Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
 
Introductory to India
The River Raldivvir
John G. Wilson
 
IN Hindostan runneth a river,
A river that runs from a region
          As holy and dread
          As Vishnu’s own head;
Its mystical name is Raldivvir,        5
          Raldivvir the Red,
And broad as the ranks of a legion
          It flows o’er its bed.
 
Far back ere the world was yet weary,
While Aryan tribes were still roaming,        10
          No river ran there,
          But, arid and bare,
A desolate desert lay dreary,
          And burning and dry;
No wild beast that fled with mouth foaming;        15
          Fled there but to die.
 
A tribe that had wandered and wandered
Far into the desert, were dying
          Beneath the fierce sun,
          The blinding, fierce sun,        20
While round them the hot sand-storms thundered.
          They died one by one;
The wild sand-storms round them were flying,
          Escape there was none.
 
Then out spake the chieftain Volezert,        25
The chief of the gray-bearded sages:
          “O Vishnu, I pray
          Thou lead us the way
From out of this terrible desert,
          And lo! I will build        30
A shrine that shall show through the ages
          Thy glory fulfilled.”
 
He bowed to the ground and he waited,
But all that he heard was the creeping
          Of sand in the wind,        35
          Till, choking and blind,
“My children,” he said, “we are fated,
          And near is the end.”
Then wild with despair and with weeping
          Friend held unto friend.        40
 
They cried to their gods, but no answer
Came forth from the darkness, sand-laden,
          When swift as a glance,
          Erect as a lance,
Up started Raldivvir, the dancer,        45
          A maiden so fair,
So pure and so fair that no maiden
          With her could compare.
 
“O Vishnu, I come to thee, lowly;
No shrine can I build to thy glory,        50
          But now would I die,
          That all here may fly
From death, and, O Vishnu the holy,
          I call on thy name.”
She ceased, and the sages, the hoary        55
          Old men, flushed with shame.
 
They gazed at the kneeling Raldivvir,
Then shouted, “Her prayer is availing!”
          For leaping to light,
          A rivulet bright        60
Sprang forth and it grew to a river;
          It grew all the day.
They builded them boats and went sailing
          Away, far away.
 
And now the tall, swaying pomegranate        65
Bends low o’er the banks of the river.
          The tiger is there,
          Crouched low in his lair,
Where swiftly beneath the red planet
          The waves run as red        70
As blood of the maiden Raldivvir,
          Raldivvir the dead.
 
 
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