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THE PRELUDE

BOOK SIXTH

CAMBRIDGE AND THE ALPS

 THE leaves were fading when to Esthwaite's banks And the simplicities of cottage life I bade farewell; and, one among the youth Who, summoned by that season, reunite As scattered birds troop to the fowler's lure, Went back to Granta's cloisters, not so prompt Or eager, though as gay and undepressed In mind, as when I thence had taken flight A few short months before. I turned my face Without repining from the coves and heights 10 Clothed in the sunshine of the withering fern; Quitted, not loth, the mild magnificence Of calmer lakes and louder streams; and you, Frank-hearted maids of rocky Cumberland, You and your not unwelcome days of mirth, Relinquished, and your nights of revelry, And in my own unlovely cell sate down In lightsome mood--such privilege has youth That cannot take long leave of pleasant thoughts. The bonds of indolent society 20 Relaxing in their hold, henceforth I lived More to myself. Two winters may be passed Without a separate notice: many books Were skimmed, devoured, or studiously perused, But with no settled plan. I was detached Internally from academic cares; Yet independent study seemed a course Of hardy disobedience toward friends And kindred, proud rebellion and unkind. This spurious virtue, rather let it bear 30 A name it now deserves, this cowardice, Gave treacherous sanction to that over-love Of freedom which encouraged me to turn From regulations even of my own As from restraints and bonds. Yet who can tell-- Who knows what thus may have been gained, both then And at a later season, or preserved; What love of nature, what original strength Of contemplation, what intuitive truths The deepest and the best, what keen research, 40 Unbiassed, unbewildered, and unawed? The Poet's soul was with me at that time; Sweet meditations, the still overflow Of present happiness, while future years Lacked not anticipations, tender dreams, No few of which have since been realised; And some remain, hopes for my future life. Four years and thirty, told this very week, Have I been now a sojourner on earth, By sorrow not unsmitten; yet for me 50 Life's morning radiance hath not left the hills, Her dew is on the flowers. Those were the days Which also first emboldened me to trust With firmness, hitherto but slightly touched By such a daring thought, that I might leave Some monument behind me which pure hearts Should reverence. The instinctive humbleness, Maintained even by the very name and thought Of printed books and authorship, began To melt away; and further, the dread awe 60 Of mighty names was softened down and seemed Approachable, admitting fellowship Of modest sympathy. Such aspect now, Though not familiarly, my mind put on, Content to observe, to achieve, and to enjoy. All winter long, whenever free to choose, Did I by night frequent the College grove And tributary walks; the last, and oft The only one, who had been lingering there Through hours of silence, till the porter's bell, 70 A punctual follower on the stroke of nine, Rang with its blunt unceremonious voice; Inexorable summons! Lofty elms, Inviting shades of opportune recess, Bestowed composure on a neighbourhood Unpeaceful in itself. A single tree With sinuous trunk, boughs exquisitely wreathed, Grew there; an ash which Winter for himself Decked out with pride, and with outlandish grace: Up from the ground, and almost to the top, 80 The trunk and every master branch were green With clustering ivy, and the lightsome twigs And outer spray profusely tipped with seeds That hung in yellow tassels, while the air Stirred them, not voiceless. Often have I stood Foot-bound uplooking at this lovely tree Beneath a frosty moon. The hemisphere Of magic fiction, verse of mine perchance May never tread; but scarcely Spenser's self Could have more tranquil visions in his youth, 90 Or could more bright appearances create Of human forms with superhuman powers, Than I beheld, loitering on calm clear nights Alone, beneath this fairy work of earth. On the vague reading of a truant youth 'Twere idle to descant. My inner judgment Not seldom differed from my taste in books, As if it appertained to another mind, And yet the books which then I valued most Are dearest to me 'now'; for, having scanned, 100 Not heedlessly, the laws, and watched the forms Of Nature, in that knowledge I possessed A standard, often usefully applied, Even when unconsciously, to things removed From a familiar sympathy.--In fine, I was a better judge of thoughts than words, Misled in estimating words, not only By common inexperience of youth, But by the trade in classic niceties, The dangerous craft, of culling term and phrase 110 From languages that want the living voice To carry meaning to the natural heart; To tell us what is passion, what is truth, What reason, what simplicity and sense. Yet may we not entirely overlook The pleasure gathered from the rudiments Of geometric science. Though advanced In these enquiries, with regret I speak, No farther than the threshold, there I found Both elevation and composed delight: 120 With Indian awe and wonder, ignorance pleased With its own struggles, did I meditate On the relation those abstractions bear To Nature's laws, and by what process led, Those immaterial agents bowed their heads Duly to serve the mind of earth-born man; From star to star, from kindred sphere to sphere, From system on to system without end. More frequently from the same source I drew A pleasure quiet and profound, a sense 130 Of permanent and universal sway, And paramount belief; there, recognised A type, for finite natures, of the one Supreme Existence, the surpassing life Which--to the boundaries of space and time, Of melancholy space and doleful time, Superior and incapable of change, Nor touched by welterings of passion--is, And hath the name of, God. Transcendent peace And silence did await upon these thoughts 140 That were a frequent comfort to my youth. 'Tis told by one whom stormy waters threw, With fellow-sufferers by the shipwreck spared, Upon a desert coast, that having brought To land a single volume, saved by chance, A treatise of Geometry, he wont, Although of food and clothing destitute, And beyond common wretchedness depressed, To part from company and take this book (Then first a self-taught pupil in its truths) 150 To spots remote, and draw his diagrams With a long staff upon the sand, and thus Did oft beguile his sorrow, and almost Forget his feeling: so (if like effect From the same cause produced, 'mid outward things So different, may rightly be compared), So was it then with me, and so will be With Poets ever. Mighty is the charm Of those abstractions to a mind beset With images and haunted by herself, 160 And specially delightful unto me Was that clear synthesis built up aloft So gracefully; even then when it appeared Not more than a mere plaything, or a toy To sense embodied: not the thing it is In verity, an independent world, Created out of pure intelligence. Such dispositions then were mine unearned By aught, I fear, of genuine desert-- Mine, through heaven's grace and inborn aptitudes. 170 And not to leave the story of that time Imperfect, with these habits must be joined, Moods melancholy, fits of spleen, that loved A pensive sky, sad days, and piping winds, The twilight more than dawn, autumn than spring; A treasured and luxurious gloom of choice And inclination mainly, and the mere Redundancy of youth's contentedness. --To time thus spent, add multitudes of hours Pilfered away, by what the Bard who sang 180 Of the Enchanter Indolence hath called "Good-natured lounging," and behold a map Of my collegiate life--far less intense Than duty called for, or, without regard To duty, 'might' have sprung up of itself By change of accidents, or even, to speak Without unkindness, in another place. Yet why take refuge in that plea?--the fault, This I repeat, was mine; mine be the blame. In summer, making quest for works of art, 190 Or scenes renowned for beauty, I explored That streamlet whose blue current works its way Between romantic Dovedale's spiry rocks; Pried into Yorkshire dales, or hidden tracts Of my own native region, and was blest Between these sundry wanderings with a joy Above all joys, that seemed another morn Risen on mid noon; blest with the presence, Friend Of that sole Sister, her who hath been long Dear to thee also, thy true friend and mine, 200 Now, after separation desolate, Restored to me--such absence that she seemed A gift then first bestowed. The varied banks Of Emont, hitherto unnamed in song, And that monastic castle, 'mid tall trees, Low standing by the margin of the stream, A mansion visited (as fame reports) By Sidney, where, in sight of our Helvellyn, Or stormy Cross-fell, snatches he might pen Of his Arcadia, by fraternal love 210 Inspired;--that river and those mouldering towers Have seen us side by side, when, having clomb The darksome windings of a broken stair, And crept along a ridge of fractured wall, Not without trembling, we in safety looked Forth, through some Gothic window's open space, And gathered with one mind a rich reward From the far-stretching landscape, by the light Of morning beautified, or purple eve; Or, not less pleased, lay on some turret's head, 220 Catching from tufts of grass and hare-bell flowers Their faintest whisper to the passing breeze, Given out while mid-day heat oppressed the plains. Another maid there was, who also shed A gladness o'er that season, then to me, By her exulting outside look of youth And placid under-countenance, first endeared; That other spirit, Coleridge! who is now So near to us, that meek confiding heart, So reverenced by us both. O'er paths and fields 230 In all that neighbourhood, through narrow lanes Of eglantine, and through the shady woods, And o'er the Border Beacon, and the waste Of naked pools, and common crags that lay Exposed on the bare fell, were scattered love, The spirit of pleasure, and youth's golden gleam. O Friend! we had not seen thee at that time, And yet a power is on me, and a strong Confusion, and I seem to plant thee there. Far art thou wandered now in search of health 240 And milder breezes,--melancholy lot! But thou art with us, with us in the past, The present, with us in the times to come. There is no grief, no sorrow, no despair, No languor, no dejection, no dismay, No absence scarcely can there be, for those Who love as we do. Speed thee well! divide With us thy pleasure; thy returning strength, Receive it daily as a joy of ours; Share with us thy fresh spirits, whether gift 250 Of gales Etesian or of tender thoughts. I, too, have been a wanderer; but, alas! How different the fate of different men. Though mutually unknown, yea nursed and reared As if in several elements, we were framed To bend at last to the same discipline, Predestined, if two beings ever were, To seek the same delights, and have one health, One happiness. Throughout this narrative, Else sooner ended, I have borne in mind 260 For whom it registers the birth, and marks the growth, Of gentleness, simplicity, and truth, And joyous loves, that hallow innocent days Of peace and self-command. Of rivers, fields, And groves I speak to thee, my Friend! to thee, Who, yet a liveried schoolboy, in the depths Of the huge city, on the leaded roof Of that wide edifice, thy school and home, Wert used to lie and gaze upon the clouds Moving in heaven; or, of that pleasure tired, 270 To shut thine eyes, and by internal light See trees, and meadows, and thy native stream, Far distant, thus beheld from year to year Of a long exile. Nor could I forget, In this late portion of my argument, That scarcely, as my term of pupilage Ceased, had I left those academic bowers When thou wert thither guided. From the heart Of London, and from cloisters there, thou camest. And didst sit down in temperance and peace, 280 A rigorous student. What a stormy course Then followed. Oh! it is a pang that calls For utterance, to think what easy change Of circumstances might to thee have spared A world of pain, ripened a thousand hopes, For ever withered. Through this retrospect Of my collegiate life I still have had Thy after-sojourn in the self-same place Present before my eyes, have played with times And accidents as children do with cards, 290 Or as a man, who, when his house is built, A frame locked up in wood and stone, doth still, As impotent fancy prompts, by his fireside, Rebuild it to his liking. I have thought Of thee, thy learning, gorgeous eloquence, And all the strength and plumage of thy youth, Thy subtle speculations, toils abstruse Among the schoolmen, and Platonic forms Of wild ideal pageantry, shaped out From things well-matched or ill, and words for things, 300 The self-created sustenance of a mind Debarred from Nature's living images, Compelled to be a life unto herself, And unrelentingly possessed by thirst Of greatness, love, and beauty. Not alone, Ah! surely not in singleness of heart Should I have seen the light of evening fade From smooth Cam's silent waters: had we met, Even at that early time, needs must I trust In the belief, that my maturer age, 310 My calmer habits, and more steady voice, Would with an influence benign have soothed, Or chased away, the airy wretchedness That battened on thy youth. But thou hast trod A march of glory, which doth put to shame These vain regrets; health suffers in thee, else Such grief for thee would be the weakest thought That ever harboured in the breast of man. A passing word erewhile did lightly touch On wanderings of my own, that now embraced 320 With livelier hope a region wider far. When the third summer freed us from restraint, A youthful friend, he too a mountaineer, Not slow to share my wishes, took his staff, And sallying forth, we journeyed side by side, Bound to the distant Alps. A hardy slight, Did this unprecedented course imply, Of college studies and their set rewards; Nor had, in truth, the scheme been formed by me Without uneasy forethought of the pain, 330 The censures, and ill-omening, of those To whom my worldly interests were dear. But Nature then was sovereign in my mind, And mighty forms, seizing a youthful fancy, Had given a charter to irregular hopes. In any age of uneventful calm Among the nations, surely would my heart Have been possessed by similar desire; But Europe at that time was thrilled with joy, France standing on the top of golden hours, 340 And human nature seeming born again. Lightly equipped, and but a few brief looks Cast on the white cliffs of our native shore From the receding vessel's deck, we chanced To land at Calais on the very eve Of that great federal day; and there we saw, In a mean city, and among a few, How bright a face is worn when joy of one Is joy for tens of millions. Southward thence We held our way, direct through hamlets, towns, 350 Gaudy with reliques of that festival, Flowers left to wither on triumphal arcs, And window-garlands. On the public roads, And, once, three days successively, through paths By which our toilsome journey was abridged, Among sequestered villages we walked And found benevolence and blessedness Spread like a fragrance everywhere, when spring Hath left no corner of the land untouched; Where elms for many and many a league in files 360 With their thin umbrage, on the stately roads Of that great kingdom, rustled o'er our heads, For ever near us as we paced along: How sweet at such a time, with such delight On every side, in prime of youthful strength, To feed a Poet's tender melancholy And fond conceit of sadness, with the sound Of undulations varying as might please The wind that swayed them; once, and more than once, Unhoused beneath the evening star we saw 370 Dances of liberty, and, in late hours Of darkness, dances in the open air Deftly prolonged, though grey-haired lookers on Might waste their breath in chiding. Under hills-- The vine-clad hills and slopes of Burgundy, Upon the bosom of the gentle Saone We glided forward with the flowing stream. Swift Rhone! thou wert the 'wings' on which we cut A winding passage with majestic ease Between thy lofty rocks. Enchanting show 380 Those woods and farms and orchards did present, And single cottages and lurking towns, Reach after reach, succession without end Of deep and stately vales! A lonely pair Of strangers, till day closed, we sailed along Clustered together with a merry crowd Of those emancipated, a blithe host Of travellers, chiefly delegates, returning From the great spousals newly solemnised At their chief city, in the sight of Heaven. 390 Like bees they swarmed, gaudy and gay as bees; Some vapoured in the unruliness of joy, And with their swords flourished as if to fight The saucy air. In this proud company We landed--took with them our evening meal, Guests welcome almost as the angels were To Abraham of old. The supper done, With flowing cups elate and happy thoughts We rose at signal given, and formed a ring And, hand in hand, danced round and round the board; 400 All hearts were open, every tongue was loud With amity and glee; we bore a name Honoured in France, the name of Englishmen, And hospitably did they give us hail, As their forerunners in a glorious course; And round and round the board we danced again. With these blithe friends our voyage we renewed At early dawn. The monastery bells Made a sweet jingling in our youthful ears; The rapid river flowing without noise, 410 And each uprising or receding spire Spake with a sense of peace, at intervals Touching the heart amid the boisterous crew By whom we were encompassed. Taking leave Of this glad throng, foot-travellers side by side, Measuring our steps in quiet, we pursued Our journey, and ere twice the sun had set Beheld the Convent of Chartreuse, and there Rested within an awful 'solitude': Yes, for even then no other than a place 420 Of soul-affecting 'solitude' appeared That far-famed region, though our eyes had seen, As toward the sacred mansion we advanced, Arms flashing, and a military glare Of riotous men commissioned to expel The blameless inmates, and belike subvert That frame of social being, which so long Had bodied forth the ghostliness of things In silence visible and perpetual calm. --"Stay, stay your sacrilegious hands!"--The voice 430 Was Nature's, uttered from her Alpine throne; I heard it then and seem to hear it now-- "Your impious work forbear, perish what may, Let this one temple last, be this one spot Of earth devoted to eternity!" She ceased to speak, but while St. Bruno's pines Waved their dark tops, not silent as they waved, And while below, along their several beds, Murmured the sister streams of Life and Death, Thus by conflicting passions pressed, my heart 440 Responded; "Honour to the patriot's zeal! Glory and hope to new-born Liberty! Hail to the mighty projects of the time! Discerning sword that Justice wields, do thou Go forth and prosper; and, ye purging fires, Up to the loftiest towers of Pride ascend, Fanned by the breath of angry Providence. But oh! if Past and Future be the wings On whose support harmoniously conjoined Moves the great spirit of human knowledge, spare 450 These courts of mystery, where a step advanced Between the portals of the shadowy rocks Leaves far behind life's treacherous vanities, For penitential tears and trembling hopes Exchanged--to equalise in God's pure sight Monarch and peasant: be the house redeemed With its unworldly votaries, for the sake Of conquest over sense, hourly achieved Through faith and meditative reason, resting Upon the word of heaven-imparted truth, 460 Calmly triumphant; and for humbler claim Of that imaginative impulse sent From these majestic floods, yon shining cliffs, The untransmuted shapes of many worlds, Cerulean ether's pure inhabitants, These forests unapproachable by death, That shall endure as long as man endures, To think, to hope, to worship, and to feel, To struggle, to be lost within himself In trepidation, from the blank abyss 470 To look with bodily eyes, and be consoled." Not seldom since that moment have I wished That thou, O Friend! the trouble or the calm Hadst shared, when, from profane regards apart, In sympathetic reverence we trod The floors of those dim cloisters, till that hour, From their foundation, strangers to the presence Of unrestricted and unthinking man. Abroad, how cheeringly the sunshine lay Upon the open lawns! Vallombre's groves 480 Entering, we fed the soul with darkness; thence Issued, and with uplifted eyes beheld, In different quarters of the bending sky, The cross of Jesus stand erect, as if Hands of angelic powers had fixed it there, Memorial reverenced by a thousand storms; Yet then, from the undiscriminating sweep And rage of one State-whirlwind, insecure. 'Tis not my present purpose to retrace That variegated journey step by step. 490 A march it was of military speed, And Earth did change her images and forms Before us, fast as clouds are changed in heaven. Day after day, up early and down late, From hill to vale we dropped, from vale to hill Mounted--from province on to province swept, Keen hunters in a chase of fourteen weeks, Eager as birds of prey, or as a ship Upon the stretch, when winds are blowing fair: Sweet coverts did we cross of pastoral life, 500 Enticing valleys, greeted them and left Too soon, while yet the very flash and gleam Of salutation were not passed away. Oh! sorrow for the youth who could have seen, Unchastened, unsubdued, unawed, unraised To patriarchal dignity of mind, And pure simplicity of wish and will, Those sanctified abodes of peaceful man, Pleased (though to hardship born, and compassed round With danger, varying as the seasons change), 510 Pleased with his daily task, or, if not pleased, Contented, from the moment that the dawn (Ah! surely not without attendant gleams Of soul-illumination) calls him forth To industry, by glistenings flung on rocks, Whose evening shadows lead him to repose. Well might a stranger look with bounding heart Down on a green recess, the first I saw Of those deep haunts, an aboriginal vale, Quiet and lorded over and possessed 520 By naked huts, wood-built, and sown like tents Or Indian cabins over the fresh lawns And by the river side. That very day, From a bare ridge we also first beheld Unveiled the summit of Mont Blanc, and grieved To have a soulless image on the eye That had usurped upon a living thought That never more could be. The wondrous Vale Of Chamouny stretched far below, and soon With its dumb cataracts and streams of ice, 530 A motionless array of mighty waves, Five rivers broad and vast, made rich amends, And reconciled us to realities; There small birds warble from the leafy trees, The eagle soars high in the element, There doth the reaper bind the yellow sheaf, The maiden spread the haycock in the sun, While Winter like a well-tamed lion walks, Descending from the mountain to make sport Among the cottages by beds of flowers. 540 Whate'er in this wide circuit we beheld, Or heard, was fitted to our unripe state Of intellect and heart. With such a book Before our eyes, we could not choose but read Lessons of genuine brotherhood, the plain And universal reason of mankind, The truths of young and old. Nor, side by side Pacing, two social pilgrims, or alone Each with his humour, could we fail to abound In dreams and fictions, pensively composed: 550 Dejection taken up for pleasure's sake, And gilded sympathies, the willow wreath, And sober posies of funereal flowers, Gathered among those solitudes sublime From formal gardens of the lady Sorrow, Did sweeten many a meditative hour. Yet still in me with those soft luxuries Mixed something of stern mood, an underthirst Of vigour seldom utterly allayed: And from that source how different a sadness 560 Would issue, let one incident make known. When from the Vallais we had turned, and clomb Along the Simplon's steep and rugged road, Following a band of muleteers, we reached A halting-place, where all together took Their noon-tide meal. Hastily rose our guide, Leaving us at the board; awhile we lingered, Then paced the beaten downward way that led Right to a rough stream's edge, and there broke off; The only track now visible was one 570 That from the torrent's further brink held forth Conspicuous invitation to ascend A lofty mountain. After brief delay Crossing the unbridged stream, that road we took, And clomb with eagerness, till anxious fears Intruded, for we failed to overtake Our comrades gone before. By fortunate chance, While every moment added doubt to doubt, A peasant met us, from whose mouth we learned That to the spot which had perplexed us first 580 We must descend, and there should find the road, Which in the stony channel of the stream Lay a few steps, and then along its banks; And, that our future course, all plain to sight, Was downwards, with the current of that stream. Loth to believe what we so grieved to hear, For still we had hopes that pointed to the clouds, We questioned him again, and yet again; But every word that from the peasant's lips Came in reply, translated by our feelings, 590 Ended in this,--'that we had crossed the Alps'. Imagination--here the Power so called Through sad incompetence of human speech, That awful Power rose from the mind's abyss Like an unfathered vapour that enwraps, At once, some lonely traveller. I was lost; Halted without an effort to break through; But to my conscious soul I now can say-- "I recognise thy glory:" in such strength Of usurpation, when the light of sense 600 Goes out, but with a flash that has revealed The invisible world, doth greatness make abode, There harbours; whether we be young or old, Our destiny, our being's heart and home, Is with infinitude, and only there; With hope it is, hope that can never die, Effort, and expectation, and desire, And something evermore about to be. Under such banners militant, the soul Seeks for no trophies, struggles for no spoils 610 That may attest her prowess, blest in thoughts That are their own perfection and reward, Strong in herself and in beatitude That hides her, like the mighty flood of Nile Poured from his fount of Abyssinian clouds To fertilise the whole Egyptian plain. The melancholy slackening that ensued Upon those tidings by the peasant given Was soon dislodged. Downwards we hurried fast, And, with the half-shaped road which we had missed, 620 Entered a narrow chasm. The brook and road Were fellow-travellers in this gloomy strait, And with them did we journey several hours At a slow pace. The immeasurable height Of woods decaying, never to be decayed, The stationary blasts of waterfalls, And in the narrow rent at every turn Winds thwarting winds, bewildered and forlorn, The torrents shooting from the clear blue sky, The rocks that muttered close upon our ears, 630 Black drizzling crags that spake by the way-side As if a voice were in them, the sick sight And giddy prospect of the raving stream, The unfettered clouds and region of the Heavens, Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light-- Were all like workings of one mind, the features Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree; Characters of the great Apocalypse, The types and symbols of Eternity, Of first, and last, and midst, and without end. 640 That night our lodging was a house that stood Alone within the valley, at a point Where, tumbling from aloft, a torrent swelled The rapid stream whose margin we had trod; A dreary mansion, large beyond all need, With high and spacious rooms, deafened and stunned By noise of waters, making innocent sleep Lie melancholy among weary bones. Uprisen betimes, our journey we renewed, Led by the stream, ere noon-day magnified 650 Into a lordly river, broad and deep, Dimpling along in silent majesty, With mountains for its neighbours, and in view Of distant mountains and their snowy tops, And thus proceeding to Locarno's Lake, Fit resting-place for such a visitant. Locarno! spreading out in width like Heaven, How dost thou cleave to the poetic heart, Bask in the sunshine of the memory; And Como! thou, a treasure whom the earth 660 Keeps to herself, confined as in a depth Of Abyssinian privacy. I spake Of thee, thy chestnut woods, and garden plots Of Indian corn tended by dark-eyed maids; Thy lofty steeps, and pathways roofed with vines, Winding from house to house, from town to town, Sole link that binds them to each other; walks, League after league, and cloistral avenues, Where silence dwells if music be not there: While yet a youth undisciplined in verse, 670 Through fond ambition of that hour I strove To chant your praise; nor can approach you now Ungreeted by a more melodious Song, Where tones of Nature smoothed by learned Art May flow in lasting current. Like a breeze Or sunbeam over your domain I passed In motion without pause; but ye have left Your beauty with me, a serene accord Of forms and colours, passive, yet endowed In their submissiveness with power as sweet 680 And gracious, almost, might I dare to say, As virtue is, or goodness; sweet as love, Or the remembrance of a generous deed, Or mildest visitations of pure thought, When God, the giver of all joy, is thanked Religiously, in silent blessedness; Sweet as this last herself, for such it is. With those delightful pathways we advanced, For two days' space, in presence of the Lake, That, stretching far among the Alps, assumed 690 A character more stern. The second night, From sleep awakened, and misled by sound Of the church clock telling the hours with strokes Whose import then we had not learned, we rose By moonlight, doubting not that day was nigh, And that meanwhile, by no uncertain path, Along the winding margin of the lake, Led, as before, we should behold the scene Hushed in profound repose. We left the town Of Gravedona with this hope; but soon 700 Were lost, bewildered among woods immense, And on a rock sate down, to wait for day. An open place it was, and overlooked, From high, the sullen water far beneath, On which a dull red image of the moon Lay bedded, changing oftentimes its form Like an uneasy snake. From hour to hour We sate and sate, wondering, as if the night Had been ensnared by witchcraft. On the rock At last we stretched our weary limbs for sleep, 710 But 'could not' sleep, tormented by the stings Of insects, which, with noise like that of noon, Filled all the woods: the cry of unknown birds; The mountains more by blackness visible And their own size, than any outward light; The breathless wilderness of clouds; the clock That told, with unintelligible voice, The widely parted hours; the noise of streams, And sometimes rustling motions nigh at hand, That did not leave us free from personal fear; 720 And, lastly, the withdrawing moon, that set Before us, while she still was high in heaven;-- These were our food; and such a summer's night Followed that pair of golden days that shed On Como's Lake, and all that round it lay, Their fairest, softest, happiest influence. But here I must break off, and bid farewell To days, each offering some new sight, or fraught With some untried adventure, in a course Prolonged till sprinklings of autumnal snow 730 Checked our unwearied steps. Let this alone Be mentioned as a parting word, that not In hollow exultation, dealing out Hyperboles of praise comparative, Not rich one moment to be poor for ever; Not prostrate, overborne, as if the mind Herself were nothing, a mere pensioner On outward forms--did we in presence stand Of that magnificent region. On the front Of this whole Song is written that my heart 740 Must, in such Temple, needs have offered up A different worship. Finally, whate'er I saw, or heard, or felt, was but a stream That flowed into a kindred stream; a gale, Confederate with the current of the soul, To speed my voyage; every sound or sight, In its degree of power, administered To grandeur or to tenderness,--to the one Directly, but to tender thoughts by means Less often instantaneous in effect; 750 Led me to these by paths that, in the main, Were more circuitous, but not less sure Duly to reach the point marked out by Heaven. Oh, most beloved Friend! a glorious time, A happy time that was; triumphant looks Were then the common language of all eyes; As if awaked from sleep, the Nations hailed Their great expectancy: the fife of war Was then a spirit-stirring sound indeed, A blackbird's whistle in a budding grove. 760 We left the Swiss exulting in the fate Of their near neighbours; and, when shortening fast Our pilgrimage, nor distant far from home, We crossed the Brabant armies on the fret For battle in the cause of Liberty. A stripling, scarcely of the household then Of social life, I looked upon these things As from a distance; heard, and saw, and felt, Was touched, but with no intimate concern; I seemed to move along them, as a bird 770 Moves through the air, or as a fish pursues Its sport, or feeds in its proper element; I wanted not that joy, I did not need Such help; the ever-living universe, Turn where I might, was opening out its glories, And the independent spirit of pure youth Called forth, at every season, new delights, Spread round my steps like sunshine o'er green fields. 


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