Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, EXCELSIOR, by HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW



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EXCELSIOR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The shades of night were falling fast
Last Line: Excelsior!
Subject(s): Life; Saint Bernard (Mountain), Switzerland


The shades of night were falling fast,
As though an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device--
Excelsior!
His brow was sad; his eye beneath
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath;
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue--
Excelsior!
In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan--
Excelsior!
"Try not the pass," the old man said:
"Dark lowers the tempest overhead;
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!"
And loud that clarion voice replied,
Excelsior!
"O stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!"
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
Excelsior!
"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last good-night:
A voice replied, far up the height,
Excelsior!
At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried, through the startled air,
Excelsior!
A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in His hand of ice
That banner with the strange device--
Excelsior!
There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star--
Excelsior!




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