A Descent of the Moench.


AN island of mist. White companies

Of clouds thronged wondrously against the hills,

And in the east a darkening of the winds

That held awhile their breath for very rage,

Too wild for aught but vaporous quivering

Of melting fleeces, while the sudden sun

Fled to his home. Afar the Matterhorn

Reared a gaunt pinnacle athwart the bank,

Where towered behind it one vast pillar of cloud

To thrice its height. Behold the ice-clad dome

On which we stood, all weary of the way,

And marked the east awaken into scorn,

And rush upon us. Then we set our teeth

To force a dangerous passage, and essayed

The steep slope not in vain. We pushed our way

Slowly and careworn down the icy ridge,

Hewing with ponderous strokes the riven ice

In little flakes and chips, and now again

Encountered strange and fearsome sentinels, {102A}

Gray pinnacles of lightning-riven rock

Fashioned of fire and night. We clomb adown

Fantastic cliffs of gnarled stone, and saw

The vivid lightning flare in purple robes

Of flame along the ridge, and even heard

Its terrible crackle, 'mid the sullen roar

Of answering thunder. Now the driven hail

Beat on our faces, while we strove to fling

Aloft the axe of forged steel, encased

In glittering ice, and smite unceasingly

On the unyielding slope of ice, as black

As those most imminent ghosts of Satan's frown

That shut us out from heaven, while the snow

Froze on our cheeks. Thus then we gained the field

Where precipice and overwhelming rock,

Avalanche, crag, leap through the dazzled air

To pile their mass in one Lethean plain

Of undulations of rolled billowy snow

Rent, seamed, and scarred with wound on jagged wound,

Blue-rushing to the vague expanse below

Of the unknown secrecies of mountain song.

Dragging behind us beautiful weary limbs,

We turned snow-blinded eyes towards the pass2)

That shot a jasper wall above the mist

Into the lightning-kindled firmament,

Behind whose battlements a shelter3) lay,

Rude-built of pine, whose parents in the storm

Of some vast avalanche were swept away

Into the valley. Thither we hasted on,

And there, as night stretched out a broken wing

Torn by the thunder and the bitter strife

Of warring flames and tempest's wrath, we came

And flung ourselves within, and laid us down

At last to sleep; and Sleep, a veined shape

Of naked stateliness, came down to us,

And tenderly stooped down, and kissed our brows. {102B}

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The first guideless traverse of this mountain, one of the peaks of the Bernese Oberland.
The Monchjoch.
The Berglihutte.


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