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

Western States: Michigan, the Lake


By James Handasayd Perkins (1810–1849)

Composed on Lake Michigan, by the River Where Marquette Died

SINK to my heart, bright evening skies!

Ye waves that round me roll,

With all your golden, crimson dyes,

Sink deep into my soul!

And ye, soft-footed stars,—that come

So silently at even,

To make this world awhile your home,

And bring us nearer heaven,—

Speak to my spirit’s listening ear

With your calm tones of beauty,

And to my darkened mind make clear

My errors and my duty.

Speak to my soul of those who went

Across this stormy lake,

On deeds of mercy ever bent

For the poor Indian’s sake.

They looked to all of you, and each

Leant smiling from above,

And taught the Jesuit how to teach

The omnipotence of love.

You gave the apostolic tone

To Marquette’s guileless soul,

Whose life and labors shall be known

Long as these waters roll

To him the little Indian child,

Fearless and trustful came,

Curbed for a time his temper wild,

And hid his heart of flame.

With gentle voice, and gentle look,

Sweet evening star, like thine,

That heart the missionary took

From off the war-god’s shrine,

And laid it on the Holy Book,

Before the Man Divine.

The blood-stained demons saw with grief

Far from their magic ring,

Around their now converted chief,

The tribe come gathering.

Marquette’s belief was their belief,

And Jesus was their king.

Fierce passions’ late resistless drift

Drives now no longer by;

’T is rendered powerless by the gift

Of heaven-fed charity.

Speak to my heart, ye stars, and tell

How, on yon distant shore,

The world-worn Jesuit bade farewell

To those that rowed him o’er;

Told them to sit and wait him there,

And break their daily food,

While he to his accustomed prayer

Retired within the wood;

And how they saw the day go round,

Wondering he came not yet,

Then sought him anxiously, and found,

Not the kind, calm Marquette,—

He silently had passed away,—

But on the greensward there,

Before the crucifix, his clay

Still kneeling, as in prayer.

Nor let me as a fable deem,

Told by some artful knave,

The legend, that the lonely stream,

By which they dug his grave,

When wintry torrents from above

Swept with resistless force,

Knew and revered the man of love,

And changed its rapid course,

And left the low, sepulchral mound

Uninjured by its side,

And spared the consecrated ground

Where he had knelt and died.

Nor ever let my weak mind rail

At the poor Indian,

Who, when the fierce northwestern gale

Swept o’er Lake Michigan,

In the last hour of deepest dread

Knew of one resource yet,

And stilled the thunder overhead

By calling on Marquette!

Sink to my heart, sweet evening skies!

Ye darkening waves that roll

Around me,—ye departing dyes,—

Sink to my inmost soul!

Teach to my heart of hearts that fact,

Unknown, though known so well,

That in each feeling, act, and thought

God works by miracle.

And ye, soft-footed stars, that come

So quietly at even,

Teach me to use this world, my home,

So as to make it heaven!