And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.
I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street.
I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
The years shall run like rabbits
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages
And the first love of the world.’
W. H. Auden, from “As I walked out one evening,” Selected Poems, ed. Edward Mendelson (Vintage International, 1989)
“The river is one of my favorite metaphors, the symbol of the great flow of Life itself. The river begins at Source, and returns to Source, unerringly. This happens every single time, without exception. We are no different.”
Jeffrey R. Anderson, from The Nature of Things: Navigating Everyday Life with Grace (Balboa Press, 2012)
“The river itself portrays humanity precisely, with its tortuous windings, its accumulation of driftwood, its unsuspected depths, and its crystalline shallows, singing in the Summer sun. Barriers may be built across its path, but they bring only power, as the conquering of an obstacle is always sure to do. Sometimes when the rocks and stone-clad hills loom large ahead, and eternity itself would be needed to carve a passage, there is an easy way around. The discovery of it makes the river sing with gladness and turns the murmurous deeps to living water, bright with ripples and foam.”
Myrtle Reed, from Old Rose and Silver (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909)
Luigi Kasimir, Schoenbuehel on the Danube, n.d.
I can see you have a great deal of water in your personality. Water never waits. It changes shape and flows around things, and finds the secret paths no one else has thought about—the tiny hole through the roof or the bottom of the box. There’s no doubt it’s the most versatile of the five elements. It can wash away earth; it can put out fire; it can wear a piece of metal down and sweep it away. Even wood, which is its natural complement, can’t survive without being nurtured by water. And yet, you haven’t drawn on those strengths in living your life, have you?
―Arthur Golden, from Memoirs of a Geisha (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)
Who stands by the river as we
stood, afraid of our bodies,
you already aching
for what we said before the dust?
The river lapped and seemed to love
all the things we could be.
Dave Smith, from “A Memory at the Edge of Swollen Rivers,” in Floating in Solitude: Three Volumes of Poetry (University of Illinois Press, 1996)
Karl-Pierre Daubigny, A Stroll along the River Bank, n.d.
“There is another alphabet, whispering from every leaf, singing from every river, shimmering from every sky.”
Let me be like the river that pours through
limestone-walled bluffs, iron-stained,
rushing past rock: let me empty out into
green valleys, soften, spread, roaring
only an echo now, paths meandering,
letting go all that was carried for headlong
miles, become the rich alluvial muck
of backwater, sloughs where the great blue
heron hunts, motionless, and the Parula
warbler flits, cattail banks where the blackbirds
nest, sandspits noisy with circling gulls,
mudflats tracked by the egrets, idling
before the Mississippi gathers me in.
Robin Chapman, from One Hundred White Pelicans (Tebot Bach, 2013)
Oliver Akers Douglas, Bend in the Nar, 2013
20×24, oil on aluminium
The river flows and my eyes are fading
The morning disappears into itself
I am an apparition of daylight
the morning and I are the same age
the river flows on without returning
this is the one river of night and day
sometimes morning comes back to the river
as an old bird that recognizes it
the old wings bore it through the life of a bird
on and one into their own time
out of the ancient self and the darkness
the bird returns alone to its river
as it was alone when it had seen
those same clouds once in the time before
that time alone as a child is alone
in a single moment in an empty house
alone as a cloud is alone in its moment
as the silence was alone in the house
and the river was silent in its flowing
the bird still sees them in the only time
and it still cannot see where it came from
W. S. Merwin, from The American Poetry Review (vol. 43, no. 4, July/August 2014)
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"Flows Like A River"
Closer Than The Blood LP
Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue, Black, and Grey, 1960
“I say: I am the river
and you are its blue, burning current.”
Sometimes I am bewildered
By all this foolish energy
Miles from people.
I envy those
Who live upriver
At the quiet source.
Here we are forever
The incoming roar
Of life and the tides
That carry death out
Dermot Healy, from “Prayer,” The Ballyconnell Colours (Gallery Press, 1992)