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Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) by Matthew Noble (1817-1876). 1875. St John the Evangelist's Chapel, Westmister Abbey, London. The marble bust has a Gothic canopy, and a bas-relief below it, of the ship beset by and shrouded in ice.

Apart from the name, there are inscriptions above and below the bas-relief from the Benedicite: O YE FROST AND COLD, O YE ICE AND SNOW / BLESS YE THE LORD: PRAISE HIM AND MAGNIFY HIM FOR EVER. Below that too there is a verse, composed by Tennyson, "NOT HERE: THE WHITE NORTH HAS THY BONES; AND THOU, HEROIC SAILOR-SOUL, / ART PASSING ON THINE HAPPIER VOYAGE NOW / TOWARD NO EARTHLY POLE. Further inscriptions on either side explain how Franklin lost his life, along with his crew, in the attempt to find the north-west passage; and how his widow, Jane, who died in 1885, caused the memorial to be erected here.

Franklin looks rather benign, and the fate of the ship among the icebergs makes a (literally) sharp contrast to him, not at all in harmony with the idea that nature bears witness to the wonders of God, as the verse from the Benedicite suggests. It is as if the cruel fate of the expedition is still painfully felt.

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"Sir John Franklin, Explorer." website">Westminster Abbey

Created 18 June 2016