Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1861–1889
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889
 
St. Theodule
By Starr Hoyt Nichols (1834–1909)
 
[Born in Danbury, Conn., 1834. Died, 1909. Monte Rosa. The Epic of an Alp.—Revised Edition. 1886.]

BENEATH dark Breithorn’s glancing helm, ’twixt that
And rearing Matterhorn, St. Theodule
Bends graciously its snow-white neck, as when
The laggard ox stoops low his tranquil head
To take the yoke; so forms a crescent pass        5
In that forbidding wall which otherwise
Imprisons Zermatt the streamy in its guard.
Thence on clear days when noon pours its steep light
On the white wonder of the Rosa’s snows,
The Mount displays its royalties at full.        10
Set like a castle mastered of great drifts,—
Donjon, portcullis, banquet-hall and moat
All half-submerged beneath them,—while its lords
Are gone, and gone its ladies all, it stands
Corner to a supernal masonry        15
Whose marbled scarps within their crescent hold
The Gorner glacier’s smooth arena, thus
Building a matchless amphitheatre—
Of girth to shrink Rome’s Colosseum famed
To scarce a feaster’s bowl,—with glacier paved,        20
And terraced through the clouds with shelf and wall
Of crystal glacier,—stairway to high heaven.
Here seems as if the Almighty’s writ had run
To build a court for that tremendous day
When dead men’s souls black with all sins are haled        25
Mid trumpets’ blare, before the angelic hosts—
Cherub and seraph, singing, sworded, winged,
And here assembled, crowding coign and cave
With dazzling ranks of Heaven’s imperial guard,
That still shall not out-brave the blazonry        30
Of these broad snows beneath this mid-day sun.
 
Here Breithorn, Kleine Matterhorn, and Twins,
Lyskamm, and many-towered Rosa flanked
By nameless goodly summits,—surpliced choir,
Of deathless singers choral without song,—        35
In one transcendent foreground meet the eye,
From crown to base, from base to dizzy crown;
What silver splendor,—great white throne of God!
How jetty precipice and delicate spire
With every craggy cape and curving bay        40
Are boldly marked amid the measureless snows,
With lustre blinding noon, and putting sun to shame!
What tireless roods of heaven-assaulting stone
Go charging at the zenith, lance in rest,
To pierce the trembling arch of firmament,        45
That bends a lover’s pace beyond their tips,
And frames their majesty in blue repose!
Their near horizon hides the rest of earth,
And peasant Nature stands like churl new-crowned
Dazed at imperial glories all her own.        50
 
Here one refulgent morning, after days
Of storm when hosts of thoughtless clouds had flung
Discarded snows on every bossy hill,
Chanced a good bishop from a western See,
A man athletic for his years and work,        55
Who held great Nature dear and not too much
Accursed by her Creator’s word of haste,
When Adam “took and ate.” Here toiling on
O’er the high level of St. Theodule,
Whose sheeted slope as Indian ivory shone,        60
The Alpine spectacle immense and pure,
A visual anthem of the universe,
Stirred his grave soul to prophet’s ecstasy;
That so he stood quite still and called his guides,
Those hardened veterans in such sceneries,        65
To check their swinging steps and bare their heads
With him in bended reverence, while each,
As each had learned at mother’s knee, re-said
In his own native speech the Lord’s great prayer,
Our Father which in Heaven art (as chanced        70
A psalm in triple tongue), to testify
Transcendent gratitude to most high God
For such amazing glory at its full.
 
So stood he with the astounded hill-men there,
Like some primeval Druid in his woods,        75
Head bared and lifted hands outspread toward heaven,
His white hair floating on the idle breeze,
Adoring ancient Nature—goddess dear
And mother of all worships ’neath the sun—
With deep, ancestral reverence ere he knew        80
Her gracious cult behind its thin disguise;
Stirring the wintry waste with such a voice
Of transport as his high cathedral roof
Had seldom echoed from its fretted vault.
 
 
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