Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: Hudson, the River, N. Y.

Hudson River

By Thomas William Parsons (1819–1892)


RIVERS that roll most musical in song

Are often lovely to the mind alone;

The wanderer muses, as he moves along

Their barren banks, on glories not their own.

When, to give substance to his boyish dreams,

He leaves his own, far countries to survey,

Oft must he think, in greeting foreign streams,

“Their names alone are beautiful, not they.”

If chance he mark the dwindled Arno pour

A tide more meagre than his native Charles;

Or views the Rhone when summer’s heat is o’er,

Subdued and stagnant in the fen of Aries;

Or when he sees the slimy Tiber fling

His sullen tribute at the feet of Rome,

Oft to his thought must partial memory bring

More noble waves, without renown, at home;

Now let him climb the Catskill, to behold

The lordly Hudson, marching to the main,

And say what bard, in any land of old,

Had such a river to inspire his strain.

Along the Rhine gray battlements and towers

Declare what robbers once the realm possessed;

But here Heaven’s handiwork surpasseth ours,

And man has hardly more than built his nest.

No storied castle overawes these heights,

Nor antique arches check the current’s play,

Nor mouldering architrave the mind invites

To dream of deities long passed away.

No Gothic buttress, or decaying shaft

Of marble, yellowed by a thousand years,

Lifts a great landmark to the little craft,—

A summer cloud! that comes and disappears.

But cliffs, unaltered from their primal form

Since the subsiding of the deluge, rise

And hold their savins to the upper storm,

While far below the skiff securely plies.

Farms, rich not more in meadows than in men

Of Saxon mould, and strong for every toil,

Spread o’er the plain, or scatter through the glen,

Bœotian plenty on a Spartan soil.

Then, where the reign of cultivation ends,

Again the charming wilderness begins;

From steep to steep one solemn wood extends,

Till some new hamlet’s rise the boscage thins.

And these deep groves forever have remained

Touched by no axe,—by no proud owner nursed:

As now they stand they stood when Pharaoh reigned,

Lineal descendants of creation’s first.


No tales, we know, are chronicled of thee

In ancient scrolls; no deeds of doubtful claim

Have hung a history on every tree,

And given each rock its fable and a fame.

But neither here hath any conqueror trod,

Nor grim invaders from barbarian climes;

No horrors feigned of giant or of god

Pollute thy stillness with recorded crimes.

Here never yet have happy fields laid waste,

The ravished harvest and the blasted fruit,

The cottage ruined, and the shrine defaced,

Tracked the foul passage of the feudal brute.

“Yet, O Antiquity!” the stranger sighs,

“Scenes wanting thee soon pall upon the view;

The soul’s indifference dulls the sated eyes,

Where all is fair indeed,—but all is new.”

False thought! is age to crumbling walls confined?

To Grecian fragments and Egyptian bones?

Hath Time no monuments to raise the mind,

More than old fortresses and sculptured stones?

Call not this new which is the only land

That wears unchanged the same primeval face

Which, when just dawning from its Maker’s hand,

Gladdened the first great grandsire of our race.

Nor did Euphrates with an earlier birth

Glide past green Eden towards the unknown south,

Than Hudson broke upon the infant earth,

And kissed the ocean with his nameless mouth.

Twin-born with Jordan, Ganges, and the Nile!

Thebes and the pyramids to thee are young;

O, had thy waters burst from Britain’s isle,

Till now perchance they had not flowed unsung.