Richard Monckton Milnes

Switzerland and Italy

Within the Switzer's varied land,
When Summer chases high the snow,
You'll meet with many a youthful band
Of strangers wandering to and fro:
Through hamlet, town, and healing bath,
They haste and rest as chance may call,
No day without its mountain--path,
No path without its waterfall.

They make the hours themselves repay,
However well or ill be shared,
Content that they should wing their way,
Unchecked, unreckoned, uncompared:
For though the hills unshapely rise,
And lie the colours poorly bright,--
They mould them by their cheerful eyes,
And paint them with their spirit's light.

Strong in their youthfulness, they use
The energies their souls possess;
And if some wayward scene refuse
To pay its part of loveliness,--
Onward they pass, nor less enjoy
For what they leave;--and far from me
Be every thought that would destroy
A charm of that simplicity!

But if one blot on that white page
From Doubt or Misery's pen be thrown,--
If once the sense awake, that Age
Is counted not by years alone,--
Then no more grand and wonderous things!
No active happinesses more!
The wounded Heart has lost its wings,
And change can only fret the sore.

Yet there is calm for those that weep,
Where the divine Italian sea
Rests like a maiden hushed asleep
And breathing low and measuredly;
Where all the sunset--purpled ground,
Fashioned by those delicious airs,
Seems strewed with softest cushions round
For weary heads to loose their cares:

Where Nature offers, at all hours,
Out of her free imperial store,
That perfect Beauty their weak powers
Can help her to create no more:
And grateful for that ancient aid,
Comes forth to comfort and relieve
Those minds in prostrate sorrow laid,
Bidding them open and receive!

Though still 'tis hardly she that gives,
For Nature reigns not there alone,
A mightier queen beside her lives,
Whom she can serve but not dethrone;
For she is fallen from the state
That waited on her Eden--prime,
And Art remains by Sin and Fate
Unscathed, for Art is not of Time.

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