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

Western States: Wabash, the River

The Wabash

By John B. L. Soule (1815–1891)

SOFT, silent Wabash! on thy sloping verge

As, fixed in thought, I stay my wandering feet,

And list the gentle rippling of thy surge,

What moving spirits do my fancy greet;—

What flitting phantoms from thy breast emerge,

Forms for the shrouded sepulchre more meet!

In thy dark flowing waters I would see

More than is wont to fix the transient gaze

Of vulgar admiration, though there be

Enough to wake the poet’s sweetest lays

In all thy silent beauty; for to me

Thou hast a voice,—a voice of other days.

Nor can I look upon thee with a heart

Unmoved by the intrusive thoughts of sadness,

While fancy pictures thee not as thou art,

But what thou hast been, when the tones of gladness

Were heard upon thy borders, ere the smart

Of stern Oppression turned that joy to madness!

How oft upon thy undulating breast

The light pirogue hath skimmed its silent way,

When nature all around had sunk to rest,

And long had faded the last beam of day;

And still it onward leaped the moonlit crest

And dashed delighted through the silver spray.

Urged by the spirit of revenge and hate,

The savage tenant knit his fiery brow,

And fanned the flame he knew not to abate

Save by the unwearied chase and deadly blow,

Toiling with ceaseless energy to sate

His vengeance on some far, devoted foe!

Perchance secluded in yon green retreat,

Some lordly chieftain, in his pride of power,

Hath lingered oft in rapturous thought to meet

His dark-eyed goddess at the sunset hour,

Where wanton zephyrs dance with flitting feet,

And kiss in gambols rude each blushing flower.

Here with the green wood for his temple dome,

This fragrant bank his consecrated shrine,

Mayhap the pious votary oft hath come,

On nature’s breast his sorrows to resign;

From day’s dull avocations far to roam

With gazing on such loveliness as thine!

Soft, silent Wabash! thy still waters glide

All heedless of my meditative lay!

But from the tranquil beauty of thy pride

I ’ll glean such moral teachings as I may;—

Howe’er may vary Fortune’s fickle tide,

Like thee in sweet content I ’ll wend my peaceful way.