Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery


PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE crossing with attendants.

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!

LUCIFER, under the bridge.
Ha! ha!

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.

LUCIFER, under the bridge.
Ha! ha!

I showed you in the valley a bowlder
Marked with the imprint of his shoulder;
As he was bearing it up this way,
A peasant, passing, cried, "Herr Je!
And the Devil dropped it in his fright,
And vanished suddenly out of sight!

LUCIFER, under the bridge.
Ha! ha!

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 he surrendered into his hand,
And be beyond redemption lost.

LUCIFER, under the bridge.
Ha! ha! perdition!

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 re-echoed with the peals of laughter,
To see the Devil thus defeated!

They pass on.

LUCIFER, under the bridge.
Ha! ha! defeated!
For journeys and for crimes like this
I let the bridge stand o'er the abyss!