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

Southern States: Isle of Founts, Ga.

Isle of Founts: An Indian Tradition

By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

  • “The river St. Mary has its source from a vast lake or marsh, which lies between Flint and Ockmulgee rivers, and occupies a space of near three hundred miles in circuit. This vast accumulation of waters, in the wet season, appears as a lake, and contains some large islands or knolls of rich high land; one of which the present generation of the Creek Indians represent to be a most blissful spot of earth. They say it is inhabited by a peculiar race of Indians, whose women are incomparably beautiful. They also tell you that this terrestrial paradise has been seen by some of their enterprising hunters, when in pursuit of game; but that in their endeavors to approach it, they were involved in perpetual labyrinths, and, like enchanted land, still as they imagined they had just gained it, it seemed to fly before them, alternately appearing and disappearing.”—Bertram’s Travels through North and South Carolina, etc.

  • SON of the stranger! wouldst thou take

    O’er yon blue hills thy lonely way,

    To reach the still and shining lake

    Along whose banks the west-winds play?

    Let no vain dreams thy heart beguile,—

    Oh, seek thou not the Fountain Isle!

    Lull but the mighty serpent king

    Midst the gray rocks, his old domain;

    Ward but the cougar’s deadly spring,—

    Thy step that lake’s green shore may gain;

    And the bright Isle, when all is passed,

    Shall vainly meet thine eye at last!

    Yes! there, with all its rainbow streams,

    Clear as within thine arrow’s flight,

    The Isle of Founts, the isle of dreams,

    Floats on the wave in golden light;

    And lovely will the shadows be

    Of groves whose fruit is not for thee!

    And breathings from their sunny flowers,

    Which are not of the things that die,

    And singing voices from their bowers,

    Shall greet thee in the purple sky;

    Soft voices, e’en like those that dwell

    Far in the green reed’s hollow cell.

    Or hast thou heard the sounds that rise

    From the deep chambers of the earth?

    The wild and wondrous melodies

    To which the ancient rocks gave birth?

    Like that sweet song of hidden caves

    Shall swell those wood notes o’er the waves.

    The emerald waves!—they take their hue

    And image from that sunbright shore;

    But wouldst thou launch thy light canoe,

    And wouldst thou ply thy rapid oar,

    Before thee, hadst thou morning’s speed,

    The dreamy land should still recede!

    Yet on the breeze thou still wouldst hear

    The music of its flowering shades,

    And ever should the sound be near

    Of founts that ripple through its glades;

    The sound, and sight, and flashing ray

    Of joyous waters in their play!

    But woe for him who sees them burst

    With their bright spray showers to the lake!

    Earth has no spring to quench the thirst

    That semblance in his soul shall wake,

    Forever pouring through his dreams

    The gush of those untasted streams!

    Bright, bright, in many a rocky urn,

    The waters of our deserts lie,

    Yet at their source his lip shall burn,

    Parched with the fever’s agony!

    From the blue mountains to the main

    Our thousand floods may roll in vain.

    E’en thus our hunters came of yore

    Back from their long and weary quest;—

    Had they not seen the untrodden shore?

    And could they midst our wilds find rest?

    The lightning of their glance was fled,

    They dwelt amongst us as the dead!

    They lay beside our glittering rills

    With visions in their darkened eye;

    Their joy was not amidst the hills

    Where elk and deer before us fly:

    Their spears upon the cedar hung,

    Their javelins to the wind were flung.

    They bent no more the forest bow,

    They armed not with the warrior band,

    The moons waned o’er them dim and slow,—

    They left us for the spirits’ land!

    Beneath our pines yon greensward heap

    Shows where the restless found their sleep.

    Son of the stranger! if at eve

    Silence be midst us in thy place,

    Yet go not where the mighty leave

    The strength of battle and of chase!

    Let no vain dreams thy heart beguile—

    Oh, seek thou not the Fountain Isle!