Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Lake of Geneva

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 of Geneva

By Thomas Moore (1779–1852)

(From Rhymes on the Road)

’T WAS late,—the sun had almost shone

His last and best, when I ran on,

Anxious to reach that splendid view

Before the daybeams quite withdrew;

And feeling as all feel, on first

Approaching scenes where, they are told,

Such glories on their eyes shall burst

As youthful bards in dreams behold.

’T was distant yet, and, as I ran,

Full often was my wistful gaze

Turned to the sun, who now began

To call in all his outpost rays,

And form a denser march of light,

Such as beseems a hero’s flight.

O, how I wished for Joshua’s power

To stay the brightness of that hour!

But no,—the sun still less became,

Diminished to a speck, as splendid

And small as were those tongues of flame

That on the Apostles’ heads descended!

’T was at this instant—while there glowed

This last, intensest gleam of light—

Suddenly, through the opening road,

The valley burst upon my sight!

That glorious valley, with its lake,

And Alps on Alps in clusters swelling,

Mighty, and pure, and fit to make

The ramparts of a Godhead’s dwelling!

I stood entranced and mute,—as they

Of Israel think the assembled world

Will stand upon that awful day

When the ark’s light, aloft unfurled,

Among the opening clouds shall shine,

Divinity’s own radiant sign!

Highly Mont Blanc! thou wert to me,

That minute, with thy brow in heaven,

As sure a sign of Deity

As e’er to mortal gaze was given.

Nor ever, were I destined yet

To live my life twice o’er again,

Can I the deep-felt awe forget,—

The ecstasy that thrilled me then!

’T was all that consciousness of power,

And life beyond this mortal hour,—

Those mountings of the soul within

At thoughts of Heaven,—as birds begin

By instinct in the cage to rise,

When near their time for change of skies,—

That proud assurance of our claim

To rank among the Sons of Light,

Mingled with shame—O, bitter shame!—

At having risked that splendid right

For aught that earth, through all its range

Of glories, offers in exchange!—

’T was all this, at the instant brought,

Like breaking sunshine, o’er my thought,—

’T was all this, kindled to a glow

Of sacred zeal, which, could it shine

Thus purely ever, man might grow,

Even upon earth, a thing divine,

And be once more the creature made

To walk unstained the Elysian shade!