In 1859, when Rufus Slocum gave Haverhill land on the shores of Great Pond, on condition it would be maintained forever as a free park, Whittier was asked to name the lake and write a poem for the dedication of the park. Whittier looked for an appropriate Indian word, and found “Kenoza” which meant “pickerel,” a fish Whittier had caught there as a boy. His poem was read at the dedication on August 31; in the printed version, Whittier added an introductory note.
This beautiful lake in East Haverhill was the “Great Pond” of the writer’s boyhood. In 1859 a movement was made for improving its shores as a public park. At the opening of the park, August 31, 1859, the poem which gave it the name of Kenoza (in the Indian language signifying: Pickerel) was read.
When he was searching for a name, Whittier said he pitied Adam, who had to come up with so many names. (Woodwell 285)
As Adam did in Paradise,
To-day the primal right we claim:
Fair mirror of the woods and skies,
We give to thee a name.
Lake of the pickerel!—let no more
The echoes answer back, “Great Pond,”
But sweet Kenoza, from thy shore
And watching hills beyond,
Let Indian ghosts, if such there be
Who ply unseen their shadowy lines,
Call back the ancient name to thee,
As with the voice of pines.
Whittier recalls his boyhood activities there.
The shores we trod as barefoot boys,
The nutted woods we wandered through,
To friendship, love, and social joys
We consecrate anew.
Here shall the tender song be sung,
And memory’s dirges soft and low,
And wit shall sparkle on the tongue,
And mirth shall overflow,…
He imagines the people who have moved away from the area.
In sunny South and prairied West
Are exiled hearts remembering still,
As bees their hive, as birds their nest,
The homes of Haverhill.
He imagines the salutary effect of the lake and then brings the poem to conclusion with a religious message.
They peace rebuke our feverish stir,***
Thy beauty our deforming strife;
Thy woods and waters minister
The healing of their life.
And when the summer day grows dim,
And light mists walk thy mimic sea,
Revive in us the thought of Him
Who walked on Galilee!
Full text of "Kenoza Lake"