Lake Como

A poem by Abram Joseph Ryan

Winter on the mountains
Summer on the shore,
The robes of sun-gleams woven,
The lake's blue wavelets wore.

Cold, white, against the heavens,
Flashed winter's crown of snow,
And the blossoms of the spring-tide
Waved brightly far below.

The mountain's head was dreary,
The cold and cloud were there,
But the mountain's feet were sandaled
With flowers of beauty rare.

And winding thro' the mountains
The lake's calm wavelets rolled,
And a cloudless sun was gilding
Their ripples with its gold.

Adown the lake we glided
Thro' all the sunlit day;
The cold snows gleamed above us,
But fair flowers fringed our way

The snows crept down the mountain,
The flowers crept up the slope,
Till they seemed to meet and mingle,
Like human fear and hope.

But the same rich, golden sunlight
Fell on the flowers and snow,
Like the smile of God that flashes
On hearts in joy or woe.

And on the lake's low margin
The trees wore stoles of green,
While here and there, amid them,
A convent cross was seen.

Anon a ruined castle,
Moss-mantled, loomed in view,
And cast its solemn shadow
Across the water's blue.

And chapel, cot, and villa,
Met here and there our gaze,
And many a crumbling tower
That told of other days.

And scattered o'er the waters
The fishing boats lay still,
And sound of song so softly
Came echoed from the hill.

At times the mountain's shadow
Fell dark across the scene,
And veiled with veil of purple
The wavelets' silver sheen.

But for a moment only
The lake would wind, and lo!
The waves would near the glory
Of the sunlight's brightest glow.

At times there fell a silence
Unbroken by a tone,
As if no sound of voices
Had ever there been known.

Through strange and lonely places
We glided thus for hours;
We saw no other faces
But the faces of the flowers.

The shores were sad and lonely
As hearts without a love,
While darker and more dreary
The mountains rose above.

But sudden round a headland
The lake would sweep again,
And voices from a village
Would meet us with their strain.

Thus all the day we glided,
Until the Vesper bell
Gave to the day, at sunset,
Its sweet and soft farewell.

Then back again we glided
Upon our homeward way,
When twilight wrapped the waters
And the mountains with its gray.

But brief the reign of twilight,
The night came quickly on;
The dark brow o'er the mountains,
Star-wreathed, brightly shone.

And down thro' all the shadows
The star-gleams softly crept,
And kissed, with lips all shining,
The wavelets ere they slept.

The lake lay in a slumber,
The shadows for its screen,
While silence waved her sceptre
Above the sleeping scene.

The spirit of the darkness
Moved, ghost-like, everywhere;
Wherever starlight glimmered,
Its shadow, sure, fell there.

The lone place grew more lonely,
And all along our way
The mysteries of the night-time
Held undisputed sway.

Thro' silence and thro' darkness
We glided down the tide
That wound around the mountains
That rose on either side.

No eyes would close in slumber
Within our little bark;
What charmed us so in daylight
So awed us in the dark.

Upon the deck we lingered,
A whisper scarce was heard;
When hearts are stirred profoundest,
Lips are without a word.

"Let's say the Chaplet," softly
A voice beside me spake.
"Christ walked once in the darkness
Across an Eastern lake,

"And to-night we know the secret
That will charm Him to our side:
If we call upon His Mother,
He will meet us on the tide."

So we said the beads together,
Up and down the little bark;
And I believe that Jesus met us,
With His Mother, in the dark.

And our prayers were scarcely ended
When, on mountain-top afar,
We beheld the morning meeting
With the night's last fading star.

And I left the lake; but never
Shall the years to come efface
From my heart the dream and vision
Of that strange and lonely place.

February 1, 1873.

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