A Ballad: The Lake of the Dismal Swamp

Original Text: 

Thomas Moore, Epistles, Odes, and Other Poems (London: James Carpenter, 1806). E-10 4193 Fisher Rare Book Library

Written at Norfolk, in Virginia
1"They made her a grave, too cold and damp
2For a soul so warm and true;
3And she's gone to the Lake of the Dismal Swamp,
4Where, all night long, by a fire-fly lamp,
5She paddles her white canoe.
6"And her fire-fly lamp I soon shall see,
7And her paddle I soon shall hear;
8Long and loving our life shall be,
9And I'll hide the maid in a cypress tree,
10When the footstep of death is near."
11Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds--
12His path was rugged and sore,
13Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds,
14Through many a fen where the serpent feeds,
15And man never trod before.
16And when on the earth he sunk to sleep,
17If slumber his eyelids knew,
18He lay where the deadly vine doth weep
19Its venomous tear and nightly steep
20The flesh with blistering dew!
21And near him the she-wolf stirr'd the brake,
22And the copper-snake breath'd in his ear,
23Till he starting cried, from his dream awake,
24"Oh! when shall I see the dusky Lake,
25And the white canoe of my dear?"
26He saw the Lake, and a meteor bright
27Quick over its surface play'd--
28"Welcome," he said, "my dear one's light!"
29And the dim shore echoed for many a night
30The name of the death-cold maid.
31Till he hollow'd a boat of the birchen bark,
32Which carried him off from shore;
33Far, far he follow'd the meteor spark,
34The wind was high and the clouds were dark,
35And the boat return'd no more.
36But oft, from the Indian hunter's camp,
37This lover and maid so true
38Are seen at the hour of midnight damp
39To cross the Lake by a fire-fly lamp,
40And paddle their white canoe!
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
G. G. Falle
RPO Edition: 
3RP.II.476; RPO 1996-2000.