Rivers have served as boundaries, avenues of transportation and commerce, and sources of sustenance. Since the course of a river is also a symbol of time, there are many rivers which have been celebrated in poetry, prose, and song.
To the River Charles
River! that in silence windest
Through the meadows, bright and free,
Till at length thy rest thou findest
In the bosom of the sea!
Four long years of mingled feeling,
Half in rest, and half in strife,
I have seen thy waters stealing
Onward, like the stream of life.
Thou hast taught me, Silent River!
Many a lesson, deep and long;
Thou hast been a generous giver;
I can give thee but a song.
Oft in sadness and in illness,
I have watched thy current glide,
Till the beauty of its stillness
Overflowed me, like a tide.
And in better hours and brighter,
When I saw thy waters gleam,
I have felt my heart beat lighter,
And leap onward with thy stream.
Not for this alone I love thee,
Nor because thy waves of blue
From celestial seas above thee
Take their own celestial hue.
Where yon shadowy woodlands hide thee,
And thy waters disappear,
Friends I love have dwelt beside thee,
And have made thy margin dear.
More than this;–thy name reminds me
Of three friends, all true and tried;
And that name, like magic, binds me
Closer, closer to thy side.
Friends my soul with joy remembers!
How like quivering flames they start,
When I fan the living embers
On the hearth-stone of my heart!
‘T is for this, thou Silent River!
That my spirit leans to thee;
Thou hast been a generous giver,
Take this idle song from me.
The river’s ribbons of motion cut through and intersect life, and keep us drawn close to her. Rivers define and enhance our landscape, ever-flowing towards an ocean, lake, or even another river. Some rivers actually dive into the earth and end their course without reaching another body of water.
Rivers connect us. To our history, our communities, and each other. Rivers are full of stories and poetry. Write a poem about a river close to your heart.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s a poem from Rick we enjoyed:
Met you at Sandusky,
near the wooden coaster
I used to ride—you safe
along the ground, and I
round the tracks above you.
I knew you from school,
but there you seemed smaller,
much older than my eleven years,
and I loved your name.
One morning, in the minutes
before the sun would see us,
I moved across your body,
quietly, and drifted with you,
felt you lifting me as the light
spread over us and I saw
the ribbons you made from it,
until my sight vanished in your blue.
Erie, my first sea, my shores
are now many, my home
a faded memory.
Only you will remain,
boundless and bright,
with your courses of light.
—by Rick Maxson
Photo by Nico Kaiser. Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland