The Cross of Snow

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with Bibliographical and Critical Notes, Riverside Edition (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1890), III, 220. PS 2250 E90 Robarts Library.
2    A gentle face -- the face of one long dead --
3    Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
4    The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
5Here in this room she died; and soul more white
6    Never through martyrdom of fire was led
7    To its repose; nor can in books be read
8    The legend of a life more benedight.
9There is a mountain in the distant West
10    That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
11    Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
12Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
13    These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
14    And seasons, changeless since the day she died.


1] "`Looking over one day,' says Mr. Longfellow's biographer, `an illustrated book of Western scenery, his attention was arrested by a picture of that mysterious mountain upon whose lonely, lofty breast the snow lies in long furrows that make a rude but wonderfully clear image of a vast cross. At night, as he looked upon the pictured countenance that hung upon his chamber wall, his thoughts framed themselves into the verses that follow. He put them away in his portfolio, where they were found after his death." (Editor, p. 220.) The Mountain of the Holy Cross, at just over 14,000 feet, belongs to the Sawatch range of the Rocky Mountains and rises about one hundred miles west of Denver and fifteen miles south of Vail, Colorado. The first photograph of it, by William Henry Jackson in 1873, can be seen now in the Smithsonian Institution. A postage stamp commemorating the state's 75th anniversary depicted the image. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.