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

New England: Cummington, Mass.

The Rivulet

By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

THIS little rill, that from the springs

Of yonder grove its current brings,

Plays on the slope awhile, and then

Goes prattling into groves again,

Oft to its warbling waters drew

My little feet, when life was new.

When woods in early green were dressed,

And from the chambers of the west

The warmer breezes, travelling out,

Breathed the new scent of flowers about,

My truant steps from home would stray,

Upon its grassy side to play,

List the brown thrasher’s vernal hymn,

And crop the violet on its brim,

With blooming cheek and open brow,

As young and gay, sweet rill, as thou.

And when the days of boyhood came,

And I had grown in love with fame,

Duly I sought thy banks, and tried

My first rude numbers by thy side.

Words cannot tell how bright and gay

The scenes of life before me lay.

Then glorious hopes, that now to speak

Would bring the blood into my cheek,

Passed o’er me; and I wrote, on high,

A name I deemed should never die.

Years change thee not. Upon yon hill

The tall old maples, verdant still,

Yet tell, in grandeur of decay,

How swift the years have passed away,

Since first, a child, and half afraid,

I wandered in the forest shade.

Thou, ever joyous rivulet,

Dost dimple, leap, and prattle yet;

And sporting with the sands that pave

The winding of thy silver wave,

And dancing to thy own wild chime,

Thou laughest at the lapse of time.

The same sweet sounds are in my ear

My early childhood loved to hear;

As pure thy limpid waters run;

As bright they sparkle to the sun;

As fresh and thick the bending ranks

Of herbs that line thy oozy banks;

The violet there, in soft May dew,

Comes up, as modest and as blue;

As green amid thy current’s stress,

Floats the scarce-rooted watercress:

And the brown ground-bird, in thy glen,

Still chirps as merrily as then.

Thou changest not,—but I am changed,

Since first thy pleasant banks I ranged;

And the grave stranger, come to see

The play-place of his infancy,

Has scarce a single trace of him

Who sported once upon thy brim.

The visions of my youth are past,—

Too bright, too beautiful to last.

I ’ve tried the world,—it wears no more

The coloring of romance it wore.

Yet well has Nature kept the truth

She promised in my earliest youth.

The radiant beauty shed abroad

On all the glorious works of God,

Shows freshly, to my sobered eye,

Each charm it wore in days gone by.

A few brief years shall pass away,

And I, all trembling, weak, and gray,

Bowed to the earth, which waits to fold

My ashes in the embracing mould

(If haply the dark will of fate

Indulge my life so long a date),

May come for the last time to look

Upon my childhood’s favorite brook.

Then dimly on my eye shall gleam

The sparkle of thy dancing stream;

And faintly on my ear shall fall

Thy prattling current’s merry call;

Yet shalt thou flow as glad and bright

As when thou met’st my infant sight.

And I shall sleep—and on thy side,

As ages after ages glide,

Children their early sports shall try,

And pass to hoary age and die.

But thou, unchanged from year to year,

Gayly shalt play and glitter here;

Amid young flowers and tender grass

Thy endless infancy shalt pass;

And, singing down thy narrow glen,

Shalt mock the fading race of men.