Childe Harold- Canto 3 LXVIII - CV

George Gordon, Lord Byron

[Extracts]               LXVIII.
Lake Leman woos me with its crystal face,
  The mirror where the stars and mountains view
  The stillness of their aspect in each trace
  Its clear depth yields of their far height and hue:
  There is too much of Man here, to look through
  With a fit mind the might which I behold;
  But soon in me shall Loneliness renew
  Thoughts hid, but not less cherished than of old,
Ere mingling with the herd had penned me in their fold.

Are not the mountains, waves, and skies, a part
  Of me and of my Soul, as I of them?
  Is not the love of these deep in my heart
  With a pure passion? should I not contemn
  All objects, if compared with these? and stem
  A tide of suffering, rather than forego
  Such feelings for the hard and worldly phlegm
  Of those whose eyes are only turned below,
Gazing upon the ground, with thoughts which dare not glow?

Clear, placid Leman! thy contrasted lake,
  With the wild world I dwelt in, is a thing
  Which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake
  Earth's troubled waters for a purer spring.
  This quiet sail is as a noiseless wing
  To waft me from distraction; once I loved
  Torn Ocean's roar, but thy soft murmuring
  Sounds sweet as if a Sister's voice reproved,
That I with stern delights should e'er have been so moved.

It is the hush of night, and all between
  Thy margin and the mountains, dusk, yet clear,
  Mellowed and mingling, yet distinctly seen,
  Save darkened Jura, whose capt heights appear
  Precipitously steep; and drawing near,
  There breathes a living fragrance from the shore,
  Of flowers yet fresh with childhood; on the ear
  Drops the light drip of the suspended oar,
Or chirps the grasshopper one good-night carol more.
The sky is changed!--and such a change! Oh Night,
  And Storm, and Darkness, ye are wondrous strong,
  Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light
  Of a dark eye in Woman!Far along,
  From peak to peak, the rattling crags among
  Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
  But every mountain now hath found a tongue,
  And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!

And this is in the Night:--Most glorious Night!
  Thou wert not sent for slumber! let me be
  A sharer in thy fierce and far delight,--
  A portion of the tempest and of thee!
  How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea,
  And the big rain comes dancing to the earth!
  And now again 'tis black,--and now, the glee
  Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain-mirth,
As if they did rejoice o'er a young Earthquake's birth.

Now, where the swift Rhone cleaves his way between
  Heights which appear as lovers who have parted
  In hate, whose mining depths so intervene,
  That they can meet no more, though broken-hearted:
  Though in their souls, which thus each other thwarted,
  Love was the very root of the fond rage
  Which blighted their life's bloom, and then departed:--
  Itself expired, but leaving them an age
Of years all winters,--war within themselves to wage:

Now, where the quick Rhone thus hath cleft his way,
  The mightiest of the storms hath ta'en his stand:
  For here, not one, but many, make their play,
  And fling their thunder-bolts from hand to hand,
  Flashing and cast around: of all the band,
  The brightest through these parted hills hath forked
  His lightnings,--as if he did understand,
  That in such gaps as Desolation worked,
There the hot shaft should blast whatever therein lurked.

Sky--Mountains--River--Winds--Lake--Lightnings! ye!
  With night, and clouds, and thunder--and a Soul
  To make these felt and feeling, well may be
  Things that have made me watchful; the far roll
  Of your departing voices, is the knoll
  Of what in me is sleepless,--if I rest.
  But where of ye, O Tempests! is the goal?
  Are ye like those within the human breast?
Or do ye find, at length, like eagles, some high nest?

Could I embody and unbosom now
  That which is most within me,--could I wreak
   My thoughts upon expression, and thus throw
   Soul--heart--mind--passions--feelings--strong or weak--
   All that I would have sought, and all I seek,
   Bear, know, feel--and yet breathe--into one word,
   And that one word were Lightning, I would speak;
   But as it is, I live and die unheard,
With a most voiceless thought, sheathing it as a sword.

The Morn is up again, the dewy Morn,
  With breath all incense, and with cheek all bloom--
  Laughing the clouds away with playful scorn,
  And living as if earth contained no tomb,--
  And glowing into day: we may resume
  The march of our existence: and thus I,
  Still on thy shores, fair Leman! may find room
  And food for meditation, nor pass by
Much, that may give us pause, if pondered fittingly.

Clarens! sweet Clarens birthplace of deep Love!
  Thine air is the young breath of passionate Thought;
  Thy trees take root in Love; the snows above,
  The very Glaciers have his colours caught,
  And Sun-set into rose-hues sees them wrought
  By rays which sleep there lovingly: the rocks,
  The permanent crags, tell here of Love, who sought
  In them a refuge from the worldly shocks,
Which stir and sting the Soul with Hope that woos, then mocks.

Clarens! by heavenly feet thy paths are trod,--
  Undying Love's, who here ascends a throne
  To which the steps are mountains; where the God
  Is a pervading Life and Light,--so shown
  Not on those summits solely, nor alone
  In the still cave and forest; o'er the flower
  His eye is sparkling, and his breath hath blown,
  His soft and summer breath, whose tender power
Passes the strength of storms in their most desolate hour.

All things are here of Him; from the black pines,
  Which are his shade on high, and the loud roar
  Of torrents, where he listeneth, to the vines
  Which slope his green path downward to the shore,
  Where the bowed Waters meet him, and adore,
  Kissing his feet with murmurs; and the Wood,
  The covert of old trees, with trunks all hoar,
  But light leaves, young as joy, stands where it stood,
Offering to him, and his, a populous solitude.

A populous solitude of bees and birds,
  And fairy-formed and many-coloured things,
  Who worship him with notes more sweet than words,
  And innocently open their glad wings,
  Fearless and full of life: the gush of springs,
  And fall of lofty fountains, and the bend
  Of stirring branches, and the bud which brings
  The swiftest thought of Beauty, here extend
Mingling--and made by Love--unto one mighty end.

He who hath loved not, here would learn that lore,
  And make his heart a spirit; he who knows
  That tender mystery, will love the more;
  For this is Love's recess, where vain men's woes,
  And the world's waste, have driven him far from those,
  For 'tis his nature to advance or die;
  He stands not still, but or decays, or grows
  Into a boundless blessing, which may vie
With the immortal lights, in its eternity!

'Twas not for fiction chose Rousseau this spot,
  Peopling it with affections; but he found
  It was the scene which Passion must allot
  To the Mind's purified beings; 'twas the ground
  Where early Love his Psyche's zone unbound,
  And hallowed it with loveliness: 'tis lone,
  And wonderful, and deep, and hath a sound,
  And sense, and sight of sweetness; here the Rhone
Hath spread himself a couch, the Alps have reared a throne.

Lausanne! and Ferney! ye have been the abodes
  Of Names which unto you bequeathed a name;
  Mortals, who sought and found, by dangerous roads,
  A path to perpetuity of Fame:
  They were gigantic minds, and their steep aim
  Was, Titan-like, on daring doubts to pile
  Thoughts which should call down thunder, and the flame
  Of Heaven again assailed--if Heaven, the while,
On man and man's research could deign do more than smile.

Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman lies on the border between Switzerland and France. It is part of the course of the Rhone River, which flows into it from the Cantons of Vaud and Valais at its Eastern end then flows out of the lake at Geneva in the west. Lake Geneva is the largest lake in Western Europe.

The Jura mountains lie to the west of the lake. The course of the Rhone from the other side is through the high Alps.

Ferney is where the great French, writer and thinker Voltaire lived for the last 20 years of his life, from 1759 to 1778. His chateau is now a museum. Lausanne's great 2Name" is probably Gibbon, who lived there many years and wrote much of his great Decline and Fall at his house in Lausanne.  The great English poet Thomas Hardy also wrote about Gibbon's House in Lausanne.