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THE PRISONER OF CHILLON.

1.

Nor grew

My hair is gray, but not with years,

it white
In a single night,
As men's have grown from sudden fears :
My limbs are bow'd, though not with toil,

But rusted with a vile repose,
For they have been a dungeon's spoil,

And mine has been the fate of those
To whom the goodly earth and air
Are bann'd, and barr'd-forbidden fare;
But this was for

my

father's faith
I suffer'd chains and courted death :
That father perish'd at the stake
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race
In darkness found a dwelling-place.
We were seven- -who now are one,

Six in youth, and one in age,
Finish'd as they had begun,

Proud of persecution's rage :
One in fire, and two, in field,
Their belief with blood have seal'd;
Dying as their father died,
For the God their foes denied :
Three were in a dungeon cast,
Of whom this wreck is left the last,

II.

There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon's dungeons deep and old ;
There are seven columns massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison'd ray;
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,

And through the crevice and the cleft
Of the thick wall is fallen and left,
Creeping o'er the floor so damp,
Like a marsh's meteor lamp :
And in each pillar there is a ring,

And in each ring there is a chain ;
That iron is a cankering thing,

For in these limbs its teeth remain, With marks that will not wear away, Till I have done with this new day, Which now is painful to these eyes, Which have not seen the sun so rise For years—I cannot count them o'er, I lost their long and heavy score, When

my last brother droop'd and died, And I lay living by his side.

III.
They chain'd us each to a column stone,
And we were three-yet, each alone;
We could not move a single pace,
We could not see each other's face,
But with that pale and livid light
That made us strangers in our sight :
And thus together, yet apart-
Fetter'd in hand, but pined in heart
'T was still some solace, in the dearth
Of the
pure

elements of earth,
To hearken to each other's speech,
And each turn comforter to each,
With some new hope, or legend old,
Or

song heroically bold :
But even these at length grew cold.
Our voices took a dreary tone,
An echo of the dungeon-stone,

A grating sound—not full and free
As they of yore were wont to be :

It might be fancy-but to me
They never sounded like our own.

IV.

I was the eldest of the three,

And to uphold and cheer the rest
I ought to do—and did

my

best And each did well in his degree.

The youngest, whom my father loved, Because our mother's brow was given To him, with eyes as blue as heaven,

For him my soul was sorely moved :

And truly might it be distrest
To see such bird in such a nest;
For he was beautiful as day-

(When day was beautiful to me
As to young eagles, being free)

A polar day, which will not see
A sunset till its summer 's gone,

Its sleepless summer of long light, The snow-clad offspring of the sun :

And thus he was as pure and bright, And in his natural spirit gay, With tears for nought but others' ills, And then they flow'd like mountain rills, Unless he could assuage Which he abhorr'd to view below.

the woe

V.

The other was as pure of mind,
But form'd to combat with his kind ;
Strong in his frame, and of a mood
Which 'gainst the world in war had stood,
And perish'd in the foremost rank

With joy:--but not in chains to pine ; His spirit wither'd with their clank,

I saw it silently decline

And so perchance in sooth did mine ;
But yet I forced it on to cheer
Those relics of a home so dear,
He was a hunter of the hills,

Had follow'd there the deer and wolf :

To him this dungeon was a gulf, And fetter'd feet the worst of ills.

VI,

Lake Leman lies by Chillon's walls :
A thousand feet in depth below
Its

massy waters meet and flow; Thus much the fathom-line was sent From Chillon's snow-white battlement, 5

Which round about the wave enthrals : A double dungeon wall and wave Have made--and like a living grave. Below the surface of the lake The dark vault lies wherein we lay: We heard it ripple night and day,

Sounding o'er our heads it knock’d; And I have felt the winter's spray

Wash through the bars when winds were high, And wanton in the happy sky;

And then the very rock hath rock'd,

And I have felt it shake unshock’d, Because I could have smiled to see

The death that would have set me free.

VII.

range

I said my nearer brother pined,
I said his mighty heart declined,
He loathed and put away bis food ;
It was not that 't was coarse and rude,
For we were used to hunters' fare,
And for the like had little care..
The milk drawn from the mountain goat
Was changed for water from the moat;
Our bread was such as captives' tears
Have moisten'd many a thousand years,
Since man first pent his fellow men
Like brutes within an iron den :
But what were these to us or him ?
These wasted not his heart or limb;
My brother's soul was of that mould
Which in a palace had grown

cold, Had his free breathing been denied The

of the steep mountain's side.
But why delay the truth?—he died.
I saw, and could not hold his head,
Nor reach his dying hand—nor dead,
Though hard I strove, but strove in vain,
To rend and gnash my bonds in twain.
He died—and they unlock'd his chain,
And scoop'd for him a shallow grave
Even from the cold earth of our caye.
I begg'd them, as a boon, to lay
His corse in dust whereon the day
Might shine: it was a foolish thought,
But then within my brain it wrought,
That even in death his free-born breast
In such a dungeon could not rest.
I might have spared my idle prayer-
They coldly laugh’d—and laid him there :
The flat and turfless earth above
The being we so much did love ;
His empty chain above it leant,
Such murder's fitting monument !

VIII.

But he, the favourite and the flower,
Most cherish'd since his natal hour,
His mother's image in fair face,
The infant love of all his race,
His martyr'd father's dearest thought,
My latest care, for whom I sought
To hoard my life, that his might be
Less wretched now, and one day free;
He, too, who yet had held untired
A spirit natural or inspired-
He, too, was struck, and day by day
Was wither'd on the stalk

away
Oh God ! it is a fearful thing
To see the human soul take wing
In any shape, in any mood.
I've seen it rushing forth in blood,
I 've seen it on the breaking ocean
Strive with a swoln convulsive motion ;
I 've seen the sick and ghastly bed
Of sin delirious with its dread :
But these were horrors—this was woe
Unmix'd with such—but sure and slow.
He faded, and so calm and meek,
So softly worn, so sweetly weak,
So tearless, yet so tender-kind,
And grieved for those he left behind ;
With all the while a cheek whose bloom
Was as a mockery of the tomb,
Whose tints as gently sunk away
As a departing rainbow's ray-
An

eye of most transparent light,
That almost made the dungeon bright ;
And not a word of murmur-not
A

groan o'er his untimely lot;
A little talk of better days,
A little hope my own to raise,
For I was sunk in silence-lost
In this last loss, of all the most.
And then the sighs he would suppress
Of fainting natựre's feebleness,
More slowly drawn, grew less and less.
I listen'd, but I could not hear-
I call’d, for I was wild with fear-
I knew 't was hopeless, but my

dread
Would not be thus admonished ;
I callid, and thought I heard a sound-
I burst my chain with one strong bound,

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