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

New England: Salmon, the River, N. H.

Salmon River

By John Gardiner Calkins Brainard (1795–1828)

’T IS a sweet stream,—and so, ’t is true, are all

That, undisturbed, save by the harmless brawl

Of mimic rapid or slight waterfall,

Pursue their way

By mossy bank, and darkly waving wood,

By rock, that since the deluge fixed has stood,

Showing to sun and moon their crisping flood

By night and day.

But yet there ’s something in its humble rank,

Something in its pure wave and sloping bank,

Where the deer sported, and the young fawn drank

With unscared look;

There ’s much in its wild history, that teems

With all that ’s superstitious,—and that seems

To match our fancy and eke out our dreams,

In that small brook.

Havoc has been upon its peaceful plain,

And blood has dropped there, like the drops of rain;

The corn grows o’er the still graves of the slain,—

And many a quiver,

Filled from the reeds that grew on yonder hill,

Has spent itself in carnage. Now ’t is still,

And whistling ploughboys oft their runlets fill

From Salmon River.

Here, say old men, the Indian magi made

Their spells by moonlight; or beneath the shade

That shrouds sequestered rock, or darkening glade,

Or tangled dell.

Here Philip came, and Miantonimo,

And asked about their fortunes long ago,

As Saul to Endor, that her witch might show

Old Samuel.

And here the black fox roved, that howled and shook

His thick tail to the hunters, by the brook

Where they pursued their game, and him mistook

For earthly fox;

Thinking to shoot him like a shaggy bear,

And his soft peltry, stripped and dressed, to wear,

Or lay a trap, and from his quiet lair

Transfer him to a box.

Such are the tales they tell. ’T is hard to rhyme

About a little and unnoticed stream,

That few have heard of,—but it is a theme

I chance to love;

And one day I may tune my rye-straw reed,

And whistle to the note of many a deed

Done on this river,—which, if there be need,

I ’ll try to prove.