Page images


In the same hour the breath of life receiving,
They came together and were beautiful;
But, as they slumbered in their mother's lap,
How mournful was their beauty! She would sit,
And look and weep, and look and weep again;
For Nature had but half her work achieved,
Denying, like a step-dame, to the babes
Her noblest gifts; denying speech to one,
And to the other reason.

But at length
(Seven years gone by, seven melancholy years)
Another came, as fair and fairer still;
And then, how anxiously the mother watched
Till reason dawned and speech declared itself !
Reason and speech were his; and down she knelt,
Clasping her hands in silent ecstasy.

On the hill-side, where still their cottage stands, ('Tis near the upper falls in Lauterbrounn ;

For there I sheltered now, their frugal hearth
Blazing with mountain-pine when I appeared,
And there, as round they sate, I heard their story)
On the hill-side, among the cataracts,
In happy ignorance the children played ;
Alike unconscious, through their cloudless day,
Of what they had and had not; every where
Gathering rock-flowers ; or, with their utmost might,
Loosening the fragment from the precipice,
And, as it tumbled, listening for the plunge ;
Yet, as by instinct, at the customed hour
Returning; the two eldest, step by step,
Lifting along, and with the tenderest care,
Their infant brother.

Once the hour was past;
And, when She sought, she sought and could not find ;
And when she found—Where was the little one ?
Alas, they answered not; yet still she asked,
Still in her grief forgetting.

With a scream,
Such as an Eagle sends forth when he soars,
A scream that through the wild scatters dismay,
The idiot-boy looked up into the sky,
And leaped and laughed aloud and leaped again;

As if he wished to follow in its flight
Something just gone, and gone from earth to heaven:
While he, whose every gesture, every look
Went to the heart, for from the heart it came,
He who nor spoke nor heard—all things to him,
Day after day, as silent as the grave,
(To him unknown the melody of birds,
Of waters—and the voice that should have soothed
His infant sorrows, singing him to sleep)
Fled to her mantle as for refuge there,
And, as at once o'ercome with fear and grief,
Covered his head and wept. A dreadful thought
Flashed thro' her brain. • Has not some bird of prey,
Thirsting to dip his beak in innocent blood-
It must, it must be so!'- And so it was.

There was an Eagle that had long acquired Absolute


the lord of a domain
Savage, sublime; nor from the hills alone
Gathering large tribute, but from every vale;
Making the ewe, whene'er he deigned to stoop,
Bleat for the lamb. Great was the

Assured to him who laid the tyrant low;
And near his nest in that eventful hour,


Calmly and patiently, a hunter stood,
A hunter, as it chanced, of old renown,
And, as it chanced, their father.

In the South
A speck appeared, enlarging; and ere long,
As on his journey to the golden sun,
Upward He came, the Felon in his flight,
Ascending through the congregated clouds,
That, like a dark and troubled sea, obscured
The world beneath.— But what is in his grasp ?
Ha! 'tis a child—and may it not be ours ?
I dare not, cannot; and yet why forbear,
When, if it lives, a cruel death awaits it ?.
May He who winged the shaft when Tell stood forth
And shot the apple from the youngling's head, *
Grant me the strength, the courage !' As he spoke,
He aimed, he fired; and at his feet they fell,
The Eagle and the child-the child unhurt-
Tho', such the grasp, not even in death relinquished. +

* A tradition.-Gesler said to him, when it was over, 'You had a second arrow in your belt. What was it for?'—' To kill you,' he replied, “if I had killed my son.' There is a monument in the market-place of Altorf to consecrate the spot.

+ The Eagle and Child is a favourite sign in many parts of Europe.


Who first beholds those everlasting clouds,
Seed-time and harvest, morning noon and night,
Still where they were, steadfast, immovable;
Those mighty hills, so shadowy, so sublime,
As rather to belong to Heaven than Earth-
But instantly receives into his soul
A sense, a feeling that he loses not,
A something that informs him 'tis an hour,
Whence he


date henceforward and for ever? To me they seemed the barriers of a World, Saying, Thus far, no further! and as o'er The level plain I travelled silently, Nearing them more and more, day after day, My wandering thoughts my only company, And they before me still-oft as I looked, A strange delight was mine, mingled with fear, A wonder as at things I had not heard of ! And still and still I felt as if I gazed

« PreviousContinue »