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

Introductory to India

The River Raldivvir

By John G. Wilson

IN Hindostan runneth a river,

A river that runs from a region

As holy and dread

As Vishnu’s own head;

Its mystical name is Raldivvir,

Raldivvir the Red,

And broad as the ranks of a legion

It flows o’er its bed.

Far back ere the world was yet weary,

While Aryan tribes were still roaming,

No river ran there,

But, arid and bare,

A desolate desert lay dreary,

And burning and dry;

No wild beast that fled with mouth foaming;

Fled there but to die.

A tribe that had wandered and wandered

Far into the desert, were dying

Beneath the fierce sun,

The blinding, fierce sun,

While round them the hot sand-storms thundered.

They died one by one;

The wild sand-storms round them were flying,

Escape there was none.

Then out spake the chieftain Volezert,

The chief of the gray-bearded sages:

“O Vishnu, I pray

Thou lead us the way

From out of this terrible desert,

And lo! I will build

A shrine that shall show through the ages

Thy glory fulfilled.”

He bowed to the ground and he waited,

But all that he heard was the creeping

Of sand in the wind,

Till, choking and blind,

“My children,” he said, “we are fated,

And near is the end.”

Then wild with despair and with weeping

Friend held unto friend.

They cried to their gods, but no answer

Came forth from the darkness, sand-laden,

When swift as a glance,

Erect as a lance,

Up started Raldivvir, the dancer,

A maiden so fair,

So pure and so fair that no maiden

With her could compare.

“O Vishnu, I come to thee, lowly;

No shrine can I build to thy glory,

But now would I die,

That all here may fly

From death, and, O Vishnu the holy,

I call on thy name.”

She ceased, and the sages, the hoary

Old men, flushed with shame.

They gazed at the kneeling Raldivvir,

Then shouted, “Her prayer is availing!”

For leaping to light,

A rivulet bright

Sprang forth and it grew to a river;

It grew all the day.

They builded them boats and went sailing

Away, far away.

And now the tall, swaying pomegranate

Bends low o’er the banks of the river.

The tiger is there,

Crouched low in his lair,

Where swiftly beneath the red planet

The waves run as red

As blood of the maiden Raldivvir,

Raldivvir the dead.