Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Wachulla Spring

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

Southern States: Wachulla Spring, Fla.

The Wachulla Spring

By Catherine Ann Dubose (b. 1826)

  • The Wachulla Spring described in the following poem is situated about ten miles from Tallahassee, Florida. It is an immense limestone basin, as yet unfathomed in the centre, with waters as transparent as crystal.

  • FOUNTAIN of beauty! on my vision breaking,

    How springs my heart thy varied charms to greet,

    While thoughts of loveliness within me waking

    Fill all my being with their influence sweet.

    Gazing on thee, my spirit’s wild commotion

    Is hushed beneath some mighty magic spell,—

    Till, thrilling with each new and strange emotion,

    No feelings but of high and pure devotion

    Within me dwell.

    Wachulla, beauteous spring! thy crystal waters

    Reflect the loveliness of Southern skies;

    And oft methinks the dark-haired Indian daughters

    Bent o’er thy silver depths with wondering eyes.

    From forest glade the swarthy chief emerging,

    Delighted, paused thy matchless charms to view;

    Then to thy flower-gemmed border slowly verging

    I see him o’er thy placid bosom urging

    His light canoe!

    Break not the spell that wraps this beauteous vision

    In the enchantment of some fairy dream;

    Methinks I wander in those realms elysian,

    Which on poetic fancies sometimes gleam.

    Round me the dim-arched forest proudly towers,

    Seeming those light and floating clouds to kiss;

    Oh, let me linger for a few brief hours

    By this enchanted fount,—these wildwood bowers,

    To dream of bliss.

    With the bright crimson of the maple twining,

    The fragrant bay its peerless chaplet weaves;

    And where magnolias in their pride are shining,

    The broad palmetto spreads its fan-like leaves.

    Far down the forest aisles, where sunbeams quiver,

    The fairest flowers their rainbow hues combine;

    And pendent o’er the swiftly flowing river,

    The shadows of the graceful willow shiver

    In glad sunshine!

    Bright-plumaged birds their gorgeous hues enwreathing,

    Their amorous tunes to listening flowers repeat;

    Which in reply, their sweetest incense breathing,

    Pour on the silent air their perfume sweet:

    From tree to tree the golden jasmine creeping,

    Hangs its bright bells on every slender spray;

    And in each fragrant chalice, slyly peeping,

    The humming-bird its odorous store is reaping,

    The livelong day.

    Nature has here, in wilful mood, unfolded

    Her choicest stores, the wilderness to deck;—

    And forms of rare and perfect beauty moulded,

    Where no rude hand her beauty dares to check.

    How could I sit, and watch the waters glancing

    In the calm beauty of these cloudless skies;

    My vivid fancy every charm enhancing,

    And sight and sound my senses all entrancing,

    Till daylight dies!

    How o’er the misty Past my thoughts would ponder,

    When sad and lone beside Wachulla’s spring

    The red man, flying from his foes, would wander,

    And to the wave his heart-wrung murmurs fling.

    Oppression stern his free-born soul enthralling,

    He flies for shelter to these wildwood haunts,—

    And on the spirits of his loved ones calling,

    While murmuring voices on his ear are falling,

    This descant chants:

    “Great Spirit of our race! hast thou forsaken

    Thy favored children in their hour of need?

    Their wailing voice Wachulla’s echoes waken,—

    Will not the Spirit of their fathers heed?

    Sunshine and joy our own loved dells are flushing,

    But mid their charms the red man wanders lone;

    He hears the free winds through the forest rushing;

    He sees Wachulla’s gladsome waters gushing,

    Yet hears no tone!”

    Alas! sad warrior! by these silver waters

    No more shall gather thy ill-fated band;

    Thy hunters bold, thy dark-eyed lovely daughters,

    Long since have sought their own loved spirit-land.

    Yet still methinks I hear their voices sighing,

    In the soft breeze that blows from yonder shore;

    And wildwood echoes to the stream replying,

    Mourn that the voices on the waters dying

    Return no more!

    But now the soft south-wind all gently wooeth

    Our little barque, to leave the flower-gemmed shore;

    And the light breeze that perfume round us streweth,

    This fairy basin soon will waft us o’er;

    Then while soft zephyrs, round us faintly blowing,

    Bear wordless voices from the forest deep,

    We ’ll listen to the waters’ ceaseless flowing,

    And watch the wavelets dancing on,—unknowing

    What course they keep.

    With rapid oar, the water-lilies parting,

    Whose snowy petals form the Naiad’s wreath,

    Soon o’er the crystal fountain swiftly darting,

    We cast our gaze a hundred feet beneath!

    Between two heavens of purest blue suspended,

    Above these fairy realms we float at will,—

    Where crystal grottos lift their columns splendid,

    Formed of rare gems of pearl and emerald, blended

    With magic skill.

    Now in the west the gold and crimson blending,

    Tell that soft twilight falleth o’er the world;

    And on the breeze all noiselessly descending,

    The dew-drops lie in lily-cups impearled.

    All thought is lost in sweet bewildering fancies,

    While from the forest dies the light of day;

    And witching silence every spell enhances,

    As o’er the wave the last glad sunbeam glances,

    Then fades away!

    Farewell, Wachulla! sadly must I sever

    My spirit from thy sweet bewildering spell;

    I leave thee, fairy fount, perhaps forever,

    And mournfully I bid thee now—farewell!

    Yet still thy loveliness my soul o’erpowers,

    While dreamy shadows on the forest fall,—

    And long shall memories of thy beauteous bowers

    Fall on my heart like dew on summer flowers,

    Refreshing all!