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Did the land sleep?—the woodman's axe had ceas'd
Its ringing notes upon the beech and plane ;
The grapes were gathered in ; the vintage-feast
Was clos’d upon the hills, the reaper's strain
Hushed by the streams; the year was in its wane,
The night in its mid-watch ; it was a time
E'en marked and hallowed unto Slumber's reign.
But thoughts were stirring, restless and sublime,
And o'er his white Alps mov'd the Spirit of the clime.
For there, where snows, in crowning glory spread,
High and unmark’d by mortal footstep lay ;
And there, where torrents, 'midst the ice-caves fed,
Burst in their joy of light and sound away ;
And there, where Freedom, as in scornful play,
Had hung man's dwellings ’midst the realms of air,
O’er cliffs, the very birth-place of the day-
Oh! who would dream that Tyranny could dare
To lay her withering hand on God's bright works e’en
Yet thus it was amidst the fleet streams gushing
To bring down rainbows o'er their sparry cell,
And the glad heights, through mist and tempest rushing
Up where the sun's red fire-glance earliest fell,
And the fresh pastures, where the herd's sweet bell
Recall’d such life as Eastern patriarchs led ;-
There peasant-men their free thoughts might not tell
Save in the hour of shadows and of dread,
And hollow sounds that wake to Guilt's dull, stealthy tread.
But in a land of happy shepherd-homes,
On its green hills in quiet joy reclining
With their bright hearth-fires, ʼmidst the twilight-glooms,
From bowery lattice through the fir-woods shining ;
A land of legends and wild songs, entwining
Their memory with all memories lov'd and blest-
In such a land there dwells a power, combining
The strength of many a calm, but fearless breast ;
-And woe to him who breaks the sabbath of its rest!
A sound went up—the wave's dark sleep was broken-
On Uri's lake was heard a midnight oar-
Of man's brief course a troubled moment's token
Th' eternal waters to their barriers bore;
And then their gloom a flashing image wore
Of torch-fires streaming out o'er crag and wood,
And the wild falcon's wing was heard to soar
In startled haste—and by that moonlight-flood,
A band of patriot men on Grütli's verdure stood.
They stood in arms—the wolf-spear and the bow
Had wag'd their war on things of mountain-race;
Might not their swift stroke reach a mail-clad foe?
-Strong hands in harvest, daring feet in chase,
True hearts in fight, were gather'd on that place
Of secret council.-Not for fame or spoil
So met those men in Heaven's majestic face;-
To guard free hearths they rose, the sons of toil,
The hunter of the rocks, the tiller of the soil.
O’er their low pastoral valleys might the tide
Of years have flow'd, and still, from sire to son,
Their names and records on the green earth died,
As cottage-lamps, expiring, one by one,
In the dim glades, when midnight hath begun
To hush all sound.—But silent on its height,
The snow-mass, full of death, while ages run
Their course, may slumber, bath'd in rosy light,
Till some rash voice or step disturb its brooding might.
So were they roused—th' invading step had
past Their cabin-thresholds, and the lowly door, Which well had stood against the Föhnwind's? blast, Could bar Oppression from their homes no more.
-Why, what had she to do where all things wore Wild Grandeur's impress ?-In the storm's free way, How dared she lift her pageant crest before
Th’ enduring and magnificent array Of sovereign Alps, that wing’d their eagles with the day ?
This might not long be borne—the tameless hills
Have voices from the cave and cataract swelling,
Fraught with His name, whose awful presence fills
Their deep lone places, and forever telling
That He hath made man free !-and they whose
Was in those ancient fastnesses, gave ear;
The weight of sufferance from their hearts repelling,
They rose-the forester, the mountaineerOh! what hath earth more strong than the good peasant
Sacred be Grütli's field !--their vigil keeping
Through many a blue and starry summer-night,
There, while the sons of happier lands were sleeping,
Had those brave Switzers met; and in the sight
Of the just God, who pours forth burning might
To gird the oppress'd, had given their deep thoughts
And brac'd their spirits for the patriot-fight,
With lovely images of homes, that lay Bower'd 'midst the rustling pines, or by the torrent-spray.