The Lion of Lucerne

A. Judson Rich

O’er, foaming Reuss with waters green,
  There stood a bridge with friendly light,
  Fair beacon for the treacherous night,
By traveller and boatman seen;
      Lucerna was its name,
      Born of its lambent flame,
True symbol of celestial sheen.

Here fair Helvetia’s city rose,
  Begirt with Roman wall and moat;
  In ancient days here Cæsar smote,
With arm of strength, all haughty foes,—
      And Roman valor still
      Inspires the common will,
And nerves the arm for valiant blows.

But moat and wall of ancient day
  In ruin lie; no signal light,
  As erst, illumes the darkling night;
No feud invites the midnight fray;
      But mountain shadows fall,
      The wealth and joy of all,—
All nature smiles in sweet array.

And palaces in splendor rise,
  And rich cathedral, quaint and old,
  Whose organ-music doth unfold
The heart, as message from the skies:
      A thing of beauty we discern
      In the Lion of Lucerne,
A joy forever to all eyes.

Wrought from the native granite rock,
  Danish Thorwaldsen’s masterpiece,
  Couchant, transfixed, without surcease
Of pain, struggles against the shock;
      And while for breath he gasps,
      Lily of France he grasps
With ardent pressure ere he dies.

Life pours from out the ghastly wound,
  His swollen eyes weep drops of blood,
  Fit emblem of the crimson flood
That filled the Tuileries when the ground
      Lay thick with noble dead,
      To cruel slaughter led,
Touching with grief the wide world round.


The Dane Bertel Thorvaldsen designed the Lion of Lucerne, but it was carved by Lukas Ahorn in 1820-21.

The sculpture of a mortally-wounded lion is a memorial to the Swiss Guards of the Tuileries Palace, who were murdered when the palace was stormed by revolutionaries during the French Revolution in 1792.

For Mark Twain, the monument was "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world."