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River Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Tide River by Charles Kingsley
  2. Casco River by Daniel Clement Colesworthy
  3. The Angler's Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  4. The Old Mill by the River by Isaac McLellan
  5. The River and the Tree by Margaret E. Sangster
  6. The River's Lesson by William Osborn Stoddard
  7. To the River Rhone by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  8. The Rhone, excerpt by Frédéric Mistral
  9. October on a Maine River by Kenneth Slade Alling
  10. The River by Robert J. Kerr
  11. The Shannon River by Robert J. Kerr
  12. The Mississippi by John Henton Carter

  1. The Tide River

    by Charles Kingsley

    Clear and cool, clear and cool,
    By laughing shallow, and dreaming pool;
    Cool and clear, cool and clear,
    By shining shingle, and foaming weir;
    Under the crag where the ouzel sings,
    And the ivied wall where the church-bell rings,
    Undefiled, for the undefiled;
    Play by me, bathe in me, mother and child.

    Dank and foul, dank and foul,
    By the smoky town in its murky cowl;
    Foul and dank, foul and dank,
    By wharf and sewer and slimy bank;
    Darker and darker the further I go,
    Baser and baser the richer I grow;
    Who dare sport with the sin defiled?
    Shrink from me, turn from me, mother and child.

    Strong and free, strong and free,
    The flood-gates are open, away to the sea;
    Free and strong, free and strong,
    Cleansing my streams as I hurry along
    To the golden sands, and the leaping bar,
    And the taintless tide that awaits me afar;
    As I lose myself in the infinite main,
    Like a soul that has sinned and is pardoned again.
    Undefiled, for the undefiled,
    Play by me, bathe in me, mother and child.

  2. Casco River

    by Daniel Clement Colesworthy

    Of the rivers bright and golden,
    Rolling onward to the sea,
    In their beauty and their grandeur,
    Thou the dearest art to me.

    I have seen the Juniata
    Sweep its verdant banks along;
    Listened to the Rappahannock
    In its rudest, wildest song;

    I have watched the broad Ohio,
    Swelling from a thousand streams,
    And the quiet, meek Scioto,
    Brighter than a poet's dreams;

    Heard the roaring of Niagara,
    Wonder of the western world;
    Seen the towering, icy mountains
    In its "hell of waters" hurled;

    Stood beside the Susquehanna,
    And the rolling Merrimack;
    On the noble Mississippi
    Marked the Indian s arrowy track;

    By the beauteous Androscoggin
    In a trance of glory stood,
    Listening to a thousand echoes
    From the deep, surrounding wood;

    In Penobscot's verdant valley
    Lingered with the savage wild,
    Till I seemed to catch the spirit
    Of untutored nature's child;

    On the banks of sinuous Nonesuch
    Lingered many a sunny day,
    Till the evening shadows tore me
    From my peaceful joys away;

    Sailed upon the glorious Hudson,
    Floated on old Congin's breast;
    But such beauties never stirred me
    As on Casco's bosom rest.

    Golden river! well I love thee—
    Heaven of childhood's happy day,
    When upon thy sparkling waters
    I was wont to leap and play.

    Gone are schoolmates; cot and palace
    Crumbled by the tooth of time;
    But thou rollest in thy beauty,
    Filling me with thoughts sublime

    Generations come and linger
    For a season and are gone,
    But, unchanging and forever,
    Gloriously thou rollest on.

  3. The Angler's Song

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    From the river's plashy bank,
    Where the sedge grows green and rank,
    And the twisted woodbine springs,
    Upward speeds the morning lark
    To its silver cloud — and hark!
    On his way the woodman sings.

    On the dim and misty lakes
    Gloriously the morning breaks,
    And the eagle's on his cloud: —
    Whilst the wind, with sighing, wooes
    To its arms the chaste cold ooze,
    And the rustling reeds pipe loud.

    Where the embracing ivy holds
    Close the hoar elm in its folds,
    In the meadow's fenny land,
    And the winding river sweeps
    Through its shallows and still deeps, —
    Silent with my rod I stand.

    But when sultry suns are high
    Underneath the oak I lie
    As it shades the water's edge,
    And I mark my line, away
    In the wheeling eddy, play,
    Tangling with the river sedge.

    When the eye of evening looks
    On green woods and winding brooks,
    And the wind sighs o'er the lea, —
    Woods and streams, — I leave you then,
    While the shadow in the glen
    Lengthens by the greenwood tree.

  4. The Old Mill by the River

    by Isaac McLellan

    Here in the years when life was bright
    With dewy mornings and sunset light,
    In the pleasant season of leafy June,
    In each idle, holiday afternoon
    I lov'd to wander with willow wand—
    I lov'd on the river border to stand
    And take the trout or the yellow bream
    That leap'd, that glanc'd athwart the stream.

    With broken window, with hingeless door,
    Thro' which the slanting sunbeams pour;
    With leaning gable, and settling wall,
    O'er which the draperied ivies fall;
    With rafter moldy, worm-eaten beam,
    O'er which the silken cobwebs stream,
    Fast by the river-banks serene
    The old forsaken mill is seen.
    Its roof shows many a chasm and rent,
    Its creaking vane is crack'd and bent,
    In and out the swallows fly
    Under the eaves their dwellings lie.
    The leather-wing'd bats, when day is dim,
    Thro' vacant rooms and granaries skim;
    Its shingles that ages ago were new,
    Splendid with painters' lavish hue,
    Are faded now and swing in the gale,
    Scarce held by the loosen'd rusty nail;
    The clapboards rattle and clank amain
    In gusts of the snow-fall and the rain,
    For the dust of many a lapsing year
    Hath writ its wasteful chronicle here.
    The dam o'er which the waters pour
    Is settling and crumbling by the shore;
    The slippery logs and mossy stone
    Yield to the current one by one;
    And swift thro' many a rent abyss
    The spouting rivulets foam and hiss,
    And soon must the crazy fabric decay,
    And the torrent sweep uncheck'd away.
    The water-wheel so black and vast,
    With beam like a battle-vessel's mast
    That once would churn with mighty sweep
    The boiling waters so dark and deep,
    Lies now a wreck in humbled pride,
    Trembling with each assault of the tide.
    Under the crumbling, blacken'd wheel
    The crystal bubbles circle and reel;
    Over and under the eddies boil
    Round molder'd timber and rotting post;
    In many a circling ripple they coil
    In sudden plunge, in wild turmoil,
    Now seen an instant, then quickly lost.

  5. The River and the Tree

    by Margaret E. Sangster

    "You are white and tall and swaying," sang the river to the tree,
    "And your leaves are touched with silver—but you never smile on me;
    For your branches murmur love songs to the sun-kissed turquoise sky,
    And you seem so far above me that I always hurry by!"

    "You are laughing in your shallows, you are somber in your deeps,
    And below your shining surface there's a heart that never sleeps;
    But all day you pass me, dancing, and at evening time you dream,
    And I didn't think you liked me," sang the birch-tree to the stream.

    So they got a bit acquainted on a glowing summer day,
    And they found they liked each other (which is often times the way);
    And the river got so friendly, and it ran so very slow,
    That the birch-tree shone reflected in the water down below!

  6. The River's Lesson

    by William Osborn Stoddard

    Under the canopied bank we lie,
    And the muddy river is rushing by,
    Yellow and foul from its eddying stray
    Through a thousand miles of wandering way,
    Gross and turbid;—and yet, I know
    That this same troubled and mingled flow
    Shall one day clear as the crystal be,
    After it dies in the deep, far sea.

    I have watched it long, with an aching brow,
    Bending above it, and wonder now
    If the river, so full of grime and strife,
    May not be an emblem of human life,
    And if many a soul that has wandered and toiled,
    All corrupted and gross and soiled,
    At the end may not calmly glide
    Into that last great swallowing tide,
    And clear and pure as the crystal be,
    After it dies in that deep, far sea.

  7. To the River Rhone

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Thou Royal River, born of sun and shower
    In chambers purple with the Alpine glow,
    Wrapped in the spotless ermine of the snow
    And rocked by tempests!—at the appointed hour
    Forth, like a steel-clad horseman from a tower,
    With clang and clink of harness dost thou go
    To meet thy vassal torrents, that below
    Rush to receive thee and obey thy power.
    And now thou movest in triumphal march,
    A king among the rivers! On thy way
    A hundred towns await and welcome thee;
    Bridges uplift for thee the stately arch,
    Vineyards encircle thee with garlands gay,
    And fleets attend thy progress to the sea!

  8. The Rhone, excerpt

    by Frédéric Mistral, translated by Harriet W. Preston

    From "Mirèio"

    Majestically calm, but wearily
    And as he fain would sleep, the Rhone passed by
    Like some great veteran dying. He recalls
    Music and feasting in Avignon’s halls
    And castles, and profoundly sad is he
    To lose his name and waters in the sea.

  9. October on a Maine River

    by Kenneth Slade Alling

    The blood of maples on the autumn sky,
    And dead leaves drifting, drifting to the sea:
    Now, to the year Time makes his old reply,
    Nothing on earth shall live immortally.
    The burst of glory on a dying face,
    Of one who sees beyond, some haven far,
    Lit with the spring-light of another place
    And silver winds blown from another star.
    Now beauty burns in gold on every hill
    And changes not her warm imperial way:
    There is no sadness here, whate'er men say—
    Beauty departing is yet beauty still.

  10. The River

    by Kenneth Slade Alling

    Croons the river lyrics olden,
    Mystic songs at eventide;
    In the lengthening shadows folden
    Croons the river lyrics olden;
    To a Queen with tresses golden,
    And a true Knight by her side,
    Croons the river lyrics olden,
    Mystic songs at eventide.

  11. The Shannon River

    by Robert J. Kerr

    By the stately Shannon River
    In the Autumn evenfall,
    Waving willows bend and shiver
    To the weary wild-bird's call.

    Limerick's tolling bells deliver
    As of old their tale to all,
    By the stately Shannon River
    In the Autumn evenfall.

    Darkening slow the last rays quiver
    Over cottage, spire, and hall,
    And upon a boy—for ever
    Building dream-lit castles tall.
    By the stately Shannon River
    In the Autumn evenfall.

  12. The Mississippi

    by John Henton Carter

    Lo! mighty giant of the noiseless tread,
    That serpent-like sweeps ever to the main,
    And joyous most when most inflicting pain,
    Inspiring all with thoughts of constant dread.
    Now lording high, now bending low thy head,
    For that thou, too, must stoop at times, 'tis plain,
    And cringe till waning fountains shall again
    Have all thy greedy, shrinking bulk refed.
    And yet, unconquerable to the last,
    Retaining all thy matchless subtilety.
    And, lo! a polypus thou hast surpassed
    In readjusting thine anatomy,
    And, hydra-like, with all thy mouths so vast,
    Hissing defiance at the threat'ning sea!

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