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

New England: Merrimac, the River

Our River

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

For a Summer Festival at “The Laurels” on the Merrimac

ONCE more on yonder laurelled height

The summer flowers have budded;

Once more with summer’s golden light

The vales of home are flooded;

And once more, by the grace of Him

Of every good the Giver,

We sing upon its wooded rim

The praises of our river:

Its pines above, its waves below,

The west-wind down it blowing,

As fair as when the young Brissot

Beheld it seaward flowing,—

And bore its memory o’er the deep,

To soothe a martyr’s sadness,

And fresco, in his troubled sleep,

His prison-walls with gladness.

We know the world is rich with streams

Renowned in song and story,

Whose music murmurs through our dreams

Of human love and glory;

We know that Arno’s banks are fair,

And Rhine has castled shadows,

And, poet-tuned, the Doon and Ayr

Go singing down their meadows.

But while, unpictured and unsung

By painter or by poet,

Our river waits the tuneful tongue

And cunning hand to show it,—

We only know the fond skies lean

Above it, warm with blessing,

And the sweet soul of our Undine

Awakes to our caressing.

No fickle sun-god holds the flocks

That graze its shores in keeping;

No icy kiss of Dian mocks

The youth beside it sleeping:

Our Christian river loveth most

The beautiful and human;

The heathen streams of Naiads boast,

But ours of man and woman.

The miner in his cabin hears

The ripple we are hearing;

It whispers soft to homesick ears

Around the settler’s clearing:

In Sacramento’s vales of corn,

Or Santee’s bloom of cotton,

Our river by its valley-born

Was never yet forgotten.

The drum rolls loud,—the bugle fills

The summer air with clangor;

The war-storm shakes the solid hills

Beneath its tread of anger;

Young eyes that last year smiled in ours

Now point the rifle’s barrel,

And hands then stained with fruits and flowers

Bear redder stains of quarrel.

But blue skies smile, and flowers bloom on,

And rivers still keep flowing,—

The dear God still his rain and sun

On good and ill bestowing.

His pine-trees whisper, “Trust and wait!”

His flowers are prophesying

That all we dread of change or fall

His love is underlying.

And thou, O Mountain-born!—no more

We ask the wise Allotter

Than for the firmness of thy shore,

The calmness of thy water,

The cheerful lights that overlay

Thy rugged slopes with beauty,

To match our spirits to our day

And make a joy of duty.