Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Norway: Romsdal


By George Gilfillan (1813–1878)

(From Night, Book III)

AND here, my soul, pursue the midnight sun,

And fly to watch him from the Romsdal Horn,

Unclimbed by man; but Fancy, by one bound

Gaining the unfooted summit, steps secure

Upon the toppling crag, the slippery verge,

Whence snow in terror falls; which eagles touch

Half trembling, half in triumph; where the light

Seems flurried in its passage, and the mist

Creeps shuddering, with cold and cautious foot,

Upon the highest, sharpest pinnacle.

Stand there, my soul, and mark the scene beneath:

The half of Norway round this peak expands,

Eastward a mountain, with a thousand eyes

Of crags like needles, piercing spots of snow,

Looks, leaning over at that mighty Horn,

In unapproachable and powerless hate,

So deep the yawning gulf that sunders them,

A gulf through which no stream dares murmur peace;

Beyond, a thousand torn and dreary hills

Carry the eye across the Dovre Fjeld,

Like stepping-stones o’er some dull stream of death;

A glacier here and there, its frozen shield

Lifting up blue against the shafts of day,

While in the utmost east Snïehätten stands,

Soaring nine thousand feet in spotless snow,

Of Norway’s Alps the solitary king.

Southward a valley, like one waterfall,

Comes leaping, tumbling, tossing into sight;

A hundred woods are there, a hundred streams,

Some lifting up their spray-sheets from afar,

Like banners of the Naiads in their wrath;

Some breaking into view like prisoners

Escaped from bondage in the hollow glens,

Loud laughing in their joy, while others growl,

Far down, in obscure contest with the rocks.

And, lo! two cataracts, from rival cliffs,

Springing to meet and marry in mid air:

Marry! it is the meeting of two wolves;

They foam, they tear, they wrestle in their ire,

Till spent they sink, and, cowering, roll in one

Their green and glimmering waters down the vale

Beyond. And westward the Witch Peaks are seen,

The torn and ragged children of the mist,

Which playeth there with magic lights and shades,

Heaving up hills far higher than the clouds,

And making clouds seem solid mountain-tops.

Here crags are touched with finger-tips of gold,

And there a sudden glory downward pours

On darksome depths, where dragons of the pit

Might hide forever their unearthly forms:

Enchanted, solemn, Sinaïtic scene,

Which dwells upon my mind like a wild dream!

Upon the North, see the green Romsdal stream

Has found its fiord, while the mountains near

Stand up in fixed and monumental gaze,

As pyramids precipitous and bold;

And, far beyond old Moldé, billows vast

Of alpine summits roll against the sky,

As if disordered in a mighty march;

Here some as blue as the blue skies themselves,

There others scarred by time or stained with snow;

Some sharp as sabres, others blunt as roofs,

Some laboring in mist, while others stand,

Gigantic flames, conversing with the sun.

And ere the mist has wrapped them all in gloom,

Behold yon mountain in the far northeast;

He is alone, as some old prophet who

Survives his kindred and out-towers his age:

The sun smiles on his brow, and none besides.

How beautiful his lonely lustre seems,

Like eye of happy spirit lingering,

Ere leaving for a better, unknown land;

And when it vanishes he too has fled,

His glory and himself at once are gone,

Dying as the last saint on earth might die!

So is it for an hour; but, lo! the mist

Again disperses, and a silence strange

Comes on my spirit, and proclaims that now

Midnight has fallen upon the northern hills.

Soundless the landscape, cloudless is the sun,

The mists are fled, the fiords sleep in light,

And yet it seems as if an agony

Were sweltering somewhere in the utmost north,

An “agony of glory,” crisis fierce

Of burning fever, transit terrible,

Over some point of torture to the sun!

See how he droops, and with a strange vague eye

Beholds the midnight world, while toward him

All Nature looks with interest intense;

Each mountain is a face, gleaming on him;

The great Snïehätten glares, a thousand hills

Lift eyes of earnest question to the north;

The very torrents in that sleepless sun

Seem in their silence gazing eagerly:

It is as though a god were dying there,

Or maddening in some nameless, hopeless woe,

With the unrest of all his universe,

Awake around in silent sympathy;

Till, lo! the limit ’s past, and the broad ray

Springs fresh and lively up the morning sky,

And all the birds their matins loud begin,

And all the mountains quit their stony stare,

And dew and beauty sparkle out again.

And see yon eagle, who with awestruck eye

Had the whole glaring night watched his great sire

From eastern eyry, starts in joy, and wheels

Around the Romsdal Horn his airy flight,

And calls on Norway to rejoice with him,

Because that hideous midnight ’s fled, that noon

Unnatural, more dread than darkness, gone,

And morn is sweetly shining on the world.