Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Americas
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX.  1876–79.
 
British America: St. Francis, the Lake, Canada
Lake St. Francis
Charles Sangster (1822–1893)
 
  NATURE is ever varied. Calm and still
  The lake receives us on its tranquil breast
  With sweetest smiles of welcome. As a rill
  Enters a valley with a lightsome zest,
  After it leaves some mountain tarn, oppressed        5
  With its wild journey ere it finds the plain,
  So hail we Lake St. Francis. Love might rest
  Among these isles where many a savage train
Trampled the flowers of peace, and strewed them on the main.
 
  Embowered homesteads greet us as we pass        10
  These nooks of quiet beauty. Here and there
  An isle of shade upon a sea of glass
  Floats lightly as a breath of summer air;
  Verdurous points and openings so fair
  ’T were vain to search the misty Dreamland o’er        15
  For such a vision as could well compare
  With the broad landscape strewn from shore to shore,
That like a dear face grows in beauty more and more.
 
  No aged forests lift their tangled arms,
  No threatening rapid rolls its vengeful way,        20
  The ever-shifting panorama charms
  And soothes the soul like an entrancing lay.
  Along the shores the restless poplars stray,
  Like woodland outposts watching through the night;
  Yon grove of pine englooms each starry ray        25
  And sleeps in darkest shadow; and the white
And spectral tombstones mark the graveyard’s hallowed site.
 
  Faint, far-off islands, dim and shadowy, seem
  To loom like purple clouds, and a stray sail,
  Like a white condor, flits across our beam,        30
  Inviting truant breeze and loitering gale
  From odorous wood and flower-besprinkled vale;
  The murmurs of the isles past which we glide
  Are soothing as an Oriental tale
  Flung by some tuneful Hafiz far and wide,        35
As through the dreamy maze we dash with native pride.
 
  An Indian, like a memory, glides by;
  One frail canoe where once the tribes in all
  Their savage greatness sent their startling cry
  Along their countless fleets. Thus at the call        40
  Of Destiny whole races rise and fall;
  Whole states and empires like those tribes have passed
  To swell the grim historic carnival.
  We, too, the puppets of to-day, that vast
And solemn masquerade must gravely join at last.        45
 
  A dreamy quiet haunts the wide expanse
  O’er all the flashing lake,—a world of calm,
  Fair as the fairest picture of romance.
  Night’s awful splendor thrills us like a psalm.
  High and erect, and heavenward as a palm,        50
  Our thoughts and hopes ascend. Is it not well
  That we should feel at times the heavenly balm
  Of contemplation soothe us like a spell?
As these too-witching scenes our grosser yearnings quell.
 
  The welcome lighthouse like an angel stands        55
  Arrayed as with a glory, pointing to
  Vast heights of promise, where the summer lands
  Rise like great hopes upon man’s spirit-view.
  It warns life’s toiling pilgrim to eschew
  The rocks and shoals on which too many wrecks        60
  Of noble hearts, all searching for the true,
  Have sunk in utter ruin. Man may vex
His thoughts to find out God; his searchings but perplex
 
  His poor contracted reason,—poor at best,
  One grain of faith is worth a sheaf of search.        65
  On, love! to-night we cannot think of rest,
  Past the dim islands where the silvery birch
  Gleams like a shepherd’s crook. Yonder, the church
  Lights us to Lancaster. And now the wide,
  Wide lake, we wander over, soon to lurch        70
  And roll and toss, as down the stream we glide,
Light as a feather on the stormy ocean-tide.
 
 
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