As a pale phantom with a lamp
Ascends some ruin’s haunted stair,
So glides the moon along the damp
Mysterious chambers of the air.

Now hidden in cloud, and now revealed,
As if this phantom, full of pain,
Were by the crumbling walls concealed,
And at the windows seen again.

Until at last, serene and proud
In all the splendor of her light,
She walks the terraces of cloud,
Supreme as Empress of the Night.

I look, but recognize no more
Objects familiar to my view;
The very pathway to my door
Is an enchanted avenue.

All things are changed. One mass of shade,
The elm-trees drop their curtains down;
By palace, park, and colonnade
I walk as in a foreign town.

The very ground beneath my feet
Is clothed with a diviner air;
While marble paves the silent street
And glimmers in the empty square.

Illusion! Underneath there lies
The common life of every day;
Only the spirit glorifies
With its own tints the sober gray.

In vain we look, in vain uplift
Our eyes to heaven, if we are blind;
We see but what we have the gift
Of seeing; what we bring we find.

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5 Comments

  1. Shea Gavan says:

    Regardless of anyones negativity on the superficiality of this poem, it is just that which makes it notable and lovable. Not all poems have to be cryptic and difficult to understand to be noteworthy. I think that there just has to be something within the poem that truly touches, means something or intrigues the reader to make it such, and if it is noteworthy to even one person than Longfellow has done his job, and you, dear hater, are welcome to move on.

  2. Thomas says:

    I think this poem is great and is one of my favorites by Wadsworth. Its right up there with his famous ones like the village blacksmith and Hiawatha.

  3. Tom says:

    Sometimes I feel that this poem like many of Longfellow’s poems lack depth. It is superficial and doesn’t convey anything but a pretty picture. Many of the positive comments about this poem state how beautiful it is but in reality it is dark and dreary. As with most Longfellow works, this is not a favorite of mine.

  4. Kendra says:

    Isn’t this a very good poem. I think it is a poem nobody can forget.

  5. Hanzers says:

    Isn’t this a pretty poem? i just loved it. The descriptions and everything. Maybe it isn’t so popular among people’s favorite pomes of Henry Wadsorth Longfellow. Although i’m not quite sure why. Because i thought it was very beautiful…..I read it over and over just for the enjoyment of hearing such a great poet speak with such greatness. Well i do believe that i have rambled quite enough, maybe i shall go and find another poem to ponder upon.

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