Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.

Savoy: Chamouni (Chamonix), the Valley


By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

Suggested on a Sabbath Morning in the Vale of Chamouny

TO appease the gods, or public thanks to yield,

Or to solicit knowledge of events

Which in her breast Futurity concealed,

And that the Past might have its true intents

Feelingly told by living monuments,—

Mankind of yore were prompted to devise

Rites such as yet Persepolis presents

Graven on her cankered walls, solemnities

That moved in long array before admiring eyes.

The Hebrews thus, carrying in joyful state

Thick boughs of palm, and willows from the brook,

Marched round the altar, to commemorate

How, when their course they through the desert took,

Guided by signs which ne’er the sky forsook,

They lodged in leafy tents and cabins low;

Green boughs were borne, while, for the blast that shook

Down to the earth the walls of Jericho,

Shouts rise, and storms of sound from lifted trumpets blow!

And thus, in order, mid the sacred grove

Fed in the Libyan waste by gushing wells,

The priests and damsels of Ammonian Jove

Provoked responses with shrill canticles;

While, in a ship begirt with silver bells,

They round his altar bore the hornéd God,

Old Cham, the solar Deity, who dwells

Aloft, yet in a tilting vessel rode,

When universal sea the mountains overflowed.

Why speak of Roman pomps? the haughty claims

Of chiefs triumphant after ruthless wars;

The feast of Neptune,—and the Cereal Games,

With images, and crowns, and empty cars;

The dancing Salii,—on the shields of Mars

Smiting with fury; and a deeper dread

Scattered on all sides by the hideous jars

Of Corybantian cymbals, while the head

Of Cybelé was seen, sublimely turreted!

At length a spirit more subdued and soft

Appeared to govern Christian pageantries:

The cross, in calm procession borne aloft,

Moved to the chant of sober litanies.

Even such, this day, came wafted on the breeze

From a long train,—in hooded vestments fair

Enwrapt,—and winding, between Alpine trees

Spiry and dark, around their house of prayer,

Below the icy bed of bright Argentiere.

Still in the vivid freshness of a dream,

The pageant haunts me as it met our eyes!

Still, with those white-robed shapes,—a living stream,—

The glacier pillars join in solemn guise

For the same service, by mysterious ties;

Numbers exceeding credible account

Of number, pure and silent votaries

Issuing or issued from a wintry fount;

The impenetrable heart of that exalted mount!

They, too, who send so far a holy gleam

While they the church engird with motion slow,

A product of that awful mountain seem,

Poured from his vaults of everlasting snow;

Not virgin lilies marshalled in bright row,

Not swans descending with the stealthy tide,

A livelier sisterly resemblance show,

Than the fair forms, that in long order glide,

Bear to the glacier band,—those shapes aloft descried.

Trembling, I look upon the secret springs

Of that licentious craving in the mind

To act the God among external things,

To bind, on apt suggestion, or unbind;

And marvel not that antique Faith inclined

To crowd the world with metamorphosis,

Vouchsafed in pity or in wrath assigned;

Such insolent temptations wouldst thou miss,

Avoid these sights, nor brood o’er fable’s dark abyss!