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Thomas Cole's poetry

the collected poems of America's foremost painter of the Hudson River School reflecting his feelings for nature and the romantic spirit of the Nineteenth Century

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8. Lines on Lake George
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Lines on Lake George

Awake! The fresh morn breaks the mountains grey
From the dark pillow of the gloomy night
Reanimated raise their heads; Awake!
Before thee lies the Holy Lake outspread,
The blue Horican with its countless isles:
Yet are the mists shadowing its bosom.
On all the varied bosom of this earth
This is the truest mirror of the sky
And the fair moon as oft she rises o'er
The eastern mountain's summit lingers there
Enamoured: no earthly wave beside
Returns her silver brightness to the skies,
Unmingled with its own dark turbidness;
The stars are pictured here so faithfully,
That the lone wanderer on its pebbly shore,
Doubts his own vision and with caution treads
Upon the margin of the lower sky—
The sun is smiling on yon distant isles
That hang so tremulously o'er the deep—
Nature in frolic once stretch'd forth her hand
And from her mine of glittering gems conveyed
Some glowing emeralds and careless o'er
A crystal tablet strew'd them. There they lie
In fragments spread, broken,—but beautiful—
And yet how bright, how tranquil, how unearthly,
How clear the bosom of this silver lake—
Pleased with the privilege the eye explores
The wat'ry realms and sees o'er golden sands
The scaly thousands playing; the tall pine
That shaded once the topmost cliff now resting


Within some nook, as in a sepulchre,
Wrap'd in a winding sheet of moss and weeds—
O! that men's hearts were open as this wave
Unto man's gazing and were found as spotless—
Well might the holy priest crave for the fount
So pure a stream; and doubly blessed were they,
Who felt the sacred cross mark'd on their brows,
In the cool impress of the saving flood—
Not always was it pure as now 'tis seen
The streams that pay their tribute to the lake,
Were crimson'd once by men's hot blood, and cast
Upon the waters blue, their horrid stain—
But it has purified itself long since:
The ruddy blush of shame but briefly dwells
Upon the open brow of innocence—
Yes! in yon narrow defile shut from day—
Where doves now coo beneath the shade unsear'd;
The warriors met thrice times in one short day—
There is a rock now resting in that glen
That could it speak of chivalrous deeds 'twould tell
How the warm heart's blood trickled through the moss
That covers it, how the stern warrior
Faint with the loss of blood grasp'd its grey top
Frowned on his enemy and fell, and died—
Of that relentless massacre yon hills
Were witness, they echo'd back the groans
Of unarmed warriors, dying female shrieks,
And the weak plaint of feeble innocence;
Mingled with yells of Indians banqueting
In blood—
Turn from those sickening scenes of horror turn,
Who that can gaze upon that dimpled lake;
Would ever think that o'er its smiling face
The trumpet's voice hath hoarsely sent defiance,


That the green shores reflected there have been
The ample stage whereon the bloody tragedy
Of war was acted—one would well suppose
That when men look'd upon its tranquil face
The high tempestuous waves of passion 's storm
Would settle into peacefulness—but man
When in his breast rage hatred and revenge,
Heeds not the quiet whisperings of nature—
Happy are these calm and lovely days of peace
The din of war with years hath pass'd away
The trumpets thrilling voice does sometimes wake
The sleeping echoes from their mountain couch
But dying shrieks ne'er mingle with its tones—
O may the voice of music that so chime
With the wild mountain breeze and rippling lake
Ne'er wake the soul but to a keener sense
Of nature's beauties—How reluctant I
Leave thy bright shores thou lov'd Horican
But like yon skiff that glides away and melts
In the wild distance—I may journey far
Yet will my mind be dwelling upon thee;
Yet the soft lisping of thy crystal wave
Shall echo in my soul when I am far away.
T. Cole 1826