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Some say that gleams of a remoter world
Visit the soul in sleep,—that death is slumber,
And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
Of those who wake and live,-- I look on high ;
Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled
The veil of life and death ? or do I lie
In dream, and does the mightier world of sleep
Spread far around and inaccessibly
Its circles ? For the very spirit fails,
Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep
That vanishes among the viewless gales !
Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky
Mont Blanc appears,-still, snowy, and serene -
Its subject mountains their unearthly fornis
Pile around it, ice and rock ; broad vales between
Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
And wind among the accumulated steeps;
A desart peopled by the storms alone,
Save when the eagle brings some hunter's bone,
And the wolf tracts her there-how hideously
Its shapes are heaped around ! rude, bare, and high,
Ghastly, and scarred, and riven,-13 this the scene
Where the old Earthquake-dæmon taught her young
Ruin? ere these their toys ? or did a sea
Of fire envelope once this silent snow?
None can reply-all seems eternal now.
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue
Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
So solemn, so serene, that man may be
But for such faith with nature reconciled ;
Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
Large codes of fraud and woe: not understood
By all, but which the wise, and great, and good
Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.
The fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams,
Ocean, and all the living things that dwell
Within the dædal earth ; lightning, and rain,
Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane,
The torpor of the year when feeble dreams
Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless sleep
Holds every future leaf and flower ;– the bound
With which from that detested trance they leap ;
The works and ways of man, their death and birth,
And that of him and all that his may be ;
All things that move and breathe with toil and sound
Are born and die, revolve, subside and swell.
Power dwells apart in its tranquillity
Remote, serene, and inaccessible :
And this, the naked countenance of earth,
On which I gaze, even these primæval mountains,
Teach the adverting mind, The glaciers creep
Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountaisn,
Slow rolling on ; there, many a precipice
Frost and the Sun in scorn of mortal power
Have piled-dome, pyramid, and pinnacle,
A city of death, distinct with many a tower
And wall impregnable of beaming ice.
Yet not a city, but a flood of ruin
Is there, that from the boundaries of the sky
Rolls its perpetual stream ; vast pines are strewing
Its destined path, or in the mangled soil
Branchless and shattered stand ; the rocks, drawn down
From yon remotest waste, have overthrown
The limits of the dead and living world,
Never to be reclaimed. The dwelling-place
Of insects, beasts, and birds becomes its spoil ;
Their food and their retreat for ever gone,
So much of life and joy is lost. The race*
Of man Aies far in dread : his work and dwelling
Vanish, like smoke before the tempest's stream,
And their place is not known. Below, vast caves
Shine in the rushing torrent's restless gleam,
Which from those secret chasms in tumult swelling
Meet in the vale, and one majestic River,
The breath and blood of distant lands, for ever
Rolls its loud waters to the ocean waves,
Breathes its swift vapours to the circling air.
Mont Blanc yet gleams on high :- the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights
And many sonn ls, and much of life and death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
In the lone glare of day, the snows descenil
Upon that Mountain ; none behold them there,
Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking 'un,
Or the star-beams dart through them :-Winds contend
Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
Over the snow. The secret strength of things
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what wert thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind's imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy ?
Switzerland, June 23, 1816.
ON THE MEDUSA OF LEONARDO DA VINCI,
IN THE FLORENTINE GALLERY.
It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky,
Upon the cloudy mountain peak supine ; Below, far lands are seen tremblingly ;
Its horror and its beauty are divine,
Upon its lips and eyelids seems to lie
Loveliness like a shadow, from which shrine,
Fiery and lurid, struggling underneath,
The agonies of anguish and of death.
Yet it is less the horror than the grace
Which turns the gazer's spirit into stone ; Whereon the lineaments of that dead face
Are graven, till the characters be grown Into itself, and thought no more can trace ;
'Tis the melodious hue of beauty thrown Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain, Which humanize and harmonize the strain.
And from its head as from one body grow,
) grass out of a watery rock, Hairs which are vipers, and they ourl and flow
And their long tangles in each other lock, And with unending involutions shew
Their mailed radiance, as it were to mock The torture and the death within, and saw The solid air with many a ragged jaw.