In War Time

Our River


John Greenleaf Whittier

ONCE MORE on yonder laurelled height
    The summer flowers have budded;
Once more with summer’s golden light
    The vales of home are flooded;
And once more, by the grace of Him
    Of every good the Giver,
We sing upon its wooded rim
    The praises of our river,

Its pines above, its waves below,
    The west-wind down it blowing,
As fair as when the young Brissot
    Beheld it seaward flowing,—
And bore its memory o’er the deep,
    To soothe a martyr’s sadness,
And fresco, in his troubled sleep,
    His prison-walls with gladness.

We know the world is rich with streams
    Renowned in song and story,
Whose music murmurs through our dreams
    Of human love and glory
We know that Arno’s banks are fair,
    And Rhine has castled shadows,
And, poet-tuned, the Doon and Ayr
    Go singing down their meadows.

But while, unpictured and unsung
    By painter or by poet,
Our river waits the tuneful tongue
    And cunning hand to show it,—
We only know the fond skies lean
    Above it, warm with blessing,
And the sweet soul of our Undine
    Awakes to our caressing.

No fickle sun-god holds the flocks
    That graze its shores in keeping;
No icy kiss of Dian mocks
    The youth beside it sleeping
Our Christian river loveth most
    The beautiful and human;
The heathen streams of Naiads boast,
    But ours of man and woman.

The miner in his cabin hears
    The ripple we are hearing;
It whispers soft to homesick ears
    Around the settler’s clearing
In Sacramento’s vales of corn,
    Or Santee’s bloom of cotton,
Our river by its valley-born
    Was never yet forgotten.

The drum rolls loud, the bugle fills
    The summer air with clangor;
The war-storm shakes the solid hills
    Beneath its tread of anger;
Young eyes that last year smiled in ours
    Now point the rifle’s barrel,
And hands then stained with fruits and flowers
    Bear redder stains of quarrel.

But blue skies smile, and flowers bloom on,
    And rivers still keep flowing,
The dear God still his rain and sun
    On good and ill bestowing.
His pine-trees whisper, “Trust and wait!”
    His flowers are prophesying
That all we dread of change or fate
    His love is underlying.

And thou, O Mountain-born!—no more
    We ask the wise Allotter
Than for the firmness of thy shore,
    The calmness of thy water,
The cheerful lights that overlay,
    Thy rugged slopes with beauty,
To match our spirits to our day
    And make a joy of duty.

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