Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Penobscot Bay

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

New England: Penobscot, the Bay, Me.

Penobscot Bay

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

(From Mogg Megone, Part II)

FAR eastward o’er the lovely bay,

Penobscot’s clustered wigwams lay;

And gently from that Indian town

The verdant hillside slopes adown,

To where the sparkling waters play

Upon the yellow sands below;

And shooting round the winding shores

Of narrow capes, and isles which lie

Slumbering to ocean’s lullaby,—

With birchen boat and glancing oars,

The red men to their fishing go;

While from their planting ground is borne

The treasure of the golden corn,

By laughing girls, whose dark eyes glow

Wild through the locks which o’er them flow.

The wrinkled squaw, whose toil is done,

Sits on her bear-skin in the sun.

Watching the huskers, with a smile

For each full ear which swells the pile;

And the old chief, who nevermore

May bend the bow or pull the oar,

Smokes gravely in his wigwam door,

Or slowly shapes, with axe of stone,

The arrow-head from flint and bone.

Beneath the westward turning eye

A thousand wooded islands lie,—

Gems of the waters!—with each hue

Of brightness set in ocean’s blue.

Each bears aloft its tuft of trees

Touched by the pencil of the frost,

And, with the motion of each breeze,

A moment seen,—a moment lost,—

Changing and blent, confused and tossed,

The brighter with the darker crossed

Their thousand tints of beauty glow

Down in the restless waves below,

And tremble in the sunny skies,

As if, from waving bough to bough,

Flitted the birds of paradise.

There sleep Placentia’s group,—and there

Père Breteaux marks the hour of prayer;

And there, beneath the sea-worn cliff,

On which the Father’s hut is seen,

The Indian stays his rocking skiff,

And peers the hemlock-boughs between,

Half trembling, as he seeks to look

Upon the Jesuit’s Cross and Book.

There, gloomily against the sky

The Dark Isles rear their summits high;

And Desert Rock, abrupt and bare,

Lifts its gray turrets in the air,—

Seen from afar, like some stronghold

Built by the ocean kings of old;

And, faint as smoke-wreath white and thin,

Swells in the north vast Katahdin:

And, wandering from its marshy feet,

The broad Penobscot comes to meet

And mingle with his own bright bay.

Slow sweep his dark and gathering floods,

Arched over by the ancient woods,

Which Time, in those dim solitudes,

Wielding the dull axe of Decay,

Alone hath ever shorn away.