Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Lake Champlain

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.

Lake Champlain

By Henry Theodore Tuckerman (1813–1871)

NOT thoughtless let us enter thy domain;

Well did the tribes of yore,

Who sought the ocean from the distant plain,

Call thee their country’s door.

And as the portals of a saintly pile

The wanderer’s steps delay,

And, while he musing roams the lofty aisle,

Care’s phantoms melt away

In the vast realm where tender memories brood

O’er sacred haunts of time,

That woo his spirit to a nobler mood

And more benignant clime,—

So in the fane of thy majestic hills

We meekly stand elate;

The baffled heart a tranquil rapture fills

Beside thy crystal gate:

For here the incense of the cloistered pines,

Stained windows of the sky,

The frescoed clouds and mountains’ purple shrines,

Proclaim God’s temple nigh.

Through wild ravines thy wayward currents glide,

Round bosky islands play;

Here tufted headlands meet the lucent tide,

There gleams the spacious bay;

Untracked for ages, save when crouching flew,

Through forest-hung defiles,

The dusky savage in his frail canoe,

To seek the thousand isles,

Or rally to the fragrant cedar’s shade

The settler’s crafty foe,

With toilsome march and midnight ambuscade

To lay his dwelling low.

Along the far horizon’s opal wall

The dark blue summits rise,

And o’er them rifts of misty sunshine fall,

Or golden vapor lies.

And over all tradition’s gracious spell

A fond allurement weaves;

Her low refrain the moaning tempest swells,

And thrills the whispering leaves.

To win this virgin land,—a kingly quest,—

Chivalric deeds were wrought;

Long by thy marge and on thy placid breast

The Gaul and Saxon fought.

What cheers of triumph in thy echoes sleep!

What brave blood dyed thy wave!

A grass-grown rampart crowns each rugged steep,

Each isle a hero’s grave.

And gallant squadrons manned for border fray,

That rival standards bore,

Sprung from thy woods and on thy bosom lay,—

Stern warders of the shore.

How changed since he whose name thy waters bear,

The silent hills between,

Led by his swarthy guides to conflict there,

Entranced beheld the scene!

Fleets swiftly ply where lagged the lone bateau,

And quarries trench the gorge;

Where waned the council-fire, now steadfast glow

The pharos and the forge.

On Adirondack’s lake-encircled crest

Old war-paths mark the soil,

Where idly bivouacs the summer guest,

And peaceful miners toil.

Where lurked the wigwam, cultured households throng;

Where rung the panther’s yell

Is heard the low of kine, a blithesome song,

Or chime of village bell.

And when, to subjugate the peopled land,

Invaders crossed the sea,

Rushed from thy meadow-slopes a stalwart band,

To battle for the free.

Nor failed the pristine valor of the race

To guard the nation’s life;

Thy hardy sons met treason face to face,

The foremost in the strife.

When locusts bloom and wild-rose scents the air,

When moonbeams fleck the stream,

And June’s long twilights crimson shadows wear,

Here linger, gaze, and dream!