The Lake of Geneva

Samuel Rogers

(From Rhymes on the Road)
’T WAS late,—the sun had almost shone
  His last and best, when I ran on,
Anxious to reach that splendid view
Before the daybeams quite withdrew;
And feeling as all feel, on first
  Approaching scenes where, they are told,
Such glories on their eyes shall burst
  As youthful bards in dreams behold.
’T was distant yet, and, as I ran,
  Full often was my wistful gaze
Turned to the sun, who now began
  To call in all his outpost rays,
And form a denser march of light,
Such as beseems a hero’s flight.
O, how I wished for Joshua’s power
To stay the brightness of that hour!
But no,—the sun still less became,
DAY glimmered and I went, a gentle breeze
Ruffling the Leman Lake. Wave after wave,
If such they might be called, dashed as in sport,
Not anger, with the pebbles on the beach
Making wild music, and far westward caught
The sunbeam, where, alone and as entranced,
Counting the hours, the fisher in his skiff
Lay with his circular and dotted line
On the bright waters. When the heart of man
Is light with hope, all things are sure to please;
And soon a passage-boat swept gayly by,
Laden with peasant-girls and fruits and flowers,
And many a chanticleer and partlet caged
For Vevey’s market-place,—a motley group
Seen through the silvery haze. But soon ’t was gone.
The shifting sail flapped idly to and fro,
Then bore them off. I am not one of those
So dead to all things in this visible world,
So wondrously profound, as to move on
In the sweet light of heaven, like him of old 1
(His name is justly in the Calendar)
Who through the day pursued this pleasant path
That winds beside the mirror of all beauty,
And when at eve his fellow-pilgrims sate,
Discoursing of the lake, asked where it was.
They marvelled, as they might; and so must all,
Seeing what now I saw: for now ’t was day,
And the bright sun was in the firmament,
A thousand shadows of a thousand hues
Checkering the clear expanse. Awhile his orb
Hung o’er thy trackless fields of snow, Mont Blanc,
Thy seas of ice and ice-built promontories,
That change their shapes forever as in sport;
Then travelled onward and went down behind
The pine-clad heights of Jura, lighting up
The woodman’s casement, and perchance his axe
Borne homeward through the forest in his hand;
And on the edge of some o’erhanging cliff,
That dungeon-fortress 2 never to be named,
Where, like a lion taken in the toils,
Toussaint breathed out his brave and generous spirit.
Little did he, who sent him there to die,
Think, when he gave the word, that he himself,
Great as he was, the greatest among men,
Should in like manner be so soon conveyed
Athwart the deep, and to a rock so small
Amid the countless multitude of waves,
That ships have gone and sought it, and returned,
Saying it was not!

Main Location:

Lake Leman - Lake Geneva