« AnteriorContinuar »
Bread has he none, the snow must be his drink
And hear the rattling thunder far below ;.
Now couch thyself where, heard with fear afar, Thunders through echoing pines the headlong Aar; Or rather stay to taste the mild delights Of pensive Underwalden's* pastoral heights. -Is there who 'mid these awful wilds has seen The native Genii walk the mountain green ? Or heard, while other worlds their charms reveal,-Far different life from what Tradition hoar Soft music o'er the aërial summit steal? While o'er the desert, answering every close, Rich steam of sweetest perfume comes and goes. -And sure there is a secret Power that reigns Here, where no trace of man the spot profanes, Nought but the chalets†, flat and bare, on high Suspended 'mid the quiet of the sky;
One I behold who, 'cross the foaming flood, Leaps with a bound of graceful hardihood; Another high on that green ledge ;-he gained The tempting spot with every sinew strained; And downward thence a knot of grass he throws, Food or his beasts in time of winter snows.
Or distant herds that pasturing upward creep,
Of Deep that calls to Deep across the hills,
Save when, a stranger seen below, the boy
When, from the sunny breast of open seas,
* The people of this Canton are supposed to be of a more melancholy disposition than the other inhabitants of the Alps; this, if true, may proceed from their living more secluded.
+ This picture is from the middle region of the Alps.
Chalets are summer huts for the Swiss herdsmen.
Sugh, a Scotch word expressive of the sound of the wind through the trees.
Transmits of happier lot in times of yore!
'Tis morn with gold the verdant mountain
More high, the snowy peaks with hues of rose.
Beyond his native valley seldom stray,
Once, Man entirely free, alone and wild, Was blest as free-for he was Nature's child. He, all superior but his God disdained, Walked none restraining, and by none restrained: Confessed no law but what his reason taught, Did all he wished, and wished but what he ought. As man in his primeval dower arrayed The image of his glorious Sire displayed, Even so, by faithful Nature guarded, here The traces of primeval Man appear; The simple dignity no forms debase; The eye sublime, and surly lion-grace : The slave of none, of beasts alone the lord, His book he prizes, nor neglects his sword; -Well taught by that to feel his rights, prepared With this "the blessings he enjoys to guard."
And, as his native hills encircle ground For many a marvellous victory renowned, The work of Freedom daring to oppose, With few in arms innumerable foes, When to those famous fields his steps are led, An unknown power connects him with the dead : For images of other worlds are there; Awful the light, and holy is the air. Fitfully, and in flashes, through his soul, Like sun-lit tempests, troubled transports roll; His bosom heaves, his Spirit towers amain, Beyond the senses and their little reign.
And oft, when that dread vision hath past by, He holds with God himself communion high, There where the peal of swelling torrents fills The sky-roofed temple of the eternal hills; Or, when upon the mountain's silent brow Reclined, he sees, above him and below, Bright stars of ice and azure fields of snow; While needle peaks of granite shooting bare Tremble in ever-varying tints of air.
* Alluding to several battles which the Swiss in very small numbers have gained over their oppressors, the house of Austria; and, in particular, to one fought at Næffels near Glarus, where three hundred and thirty men are said to have defeated an army of between fifteen and twenty thousand Austrians. Scattered over the valley are to be found eleven stones, with this inscription, 1388, the year the battle was fought, marking out, as I was told upon the spot, the several places where the Austrians, attempting to make a stand, were repulsed anew.
And when a gathering weight of shadows brown
Uplift in quiet their illumined forms,
In sea-like reach of prospect round him spread,
When downward to his winter hut he goes, Dear and more dear the lessening circle grows; That hut which on the hills so oft employs His thoughts, the central point of all his joys. And as a swallow, at the hour of rest, Peeps often ere she darts into her nest, So to the homestead, where the grandsire tends A little prattling child, he oft descends, To glance a look upon the well-matched pair; Till storm and driving ice blockade him there. There, safely guarded by the woods behind, He hears the chiding of the baffled wind, Hears Winter calling all his terrors round, And, blest within himself, he shrinks not from the sound.
Through Nature's vale his homely pleasures glide,
Unstained by envy, discontent, and pride;
With one bright bell, a favourite heifer's neck;
Is all we have to cheer our wintry way;
The general sorrows of the human race :
That on the noon-day bank of leisure lie.
Yet more ;-compelled by Powers which only deign
That solitary man disturb their reign,
As Schreck-Horn, the pike of terror; Wetter-Horn, the pike of storms, &c. &c.
And from his nest amid the storms of heaven Drives, eagle-like, those sons as he was driven; With stern composure watches to the plainAnd never, eagle-like, beholds again !
When long-familiar joys are all resigned, Why does their sad remembrance haunt the mind? Lo! where through flat Batavia's willowy groves, Or by the lazy Seine, the exile roves ; O'er the curled waters Alpine measures swell, And search the affections to their inmost cell; Sweet poison spreads along the listener's veins, Turning past pleasures into mortal pains ; Poison, which not a frame of steel can brave, Bows his young head with sorrow to the grave.*
Gay lark of hope, thy silent song resume! Ye flattering eastern lights, once more the hills
Fresh gales and dews of life's delicious morn,
'Mid savage rocks, and seas of snow that shine,
While ghastly faces through the gloom appear,
The tall sun, pausing on an Alpine spire, Flings o'er the wilderness a stream of fire: Now meet we other pilgrims ere the day Close on the remnant of their weary way;
* The well-known effect of the famous air, called in French Ranz des Vaches, upon the Swiss troops.
This shrine is resorted to, from a hope of relief, by multitudes, from every corner of the Catholic world, labouring under mental or bodily afflictions.
While they are drawing toward the sacred floor Where, so they fondly think, the worm shall gnaw
How gaily murmur and how sweetly taste
The fountains * reared for them amid the waste! Their thirst they slake :-they wash their toilworn feet,
And some with tears of joy each other greet.
Last, let us turn to Chamouny that shields With rocks and gloomy woods her fertile fields: Five streams of ice amid her cots descend, And with wild flowers and blooming orchards blend ;
A scene more fair than what the Grecian feigns
That holds no commerce with the summer night.
What marvel then if many a Wanderer sigh, While roars the sullen Arve in anger by, That not for thy reward, unrivalled Vale! Waves the ripe harvest in the autumnal gale; That thou, the slave of slaves, art doomed to pine And droop, while no Italian arts are thine, To soothe or cheer, to soften or refine.
Hail Freedom! whether it was mine to stray, With shrill winds whistling round my lonely way, On the bleak sides of Cumbria's heath-clad moors, Or where dank sea-weed lashes Scotland's shores; To scent the sweets of Piedmont's breathing rose, And orange gale that o'er Lugano blows ; Still have I found, where Tyranny prevails, That virtue languishes and pleasure fails, While the remotest hamlets blessings share In thy loved presence known, and only there;
*Rude fountains built and covered with sheds for the accommodation of the Pilgrims, in their ascent of the mountain.
Heart-blessings outward treasures too which the Rouse hell's own aid, and wrap thy fields in fire :
Of the sun peeping through the clouds can spy,
And oh, fair France! though now the traveller sees
Beyond the cottage-hearth, the cottage-door :
Rocked the charmed thought in more delightful
Chasing those pleasant dreams, the falling leaf
* An insect so called, which emits a short, melancholy cry, heard at the close of the summer evenings, on the banks of the Loire.
The duties upon many parts of the French rivers were so exorbitant, that the poorer people, deprived of the benefit of water carriage, were obliged to transport their goods by land.
Lo, from the flames a great and glorious birth;
Great God! by whom the strifes of men are weighed
In an impartial balance, give thine aid
Brood o'er the long-parched lands with Nile-like wings!
And grant that every sceptred child of clay
May in its progress see thy guiding hand,
Left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree, which stands near the lake of Esthwaite, on a desolate part of the shore, conimanding a beautiful prospect.
NAY, Traveller! rest. This lonely Yew-tree stands
Who he was
That piled these stones and with the mossy sod
No common soul. In youth by science nursed,
And led by nature into a wild scene
Of lofty hopes, he to the world went forth
And with the food of pride sustained his soul
Till his eye streamed with tears. In this deep vale
If Thou be one whose heart the holy forms Of young imagination have kept pure, Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know that pride,
Howe'er disguised in its own majesty,
Is littleness; that he who feels contempt
Which he has never used; that thought with him
Is in its infancy. The man whose eye
The least of Nature's works, one who might move
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
NOT less than one-third of the following poem, though it has from time to time been altered in the expression, was published so far back as the year 1798, under the title of "The Female Vagrant." The extract is of such length that an apology seems to be required for reprinting it here: but it was necessary to restore it to its original position, or the rest would have been unintelligible. The whole was written before the close of the year 1794, and I will detail, rather as matter of literary biography than for any other reason, the circumstances under which it was produced.
During the latter part of the summer of 1793, having passed a month in the Isle of Wight, in view of the fleet which was then preparing for sea off Portsmouth at the commencement of the war, I left the place with melancholy forebodings. The American war was still fresh in memory. The struggle which was beginning, and which many thought would be brought to a speedy close by the irresistible arms of Great Britain being added to those of the allies, I was assured in my own mind would be of long continuance, and productive of distress and misery beyond all possible calculation. This conviction was pressed upon me by having been a witness, during a long residence in revolutionary France, of the spirit which prevailed in that country. After leaving the Isle of Wight, I spent two days in wandering on foot over Salisbury Plain, which, though cultivation was then widely spread through parts of it, had upon the whole a still more impressive appearance than it now retains.
The monuments and traces of antiquity, scattered in abundance over that region, led me unavoidably to compare what we know or guess of those remote times with certain aspects of modern society, and with calamities, principally those consequent upon war, to which, more than other classes of men, the poor are subject. In these reflections, joined with particular facts that had come to my knowledge, the following stanzas originated.
In conclusion, to obviate some distraction in the minds of those who are well acquainted with Salisbury Plain, it may be proper to say, that of the features described as belonging to it, one or two are taken from other desolate parts of England.