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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.

Savoy: Mont Blanc

The Coming of Mont Blanc

By Henry Morford (1823–1881)

RUNNING along the high level

Of Jura, wild and hard,

With the charms of the great Rhone Valley yet lingering in my eyes,—

I heard the porter out calling

The station-name “Bellegarde!”

And then in a moment later I saw wedded earth and skies.

A snow-bank reached to heaven,

And the clouds below its crown

Seemed shrinking off from its summit in a natural fear and awe;—

Great feathery swales suggesting

The lightness of eider-down,

And held in that air-solution by nature’s chemical law.

And there, but a little eastward,

Slim needles, greenly white,

Thrust up through the higher strata their points so fatal keen;

Catching and breaking and changing

The wonderful play of light,

But never losing that radiance denied to the lowlands mean.

The great white Alps, and their monarch,

Mont Blanc of the royal fame,

And the Aiguillettes resplendent, that hem the robes of a king:

These were the long-sought glories

That to me that moment came;

And the hour must be far, far distant, an answering thrill to bring.

It seemed as if toil and danger,

As if absence and pain and grief,

In that one supremest moment were a thousand times repaid,—

Like slaking the drouth of the thirsty,

And giving the sick relief,

And allowing the tired to slumber in the cool and pleasant shade.

“Mont Blanc!” I cried; I remember

How calmer companions stared

And looked, from the carriage window to see me insanely leap:

“Mont Blanc!—Thy throne, Almighty!—

And thine eye its brow has dared,

As we have so often dreamed in our broken prophetic sleep!”

“How far away? Is it twenty,

Is it thirty, or fifty miles?”

And a pleasant voice makes answer, of a Swiss beside us there,

While her face is lit with the calmest

Of sweet, compassionate smiles:

“’T is an hundred miles from here the great mountain heaves in air.”

An hundred miles! So reach us

At a distance beggaring thought,

The great deeds that the wise and the mighty have done to exalt our race!

So the might of the art creative,

And the marvels it has wrought,

Outstrip the thought that is laggard and make vassals of time and space!

Since then, by sunlight, by moonlight,

At soft eve and radiant morn,

I have watched the Alpine monarch and studied his smile and frown;—

Have seen moraine and glacier

Where ice-bound rivers are born,

And passed the spot where the avalanche comes crashing and thundering down.

But he gives me no hour exultant

Like that when I seemed to choke,

On the wooded heights of Jura, with a pleasure akin to pain,—

When the wild white Alpine glory

To my waiting spirit spoke,

And the scene was forever pictured on the nerves of heart and brain.