The Hill-Top

A poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

The burly driver at my side,
We slowly climbed the hill,
Whose summit, in the hot noontide,
Seemed rising, rising still.
At last, our short noon-shadows bid
The top-stone, bare and brown,
From whence, like Gizeh's pyramid,
The rough mass slanted down.

I felt the cool breath of the North;
Between me and the sun,
O'er deep, still lake, and ridgy earth,
I saw the cloud-shades run.
Before me, stretched for glistening miles,
Lay mountain-girdled Squam;
Like green-winged birds, the leafy isles
Upon its bosom swam.

And, glimmering through the sun-haze warm,
Far as the eye could roam,
Dark billows of an earthquake storm
Beflecked with clouds like foam,
Their vales in misty shadow deep,
Their rugged peaks in shine,
I saw the mountain ranges sweep
The horizon's northern line.

There towered Chocorua's peak; and west,
Moosehillock's woods were seem,
With many a nameless slide-scarred crest
And pine-dark gorge between.
Beyond them, like a sun-rimmed cloud,
The great Notch mountains shone,
Watched over by the solemn-browed
And awful face of stone!

"A good look-off!" the driver spake;
"About this time, last year,
I drove a party to the Lake,
And stopped, at evening, here.
'T was duskish down below; but all
These hills stood in the sun,
Till, dipped behind yon purple wall,
He left them, one by one.

"A lady, who, from Thornton hill,
Had held her place outside,
And, as a pleasant woman will,
Had cheered the long, dull ride,
Besought me, with so sweet a smile,
That though I hate delays
I could not choose but rest awhile,
(These women have such ways!)

"On yonder mossy ledge she sat,
Her sketch upon her knees,
A stray brown lock beneath her hat
Unrolling in the breeze;
Her sweet face, in the sunset light
Upraised and glorified,
I never saw a prettier sight
In all my mountain ride.

"As good as fair; it seemed her joy
To comfort and to give;
My poor, sick wife, and cripple boy,
Will bless her while they live!"
The tremor in the driver's tone
His manhood did not shame
"I dare say, sir, you may have known"
He named a well-known name.

Then sank the pyramidal mounds,
The blue lake fled away;
For mountain-scope a parlor's bounds,
A lighted hearth for day!
From lonely years and weary miles
The shadows fell apart;
Kind voices cheered, sweet human smiles
Shone warm into my heart.

We journeyed on; but earth and sky
Had power to charm no more;
Still dreamed my inward-turning eye
The dream of memory o'er.
Ah! human kindness, human love,
To few who seek denied;
Too late we learn to prize above
The whole round world beside

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