Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Switzerland
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI.  1876–79.
 
Introductory to Switzerland
Switzerland
Count Anton Alexander von Auersperg (Anastasius Grün) (1806–1876)
 
(From Knights and Freemen)
Translated by J. O. Sargent

FROM a lofty Alpine summit look down upon this land,
It lies there like a volume all written by God’s hand;
The mountains are the letters, as leaves the fields unroll,
Saint Gothard is only an asterisk in this gigantic scroll.
 
Know you what there is written? O, see it beams so bright!        5
Freedom stands there, ye princes! can ye read the page aright?
No chancellor engrossed it, it is no parchment chart,
And the red that burns in the signet is the blood of a people’s heart.
 
Behold the mighty mountain,—the Monk in the country hight,—
Around his brow the eagle sweeps in its heavenward flight;        10
His cowl is of rock, and the snow-crown becomes his temples well,
His prayer-book the starry heavens, the universe his cell.
 
When a monk appears, there surely can be no lack of preaching,
In the thunder of the avalanche, in the cataract he is teaching;
Freedom! that is his text-word; good sirs, you do not smile,        15
It is clear the monk is a heretic,—he must go into durance vile.
 
Lo, in white veil the maiden raises her modest head,
As morning, the bridegroom, garlands her brow with roses red;
With various flowers embroidered her green apparel gleams,
Where, like silver tissues inwoven, sparkle the crested streams.        20
 
Over her, arched to a cupola, behold the blue air streams,
The row of pointed glaciers a cathedral organ seems;
With a maid and an organ together, one cannot well be wrong
In listening with all assurance for music and for song.
 
Hear how her song magnificent thrills in the beating heart,        25
Freedom! freedom! she sings so that all our pulses start:
By heavens! with such a harmony never sang daughters of earth,
And they who join in the chorus are surely of heavenly birth.
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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