Fierce and fain, fierce and fain,

Behind him went the troopers grim; They rode as ride the Light Dragoons,

But never a man could ride with him.

Their rowels ripped their horses' sides,

Their hearts were red with a deeper goad, But ever alone before them all Gillespie rode, Gillespie rode.

8 Alone he came to false Vellore;

The walls were lined, the gates were barred; Alone he walked where the bullets bit, And called above to the sergeant's guard:

9 “Sergeant, sergeant, over the gate,

Where are your officers, all ?” he said. Heavily came the sergeant's voice, “There are two living and forty dead.”

“A rope, a rope !” Gillespie cried,

They bound their belts to serve his need.
There was not a rebel behind the wall
But laid his barrel and drew his bead.

There was not a rebel among them all

But pulled his trigger and cursed his aim,

For lightly swung and rightly swung,

Over the gate Gillespie came.


He dressed the line, he led the charge;

They swept the wall like a stream in spate,
And roaring over the roar they heard

The galloper guns that burst the gate.


Fierce and fain, fierce and fain,

The troopers rode the reeking flight;
The very stones remember still

The end of them that stab by night.


They've kept the tale a hundred years,

They'll keep the tale a hundred more;
Riding at dawn, riding alone,
Gillespie came to false Vellore.

-Henry Newbolt.


Longfellow, in a letter to Mr. Tuckerman, wrote the following interpretation of the poem:

"I have had the pleasure of receiving your note in regard to the poem 'Excelsior,' and very willingly give you my intention in writing it. This was no more than to display, in a series of pictures, the life of a man of genius, resisting all temptations, laying aside all fears, heedless of all warnings and pressing right on to accomplish his purpose. His motto is Excelsior, 'higher. He passes through the Alpine village through the rough, cold paths of the world—where the peasants cannot understand him, and where his watchword is an “unknown tongue.' He disregards the happiness of domestic peace, and sees the glaciers—his fate-before him. He disregards the warnings of the old man's wisdom and the fascinations of woman's love. He answers to all, “higher yet.' The monks of Saint Bernard are the representatives of religious forms and ceremonies, and with their oft-repeated prayer mingles the sound of his voice, telling them there is something higher than forms and ceremonies. Filled with these aspirations he perishes, without having reached the perfection he longed for; and the voice in the air is the promise of immortality and progress ever upward."


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,


3 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 to pass,” the old man said;
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide !"
And loud that clarion voice replied,


"O 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,


“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 height,


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


A traveler, by the faithful hounds,
Half-buried in the snow, was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,


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 !”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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