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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

British America: St. Francis, the Lake, Canada

Lake St. Francis

By Charles Sangster (1822–1893)

NATURE is ever varied. Calm and still

The lake receives us on its tranquil breast

With sweetest smiles of welcome. As a rill

Enters a valley with a lightsome zest,

After it leaves some mountain tarn, oppressed

With its wild journey ere it finds the plain,

So hail we Lake St. Francis. Love might rest

Among these isles where many a savage train

Trampled the flowers of peace, and strewed them on the main.

Embowered homesteads greet us as we pass

These nooks of quiet beauty. Here and there

An isle of shade upon a sea of glass

Floats lightly as a breath of summer air;

Verdurous points and openings so fair

’T were vain to search the misty Dreamland o’er

For such a vision as could well compare

With the broad landscape strewn from shore to shore,

That like a dear face grows in beauty more and more.

No aged forests lift their tangled arms,

No threatening rapid rolls its vengeful way,

The ever-shifting panorama charms

And soothes the soul like an entrancing lay.

Along the shores the restless poplars stray,

Like woodland outposts watching through the night;

Yon grove of pine englooms each starry ray

And sleeps in darkest shadow; and the white

And spectral tombstones mark the graveyard’s hallowed site.

Faint, far-off islands, dim and shadowy, seem

To loom like purple clouds, and a stray sail,

Like a white condor, flits across our beam,

Inviting truant breeze and loitering gale

From odorous wood and flower-besprinkled vale;

The murmurs of the isles past which we glide

Are soothing as an Oriental tale

Flung by some tuneful Hafiz far and wide,

As through the dreamy maze we dash with native pride.

An Indian, like a memory, glides by;

One frail canoe where once the tribes in all

Their savage greatness sent their startling cry

Along their countless fleets. Thus at the call

Of Destiny whole races rise and fall;

Whole states and empires like those tribes have passed

To swell the grim historic carnival.

We, too, the puppets of to-day, that vast

And solemn masquerade must gravely join at last.

A dreamy quiet haunts the wide expanse

O’er all the flashing lake,—a world of calm,

Fair as the fairest picture of romance.

Night’s awful splendor thrills us like a psalm.

High and erect, and heavenward as a palm,

Our thoughts and hopes ascend. Is it not well

That we should feel at times the heavenly balm

Of contemplation soothe us like a spell?

As these too-witching scenes our grosser yearnings quell.

The welcome lighthouse like an angel stands

Arrayed as with a glory, pointing to

Vast heights of promise, where the summer lands

Rise like great hopes upon man’s spirit-view.

It warns life’s toiling pilgrim to eschew

The rocks and shoals on which too many wrecks

Of noble hearts, all searching for the true,

Have sunk in utter ruin. Man may vex

His thoughts to find out God; his searchings but perplex

His poor contracted reason,—poor at best,

One grain of faith is worth a sheaf of search.

On, love! to-night we cannot think of rest,

Past the dim islands where the silvery birch

Gleams like a shepherd’s crook. Yonder, the church

Lights us to Lancaster. And now the wide,

Wide lake, we wander over, soon to lurch

And roll and toss, as down the stream we glide,

Light as a feather on the stormy ocean-tide.