Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers


Source of witness transcribed: The New-York Tribune (New York, New York)

Date of witness transcribed: 6 January 1842

Notes about this poem: "Excelsior" was printed in at least 272 newspapers during the nineteenth century. It can be found using ID 963182 in this table of most widely-reprinted poems.


  • The shades of night were falling fast,
  • As through an Alpine village passed
  • A youth who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
  • A banner with the strange device.
  • Excelsior!

  • His brow was sad, his eye beneath,
  • Flashed like a falchion from its sheath;
  • And like a silver clarion rung
  • The accents of that unknown tongue,
  • Excelsior!

  • In happy homes he saw the light
  • Of household fires gleam warm and bright
  • Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
  • And from his lips escaped a groan,
  • Excelsior!

  • “Try not the Pass!” the old man said;
  • “Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
  • The roaring torrent is deep and wide!”
  • And loud that clarion voice replied
  • Excelsior!

  • “Oh stay,” the maiden said, “and rest
  • Thy weary head upon this breast!”
  • A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
  • But still he answered, with a sigh,
  • Excelsior!

  • “Beware the pine tree’s withered branch!
  • Beware the awful avalanche!”
  • This was the peasant’s last good night,
  • A voice replied, far up the hight,
  • Excelsior!

  • At break of day, as heavenward
  • The pious monks of Saint Bernard
  • Uttered the oft repeated prayer,
  • A voice cried through the startled air
  • Excelsior!

  • A traveler, by the faithful hound,
  • Half buried in the snow was found,
  • Still grasping in his hand of ice
  • That banner with the strange device
  • Excelsior!

  • There in the twilight cold and gray,
  • Lifeless but beautiful, he lay,
  • And from the sky, serene and far,
  • A voice fell, like a falling star!
  • Excelsior!