The Shepherd Poet of the Alps.

God gave him reverence of laws,
Yet stirring blood in Freedom’s cause—
A spirit to his rocks akin,
The eye of the hawk, and the fire therein !
Singing of the free blue sky,1
And the wild-flower glens that lie2
Far amidst the ancient hills,3
Which the fountain-music fills ;4
Singing of the snow-peaks bright,5
And the royal eagle’s flight,6
And the courage and the grace7
Foster’d by the chamois-chase ;8
In his fetters, day by day,9
So the Shepherd-poet lay.10
Wherefore, from a dungeon-cell11
Did those notes of freedom swell,12
Breathing sadness not their own,13
Forth with every Alpine tone ?14
Wherefore !— can a tyrant’s ear15
Brook the mountain-winds to hear,16
When each blast goes pealing by17
With a song of liberty ?18
Darkly hung th’ oppressor’s hand19
O’er the Shepherd-poet’s land ;20
Sounding there the waters gush’d,21
While the lip of man was hush’d ;22
There the falcon pierced the cloud,23
While the fiery heart was bow’d :24
But this might not long endure,25
Where the mountain-homes were pure ;26
And a valiant voice arose,27
Thrilling all the silent snows ;28
His—now singing far and lone,29
Where the young breeze ne’er was known ;30
Singing of the glad blue sky,31
Wildly—and how mournfully !32
Are none but the Wind and the Lammer-Geyer33
To be free where the hills unto heaven aspire ?34
Is the soul of song from the deep glens past ;35
Now that their Poet is chain’d at last ?—36
Think of the mountains, and deem not so !37
Soon shall each blast like a clarion blow !38
Yes ! though forbidden be every word39
Wherewith that Spirit the Alps hath stirr’d,40
Yet even as a buried stream thro’ earth41
Rolls on to another and brighter birth,42
So shall the voice that hath seem’d to die,43
Burst forth with the Anthem of Liberty !44
And another power is moving45
In a bosom fondly loving :—46
Oh ! a sister’s heart is deep,47
And her spirit strong to keep48
Each light link of early hours,49
All sweet scents of childhood’s flowers !50
Thus each lay by Erni sung,51
Rocks and crystal caves among,52
Or beneath the linden-leaves,53
Or the cabin’s vine-hung eaves,54
Rapid though as bird-notes gushing,55
Transient as a wan cheek’s flushing,56
Each in young Teresa’s breast57
Left its las words impress’d ;58
Treasured there lay every line,59
As arich book on a hidden shrine.60
Fair was that lone girl, and meek,61
With a pale transparent cheek,62
And a deep-fringed violet eye63
Seeking in sweet shade to lie,64
Or, if raised to glance above,65
Dim with its own dews of love ;66
And a pure, Madonna brow,67
And a silvery voice, and low,68
Like the echo of a flute,69
Even the last, ere all be mute.70
But a loftier soul was seen71
In the orphan sister’s mien,72
From that hour when chains defiled73
Him, the high Alps’ noble child.74
Tones in her quivering voice awoke,75
As if a harp of battle spoke ;76
Light, that seem’d born of an eagle’s nest,77
Flash’d from her soft eyes, unrepress’d ;78
And her form, like a spreading water-flower,79
When its frail cup swells with a sudden shower,80
Seem’d all dilated with love and pride,81
And grief for that brother, her young heart’s guide,82
Well might they love !— those two had grown83
Orphans together and alone :84
The silence of the Alpine sky85
Had hush’d their hearts to piety ;86
The turf, o’er their dead mother laid,87
Had been their altar when they pray’d ;88
There, more in tenderness than woe,89
The stars had seen their young tears flow ;90
The clouds, in spirit-like descent,91
Their deep thoughts by one touch had blent,92
And the wild storms link’d them to each other93
How dear can peril make a brother !94
Now is their hearth a forsaken spot,95
The vine waves unpruned o’er their mountain-cot ;96
Away, in that holy affection’s might,97
The maiden is gone, like a breeze of the night ;—98
She is gone forth alone, but her lighted face,99
Filling with soul every secret place,100
Hath a dower from heaven, and a gift of sway,101
To arouse brave hearts in its hidden way,102
Like the sudden flinging forth on high,103
Of a banner that startleth silently !104
She hath wander’d through many a hamlet-vale,105
Telling its children her brother’s tale ;106
And the strains, by his spirit pour’d away,107
Freely as fountains might shower their spray,108
From her fervent lip a new life have caught,109
And a power to kindle yet bolder thought ;110
While sometimes a melody, all her own,111
Like a gush of tears in its plaintive tone,112
May be heard ’midst the lonely rocks to flow,113
Clear through the water-chimes—clear, yet low.114
Thou’rt not where wild flowers wave115
O’er crag and sparry cave ;116
Thou’rt not where pines are sounding,117
Or joyous torrents bounding118
Alas, my brother !119
Thou’rt not where green, on high,120
The brighter pastures lie ;121
Ey’n those, thine own wild places,122
Bear of our chain dark traces :123
Alas, my brother !124
Far hath the sunbeam spread,125
Nor found thy lonely bed ;126
Long hath the fresh wind sought thee,127
Nor one sweet whisper brought thee128
Alas, my brother !129
Thou, that for joy wert born,130
Free as the wings of morn !131
Will aught thy young life cherish,132
Where the Alpine rose would perish ?133
Alas, my brother !134
Canst thou be singin still,135
As once on every hill :136
Is not thy soul forsaken,137
And the bright gift from thee taken ?—138
Alas, alas, my brother !139
And was the bright git from the captive fled ?140
Like the fire on his hearth, was his spirit dead ?141
Not so!—but as rooted in stillness deep,142
The pure stream-lily its place will keep,143
Though its tearful urns to the blast may quiver,144
While the red waves rush down the foaming river,145
So freedom’s faith in his bosom lay,146
Trembling, yet. not to be borne away !147
He thought of the Alps and their breezy air,148
And felt that his country no chains might bear ;149
He thought of the hunter’s haughty life,150
And knew there must yet be noble strife ; 151
But, oh! when he thought of that orphan maid,152
His high heart melted—he wept and pray’d !153
For he saw her not as she moved e’en then,154
A wakener of heroes in every glen,155
With a glance inspired which no grief could tame,156
Bearing on Hope like a torch’s flame, :157
While the strengthening voice of mighty wrongs158
Gave echoes back to her thrilling songs ;159
But his dreams were fill’d by a haunting tone,160
Sad as a sleeping infant’s moan ;161
And his soul was piere’d by a mournful eye,162
Which look’d on it—oh ! how beseechingly !163
And there floated past him a fragile form,164
With a willowy droop, as beneath the storm ;165
Till wakening in anguish, his faint heart, strove.166
In vain with its burden of helpless love !167
—Thus woke the dreamer one weary night168
There flash’d through his dungeon a swift strong light ;169
He sprang up—he climb’d to the grating-bars,170
—It was not the rising of moon or stars,171
But a signal flame from a peak of snow,172
Rock’d through the dark skies, to and fro !173
There shot forth another—another still174
A hundred answers of hill to hill !175
Tossing like pines in the tempest’s way,176
Joyously, wildly, the bright spires play,177
And each is hail’d with a pealing shout,178
For the high Alps waving their banners out !179
Erni, young Erni! the land hath risen !180
—Alas ! to be lone in thy narrow prison !181
Those free streamers glancing, and thou not there !182
—Is the moment of rapture, or fierce despair ?183
—Hark ! there’s a tumult that shakes his cell,184
At the gates of the mountain citadel !185
Hark ! a clear voice through the rude sounds ringing !186
—Doth he know the strain, and the wild, sweet singing ?187
There may not long be fetters,188
Where the cloud is earth’s array,189
And the bright floods leap from caye and steep,190
Like a hunter on the prey !191
There may not long be fetters,192
Where the white Alps have their towers ;193
Unto eagle-homes, if the arrow comes,194
The chain is not for ours !”195
It is she !— She is come like a day-spring beam,196
She that so mournfully shadow’d his dream !197
With her shining eyes and her buoyant form,198
She is come! her tears on his cheek are warm 199
And O ! the thrill in that weeping voice !200
My brother, my brother! come forth, rejoice !201
—Poet ! the land of thy love is free,202
—Sister ! thy brother is won by thee !203