Lake Lyrics and Other Poems

by William Wilfred Campbell


 

THE LEGEND OF DEAD MAN'S LAKE.*


 

EVER a gray haze waketh the morn,
    In a region that all forsake,
And the noons they follow the desolate noons,
    On the shores of the Dead Man’s Lake.

’Tis a world of forest all withered and bleak, 

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    Where never a leaf doth grow;
But a grey mist broods over water and woods,
    'Twixt heaven and earth below;
And never a sound in all the world round,
    But the desolate call of a crow. 
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And there in a mist, by clammy winds kissed,
    Where never a creature is seen,
All fringed in with weeds and dank marsh reeds
    The lake it lieth between.

The golden summers they go and they come; 

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    The seasons they wake and they sleep;
The partridge drum, and the wild bees’ hum,
    Are heard over meadow and deep;
But never the golden summers that come,
    Or the seasons that sleep and wake, 
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Can waken the rest that broods on the breast
    Of the desolate Dead Man’s Lake.

There is never a ray of the sun by day,
    But ever that horrible haze,
That hangs like a shroud or the ghost of a cloud

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    All about the dread hush of its days:
And ever the moon at her midnight noon,
    Half a cloak doth her cloud-veil make,
As she peers with a pallid and startled look
    In the bosom of Dead Man’s Lake.
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And ever, ’tis said, that she seeth a dread,
    White face of a long-dead man,
That floateth down there, with the weeds in its hair,
    And a look so fixed and wan;
Like the ghost of hate, that lieth in wait, 
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    Through the years that it longeth to span.

And ever at midnight, white and drear,
    When the dim moon sheddeth her light,
Will the startled deer, as they speed by here,
    Slacken their phantom-like flight; 

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And into the shade that the forest hath made,
    A wider circle they take;
For they dread lest their tread wake the sleep of the dead
    In the bosom of Dead Man’s Lake.

And as long as it lies with that prayer in its eyes, 

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    And that curse on its white-sealed lips,
Will the lake lie wan, and the years drift on,
    In their horrible, hushed eclipse,
Will the lake lie under the strange mute wonder
    Of the moon as she pallidly dips;
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Will the song of the bird there never be heard,
    Nor the music of wind-swept tree,
But only the dread of the skies overhead,
    That the mists will never set free,
From the terrible spell that there ever will dwell
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    As long as the ages be.

And there it lies and holdeth the skies,
    In a trance they never can break,
While the years, they follow the desolate years,
    On the shores of the Dead Man’s Lake.

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* Dead Man's Lake, a lonely sheet of water that lies in a desolate region of the Indian Peninsula, between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It is situated in a forest of dead pines and hemlocks, blighted by bush fires long before the memory of any living man, and this adds materially to the desolation of an already dreary region of swamp and rock. The Indians have a legend that a chief was treacherously murdered on this lake, and that his body still lies with upturned face at the bottom. Hence its name and the dread curse they believe hangs over the vicinity, which they always shun. [back]