“A Contrast” by Alfred Billings Street

by Ann Neilson

A Contrast
Alfred Billings Street

A LAKE is slumbering in the wild-wood depths,
Picturing naught upon its polish’d glass
But the long stretching and contracting shades
That change as change the hours: its sullen tones
Blending but with the forest’s daylight songs
And midnight howlings; o’er the leafy waste,
Curls a light thread of smoke-a hunter’s fire;
And mid the lilies’ floating golden globes,
Spangling the margin, where the ripples play
And melt in silver, rocks his bark canoe.

A few years circle by. The talisman
Of toil has waved above this forest-scene.
Rich meadows, spotted with dense waving woods,
Slope to the sun-lit surface of the lake,
Whose plashings mingle with the village-din,
And rural low and bleat. Where curl’d that smoke,
Glitter white walls, and cluster roofs of men,
With terraced gardens, leaning to the wave,
Religion rearing spires, and Learning, domes
To the bright skies that arch this Eden-spot.
The rude canoe has vanish’d, but swift keels
Move joyous o’er the smiling, sparkling flood
That lies in calm obedience at the feet
Of those that freed it from its dungeon-shades.