Poem: “The Song of a River” by Sam Walter Foss

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Piscataquog River in Goffstown NH, 2012. Photograph copyright Janice W. Brown

I
Hear my song of a river,
Its calm and its strife;
‘Tis the song of a river,
The song of a life.

Afar amid benignant hills in caverns of deep shade,
‘Neath rippling arches of cool leaves, within a forest glade,
The mountain rivulet leaps down in silvery cascade.
Child of the hills, it sings its song and spills it wayward glee
In tangled music through the rocks and dreams not of the sea,
It spills ambrosial morning joy and dreams not of the sea.

And there are many-colored birds that join their mingled strain,
And many zephyr-tumbled leaves that swell the strong refrain,
And the voice of the sombre pine alone is the only voice of pain.
“Tis the only voice that tells of the sea that’s under sun or star,
And a foolish phantom voice to the stream that dreams the sea is far,
That dreams that the world is a mighty world and the sea is very far.

But birds from the south fly into the hills and sing of a world unknown,
And there are winds that float from the west from odorous valleys blown,
And the winds that tell of a meadowy land with deep grass overgrown;
And a land beyond the meadowy land at the end of a winding glen,
A steaming land and a strenuous land, the Land of the Roar of Men–
And the river is fain for the meadowy land and the Land of the Roar of Men.

II
Hear my song of a river,
Its calm and its strife;
‘Tis the song of a river,
The song of a life.

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Piscataquog River as it flows through Goffstown Village. Photograph taken in 2012, copyright Janice W. Brown

And the river leaps to the meadowy land and is strong in the stress of its flow,
It is hurled by the weight of its floods above and is mad for the deep below,
For it hastens on to the falls ahead where the meadowless cities grow.
And it leaps the falls and joins in the noise of the Land of the Roar of Men,
Till it years for the peace of the sleeping hills and the deeps of the woodland glen–
By the giant wheels of the thunderous mills it yearns for the woodland glen.

And the spindles clash in the thunderous mills and the work of the world is done,
And the lives of men are ravelled out, but webs of cloth are spun.
Through its darkened sluice of builded stone its writhing waters flee,
Till it years for the meads of the salted tide and the voice of the calling sea,
For the tolerant plains of the tided meads and the voice of the friendly sea.

And it flows to the meads of the salted tide and is cheered by the ocean’s roar,
For in the roar is a mystic Voice that speaks forevermore,
A mystic Voice in a mystic song that sings of a thitherward shore.
And the river is calm with the calm of the Voice and through the salted lea,
In the silent trance of a pleasant sleep it falls in the waiting sea–
Falls lulled by the croon of the mystic song in the mother arms of the sea.

My song of a river,
Its calm and its strife;
My song of a river,
The river of life.

–from Songs of War and Peace, by Sam Walter Foss

*ADDITIONAL READING*

Candia New Hampshire Journalist, Editor, and Poet: Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

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One Response to Poem: “The Song of a River” by Sam Walter Foss

  1. Pingback: Candia New Hampshire Journalist, Editor and Poet, Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) | Cow Hampshire

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