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Hontron :






A FEW copies of this Poem were printed off
in the Autumn of the Year before last, while
the Author was abroad. It is now corrected,
and republished with some additions.

Whatever may be its success, it has led him
in many an after-dream through a beautiful
Country ; and may not perhaps be uninterest-
ing to those who have learnt to live in Past
Times as well as Present, and whose minds
are familiar with the Events and the People
that have rendered Italy so illustrious.

The stories, taken from the old Chroniclers,
are given without exaggeration; and are, he
believes, as true to the original text as any of
the Plays that may be said to form our popular



I. The Lake of Geneva I

II. The Great St. Bernard 7

III. The Descent 16

IV. Jorasse 19

V. Marguerite De Tours 27

VI. The Alps 32

VII. Como 37

VIII. Bergamo 44

IX. Italy 50

X. CoU'alto 53

XI. Venice 59

XII. Luigi 69

XIII. St. Mark's Place 74

XIV. The Gondola 86

XV. The Brides of Venice 93

XVI. Foscari 103

XVII. Arqua 120



XVIII. Ginevra 125

XIX. Florence 132

XX. Don Garzla 139

XXI. The Campagna of Florence 145

Notes and Illustrations 16/


Day glimmered in the cast, and the white Moon

Hung like a vapour in the cloudless sky,

Yet visible, when on my way I went.

Thy gates, Geneva, swinging heavily.

Thy gates so slow to open, swift to shut;

As on that Sabbath-eve when he arrived^*

Whose name is now thy glory, now by thee

Inscribed to consecrate (such virtue dwells

In those small syllables) the narrow street.

His birth-place — when, but one short step too late,

* Rousseau.


He sate him down and wept — wept till the morning;
Then rose to go — a wanderer thro' the world.

'Tis not a tale that every hour brings with it.
Yet at a City-gate, from time to time.
Much might be leanit; and most of all at thine,
London — thy hive the busiest, greatest, still
Attracting more and more. Let us stand by.
And note who passes. Here comes one, a Youth,
Glowing with pride, the pride of conscious pow er,
A Chatterton — in thought admired, caressed.
And crowned like Petrarch in the Capitol;
Ere long to die — to fall by his ovra hand.
And fester with the vilest. Here come two.
Less feverish, less exalted — soon to part,
A Garrick and a Johnson ; Wealth and Fame
Awaiting one — even at the gate. Neglect
And Want the other. But what multitudes,


Urged by the love of change, and, like myself,
Adventurous, careless of to-morrow's fare,
Press on — tho' but a rill entering the Sea,
Entering and lost ! Our task would never end.

Day glimmered and I went, a gentle breeze
Ruffling the Leman Lake. Wave after wave.
If such they might be called, dashed as in sport.
Not anger, with the pebbles on the beach
Making wild music, and far westward caught
The sun-beam — save where, as entranced, a skiflf
Lay with its circular and dotted line.
Fishing in silence. When the heart is light
With hope, all pleases, nothing comes amiss ;
And soon a passage-boat swept gaily by.
Laden with peasant-girls and fruits and flowers,
B 2


And many a chanticleer and partlet caged
For Vevay's market-place — a motley group
Seen thro' the silvery haze. But soon 'twas gone.
The shifting sail flapped idly for an instant.
Then bore them off".

I am not one of those
So dead to all things in this visible world.
So wondrously profound — as to move on
In the sweet light of heaven, like him of old *
(His name is justly in the Calendar)
Who thro' the day pursued this pleasant path
That winds beside the mirror of all beauty,
And, when at length he heard his fellow -pilgrims
Discoursing of the lake, asked where it was.
They marvelled, as they might; and so must all,
Seeing what now I saw; for now 'twas day,

* See Note.


And the bright Sun was in the firmament,
A thousand shadows of a thousand hues
Chequering the clear expanse. Awhile his Orb
Hung o'er thy trackless fields of snow, Mont Blanc,
Thy seas of ice and ice-built promontories.
That change their shapes for ever as in sport;
Then travelled onward and went down Ijehind
The pine-clad heights of Jura, lighting up
The woodman's casement, and perchance his axe
Borne homeward thro' the forest in his hand;
And, in some deep and melancholy glen.
That dungeon-fortress never to be named.
Where, like a lion taken in the toils,
Toussaint lireathed out his brave and generous spirit.
Ah, little did lie think, who sent him there,
That he himself, then greatest among men,


Should in like manner be so soon conveyed

Across the ocean — to a rock so small

Amid the countless multitude of waves.

That ships have gone and sought it, and returned.

Saying it was not !

Still along the shore.
Among the trees I went for many a mile,
Wliere damsels sit and weave their fishing-nets.
Singing some national song by the way-side.
But now 'twas dusk; and, journeying by the Rhone,
That there came down, a torrent from the Alps,
I entered where a key unlocks a kingdom,*
The mountains closing, and the road, the river
Filling the narrow passage. There I slept.

* St. Maurice.


JViGHT was again descending, when my mule.

That all day long had climbed among the clouds,

Higher and higher still, as by a stair

Let down from Heaven itself, transporting me.

Stopped, to the joy of both, at that low door

So near the summit of the Great St. Bernard;

That door which ever on its hinges moved

To them that knocked, and nightly sends abroad

Ministering Spirits. Lying on the watch.

Two dogs of grave demeanour welcomed me.


All meekness, gentleness, tho' large of limb;
And a lay-brother of the Hospital,
Who, as we toiled below, had heard by fits
The distant echoes gaining on his ear,
Came and held fast my stirrup in his hand.
While I alighted.

Long could I have stood,
With a religious awe contemplating
That House, the highest in the Ancient World,
And placed there for the noblest purposes.
'Twas a rude pile of simplest masonry,

AVith narrow windows and vast buttresses.

Built to endure the shocks of Time and Chance;

Yet shewing many a rent, as well it might,

Warred on for ever by the elements,


And in an evil day, nor long ago.

By violent men — when on the mountain-top

The French and Austrian banners met in conflict.

On the same rock beside it stood the church.
Reft of its cross, not of its sanctity;
The vesper-bell, for 'twas the vesper-hour.
Duly proclaiming thro' the wilderness,
"All ye who hear, whatever be your work.
Stop for an instant — move your lips in prayer!"
And, just beneath it, in that dreary dale.
If dale it might be called, so near to TIeaven,
A little lake, where never lish leaped up.
Lay like a spot of ink amid the snow ;
A star, the only one in that small sky,


On its dead surface glimmering. 'Twas a scene

Resembling nothing I had left behind,

As tho' all worldly ties were now dissolved; —

And, to incline the mind still more to thought.

To thought and sadness, on the eastern shore

Under a beetling cliff stood half in shadow

A lonely chapel destined for the dead.

For such as having wandered from their way.

Had perished miserably. Side by side.

Within they lie, a mournful company.

All in their shrouds, no earth to cover them;

Their features full of life yet motionless

In the broad day, nor soon to suffer change,

Tho' the barred windows, barred against the wolf.

Are always open !


But the Bise blew cold ;
And, bidden to a spare but cheerful meal,
I sate among the holy brother-hood
At their long board. The fare indeed was such
As is prescribed on days of abstinence.
But might have pleased a nicer taste than mine;
And thro' the floor came up, an ancient matron
Serving unseen below ; while from the roof
(The roof, the floor, the walls of native fir,)
A lamp hung flickering, such as loves to fling
Its partial light on Apostolic heads,
And sheds a grace on all. Theirs Time as yet
Had changed not. Some were almost in the prime
Nor was a brow o'ercast. Seen as I saw them.
Ranged round their ample hearth-stone in an hour


Of rest, they were as gay, as free from guile.
As children ; answering, and at once, to all
The gentler impulses, to pleasure, mirth ;
Mingling, at intervals, with rational talk
Music ; and gathering news from them that came.
As of some other world. But when the storm
Rose, and the snow rolled on in ocean-billows.
When on his face the experienced traveller fell.
Sheltering his lips and nostrils with his hands.
Then all was changed ; and, sallying with their pack
Into that blank of nature, they became
Unearthly beings. "Anselm, higher up
A dog howls loud and long, and now, observe.
Digs with his feet how eagerly! A man.
Dying or dead, lies buried underneath!


Let US to work! there is no time to lose! —
But who descends Mont Velan? 'Tis La Croix.
Away, away ! if not, alas, too late.
Homeward he drags an old man and a boy,
Faltering and falling, and but half awakened.
Asking to sleep again." Such their discourse.

Oft has a venerable roof received me;
St. Bruno's once * — where, when the winds were

Nor from the cataract the voice came up.
You might have heard the mole work underground.
So great the stillness of that place; none seen.
Save when from rock to rock a hemiit crossed
By some rude bridge — or one at midnight tolled

* Tlic Grande Chartreuse.


To matins, and white habits, issuing forth,

Glided along those aisles intei-minable.

All, all observant of the sacred law

Of Silence. Nor is that sequestered spot,

Once called ' Sweet Waters,' now ' The Shady Vale,'*

To me unknown ; that house so rich of old,'

So courteous, and by two, that passed that way,f

Amply requited with immortal verse.

The Poet's payment.

But, among them all,
None can with this compare, the dangerous seat
Of generous, active Virtue. What tho' Frost
Reign everlastingly, and ice and snow
Thaw not, but gather — there is that \vithin,

* Vallombrosa, formerly called Acqua Bella.
+ Ariosto and Milton.


Which, where it comes, makes Summer; and, in

Oft am I sitting on the bench beneath
Their garden-plot, where all that vegetates.
Is but some scanty lettuce, to observe
Those from the South ascending, every step
As tho' it were their last — and instantly
Restored, renewed, advancing as with songs,
Soon as they see, turning a lofty crag,
Tliat plain, that modest structure, promising
Bread to the hungry, to the weary rest.


My mule refreshed — and, let the truth be told.

He was not of that vile, that scurvy race.

From sire to son lovers of controversy.

But patient, diligent, and sure of foot.

Shunning the loose stone on the precipice,

Snorting suspicion while with sight, smell, touch.

Examining the wet and spungy moss.

And on his haunches sitting to slide down

The steep, the smooth — my mule refreshed, his bells

Gingled once more, the signal to depart.


And we set out in the grey light of dawn.
Descending rapidly — by waterfalls
Fast-frozen, and among huge blocks of ice
That in their long career had stopt mid-way.
At length, unchecked, unbidden, he stood still;
And all his bells were muffled. Then my Guide,
Lowering his voice, addressed me : " Thro' this Chasm
On and say nothing — for a word, a breath,
Stirring the air, may loosen and bring do^vn
A winter's snow — enough to overwhelm
The horse and foot that, night and day, defiled
Along this path to conquer at Marengo.
Well I remember how I met them here.
As the light died away, and how Napoleon,
Wrapt in his cloak — 1 could not be deceived—



Reined in liis horse, and asked me, as I passed.
How far 'twas to St. Remi. Where the rock
Juts forward, and the road, crumbling away,
Narrows almost to nothing at its base,
'Twas there ; and down along the brink he led
To Victory! — Desaix, who turned the scale.
Leaving his life-blood in that famous field,
(When the clouds break, we may discern the spot
In the blue haze,) sleeps, as you saw at dawn.
Just as you entered, in the Hospital-church."
So saying, for awhile he held his peace.
Awe-struck beneath that dreadful Canopy;
But soon the danger passed, launched forth again.


JoRASSE was in his three-and-twentieth year;
Graceful and active as a stag just roused;
Gentle withal, and pleasant in his speech,
Yet seldom seen to smile. He had grown up
Among the Hunters of the Higher Alps;
I fad caught their starts and fits of thoughtfulness.
Their haggard looks, and strange soliloquies.
Said to arise by those who dwell below.
From frequent dealings with the Mountain-Spirits.
But other ways had taught him better things ;
c 2


And now he numbered, marching by my side,
The Savans, Princes, who with him had crossed
The icy tract, with him familiarly
Thro' the rough day and rougher night conversed
In many a chalet round the Peak of Terror,*
Round Tacul, Tour, Well-horn and Rosenlau ;
Save when an Avalanche, at distance rolling
Its long, long thunders, held them mute with fear.
— But with what transport he recalled the hour
When to deserve, to win his blooming bride,
Madelaine of Annecy, to his feet he bound
The iron crampons, and, ascending, trod
The Upper Realms of Frost; then, by a cord
Let half-way down, entered a Grot star-bright,

* The Schrekhorn.


And gathered from above, below, around.
The pointed crystals!

Once, nor long before,
(Thus did his tongue run on, fast as his feet.
And with an eloquence that Nature gives
To all her children — breaking off by starts
Into the harsh and rude, oft as the Mule
Drew his displeasure,) once, nor long before.
Alone at day-break on the Mettenberg,
lie slipped, he fell; and, through a fearful cleft
Gliding from ledge to ledge, from deep to deeper.
Went to the Under-world ! Long-while he lay
Upon his rugged bed — then waked like one
Wishing to sleep again and sleep for ever!
For looking round, he saw or thought he saw


Innumerable branches of a Cavern,
Winding beneath that solid Crust of Ice;
With here and there a rent that shewed the stars !
What then, alas, was left him but to die?
What else in those immeasurable chambers.
Strewn with the bones of miserable men
Lost like himself? Yet must he wander on,
Till cold and hunger set his spirit free !
And, rising, he began his dreary round;
WTien hark, the noise as of some mighty River
Working its way to light ! Back he mthdrew.
But soon returned, and, fearless from despair.
Dashed down the dismal Channel; and all day.
If day could be where utter darkness was.
Travelled incessantly, the craggy roof


Just over-head, and the impetuous waves.
Nor broad nor deep, yet with a giant's strength
Lashing him on. At last the water slept
In a dead lake — at the third step he took,
Unfathomable — and the roofl, that long
Had threatened, suddenly descending, lay
Flat on the surface. Statue-like he stood.
His journey ended ; when a ray divine
Shot thro' his soul. Breathing a prayer to Her
Whose ears are never shut, the Blessed Virgin,
He plunged, he swam — and in an instant rose.
The barrier past, in light, in sunshine ! Thro'
A smiling valley, full of cottages.
Glittering the river ran ; and on the bank
The Young were dancing ('twas a festival-day)


AH in their best attire. There first he saw
His Madelaine. In the crowd she stood to hear.
When all drew round, inquiring; and her face,
Seen behind all, and, varying, as he spoke.
With hope, and fear, and generous sympathy.
Subdued him. From that very hour he loved.

The tale was long, but coming to a close.
When his dark eyes flashed fire, and, stopping short.
He listened and looked up. I looked up too ;
And twice there came a hiss that thro' me thrilled !
'Twas heard no more. A Chamois on the cliiF
Had roused his fellows with that cry of fear.
And all were gone.

But now the thread was broken ;


Love and its joys had vanished from his mind;

And he recounted his hair-breadth escapes.

When with his friend, Hubert of Bionnay,

(His ancient carbine from his shoulder shmg.

His axe to hew a stair-case in the ice)

He tracked their footsteps. By a cloud surprised,

Upon a crag among the precipices,

Where the next step had hurled them fifty fathoms,

Oft had they stood, locked in each other's arms.

All the long night under a freezing sky.

Each guarding each the while from sleeping, falling.

Oh, 'twas a sport he loved dearer than life,

And only would with life itself relinquish !

" My sire, my grandsire died among these wilds.

As for myself," he cried, and he held forth


His wallet in his hand, "this do I call

My winding-sheet — for I shall have no other!"

And he spoke truth. Within a little month
He lay among these awful solitudes,
('Twas on a Glacier — half-way up to Heaven)
Taking his final rest. Long did his wife.
Suckling her babe, her only one, look out
The way he went at parting, but he came not!
Long fear to close her eyes, lest in her sleep
(Such their belief) he should appear before her.
Frozen and ghastly pale, or crushed and bleeding.
To tell her where he lay, and supplicate
For the last rite! At length the dismal news
Came to her ears, and to her eyes his corse.


Now the grey granite, starting thro' the snow.
Discovered many a variegated moss*
That to the pilgrim restirig on his staff
Shadows out capes and islands; and ere long
Numberless flowers, such as disdain to live
Tn lower regions, and delighted drink
The clouds before they fail, flowers of all hues.
With their diminutive leaves covered the ground.
'Twas then, that, turning by an ancient larch.
Shivered in two yet most majestical

* Lichen Geographicus.


With its long level branches, we observed

A human figure sitting on a stone

Far down by the way-side — just where the rock

Is riven asunder, and the Evil One

Has bridged the gulf, a wondrous monument

Built in one night, from which the flood beneath.

Raging along, all foam, is seen not heard.

And seen as motionless!

Nearer we drew.
And 'twas a woman young and delicate.
Wrapt in a russet cloak from head to foot.
Her eyes cast down, her cheek upon her hand.
In deepest thought. Young as she was, she wore
The matron-cap; and from her shape we judged.
As well we might, that it would not be long


Ere she became a mother. Pale she looked,

Yet cheerful ; tho', methouj^ht, once, if not twice.

She wiped away a tear that would be coming;

And in those moments her small hat of straw,

Worn on one side, and garnished \vith a ribbon

Glittering with gold, but ill concealed a face

Not soon to be forgotten. Rising up

On our approach, she journeyed slowly on;

And my companion, long before we met.

Knew, and ran down to greet her.

She was bom

I (Such Avas her artless tale, told with fresh tears)

I In Val d'Aosta; and an Alpine stream,


ILeaping from crag to crag in its short course

'To join the Dora, turned her father's mill.


There did she blossom till a Valaisan,

A townsman of Martigny, won her heart,

Much to the old man's grief. Long he held out,

Unwilling to resign her; and at length.

When the third summer came, they stole a match

And fled. The act was sudden ; and when far

Away, her spirit had misgivings. Then

She pictured to herself that aged face

Sickly and wan, in sorrow, not in anger;

And, when at last she heard his hour was near,

Went forth unseen, and, burdened as she was.

Crossed the high Alps on foot to ask forgiveness.

And hold him to her heart before he died.

Her task was done. She had fulfilled her wish.

And now was on her way, rejoicing, weeping.


A frame like hers had suffered ; but her love

Was strong within her; and right on she went.

Fearing no ill. May all good Angels guard her!

And should I once again, as once I may.

Visit Martigny, I will not forget

Thy hospitable roof. Marguerite De Tours;

Thy sign the golden sun. Heaven prosper Thee !


Who first beholds those everlasting clouds.
Seed-time and harvest, morning, noon and night.
Still where they were, steadfast, immovable ;
Who first beholds the Alps — that mighty chain
Of Mountains, stretching on from east to west.
So massive, yet so shadowy, so ethereal,
As to belong rather to Heaven than Earth —
But instantly receives into his soul
A sense, a feeling that he loses not.


A something that informs him 'tis a moment
AVhence he may date henceforward and for ever?

To me they seemed the barriers of a World,
Saying, Thus far, no farther! and as o'er
The level plain I travelled silently,
Nearing them more and more, day after day,
My wandering thoughts my only company.
And they before me still, oft as I looked,
A strange delight, mingled with fear, came o'er me,
I A wonder as at things I had not heard of !
Oft as I looked, I felt as though it were
For the first time !

(Jreat w^as the tumult there.
Deafening the din, wlu^ii in barl)aric pomp


The Carthaginian on his march to Rome
Entered their fastnesses. Trampling the snows.
The war-horse reared ; and the towered elephant
Upturned his trunk into the murky sky.
Then tumbled headlong, swallowed up and lost.
He and his rider.

Now the scene is changed ;
And o'er Mont Cenis, o'er the Simplon winds
A path of pleasure. Like a silver zone
Flung about carelessly, it shines afar.
Catching the eye in many a broken link,
In many a turn and traverse as it glides ;
And oft above and oft below appears,
Seen o'er the wedl by him who joumies up.
As though it were another, not the same.


Leading along he knows not whence or whither.
Yet thro' its fairy-course, go where it will,
The torrent stops it not, the rugged rock
Opens and lets it in ; and on it runs,
Winning its easy way from clime to clime
Through glens locked up before.

Not such my path !
Mine but for those, who, like Jean Jaques, delight
In dizziness, gazing and shuddering on
Till fascination comes and the brain turns !
Mine, though I judge but from my ague-fits
Over the D range, just where the Abbot fell,
The same as Hannibal's.

But now 'tis past,
That turbulent Chaos ; and the promised land
D 2


Lies at my feet in all its loveliness!

To him who starts up from a terrible dream.

And lo, the sun is shining, and the lark

Singing aloud for joy, to him is not

Such sudden ravishment as now I feel

At the first glimpses of fair Italy.


I LOVE to sail along the Larian Lake
Under the shore — though not to visit Pliny,
To catch him musing in his plane-tree walk.
Or fishing, as he might be, from his window :
And, to deal plainly, (may his Shade forgive me !)
Could I recall the ages past, and play
The fool with Time, I should perhaps reserve
My leisure for Catullus on his Lake,
Though to fare worse, or Virgil at his farm

38 COMO.

A little farther on the way to Mantua.
But such things cannot be. So I sit still.
And let the boatman shift his little sail.
His sail so forked and so swallow-like.
Well-pleased with all that comes. The morning-air
Plays on my cheek how gently, flinging round
A silvery gleam : and now the purple mists
Rise like a curtain; now the sun looks out,
Filling, o'erflowing with his glorious light
This noble amphitheatre of mountains ;
And now appear as on a phosphor-sea
Numberless barks, from Milan, from Pa\ ia;
Some sailing up, some down, and some at anchor.
Lading, unlading at that small port-town
Under the promontory — its tail tower

COMO. 39

Viid long flat roofs, just such as Poussin drew.
Caught by a sun-beam slanting through a cloud ;
A quay-like scene, glittering and full of life.
And doubled by reflection.

What delight,
After so long a sojourn in the desert.
To hear once more the sounds of cheerful labour!
— But in a clime like this where are they not?
Along the shores, among the hills 'tis now
The hey-day of the Vintage ; all abroad.

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Online LibrarySamuel RogersItaly, a poem → online text (page 1 of 6)