for sure, but his story has been recounted to me so many times that it feels part of our history and in my eyes, he is as good as family.

This was his favourite poem, passed to me by my grandpa who knows it word for word;

We are the fools who cannot rest
In the dull earth we left behind
But burned with passion for the south
And drank strange frenzy from its wind
The land where wise men live at ease
Fades from our unregretful eyes
As blind across uncharted seas
We stagger to our enterprise

- John Lucas, an Irish writer


Cayt said...

My Aunt took me to that exhibition the day after it opened. She was one of the people who put it together. My favourite photo was Grotto in an Iceberg - it's one of the things that inspired the title of the novel I'm currently writing.

Did you look around the gift shop? I was seriously taken aback at the cushions made from Union Flags: the cheapest was £150, they ranged up in price to over £1000.

ray said...

The adventure of Shackleton and others is beautiful and tragic. The beauty of Antarctica seems almost sublime to me. I saw a similar exhibit many years ago. Poem resonates for me and that memory. I should like to read your review one day.