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Fast fades the day; the winds have sunk to sleep,
Monastic Bernard! on thy lonely steep;
Like halcyons hovering o'er their ocean nest,
The golden clouds are gathering into rest
O'er the far peaks, where still the sunset flings
A gleam of splendour from his parting wings,
And stars, like faëry visions, dimly bright,
Now melt in air, now tremble into light.
Night deepens round—the Spirit of Repose
Breathes o'er the darkling crags, and boundless snows:
No voice disturbs their gloom; no living form
Cheers the still scene, or haunts the realms of storm;
No more the cagle, wheeling to the sky,
Pours through the sullen waste her echoing cry;
The wolf's long howl, that rose upon the gale,
The cataract's roar, the pine-wood's fitful wail,
As the faint chime of some aërial lay
Melts from the dreamer's ear, have died away.
Yes-stern the scene!-magnificently drear!
No sound to ravish, and no sight to cheer;
Yet to the soul more speaking than the page
Of loftiest poet, or divinest sage,
Proclaims in characters of heavenly birth,
Graved on the star-lit sky-the slumbering earth,
That He, who framed them both, Power Divine,
Still in the desert rears His chosen shrine;
Still loves to commune with His erring child
On the lone mountain, and the pathless wild;
And, far from human cares, from feverish strife,
The storm of passion, and the stir of life;
When earth breathes peace below, and heaven above
Is bright with hope, and redolent of love,
He bids each sense awake, each feeling soar,
The spirit kindle, and the heart adore;
Till to the awe-struck wanderer's musing breast
E'en Silence speaks, and Solitude is blest.
The stars are forth—the moon serenely bright
Walks in calm beauty through the waste of night;
Beneath her beams, like silvery clouds on high,
The pale snows glimmer in the dark blue sky;
And as the shadows wander, vale and steep
Now gleam in light, now wrapt in darkness sleep.
Oft at this twilight hour, her quivering rays
Stream through the cliffs, to greet the wanderer's gaze;
As, faint and worn from many a peril past,
The rushing avalanche, and the roaring blast,
He slowly climbs, where closing mountains lean
In shadowy grandeur o'er the hushed ravine;
Where beneath beetling crags, and drifted snows,
In charnel cell the unwasting dead repose;
And moonlit crosses rising through the gloom,
In spectral silence point the pilgrim's tomb.
Alike they sleep in that sepulchral grot,
Their death unhonoured, and their name forgot;
In life's last hour unsoothed by pitying tear,
Their last deep sigh unheard by mortal ear;
No coffin guards their clay, no sheltering stone,
Their only dirge the wild winds' hollow moan,
When through the grated loopholes, harsh and loud,
Sweeps the shrill blast, and waves each eddying shroud-
Well might the wanderer linger there to scan
The might of Nature and the wreck of Man;
But lo! the ascent is won the mountain hoar,
The lake's black calm, the hushed and frozen shore,
And mid the snows, yon structure rude and vast,
Reared like some rock-built palace of the blast,
Rush on his gaze—and faint, as smiles that play
O'er the wan lips that fade in young decay;
So cold! so cheerless !-desolately falls
The misty moonlight on the bleak, gray walls,
Seamed by the scars of Time; and deeper rents
Stamped by the wrath of Men and Elements.
No Sculpture there her gothic tracery weaves,
Piles the tall shaft, or twines the clustering leaves;
But the rude carving of the storm has thrown
A time-worn aspect o'er each mouldering stone.
Hark! o'er the lake the choral notes combine.
In mingling cadence, from the lonely shrine;
The dark-robed brethren of the Hospice there,
Close with a deep-toned hymn their evening prayer;
While one who long has listened to the beat
And far off echoes of ascending feet,
Still keeps his moonlight watch, and seems to wait
The way-worn traveller at the welcome gate.
The threshold past-around their frugal board
His toils forgotten, and his strength restored ;
As the red pine-fire throws a flickering blaze
O'er the rude hall, delighted shall he gaze
On many a lofty brow, and speaking eye,
In that unknown, yet friendly company ;-
While the blithe laugh, and pleasure-stirring sound
Of cheerful converse, gaily echoes round,
As from the stranger of the world below,
They learn the changeful tale of weal and woe.
Yes! oft at night's dread noon, when gales are loud,
And shapes of terror ride the murky cloud;
When the white snow-waves, drifting silently,
Wreathe o'er the rocks, and roll along the sky;-
'Tis theirs, at Mercy's call, to brave the wrath
That guides the avalanche on his thundering path,
Waked by the mastiff's bay:-A faint, low shriek
Is echoing far below, from cave and peak,
By some lone wanderer poured, whose latest breath
Is all concentered in that cry of death;
Thrilling, and fearful, as the rushing snows
Sweep on, and shroud him in their dire repose.
“On, fearless on! and trace him through the storm!
Still in his veins the pulse of life beats warm;
The dog's decp wailing howl our steps shall guide,
Near and more near it climbs the mountain side."
Swift on their iron poles from steep to steep,
From crag to crag, impetuous down they sweep;
Like spectres thread the dark ravine—and lo!
The strong dog crouching o'er the tomb of snow
Plies with untiring limb his generous toil,
Scoops the cold drift, and bares the frozen soil;
Licks from the pale chill brow the tangled hair,
And wakes to Hope the features of Despair;
Till from the cerements of his living tomb
They raise the wanderer, while the paly bloom
Of coming life plays warmly on his cheek,
And those half-opening lips do all but speak.
Deeds such as these, while quickly wears the night
In that rude hall St. Bernard's sons recite---
And oft they speak of crags, where peasants show
Mysterious crosses on the untrodden snow
Planted by hands unseen, or traces left
Of wizard dances in the sunless cleft;
Or whispering tell, when clouds snow-laden sail
At solemn midnight on the moaning gale,
How on each caverned steep, in shadowy forms,
The demon-brood of darkness and of storms
Shout in wild chorus, while in every blast
Weird voices sweep, and laughter hurries past;
Oft too in gentler shape, they seem to ride
In mimic pomp, the mists of eventide;
Or move unmarked within their vapoury shroud,
The winds their coursers, and their car the cloud;
While from their stringless lyres wild music flows,
Charms the mute air, and dies along the snows.