Mary Robinson ( )

The Hermit of Mont-Blanc

High, on the Solitude of Alpine Hills,
Oer-topping the grand imagry of Nature,
Where one eternal winter seemd to reign;
An HERMITS threshold, carpetted with moss,
Diversified the Scene. Above the flakes
Of silvry snow, full many a modest flowr
Peepd through its icy veil, and blushing oped
Its variegated hues; The ORCHIS sweet,
The bloomy CISTUS, and the fragrant branch
Of glossy MYRTLE. In his rushy cell,
The lonely ANCHORET consumd his days,
Unnoticd, and unblest. In early youth,
Crossd in the fond affections of his soul
By false Ambition, from his parent home
He, solitary, wanderd; while the Maid
Whose peerless beauty won his yielding heart
Pined in monastic horrors ! Near his sill
A little cross he reard, where, prostrate low
At days pale glimpse, or when the setting Sun
Tissued the western sky with streamy gold,
His Orisons he pourd, for her, whose hours
Were wasted in oblivion. Winters passd,
And Summers faded, slow, unchearly all
To the lone HERMITS sorrows: For, still, Love
A dark, though unpolluted altar, reard
On the white waste of wonders!
From the peak
Which markd his neighbring Hut, his humid Eye
Oft wanderd oer the rich expanse below;
Oft tracd the glow of vegetating Spring,
The full-blown Summer splendours, and the hue
Of tawny scenes Autumnal: Vineyards vast,
Clothing the upland scene, and spreading wide
The promised tide nectareous; while for him
The liquid lapse of the slow brook was seen
Flashing amid the trees, its silvry wave!
Far distant, the blue mist of waters rose
Veiling the ridgy outline, faintly grey,
Blended with clouds, and shutting out the Sun.
The Seasons still revolvd, and still was he
By all forgotten, save by her, whose breast
Sighd in responsive sadness to the gale
That swept her prison turrets. Five long years,
Had seen his graces wither ere his Spring
Of life was wasted. From the social scenes
Of human energy an alien drivn,
He almost had forgot the face of Man.--
No voice had met his ear, save, when perchance
The Pilgrim wandrer, or the Goatherd Swain,
Bewilderd in the starless midnight hour
Implored the HERMITS aid, the HERMITS prayrs;
And nothing loath by pity or by prayr
Was he, to save the wretched. On the top
Of his low rushy Dome, a tinkling bell
Oft told the weary Travller to approach
Fearless of danger. The small silver sound
In quick vibrations echod down the dell
To the dim valleys quiet, while the breeze
Slept on the glassy LEMAN. Thus he past
His melancholy days, an alien Man
From all the joys of social intercourse,
Alone, unpitied, by the world forgot!

His Scrip each morning bore the days repast
Gatherd on summits, mingling with the clouds,
From whose bleak altitude the Eye lookd down
While fast the giddy brain was rockd by fear.
Oft would he start from visionary rest
When roaming wolves their midnight chorus howld,
Or blasts infuriate shatterd the white cliffs,
While the huge fragments, rifted by the storm,
Plungd to the dell below. Oft would he sit
In silent sadness on the jutting block
Of snow-encrusted ice, and, shuddring mark
(Amid the wonders of the frozen world)
Dissolving pyramids, and threatening peaks,
Hang oer his hovel, terribly Sublime.

And oft, when Summer breathd ambrosial gales,
Soft sailing oer the waste of printless dew
Or twilight gossamer, his pensive gaze
Tracd the swift storm advancing, whose broad wing
Blackend the rushy dome of his low Hut;
While the pale lightning smote the pathless top
Of towring CENIS, scattring high and wide
A mist of fleecy Snow. Then would he hear,
(While MEMRY brought to view his happier days)
The tumbling torrent, bursting wildly forth
From its thawd prison, sweep the shaggy cliff
Vast and Stupendous ! strengthning as it fell,
And delving, mid the snow, a cavern rude!

So livd the HERMIT, like an hardy Tree
Placd on a mountains solitary brow,
And destind, thro the Seasons, to endure
Their wondrous changes. To behold the face
Of ever-varying Nature, and to mark
In each grand lineament, the work of GOD!
And happier he, in total Solitude
Than the poor toil-worn wretch, whose ardent Soul
That GOD has nobly organizd, but taught,
For purposes unknown, to bear the scourge
Of sharp adversity, and vulgar pride.
Happier, O ! happier far, than those who feel,
Yet live amongst the unfeeling ! feeding still
The throbbing heart, with anguish, or with Scorn.

One dreary night when Winters icy breath
Half petrified the scene, when not a star
Gleamd oer the black infinity of space,
Sudden, the HERMIT started from his couch
Fear-struck and trembling! Evry limb was shook
With painful agitation. On his cheek
The blanchd interpreter of horror mute
Sat terribly impressive! In his breast
The ruddy fount of life convulsive flowd
And his broad eyes, fixd motionless as death,
Gazd vacantly aghast ! His feeble lamp
Was wasting rapidly; the biting gale
Piercd the thin texture of his narrow cell;
And Silence, like a fearful centinel
Marking the peril which awaited near,
Conspird with sullen Night, to wrap the scene
In tenfold horrors. Thrice he rose; and thrice
His feet recoild; and still the livid flame
Lengthend and quiverd as the moaning wind
Passd thro the rushy crevice, while his heart
Beat, like the death-watch, in his shuddring breast.

Like the pale Image of Despair he sat,
The cold drops pacing down his hollow cheek,
When a deep groan assaild his startled ear,
And rousd him into action. To the sill
Of his low hovel he rushd forth, (for fear
Will sometimes take the shape of fortitude,
And force men into bravery) and soon
The wicker bolt unfastend. The swift blast,
Now unrestraind, flew by; and in its course
The quivring lamp extinguishd, and again
His soul was thrilld with terror. On he went,
Een to the snow-fringd margin of the cragg,
Which to his citadel a platform made
Slippry and perilous! Twas darkness, all!
All, solitary gloom!--The concave vast
Of Heavn frownd chaos; for all varied things
Of air, and earth, and waters, blended, lost
Their forms, in blank oblivion ! Yet not long
Did Nature wear her sable panoply,
For, while the HERMIT listend, from below
A stream of light ascended, spreading round
A partial view of trackless solitudes;
And mingling voices seemd, with busy hum,
To break the spell of horrors. Down the steep
The HERMIT hastend, when a shriek of death
Re-echoed to the valley. As he flew,
(The treachrous pathway yielding to his speed,)
Half hoping, half despairing, to the scene
Of wonder-waking anguish, suddenly
The torches were extinct; and second night
Came doubly hideous, while the hollow tongues
Of cavernd winds, with melancholy sound
Increasd the HERMITS fears. Four freezing hours
He watchd and prayd: and now the glimmring dawn
Peerd on the Eastern Summits; (the blue light
Shedding cold lustre on the colder brows
Of Alpine desarts;) while the filmy wing
Of weeping Twilight, swept the naked plains
Of the Lombardian landscape.
On his knees
The ANCHORET blest Heavn, that he had scapd
The many perilous and fearful falls
Of waters wild and foamy, tumbling fast
From the shaggd altitude. But, ere his prayrs
Rose to their destind Heavn, another sight,
Than all preceding far more terrible,
Palsied devotions ardour. On the Snow,
Dappled with ruby drops, a track was made
By steps precipitate; a rugged path
Down the steep frozen chasm had markd the fate
Of some night traveller, whose bleeding form
Had toppled from the Summit. Lower still
The ANCHORET descended, till arrived
At the first ridge of silvry battlements,
Where, lifeless, ghastly, paler than the snow
On which her cheek reposd, his darling Maid
Slept in the dream of Death ! Frantic and wild
He claspd her stiffning form, and bathd with tears
The lilies of her bosom,--icy cold--
Yet beautiful and spotless.
Now, afar
The wondring HERMIT heard the clang of arms
Re-echoing from the valley: the white cliffs
Trembled as though an Earthquake shook their base
With terrible concussion ! Thundring peals
From warfares brazen throat, proclaimd th approach
Of conquering legions: onward they extend
Their dauntless columns ! In the foremost group
A Ruffian met the HERMITS startled Eyes
Like Hells worst Demon ! For his murdrous hands
Were smeard with gore; and on his daring breast
A golden cross, suspended, bore the name
Of his ill-fated Victim!--ANCHORET!
Thy VESTAL Saint, by his unhallowd hands
Torn from RELIGIONS Altar, had been made
The sport of a dark Fiend, whose recreant Soul
Had shamd the cause of Valour ! To his cell
The Soul-struck Exile turnd his trembling feet,
And after three lone weeks, of pain and prayr,
Shrunk from the scene of Solitude--and DIED!

Mary Robinson's other poems:
  1. To Cesario
  2. The Poor Singing Dame
  3. Sonnet to Evening
  4. Sonnet to My Beloved Daughter
  5. Sonnet 40. On the Low Margin

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