The Church of San Salvador, Seen from the Lake of Lugano

William Wordsworth


This church was almost destroyed by lightning a few years ago, but the altar and the image of the patron saint were untouched. The Mount, upon the summit of which the church is built, stands amid the intricacies of the Lake of Lugano; and is, from a hundred points of view, its principal ornament, rising to the height of 2,000 feet, and on one side nearly perpendicular. The ascent is toilsome; but the traveller who performs it will be amply rewarded.


THOU sacred pile! whose turrets rise

From yon steep mountain’s loftiest stage,

Guarded by lone San Salvador;

Sink (If thou must) as heretofore,

To sulphurous bolts a sacrifice,

But ne’er to human rage!


On Horeb’s top, on Sinai, deigned

To rest the Universal Lord:

Why leap the fountains from their cells

Where everlasting bounty dwells?

That, while the creature is sustained,

His God may be adored.


Cliffs, fountains, rivers, seasons, times,—

Let all remind the soul of heaven;

Our slack devotion needs them all;

And Faith—so oft of sense the thrall,

While she, by aid of nature, climbs—

May hope to be forgiven.


Glory, and patriotic Love,

And all the pomps of this frail “spot

Which men call earth,” have yearned to seek,

Associate with the simply meek,

Religion in the sainted grove

And in the hallowed grot.


Thither, in time of adverse shocks,

Of fainting hopes and backward wills,

Did mighty Tell repair of old,—

A hero cast in Nature’s mould,

Deliverer of the steadfast rocks

And of the ancient hills!


He, too, of battle-martyrs chief!

Who, to recall his daunted peers,

For victory shaped an open space,

By gathering with a wide embrace,

Into his single breast, a sheaf

Of fatal Austrian spears.


You can now ascend to Monte San Salvatore in a funicular railway from the town of Lugano.

Poetry Atlas also has many poems about the other famously beautiful lakes in the north of Italy, such as Lake Garda and Lake Como.