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

Switzerland: St. Gall

Written at the Convent near Saint Gall

By James Cochrane

HOW sweet that valley, clothed in freshest green,

With its neat city! whose white shining walls

And village-like circumference scarce recalls

The form of any city we have seen,

But looks like some small picture, so serene

And still it lies! But hark! the convent-bell!

What strange emotions in the bosom swell!

And fair before, now doubly fair the scene.

Such magic ’s in a sound. The mind is stored

With images, requiring but a stroke,

Or gentlest touch, to vibrate at each chord,

And pleasurable feelings to evoke:

It is a prism, whose hues are undisclosed

Till acted on, and to its sun exposed.

OUR sweetest musings are delusions oft,

As baseless as night dreams, or as the bow,

Spanning the heavens, which from afar a glow

Of beauty seems, radiant, at once, and soft,

Meet path for spirits when they pass aloft,

But aerial and unreal. To my young mind,

A convent brought up images refined

And beautiful, till, standing ’neath their loft,

I heard the sisters, gazing on the wall,

Repeat and re-repeat their weary drawl,

Which the damp vaults cast back as if in scorn;

And learned that prayers ceased not, nor night nor day,

Nor had for ages; when I turned away,

Lamenting over creatures so forlorn.