Samuel Rogers

30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855

Italy : 1. The Lake Of Geneva

Day glimmered in the east, and the white Moon
Hung like a vapour in the cloudless sky,
Yet visible, when on my way I went,
Glad to be gone; a pilgrim from the North,
Now more and more attracted as I drew
Nearer and nearer. Ere the artisan
Had from his window leant with folded arms
To snuff the morn, or the caged lark poured forth,
From his green sod upspringing as the heaven,
(His tuneful bill o'erflowing with a song
Old in the days of Homer, and his wings
With transport quivering) 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,
Such virtue dwells in those small syllables,
Inscribed to consecrate the narrow street,
His birth-place,--when, but one short step too late,
In his despair, as though the die were cast,
He sat him down to weep, and wept till dawn
Then rose to go, a wanderer through the world.
'Tis not a tale that every hour brings with it.
Yet at a City-gate, from time to time,
Much may be learnt; nor, London, least at thine,
They hive the busiest, greatest of them all,
Gathering, enlarging still. Let us stand by,
And note who passes. Here comes one, a Youth,
Glowing with pride, the pride of conscious power,
A Chatterton -- in thought admired, caressed,
And crowned like Petrarch in the Capitol;
Ere long to die, to fall by his own 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 -- though 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 -- where, alone and as entranced,
Counting the hours, the fisher in his skiff
Lay with his circular and dotted line
On the bright waters. When the heart of man
Is light with hope, all things are sure to please;
And soon a passage-boat swept gaily by,
Laden with peasant-girls and fruits and flowers,
And many a chanticleer and partlet caged
For Vevey's market-place -- a motley group
Seen through the silvery haze. But soon 'twas gone.
The shifting sail flapped idly to and fro,
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 through the day pursued this pleasant path
That winds beside the mirror of all beauty,
And, when at eve his fellow-pilgrims sat,
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,
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 behind
The pine-clad heights of Jura, lighting up
The woodman's casement, and perchance his axe
Borne homeward through the forest in his hand;
And on the edge of some o'erhanging cliff,
That dungeon-fortress never to be named,
Where, like a lion taken in the toils,
Toussaint breathed out his brave and generous spirit.
Ah, little did He think, who sent him there,
That he himself, then greatest among men,
Should in like manner be so soon conveyed
Athwart the deep,--and to a rock so small
Amid the countless multitude of waves,
That ships have gone and sought it, and returned,
Saying it was not!
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