Excelsior

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Bibliographical and Critical Notes, Riverside Edition (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890), I: 79-82. PS 2250 E90 Robarts Library.
1The shades of night were falling fast,
2As through an Alpine village passed
3A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
6His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
9The accents of that unknown tongue,
10    Excelsior!
11In happy homes he saw the light
12Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
13Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
14And from his lips escaped a groan,
15    Excelsior!
16"Try not the Pass!" the old man said;
17"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
18The roaring torrent is deep and wide!"
19And loud that clarion voice replied,
20    Excelsior!
21"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest
22Thy weary head upon this breast! "
23A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
24But still he answered, with a sigh,
25    Excelsior!
26"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
27Beware the awful avalanche!"
28This was the peasant's last Good-night,
29A voice replied, far up the height,
30    Excelsior!
31At break of day, as heavenward
33Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
34A voice cried through the startled air,
35    Excelsior!
36A traveller, by the faithful bound,
37Half-buried in the snow was found,
38Still grasping in his hand of ice
39That banner with the strange device,
40    Excelsior!
41There in the twilight cold and gray,
42Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
43And from the sky, serene and far,
44A voice fell like a falling star,
45    Excelsior!

Notes

4] device: heraldic motto. Back to Line
5] Excelsior: higher (Latin). Back to Line
7] falchion: curved sword with a wide blade. Back to Line
8] clarion: loud and clear. Back to Line
32] an abbey near either the Great Saint Bernard pass through the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy, or the Little Saint Bernard pass over the Savoy Alps between France and Italy. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1841
Publication Notes: 
Ballads and Other Poems (1841)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Rhyme: