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

Western States: Sierra Madre, New Mexico Ter.

On the Summit of the Sierra Madre

By George Dennison Prentice (1802–1870)

PERCHED like an eagle on this kingly height,

That towers toward heaven above all neighboring heights,

Owning no mightier but the King of kings,

I look abroad on what seems boundless space,

And feel in every nerve and pulsing vein

A deep thrill of my immortality.

How desolate is all around! No tree,

Or shrub, or blade, or blossom ever springs

Amid these bald and blackened rocks; no wing

Save the fell vulture’s ever fans the thin

And solemn atmosphere; no rain e’er falls

From passing clouds,—for this stupendous peak

Is lifted far above the summer storm,

Its thunders and its lightnings. As I hold

Strange converse with the genius of the place,

I feel as if I were a demigod,

And waves of thought seem beating on my soul

As ocean billows on a rocky shore

O’erstrown with mouldering wrecks.
I look abroad,

And to my eyes the whole world seems unrolled

As ’t were an open scroll. The beautiful,

Grand, and majestic, near and far, are blent

Like colors in the bow upon the cloud.

Illimitable plains, with myriad flowers,

White, blue, and crimson, like our country’s flag;

The green of ancient forests, like the green

Of the old ocean wrinkled by the winds;

Cities and towns, dim and mysterious,

Like something pictured in the dreams of sleep;

A hundred streams, with all their wealth of isles,

Some bright and clear, and some with gauze-like mists

Half veiled like beauty’s cheek; tall mountain-chains,

Stretching afar to the horizon’s verge,

With an intenser blue than that of heaven,

Forever beckoning to the human soul

To fly from pinnacle to pinnacle

Like an exulting storm-bird: these, all these,

Sink deep into my spirit like a spell

From God’s own spirit, and I can but bow

To Nature’s awful majesty, and weep

As if my head were waters.
Fare thee well,

Old peak, bold monarch of the subject clouds,

That crouch in reverence at thy feet; I go

Afar from thee—to stand where now I stand,

Oh, nevermore. Yet through my few brief years

Of mortal being, these wild wondrous scenes,

On which thou gazest out eternally,

Will be a picture graven on my life,

A portion of my never-dying soul.

What God has pictured Time may not erase.