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MEMORIALS OF A TOUR ON THE CONTINENT, 1820

XXIV. THE ITALIAN ITINERANT AND THE SWISS GOATHERD.

PART II

                                   I

          WITH nodding plumes, and lightly drest
          Like foresters in leaf-green vest,
          The Helvetian Mountaineers, on ground
          For Tell's dread archery renowned,
          Before the target stood--to claim
          The guerdon of the steadiest aim.
          Loud was the rifle-gun's report--
          A startling thunder quick and short!
          But, flying through the heights around,
          Echo prolonged a tell-tale sound
          Of hearts and hands alike "prepared
          The treasures they enjoy to guard!"
          And, if there be a favoured hour
          When Heroes are allowed to quit
          The tomb, and on the clouds to sit
          With tutelary power,
          On their Descendants shedding grace--
          This was the hour, and that the place.

                                   II

          But Truth inspired the Bards of old
          When of an iron age they told,
          Which to unequal laws gave birth,
          And drove Astraea from the earth.
          --A gentle Boy (perchance with blood
          As noble as the best endued,
          But seemingly a Thing despised;
          Even by the sun and air unprized;
          For not a tinge or flowery streak
          Appeared upon his tender cheek)
          Heart-deaf to those rebounding notes,
          Apart, beside his silent goats,
          Sate watching in a forest shed,
          Pale, ragged, with bare feet and head;
          Mute as the snow upon the hill,
          And, as the saint he prays to, still.
          Ah, what avails heroic deed?
          What liberty? if no defence
          Be won for feeble Innocence.
          Father of all! though wilful Manhood read
          His punishment in soul-distress,
          Grant to the morn of life its natural blessedness!


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