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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI. 1876–79.

Switzerland: Reuss, the River

The Devil’s Bridge

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

(From The Golden Legend)

THIS bridge is called the Devil’s Bridge,

With a single arch, from ridge to ridge,

It leaps across the terrible chasm

Yawning beneath us, black and deep,

As if in some convulsive spasm,

The summits of the hills had cracked,

And made a road for the cataract,

That raves and rages down the steep!


Never any bridge but this

Could stand across the wild abyss;

All the rest, of wood or stone,

By the Devil’s hand were overthrown.

He toppled crags from the precipice,

And whatsoe’er was built by day

In the night was swept away:

None could stand but this alone.


I showed you in the valley a boulder

Marked with the imprint of his shoulder;

As he was bearing it up this way,

A peasant, passing, cried, “Herr Jé!”

And the Devil dropped it in his fright,

And vanished suddenly out of sight!


Abbot Giraldus of Einsiedel,

For pilgrims on their way to Rome,

Built this at last, with a single arch,

Under which, on its endless march,

Runs the river, white with foam,

Like a thread through the eye of a needle.

And the Devil promised to let it stand,

Under compact and condition

That the first living thing which crossed

Should be surrendered into his hand,

And be beyond redemption lost.


At length, the bridge being all completed,

The Abbot, standing at its head,

Threw across it a loaf of bread,

Which a hungry dog sprang after,

And the rocks reëchoed with peals of laughter

To see the Devil thus defeated!