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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.

Hymn to the Hudson River

By William Ross Wallace (1819–1881)


LOSE not a memory of the glorious scenes,

Mountains, and palisades, and leaning rocks,

Steep white-walled towns and ships that lie beneath,

By which, like some serene, heroic soul

Revolving noble thoughts, thou calmly cam’st,

O mighty river of the North! Thy lip

Meets Ocean here, and in deep joy he lifts

His great white brow, and gives his stormy voice

A milder tone, and murmurs pleasantly

To every shore, and bids the insolent blast

To touch thee very gently; for thy banks

Held empires broad and populous as the leaves

That rustle o’er their grave,—republics gone

Long, long ago, before the pale men came,

Like clouds into the dim and dusty past:

But there is dearer reason; for the rills

That feed thee, rise among the storied rocks

Where Freedom built her battle-tower; and blow

Their flutes of silver by the poor man’s door;

And innocent childhood in the ripple dips

Its rosy feet; and from the round blue sky

That circles all, smiles out a certain Godhead.

O lordly river! thou shalt henceforth be

A wanderer of the deep; and thou shalt hear

The sad, wild voices of the solemn North

Utter uncertain words in cloudy rhythm,

But full of terrible meaning, to the wave

That moans by Labrador; and thou shalt pause

To pay thy worship in the coral temples,

The ancient Meccas of the reverent sea;

And thou shalt start again on thy blue path

To kiss the southern isles; and thou shalt know

What beauty thrones the blue Symplegades,

What glory the long Dardanelles; and France

Shall listen to thy calm, deep voice, and learn

That Freedom must be calm if she would fix

Her mountain moveless in a heaving world;

And Greece shall hear thee chant by Marathon,

And Italy shall feel thy breathing on her shores,

Where Liberty once more takes up her lance;

And when thou hurriest back, full of high themes,

Great Albion shall joy through every cliff,

And lordly hall, and peasant-home, and old

Cathedral where earth’s emperors sleep,—whose crowns

Were laurel and whose sceptres pen and harp,—

The mother of our race shall joy to hear

Thy low, sweet murmuring: her sonorous tongue

Is thine, her glory thine; for thou dost bear

On thy rejoicing tide, rejoicing at the task,

The manly Saxon sprung from her own loins

In far America.
Roll on! roll on,

Thou river of the North! Tell thou to all

The isles, tell thou to all the continents

The grandeur of my land. Speak of its vales

Where Independence wears a pastoral wreath

Amid the holy quiet of his flock;

And of its mountains with their cloudy beards

Tossed by the breath of centuries; and speak

Of its tall cataracts that roll their bass

Among the choral of its midnight storms,

And of its rivers lingering through the plains,

So long, that they seem made to measure Time;

And of its lakes that mock the haughty sea;

And of its caves where banished gods might find

Night large enough to hide their crownless heads;

And of its sunsets, glorious and broad

Above the prairies spread like oceans on

And on, and on over the far dim leagues,

Till vision shudders o’er immensity.

Roll on! roll on, thou river of the North!

Bear on thy wave the music of the crash

That tells a forest’s fall, wide woods that hold

Beneath their cloistered bark a registry

Where Time may almost find how old he is.

Keep in thy memory the frequent homes,

That from the ruin rise, the triumphs these

Of real kings whose conquering march shines up

Into the wondering Oregon.