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And ever would those monks their guest detain
With gentlest violence ; while yet the storm
Bursts in full fury o'er the Hospital.
But should some stern necessity, or wish
Once more to view his home, and clasp his children,
Or mere hot-headed hardihood incite
His forward steps, they from their blazing hearth
Will rise to guide him on his perilous way ;
Nor leave him till his feet securely tread
Along the smooth well-known descent-then back
They trace the dangerous mountain path alone.
But should they roam, alas ! with fruitless search
Amid the whirlwind's desolating wrath ;
Still for the stranger, frozen, and forlorn,
Who may perchance be wandering, will they leave
In a sinall chapel, near their bleak abode,
What food and wine their humble means allow.
Or they arrive too late-oh God! too late-
The stranger is beyond all human aid ;-
See there, beneath that rude projecting rock,
Another chapel, desolate and lone ;
There are deposited the ghastly dead,
They found but could not save; look through the grates
That guard the window—there the corpses rest
Of such as perish’d, reaching but in thought
The vineyards, almond-trees, and orange groves
Of laughing Italy. Oh! how unchang’d
In form and lineaments ! corruption spares
Their horrible rigidity: and frost
Maintains for years a struggle with decay.
The bitter bleakness of that Alpine air,
With more than fam'd Egyptian art, preserves
The frozen mummies ; keeps the worm aloof,
And scares pollution's rotting touch away.
Yet the same atmosphere, which thus preserves
The dead, destroys the living-for the chill
Inclement rigour of the mountain bise
Engenders rheum and ague, and the seeds
Of premature decay, and early death;
Rack'd with sharp pains, and wasted in their youth,
And tott'ring with the feebleness of age,
Before the common date of life's decline,
There in that gloomy, cold, remote abode,
That habitation in the world of snow,
Those brothers dedicate their lives, with more
Than Roman self-devotion, not for fame,
Not for their country, or their household-gods;
But for the poor, the stranger, the unknown,
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The traveller, who comes they know not whence,
And goes they know not whither-then too late,
When the destroying clime has done its work
Of evil on their frames, they feeble, faint,
And haggard, totter to the plains; and drag
An aching, languid, sad existence on
A few short years, and perish. Not for them
The joys that gild our earthly pilgrimage,
Ambition, pleasure, love's delightful thrill,
Or strong excitement of power, glory, praise.
Nor yet alone, the dread of violent death,
And constant peril haunt them ; these are ills,
Which many have borne recklessly :-far worse
Their melancholy doom, unless sustain'd
By Christian faith, and hope and charity.
Their life is one long sacrifice-all spent
In conflict with the elements -- their health
Decaying ever, and a living death
Approaching and encroaching day by day,
Usurping still upon their vital parts,
Like the perpetual tide, that undermines,
And eats insensibly the cliff away,
Stone after stone ; till at the last all sinks
Beneath the boundless ocean.
Thus they dwell,
Barrd by their rocks, from human intercourse ;
Girt with bleak crags and most unmelting snow,
That twice exceeds in its terrific depth
The puny stature of degenerate man,
They hold a rough communion with the clouds,
And storms, and lightning ; while around them rolls
Interminable thunder, as it bursts
A thousand times reiterated loud,
Rumbling and echoing from peak to peak.
Dreadful their nine months' winter! for e'en then,
At summer's ev'ning when the golden sun
Empurples happier scenes with the full flush
Of his declining, but unclouded, orb ;
And sheds a pure delicious rapture o'er
The careless hearts of dancing villagers ;
Then often on St. Bernard's mountain-top
Those holy men must crouch them round the fire
In shiv'ring solitude--above them frowns
The ever dark and tempest-troubled sky;
Around them falls the avalanche ; below
Roar the white torrents of the rapid Drance,
And dash the foaming cataracts; and freeze
The blue sharp-pointed glaciers : far beneath
The chalêt, and its pastures ; lower still
Corn-fields, and vines, and the abodes of men.
Yes: by the waters of that small dark lake,
Their youth is wasted on those Alpine heights ;
Heights almost inaccessible, where not
The hardy fir can live: they roam abroad,
Urgʻd by sublime benevolence of soul,
Where ev'n the chamois hunter fears to tread,
Or daring gatherer of mountain plants,
Led by fair science to as venturous deeds
As e'er ambition has inspir'd, or fame,
Or war's dread trumpet, rousing heart and ear
To danger's stern delights. There are they found,
Where from the mule th' experienc'd guide removes
The tinkling bells ; and travellers aghast,
With chatt'ring teeth, and gasping dread of soul,
Suspend their very breath; their stealthy pace
Hastening in silence, lest a word, a sigh,
A whisper should awake the avalanche
With the air's slight vibration; and call down
The crushing deluge on their helpless heads.
Not half so steep and frightful the defiles,
Through which the heroic Carthaginian led
His still decreasing hosts; when warlike men
And horses, and huge elephants were lost,
Some perishing from the mere bitter cold,
Nor needing casual violence-some o'erwhelm'd
Beneath th' incumbent mass of loosen'd snow,
As if the genius of the mountain realm,
Indignant at their daring, then and there,
Had hurl'd his vengeance o'er them ; some plung'd down
Precipitous abysses, and dark chasms
Thus has it been!
Thus has that holy brotherhood deserv'd ;
And thus are they rewarded! Fairer deeds
Have ne'er adorn'd the faith which they profess,
Nor beam'd along the annals of mankind :
For like their habitation seem their hearts
The nearest heav'n on earth. Theirs are the deeds,
Which, when disgust comes o'er us, or despair,
When we are sick of wretchedness and crime;
Can reconcile us to the world again.
Thus has it been !--and must we look again
On that lone monastery's present state,
Or coming ruin and impending woes ?
What! they who succour'd many, shall they want
The cheap and common comforts of existence ?
Shall that kind, holy, hospitable roof,
Where the forlorn belated traveller,
Famish'd, bewilder'd, lost and full of fears,
Torpid with cold, and sinking with fatigue,
Was warm’d and cherish'd, till his eye again
Beam'd with reviving joy; and he could smile
Thanks on his welcomers-what! shall that roof
Fall in sad ruin on the owners' heads ?
And shall the walls, which kept from way-worn men,
The rude inclemency of wintry skies
Totter and sink, and crumble in decay,
Shatter'd and desolate-nor shelter them,
Who gave before a shelter unto all ?
Shall the wind whistle, as in mockery,
Along the tenantless and voiceless halls,
Where always sounds of gratitude had been,
And Christian piety, and social mirth ?
Merciful Heav'n! shall these things pass away,
And be forgotten as a pageant; or
Be reckon'd with the rich man's pompous pride
And ostentatious greeting ; when he shews
His affluent splendour to the poorer guest,
And thinks with Cresus, “ Am I not a god ?"
Shall this still friendly, still preserving pile,
Be doom'd to moulder piece-meal, as a house,
Which has seen deeds of murder done ; and now
Is haunted by the spirits of the dead,
By ominous steps, and apparitions dire,
In the deep midnight—where are wailings heard,
Unearthly voices, sad and sudden shrieks,
Yellings of pain, and moanings of despair ?
Yes : such is human gratitude! Ye monks,
Be sure, your future destiny is dark !
'Tis true, ye have done good in former days,
But now those days are vanish'd : and with them
E'en the remembrance of the good is gone.
Now is the danger less-now other paths
Are open'd-ye must be neglected now
As an old garment, or a worn-out steed.
Who will recall the benefits conferr'd,
When he no longer wants them ? men are lov’d,
Flatter'd, and honour'd, for the services
Which they can do--not those which they have done.
He, who has mounted to the top of fortune,
Would fain forget, that he was ever low.
He, who now basks in opulence and ease,
Hates the vile recollection of the past.
His pride, forsooth, is wounded ; if 'tis thought
He ever needed aid, or sought, or sued,
Or ow'd an obligation to a friend.
As if he ever wanted succour-he.
The lofty, the magnificent, the grand ;
As if the bitter grasp of penury
E'er dard to seize on him.
Though it be so,
Yet, yet the memory of such deeds should live :
If not one wanderer should hereafter seek
The shelter of their roof, their homely fare,
And the warm welcome of their honest hearts,
Still for the services they have perform’d,
Still for the lustre they have shed on man,
Still for the honour they have done their faith,
Those holy men must not be destitute !
Ye then, whom hospitality delights
Who would not see the halls, where it has reignid,
Sad and deserted; who must weep to find
Its record perish'd from the face of earth!
Or ye, who love the venerable spot,
Hallow'd by pious courage and pure zeal,
And to good deeds devoted ; as ye are
Or strangers sojourning in foreign lands,
Or men, or Christians, sketch the ready hand,
To raise, to succour, to support, to save.
If ye within that monastery's walls
Have been receiv'd with hospitable rites,
Ye cannot choose but do it: if to you,
As they have been, and must remain for me,
The lovely valleys, or stupendous hills,
And mountains of fair Switzerland, are as
A second country of your birth and love
A part of your existence, surely then,
will not neglect it. If ye e'er Have gaz’d upon the Leman lake ; and view'd The Alps beneath its waters, snow-capp'd heights, That dive to an interminable depth Below the surface of the solid earth, Far as they soar unto the heav'n, and wear The vapoury mantle of light clouds about them! If ye have lov'd the mountainous Savoy Or felt your young imagination fir'd With rapturous visions of fair Italy; From
you that holy brotherhood demands Remembrance, sympathy, compassion !-No; These are but idle words, the worst can use,They want no cheap and barren sympathy ; No transient sigh of pity ; no mere shrug