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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI. 1876–79.

Switzerland: Geneva, the Lake (Lake Leman)

The Lake of Geneva

By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

DAY glimmered and I went, a gentle breeze

Ruffling the Leman Lake. Wave after wave,

If such they might be called, dashed as in sport,

Not anger, with the pebbles on the beach

Making wild music, and far westward caught

The sunbeam, where, alone and as entranced,

Counting the hours, the fisher in his skiff

Lay with his circular and dotted line

On the bright waters. When the heart of man

Is light with hope, all things are sure to please;

And soon a passage-boat swept gayly by,

Laden with peasant-girls and fruits and flowers,

And many a chanticleer and partlet caged

For Vevey’s market-place,—a motley group

Seen through the silvery haze. But soon ’t was gone.

The shifting sail flapped idly to and fro,

Then bore them off. I am not one of those

So dead to all things in this visible world,

So wondrously profound, as to move on

In the sweet light of heaven, like him of old

(His name is justly in the Calendar)

Who through the day pursued this pleasant path

That winds beside the mirror of all beauty,

And when at eve his fellow-pilgrims sate,

Discoursing of the lake, asked where it was.

They marvelled, as they might; and so must all,

Seeing what now I saw: for now ’t was day,

And the bright sun was in the firmament,

A thousand shadows of a thousand hues

Checkering the clear expanse. Awhile his orb

Hung o’er thy trackless fields of snow, Mont Blanc,

Thy seas of ice and ice-built promontories,

That change their shapes forever as in sport;

Then travelled onward and went down behind

The pine-clad heights of Jura, lighting up

The woodman’s casement, and perchance his axe

Borne homeward through the forest in his hand;

And on the edge of some o’erhanging cliff,

That dungeon-fortress never to be named,

Where, like a lion taken in the toils,

Toussaint breathed out his brave and generous spirit.

Little did he, who sent him there to die,

Think, when he gave the word, that he himself,

Great as he was, the greatest among men,

Should in like manner be so soon conveyed

Athwart the deep, and to a rock so small

Amid the countless multitude of waves,

That ships have gone and sought it, and returned,

Saying it was not!