Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Middle States: Champlain, the Lake, N. Y.
Burgoyne’s Fleet
Alfred Billings Street (1811–1881)
 
(From Poem on the Occasion of the Centennial of the Surrender of Burgoyne)

A DEEP, stern sound! the starting signal-roar!
And up Champlain Burgoyne’s great squadron bore.
In front, his savage ally’s bark canoes
Flashing in all their bravery wild of hues,
Their war-songs sounding and their paddles timed;        5
Next the bateaux, their rude, square shapes sublimed
With pennon, sword, and bayonet, casting glow
In pencilled pictures on the plain below;
Last, the grand ships, by queenly Mary led,
Where shines Burgoyne in pomp of gold and red;        10
And then, in line, St. George, Inflexible,
And radeau Thunderer, dancing on the swell
The glad wind made: how stately shone the scene!
June in the forests each side smiling green!
The graceful chestnut’s dark green dome was fraught        15
With golden tassels; ivory, seeming brought
From winter lingering in the Indian Pass,
Mantled the locust; as in April grass
Rich dandelions burn, the basswood showed
Its bells of yellow; while the dogwood glowed        20
In a white helmet thickly plumed atop;
The earlier cherry let its sweet pearls drop
With every breeze; the hemlock smiled with edge
Fringed in fresh emerald; even the sword-like sedge,
Sharp mid the snowy lily-goblets set        25
In the nooked shallows like a spangled net,
Was jewelled with brown bloom. By curving point
Where glittering ripples umber sands anoint
With foamy silver, by deep crescent bays
Sleeping beneath their veil of drowsy haze,        30
By watery coverts shimmering faint in film,
Broad, rounded knolls one creamy, rosy realm
Of laurel blossom with the kalmia-urns
Dotted with red, the fleet, as sentient, turns
The winding channel; in tall towers of white        35
The stately ships reflect the golden light
Dazzling the lake; the huge bateaux ply deep
Their laboring, dashing pathway; fronting, keep,
With measured paddle-stabs, the light canoes
Their gliding course; the doe, upstarting, views        40
And hides her fawn; the panther marks the scene
And bears her cubs within the thicket’s screen;
The wolf lifts sharpened ear and forward foot;
Waddles the bear away with startled hoot
As some sail sends a sudden flash of white        45
In the cove’s greenery; slow essaying flight,
The loon rears, flapping, its checked, grazing wings,
Till up it struggling flies and downward flings
Its Indian whoop; the bluebird’s sapphire hue
Kindles the shade; the pigeon’s softer blue        50
Breaks, swarming, out; the robin’s warble swells
In crumply cadence from the skirting dells;
And restless rings the bobolink’s bubbly note
From the clear bell that tinkles in his throat.
Thus stately, cheerily, moves the thronging fleet!        55
On the lake’s steel the blazing sunbeams beat;
But now a blast comes blustering from a gorge;
The white caps dance; it bends the tall St. George,
And even the Thunderer tosses; the array
Breaks up; canoe, bateau, grope doubtful way        60
Through the dim air; in spectral white, each sail
Glances and shivers in the whistling gale;
All the green paintings of point, bank, and tree
Vanish in black and white, and all but see
A close horizon where near islands lose        65
Their shapes, and distant ranks of forest fuse
Into a mass; at length the blast flies off,
Shallows stop rattling, and the hollow cough
Of surges into caves makes gradual cease,
Till on the squadron glides once more in sunny peace.        70
 
So on some blue-gold day white clouds upfloat
In shining throng, and next are dashed remote
By a fierce wind, then join in peace again,
And smoothly winnow o’er the heavenly plain;
Or so some fleet of wild fowl on the lake,        75
Dipping and preening, quiet journey take,
Till the sky drops an eagle circling low
For the straight plunge; wild scattering to and fro,
They seek the shed of bank, the cave of plants,
Tunnel of stream, wherever lurk their haunts,        80
Until the baffled eagle seeks again
His sky, and safety holds, once more, its reign.
*        *        *        *        *
On Lady Mary’s deck Burgoyne would stand
Drinking the sights and sounds at either hand,
Replete with beauty to his poet-heart,        85
Laughing to scorn man’s paltry works of Art:
The grassy vista with its grazing deer;
The lone loon oaring on its shy career;
The withered pine-tree with its fish-hawk nest;
The eagle-eyrie on some craggy crest;        90
The rich white lilies that wide shallows told;
Their yellow sisters with their globes of gold
At the stream’s mouth; the ever-changeful lake;
Here a green gleaming, there a shadowy rake
Of scudding air-breath; here a dazzling flash        95
Searing the eyeball, there a sudden dash
Of purple from some cloud; a streak of white
The wake of some scared duck avoiding sight.
The dogwood, plumed with many a pearly gem,
Was a bright queen with her rich diadem;        100
An oak with some crooked branch up pointing grand,
A monarch with his sceptre in his hand;
A rounded root a prostrate pine-tree rears
A slumbering giant’s mighty shield appears;
A long-drawn streak of cloud with pendent swell        105
Of hill, a beam with its suspended bell.
In some gray ledge, high lifted up, he sees
An ancient castle looking from its trees;
Some mountain’s rugged outline shows the trace
Of the odd profile of the human face;        110
A slender point tipped with its drinking deer
Seems to his soldier eye a prostrate spear;
In the near partridge-pinion’s rolling hum,
He hears, with smiles, the beating of the drum;
And in the thresher’s tones, with music rife,        115
The stirring flourish of the whistling fife;
And thus his fancy roams, till twilight draws
Around the fading scene its silver gauze.
A golden, lazy summer afternoon!
The air is fragrant with the scents of June,—        120
Wintergreen, sassafras, and juniper,
Rich birch-breath, pungent mint and spicy fir
And resinous cedar; on Carillon’s walls
The sentry paces where cool shadow falls;
His comrade sits, his musket on his knee,        125
Watching the speckling gnats convulsively
Stitching the clear dark air that films some nook.
He hears the dashing of the Horicon brook
Loud at the west,—that curved and slender chain
By which the Tassel hangs upon Champlain,—        130
It chimes within his ear like silver bells,
And the sweet jangling only quiet tells;
In front he sees the long and leafy points
Curving the waters into elbow-joints
Of bays; a crest beyond the old French lines,        135
Domes the flat woods; east, opposite, inclines
Mount Independence, its sloped summit crowned
With its star-fort, with battery breastplate bound,
The floating bridge between, the massive boom
And chain in front, and in the rearward room        140
A group of patriot craft; and sweeping thence
The forest landscape’s green magnificence.
Southward the lake a narrowed river bends
With one proud summit where the brook suspends
Horicon’s tassel to King Corlaer’s crown,        145
Close to Carillon’s dark embattled frown.
 
 
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