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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Red River Voyageur

OUT and in the river is winding

The links of its long, red chain,

Through belts of dusky pine-land

And gusty leagues of plain.

Only, at times, a smoke-wreath

With the drifting cloud-rack joins,—

The smoke of the hunting-lodges

Of the wild Assiniboins!

Drearily blows the north-wind

From the land of ice and snow;

The eyes that look are weary,

And heavy the hands that row.

And with one foot on the water,

And one upon the shore,

The Angel of Shadow gives warning

That day shall be no more.

Is it the clang of wild-geese?

Is it the Indian’s yell,

That lends to the voice of the north-wind

The tones of a far-off bell?

The voyageur smiles as he listens

To the sound that grows apace;

Well he knows the vesper ringing

Of the bells of St. Boniface.

The bells of the Roman Mission,

That call from their turrets twain,

To the boatman on the river,

To the hunter on the plain!

Even so in our mortal journey

The bitter north-winds blow,

And thus upon life’s Red River

Our hearts, as oarsmen, row.

And when the Angel of Shadow

Rests his feet on wave and shore,

And our eyes grow dim with watching

And our hearts faint at the oar,

Happy is he who heareth

The signal of his release

In the bells of the Holy City,

The chimes of eternal peace!