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

Switzerland: Lucerne


By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

YET there is,

Within an eagle’s flight and less, a scene

Still nobler if not fairer, (once again

Would I behold it ere these eyes are closed,

For I can say, “I also have been there!”)

That sacred lake withdrawn among the hills,

Its depth of waters flanked as with a wall

Built by the giant-race before the flood;

Where not a cross or chapel but inspires

Holy delight, lifting our thoughts to God

From godlike men,—men in a barbarous age

That dared assert their birthright, and displayed

Deeds half divine, returning good for ill;

That in the desert sowed the seeds of life,

Framing a band of small Republics there,

Which still exist, the envy of the world!

Who would not land in each, and tread the ground,—

Land where Tell leaped ashore,—and climb to drink

Of the three hallowed fountains? He that does,

Comes back the better; and relates at home

That he was met and greeted by a race

Such as he read of in his boyish days,

Such as Miltiades at Marathon

Led, when he chased the Persians to their ships.

There, while the well-known boat is heaving in,

Piled with rude merchandise, or launching forth,

Thronged with wild cattle for Italian fairs,

There in the sunshine, mid their native snows,

Children, let loose from school, contend to use

The cross-bow of their fathers; and o’errun

The rocky field where all, in every age,

Assembling sit, like one great family,

Forming alliances, enacting laws;

Each cliff and headland and green promontory

Graven to their eyes with records of the past

That prompt to hero-worship, and excite

Even in the least, the lowliest, as he toils,

A reverence nowhere else or felt or feigned;

Their chronicler great Nature; and the volume

Vast as her works,—above, below, around!

The fisher on thy beach, Thermopylæ,

Asks of the lettered stranger why he came,

First from his lips to learn the glorious truth!

And who that whets his scythe in Runnemede,

Though but for them a slave, recalls to mind

The barons in array, with their great charter?

Among the everlasting Alps alone,

There to burn on as in a sanctuary,

Bright and unsullied lives the ethereal flame;

And mid those scenes unchanged, unchangeable,

Why should it ever die?