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

Switzerland: Jungfrau, the Mountain

Manfred on the Jungfrau

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Manfred)

THE SPIRITS I have raised abandon me,

The spoils which I have studied baffle me,

The remedy I recked of tortures me:

I lean no more on superhuman aid,

It hath no power upon the past; and for

The future, till the past be gulfed in darkness,

It is not of my search. My mother earth,

And thou, fresh breaking day, and you, ye mountains,

Why are ye beautiful? I cannot love ye.

And thou, the bright eye of the universe,

That openest over all, and unto all

Art a delight,—thou shin’st not on my heart.

And you, ye crags, upon whose extreme edge

I stand, and on the torrent’s brink beneath

Behold the tall pines dwindled as to shrubs

In dizziness of distance; when a leap,

A stir, a motion, even a breath, would bring

My breast upon its rocky bosom’s bed,

To rest forever,—wherefore do I pause?

I feel the impulse, yet I do not plunge;

I see the peril, yet do not recede;

And my brain reels, and yet my foot is firm:

There is a power upon me which withholds,

And makes it my fatality to live,

If it be life to wear within myself

This barrenness of spirit, and to be

My own soul’s sepulchre, for I have ceased

To justify my deeds unto myself,—

The last infirmity of evil. Ay,

Thou winged and cloud-cleaving minister,

(An eagle passes.)
Whose happy flight is highest into heaven,

Well mayst thou swoop so near me,—I should be

Thy prey, and gorge thine eaglets: thou art gone

Where the eye cannot follow thee; but thine

Yet pierces downward, onward, or above,

With a pervading vision. Beautiful!

How beautiful is all this visible world!

How glorious in its action and itself!

But we, who name ourselves its sovereigns, we,

Half dust, half deity, alike unfit

To sink or soar, with our mixed essence, make

A conflict of its elements, and breathe

The breath of degradation and of pride,

Contending with low wants and lofty will,

Till our mortality predominates,

And men are—what they name not to themselves,

And trust not to each other. Hark! the note,

(The shepherd’s pipe in the distance is heard.)
The natural music of the mountain reed,—

For here the patriarchal days are not

A pastoral fable,—pipes in the liberal air,

Mixed with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd;

My soul would drink those echoes. O that I were

The viewless spirit of a lovely sound,

A living voice, a breathing harmony,

A bodiless enjoyment,—born and dying

With the blest tone which made me!