Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Willewemoc in Summer

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

Middle States: Willewemoc, the River, N. Y.

The Willewemoc in Summer

By Alfred Billings Street (1811–1881)

BUBBLING within some basin green

So fringed with fern, the woodcock’s bill

Scarce penetrates the leafy screen,

Leaps into life the infant rill.

Oozing along, a winding streak,

O’er moss and grass, it whispers meek,

Then swelling o’er some barrier root

The tiny ripples onward shoot,

Then the clear sparkling waters spread

And deepen down their sloping bed,

Until, a streamlet bright and strong,

The Willewemoc glides along

Through its wild forest depths, to bear

Its homage to the Delaware.

Now pebbly shallows, where the deer

Just bathes his crossing hoof, and now

Broad hollowed creeks, that, deep and clear,

Would whelm him to his antlered brow.

Here, the smooth silver sleeps so still,

The ear might catch the faintest trill;

The bee’s low hum, the whir of wings,

And the sweet songs of grass-hid things.

There, dashing by, in booming shocks,

So loud their wrath the waters wreak,

Mid floating trees and scattered rocks,

They drown the fierce gray eagle’s shriek.

Here, the slight cowslip from the moss

In ripples breaks the amber gloss;

There, the whirled spray-showers upward fly

To the slant firs crag-rooted high.

Blue sky, pearl cloud, and golden beam

Beguile my steps this summer day,

Beside the lone and lovely stream,

And through its sylvan scenes to stray:

The moss, too delicate and soft

To bear the tripping bird aloft,

Slopes its green velvet to the sedge,

Tufting the mirrored water’s edge,

Where the slow eddies wrinkling creep

Mid swaying grass in stillness deep:

The sweet wind scarce has breath to turn

The edges of the leaves, or stir

The fragile wreath of gossamer

Embroidered on yon clump of fern.

The stream incessant greets my ear

In hollow dashings, full round tones,

Purling through alder branches here,

There gurgling o’er the tinkling stones;

The rumble of the waterfall

Majestic sounding over all.

Before me spreads the sheltered pool,

Pictured with tree-shapes black and cool;

Here, the roofed water seems to be

A solid mass of ebony;

There, the broad surface glances bright

In dazzling gleams of spangled light,

Now the quick darting waterfly

Ploughs its light furrow, skimming by,

While circling o’er in mazy rings

The chirping swallow dips his wings;

Relieved against yon sunny glare

The gnat-swarms, dust-like, speck the air;

From yon deep cove where lily-gems

Are floating by their silken stems,

Out glides the dipping duck, to seek

The narrow windings of the creek,

The glitterings of his purple back

Disclosing far his sinuous track;

Now, sliding down yon grassy brink,

I see the otter plunge and sink,

Yon bubbling streak betrays his rise,

And through the furrowing sheet he plies.

The aspen shakes, the hemlock hums,

Damp with the shower the west-wind comes;

Rustling in heaps the quivering grass,

It darkening dots the streamlet’s glass,

And rises with the herald-breeze

The cloud’s dark umber o’er the trees;

A veil of gauze-like mist it flings,

Dimples the stream with transient rings,

And soon beneath this tent-like tree

The swift, bright glancing streaks I see,

And hear around in murmuring strain

The gentle music of the rain.

Then bursts the sunshine warm and gay,

The misty curtain melts away,

The cloud in fragments breaks, and through

Trembles in spots the smiling blue;

A fresh, damp sweetness fills the scene,

From dripping leaf and moistened earth,

The odor of the wintergreen

Floats on the airs that now have birth;

Dashes and air-bells all about

Proclaim the gambols of the trout,

And calling bush and answering tree

Echo with woodland melody.

Now the piled west in pomp displays

The radiant forms that sunset weaves;

And slanting lines of golden haze

Are streaming through the sparkling leaves.

A clear, sweet, joyous strain is heard,—

It is the minstrel mocking-bird.

The strain of every songster floats

Within his rich and splendid notes;

The bluebird’s warble, brief and shrill;

The wailing of the whippoorwill;

The robin’s call, the jay’s harsh screech,

His own sweet music heard through each.

His three-toned anthem now he sings,

Liquid and low and soft it rings;

Then rising with a swell more clear,

It melts upon the bending ear,

Till with a piercing, flourished flight,

He bids the darkening scene good night.