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High, on the Solitude of Alpine Hills,
O'er-topping the grand imag'ry of Nature,
Where one eternal winter seem'd to reign;
An HERMIT'S threshold, carpetted with moss,
Diversified the Scene.
Above the flakes
Of silv'ry snow, full many a modest flow'r
Peep'd through its icy veil, and blushing ope'd
Its variegated hues; The ORCHIS sweet,
The bloomy CISTUS, and the fragrant branch
Of glossy MYRTLE.
In his rushy cell,
The lonely ANCHORET consum'd his days,
Unnotic'd, and unblest.
In early youth,
Cross'd in the fond affections of his soul
By false Ambition, from his parent home
He, solitary, wander'd; while the Maid
Whose peerless beauty won his yielding heart
Pined in monastic horrors ! Near his sill
A little cross he rear'd, where, prostrate low
At day's pale glimpse, or when the setting Sun
Tissued the western sky with streamy gold,
His Orisons he pour'd, for her, whose hours
Were wasted in oblivion.
And Summers faded, slow, unchearly all
To the lone HERMIT'S sorrows: For, still, Love
A dark, though unpolluted altar, rear'd
On the white waste of wonders!
From the peak
Which mark'd his neighb'ring Hut, his humid Eye
Oft wander'd o'er the rich expanse below;
Oft trac'd the glow of vegetating Spring,
The full-blown Summer splendours, and the hue
Of tawny scenes Autumnal: Vineyards vast,
Clothing the upland scene, and spreading wide
The promised tide nectareous; while for him
The liquid lapse of the slow brook was seen
Flashing amid the trees, its silv'ry wave!
Far distant, the blue mist of waters rose
Veiling the ridgy outline, faintly grey,
Blended with clouds, and shutting out the Sun.
The Seasons still revolv'd, and still was he
By all forgotten, save by her, whose breast
Sigh'd in responsive sadness to the gale
That swept her prison turrets.
Five long years,
Had seen his graces wither ere his Spring
Of life was wasted.
From the social scenes
Of human energy an alien driv'n,
He almost had forgot the face of Man.
No voice had met his ear, save, when perchance
The Pilgrim wand'rer, or the Goatherd Swain,
Bewilder'd in the starless midnight hour
Implored the HERMIT'S aid, the HERMIT'S pray'rs;
And nothing loath by pity or by pray'r
Was he, to save the wretched.
On the top
Of his low rushy Dome, a tinkling bell
Oft told the weary Trav'ller to approach
Fearless of danger.
The small silver sound
In quick vibrations echo'd down the dell
To the dim valley's quiet, while the breeze
Slept on the glassy LEMAN.
Thus he past
His melancholy days, an alien Man
From all the joys of social intercourse,
Alone, unpitied, by the world forgot!
His Scrip each morning bore the day's repast
Gather'd on summits, mingling with the clouds,
From whose bleak altitude the Eye look'd down
While fast the giddy brain was rock'd by fear.
Oft would he start from visionary rest
When roaming wolves their midnight chorus howl'd,
Or blasts infuriate shatter'd the white cliffs,
While the huge fragments, rifted by the storm,
Plung'd to the dell below.
Oft would he sit
In silent sadness on the jutting block
Of snow-encrusted ice, and, shudd'ring mark
(Amid the wonders of the frozen world)
Dissolving pyramids, and threatening peaks,
Hang o'er his hovel, terribly Sublime.
And oft, when Summer breath'd ambrosial gales,
Soft sailing o'er the waste of printless dew
Or twilight gossamer, his pensive gaze
Trac'd the swift storm advancing, whose broad wing
Blacken'd the rushy dome of his low Hut;
While the pale lightning smote the pathless top
Of tow'ring CENIS, scatt'ring high and wide
A mist of fleecy Snow.
Then would he hear,
(While MEM'RY brought to view his happier days)
The tumbling torrent, bursting wildly forth
From its thaw'd prison, sweep the shaggy cliff
Vast and Stupendous ! strength'ning as it fell,
And delving, 'mid the snow, a cavern rude!
So liv'd the HERMIT, like an hardy Tree
Plac'd on a mountain's solitary brow,
And destin'd, thro' the Seasons, to endure
Their wond'rous changes.
To behold the face
Of ever-varying Nature, and to mark
In each grand lineament, the work of GOD!
And happier he, in total Solitude
Than the poor toil-worn wretch, whose ardent Soul
That GOD has nobly organiz'd, but taught,
For purposes unknown, to bear the scourge
Of sharp adversity, and vulgar pride.
Happier, O ! happier far, than those who feel,
Yet live amongst the unfeeling ! feeding still
The throbbing heart, with anguish, or with Scorn.
One dreary night when Winter's icy breath
Half petrified the scene, when not a star
Gleam'd o'er the black infinity of space,
Sudden, the HERMIT started from his couch
Fear-struck and trembling! Ev'ry limb was shook
With painful agitation.
On his cheek
The blanch'd interpreter of horror mute
Sat terribly impressive! In his breast
The ruddy fount of life convulsive flow'd
And his broad eyes, fix'd motionless as death,
Gaz'd vacantly aghast ! His feeble lamp
Was wasting rapidly; the biting gale
Pierc'd the thin texture of his narrow cell;
And Silence, like a fearful centinel
Marking the peril which awaited near,
Conspir'd with sullen Night, to wrap the scene
In tenfold horrors.
Thrice he rose; and thrice
His feet recoil'd; and still the livid flame
Lengthen'd and quiver'd as the moaning wind
Pass'd thro' the rushy crevice, while his heart
Beat, like the death-watch, in his shudd'ring breast.
Like the pale Image of Despair he sat,
The cold drops pacing down his hollow cheek,
When a deep groan assail'd his startled ear,
And rous'd him into action.
To the sill
Of his low hovel he rush'd forth, (for fear
Will sometimes take the shape of fortitude,
And force men into bravery) and soon
The wicker bolt unfasten'd.
The swift blast,
Now unrestrain'd, flew by; and in its course
The quiv'ring lamp extinguish'd, and again
His soul was thrill'd with terror.
On he went,
E'en to the snow-fring'd margin of the cragg,
Which to his citadel a platform made
Slipp'ry and perilous! 'Twas darkness, all!
All, solitary gloom!--The concave vast
Of Heav'n frown'd chaos; for all varied things
Of air, and earth, and waters, blended, lost
Their forms, in blank oblivion ! Yet not long
Did Nature wear her sable panoply,
For, while the HERMIT listen'd, from below
A stream of light ascended, spreading round
A partial view of trackless solitudes;
And mingling voices seem'd, with busy hum,
To break the spell of horrors.
Down the steep
The HERMIT hasten'd, when a shriek of death
Re-echoed to the valley.
As he flew,
(The treach'rous pathway yielding to his speed,)
Half hoping, half despairing, to the scene
Of wonder-waking anguish, suddenly
The torches were extinct; and second night
Came doubly hideous, while the hollow tongues
Of cavern'd winds, with melancholy sound
Increas'd the HERMIT'S fears.
Four freezing hours
He watch'd and pray'd: and now the glimm'ring dawn
Peer'd on the Eastern Summits; (the blue light
Shedding cold lustre on the colder brows
Of Alpine desarts;) while the filmy wing
Of weeping Twilight, swept the naked plains
Of the Lombardian landscape.
On his knees
The ANCHORET blest Heav'n, that he had 'scap'd
The many perilous and fearful falls
Of waters wild and foamy, tumbling fast
From the shagg'd altitude.
But, ere his pray'rs
Rose to their destin'd Heav'n, another sight,
Than all preceding far more terrible,
Palsied devotion's ardour.
On the Snow,
Dappled with ruby drops, a track was made
By steps precipitate; a rugged path
Down the steep frozen chasm had mark'd the fate
Of some night traveller, whose bleeding form
Had toppled from the Summit.
The ANCHORET descended, 'till arrived
At the first ridge of silv'ry battlements,
Where, lifeless, ghastly, paler than the snow
On which her cheek repos'd, his darling Maid
Slept in the dream of Death ! Frantic and wild
He clasp'd her stiff'ning form, and bath'd with tears
The lilies of her bosom,--icy cold--
Yet beautiful and spotless.
The wond'ring HERMIT heard the clang of arms
Re-echoing from the valley: the white cliffs
Trembled as though an Earthquake shook their base
With terrible concussion ! Thund'ring peals
From warfare's brazen throat, proclaim'd th' approach
Of conquering legions: onward they extend
Their dauntless columns ! In the foremost group
A Ruffian met the HERMIT'S startled Eyes
Like Hell's worst Demon ! For his murd'rous hands
Were smear'd with gore; and on his daring breast
A golden cross, suspended, bore the name
Of his ill-fated Victim!--ANCHORET!
Thy VESTAL Saint, by his unhallow'd hands
Torn from RELIGION'S Altar, had been made
The sport of a dark Fiend, whose recreant Soul
Had sham'd the cause of Valour ! To his cell
The Soul-struck Exile turn'd his trembling feet,
And after three lone weeks, of pain and pray'r,
Shrunk from the scene of Solitude--and DIED!
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