Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Mountain Burial

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

Southern States: Mount Mitchell, N. C.

The Mountain Burial

By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)

  • The Rev. Dr. Mitchell, Professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology in the University of North Carolina, lost his life in a scientific exploration of the Black Mountain, the highest land east of the Mississippi. When discovered in a stream, where, during the mists of evening, and the darkness of a sudden thunder-storm, he had fallen over a precipice of forty feet, he held in his hand a broken branch of laurel. He was interred on Mount Mitchell, June 16, 1858.

  • WHERE is he, Mountain-Spirit?

    Dread Mountain-Spirit, say!

    That honored Son of Science

    Who dared thy shrouded way?

    O giant Firs! whose branches

    In gloomy grandeur meet,

    Did ye his steps imprison

    Within your dark retreat?

    Ye Mists, and muffled Thunders

    That robe yourselves in black,

    Have you his steps deluded

    To wander from the track?

    Make answer!—Have ye seen him?

    For hearts with fear are bowed,

    And torches like the wandering stars

    Gleam out above the cloud.

    Sound, hunter’s horn!—Haste, Mountaineers!

    Lo, on the yielding fern,

    Are these his footprints o’er the ledge?

    Will he no more return?

    He cometh!—How?—Like marble,

    Forth from its quarried bed,—

    With dripping looks, and rigid brow,

    The sculpture of the dead.

    O’er that deep, watery mirror,

    With sweetly pensive grace

    The graceful Rhododendron leaned

    To look upon his face,

    While, mid the slippery gorges

    Those blushing laurels stand,

    Which, faithless, like the broken reed,

    Betrayed his grasping hand.

    No crystal in its hermit-bed,

    No strata of the dales,

    No stranger-plant, or noteless vine,

    In Carolinian vales,

    No shell upon her shore,

    No ivy on her wall,

    No wingéd bird, or reptile form,

    But he could name them all.

    So Nature hath rewarded him

    Who loved her sacred lore,

    With such a pillow of repose

    As man ne’er had before,

    A monument that biddeth

    Old Egypt’s glory hide,

    With all her kingly pyramids,

    In all their mole-hill pride.

    Up!—up!—courageous mountaineers,—

    Each nerve and sinew strain,—

    For what ye do from love this day

    Ye ne’er shall do again;

    From beetling crag to summit,

    So ominous and steep,

    They force their venturous way, where scarce

    The chamois dares to leap.

    There, many thousand feet above

    Atlantic’s surging height,

    Prelate and priest, with lifted hands

    Invoked the God of Might,

    And then that cloud-encircled cliff

    Unlocked its granite breast,

    And with a strong and close embrace

    The manly form comprest:

    So, in thy sepulchre of rock,

    Follower of Jesus, rest,

    Serene, approachless, and sublime,—

    Until the mountain crest

    Shall redden with the fires of doom,

    And Earth restore her dead!

    Then joyful leave thy Pisgah tomb,

    The promised land to tread.