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

Switzerland: Chillon

The Prisoner of Chillon

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

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THERE are seven pillars of Gothic mould,

In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old:

There are seven columns, massy and gray,

Dim with a dull imprisoned ray,

A sunbeam which hath lost its way,

And through the crevice and the cleft

Of the thick wall is fallen and left;

Creeping o’er the floor so damp,

Like a marsh’s meteor lamp:

And in each pillar there is a ring,

And in each ring there is a chain;

That iron is a cankering thing,

For in these limbs its teeth remain,

With marks that will not wear away,

Till I have done with this new day,

Which now is painful to these eyes,

Which have not seen the sun so rise

For years,—I cannot count them o’er,

I lost their long and heavy score,

When my last brother drooped and died,

And I lay living by his side.


Lake Leman lies by Chillon’s walls;

A thousand feet in depth below

Its massy waters meet and flow;

Thus much the fathom-line was sent

From Chillon’s snow-white battlement,

Which round about the wave enthralls:

A double dungeon wall and wave

Have made, and like a living grave.

Below the surface of the lake

The dark vault lies wherein we lay,

We heard it ripple night and day,

Sounding o’er our heads it knocked;

And I have felt the winter’s spray

Wash through the bars when winds were high

And wanton in the happy sky;

And then the very rock hath rocked,

And I have felt it shake unshocked,

Because I could have smiled to see

The death that would have set me free.