Seneca Lake

One evening in the pleasant month of May,
On a green hillock swelling from the shore
Above thy emerald wave, when the clear west
Was all one sheet of light, I sat me down,
Wearied, yet happy. I had wandered long,
That bright, fair day; and all the way my path
Was tended by a warm and soothing air,
That breathed like bliss; and round me all the woods
Opened their yellow buds, and every cottage
Was bowered in blossoms, for the orchard trees
Were all in flower. I came, at close of day,
Down to thy brink, and it was pleasure there
To bathe my dripping forehead in thy cool,
Transparent waters. I refreshed me long
With the bright sparkling stream, and from the pebbles,
That bedded all thy margin, singled out
Rare casts of unknown shells, from off thy cliffs
Broken by wintry surges. Thou wert calm,
Even as an infant calm, that gentle evening;
And one could hardly dream thou 'dst ever met
And wrestled with the storm. A breath of air,
Felt only in its coolness, from the west
Stole over thee, and stirred thy golden mirror
Into long waves, that only showed themselves
In ripples on thy shore, — far distant ripples,
Breaking the silence with their quiet kisses,
And softly murmuring peace. Up the green hillock
I mounted languidly, and at the summit
On the new grass reposed, and saw that evening
Fade sweetly over thee.
Far to the south
Thy slumbering waters floated, one long sheet
Of burnished gold, — between thy nearer shores
Softly embraced, and melting distantly
Into a yellow haze, embosomed low
'Mid shadowy hills and misty mountains, all
Covered with showery light, as with a veil
Of airy gauze. Beautiful were thy shores,
And manifold their outlines, here up-swelling
In bossy green, — there hung in slaty cliffs,
Black as if hewn from jet, and overtopped
With the dark cedar's tufts, or new-leaved birch,
Bright as the wave below. How glassy clear
The far expanse! Beneath it all the sky
Swelled downward, and its fleecy clouds were gay
With all their rainbow fringes, and the trees
And cliffs and grassy knolls were all repeated
Along the uncertain shores, — so clearly seen
Beneath the invisible transparency,
That land and water mingled, and the one
Seemed melting in the other. O, how soft
Yon mountain's heavenly blue, and all o'erlaid
With a pale tint of roses! Deep between
The ever-narrowing lake, just faintly marked
By its reflected light, and farther on
Buried in vapory foam, as if a surf
Heaved on its utmost shore. How deep the silence!
Only the rustling boughs, the broken ripple,
The cricket and the tree-frog, with the tinkle
Of bells in fold and pasture, or a voice
Heard from a distant farm, or hollow bay
Of home-returning hound, — a virgin land
Just rescued from the wilderness, still showing
Wrecks of the giant forest, yet all bright
With a luxuriant culture, springing wheat,
And meadows richly green, — the blessed gift
Of liberty and law. I gazed upon them,
And on the unchanging lake, and felt awhile
Unutterable joy, — I loved my land
With more than filial love, — it was a joy
That only spake in tears.
With early dawn
I woke, and found the lake was up before me,
For a fresh, stirring breeze came from the south,
And all its deep-green waves were tossed and mingled
Into a war of foam. The new-risen sun
Shone on them, as if they were worlds of stars,
Or gems, or crystals, or some other thing
Sparry and flashing bright. A gentle murmur,
A roar scarce uttered, like a voice of mirth
Amid the dancing waters, blended well
With the Æolian whispering of boughs
In a wide grove of pines. The fields and woods
Were sparkling all with dew, and curling smoke
Rose from the cottage fires; — the robin, too,
And the brown thrush, and other birds concealed
Amid the half-blown thickets, joyously
Poured out their morning songs, and thus attended,
I wandered by the shore. O, it was pleasant
To feel the dashing of the dewy spray
Rain on my forehead, and to look between
Long crests of foam, into an unknown depth
Of deepest green, and then to see that green
Soft changing into snow. Over this waste
Of rolling surges, on a lofty bank,
With a broad surf beneath it, brightly shone
White roofs and spires, and gilded vanes, and windows,
Each like a flame, — thy peaceful tenements,
Geneva, aptly named; for not the walls
By the blue, arrowy Rhone, nor Leman's lake,
With all its vineyard shores and mouldering castles,
Nor even its shaggy mountains, nor above
Its world of Alpine snows, — these are not more
Than thou, bright Seneca, whether at peace,
As I at evening met thee, or this morning,
Tossed into foam. Thou too shalt have thy fame:
Genius shall make thy hills his home, and here
Shall build his airy visions, — bards shall come,
And fondly sing thee, — pilgrims too shall haunt
Thy sacred waters, and in after ages,
O, may some votary sit on the hillock,
At evening, by thy shore!
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