Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
By John Neal (1793–1876)
  SWITZERLAND! my country! ’tis to thee,
    I rock my harp in agony:—
  My country! nurse of Liberty,
    Home of the gallant, great and free,
    My sullen harp I rock to thee.        5
    O, I have lost ye all
  Parents—and home—and friends:
Ye sleep beneath a mountain pall;
    A mountain-plumage o’er ye bends.
  The cliff-yew in funereal gloom,        10
  Is now the only mourning plume,
  That nods above a people’s tomb.
Of the echoes that swim o’er thy bright blue lake,
And deep in its caverns, their merry bells shake;
    And repeat thy young huntsman’s cry:        15
That clatter and laugh, when the goatherds take
Their browsing flocks at the morning’s break,
Far over the hills—not one is awake
    In the swell of thy peaceable sky.
  They sit on that wave with a motionless wing;        20
And their cymbals are mute and the desert birds sing
Their unanswer’d notes to the wave and the sky—
One startling, and sudden—unchangeable cry—
As they stoop their broad wing, and go sluggishly by:
  For deep in that blue-bosom’d water is laid        25
  As innocent, true, and as lovely a maid
As ever in cheerfulness carol’d her song,
  In the blithe mountain air, as she bounded along:
The heavens are all blue, and the billow’s bright verge
Is frothily laved by a whispering surge,        30
That heaves incessant, a tranquil dirge,
  To lull the pale forms that sleep below:
  Forms—that rock as the waters flow.
That bright lake is still as a liquid sky,
And when o’er its bosom the swift clouds fly,        35
They pass like thoughts o’er a clear blue eye!
The fringe of thin foam that their sepulchre binds,
Is as light as a cloud that is borne by the winds;
While over its bosom the dim vapors hover,
And flutterless skims the snowy-wing’d plover:        40
Swiftly passing away—like a haunted wing;
With a drooping plume—that may not fling
One sound of life—or a rustling note—
O’er that sleepless tomb—where my loved ones float.
Oh cool and fresh is that bright blue lake,        45
While over its stillness no sounds awake:
No sights—but those of the hill-top fountain
That swims on the height of a cloud-wrapp’d mountain—
  The basin of the rainbow-stream,
  The sunset gush—the morning gleam—        50
  The picture of the poet’s dream.
Land of proud hearts! where freedom broods
Amid her home of echoing woods,
The mother of the mountain floods—
    Dark, Goldau is thy vale;        55
    The spirits of Rigi shall wail
    On their cloud-bosom’d deep, as they sail
  In mist where thy children are lying—
As their thunders once paused in their headlong descent,
And delay’d their discharge—while thy desert was rent        60
    With the cries of thy sons who were dying.
    No chariots of fire on the clouds career’d;
    No warrior-arm, with its falchion rear’d:—
No death-angel’s trump o’er the ocean was blown;
No mantle of wrath o’er the heaven was thrown;        65
No armies of light—with their banners of flame—
Or neighing steeds—through the sunset came,
    Or leaping from space appear’d!
No earthquakes reel’d—no Thunderer storm’d;
No fetterless dead o’er the bright sky swarm’d;        70
    No voices in heaven were heard!
But the hour when the sun in his pride went down
    While his parting hung rich o’er the world:
While abroad o’er the sky his flush mantle was blown,
    And his red-rushing streamers unfurl’d;—        75
      An everlasting hill was torn
      From its eternal base—and borne—
      In gold and crimson vapors drest
      To where—a people are at rest!
Slowly it came in its mountain wrath,        80
And the forests vanish’d before its path:
And the rude cliffs bow’d—and the waters fled—
And the living were buried, while over their head
They heard the full march of their foe as he sped—
And the valley of life—was the tomb of the dead!        85
The clouds were all bright: no lightnings flew:
And over that valley no death-blast blew:
No storm pass’d by on his cloudy wing:
No twang was heard from the sky-archer’s string—
But the dark, dim hill in its strength came down,        90
While the shedding of day on its summit was thrown,
A glory all light, like a wind-wreathed crown—
While the tame bird flew to the vulture’s nest,
And the vulture forbore in that hour to molest.—
The mountain sepulchre of all I loved!        95
  The village sank—and the monarch trees
  Lean’d back from the encountering breeze—
While this tremendous pageant moved!
The mountain forsook his perpetual throne—
Came down from his rock—and his path is shown        100
In barrenness and ruin—where
The secret of his power lies bare—
His rocks in nakedness arise:
His desolation mocks the skies.

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