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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: Alleghany Mountains, Pa.

Crossing the Alleghanies

By John Kirke Paulding (1779–1860)

AS looked the traveller for the world below,

The lively morning breeze began to blow,

The magic curtain rolled in mists away,

And a gay landscape laughed upon the day.

As light the fleeting vapors upward glide,

Like sheeted spectres on the mountain side,

New objects open to his wondering view

Of various form, and combinations new,

A rocky precipice, a waving wood,

Deep winding dell, and foaming mountain flood,

Each after each, with coy and sweet delay,

Broke on his sight, as at young dawn of day,

Bounded afar by peak aspiring bold,

Like giant capt with helm of burnished gold.


Now down the mountain’s rugged western side,

Descending slow, our lowly travellers hied,

Deep in a narrow glen, within whose breast

The rolling fragments of the mountain rest;

Rocks tumbled on each other, by rude chance,

Crowned with gay fern, and mosses, met the glance,

Through which a brawling river braved its way,

Dashing among the rocks in foamy spray.

Here, mid the fragments of a broken world,

In wild and rough confusion idly hurled,

Where ne’er was heard the woodman’s echoing stroke,

Rose a huge forest of gigantic oak;

With heads that towered half up the mountain’s side,

And arms extending round them far and wide,

They looked coeval with old mother Earth,

And seemed to claim with her an equal birth.


The forest roared, the everlasting oak

In writhing agonies the storm bespoke,

The live leaves scattered wildly everywhere,

Whirled round in maddening circles in the air,

The stoutest limbs were scattered all around,

The stoutest trees a stouter master found,

Crackling and crashing, down they thundering go,

And seem to crush the shrinking rocks below:

Then the thick rain in gathering torrents poured,

Higher the river rose, and louder roared;

And on its dark, quick eddying surface bore

The gathered spoils of Earth along its shore;

While trees, that not an hour before had stood

The lofty monarchs of the stately wood,

Now whirling round and round with furious force,

Dash ’gainst the rocks that break the torrent’s force,

And shiver, like a reed by urchin broke

Through idle mischief, or with heedless stroke;

A hundred cataracts, unknown before,

Rush down the mountain’s side with fearful roar;

And as with foaming fury down they go,

Loose the firm rocks and thunder them below,

Blue lightnings from the dark cloud’s bosom sprung,

Like serpents menacing with forked tongue,

While many a sturdy oak that stiffly braved

The threatening hurricane that round it raved,

Shivered beneath its bright resistless flash,

Came tumbling down amain with fearful crash.

Air, Earth, and Skies seemed now to try their power,

And struggle for the mastery of the hour;

Higher the waters rose, and blacker still,

And threatened soon the narrow vale to fill.