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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

St. Michael’s Mount

St. Michael’s Mount

By William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)

WHILE summer airs scarce breathe along the tide,

Oft pausing, up the mountain’s scraggy side

We climb, how beautiful, how still, how clear

The scenes that stretch around! The rocks that rear

Their shapes in rich fantastic colors dressed,

The hill-tops where the softest shadows rest,

The long-retiring bay, the level sand,

The fading sea-line and the farthest land,

That seems, as low it lessens from the eye,

To steal away beneath the cloudless sky!

But yesterday the misty morn was spread

In dreariness on the bleak mountain’s head;

No glittering prospect from the upland smiled,

The driving squall came dark, the sea heaved wild,

And, lost and lonely, the wayfarer sighed,

Wet with the hoar spray of the flashing tide.

How changed is now the circling scene! The deep

Stirs not; the glancing roofs and white towers peep

Along the margin of the lucid bay;

The sails descried far in the offing gray

Hang motionless, and the pale headland’s height

Is touched as with sweet gleams of fairy light!

O, lives there on earth’s busy stirring scene,

Whom nature’s tranquil charms, her airs serene,

Her seas, her skies, her sunbeams, fail to move

With stealing tenderness and grateful love!

Go, thankless man, to misery’s care,—behold

Captivity stretched in her dungeon cold!

Or think on those who, in yon dreary mine

Sunk fathoms deep beneath the rolling brine,

From year to year amid the lurid shade,

O’er-wearied ply their melancholy trade;

That thou may’st bless the glorious sun, and hail

Him who with beauty clothed the hill and vale,

Who bent the arch of the high heavens for thee,

And stretched in amplitude the broad blue sea!

Now sunk are all its murmurs; and the air

But moves by fits the bents that here and there

Upshoot in casual spots of faded green;

Here straggling sheep the scanty pasture glean,

Or on the jutting fragments that impend,

Stray fearlessly, and gaze as we ascend.

Mountain, no pomp of waving woods hast thou,

That deck with varied shade thy hoary brow;

No sunny meadows at thy feet are spread,

No streamlets sparkle o’er their pebbly bed!

But thou canst boast thy beauties: ample views

That catch the rapt eye of the pausing Muse;

Headlands around new-lighted; sails and seas,

Now glassy-smooth, now wrinkling to the breeze;

And when the drizzly winter, wrapped in sleet,

Goes by, and winds and rain thy ramparts beat,

Fancy can see thee standing thus aloof,

And frowning, bleak and bare and tempest-proof,

Look as with awful confidence, and brave

The howling hurricane, the dashing wave;

More graceful when the storm’s dark vapors frown

Than when the summer suns in pomp go down!