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

British America: St. Lawrence (Cadaraqui), the River

The Thousand Isles

By J. R. Ramsay (1849–1907)


’T IS evening tide, the mottled sky

Is glorious in the sinking sun;

Now Heaven’s serene immensity

Seems flashing forth the words, “Well done!”

And sacred, superhuman hues

Adorn the dim declivity,

And shape the intermingling views

As fair as Eden’s landscapes be.

Our bark, like fate’s strange shuttle through

The azure web, threads onward where

Green islands fleck the liquid blue,

As low clouds fleck the living air.

Which is an isle, and which can be

A cloud, is half a mystery;

Both are of a supernal growth,

And Sol’s last radiance sets on both

In one fond blush of pensive hues

(They softly flash and interfuse),

As if to beckon us away

Beyond the precincts of decay.

And we would follow him in high

Immeasurable majesty,

By one oblivious plunge to be

From human solitude set free,

But fear the night, so soon to cast

This glory by, may ever last.

Some isles are rocky bastions old,

Shaped when the ancient ages rolled

Around their thunder-rended forms

Earthquakes and unremembered storms.

But some are exquisitely planned

By Beauty’s spiritual hand

For purposes of peace, and still

They have no part in human ill.

Each hour a deeper ray emits,

That o’er the wandering water flits,

Like sanguine leaves when they forsake

The lofty branches for the lake;

Such colors tinge the beams that pass

Yon cloud’s ensanguined chrysopras.

Lo, every bird for joy is still

In river, vale, or island hill;

And, past the purple mounts of pine,

Lulling the winds with wands divine,

The imperial monarch of the day

Wheels his irrevocable way

Far off, through clouds whose living flames

Would woo the world to wiser aims;

Sweet seraphs, blushing for the sin

Of some originally kin—

Alas, how beautiful! they seem

Through countless centuries to dream,

Calm as the peace that comes from care,

Pure as a child’s face flushed with prayer,

Soft as a transient velvet rose,

Still as the waves when winds repose,

Lone as this solitude of green,

Dim as those purple depths unseen,

Vast as the visions angels spread

Around a bard’s or prophet’s bed,

As round the seer of Patmos shone

The sea of glass and crystal throne,

The city’s glorious streets, and all

That held his poet soul in thrall.