Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
By George Hookham (b. 1842)
VOICE of the river running through Chamonix,
Long had I heard it, running through Chamonix,
With ears that heard not rivers and rivulets
Close to me running, calling or whispering,
For the voice of the river running through Chamonix.        5
  To-day I hear it with ears that dream not:
Even as I listen ’tis Arve no longer,
But the voice of the mountain, the voice of Mónt-Blanc.
  Mountain of mountains, Europe’s mystery,
Brow of Minos calm and terrible,        10
Brow of Minos giving judgement,
Calm and white and smooth and terrible.
  The voice of Mónt-Blanc:—‘They struggle upwards,
Reaching up, the other mountains,
Up and up they strain around me,        15
Up with horn and peak and needle,
Storm’d round by hurricane, splinter’d by lightning,
Split by the deadly assiduous ice-wedge,
The riving, rending, cleaving crystal,
The diamond fang no rock can mollify,        20
That loosens block and crumbles surface,
Till the mountain-tops bow and bend and thunder,
Or, atom by atom drawn down, to the valleys,
Are the sands of Time’s hour-glass and steal with the centuries,
And ever I watch them sharpening and dwindling,        25
Changing in aeons as clouds in minutes.
  Ages and ages, millions of ages
Ago, I sign’d to the snow to cover me;
Drew my soft snow-armour about me;
Struck a league with the ice for ever;        30
Made my friend of the foe of the mountains.
  Therefore I change not: sword of sunlight,
Arrow of moonlight, reach me never;
I change not ever: calm my forehead,
Smooth my brow as the brow of ocean;        35
Therefore as ocean I change not and change not,
Till heaven above or earth change beneath me.’
  (Not the iron, the steel, the adamant,
Not the rock or whatever is harder,
Not these are strong to face eternity,        40
But the soft, soft snow and the fleeting water.
  Not iron will, steel-temper of intellect
Shall endure and dominate saved humanity,
But weakest forms and gentlest essences,
Looks of kindness, touches of tenderness,        45
And the soft, soft fall of loving syllables.)
  The voice of Mónt-Blanc:—‘Of those the atomies,
Mites and motes and specks of mortality,
That crawl up snow and writhe up precipice,
Intruding life on my lifeless solitudes—        50
Some I accept to kiss my forehead,
Some I let fall from knee or shoulder—
Footslip or spit of stone or avalanche,
They are quiet at last and life ceases to cumber me;
Or wandering the snow-field in darkness and doubting,        55
Will sapp’d and joint and sinew melting,
They despair of the way and will wait for the morning;
And they breathe the drowsy breath of the ice-wind,—
And long-forgotten dreams entangle them,
And far-off long-lost scenes bewilder them,        60
Field and hedge-row, wood and watercourse—
And they pace and tramp and circle a little,
Then sleep a little, then sleep for ever.
  Lo, I deliver a Minos judgement:
I am death; life never had part or lot in me.’        65
  Voice of the river running through Chamonix,
Mountain that usest the voice of the river,
Through life I have heard you, in death I shall hear.

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