"Chamouni" [poem]
The wreathing clouds are fleeting fast, 1
Deep shade upon the hills they cast,
While through their openings ever show
Enormous pyramids of snow;
Scarce can you tell in middle air
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If cloud or mountain rises there,
Yet may you mark the glittering light
That glances from the glaciered height;
And you may mark the shades that sever
The throne where winter sits for ever,
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The avalancheʼs thunder rolling,
No summer heat his reign controlling;
The gloomy tyrant in his pride
Spreads his dominion far and wide,
Till, set with many an icy gem,
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Rises his cliffy diadem. 2
Above a steepy crag we wound
Where gloomy pines his forehead crowned;
And heard we, with a sullen swell,
The turbid Arve dash through the dell;
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You might have thought it, moaning by,
Wail for the loss of liberty;
For high the rocks whose mighty screen
Confined the narrow pass between,
And many a mass of granite grey
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Opposed the torrentʼs forceful way;
So headlong rushed the lightning tide,
No pass was there for aught beside;
And we high oʼer those cliffs so sheer
Must climb the mountain barrier,
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Until unfolded to the eye
The fruitful fields of Chamouni. 3
It lay before us, as a child
Of beauty in the desert wild;
Full strange it seemed that thing so fair,
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So fairy‐like, could harbour there;
For fields of bending corn there grew
Close to the glacierʼs wintry blue;
And saw we the same sun‐ray shine
On pasture gay and mountain pine,
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Whose dark and spiry forests rose
Till mingled with eternal snows
That climbed into the clear blue sky
In peaked, impending majesty.
ʼTis passing strange that such a place
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In all its native loveliness
Should, pent within those wilds so lone,
For many ages pass unknown—
Unknown save by a simple few a
Who their own valley only knew,
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Nor dared the mountain ridge that bound
That lovely vale with terrors round;
That lived secluded from mankind,
Contented yet in heart and mind;
That lived within that world alone,
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A world of beauty of their own. 4
And now Helvetiaʼs cliffy reign
Contains not in her Alpine chain,
In valley deep, on mountain high,
A race like those of Chamouni;
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For they have loved, at dawn of day,
To trace the chamoisʼ fearful way,
Or on the toppling shelf of snow
With crags above and clouds below;
Or on the peak whose spiry head
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Is beetling oʼer abysses dread,
Where place for foot, and grasp for hand,
Is all the hunter can command;
Or on the glacierʼs rigid wave
Where he may find a chasmy grave; 5
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Returning with his spoils at even
Ere the red sun hath left the heaven.