Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI. 1876–79.

Switzerland: Geneva, the Lake (Lake Leman)

Lake Leman

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

CLEAR, placid Leman! thy contrasted lake,

With the wild world I dwelt in, is a thing

Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake

Earth’s troubled waters for a purer spring.

This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing

To waft me from distraction; once I loved

Torn ocean’s roar, but thy soft murmuring

Sounds sweet as if a sister’s voice reproved,

That I with stern delights should e’er have been so moved.

It is the hush of night, and all between

Thy margin and the mountains, dusk, yet clear,

Mellowed and mingling, yet distinctly seen,

Save darkened Jura, whose capt heights appear

Precipitously steep; and, drawing near,

There breathes a living fragrance from the shore,

Of flowers yet fresh with childhood; on the ear

Drops the light drip of the suspended oar,

Or chirps the grasshopper one good-night carol more.

He is an evening reveller, who makes

His life an infancy, and sings his fill;

At intervals, some bird from out the brakes

Starts into voice a moment, then is still.

There seems a floating whisper on the hill;

But that is fancy, for the starlight dews

All silently their tears of love instil,

Weeping themselves away, till they infuse

Deep into Nature’s breast the spirit of her hues.

Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!

If in your bright leaves we would read the fate

Of men and empires,—’t is to be forgiven,

That in our aspirations to be great,

Our destinies o’erleap their mortal state,

And claim a kindred with you; for ye are

A beauty and a mystery, and create

In us such love and reverence from afar,

That fortune, fame, power, life, have named themselves a star.

All heaven and earth are still,—though not in sleep,

But breathless, as we grow when feeling most;

And silent, as we stand in thoughts too deep:—

All heaven and earth are still: from the high host

Of stars, to the lulled lake and mountain-coast,

All is concentred in a life intense,

Where not a beam nor air nor leaf is lost,

But hath a part of being, and a sense

Of that which is of all Creator and defence.


The sky is changed!—and such a change! O night

And storm and darkness, ye are wondrous strong,

Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light

Of a dark eye in woman! Far along,

From peak to peak, the rattling crags among

Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,

But every mountain now hath found a tongue,

And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,

Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!

And this is in the night: most glorious night!

Thou wert not sent for slumber! let me be

A sharer in thy fierce and far delight,—

A portion of the tempest and of thee!

How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea,

And the big rain comes dancing to the earth!

And now again ’t is black,—and now, the glee

Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain-mirth;

As if they did rejoice o’er a young earthquake’s birth.