EXCELSIOR

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

  All              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, 
  Reader 1     Excelsior!

  All              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, 
  Reader 2     Excelsior!

  All               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, 
  Reader 3     Excelsior!

  All               "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, 
  Reader 4     Excelsior!

  All               "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, 
  Reader 5     Excelsior!

  All              "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, 
  Reader 6     Excelsior!

  All               At break of day, as heavenward
                    The pious monks of Saint Bernard
                    Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
                    A voice cried through the startled air,
  Reader 7     Excelsior!

  All              A traveler, by the faithful hound, 
                    Half-buried in the snow, was found, 
                    Still grasping in his hand of ice 
                    That banner with the strange device, 
  Reader 8     Excelsior!

  All              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, 
  Reader 9     Excelsior!

 

Glossary:

falchion - sword
sheath - a case for the falchion
spectral - ghostly
glacier - mass of ice
tempest - violent storm
torrent - a rushing stream of water
clarion - clear and shrill
pious - devoted to religion
oft - often
faithful hound - St. Bernard dog