Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Central and Southern Africa: Kilimandjaro, the Mountain


By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

HAIL to thee, monarch of African mountains,

Remote, inaccessible, silent, and lone,—

Who, from the heart of the tropical fervors,

Liftest to heaven thine alien snows,

Feeding forever the fountains that make thee

Father of Nile and Creator of Egypt!

The years of the world are engraved on thy forehead;

Time’s morning blushed red on thy first-fallen snows;

Yet, lost in the wilderness, nameless, unnoted,

Of man unbeholden, thou wert not till now.

Knowledge alone is the being of Nature,

Giving a soul to her manifold features,

Lighting through paths of the primitive darkness

The footsteps of Truth and the vision of Song.

Knowledge has borne thee anew to Creation,

And long-baffled Time at thy baptism rejoices.

Take, then, a name, and be filled with existence,

Yea, be exultant in sovereign glory,

While from the hand of the wandering poet

Drops the first garland of song at thy feet.

Floating alone, on the flood of thy making,

Through Afric’s mystery, silence, and fire,

Lo! in my palm, like the Eastern enchanter,

I dip from the waters a magical mirror,

And thou art revealed to my purified vision.

I see thee, supreme in the midst of thy co-mates,

Standing alone ’twixt the earth and the heavens,

Heir of the sunset and herald of morn.

Zone above zone, to thy shoulders of granite,

The climates of earth are displayed as an index,

Giving the scope of the Book of Creation.

There, in the gorges that widen, descending

From cloud and from cold into summer eternal,

Gather the threads of the ice-gendered fountains,—

Gather to riotous torrents of crystal,

And, giving each shelvy recess where they dally

The blooms of the North and its evergreen turfage,

Leap to the land of the lion and lotus!

There, in the wondering airs of the Tropics

Shivers the Aspen, still dreaming of cold:

There stretches the Oak, from the loftiest ledges,

His arms to the far-away lands of his brothers,

And the Pine-tree looks down on his rival, the Palm.

Bathed in the tenderest purple of distance,

Tinted and shadowed by pencils of air,

Thy battlements hang o’er the slopes and the forests,

Seats of the gods in the limitless ether,

Looming sublimely aloft and afar.

Above them, like folds of imperial ermine,

Sparkle the snow-fields that furrow thy forehead,—

Desolate realms, inaccessible, silent,

Chasms and caverns where Day is a stranger,

Garners where storeth his treasures the Thunder,

The Lightning his falchion, his arrows the Hail!

Sovereign mountain, thy brothers give welcome:

They, the baptized and the crownéd of ages,

Watch-towers of continents, altars of earth,

Welcome thee now to their mighty assembly.

Mont Blanc, in the roar of his mad avalanches,

Hails thy accession; superb Orizaba,

Belted with beech and ensandalled with palm;

Chimborazo, the lord of the regions of noonday,—

Mingle their sounds in magnificent chorus

With greeting august from the Pillars of Heaven,

Who, in the urns of the Indian Ganges

Filter the snows of their sacred dominions,

Unmarked with a footprint, unseen but of God.

Lo! unto each is the seal of his lordship,

Nor questioned the right that his majesty giveth:

Each in his awful supremacy forces

Worship and reverence, wonder and joy.

Absolute all, yet in dignity varied,

None has a claim to the honors of story,

Or the superior splendors of song,

Greater than thou, in thy mystery mantled,—

Thou, the sole monarch of African mountains,

Father of Nile and Creator of Egypt!