Excelsior – Festive Wishes

Christmas wishes to all. Here is my favourite festive poem. Yes, it may be sad, but there is a lot of hope there too. 

I like to read the Latin and pretend I’m a wizard, a Christmas wizard!


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,

Cade:bant noctis umbrae, dum
Ibat per vi:cum Alpicum
Gelu: nivequ(e) adole:sce:ns,
Ve:xillum cum signo: fere:ns,

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,

Fro:ns tri:stis, micat oculus
Velut e: va:gi:na: gladius;
Sonantque simile:s tubae
Accentu:s lingu(ae) incognitae,

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,

In domibus videt cla:ra:s
Foco:rum lu:ce:s calida:s;
Relucet glacie:s a:cris,
Et rumpit gemitu:s labri:s,

"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,

Di:cit senex, "Ne: tra:nsea:s!
Supra: nigre:scit tempesta:s;
La:tus et altus est torre:ns."
Cla:ra ve:nit vo:x responde:ns,

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

Iam lu:ce:sce:bat, et fra:tre:s
Sa:ncti: Bernardi: vigile:s
O:ra:bant prece:s solita:s,
Cum vo:x cla:ma:vit per aura:s,

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,

Se:mi-sepultus via:tor
Can(e) a: fi:do: reperi:tur,
Compre:nde:ns pugno: gelido:
Illud ve:xillum cum signo:,

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,

Iacet corpus exanimum
Sed lu:ce fri:gida: pulchrum;
Et caelo: procul exie:ns
Cadit vo:x, ut Stella cade:ns,

Translation by C. W. Goodchild in _Praeco Latinus, October, 1898.Written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 1807–1882

Read this Wiki, telling us the story of the poem. Have you seen all the places named Excelsior? "Excelsior", the official motto of the state of New York (seen on its seal). The Excelsior chess problem.

Taken from Gutenberg

One Comment Add yours

  1. valerie sirr says:

    Hope the comment works this time! Happy Christmas to you, Michelle and very best wishes for 2013. Onward and Upward!


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