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

Western States: Ohio, the River

Passage down the Ohio

By James Kirke Paulding (1779–1860)

(From The Backwoodsman)

AS down Ohio’s ever ebbing tide,

Oarless and sailless, silently they glide,

How still the scene, how lifeless, yet how fair

Was the lone land that met the stranger there!

No smiling villages or curling smoke

The busy haunts of busy men bespoke;

No solitary hut, the banks along,

Sent forth blithe labor’s homely, rustic song;

No urchin gambolled on the smooth, white sand,

Or hurled the skipping-stone with playful hand,

While playmate dog plunged in the clear blue wave,

And swam, in vain, the sinking prize to save.

Where now are seen, along the river-side,

Young, busy towns, in buxom, painted pride,

And fleets of gliding boats with riches crowned,

To distant Orleans or St. Louis bound.

Nothing appeared but nature unsubdued,

One endless, noiseless woodland solitude,

Or boundless prairie, that aye seemed to be

As level and as lifeless as the sea;

They seemed to breathe in this wide world alone,

Heirs of the earth—the land was all their own!

’T was evening now: the hour of toil was o’er,

Yet still they durst not seek the fearful shore,

Lest watchful Indian crew should silent creep,

And spring upon and murder them in sleep;

So through the livelong night they held their way,

And ’t was a night might shame the fairest day;

So still, so bright, so tranquil was its reign,

They cared not though the day ne’er came again.

The moon high wheeled the distant hills above,

Silvered the fleecy foliage of the grove,

That as the wooing zephyrs on it fell,

Whispered it loved the gentle visit well.

That fair-faced orb alone to move appeared,

That zephyr was the only sound they heard.

No deep-mouthed hound the hunter’s haunt betrayed,

No lights upon the shore or waters played,

No loud laugh broke upon the silent air,

To tell the wanderers, man was nestling there.

All, all was still, on gliding bark and shore,

As if the earth now slept to wake no more.