Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
Western States: Wabash, the River
The Wabash
John B. L. Soule (1815–1891)
SOFT, silent Wabash! on thy sloping verge
As, fixed in thought, I stay my wandering feet,
And list the gentle rippling of thy surge,
What moving spirits do my fancy greet;—
What flitting phantoms from thy breast emerge,        5
Forms for the shrouded sepulchre more meet!
In thy dark flowing waters I would see
More than is wont to fix the transient gaze
Of vulgar admiration, though there be
Enough to wake the poet’s sweetest lays        10
In all thy silent beauty; for to me
Thou hast a voice,—a voice of other days.
Nor can I look upon thee with a heart
Unmoved by the intrusive thoughts of sadness,
While fancy pictures thee not as thou art,        15
But what thou hast been, when the tones of gladness
Were heard upon thy borders, ere the smart
Of stern Oppression turned that joy to madness!
How oft upon thy undulating breast
The light pirogue hath skimmed its silent way,        20
When nature all around had sunk to rest,
And long had faded the last beam of day;
And still it onward leaped the moonlit crest
And dashed delighted through the silver spray.
Urged by the spirit of revenge and hate,        25
The savage tenant knit his fiery brow,
And fanned the flame he knew not to abate
Save by the unwearied chase and deadly blow,
Toiling with ceaseless energy to sate
His vengeance on some far, devoted foe!        30
Perchance secluded in yon green retreat,
Some lordly chieftain, in his pride of power,
Hath lingered oft in rapturous thought to meet
His dark-eyed goddess at the sunset hour,
Where wanton zephyrs dance with flitting feet,        35
And kiss in gambols rude each blushing flower.
Here with the green wood for his temple dome,
This fragrant bank his consecrated shrine,
Mayhap the pious votary oft hath come,
On nature’s breast his sorrows to resign;        40
From day’s dull avocations far to roam
With gazing on such loveliness as thine!
Soft, silent Wabash! thy still waters glide
All heedless of my meditative lay!
But from the tranquil beauty of thy pride        45
I ’ll glean such moral teachings as I may;—
Howe’er may vary Fortune’s fickle tide,
Like thee in sweet content I ’ll wend my peaceful way.

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