By the River

I.

IN the beautiful greenwood’s charmed light,
And down through the meadows wide and bright,
Deep in the silence, and smooth in the gleam,
For ever and ever flows the stream.
Where the mandrakes grow, and the pale, thin grass
The airy scarf of the woodland weaves,
By dim, enchanted paths I pass,
Crushing the twigs and the last year’s leaves.
Over the wave, by the crystal brink,
A kingfisher sits on a low, dead limb :
He is always sitting there, I think, —
And another, within the crystal brink,
Is always looking up at him.
I know where an old tree leans across
From bank to bank, an ancient tree,
Quaintly cushioned with curious moss,
A bridge for the cool wood-nymphs and me :
Half seen they flit, while here I sit
By the magical water, watching it.
In its bosom swims the fair phantasm
Of a subterraneous azure chasm,
So soft and clear, you would say the stream
Was dreaming of heaven a visible dream.
Where the noontide basks, and its warm rays tint
The nettles and clover and scented mint,
And the crinkled airs, that curl and quiver,
Drop their wreaths in the mirroring river, —
Under the shaggy magnificent drapery
Of many a wild-woven native grapery, —
By ivy-bowers, and banks of violets,
And golden hillocks, and emerald islets,
Along its sinuous shining bed,
In sheets of splendor it lies outspread.
In the twilight stillness and solitude
Of green caves roofed by the brooding wood,
Where the woodbine swings, and beneath the trailing
Sprays of the queenly elm-tree sailing, —
By ribbed and wave-worn ledges shimmering,
Gilding the rocks with a rippled glimmering,
All pictured over in shade and sun,
The wavering silken waters run.
Upon this mossy trunk I sit,
Over the river, watching it.
A shadowed face peers up at me;
And another tree in the chasm I see,
Clinging above the abyss it spans ;
The broad boughs curve their spreading fans,
From side to side, in the nether air ;
And phantom birds in the phantom branches
Mimic the birds above ; and there,
Oh ! far below, solemn and slow,
The white clouds roll the crumbling snow
Of ever-pendulous avalanches,
Till the brain grows giddy, gazing through
Their wild, wide rifts of bottomless blue.

II.

TUROUGH the river, and through the rifts
Of the sundered earth I gaze,
'While Thought on dreamy pinion drifts,
Over cerulean bays,
Into the deep ethereal sea
Of her own serene eternity.
Transfigured by my tranced eye,
Wood and meadow, and stream and sky,
Like vistas of a vision lie :
THE WORLD is the River that dickers by.
Its skies are the blue-arched centuries ;
And its forms are the transient images
Flung on the flowing film of Time
By the steadfast shores of a fadeless clime.
As yonder wave-side willows grow,
Substance above, and shadow below,
The golden slopes of that upper sphere
Hang their imperfect landscapes here.
Fast by the Tree of Life, which shoots
Duplicate forms from self-same roots,
Under the fringes of Paradise,
The crystal brim of the River lies.
There are banks of Peace, whose lilies pure
Paint on the wave their portraiture ;
And many a holy influence,
That climbs to God like the breath of prayer,
Creeps quivering into the glass of sense,
To bless the immortals mirrored there.
Through realms of Poesy, whose white cliffs
Cloud its deeps with their hieroglyphs,
Alpine fantasies Leaped and wrought
At will by the frolicsome winds of Thought, —
By shores of Beauty, whose colors pass
Faintly into the misty glass, —
By hills of Truth, whose glories show
Distorted, broken, and dimmed, as we know, —
Kissed by the tremulous long green tress
Of the glistening tree of Happiness,
Which ever our aching grasp eludes
With sweet illusive similitudes, —
All pictured over in shade and gleam,
For ever and ever runs the Stream.
The orb that burns in the rifts of space
Is the adumbration of God’s Face.
My Soul leans over the murmuring flow,
And I am the image it sees below.