Page images
PDF

CLXXXIII.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form Glasses itself in tempests: in all time, Calm or convulsed—in breeze, or gale, or storm, Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime Dark-heaving;—boundless, endless, and sublime— The image of Eternity—the throne Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime The monsters of the deep are made; each zone Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

CLXXXIV.

And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wanton'd with thy breakers—they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror—'twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane—as I do here.

CLXXXV.

My task is done—my song hath ceased—my theme Has died into an echo: it is fit The spell should break of this protracted dream. The torch shall be extinguish'd which hath lit My midnight lamp, and what is writ, is writ— Would it were worthier! but I am not now That which I have been—and my visions flit Less palpably before me—and the glow Which in my spirit dwelt is fluttering, faint, and low.

CLXXXVI.

Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been— A sound which makes us linger;—yet, farewell! Ye, who have traced the Pilgrim to the scene Which is his last, if in your memories dwell A thought which once was his, if on ye swell A single recollection, not in vain He wore his sandal-shoon and scallop-shell; Farewell! with him alone may rest the pain, If such there were—with you, the moral of his strain. THE PRISONER OF CHILLON

1816 SONNET ON CHILLON

Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!

Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,

For there thy habitation is the heart— The heart which love of thee alone can bind; And when thy sons to fetters are consign'd— To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom,

Their country conquers with their martyrdom, And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind. Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,

And thy sad floor an altar—for 'twas trod, Until his very steps have left a trace

Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod, By Bonnivard! May none those marks efface!

For they appeal from tyranny to God.

THE PRISONER OF CHILLON
1.

My hair is gray, but not with years;
Nor grew it white
In a single night,
As men's have grown from sudden fears:
My limbs are bow'd, though not with toil,

But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon's spoil,
And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann'd, and barr'd—forbidden fare;
But this was for my father's faith
I suffer'd chains and courted death:
That father perish'd at the stake
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race
In darkness found a dwelling-place.
We were seven—who now are one,

Six in youth, and one in age,
Finish'd as they had begun,

Proud of Persecution's rage;
One in fire, and two in field,
Their belief with blood have seal'd
Dying as their father died,
For the God their foes denied;—
Three were in a dungeon cast,
Of whom this wreck is left the last.

II.

There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon's dungeon deep and old;There are seven columns, massy and gray,
Dim with a dull imprison'd ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,
And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left:Creeping o'er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh's meteor lamp:And in each pillar there is a ring,

And in each ring there is a chain;
That iron is a cankering thing,

For in these limbs its teeth remain, With marks that will not wear away, Jil) I have done with this new day,

Which now is painful to these eyes,
Which have not seen the sun so rise
For years—I cannot count them o'er;
I lost their long and heavy score
When my last brother droop'd and died,
And I lay living by his side.

III.

They chain'd us each to a column stone,
And we were three—yet each alone;We could not move a single pace,
We could not see each other's face,
But with that pale and livid light
That made us strangers in our sight:And thus together—yet apart,
Fetter'd in hand, but join'd in heart,
'Twas still some solace in the dearth
Of the pure elements of earth,
To hearken to each other's speech,
And each turn comforter to each,
With some new hope, or legend old,
Or song heroically bold;But even these at length grew cold.
Our voices took a dreary tone,
An echo of the dungeon-stone,
A grating sound—not full and free
As they of yore were wont to be:It might be fancy—but to me
They never sounded like our own.

IV.

I was the eldest of the three;And to uphold and cheer the rest
I ought to do—and did—my best, And each did well in his degree,

« PreviousContinue »