Excelsior

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through 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!

"Oh 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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Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Living, Death, Activities, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Refrain

 Henry Wadsworth  Longfellow

Biography

By far the most widely known and best-loved American poet of his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow achieved a level of national and international prominence possibly unequaled in the literary history of the United States. Poems such as "Paul Revere's Ride," Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie (1847), and "A Psalm of Life" became mainstays of national culture, long remembered by generations of readers who studied them in school. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Activities, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Refrain

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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