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By Trumbull Stickney

There lies a somnolent lake

Under a noiseless sky,

Where never the mornings break

Nor the evenings die.


Mad flakes of colour

Whirl on its even face

Iridescent and streaked with pallour;

And, warding the silent place,


The rocks rise sheer and gray

From the sedgeless brink to the sky

Dull-lit with the light of pale half-day

Thro’ a void space and dry.


And the hours lag dead in the air

With a sense of coming eternity

To the heart of the lonely boatman there:

That boatman am I,


I, in my lonely boat,

A waif on the somnolent lake,

Watching the colours creep and float

With the sinuous track of a snake.


Now I lean o’er the side

And lazy shades in the water see,

Lapped in the sweep of a sluggish tide

Crawled in from the living sea;


And next I fix mine eyes,

So long that the heart declines,

On the changeless face of the open skies

Where no star shines;


And now to the rocks I turn,

To the rocks, around

That lie like walls of a circling sun

Wherein lie bound


The waters that feel my powerless strength

And meet my homeless oar

Labouring over their ashen length

Never to find a shore.


But the gleam still skims

At times on the somnolent lake,

And a light there is that swims

With the whirl of a snake;


And tho’ dead be the hours i’ the air,

And dayless the sky,

The heart is alive of the boatman there:

That boatman am I.


  • Living
  • Mythology & Folklore
  • Nature

Poet Bio

Trumbull Stickney
The son of wealthy and educated parents, Trumbull Stickney led a cosmopolitan life in Europe before attending Harvard College. While still a freshman, he was chosen to help edit the prestigious Harvard Monthly. His first poems were published in the magazine and clearly show his interest in classical Greek literature. After graduating, Stickney traveled to Paris and studied at the Sorbonne, becoming the first American to receive the university’s degree of Doctorat es Lettres. Unhappy in academia, he returned to Harvard to teach and died just a year later, at the age of 30. Though he was well versed in classical Greek literature, in his own poetry Stickney displays the divisions of a modern consciousness. Highly emotional and technically daring, Stickney’s small body of work influenced later poets such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. See More By This Poet

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