« AnteriorContinua »
and indignation as the fall of Switzerland. With the name of Switzerland have been connected, from our earliest years, all the worthy feelings of the heart, and all the exquisite beauties of nature; all that the eye of taste, or the soul of benevolence, could require. A race of brave, and happy, and good men animated her solemn rocks and glens. The climbing step of freedom had scanned the summit of the mountains. The unwearied hand of labor had drawn from the barren rock sustenance for man. The peasant, with his plough, and his sword, and his book, was at once a tiller of the earth, a soldier, and a Christian. Happiness never was more complete; imagination could not paint a more enviable lot upon earth, nor could the earth afford it. For six hundred years they had remained firm as their native mountains, amidst all the convulsions of Europe. For two hundred years they had hardly drawn the sword, or never drawn it but to conquer. They were a chosen land, beloved of God; and whilst the wrathful hail smote the lands about them, in their fields was no hail seen.
Into these hallowed retreats, in the midst of a solemn truce, in spite of the strict neutrality observed by the Swiss, and the solemn and repeated promises of their own government, burst the common enemies of mankind, hot from the carnage, and reeking with the blood, of other nations. They came to no new work of horror. They had murdered other innocents, and pillaged other temples, and wasted other lands. They could dye the silvered hair of the aged man with his own blood. They could curse the tears of women, and dash down the suckling babe as he lifted up his meek eyes for mercy.
In the midst of such horrid scenes as these, many actions of heroic valor characterized the last days of Switzerland; and she died with her face ever turned to the enemy, slowly yielding, and fiercely struggling to the last. In the final battle, fought near the environs of the capital, one hundred and sixty women were left dead upon the field of battle,
mangled almost to atoms. Still greater numbers perished at Nurenburg, at Laupen, and Lengnau, fighting with madness for all they loved upon earth, and throwing their comely bleeding bodies before their husbands and their children. In the Oberland, an old peasant was observed in arms, fighting amidst his three children, and his seven grandchildren. They sustained the combat with inconceivable bravery, calling upon each other by name tenderly; the children thronging about the old man, and guarding with their manly limbs the hoary head of their parent. They were all murdered; and in a moment of time this valiant race was blotted from the book of living men.
In the midst of all, wherever bravery and wherever counsel were needed, was their truly great and intrepid leader; * not now, as you might think, in the fulness of strength and youth, but an old man, of seventy years of age, who for half a century had ruled the affairs of the republic with the utmost wisdom and justice, and found himself, at the close of life, when ease and retirement, crowned with honor, are so sweet, found himself combating, in the midst of armed peasants, for the existence of his country. He had ever warned the Swiss of the dangers to which they were exposed, but unfortunately in vain. At the moment of actual peril, his age and his infirmities would have allowed him to retire without disgrace. But there are men who are ruled by something within, which they dread more than the judgment of the world. He who had guided his country in the days of her tranquillity, could not forsake her in her troubles. The miseries of Switzerland made her doubly dear to this good man; and, like a true leader of the people, he led them in the day of death and battle. The people are never ignorant who is fit to lead them. They rushed after him like the angel of the living God; and every Swiss peasant, who was stabbed at his feet, cast his linger
ing eyes on this great man, and when he saw him yet breathing, died in peace.
The vengeance which the French took of the Swiss, for their determined opposition to the invasion of their country, was decisive and terrible. The history of Europe can afford no parallel of such cruelty. To dark ages, and the most barbarous nations of the East, we must turn for similar scenes of horror, and perhaps must turn in vain. The soldiers, dispersed over the country, carried fire, and sword, and robbery, into the most tranquil and hidden valleys of Switzerland. From the depth of sweet retreats echoed the shrieks of murdered men, stabbed in their humble dwellings, under the shadow of the high mountains, in the midst of those scenes of nature which make solemn and pure the secret thoughts of man, and appal him with the majesty of God.
The flying peasants saw, in the midst of the night, their cottages, their implements of husbandry, and the hopes of the future year, expiring in one cruel conflagration. The men were shot upon the slightest provocation. Innumerable women, after being exposed to the most atrocious indignities, were murdered, and their bodies thrown into the woods. In some instances this conduct was resented; and for symptoms of such an honorable spirit, the beautiful town of Altorf was burned to the ground, and a single house left to show where it had stood. The town of Stanz, a town peculiarly dear to the Swiss, as it gave birth to one of the founders of their liberty, was reduced to a heap of cinders. In this town, in the fourteenth century, a Swiss general surprised and took prisoner the Austrian commander, who had murdered his father. He forgave him, upon the simple condition of his not serving any more against the Swiss cantons. When the French got possession of this place, they burned it to ashes; not in a barbarous age, but now yesterday — in an age we call philosophical. They burned it because the inhabitants endeavored to preserve their liberty.
The Swiss was a simple peasant; the French are a mighty people, combined for the regeneration of Europe!
O Europe, what dost thou owe to this mighty people? Dead bodies, ruinous heaps, broken hearts, waste places, childless mothers, widows, orphans, tears, endless confusion, and unutterable woe. For this mighty nation we have suffered seven years of unexampled wretchedness a long period of discord, jealousy, privation, and horror, which every reflecting man would almost wish blotted out from his existence. By this mighty people the Swiss have lost their country; that country which they loved so well, that if they heard but the simple song of their childhood, tears fell down every manly face, and the hearts of intrepid soldiers sobbed with grief.
What then! Is all this done with impunity? Are the thunders of God dumb? Are there no lightnings in his right hand? Pause a little, before you decide on the ways of Providence. Tarry, and see what will come to pass. There is a solemn and awful courage in the human heart, placed there by God himself, to guard man against the tyranny of his fellows; and whilst this lives, the world is safe. There slumbers even now, perhaps, upon the mountains of Switzerland, some youthful peasant, unconscious of the soul he bears, that shall lead down these bold people from their rocks to such deeds of courage as they have heard with their ears, and their fathers have declared unto them; to such as were done in their days, and in the old time before them, by those magnanimous rustics, who first taught foolish ambition to respect the wisdom and the spirit of simple men, righteously and honestly striving for every human blessing.
EXERCISES IN ARTICULATION.
Ebb'd, robb'd, prob'dst, blown, troubl'd, troubl'dst, troubles, troubl'st, brave, brown, robes, prob'st.
Hymn before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamouni.
HAST thou a charm to stay the morning star
Rave ceaselessly; but thou, most awful form '
O dread and silent mount! I gazed upon thee,
Didst vanish from my thought: entranced in prayer,
Yet, like some sweet, beguiling melody,
So sweet we know not we are listening to it,