Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Gaube, the Lake
The Tragedy of the Lac de Gaube in the Pyrenees
Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)
 
THE MARRIAGE blessing on their brows,
Across the Channel seas
And lands of gay Garonne, they reach
The pleasant Pyrenees,—
He into boyhood born again,        5
A son of joy and life;
And she a happy English girl,
A happier English wife.
 
They loiter not where Argelés,
The chestnut-crested plain,        10
Unfolds its robe of green and gold
In pasture, grape, and grain;
But on and up, where Nature’s heart
Beats strong amid the hills,
They pause, contented with the wealth        15
That either bosom fills.
 
There is a lake, a small round lake,
High on the mountain’s breast,
The child of rains and melted snows,
The torrent’s summer rest,—        20
A mirror where the veteran rocks
May glass their peaks and scars,
A nether sky where breezes break
The sunlight into stars.
 
O, gayly shone that little lake,        25
And Nature, sternly fair,
Put on a sparkling countenance
To greet that merry pair;
How light from stone to stone they leapt,
How trippingly they ran;        30
To scale the rock and gain the marge
Was all a moment’s span!
 
“See, dearest, this primeval boat,
So quaint and rough, I deem
Just such an one did Charon ply        35
Across the Stygian stream:
Step in,—I will your Charon be,
And you a Spirit bold,—
I was a famous rower once
In college days of old.        40
 
“The clumsy oar! the laggard boat!
How slow we move along,—
The work is harder than I thought,—
A song, my love, a song!”
Then, standing up, she carolled out        45
So blithe and sweet a strain
That the long-silent cliffs were glad
To peal it back again.
 
He, tranced in joy, the oar laid down,
And rose in careless pride,        50
And swayed in cadence to the song
The boat from side to side:
Then clasping hand in loving hand,
They danced a childish round,
And felt as safe in that mid-lake        55
As on the firmest ground.
 
One poise too much!—He headlong fell,—
She, stretching out to save
A feeble arm, was borne adown
Within that glittering grave;—        60
One moment, and the gush went forth
Of music-mingled laughter,—
The struggling splash and deathly shriek
Were there the instant after.
 
Her weaker head above the flood,        65
That quick engulfed the strong,
Like some enchanted water-flower,
Waved pitifully long:—
Long seemed the low and lonely wail
Athwart the tide to fade;        70
Alas! that there were some to hear,
But never one to aid.
 
Yet not alas! if Heaven revered
The freshly spoken vow,
And willed that what was then made one        75
Should not be sundered now,—
If she was spared, by that sharp stroke,
Love’s most unnatural doom,
The future lorn and unconsoled,
The unavoided tomb!        80
 
But weep, ye very rocks! for those
Who, on their native shore,
Await the letters of dear news
That shall arrive no more;
One letter from a stranger hand,—        85
Few words are all the need;
And then the funeral of the heart,
The course of useless speed!
 
The presence of the cold dead wood,
The single mark and sign        90
Of her so loved and beautiful,
That handiwork divine!
The weary search for his fine form
That in the depth would linger,
And late success,—O, leave the ring        95
Upon that faithful finger!
 
And if in life there lie the seed
Of real enduring being,
If love and truth be not decreed
To perish unforeseeing,        100
This youth the seal of death has stamped
Now time can wither never,
This hope that sorrow might have damped
Is fresh and strong forever. 1
 
Note 1. Mr. and Mrs. Pattison were drowned in the year 1831. [back]
 
 
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