“The Summit” [poem]
OH, we are on the mountain‐top!
The clouds float by in fleecy flock,
Heavy, and dank. Around, below,
A wilderness of turf and snow,—
Scanty rock turf, or marble bare,
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Without a living thing; for there
Not a bird clove the thin, cold air
With labouring wing: the very goat
To such a height ascendeth not;
And if the cloudʼs thick drapery
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Clove for a moment, you would see
The long, white snow fields on each side
Clasping the mountain‐breast, or heaped
In high, wreathed hills, whence torrents leaped,
And gathering force, as down they well
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To aid the swift Rhineʼs headlong swell.
And here and there a mouldʼring cross
Of dark pine, matted oʼer with moss.
Hung oʼer the precipice, to tell
Where some benighted traveller fell;
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Or where the avalancheʼs leap
Hurled down, with its wild thunder sweep,
Him unexpecting; and to pray
The passing traveller to stay,
And, looking from the precipice
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Dizzily down to the abyss,
To wing to heaven one short prayer,
One, for the soul that parted there.
I thought, as by the cross I past,
Of far Helvellynʼs dreary waste,
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ʼMid my own hills, and legend strange; 2
How from dark Stridenʼs ridgy range 3
One fell, upon a wintry day,
When snow wreaths white concealed his way,
And died, beside a small dark tarn, 4
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Oʼerlooked by crags, whose foreheads stern
Shut in a little vale; a spot
By men unknown and trodden not,
Green, and most beautiful, and lay
His bones there whitening, many a day,
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Though sun and rain might work their will,
From bird and wolf protected still;
For he had one companion, one,
Watched oʼer him in the desert lone;
That faithful dog beside sat aye
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Baying the vulture from his prey, a
Else moved not, slept not, stirred not, still
Oʼer lake and mountain, rock and rill,
Rung his short, plaintive, timid cry, b
Most melancholy. None passed by,
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None heard his sorrowing call for aid,
Yet still beside the corse he staid,
And watched it moulder, and the clay,
When three long months had past away,
It was discovered where it lay,
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And he beside it. Would that we could love
As he did. c