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)


By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

HERE the self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau,

The apostle of affliction, he who threw

Enchantment over passion, and from woe

Wrung overwhelming eloquence, first drew

The breath which made him wretched; yet he knew

How to make madness beautiful, and cast

O’er erring deeds and thoughts a heavenly hue

Of words, like sunbeams, dazzling as they past

The eyes, which o’er them shed tears feelingly and fast.

His love was passion’s essence—as a tree

On fire by lightning; with ethereal flame

Kindled he was, and blasted: for to be

Thus, and enamoured, were in him the same.

But his was not the love of living dame,

Nor of the dead who rise upon our dreams,

But of ideal beauty, which became

In him existence, and o’erflowing teems

Along his burning page, distempered though it seems.

This breathed itself to life in Julie, this

Invested her with all that ’s wild and sweet;

This hallowed, too, the memorable kiss

Which every morn his fevered lip would greet,

From hers, who but with friendship his would meet;

But to that gentle touch, through brain and breast

Flashed the thrilled spirit’s love-devouring heat;

In that absorbing sigh perchance more blest,

Than vulgar minds may be with all they seek possest.

His life was one long war with self-sought foes,

Or friends by him self-banished; for his mind

Had grown suspicion’s sanctuary, and chose

For its own cruel sacrifice the kind,

’Gainst whom he raged with fury strange and blind.

But he was phrensied,—wherefore, who may know?

Since cause might be which skill could never find;

But he was phrensied by disease or woe,

To that worst pitch of all, which wears a reasoning show.

For then he was inspired, and from him came,

As from the Pythian’s mystic cave of yore,

Those oracles which set the world in flame,

Nor ceased to burn till kingdoms were no more:

Did he not this for France? which lay before

Bowed to the inborn tyranny of years,

Broken and trembling, to the yoke she bore,

Till by the voice of him and his compeers,

Roused up to too much wrath, which follows o’ergrown fears?