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But who was he, that on his hunting-spear
One that should pass, and leave a name for warlike song,
A memory on the mountains !—one to stand,
The joy of danger flow'd, as torrents to the plains.
There was at times a wildness in the light Of his quick-flashing 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's" 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 rifts, th’ unfathom'd glacier-deeps.
He was a creature of the Alpine sky,
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. 7–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 searless hunter pass'd, 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 Heaven— They 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
So far was heard the blast of Freedom's echoing horn'
The ice-vaults trembled, when that peal came rending
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, Fell'd 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 bright, 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.