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I move at ease, and meet contending themes
That press upon me, crossing the career
Of recollections vivid as the dreams
Of midnight-cities, plains, forests, and mighty streams.
Where mortal never breathed I dare to sit
Among the interior Alps, gigantic crew,
Who triumphed o'er diluvian power ! and yet
What are they but a wreck and residue,
Whose only business is to perish? true
To which sad course, these wrinkled sons of time
Labour their proper greatness to subdue ;
Speaking of death alone, beneath a clime
Where life and rapture flow in plenitude sublime.
Fancy hath flung for me an airy bridge
Across thy long deep valley, furious Rhone!
Arch that here rests upon the granite ridge
Of Monte Rosa- there on frailer stone
Of secondary birth-the Jungfrau's cone;
And, from that arch, down-looking on the vale
The aspect I behold of every zone;
A sea of foliage tossing with the gale,
Blithe autumn's purple crown, and winter's icy mail!
Far as St. Maurice, from yon eastern forks,
Down the main avenue my sight can range:
And all its branchy vales, and all that lurks
Within them, church, and town, and huts, and grange,
For my enjoyment meet in vision strange;
Snows—torrents; to the region's utmost bound,
Life, death, in amicable interchange-
But list! the avalanche-the hush profound
That follows, yet more awful than that awful sound!
Is not the chamois suited to his place?
The eagle worthy of her ancestry?
Let empires fall; but ne'er shall ye disgrace
Your noble birthright, ye that occupy
Your council-seats beneath the open sky,
On Sarnen's mount, there judge if fit and right,
In simple democratic majesty:
Soft breezes fanning your rough brows—the might
And purity of nature spread before your sight!
From this appropriate court, renowned Lucerne
Calls me to pace her, honoured bridge that cheers
The patriot's heart with pictures rude and stern,
An uncouth chronicle of glorious years.
Like portraiture, from loftier source, endears
That work of kindred frame, which spans the lake
Just at the point of issue, where it fears
The form and motion of a stream to take;
Where it begins to stir, yet voiceless as a snake.
Volumes of sound, from the cathedral rolled,
This long-roofed vista penetrate—but see,
One after one, its tablets, that unfold
The whole design of Scripture history;
From the first tasting of the fatal tree,
Till the bright star appeared in eastern skies,
Announcing One was born mankind to free;
His acts, his wrongs, his final sacrifice;
Lessons for every heart, a Bible for all eyes.
Our pride misleads, our timid likings kill.
Long may these homely works devised of old,
These simple efforts of Helvetian skill,
Aid, with congenial influence, to uphold
The state, the country's destiny to mould ;
Turning, for them who pass, the common dust
nr servile opportunity to gold;
Filling the soul with sentiments august-
The beautiful, the brave, the holy, and the just!
No more; Time halts not in his noiseless march
Nor turns, nor winds, as doth the liquid flood;
Life slips from underneath us, like that arch
Of airy workmanship whereon we stood,
Earth stretched below, heaven in our neighbourhood.
Go forth, my little book! pursue thy way;
Go forth, and please the gentle and the good ;
Nor be a whisper stifled, if it say
That treasures, yet untouched, may grace some future
SONNETS DEDICATED TO
CALAIS, AUGUST, 1802. FAIR star of evening, splendour of the west,
Star of my country on the horizon's brink Thou hangest, stooping, as might seem, to sink On England's bosom: yet well pleased to rest, Meanwhile, and be to her a glorious crest Conspicuous to the nations. Thou, I think, Shouldst be my country's emblem; and shouldst wink, Bright star! with laughter on her banners, dressed In thy fresh beauty. There ! that dusky spot Beneath thee, it is England; there it lies. Blessings be on you both ! one hope, one lot, One life, one glory! I with many a fear For my dear country, many heartfelt sighs, Among men who do not love her, linger here.
Is it a reed that's shaken by the wind, Or what is it that ye go forth to see? Lords, lawyers, statesmen, squires of low degree, Men known, and men unknown, sick, lame, and blind, Post forward all, like creatures of one kind, With first-fruit offerings crowd to bend the knee
In France, before the new-born majesty.
'Tis ever thus. Ye men of prostrate mind!
A seemly reverence may be paid to power;
But that's a loyal virtue, never sown
In haste, nor springing with a transient shower:
When truth, when sense, when liberty were fiown,
What hardship had it been to wait an hour?
Shame on you, feeble heads, to slavery prone!
TO A FRIEND, NEAR CALAIS.
AUGUST 7, 1802.
JONES ! while from Calais southward you
Urged our accordant steps, this public way
Streamed with the pomp of a too-credulous day,
When faith was pledged to new-born Liberty:
A homeless sound of joy was in the sky;
The antiquated earth, as one might say,
Beat like the heart of man : songs, garlands, play,
Banners, and happy faces, far and nigh!
And now, sole register that these things were,
Two solitary greetings have I heard,
'Good morrow, citizen!' a hollow word,
As if a dead man spake it! Yet despair
Touches me not, though pensive as a bird
Whose vernal coverts winter hath laid bare.
I GRIEVED for Bonapartè, with a vain
And an unthinking grief! for, who aspires
To genuine greatness but from just desires,
And knowledge such as he could never gain ?
'Tis not in battles that from youth we train
The governor who must be wise and good,