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He who ascends to mountain-tops, shall find
The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow ;
He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
Must look down on the hate of those below.
Though high above the sun of glory glow,
And far beneath the earth and ocean spread,
Round him are icy rocks, and loudly blow
Contending tempests on his naked head,
And thus reward the toils which to those summits led.
Away with these ! 2 true Wisdom's world will be
Within its own creation, or in thine,
Maternal Nature ! for who teems like thee,
Thus on the banks of thy majestic Rhine ?
There Harold gazes on a work divine,
A blending of all beauties; streams and dells,
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells
From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells.
And there they stand, as stands a lofty mind,
Worn, but unstooping to the baser crowd,
All tenantless, save to the crannying wind,
Or holding dark communion with the cloud.
There was a day when they were young and proud ;
Banners on high, and battles 4 passed below ;
But they who fought are in a bloody shroud,
And those which waved are shredless dust ere now,
And the bleak battlements shall bear no future blow.
Beneath these battlements, within those walls,
Power dwelt amidst her passions ; in proud state
1 Inaccurate in fact. The freedom from clouds of lofty peaks affords a favourite simile.to poets and orators.
2 Away with these.] Enough of this—quid plura dicam ?
3 Within its own creation, &c.] The wise man's pleasure will be derived from his own powers or from Nature's gifts, ' My mind to me a kingdom is.'
4 Battles.] Latin acies, battalions.
Each robber chief upheld his armed halls,
Doing his evil will, nor less elate
Than mightier heroes of a longer date.
What want these outlaws conquerors should have
But History's purchased page to call them great ?
A wider space, an ornamented grave ?
Their hopes were not less warm, their souls were full as
In their baronial feuds and single fields,
What deeds of prowess unrecorded died !
And Love, which lent a blazon to their shields,
With emblems well devised by amorous pride,
Through all the mail of iron hearts would glide ;
But still their flame was fierceness, and drew on
Keen contest and destruction near allied,
And many a tower for some fair mischief won,
Saw the discoloured Rhine beneath its ruin run.
But Thou, exulting and abounding river !
Making thy waves a blessing as they flow
Through banks whose beauty would endure for ever
Could man but leave thy bright creation so,
Nor its fair promise from the surface mow
With the sharp scythe of conflict,”—then to see
Thy valley of sweet waters, were to know
Earth paved like Heaven ; and to seem such to me, Even now what wants thy stream ?—that it should
Lethe 3 be.
1 Amorous pride.] Queen of Beauty ; love gages given by ladies to their knights, and worn by them as distinctions in the lists,
• It shall wave Like plumage on thy helmet brave.'
• Lady of the Lake,' c. iv. 27. 2 Scythe of conflict.] Every generation from the days of Cæsar has witnessed the truth of this lament.
3 Lethe.] A river of Hades bestowing forgetfulness. The beauties of the Rhine are such as to erase the memory of other beauties ; yet its loveliness to him is marred by the remembrance he cannot lose of the awful scenes of carnage that had taken place in their midst.
A thousand battles have assailed thy banks, But these and half their fame have passed away, And Slaughter heaped on high his weltering ranks ; Their very graves are gone, and what are they? Thy tide washed down the blood of yesterday, And all was stainless, and on thy clear stream Glassed, with its dancing light, the sunny ray ; But o'er the blackened memory's blighting dream Thy waves would vainly roll, all sweeping as they seem.
Thus Harold inly said, and passed along,
Yet not insensibly to all which here
Awoke the jocund birds to early song
In glens which might have made even exile dear :
Though on his brow were graven lines austere,
And tranquil sternness, which had ta’en the place
Of feelings fierier far but less severe,
Joy was not always absent from his face,
But o'er it in such scenes would steal with transient trace.
Nor was all love shut from him, though his days
Of passion had consumed themselves to dust.
It is in vain that we would coldly gaze
On such as smile upon us ; the heart must
Leap kindly back to kindness, though disgust
Hath weaned it from all worldlings : thus
he felt, For there was soft remembrance, and sweet trust
In one fond breast, to which his own would melt, And in its tenderer hour on that his bosom dwelt.
And he had learned to love,-I know not why,
For this in such as him seems strange of mood,-
The helpless looks of blooming infancy,
Even in its earliest nurture ; what subdued,
1 The helpless looks of blooming infancy.] Conf. with opening and closing passages in this canto,
To change like this, a mind so far imbued
With scorn of man, it little boots to know ;
But thus it was; and though in solitude
Small power the nipped affections have to grow,
In him this glowed when all beside had ceased to glow.
And there was one soft breast, as hath been said,
Which unto his was bound by stronger ties
Than the church links withal; and, though unwed,
That love was pure, and, far above disguise,
Had stood the test of mortal enmities
Still undivided, and cemented more
By peril, dreaded most in female eyes ;
But this was firm, and from a foreign shore
Well to that heart might his these absent greetings pour !
The castled crag of Drachenfels 1
Frowns o'er the wide and winding Rhine,
Whose breast of waters broadly swells
Between the banks which bear the vine,
And hills all rich with blossomed trees,
And fields which promise corn and wine,
And scattered cities crowning these,
Whose far white walls along them shine,
Have strewed a scene, which I should see
With double joy wert thou with me.
And peasant girls, with deep blue eyes,
And hands which offer early flowers,
Walk smiling o'er this paradise ;
Above, the frequent feudal towers
Through green leaves lift their walls of gray ;
And many a rock which steeply lowers,
And noble arch in proud decay,
Look o'er this vale of vintage-bowers ;
But one thing want these banks of Rhine,
Thy gentle hand to clasp in mine !
1 Drachenfels.] One of the Sieben Gebirge, in Rhenish Prussia.
I send the lilies 1 given to ine ;
Though long before thy hand they touch,
I know that they must withered be,
But yet reject them not as such ;
For I have cherished them as dear,
Because they yet may meet thine eye,
And guide thy soul to mine even here,
When thou behold'st them drooping nigh,
And know'st them gathered by the Rhine,
And offered from my heart to thine !
The river nobly foams and flows,
The charm of this enchanted ground,
And all its thousand turns disclose
Some fresher beauty varying round :
The haughtiest breast its wish might bound
Through life to dwell delighted here ;
Nor could on earth a spot be found
To nature and to me so dear,
Could thy dear eyes in following mine
Still sweeten more these banks of Rhine!
By Coblentz, on a rise of gentle ground,
There is a small and simple pyramid,
Crowning the summit of the verdant mound ;
Beneath its base are heroes' ashes hid,
Our enemy's—but let not that forbid
Honour to Marceau ! 3 o'er whose early tomb
1. The lilies.] Compare Waller’s inimitable ode, .Go, lovely rose.'
? Coblentz (confluentes).] The junction of Rhine and Moselle.
i Marceau.] One of the pure spirits of the Revolution, was killed in 1796. He fought in the war of La Vendée, then in the Army of Ardennes, and then in that of Sambre-et-Meuse. He gained the respect of his countrymen and of the Austrians. He died at the
• Bliss was it in the dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven! Oh! times,