Excelsior

 

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,

5       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,

10       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,

15       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,

20       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,

25       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,

30        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,

35       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,

40       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,

45       Excelsior!