RIVER that runnest with tempestuous note,
‡‡With rioting eddies and tumultuous tide
And maelstroms struggling in the chasm’s throat,
‡‡A thousand tempests in thine onset ride ;
‡‡A thousand storms, whose thunders never died
When o’er the misty meadows of the air
‡‡The volleying clouds were scattered far and wide,
Charge in mad wheel, like furious horsemen where
Their frothing squadrons plunge around the embattled square.
But as thy waters throng the sheer decline,
‡‡What image in the mind’s fantastic world —
Of mighty cavalry down some path malign,
‡‡Unseen, unguessed, with trampling turmoil whirled ;
‡‡Or of innumerable bison hurled
Before the hunters to a cañon’s deep,
‡‡And myriads on rushing myriads swirled
Over the maddening and horrid steep —
But sinks before thy unimaginable sweep !
Far other is the vision of thy strength
‡‡Where the dire tumults fail in murmurs low :
Like level-lying lawns is thy green length,
‡‡And meadow-white the great foam-blossoms blow.
‡‡Beside thy bank, which evergreens o’ergrow,
Most like a flower-strewn Titan thou dost dream —
‡‡After some vast primeval labor’s throe —
And the far cataract’s snows glide and gleam
Thicker than star-foam on the Milky Way’s dark stream.
Methinks, brave river, muttering in thy jar
‡‡Ponderous syllables of an age-old tongue, —
Heir of some boisterous sea once billowing far,
‡‡Strength of the old world’s loins when time was young,
‡‡I hear thee faintlier chant a pæan flung
Along thy footpath, in Earth’s rugged prime,
‡‡When from a grander steep thy challenge rung,
And vapors rose on pillars more sublime
‡‡To where thy rainbow’s unsubstantial arches climb.
Emblem of youth eternal, in whose course
‡‡A thousand years are as the vasty surge
That every moment crashes, loud and hoarse,
‡‡Into the torment of the whelming gurge,
‡‡Why do thy floods such march impetuous urge ?
No sovereign voice exhorts thy restless tide
‡‡In one impatient hour its life to merge,
Lest some unconquered good may yet abide
When thy spent waters in the solemn sea subside.
Thy lips do swallow up my tiny voice ;
‡‡My thoughts lie baffled in thy torrent’s spell.
Yet in thy shock and riot I rejoice,
‡‡Type of humanity when life did well
‡‡Lavish and buoyant as thy chanting swell,
When all its days to stormy music ran,
‡‡Unconscious of the sea-goal seaward fell ;
When laughter like thy spray flew in its van ;
And as thy chainless flow was the free heart of man.
Source: Richard Edwin Day. Poems. New York: Cassell & Co., 1888