I Wish I Was by That Dim Lake

Thomas Moore

I WISH I was by that dim lake

Where sinful souls their farewells take

Of this vain world, and half-way lie

In Death’s cold shadow, ere they die.

There, there, far from thee,

Deceitful world, my home should be,—

Where, come what might of gloom and pain,

False hope should ne’er deceive again!


The lifeless sky,—the mournful sound

Of unseen waters, falling round,—

The dry leaves quivering o’er my head,

Like man, unquiet even when dead,—

These, ay! these should wean

My soul from life’s deluding scene,

And turn each thought, each wish I have,

Like willows, downward towards the grave.


As they who to their couch at night

Would welcome sleep first quench the light,

So must the hopes that keep this breast

Awake be quenched, ere it can rest.

Cold, cold, my heart must grow,

Unchanged by either joy or woe,

Like freezing founts, where all that ’s thrown

Within their current turns to stone.




  These verses are meant to allude to that ancient haunt of superstition, called Patrick’s Purgatory. “In the midst of these gloomy regions of Donegal (says Dr. Campbell) lay a lake, which was to become the mystic theatre of this fabled and intermediate state. In the lake were several islands; but one of them was dignified with that called the Mouth of Purgatory, which, during the Dark Ages, attracted the notice of all Christendom, and was the resort of penitents and pilgrims, from almost every country in Europe.”