Land of the Ice Dragons


I was sorting through some old files on my computer the other day when I came across a poem I wrote when I was thirteen. Reading it for the first time in years, I was overcome by a surprisingly visceral memory: I wrote the poem after visiting the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers with my family while we were on a campervan tour of the South Island and, setting aside the cringeworthiness of the words, they capture the experience of walking down a valley towards the foot of a glacier fairly well… the cold, refreshing wind coming off the ice like it’s the glacier’s breath… The photographs do not do it justice, so here is the poem, for which I apologise in advance… it’s called Disturbing a Dragon


Jagged crown of gleaming white

Cold heart of blue

Retreating slowly, night by night

’Cross the mountains through

154 Glacier Franz Josefcropped

I approach the icy fortress

Asleep for a thousand years

The great dragon, the mountain’s mistress

Suddenly she rears


Ghostly breath so deathly cold

(Bare arms in the chill)

An ice-formed dragon in the valley old

The sun hides behind the hill


I see the ice queen study me

Crystal eyes a-glare

Cathedral wings, she hauls them free

Slicing fangs a-flare


My frosted hand grips my sword

I raise my shield in fear

The time comes, the dragon roars

And then she sheds a tear


The tear drips down her shining snout

And crashes to the dirt

Something stirs in me, I shout

“Great dragon, are you hurt?”


“Why seek you to destroy me?

There really is no need

The warming world does that, you see

Watch how I recede


“It does not matter what you wield

I’ll soon meet my end

Put down your sword, put down your shield

Stop playing pretend”


The dragon lowers her melting wings

Lamenting her defeat

A piece of ice falls as she sings

Rolling to my feet


I pick it up, the chunk of ice

A silver witch’s orb

153 Abigail with icecroppedBut now my jacket does entice

I feel the cold absorb


One last look at the glacier

Before my mum says “Come

Put that down, it’s freezing here”

My hands are going numb


Visiting the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers was one of the highlights of that South Island campervan holiday. I would recommend it to anyone travelling around New Zealand. There’s a variety of guided tours that take you onto and around both glaciers, with activities including ice climbing and helicopter rides, but these are quite expensive. Happily, you can walk up to both glaciers by yourself on easygoing tracks for free – just make sure you don’t cross the safety barriers!

New Pictures 043

One thought on “Land of the Ice Dragons

  1. […] expensive tour, you can simply walk up to it like we did. It was truly awe-inspiring. If you want proof of that, I wrote a poem after seeing […]


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