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

Middle States: George (Horicon), the Lake, N. Y.

Lake George

By George Stillman Hillard (1808–1879)

HOW oft in visions of the night,

How oft in noonday dreaming,

I ’ve seen, fair lake, thy forest wave,—

Have seen thy waters gleaming;

Have heard the blowing of the winds

That sweep along thy highlands,

And the light laughter of the waves

That dance around thine islands.

It was a landscape of the mind,

With forms and hues ideal,

But still those hues and forms appeared

More lovely than aught real.

I feared to see the breathing scene,

And brooded o’er the vision,

Lest the hard touch of truth should mar

A picture so Elysian.

But now I break the cold distrust

Whose spells so long had bound me;

The shadows of the night are past,—

The morning shines around me.

And in the sober light of day,

I see, with eyes enchanted,

The glorious vision that so long

My day and night dreams haunted.

I see the green, translucent wave,

The purest of earth’s fountains;

I see the many-winding shore,—

The double range of mountains:

One, neighbor to the flying clouds,

And crowned with leaf and blossom,

And one, more lovely, borne within

The lake’s unruffled bosom.

O timid heart! with thy glad throbs

Some self-reproach is blended,

At the long years that died before

The sight of scene so splendid.

The mind has pictures of its own,

Fair trees and waters flowing—

But not a magic whole like this,

So living, breathing, glowing;

Strength imaged in the wooded hills,

A grand, primeval nature,

And beauty mirrored in the lake,

A gentler, softer feature;

A perfect union,—where no want

Upon the soul is pressing;

Like manly power and female grace

Made one by bridal blessing.

Nor is the stately scene without

Its sweet, secluded treasures,

Where hearts that shun the crowd may find

Their own exclusive pleasures;

Deep chasms of shade for pensive thought,

The hours to wear away in;

And vaulted aisles of whispering pine,

For lovers’ feet to stray in;

Clear streams that from the uplands run,

A course of sunless shadow;

Isles all unfurrowed by the plough,

And strips of fertile meadow;

And rounded coves of silver sand,

Where moonlight plays and glances,—

A sheltered hall for elfin horns,

A floor for elfin dances.

No tame monotony is here,

But beauty ever changing;

With clouds, and shadows of the clouds,

And mists the hillsides ranging.

Where morning’s gold, and noon’s hot sun,

Their changing glories render;

Pour round the shores a varying light,

Now glowing and now tender.

But purer than the shifting gleams

By liberal sunshine given,

Is the deep spirit of that hour,—

An effluence breathed from Heaven;

When the unclouded, yellow moon

Hangs o’er the eastern ridges,

And the long shaft of trembling gold,

The trembling crystal bridges.

Farewell, sweet lake! brief were the hours

Along thy banks for straying;

But not farewell what memory takes,—

An image undecaying.

I hold secure beyond all change

One lovely recollection,

To cheer the hours of lonely toil,

And chase away dejection.