Felicia Dorothea Hemans
The Switzer's Wife - Poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans
Nor look nor tone revealeth aught
Save woman's quietness of thought;
And yet around her is a light
Of inward majesty and might.
Wer solch ein herz an seinen Busen dr?Der kann fur herd und hof mit freuden fechten.
~ Willholm Tell
It was the time when children bound to meet
Their father's homeward step from field or hill,
And when the herd's returning bells are sweet
In the Swiss valleys, and the lakes grow still,
And the last note of that wild horn swells by,
Which haunts the exile's heart with melody.
And lovely smil'd full many an Alpine home,
Touch'd with the crimson of the dying hour,
Which lit its low roof by the torrent's foam,
And pierced its lattice thro' the vine-hung bower;
But one, the loveliest o'er the land that rose,
Then first look'd mournful in its green repose.
For Werner sat beneath the linden-tree,
That sent its lulling whispers through his door,
Ev'n as man sits, whose heart alone would be
With some deep care, and thus can find no more
Th' accustom'd joy in all which Evening brings,
Gathering a household with her quiet wings.
His wife stood hush'd before him,?sad, yet mild
In her beseeching mien;?he mark'd it not.
The silvery laughter of his bright-hair'd child
Rang from the greensward round the shelter'd spot,
But seem'd unheard; until at last the boy
Rais'd from his heap'd-up flowers a glance of joy,
And met his father's face; but then a change
Pass'd swiftly o'er the brow of infant glee,
And a quick sense of something dimly strange
Brought him from play to stand beside the knee
So often climb'd, and lift his loving eyes
That shone through clouds of sorrowful surprise.
Then the proud bosom of the strong man shook;
But tenderly his babe's fair mother laid
Her hand on his, and with a pleading look,
Thro' tears half quivering, o'er him bent, and said,
'What grief, dear friend, hath made thy heart its prey,
That thou shouldst turn thee from our love away?
'It is too sad to see thee thus, my friend!
Mark'st thou the wonder on thy boy's fair brow,
Missing the smile from thine? Oh! cheer thee! bend
To his soft arms, unseal thy thoughts e'en now!
Thou dost not kindly to withhold the share
Of tried affection in thy secret care.'
He looked up into that sweet earnest face,
But sternly, mournfully: not yet the band
Was loosen'd from his soul; its inmost place
Not yet unveil'd by love's o'ermastering hand.
'Speak low!' he cried, and pointed where on high
The white Alps glitter'd thro' the solemn sky:
'We must speak low amidst our ancient hills
And their free torrents; for the days are come
When tyranny lies couch'd by forest-rills,
And meets the shepherd in his mountain-home.
Go, pour the wine of our own grapes in fear,
Keep silence by the hearth! its foes are near.
'The envy of th' oppressor's eye hath been
Upon my heritage. I sit to-night
Under my household tree, if not serene,
Yet with the faces best-beloved in sight:
To-morrow eve may find me chain'd, and thee?
How can I bear the boy's young smiles to see?'
The bright blood left that youthful mother's cheek;
Back on the linden-stem she lean'd her form,
And her lip trembled, as it strove to speak,
Like a frail harp-string, shaken by the storm.
'Twas but a moment, and the faintness pass'd,
And the free Alpine spirit woke at last.
And she, that ever thro' her home had mov'd
With the meek thoughtfulness and quiet smile
Of woman, calmly loving and belov'd,
And timid in her happiness the while,
Stood brightly forth, and steadfastly, that hour,
Her clear glance kindling into sudden power.
Ay, pale she stood, but with an eye of light,
And took her fair child to her holy breast,
And lifted her soft voice, that gathered might
As it found language:?'Are we thus oppress'd?
Then must we rise upon our mountain-sod,
And man must arm, and woman call on God!
'I know what thou wouldst do: And be it done!
Thy soul is darken'd with its fears for me.
Trust me to Heaven, my husband!?this, thy son,
The babe whom I have born thee, must be free!
And the sweet memory of our pleasant hearth
May well give strength?if aught be strong on earth.
'Thou hast been brooding o'er the silent dread
Of my desponding tears; now, lift once more,
My hunter of the hills! thy stately head,
And let thine eagle glance my joy restore!
I can bear all, but seeing thee subdued,?
Take to thee back thine own undaunted mood.
'Go forth beside the waters, and along
The chamois paths, and thro' the forests go;
And tell, in burning words, thy tale of wrong
To the brave hearts that midst the hamlets glow.
God shall be with thee, my belov'd!?Away!
Bless but thy child, and leave me:?I can pray!'
He sprang up, like a warrior-youth awaking
To clarion-sounds upon the ringing air;
He caught her to his breast, while proud tears breaking
From his dark eyes, fell o'er her braided hair;?
And 'Worthy art thou,' was his joyous cry,
'That man for thee should gird himself to die.
'My bride, my wife, the mother of my child!
Now shall thy name be armour to my heart:
And this our land, by chains no more defiled,
Be taught of thee to choose the better part!
I go?thy spirit on my words shall dwell,
Thy gentle voice shall stir the Alps:?Farewell!'
And thus they parted, by the quiet lake,
In the clear starlight: he, the strength to rouse
Of the free hills; she, thoughtful for his sake,
To rock her child beneath the whispering boughs,
Singing its blue half-curtain'd eyes to sleep,
With a low hymn, amidst the stillness deep.
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