Poems (Bryant, 1821)/Green River

Poems  (1821)  by William Cullen Bryant
Green River


When breezes are soft, and skies are fair,
I steal an hour from study and care,
And hie me away to the woodland scene,
Where wanders the stream with waters of green,
As if the bright fringe of herbs on its brink
Had given their stain to the wave they drink.
And they, whose meadows it murmurs through,
Have named the stream from its own fair hue.
Yet pure its waters, its shallows are bright
With coloured pebbles, and sparkles of light,
And clear the depths where the eddies play,
And dimples deepen and whirl away;
And the plane-tree’s speckled arms o’ershoot
The swifter current that mines its root;
Through whose shifting leaves, as you walk the hill,
The quivering glimmer of sun and rill
With a sudden flash on the eye is thrown,
Like the ray that streams from the diamond stone.
Oh, loveliest there the spring days come,
With blossoms, and birds, and wild bees’ hum;
The flowers of summer are fairest there,
And freshest the breath of the summer air,
And the swimmer comes, in the season of heat
To bathe in those waters so pure and sweet.
Yet, fair as thou art, thou shunn’st to glide,
Beautiful stream! by the village side,
But windest away from haunts of men,
To silent valley, and shaded glen.
And forest, and meadow, and slope of hill,
Around thee, are lonely, lovely and still.
Lonely—save when, by thy rippling tides,
From thicket to thicket the angler glides;
Or the simpler comes, with basket and book,
For herbs of power on thy banks to look;
Or haply some idle dreamer like me,
To wander, and muse, and gaze on thee.
Still—save the chirp of birds that feed
On the river cherry and seedy reed;
And thy own wild music, gushing out
With mellow murmur, or fairy shout,
From dawn to the blush of another day,
Like traveller singing along his way.
That fairy music I never hear,
Nor gaze on those waters so green and clear,
And mark them winding away from sight,
Darkened with shade, or flashing with light,
While o’er thee, the vine to its thicket clings,
And the zephyr stoops to freshen his wings;—
But I wish that fate had left me free
To wander these quiet haunts with thee,
Till the eating cares of earth should depart,
And the peace of the scene pass into my heart;
And I envy thy stream as it glides along
Through its beautiful banks, in a trance of song.
Though forced to drudge for the dregs of men,
And scrawl strange words with the barbarous pen,
And mingle among the jostling crowd,
Where the sons of strife are subtle and loud;
I sometimes come to this quiet place
To breathe the air that ruffles thy face,
And gaze upon thee in silent dream;
For, in thy lonely and lovely stream,
An image of that calm life appears
That won my heart in my greener years.