Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
636. On the Heights
 
By Lucius Harwood Foote
 
 
HE crawls along the mountain walls,
From whence the severed river falls;
Its seething waters writhe and twist,
Then leap, and crumble into mist.
Midway between two boundless seas,        5
Prone on a ragged reef he lies;
Above him bend the shoreless skies,
While helpless, on his bended knees,
Into that awful gulf profound,
Appalled, he peers with bated breath,        10
Clutches with fear the yielding ground,
And crouches face to face with death.
The fearful splendor of the sight
Begets in his bewildered brain
A downwright torture of delight,        15
The very ecstasy of pain.
A sudden frenzy fills his mind,—
If he could break the bonds that bind,
And launch upon the waves of wind;
Only to loose his hold and leap,        20
Then, cradled like a cloud, to sleep
Wind-rocked upon the soundless deep.
With eyes upturned, he breaks the spell,
And creeps from out the jaws of hell.
Pohono’s siren wiles beguile,—        25
He drinks her kisses in the wind,
He leaves the nether world behind.
Up, and still upward, mile on mile,
With muffled tramp, the pilgrim creeps
Across the frozen winding-sheet,        30
Where white-faced death in silence sleeps.
Up, and still upward, to the light,
Until at last his leaden feet
Have mocked the eagle in its flight.
Grim-browed and bald, Tis-sa-ack broods        35
Above these white-robed solitudes.
A mute, awe-stricken mortal stands
Upon the fragment of a world,
And, when the rifted clouds are curled,
Sees far below the steadfast lands.        40
 

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