On Approaching the Staub-Bach, Lauterbrunnen

William Wordsworth

 “While we were at the Waterfall, some half-score peasants, chiefly women and girls, assembled just out of reach of the spring, and set up—surely, the wildest chorus that ever was heard by human ears—a song not of articulate sounds, but in which the voice was used as a mere instrument of music, more flexible than any which art could produce,—sweet, powerful, and thrilling beyond description.”—Robert Southey, Notes to “A Tale of Paraguay.”


UTTERED by whom, or how inspired,—designed

For what strange service, does this concert reach

Our ears, and near the dwellings of mankind!

Mid fields familiarized to human speech?

No mermaids warble—to allay the wind

Driving some vessel toward a dangerous beach,—

More thrilling melodies; witch answering witch,

To chant a love-spell, never intertwined

Notes shrill and wild with art more musical:

Alas! that from the lips of abject want

Or idleness in tatters mendicant

The strain should flow,—free fancy to enthral,

And with regret and useless pity haunt

This bold, this bright, this sky-born waterfall!