Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Western States: Sierra Madre, New Mexico Ter.
On the Summit of the Sierra Madre
George Dennison Prentice (1802–1870)
 
PERCHED like an eagle on this kingly height,
That towers toward heaven above all neighboring heights,
Owning no mightier but the King of kings,
I look abroad on what seems boundless space,
And feel in every nerve and pulsing vein        5
A deep thrill of my immortality.
How desolate is all around! No tree,
Or shrub, or blade, or blossom ever springs
Amid these bald and blackened rocks; no wing
Save the fell vulture’s ever fans the thin        10
And solemn atmosphere; no rain e’er falls
From passing clouds,—for this stupendous peak
Is lifted far above the summer storm,
Its thunders and its lightnings. As I hold
Strange converse with the genius of the place,        15
I feel as if I were a demigod,
And waves of thought seem beating on my soul
As ocean billows on a rocky shore
O’erstrown with mouldering wrecks.
                        I look abroad,
And to my eyes the whole world seems unrolled        20
As ’t were an open scroll. The beautiful,
Grand, and majestic, near and far, are blent
Like colors in the bow upon the cloud.
Illimitable plains, with myriad flowers,
White, blue, and crimson, like our country’s flag;        25
The green of ancient forests, like the green
Of the old ocean wrinkled by the winds;
Cities and towns, dim and mysterious,
Like something pictured in the dreams of sleep;
A hundred streams, with all their wealth of isles,        30
Some bright and clear, and some with gauze-like mists
Half veiled like beauty’s cheek; tall mountain-chains,
Stretching afar to the horizon’s verge,
With an intenser blue than that of heaven,
Forever beckoning to the human soul        35
To fly from pinnacle to pinnacle
Like an exulting storm-bird: these, all these,
Sink deep into my spirit like a spell
From God’s own spirit, and I can but bow
To Nature’s awful majesty, and weep        40
As if my head were waters.
                    Fare thee well,
Old peak, bold monarch of the subject clouds,
That crouch in reverence at thy feet; I go
Afar from thee—to stand where now I stand,
Oh, nevermore. Yet through my few brief years        45
Of mortal being, these wild wondrous scenes,
On which thou gazest out eternally,
Will be a picture graven on my life,
A portion of my never-dying soul.
What God has pictured Time may not erase.        50
 
 
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