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

Western States: Lookout, the Mountain, Tenn.

Lookout Mountain

By George Dennison Prentice (1802–1870)

HISTORIC mount! baptized in flame and blood,

Thy name is as immortal as the rocks

That crowned thy thunder-scarred but royal brow.

Thou liftest up thy aged head in pride

In the cool atmosphere, but higher still

Within the calm and solemn atmosphere

Of an immortal fame. From thy sublime

And awful summit I can gaze afar

Upon innumerous lesser pinnacles,

And oh! my wingéd spirit loves to fly,

Like a strong eagle, mid their up-piled crags.

But most on thee, imperial mount, my soul

Is chained as by a spell of power.
I gaze

From this tall height on Chickamauga’s field,

Where Death held erst high carnival. The waves

Of the mysterious death-river moaned;

The tramp, the shout, the fearful thunder-roar

Of red-breathed cannon, and the wailing cry

Of myriad victims, filled the air. The smoke

Of battle closed above the charging hosts,

And, when it passed, the grand old flag no more

Waved in the light of heaven. The soil was wet

And miry with the life-blood of the brave,

As with a drenching rain; and yon broad stream,

The noble and majestic Tennessee,

Ran reddened toward the deep.
But thou, O bleak

And rocky mountain, wast the theatre

Of a yet fiercer struggle. On thy height,

Where now I sit, a proud and gallant host,

The chivalry and glory of the South,

Stood up awaiting battle. Sombre clouds,

Floating far, far beneath them, shut from view

The stern and silent foe, whose storied flag

Bore on its folds our country’s monarch-bird,

Whose talons grasp the thunderbolt. Up, up

Thy rugged sides they came with measured tramp,

Unheralded by bugle, drum, or shout,

And, though the clouds closed round them with the gloom

Of double night, they paused not in their march

Till sword and plume and bayonet emerged

Above the spectral shades that circled round

Thy awful breast. Then suddenly a storm

Of flame and lead and iron downward burst,

From this tall pinnacle, like winter hail.

Long, fierce, and bloody was the strife,—alas!

The noble flag, our country’s hope and pride,

Sank down beneath the surface of the clouds,

As sinks the pennon of a shipwrecked bark

Beneath a stormy sea, and naught was heard

Save the wild cries and moans of stricken men,

And the swift rush of fleeing warriors down

Thy rugged steeps.
But soon the trumpet-voice

Of the bold chieftain of the routed host

Resounded through the atmosphere, and pierced

The clouds that hung around thee. With high words

He quickly summoned his brave soldiery back

To the renewal of the deadly fight;

Again their stern and measured tramp was heard

By the flushed Southrons, as it echoed up

Thy bald, majestic cliffs. Again they burst,

Like spirits of destruction, through the clouds,

And mid a thousand hurtling missiles swept

Their foes before them as the whirlwind sweeps

The strong oaks of the forest. Victory

Perched with her sister-eagle on the scorched

And torn and blackened banner.
Awful mount:

The stains of blood have faded from thy rocks,

The cries of mortal agony have ceased

To echo from thy hollow cliffs, the smoke

Of battle long since melted into air,

And yet thou art unchanged. Aye thou wilt lift

In majesty thy walls above the storm,

Mocking the generations as they pass,

And pilgrims of the far-off centuries

Will sometimes linger in their wanderings,

To ponder, with a deep and sacred awe,

The legend of the fight above the clouds.