Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

New England: Winnipesaukee, the Lake, N. H.

At Alton Bay

By Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905)

WE saw in the distance the dusky lake fade,

Empurpled with twilight’s last tinges;

And slow came the Night, with her curtains of shade,

And the round rosy moon in their fringes.

We marked in the sky, in the cloud-lakes on high,

The flocks of birds dreamily sailing

From the peaks in the West, and settle to rest

Where the forest light slowly was failing,

Round bright Alton Bay.

Mist curtained the mountains,—we climbed the dark heights,

But a feeling of sadness came o’er us,

As we saw on the hillsides the camp-meeting lights,

And heard the lone worshippers’ chorus—

“It is well with my soul!”—how it echoed afar

O’er the lake in the deep mountain shadows,

While bright in the sky shone the evening star

O’er the lonely lake islands and meadows

At still Alton Bay.

I knew not the singers, their creeds or their names;

I heard but the chorus ascending,

While bright through the pines shone the night-torches’ flames

With the rays of the shaded moon blending;

And I said on that night, as I stood on the height,

When time measures my joy and my sorrow,

My life I would close as the birds seek repose,

To dream of a beautiful morrow

At dim Alton Bay.

Then we talked of the main, and its night-darkened plain,

Of the sweet prayer of trust on the billows;

The worshippers’ strain rising sweet in the fane

In the vale by the cool village willows;

The cathedral’s aisle dim, the antiphonal hymn,

The baptismal vow at the fountain:

Yet more grand seemed the word that our charmed ears had heard—

“It is well with my soul!”—on the mountain,

At calm Alton Bay.

Morn lighted the bay, our boat glided away,

But the fair lake I see as a vision;

And in dreams hear again the lone camp-meeting’s strain

Like a call from the portals elysian.

When the shade of the past shall be lengthened at last,

And the earth light around me is paling,

May some holy song’s breath on the mountain of faith

Turn my heart to the Refuge unfailing,

As at far Alton Bay.