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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Ballads and Other Poems

To the River Charles

  • The three friends hinted at in the eighth stanza were Charles Sumner, Charles Folsom, and Charles Amory.

  • 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.