To the River Charles

Shoreline

Today, I came across a poem by one of my favourite poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that spoke of his feelings for the Charles River, which is located in the state of Massachusetts. From its source in Hopkinton, it flows 129 kilometres through cities and towns in the eastern part of the state until reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Boston.  Despite its diminutive length, the Charles River has a relatively large drainage area; its watershed contains over 8,000 acres of protected wetlands.  Considering that Brandeis University, Harvard University, Boston University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sprung up along its shores, perhaps there is something in the water that invigorates the mind.

To the River Charles

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

River! that in silence windest
Through the meadows, bright and free,
Till at length thy rest thou findest
In the bosom of the sea!
Four long years of mingled feeling,
Half in rest, and half in strife,
I have seen thy waters stealing
Onward, like the stream of life.
Thou hast taught me, Silent River!
Many a lesson, deep and long;
Thou hast been a generous giver;
I can give thee but a song.
Oft in sadness and in illness,
I have watched thy current glide,
Till the beauty of its stillness
Overflowed me, like a tide.
And in better hours and brighter,
When I saw thy waters gleam,
I have felt my heart beat lighter,
And leap onward with thy stream.
Not for this alone I love thee,
Nor because thy waves of blue
From celestial seas above thee
Take their own celestial hue.
Where yon shadowy woodlands hide thee,
And thy waters disappear,
Friends I love have dwelt beside thee,
And have made thy margin dear.
More than this;–thy name reminds me
Of three friends, all true and tried;
And that name, like magic, binds me
Closer, closer to thy side.
Friends my soul with joy remembers!
How like quivering flames they start,
When I fan the living embers
On the hearth-stone of my heart!
‘T is for this, thou Silent River!
That my spirit leans to thee;
Thou hast been a generous giver,
Take this idle song from me. 

24 thoughts on “To the River Charles

    • I hope you are feeling better!! What I love about blogs is that they are always there for me to read. In fact I always go back to yours posts at least a couple of times…

      I do enjoy Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I have been reading David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey” and he tells a little about the life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Profoundly moving. It is no wonder he was able to express the deep needs of humanity via poetry.

      “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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    • Isn’t that interesting – and insightful!!! They lived during the same time, although E. Pauline Johnson was quite a bit younger. You are quite right, they are on the same wave-length, especially when you consider Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Hiawatha”

      By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
      By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
      Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
      Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
      Dark behind it rose the forest,
      Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
      Rose the firs with cones upon them;
      Bright before it beat the water,
      Beat the clear and sunny water,
      Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

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    • This was the first time I read this poem as well. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had a way of bringing out deep emotion in his poetry. Do you remember the Wreck of the Hesperus – poignant!

      It was the schooner Hesperus,
      That sailed the wintry sea;
      And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
      To bear him company.

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  1. “Perhaps there is something in the water that invigorates the mind”. How beautifully said Rebecca, and I venture to say that there is more than perhaps in your equation. Great thought and expression, and to continue with Longfellow’s “To the River Charles” beautiful poem and timeless words.

    Generous givers all these rivers, that man does not hesitate to take from, and for the most part, gives little back but his waste, and in some instances to a level of choking the river to death. I apologize for being the devil’s advocate, thus to remind us of other side of the coin, that of your beautiful choices of rivers and examples of our world’s life giving beauty. The other side being man’s insatiable greed, and though, as you have mentioned but one small voice, must not relent in exposing they who have self-serving agendas, if our world is to survive.

    Thank you again, dear friend for your ongoing important contribution. Jean-Jacques

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    • Our voices are growing into a choir – and within time, it will be heard throughout the globe. We cannot rest, not even for a moment. Our precious rivers and ground-waters are in grave danger. If we can remember how they once were and see the possibilities of how we can bring them back to life, there is hope. Time is of the essence. I think that you will agree with HWL on the following.

      “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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  2. I like the line “Friends I love have dwelt beside thee,
    And have made thy margin dear.” He was the first poet I ever wrote about (when I was 7 or 8) so will always hold a special place in my heart🙂 Thank you for another great post!

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    • That is the line that spoke to me as well. I would have loved to read your thoughts about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – the perspective of a child is pure and clear!! The first I heard about him was when I recited the following lines:

      Listen my children and you shall hear
      Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
      On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
      Hardly a man is now alive
      Who remembers that famous day and year.

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  3. River, show me how to float
    I feel like I’m sinking down
    Thought that I could get along
    But here in this water
    My feet won’t touch the ground
    I need something to turn myself around

    Going away, away towards the sea
    River deep, can you lift up and carry me
    Oh roll on though the heartland
    ‘Til the sun has left the sky
    River, river carry me high
    ‘Til the washing of the water make it all alright
    Let your waters reach me like she reached me tonight

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  4. That’s a beautiful poem! I have read some of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry, but not that one. So thank you for that, reminds me to get back to reading some more of his!🙂

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