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We were and are — I am, even as thou My limbs are bowed, though not with art
toil, Beings who ne'er each other can resign:
But rusted with a vile repose, It is the same, together or apart,
For they have been a dungeon's spoil, From life's commencement to its slow And mine has been the fate of those decline
To whom the goodly earth and air We are entwined let death come slow Are banned, and barred forbidden or fast,
I suffered chains and courted death.
For tenets he would not forsake;
And for the same his lineal race
In darkness found a dwelling-place.
who now are one:
Six in youth, and one in age, Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!
Finished as they had begun, Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,
Proud of Persecution's rage: For there thy habitation is the heart
One in fire, and two in field, The heart which love of thee alone can
Their belief with blood have sealed, bind;
Dying as their father died, And when thy sons to fetters are con
For the God their foes denied; signed
Three were in a dungeon cast, To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless
Of whom this wreck is left the last. gloom, Their country conquers with their mar
tyrdom, And Freedom's fame finds wings on every There are seven pillars of Gothic mould wind.
In Chillon's dungeons deep and old: Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,
There are seven columns, massy and And thy sad floor an altar — for 'twas
Dim with a dull imprisoned ray, Until his very steps have left a trace A sunbeam which hath lost its way, Worn, as if thy cold pavement were
And through the crevice and the cleft sod,
Of the thick wall is fallen and left, By Bonnivard! May none those marks
Creeping o'er the floor so damp, efface!
Like a marsh's meteor lamp. For they appeal from tyranny to God.
And in each pillar there is a ring,
And in each ring there is a chain: THE PRISONER OF CHILLON That iron is a cankering thing,
For in these limbs its teeth remain,
With marks that will not wear away, 40 (1816)
Till I have done with this new day,
Which have not seen the sun so rise
- I cannot count them o'er: Nor grew it white
I lost their long and heavy score In a single night,
When my last brother drooped and died, As men's have grown from sudden fears; And I lay living by his side.
They chained us each to a column stone,
song heroically bold;
A grating sound, not full and free, 65
It might be fancy, but to me They never sounded like our own.
The other was as pure of mind,
With joy — but not in chains to pine. His spirit withered with their clank,
I saw it silently decline –
And so perchance in sooth did mine,
Had followed there the deer and wolf;
To him this dungeon was a gulf, And fettered feet the worst of ills.
Lake Leman lies by Chillon's walls: A thousand feet in depth below, Its massy waters meet and Aow; Thus much the fathom-line was sent From Chillon's snow-white battlement,
Which, round about, the wave inthralls: A double dungeon wall and wave Have made — and like a living grave. Below the surface of the lake
115 The dark vault lies wherein we lay: We heard it ripple night and day;
Sounding o'er our heads it knocked; 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 rocked,
And I have felt it shake, unshocked, Because I could have smiled to see The death that would have set me free. 125
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 distressed 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 til 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 flowed like mountain rills, Unless he could assuage the woe Which he abhorred to view below.
I said my nearer brother pined,
The milk drawn from the mountain goat
In any shape, in any mood:
But he, the favorite and the flower,
And seemed to say them all for me!
Or broke its cage to perch on mine, 280
thine! Or if it were, in winged guise, A visitant from Paradise; For — Heaven forgive that thought! the while
A single cloud on a sunny day,
When skies are blue, and earth is gay.
What next befell me then and there
I know not well — I never knew; First came the loss of light, and air,
And then of darkness too. I had no thought, no feeling Among the stones I stood a stone, And was, scarce conscious what I wist, As shrubless crags within the mist; For all was blank, and bleak, and gray: It was not night, it was not day; It was not even the dungeon-light, So hateful to my heavy sight; But vacancy absorbing space, And fixedness without a place. There were no stars, no earth, no time, No check, no change, no good, no crime, But silence, and a stirless breath Which neither was of life nor death: A sea of stagnant idleness, Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless! 250
A light broke in upon my brain,
It was the carol of a bird;
The sweetest song ear ever heard;
And tamer than upon the tree;
A kind of change came in my fate,
For if I thought with heedless tread
I had not left my recent chain.
I made a footing in the wall:
It was not therefrom to escape, For I had buried one and all
Who loved me in a human shape; And the whole earth would henceforth be A wider prison unto me. No child, no sire, no kin had I, No partner in my misery; I thought of this, and I was glad, For thought of them had made me mad. But I was curious to ascend To my barred windows, and to bend Once more, upon the mountains high, 330 The quiet of a loving eye.
It might be months, or years, or days —
I kept no count, I took no note, I had no hope my eyes to raise,
And clear them of their dreary mote At last men came to set me free;
I asked not why, and recked not where: It was at length the same to me, Fettered or fetterless to be,
I learned to love despair. And thus when they appeared at last, And all my bonds aside were cast, These heavy walls to me had grown A hermitage — and all my own! And half I felt as they were come To tear me from a second home. With spiders I had friendship made, And watched them in their sullen trade, Had seen the mice by moonlight play, And why should I feel less than they? We were all inmates of one place, And I, the monarch of each race, Had power to kill — yet, strange to tell! In quiet we had learned to dwell. My very chains and I grew friends, So much a long communion tends To make us what we are: Regained my freedom with a sigh.
I saw them, and they were the same,
their wide long lake below, 335
The only one in view;
Titan! to whose immortal eyes
The sufferings of mortality,
Seen in their sad reality, Were not as things that gods despise What was thy pity's recompense? A silent suffering, and intense;