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GLIDE gently, thus for ever glide,
The song of mountain-streams, unheard by day, Now hardly heard, beguiles my homeward way. Air listens, like the sleeping water, still, To catch the spiritual music of the hill, Broke only by the slow clock tolling deep, Or shout that wakes the ferry-man from sleep, The echoed hoof nearing the distant shore, The boat's first motion-made with dashing oar ; Sound of closed gate, across the water borne, Hurrying the timid hare through rustling corn ; The sportive outcry of the mocking owl ; And at long intervals the mill-dog's howl ; The distant forge's swinging thump profound ; Or yell, in the deep woods, of lonely hound.
1787, 8, & 9.
Vain thought !-Yet be as now thou art,
Now let us, as we float along,
WRITTEN WHILE SAILING IN A BOAT AT EVENING.
DURING A PEDESTRIAN TOUR AMONG THE ALPS.
How richly glows the water's breast
Such views the youthful Bard allure ;
THE REV. ROBERT JONES,
HOWEVER desirous I might have been of giving you proofs of the high place you hold in my esteem,
I should have been cautious of wounding your delicacy by thus publicly addressing you, had not the circumstance of our baving been companions among the Alps, seemed to give this dedication a propriety sufficient to do away any scruples which your modesty might otherwise have suggested.
* Collins's Ode on the death of Thomson, the last written, I believe, of the poems which were published during his life-time. This Ode is also alluded to in the next stanza. * The lyre of Memnon is reported to have emitted melancholy or cheerful tones, as it was touched by the sun's evening or morning rays.
In inscribing this little work to you, I consult my heart. You know well how great is the difference between two companions lolling in a post-chaise, and two travellers plodding slowly along the road, side by side, each with his little knapsack of necessaries upon bis shoulders. How much more of heart between the two latter!
I am happy in being conscious that I shall have one reader who will approach the conclusion of these few pages with regret. You they must certainly interest, in reminding you of moments to which you can hardly look back without a pleasure not the less dear from a shade of melancholy. You will meet with few images without recollecting the spot where we observed them together; consequently, whatever is feeble in my design, or spiritless in my colouring, will be amply supplied by your own memory.
With still greater propriety I might have inscribed to you a description of some of the features of your native mountains, through which we have wandered together, in the same manner, with so much pleasure. But the seasunsets, which give such splendour to the vale of Clwyd, Snowdon, the chair of Idris, the quiet village of Bethgelert, Menai and her Druids, the Alpine steeps of the Conway, and the still more interesting windings of the wizard stream of the Dee, remain yet untouched. Apprehensive that my pencil may never be exercised on these subjects, I cannot let slip this opportunity of thus publicly assuring you with how much affection and esteem
I am, dear Sir,
And plods through some wide realm o'er vale and
height, Though seeking only holiday delight; At least, not owning to himself an aim To which the sage would give a prouder name. No gains too cheaply earned his fancy cloy, Though every passing zephyr whispers joy ; Brisk toil, alternating with ready ease, Feeds the clear current of his sympathies. For him sod-seats the cottage-door adorn ; And peeps the far-off spire, his evening bourn ! Dear is the forest frowning o'er his head, And dear the velvet green-sward to his tread : Moves there a cloud o'er mid-day's flaming eye ! Upward he looks—" and calls it luxury :" Kind Nature's charities his steps attend ; In every babbling brook he finds a friend ; While chastening thoughts of sweetest use, bestowed By wisdom, moralise his pensive road. Host of his welcome inn, the noon-tide bower, To his spare meal he calls the passing poor ; He views the sun uplift his golden fire, Or sink, with heart alive like Memnon's lyre * ; Blesses the moon that comes with kindly ray, To light him shaken by his rugged way. Back from his sight no bashful children steal ; He sits a brother at the cottage-meal ; His humble looks no shy restraint impart ; Around him plays at will the virgin heart. While unsuspended wheels the village dance, The maidens eye him with enquiring glance, Much wondering by what fit of crazing care, Or desperate love, bewildered, he came there.
Happiness (if she had been to be found on earth) among
the charms of Nature-Pleasures of the pedestrian Traveller-Author crosses France to the Alps-Present state of the Grande Chartreuse-Lake of Como—Time, Sunset-Same Scene, Twilight-Same Scene, Morning; its voluptuous Character ; Old man and forest-cottage music-River Tusa-Via Mala and Grison GipsySekellenen-thal-Lake of Urt-Stormy sunset-Chapel of William Tell-Force of local emotion-Chamoischaser-View of the higher Alps--manner of life of a Swiss mountaineer, interspersed with views of the higher Alps-Golden age of the Alps-Life and views continued - Ranz des Vaches, famous Swiss Air-Abbey of Einsiedlen and its pilgrims-Valley of Chamouny-Mont Blanc -Slavery of Savoy-Influence of liberty on cottage-happinese-France-Wish for the Extirpation of slaveryConclusion.
A hope, that prudence could not then approve, That clung to Nature with a truant's love, O'er Gallia’s wastes of corn my footsteps led ; Her files of road-elms, high above my head In long-drawn vista, rustling in the breeze ; Or where her pathways straggle as they please By lonely farms and secret villages. But lo ! the Alps ascending white in air, Toy with the sun and glitter from afar.
WERE there, below, a spot of holy ground
And now, emerging from the forest's gloom, I greet thee, Chartreuse, while I mourn thy doom. Whither is fled that Power whose frown severe Awed sober Reason till she crouched in fear ? That Silence, once in deathlike fetters bound, Chains that were loosened only by the sound Of holy rites chanted in measured round !
Yet not unrecompensed the man shall roam, Who at the call of summer quits his home,
— The voice of blasphemy the fane alarms, Slow glides the sail along the illumined shore, The cloister startles at the gleam of arms.
And steals into the shade the lazy oar ; The thundering tube the aged angler hears, Soft bosoms breathe around contagious sighs, Bent o'er the groaning flood that sweeps away his And amorous music on the water dies.
tears. Cloud-piercing pine-trees nod their troubled heads, How blest, delicious scene ! the eye that greets Spires, rocks, and lawns a browner night o'er- Thy open beauties, or thy lone retreats ; spreads ;
Beholds the unwearied sweep of wood that scales Strong terror checks the female peasant's sighs, Thy cliffs ; the endless waters of thy vales ; And start the astonished shades at female eyes. Thy lowly cots that sprinkle all the shore, From Bruno's forest screams the affrighted jay, Each with its household boat beside the door ; And slow the insulted eagle wheels away.
Thy torrents shooting from the clear-blue sky; A viewless flight of laughing Demons mock Thy towns, that cleave, like swallows' nests, on The Cross, by angels planted * on the aërial rock. high ; The “parting Genius” sighs with hollow breath That glimmer hoar in eve's last light, descried Along the mystic streams of Life and Death +. Dim from the twilight water's shaggy side, Swelling the outcry dull, that long resounds Whence lutes and voices down the enchanted Portentous through her old woods' trackless woods bounds,
Steal, and compose the oar-forgotten floods ; Vallombre I, ʼmid her falling fanes, deplores, — Thy lake, that, streaked or dappled, blue or For ever broke, the sabbath of her bowers.
'Mid smoking woods gleams hid from morning's ray More pleased, my foot the hidden margin roves Slow-travelling down the western hills, to' enfold Of Como, bosomed deep in chestnut groves. Its green-tinged margin in a blaze of gold ; No meadows thrown between, the giddy steeps Thy glittering steeples, whence the matin bell Tower, bare or sylvan, from the narrow deeps. Calls forth the woodman from his desert cell, - To towns, whose shades of no rude noise com- And quickens the blithe sound of oars that pass plain,
Along the steaming lake, to early mass. From ringing team apart and grating wain
But now farewell to each and all—adieu To flat-roofed towns, that touch the water's bound, To every charm, and last and chief to you, Or lurk in woody sunless glens profound,
Ye lovely maidens that in noontide shade Or, from the bending rocks, obtrusive cling, Rest near your little plots of wheaten glade ; And o'er the whitened wave their shadows fling“ | To all that binds the soul in powerless trance, The pathway leads, as round the steeps it twines ; Lip-dewing song, and ringlet-tossing dance ; And Silence loves its purple roof of vines. Where sparkling eyes and breaking smiles illume The loitering traveller hence, at evening, sees The sylvan cabin's lute-enlivened gloom. From rock-hewn steps the sail between the trees ; | --Alas! the very murmur of the streams Or marks, ʼmid opening cliffs, fair dark-eyed maids Breathes o'er the failing soul voluptuous dreams, Tend the small harvest of their garden glades ; While Slavery, forcing the sunk mind to dwell Or stops the solemn mountain-shades to view On joys that might disgrace the captive's cell, Stretch o'er the pictured mirror broad and blue, Her shameless timbrel shakes on Como's marge, And track the yellow lights from steep to steep, And lures from bay to bay the vocal barge. As up the opposing hills they slowly creep. Aloft, here, half a village shines, arrayed
Yet are thy softer arts with power indued In golden light ; half hides itself in shade : To soothe and cheer the poor man's solitude. While, from amid the darkened roofs, the spire, By silent cottage-doors, the peasant's home Restlessly flashing, seems to mount like fire : Left vacant for the day, I loved to roam. There, all unshaded, blazing forests throw
But once I pierced the mazes of a wood Rich golden verdure on the lake below.
In which a cabin undeserted stood;
There an old man an olden measure scanned * Alluding to crosses seen on the tops of the spiry rocks On a rude viol touched with withered hand. of Chartreuse, which have every appearance of being As lambs or fawns in April clustering lie inaccessible. | Names of rivers at the Chartreuse.
Under a hoary oak’s thin canopy, # Name of one of the valleys of the Chartreuse. Stretched at his feet, with stedfast upward eye,
His children's children listened to the sound ; Or on her fingers counts the distant clock,
Or, to the drowsy crow of midnight cock,
Listens, or quakes while from the forest's gulf But let us hence ; for fair Locarno smiles Howls near and nearer yet the famished wolf. Embowered in walnut slopes and citron isles : Or seek at eve the banks of Tusa's stream,
From the green vale of Urseren smooth and wide Where, 'mid dim towers and woods, her waters Descend we now, the maddened Reuss our guide ; gleam.
By rocks that, shutting out the blessed day, From the bright wave, in solemn gloom, retire Cling tremblingly to rocks as loose as they ; The dull-red steeps, and, darkening still, aspire By cells • upon whose image, while he prays, To where afar rich orange lustres glow
The kneeling peasant scarcely dares to gaze ; Round undistinguished clouds, and rocks, and By many a votive death-cross + planted near, snow :
And watered duly with the pious tear, Or, led where Via Mala’s chasms confine
That faded silent from the upward eye The indignant waters of the infant Rhine, Unmoved with each rude form of peril nigh; Hang o’er the abyss, whose else impervious gloom Fixed on the anchor left by Him who saves His burning eyes with fearful light illume. Alike in whelming snows, and roaring waves.
The mind condemned, without reprieve, to go
But soon a peopled region on the sight O'er life's long deserts with its charge of woe,
Opens—a little world of calm delight; With sad congratulation joins the train
Where mists, suspended on the expiring gale, Where beasts and men together o'er the plain
Spread rooflike o'er the deep secluded vale, Move on-a mighty caravan of pain :
And beams of evening slipping in between, Hope, strength, and courage, social suffering Gently illuminate a sober scene :brings,
Here, on the brown wood-cottages # they sleep, Freshening the wilderness with shades and springs. There, over rock or sloping pasture creep. - There be whose lot far otherwise is cast : On as we journey, in clear view displayed, Sole human tenant of the piny waste,
The still vale lengthens underneath its shade By choice or doom a gipsy wanders here,
Of low-hung vapour : on the freshened mead A nursling babe her only comforter ;
The green light sparkles ;--the dim bowers recede. Lo, where she sits beneath yon shaggy rock,
While pastoral pipes and streams the landscape lull, A cowering shape half hid in curling smoke ! And bells of passing mules that tinkle dull,
In solemn shapes before the admiring eye When lightning among clouds and mountain
Dilated hang the misty pines on high, snows
Huge convent domes with pinnacles and towers, Predominates, and darkness comes and goes,
And antique castles seen through gleamy showers. And the fierce torrent, at the flashes broad
From such romantic dreams, my soul, awake ! Starts, like a horse, beside the glaring roadShe seeks a covert from the battering shower
To sterner pleasure, where, by Uri's lake In the roofed bridge + ; the bridge, in that dread
In Nature's pristine majesty outspread, hour,
Winds neither road nor path for foot to tread :
The rocks rise naked as a wall, or stretch, Itself all trembling at the torrent's power.
Far o'er the water, hung with groves of beech ; Nor is she more at ease on some still night,
Aerial pines from loftier steeps ascend, When not a star supplies the comfort of its light;
Nor stop but where creation seems to end. Only the waning moon hangs dull and red
Yet here and there, if mid the savage scene Above a melancholy mountain's head,
Appears a scanty plot of smiling green, Then sets. In total gloom the Vagrant sighs,
* The Catholic religion prevails here : these cells are, as Stoops her sick head, and shuts her weary eyes ; is well known, very common in the Catholic countries,
planted, like the Roman tombs, along the road side. * The river along whose banks you descend in crossing | Crosses, commemorative of the deaths of travellers the Alps by the Simplon Pass.
by the fall of snow, and other accidents, are very common Most of the bridges among the Alps are of wood, and along this dreadful road. overed: these bridges have a heavy appearance, and
The houses in the more retired Swiss valleys are all rather injure the effect of the scenery in some places.
built of wood.
Up from the lake a zigzag path will creep
- Before those thresholds (never can they know
Confused the Marathonian tale appears,
And what if ospreys, cormorants, herons cry, Amid tempestuous vapours driving by, Or hovering over wastes too bleak to rear That common growth of earth, the foodful ear; Where the green apple shrivels on the spray, And pines the unripened pear in summer's kindliest
ray; Contentment shares the desolate domain With Independence, child of high Disdain. Exulting ʼmid the winter of the skies, Shy as the jealous chamois, Freedom flies, And grasps by fits her sword, and often eyes ; And sometimes, as from rock to rock she bounds The Patriot nymph starts at imagined sounds, And, wildly pausing, oft she hangs aghast, Whether some old Swiss air hath checked her haste Or thrill of Spartan fife is caught between the blast.
But now with other mind I stand alone Upon the summit of this naked cone, And watch the fearless chamois-hunter chase His prey, through tracts abrupt of desolate space, * Through vacant worlds where Nature never gave A brook to murmur or a bough to wave, Which unsubstantial Phantoms sacred keep; Thro' worlds where Life, and Voice, and Motion
sleep ; Where silent Hours their death-like sway extend, Save when the avalanche breaks loose, to rend Its way with uproar, till the ruin, drowned In some dense wood or gulf of snow profound, Mocks the dull ear of Time with deaf abortive
sound. -"Tis his, while wandering on from height to
height, To see a planet's pomp and steady light In the least star of scarce-appearing night ; While the pale moon moves near him, on the bound Of ether, shining with diminished round, And far and wide the icy summits blaze, Rejoicing in the glory of her rays : To him the day-star glitters small and bright, Shorn of its beams, insufferably white, And he can look beyond the sun, and view Those fast-receding depths of sable blue Flying till vision can no more pursue ! -At once bewildering mists around him close, And cold and hunger are his least of woes ; The Demon of the snow, with angry roar Descending, shuts for aye his prison door. Soon with despair's whole weight his spirits sink ;
Swoln with incessant rains from hour to hour, All day the floods a deepening murmur pour : The sky is veiled, and every cheerful sight : Dark is the region as with coming night; But what a sudden burst of overpowering light ! Triumphant on the bosom of the storm, Glances the wheeling eagle’s glorious form ! Eastward, in long perspective glittering, shine The wood-crowned cliffs that o'er the lake recline ; Those lofty cliffs a hundred streams unfold, At once to pillars turned that flame with gold : Behind his sail the peasant shrinks, to shun The west, that burns like one dilated sun, A crucible of mighty compass, felt By mountains, glowing till they seem to melt.
But, lo ! the boatman, overawed, before The pictured fane of Tell suspends his oar ;
* For most of the images in the next sixteen verses, I am indebted to M. Raymond's interesting observations annexed to his translation of Coxe's Tour in Switzerland.