Page images


But who was he, that on his hunting-spear
Lean’d with a prouder and more fiery bearing ?
-His was a brow for tyrani-hearts to fear,
Within the shadow of its dark locks wearing
That which they may not tame—a soul declaring
War against earth's oppressors.—'Midst that throng,
Of other mould he seem’d, and loftier daring,

One whose blood swept high impulses along,
One that should pass, and leave a name for warlike song,


A memory on the mountains !-one to stand,
When the hills echoed with the deepening swell
Of hostile trumpets, foremost for the land,
And in some rock-defile, or savage dell,
Array her peasant-children to repel
Th' invader, sending arrows for his chains !
Ay, one to fold around him, as he fell,

Her banner with a smile—for through his veins
The joy of danger flow'd, as torrents to the plains.


There was at times a wildness in the light
Of his quick-Aashing eye; a something, born
Of the free Alps, and beautifully bright,
And proud, and tameless, laughing Fear to scorn!
It well might be !-Young Erni's5 step had worn
The mantling snows on their most regal steeps,
And track'd the lynx above the clouds of morn,

And follow'd where the flying chamois leaps
Across the dark-blue rists, th' unfathom'd glacier-deeps.


He was a creature of the Alpine sky,
A being, whose bright spirit had been fed
’Midst the crown'd heights with joy and liberty,
And thoughts 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 Lämmer-Geyer@ had spread

A startled wing; for oft that peal had blown
Where the free cataract's voice was wont to sound 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."—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; and where the light
Of Day's last footstep bathes in burning gold

Great Righi's cliffs ; and where 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
High thoughts on man.—The fearless hunter passid,
And, from the bosom of the wilderness,
There leapt 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.


They link'd their hands,—they pledg’d their stainless

faith, In the dread presence of attesting HeavenThey bound their hearts to suffering and to death, With the severe and solemn transport given To bless such vows.-How man had striven, How man might strive, and vainly strive, they knew, And call’d 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.


They knelt, and rose in strength.—The valleys lay
Still in their dimness, but the peaks which darted
Into the bright mid-air, had caught from day
A flush of fire, when those true Switzers parted,
Each to his glen or forest, stedfast-hearted,
And full of hope. Not 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 rocks like banners streaming
To the far Seelisberg; whence light was flung

On Grütli's field, till all the red lake gleaming
Shone out, a meteor-heaven in its wild splendor 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'd and

In Werner's dwelling flow'd ; through leafless vines

From Walter's hearth stream'd forth the festive light, And Erni’s blind old sire gave thanks to Heaven that night.

« PreviousContinue »