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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery

THE ST. GOTHARD PASS

PRINCE HENRY.
This is the highest point.  Two ways the rivers
Leap down to different seas, and as they roll
Grow deep and still, and their majestic presence
Becomes a benefaction to the towns
They visit, wandering silently among them,
Like patriarchs old among their shining tents.

ELSIE.
How bleak and bare it is!  Nothing but mosses
Grow on these rocks.

PRINCE HENRY.
           Yet are they not forgotten;
Beneficent Nature sends the mists to feed them.

ELSIE.
See yonder little cloud, that, borne aloft
So tenderly by the wind, floats fast away
Over the snowy peaks!  It seems to me
The body of St. Catherine, borne by angels!

PRINCE HENRY.
Thou art St. Catherine, and invisible angels
Bear thee across these chasms and precipices,
Lest thou shouldst dash thy feet against a stone!

ELSIE.
Would I were borne unto my grave, as she was,
Upon angelic shoulders!  Even now
I seem uplifted by them, light as air!
What sound is that?

PRINCE HENRY.
             The tumbling avalanches!

ELSIE.
How awful, yet how beautiful!

PRINCE HENRY.
                           These are
The voices of the mountains!  Thus they ope
Their snowy lips, and speak unto each other,
In the primeval language, lost to man.

ELSIE.
What land is this that spreads itself beneath us?

PRINCE HENRY.
Italy! Italy!

ELSIE.
              Land of the Madonna!
How beautiful it is!  It seems a garden
Of Paradise!

PRINCE HENRY.
             Nay, of Gethsemane
To thee and me, of passion and of prayer!
Yet once of Paradise.  Long years ago
I wandered as a youth among its bowers,
And never from my heart has faded quite
Its memory, that, like a summer sunset,
Encircles with a ring of purple light
All the horizon of my youth.

GUIDE.
                           O friends!
The days are short, the way before us long:
We must not linger, if we think to reach
The inn at Belinzona before vespers!

They pass on.