Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Switzerland
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI.  1876–79.
 
Switzerland: Alps, The
The Alps
James Montgomery (1771–1854)
 
Part I. Day
THE MOUNTAINS of this glorious land
Are conscious beings to mine eye,
When at the break of day they stand
Like giants looking through the sky,
To hail the sun’s unrisen car,        5
That gilds their diadems of snow;
While one by one, as star by star,
Their peaks in ether glow.
 
Their silent presence fills my soul,
When to the horizontal ray,        10
The many-tinctured vapors roll
In evanescent wreaths away,
And leave them naked on the scene,
The emblems of eternity,
The same as they have ever been,        15
And shall forever be.
 
Yet, through the valley while I range,
Their cliffs, like images in dreams,
Color and shape and station change;
Here crags and caverns, woods and streams        20
And seas of adamantine ice,
With gardens, vineyards, fields embraced,
Open a way to Paradise,
Through all the splendid waste.
 
The goats are hanging on the rocks,        25
Wide through their pastures roam the herds;
Peace on the uplands feeds her flocks,
Till suddenly the king of birds
Pouncing a lamb, they start for fear;
He bears his bleating prize on high;        30
The well-known plaint his nestlings hear,
And raise a ravening cry.
 
The sun in morning freshness shines;
At noon behold his orb o’ercast;
Hollow and dreary o’er the pines,        35
Like distant ocean, moans the blast;
The mountains darken at the sound,
Put on their armor, and anon,
In panoply of clouds wrapt round,
Their forms from sight are gone.        40
 
Hark! war in heaven!—the battle-shout
Of thunder rends the echoing air;
Lo! war in heaven!—thick-flashing out
Through torrent-rains red lightnings glare,
As though the Alps, with mortal ire,        45
At once a thousand voices raised,
And with a thousand swords of fire
At once in conflict blazed.
 
Part II. Night
COME, golden Evening, in the west
Enthrone the storm-dispelling sun,        50
And let the triple rainbow rest
O’er all the mountain-tops:—’T is done;
The deluge ceases; bold and bright
The rainbow shoots from hill to hill;
Down sinks the sun; on presses night;        55
—Mont Blanc is lovely still.
 
There take thy stand, my spirit;—spread
The world of shadows at thy feet;
And mark how calmly, overhead,
The stars like saints in glory meet:        60
While hid in solitude sublime,
Methinks I muse on Nature’s tomb,
And hear the passing foot of Time
Step through the gloom.
 
All in a moment, crash on crash,        65
From precipice to precipice,
An avalanche’s ruins dash
Down to the nethermost abyss;
Invisible, the ear alone
Follows the uproar till it dies;        70
Echo on echo, groan for groan,
From deep to deep replies.
 
Silence again the darkness seals,—
Darkness that may be felt;—but soon
The silver-clouded east reveals        75
The midnight spectre of the moon;
In half-eclipse she lifts her horn,
Yet, o’er the host of heaven supreme,
Brings the faint semblance of a morn
With her awakening beam.        80
 
Ha! at her touch these Alpine heights
Unreal mockeries appear;
With blacker shadows, ghastlier lights,
Enlarging as she climbs the sphere;
A crowd of apparitions pale!        85
I hold my breath in chill suspense,—
They seem so exquisitely frail,—
Lest they should vanish hence.
 
I breathe again, I freely breathe;
Lake of Geneva! thee I trace,        90
Like Dian’s crescent far beneath,
And beautiful as Dian’s face.
Pride of this land of liberty!
All that thy waves reflect I love;
Where heaven itself, brought down to thee,        95
Looks fairer than above.
 
Safe on thy banks again I stray,
The trance of poesy is o’er,
And I am here at dawn of day,
Gazing on mountains as before;        100
For all the strange mutations wrought
Were magic feats of my own mind;
Thus, in the fairy-land of thought,
Whate’er I seek I find.
 
Yet, O ye everlasting hills!        105
Buildings of God not made with hands,
Whose word performs whate’er he wills,
Whose word, though ye shall perish, stands;
Can there be eyes that look on you,
Till tears of rapture make them dim,        110
Nor in his works the Maker view,
Then lose his works in him?
 
By me, when I behold him not
Or love him not when I behold,
Be all I ever knew forgot;        115
My pulse stand still, my heart grow cold;
Transformed to ice, ’twixt earth and sky,
On yonder cliff my form be seen,
That all may ask, but none reply,
What my offence hath been.        120
 
 
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