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To gird th' oppress'd, had given their deep thoughts way, And brac'd their spirits for the patriot-fight,
With lovely images of homes, that lay Bower'd ’midst the rustling pines, or by the torrent-spray.
Now had endurance reach'd its bounds!—They came
With courage set in each bright earnest eye,
The day, the signal, and the hour to name,
When they should gather on their hills to die,
Or shake the Glaciers with their joyous cry
For the land's freedom ! -'Twas a scene, combining
All glory in itself !-the solemn sky,
The stars, the waves, their soften'd light enshrining, And man's high soul supreme o'er mighty nature shining!
Beneath that field the waters lay reposing,
Stretch'd in dark stillness on their marble bed ;
Around, soar'd up the mountain-chain, inclosing
Treasures and mysteries, wonderful, and dread,
And unapproach'd !- Above, serenely spread
Th’ illimitable azure, with its zone
All regions of the living and the dead
Folding alike; but Grandeur's seat and throne
Amidst that scene lay deep, in those men's hearts alone.
Calmly they stood, and with collected mien,
Breathing their souls in voices firm but low,
As if the spirit of the hour and scene,
With the wood's whisper, and the wave's sweet flow,
Had temper'd in their thoughtful hearts the glow
Of all-indignant feeling. To the breath
Of Dorian fute, and lyre-note soft and slow,
E'en thus, of old, the Spartan from its sheath
Drew his devoted sword, and girt himself for death.
And three, that seem'd as chieftains of the band,
Were gather'd in the midst on that lone shore,
By Uri's Lake. A father of the land *,
One on his brow the furrow'd record wore
Of many days, whose shadows had pass'd o'er
His path amongst the hills, and quench'd the dreams
Of youth with sorrow : Yet from Memory's lore
Still his life's evening drew its loveliest gleams,
For he had walk'd with God, beside the mountain streams.
And his gray hairs, in happier times, might well
To their last pillow silently have gone,
As mells a wreath of snow. But who can tell
How life may task the spirit?-He was one
of the free Alps, and beautifully bright,
And proud and tameless, laughing Fear to scorn!
It might be well !Young Erni's . step had worn
The mantling snows on their most regal steeps,
And track”d the Lynx above the clouds of morn, (9)
And follow'd where the flying chamois leaps,
Across the dark blue rifts, th' unfathom'd Glacier-deeps.
He was a creature of the Alpine sky,
A being, whose bright spirit had been fed
Midst the crown's heights, with joy and liberty,
And thought of power!--He knew each path, which led
To the rock's treasure-caves, whose crystals shed
Soft light o’er secret fountains.--At the tone
of his loud horn, the Lammer-Geyer (10) had spread
A startled wing !—for oft that peal had blown
Where the Lavange was wont to thunder forth alone.
His step had track'd the waste his soul had stirr'd
The ancient solitudes !-His voice had told
Of wrongs to call down Heaven (11)!-- That tale was heard
In Hasli's dales, and where the shepherds fold
Their flocks in dark ravine and craggy hold
On the bleak Oberland (12), and where the light
Of day's last footstep bathes in burning gold
Great Righi's cliffs ; and when Mount Pilate's height
Casts o'er his glassy lake the darkness of his might.
Nor was it heard in vain !—There all things press
Deep thoughts on man !- The fearless hunter pass'd,
And from the bosom of the wilderness,
There leap'd a spirit and a power, to cast
The weight of bondage down ! And bright and fast
As the clear waters, joyously and free
Burst from the desert rock, it rush'd at last
Through the far valleys, till the Patriot Three,
Thus, with their brethren stood, beside the Forest Sea (13).
They linked their hands—they pledg'd their stainless faith,
In the dread presence of attesting Heaven !
They bound their hearts to suffering and to death,
With the severe and solemn transport given
To bless such vows !-How noble men had striven,
How man might strive, and vainly strive, they knew,
upon their God, whose arm had riven
The crest of many a tyrant, since he blew
The foaming sea-wave on, and Egypt's might o'erthrew.
Erni, Arnold Melchthal.
They knelt, and rose in strength.-The valleys lay
Still in their dimness, but the heights which darted
Into the blue mid-air, had caught from day
A Alush of fire, when those true Switzers parted,
Each to his glen or forest, stedfast-hearted,
And full of hope. Nor many suns had worn
Their setting glory, ere from slumber started
Ten thousand voices, of the mountains born ;
So far was heard the blast of Freedom's echoing horn.
The Ice.vaults trembled, when that peal came rending
The frozen stillness which around them hung;
From cliff to cliff the avalanche, descending,
Gave answer, till the sky's blue hollows rung!
And the flame signals through the midnight sprung,
From the Surennen Peaks (14) like banners streaming
To the far Selisberg, whence light was flung
On Grütli's field, till all the red lake gleaming,
Shone out, a meteor-Heaven in its wild splendour seeming.
And the winds toss'd each summit's blazing crest,
As a host's plumage ; and the giant pines
Felld where they wav'd o'er crag and eagle's nest,
Heap'd up the flames. The clouds grew fiery signs ;
As o'er a city's burning towers and shrines,
Reddening the distance. Wine-cups, crown's and bright,
In Werner's dwelling flow'd; through leafless vines
From Walter's hearth stream'd out the festive light,
And Erni's blind old Sire gave thanks to Heaven that night.
Then, on the silence of the snows there lay
A Sabbath's quiet sunshine-and its bell
Filld the hush'd air awhile with lonely sway,
For the stream's voice was bound by winter's spell,
The deep wood sounds had ceas'd. But rock and dell
Rung forth, ere long, when strains of jubilee
Burst from the mountain churches, with a swell
Of praise to Him who stills the raging sea;
For now the strife was clos’d, the glorious Alps were free !
NOTES. (1) Senn, the name given to a herdsman amongst the Swiss Alps.
(2) The dark azure, almost approaching to black, of an Alpine sky at midnight, has been frequently remarked by travellers.
(3) Many of the highest Alpine peaks are called Domes. (4) “Like snows when winds are laid.”
“ Come neve in Alpi senza venti.”—Dante. (5) The Lake of the Four Cantons is sometimes called the Lake of Uri. The scenery of its shores is wild and majestic in the highest degree. The rocks in many parts rise from the water like a wall, without leaving room even for a pathway at their feet.
(6) The meadow of Grütli covers a little craggy platform, immediately above the Lake.
(7) Tæbowind, the wind of the south-east, which blows with such impetuosity, particularly in some parts of the Canton of Uri, as frequently to lay the country waste before it.
(8)“ The air of the Glacier was remarkably inspiring and elating from its fresh. ness and rarity. On a sudden, I was surprised to feel my face fanned by a sultry current from the south, which passed away, and then came again, like a Sirocco. On mentioning it to the guide, he said it was not uncommon, and that these warm winds were particularly felt on the Glacier des Bossons, owing to its being opposite several indentures or breaks of the Alpine chain, which give a passage to the currents of air from Italy and the South.”—Letters on a Tour in Switzerland.
(9) It is said that the Lynx is not unfrequently found in the wilder regions of the Alps.
(10) The Lammer-Geyer, the largest kind of Alpine Eagle. (11) The eyes of ARNOLD MELCHTHAL's father had been torn out, by command of the Austrian Bailiffs, as a punishment for some instance of contumacy on the part of his son.
(12) The Oberland. The solitudes of the Upper Alps are so called in some of the Swiss Cantons.
(13) The Lake of the Four Cantons is also sometimes called the Sea of the Foresttowns.
(14) Surennen Alps, a chain of high mountains between the Cantons of Uri and Unterwalden.
When are the lessons giv'n
That shake the startled earth? - When wakes the foe
While the friend sleeps ?-When falls the traitor's blow?
When are proud sceptres riv'n-
High hopes o'erthrown?-It is, When lands rejoice,
When cities blaze, and lift th’ exulting voice,
And wave their banners to the kindling heav'n.
Fear ye the festal hour !
When mirth o’erflows, then tremble !—'Twas a night
Of gorgeous revel, wreaths, and dance, and light,
When through the regal bow'r
The trumpet peal’d, ere yet the song was done ;
And there were shrieks in golden Babylon,
And trampling armies, ruthless in their pow'r.
The marble shrines were crown'd;
Young voices, through the blue Athenian sky,
And Dorian reeds made summer-melody,