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

New England: White Mountains, N. H.

In a Cloud Rift

By Lucy Larcom (1826–1893)

UPON our loftiest White Mountain peak,

Filled with the freshness of untainted air,

We sat, nor cared to listen or to speak

To one another, for the silence there

Was eloquent with God’s presence. Not a sound

Uttered the winds in their unhindered sweep

Above us through the heavens. The gulf profound

Below us seethed with mists, a sullen deep,

From thawless ice-caves of a vast ravine

Rolled sheeted clouds across the lands unseen.

How far away seemed all that we had known

In homely levels of the earth beneath,

Where still our thoughts went wandering—“Turn thee!” Blown

Apart before us, a dissolving wreath

Of cloud framed in a picture on the air:

The fair long Saco Valley, whence we came;

The hills and lakes of Ossipee; and there

Glimmers the sea! Some pleasant, well-known name

With every break to memory hastens back;


On widening vistas broader rifts unfold:

Far off into the waters of Champlain

Great sunset summits dip their flaming gold;

There winds the dim Connecticut, a vein

Of silver on aerial green; and here,

The upland street of rural Bethlehem;

And there, the roofs of Bethel. Azure-clear

Shimmers the Androscoggin; like a gem

Umbagog glistens; and Katahdin gleams

Uncertain as a mountain seen in dreams.

Our own familiar world, not yet half known,

Nor loved enough, in tints of Paradise

Lies there before us, now so lovely grown,

We wonder what strange film was on our eyes

Ere we climbed hither. But again the cloud,

Descending, shuts the beauteous vision out;

Between us the abysses spread their shroud:

We are to earth, as earth to us, a doubt.

Dear home folk, skyward seeking us, can see

No crest or crag where pilgrim feet may be.

Who whispered unto us of life and death

As silence closed upon our hearts once more?

On heights where angels sit, perhaps a breath

May clear the separating gulfs; a door

May open sometimes betwixt earth and heaven,

And life’s most haunting mystery be shown

A fog-drift of the mind, scattered and driven

Before the winds of God: no vague unknown

Death’s dreaded path,—only a curtained stair;

And heaven but earth raised into purer air.