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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 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 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.
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 chain'd by Winter's spell,
The deep wood-sounds had ceas'd.—But rock and dell
Rung forth, ere long, when strains of jubilee
Peal'd 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!