Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Switzerland
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI.  1876–79.
Switzerland: St. Bernard, the Mountain
Fancies in the Firelight
Thomas Buchanan Read (1822–1872)
In the Convent of Saint Bernard

O, IT is a joy to gaze
Where the great logs lie ablaze;
Thus to list the garrulous flame
Muttering like some ancient dame;
And to hear the sap recount        5
Stories of its native mount,
Telling of the summer weather,
When the trees swayed all together,—
How the little birds would launch
Arrowy songs from branch to branch,        10
Till the leaves with pleasure glistened,
And each great bough hung and listened
To the song of thrush and linnet,
When securely lodged within it,
With all pleasant sounds that dally        15
Round the hill and in the valley;
Till each log and branch and splinter
On the ancient hearth of Winter
Can do naught but tell the story
Of its transient summer glory.        20
O, there ’s tranquil joy in gazing,
Where these great logs lie ablazing,
While the wizard flame is sparkling,
The memorial shadows darkling
Swim the wall in strange mutation,        25
Till the marvelling contemplation
Feeds its wonder to repletion
With each firelight apparition.
There the ashen Alp appears,
And its glowing head uprears,        30
Like a warrior grim and bold,
With a helmet on of gold;
And a music goes and comes
Like the sound of distant drums.
O’er a line of serried lances        35
How the blazing banner dances,
While red pennons rise and fall
Over ancient Hannibal.
Lo, beneath a moon of fire,
Where the meteor sparks stream by her,        40
There I see the brotherhood
Which on sacred Grütli stood,
Pledging with crossed hands to stand
The defenders of the land.
And in that red ember fell        45
Gessler, with the dart of Tell!
Still they fall away, and, lo!
Other phantoms come and go,
Other banners wing the air,
And the countless bayonets glare,        50
While around the steep way stir
Armies of the conqueror;
And the slow mule toiling on
Bears the world’s Napoleon.
Now the transient flame that flashes        55
’Twixt the great logs and the ashes
Sends a voice out from the middle
That my soul cannot unriddle,—
Till the fire above and under
Gnaws the stoutest wood asunder,        60
And the brands, in ruin blended,
Smoking, lie uncomprehended,—
While the dying embers blanch,
And the muffled avalanche,
Noiseless as the years descend,        65
Sweeps them to an ashen end.
Thus at last the great shall be,
  And the slave shall lie with them,—
Pié Jesu Domine
  Dona eis requiem!        70

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