Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

India: Ganges, the River

The Ganges

By Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–1838)

ON sweeps the mighty river,—calmly flowing,

Through the eternal flowers

That light the summer hours

Year after year, perpetual in their blowing.

Over the myriad plains, that current ranges,

Itself as clear and bright

As in its earliest light,

And yet the mirror of perpetual changes.

Here must have ceased the echo of those slaughters,

When stopped the onward jar

Of Macedonian war,

Whose murmur only reached thy ancient waters.

Yet have they reddened with the fierce outpouring

Of human blood and life,

When over kingly strife

The vulture on his fated wing was soaring.

How oft its watch, impatient of the morrow,

Hath mortal misery kept,

Beside thy banks, and wept,

Kissing thy quiet night winds with their sorrow!

Yet thou art on thy course majestic keeping,

Unruffled by the breath

Of man’s vain life or death,

Calm as the heaven upon thy bosom sleeping.

Still dost thou keep thy calm and onward motion,

Amid the ancient ranks

Of forests on thy banks,

Till thou hast gained thy home,—the mighty ocean.

And thou dost scatter benefits around thee:

Thy silver current yields

Life to the green rice-fields,

That have like an enchanted girdle bound thee.

By thee are royal gardens, each possessing

A summer in its hues,

Which still thy wave renews;

Where’er thou flowest dost thou bear a blessing.

Such, O my country! should be thy advancing,—

A glorious progress known

As is that river’s, shown

By the glad sunshine on its waters glancing.

So should thy moral light be onwards flowing,—

So should its course be bound

By benefits around,

The blessings which itself hath known, bestowing.

Faith, commerce, knowledge, laws,—those should be springing

Where’er thy standard flies

Amid the azure skies,

Whose highest gifts that red-cross flag is bringing.

Already much for man has been effected;

The weak and poor man’s cause

Is strengthened by the laws,

The equal right, born with us, all respected.

But much awaits, O England! thy redressing;

Thou hast no nobler guide

Than yon bright river’s tide:

Bear as that bears,—where’er thou goest, blessing!