Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
To a Beautiful Lake
By Henry Pickering (1781–1838)
RAPT in a vision of the barbarous past,
I saw upon thy marge a wild-eyed race,
        And, startled, heard the yell
        That echoed round thy shores!
And now, enchanted with the picture fair,        5
Which Fancy holds to view, I fain would blend
        The murmur of thy waves,
        And warblings of my lute.
Translucent flood! within thy ever pure
And stainless breast, the heavens with wonder view        10
        As beautiful a heaven,
        As tranquil and serene:
The while, a new creation spreads around—
Hills piled on hills, seem laughing in thy wave,
        And groves, inverted, nod        15
        To like majestic groves.
And what if o’er thy brink no frowning cliffs
Impend—no cloud-tipt mountains, as with wall
        Insuperable, fence
        Thee from the northern blast,—        20
Yet dost thou scornful mock its utmost force,
And ruffian winter’s rudest breath defy;
        Fiercely he sweeps along,
        But may not chain thy wave. 1
And still exulting with the dancing spring,        25
Thou seest new beauties deck thy soft domain;
        And when from summer’s gaze
        The earth dejected shrinks,
Thou spread’st thy dazzling bosom to the sun:
While pleased, anon, with Autumn’s rainbow hues        30
        And mournful shell, thou bidd’st
        Thy waves wild music make.
In that glad moment, when the star of morn
Leads up the effulgent day, and liquid pearls
        Are on the flowers, and thou        35
        In snowy mist art wrapp’d,—
How have I stood, delighted, to behold
The sun, like a young deity look forth,
        And, with a glance, thy face
        At once again unveil!        40
And when the golden curtains of the west
Are gathering round his couch, and his last ray
        Descending, seems to melt
        In thy unruffled flood,—
How have I rivetted my eye on thee,        45
And wish’d that on my breast a heavenly gleam
        Might fall, and thus within
        My soul as softly sink!
Yet if there be a more propitious hour,
’T is when the moon from out the silvery east        50
        In chasten’d splendor beams,—
        And sheds o’er thee, and o’er
The tranquil earth, her mild and holy light:
A shadowy grandeur then invests the scene,
        While through the willing mind        55
        A pleasing sadness steals.
O fond remembrance!—but what boots it now
To sing of absent charms? Thou calmly sleep’st
        Beneath thy circling hills,
        While I am tempest-tost!        60
Yet brighter eyes, and innocent as bright,
Shall long upon thy varied beauties gaze,
        And young glad beings too
        Delight in thee to lave:
And science, haply, on thy banks shall rear        65
Her proudest domes; and, emulous of fame,
        Bards, yet unborn, shall chant
        In lofty verse thy praise.
Note 1. Seneca Lake is not known to freeze. [back]

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