Page images

Great as he was, the greatest among men,
Should in like manner be so soon conveyed
Athwart the deep,—and to a rock so small
Amid the countless multitude of waves,

That ships have gone and sought it, and returned,
Saying it was not!


THESE gray majestic cliffs that tower to heaven, These glimmering glades and open chestnut groves, That echo to the heifer's wandering bell,

Or woodman's axe, or steers-man's song beneath,
As on he urges his fir-laden bark,

Or shout of goatherd boy above them all,
Who loves not? And who blesses not the light,
When through some loop-hole he surveys the lake
Blue as a sapphire-stone, and richly set
With chateaux, villages, and village-spires,
Orchards and vineyards, alps and alpine snows?
Here would I dwell; nor visit, but in thought,
FERNEY far south, silent and empty now
As now thy once luxurious bowers, RIPAILLE;"
VEVEY, so long an exiled patriot's home;
Or CHILLON's dungeon-floors beneath the wave,
Channelled and worn by pacing to and fro;
LAUSANNE, where GIBBON in his sheltered walk
Nightly called up the shade of ancient ROME;"
Or COPPET, and that dark untrodden grove'
Sacred to Virtue, and a daughter's tears!
Here would I dwell, forgetting and forgot;


And oft methinks (of such strange potency

The spells that Genius scatters where he will)
Oft should I wander forth like one in search,

And say, half-dreaming, "Here ST. PREUX has stood!" Then turn and gaze on CLARENS.

Yet there is,
Within an eagle's flight and less, a scene
Still nobler if not fairer (once again
Would I behold it ere these eyes are closed,
For I can say, "I also have been there!")
That sacred lake" withdrawn among the hills,
Its depth of waters flanked as with a wall
Built by the giant-race before the flood;
Where not a cross or chapel but inspires
Holy delight, lifting our thoughts to God
From godlike men,- men in a barbarous age
That dared assert their birthright, and displayed
Deeds half-divine, returning good for ill;
That in the desert sowed the seeds of life,
Framing a band of small republics there,
Which still exist, the envy of the world!.
Who would not land in each, and tread the ground;
Land where TELL leaped ashore; and climb to drink
Of the three hallowed fountains? He that does
Comes back the better; and relates at home
That he was met and greeted by a race
Such as he read of in his boyish days;
Such as MILTIADES at Marathon

Led, when he chased the Persians to their ships.
There, while the well-known boat is heaving in,
Piled with rude merchandise, or launching forth,
Thronged with wild cattle for Italian fairs,

There in the sunshine, 'mid their native snows,
Children, let loose from school, contend to use
The cross-bow of their fathers; and o'errun
The rocky field where all, in every age,
Assembling sit, like one great family,
Forming alliances, enacting laws;

Each cliff and head-land and green promontory
Graven to their eyes with records of the past
That prompt to hero-worship, and excite
Even in the least, the lowliest, as he toils,
A reverence nowhere else or felt or feigned;
Their chronicler great Nature; and the volume
Vast as her works-above, below, around!
The fisher on thy beach, THERMOPYLE,
Asks of the lettered stranger why he came,
First from his lips to learn the glorious truth!
And who that whets his scythe in RUNNEMEDE,
Though but for them a slave, recalls to mind
The barons in array, with their great charter?
Among the everlasting Alps alone,

There to burn on as in a sanctuary,

Bright and unsullied lives the ethereal flame; And 'mid those scenes unchanged, unchangeable, Why should it ever die ?


STILL by the LEMAN Lake, for many a mile,
Among those venerable trees I went,

Where damsels sit and weave their fishing-nets,

Singing some national song by the wayside.

But now the fly was gone, the gnat was come;
Now glimmering lights from cottage-windows broke.
'Twas dusk; and, journeying upward by the RHONE,
That there came down, a torrent from the Alps,
I entered where a key unlocks a kingdom;
The road and river, as they wind along,
Filling the mountain pass. There, till a ray
Glanced through my lattice, and the household-stir
Warned me to rise, to rise and to depart,

A stir unusual, and accompanied

With many a tuning of rude instruments,

And many a laugh that argued coming pleasure,
Mine host's fair daughter for the nuptial rite
And nuptial feast attiring there I slept,
And in my dreams wandered once more, well pleased.
But now a charm was on the rocks and woods
And waters; for, methought, I was with those
I had at morn and even wished for there.


NIGHT was again descending, when my mule,
That all day long had climbed among the clouds,
Higher and higher still, as by a stair

Let down from heaven itself, transporting me,
Stopped, to the joy of both, at that low door,
That door which ever, as self-opened, moves
To them that knock, and nightly sends abroad
Ministering spirits. Lying on the watch,
Two dogs of grave demeanor welcomed me,

All meckness, gentleness, though large of limb;
And a lay-brother of the hospital,

Who, as we toiled below, had heard by fits
The distant echoes gaining on his ear,

Came and held fast my stirrup in his hand
While I alighted. Long could I have stood,
With a religious awe contemplating

That house, the highest in the ancient world,
And destined to perform from age to age
The noblest service, welcoming as guests
All of all nations and of every faith;
A temple, sacred to Humanity! 12
It was a pile of simplest masonry,
With narrow window and vast buttresses,
Built to endure the shocks of time and chance;
Yet showing many a rent, as well it might,
Warred on forever by the elements,
And in an evil day, nor long ago,

By violent men when on the mountain-top


The French and Austrian banners met in conflict.
On the same rock beside it stood the church,
Reft of its cross, not of its sanctity;
The vesper-bell, for 't was the vesper hour,
Duly proclaiming through the wilderness,
"All ye who hear, whatever be your work,
Stop for an instant move your lips in prayer!
And, just beneath it, in that dreary dale,—
If dale it might be called, so near to heaven,—
A little lake, where never fish leaped up,

Lay like a spot of ink amid the snow;
A star, the only one in that small sky,
On its dead surface glimmering. 'T was a place

« PreviousContinue »