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,

The tie which bound the first endures the But this was for my father's faith

I suffered chains and courted death.
That father perished at the stake

For tenets he would not forsake;

And for the same his lineal race

In darkness found a dwelling-place.
We were seven

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

gray, trod,

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 now is painful to these eyes,

Which have not seen the sun so rise
My hair is gray, but not with years,

- 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.







For years


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They chained us each to a column stone,
And we were three — yet, each alone:
We could not move a single pace,
We could not see each other's face,
But with that pale and livid light
That made us strangers in our sight.
And thus together, — yet apart,
Fettered in hand, but joined in heart,
'Twas still some solace, in the dearth
Of the pure elements of earth,
To hearken to each other's speech,
And each turn comforter to each
With some new hope, or legend old,

song heroically bold;
But even these at length grew cold.
Our voices took a dreary tone,
An echo of the dungeon stone,

A grating sound, not full and free, 65
As they of yore were wont to be:

It might be fancy, but to me They never sounded like our own.

The other was as pure of mind,
But formed to combat with his kind
Strong in his frame, and of a mood
Which 'gainst the world in war had

And perished in the foremost rank

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,
But yet I forced it on to cheer
Those relics of a home so dear.
He was a hunter of the hills,

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,
I said his mighty heart declined:
He loathed and put away his food;
It was not that 'twas coarse and rude,
For we were used to hunter's fare,
And for the like had little care






The milk drawn from the mountain goat
Was changed for water from the moat,
Our bread was such as captives' tears
Have moistened many a thousand years, 135
Since man first pent his fellow men
Like brutes within an iron den:
But what were these to us or him?
These wasted not his heart or limb;
My brother's soul was of that mould
Which in a palace had grown cold,
Had his free breathing been denied
The range of the steep mountain's side.
But why delay the truth? — he died.
I saw, and could not hold his head, 145
Nor reach his dying hand,

nor dead:
Though hard I strove, but strove in vain,
To rend and gnash my bonds in twain.
He died — and they unlocked his chain,
And scooped for him a shallow grave 150
Even from the cold earth of our cave.
I begged them, as a boon, to lay
His corse in dust whereon the day
Might shine – it was a foolish thought,
But then within my brain it wrought, 155
That even in death his freeborn breast
In such a dungeon could not rest.
I might have spared my idle prayer
They coldly laughed, and laid him there:
The flat and turfless earth above
The being we so much did love;
His empty chain above it leant,
Such murder's fitting monument !


In any shape, in any mood:
I've seen it rushing forth in blood,
I've seen it on the breaking ocean
Strive with a swoln convulsive motion,
I've seen the sick and ghastly bed
Of Sin delirious with its dread:
But these were horrors—this was woe
Unmixed with such, — but sure and slow.
He faded, and so calm and meek,
So softly worn, so sweetly weak,
So tearless, yet so tender, — kind,
And grieved for those he left behind;
With all the while a cheek whose bloom
Was as a mockery of the tomb

Whose tints as gently sunk away
As a departing rainbow's ray;
An eye of most transparent light,
That almost made the dungeon bright, 195
And not a word of murmur, not
A groan o'er his untimely lot, -
A little talk of better days,
A little hope my own to raise,
For I was sunk in silence - lost
In this last loss, of all the most.
And then the sighs he would suppress
Of fainting nature's feebleness,
More slowly drawn, grew less and less.
I listened, but I could not hear
I called, for I was wild with fear:
I knew 'twas hopeless, but my dread
Would not be thus admonished:
I called, and thought I heard a sound
I burst my chain with one strong bound,
And rushed to him: I found him not. 211
I only stirred in this black spot,
I only lived, I only drew
The accursèd breath of dungeon-dew:
The last, the sole, the dearest link
Between me and the eternal brink,
Which bound me to my failing race,
Was broken in this fatal place.
One on the earth, and one beneath
My brothers - both had ceased to breathe.
I took that hand which lay so still;
Alas! my own was full as chill;
I had not strength to stir, or strive,
But felt that I was still alive –
A frantic feeling, when we know
That what we love shall ne'er be so.






But he, the favorite and the flower,
Most cherished since his natal hour, 165
His mother's image in fair face,
The infant love of all his race,
His martyred father's dearest thought,
My latest care, for whom I sought
To hoard my life, that his might be
Less wretched now, and one day free, –
He, too, who yet had held untired
A spirit natural or inspired –
He, too, was struck, and day by day
Was withered on the stalk away.
Oh, God! it is a fearful thing
To see the human soul take wing





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And seemed to say them all for me!
I never saw its like before,
I ne'er shall see its likeness more:
It seemed like me to want a mate,
But was not half so desolate,
And it was come to love me when
None lived to love me so again,
And cheering from my dungeon's brink,
Had brought me back to feel and think.
I know not if it late were free,

Or broke its cage to perch on mine, 280
But knowing well captivity,
Sweet bird! I could not wish for

thine! Or if it were, in winged guise, A visitant from Paradise; For — Heaven forgive that thought! the while

Which made me both to weep and smile -
I sometimes deemed that it might be
My brother's soul come down to me;
But then at last away it few,
And then 'twas mortal, well I knew,
For he would never thus have flown,
And left me twice so doubly lone,
Lone as the corse within its shroud,
Lone as a solitary cloud,

A single cloud on a sunny day,
While all the rest of heaven is clear,
A frown upon the atmosphere,
That hath no business to appear

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;
It ceased, and then it came again,

The sweetest song ear ever heard;
And mine was thankful, till my eyes
Ran over with the glad surprise,
And they that moment could not see
I was the mate of misery.
But then by dull degrees came back
My senses to their wonted track:
I saw the dungeon walls and Aloor
Close slowly round me as before;
I saw the glimmer of the sun
Creeping as it before had done.
But through the crevice where it came
That bird was perched, as fond and tame,

And tamer than upon the tree;
A lovely bird, with azure wings,
And song that said a thousand things,



A kind of change came in my fate,
My keepers grew compassionate:
I know not what had made them so,
They were inured to sights of woe,
But so it was - My broken chain
With links unfastened did remain,
And it was liberty to stride
Along my cell from side to side,
And up and down, and then athwart,
And tread it over every part;
And round the pillars one by one,
Returning where my walk begun,
Avoiding only, as I trod,
My brothers' graves without a sod;



For if I thought with heedless tread
My step profaned their lowly bed, 315
My breath came gaspingly and thick,
And my crushed heart fell blind and sick.


I had not left my recent chain.
And when I did descend again,
The darkness of my dim abode
Fell on me as a heavy load;
It was as is a new-dug grave,
Closing o'er one we sought to save,
And yet my glance, too much opprest,
Had almost need of such a rest.





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,
They were not changed like me in frame;
I saw their thousand years of snow
On high

their wide long lake below, 335
And the blue Rhone in fullest flow.
I heard the torrents leap and gush
O'er channelled rock and broken bush;
I saw the white-walled distant town,
And whiter sails go skimming down. 340
And then there was a little isle,
Which in my very face did smile,

The only one in view;
A small green isle, it seemed no more,
Scarce broader than my dungeon Aoor, 345
But in it there were three tall trees,
And o'er it blew the mountain breeze,
And by it there were waters flowing,
And on it there were young flowers

Of gentle breath and hue.
The fish swam by the castle wall,
And they seemed joyous each and all;
The eagle rode the rising blast,
Methought he never few so fast
As then to me he seemed to fly;
And then new tears came in my eye,
And I felt troubled — and would fain



even I




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;



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