Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  To Connecticut River

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

New England: Connecticut, the River

To Connecticut River

By John Gardiner Calkins Brainard (1795–1828)


FROM that lone lake, the sweetest of the chain

That links the mountain to the mighty main,

Fresh from the rock and welling by the tree,

Rushing to meet and dare and breast the sea,

Fair, noble, glorious river! in thy wave

The sunniest slopes and sweetest pastures lave;

The mountain torrent, with its wintry roar,

Springs from its home and leaps upon thy shore;

The promontories love thee, and for this

Turn their rough checks and stay thee for thy kiss.

Stern, at thy source, thy northern guardians stand,

Rude rulers of the solitary land,

Wild dwellers by thy cold sequestered springs,

Of earth the feathers and of air the wings;

Their blasts have rocked thy cradle, and in storm

Covered thy couch and swathed in snow thy form;

Yet, blessed by all the elements that sweep

The clouds above, or the unfathomed deep,

The purest breezes scent thy blooming hills,

The gentlest dews drop on thy eddying rills,

By the mossed bank and by the aged tree

The silver streamlet smoothest glides to thee,

The young oak greets thee at the waters’ edge,

Wet by the wave, though anchored in the ledge.

’T is there the otter dives, the beaver feeds,

Where pensive osiers dip their willowy weeds,

And there the wild-cat purs amid her brood,

And trains them, in the sylvan solitude,

To watch the squirrel’s leap, or mark the mink

Paddling the water by thy quiet brink,

Or to outgaze the gray owl in the dark,

Or hear the young fox practising to bark.


Thou didst not shake, thou didst not shrink, when late

The mountain-top shut down its ponderous gate,

Tumbling its tree-grown ruins to thy side,

An avalanche of acres at a slide.

Nor dost thou stay when winter’s coldest breath

Howls through the woods and sweeps along the heath,—

One mighty sigh relieves thy icy breast,

And wakes thee from the calmness of thy rest.

Down sweeps the torrent ice,—it may not stay

By rock or bridge, in narrow or in bay;

Swift, swifter to the heaving sea it goes,

And leaves thee dimpling in thy sweet repose.

Yet, as the unharmed swallow skims his way,

And lightly drops his pinions in thy spray,

So the swift sail shall seek thy inland seas,

And swell and whiten in thy purer breeze,

New paddles dip thy waters, and strange oars

Feather thy waves and touch thy noble shores.

Thy noble shores! where the tall steeple shines,

At midday, higher than thy mountain pines;

Where the white school-house, with its daily drill

Of sunburnt children, smiles upon the hill;

Where the neat village grows upon the eye,

Decked forth in nature’s sweet simplicity;

Where hard-won competence, the farmer’s wealth,

Gains merit honor, and gives labor health;

Where Goldsmith’s self might send his exiled band

To find a new “Sweet Auburn” in our land.

What art can execute or taste devise,

Decks thy fair course and gladdens in thine eyes,

As broader sweep the bendings of thy stream,

To meet the southern sun’s more constant beam.

Here cities rise, and sea-washed commerce hails

Thy shores and winds, with all her flapping sails,

From tropic isles, or from the torrid main,

Where grows the grape or sprouts the sugar-cane,

Or from the haunts where the striped haddock play,

By each cold northern bank and frozen bay.

Here, safe returned from every stormy sea,

Waves the striped flag, the mantle of the free,—

That starlit flag, by all the breezes curled

Of yon vast deep whose waters grasp the world.