Poem by Harriet Annie Wilkins (1829-1888)

The Forest River


     Amid the forest verdant shade,
            A peaceful river flowed:
    Wild flowers their home on its banks had made,
    The sunbeam's rays on its breast were laid,
            When the light of morning glowed.

    By its marge the wolf had found a lair,
            He roamed through each lonely spot;
    That deep designer, the beaver, there
    Built his palace; the shaggy bear
            In the tall tree had his cot.

    And voices sweet were heard on the bank
            Of the river's gentle flow;
    The whip-poor-will sang when the sun had sank,
    And the hum-drum bee to his home had shrank,
            When the wind of eve did blow.

    The tree-frog joined with his sonorous call,
            The grasshopper chirped along,
    The dormice came out of their underground hole,
    The squirrels peeped over their pine-tree wall,
            To list to the revel song.

    Nothing disturbed the murmur deep
            Of the river broad and fair;
    No one awoke it from peaceful sleep,
    Save when floating mice o'er its breast would creep,
            Or the rusty-coated bear.

    One morn the sound of an axe was heard
            In the forest, dark and lone;
    Then started with fear the beasts disturbed,
    Their reign was broke at the woodman's word,
            And they scowled with anger on.

    On the river's brink the emigrant's child
            Passed all his lonely hours,
    He laughed when he ruffled the bosom mild
    Of the flowing streamlet so bright and wild,
            As it bore his boon of flowers.

    Soon the throng of the forest heard the horn
            Of the boat, the commerce boat;
    Then they started up from the brake and thorn,
    And hastening away by the light of the morn,
            They fled from cavern and moat.

    And the bird peeped out of a pine tree tower,
            And shrank away at the sight,
    The humming-bird fled to his rose-hung bower,
    The bright bee curled himself snug in a flower,
            O'ertaken by fear and fright.

    And the river which rolled for ages, still
            In a gentle flow unriven,
    Now bears on its bosom by man's proud will,
    By the arts of industry and skill,
            The blessings to mortals given.

    Over its billows the steamboats tread,
            With their waters rushing high,
    Or the snowy sail to the wind is spread,
    As the noble bark on her way is sped
            To the crowded city nigh.

    Oh river bright, we sail over thy breast,
            Once bearing wood runners wild;
    But the birds who built on the bank their nest,
    Have fled long ago to the boundless west,
            From thee and from man exiled.



More information on Harriet Annie Wilkins

Poetry by Editorial Team The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2022-07-18 at 00:00

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Lawrence Beck The PoetBay support member heart!
New World English poetry from the nineteenth century often is about nature. At the time, most people there lived quite close to wilderness. What's unusual and interesting about this poem is that it describes the transformation of wilderness into a landscape meant to serve human purposes.