Down Stream

By Louise Imogen Guiney 1861–1920
Scarred hemlock roots,
Oaks in mail, and willow-shoots
    Spring’s first-knighted;
Clinging aspens grouped between,
Slender, misty-green,
    Faintly affrighted:

Far hills behind,
Somber growth, with sunlight lined,
    On their edges;
Banks hemmed in with maiden-hair,
And the straight and fair
    Phalanx of sedges:

Wee wings and eyes,
Wild blue gemmy dragon-flies,
    Fearless rangers;
Drowsy turtles in a tribe
Diving, with a gibe
    Muttered at strangers;

Wren, bobolink,
Robin, at the grassy brink;
    Great frogs jesting;
And the beetle, for no grief
Half-across his leaf
    Sighing and resting;

In the keel’s way,
Unwithdrawing bream at play,
    Till from branches
Chestnut-blossoms, loosed aloft,
Graze them with their soft
    Full avalanches!

This is very odd!
Boldly sings the river-god:
    ‘Pilgrim rowing!
From the Hyperborean air
Wherefore, and O where
    Should man be going?’

Slave to a dream,
Me no urgings and no theme
    Can embolden;
Now no more the oars swing back,
Drip, dip, till black
    Waters froth golden.

I have loved thee, all unbid,
    Earliest, longest;
Thou hast taught me thine own thrift:
Here I sit, and drift
    Where the wind’s strongest.

If, furthermore,
There be any pact ashore,
    I forget it!
If, upon a busy day
Beauty make delay,
    Once over, let it!

Only, — despite
Thee, who wouldst unnerve me quite
    Like a craven,—
Best the current be not so,
Heart and I must row
    Into our haven!

Source: She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (University of Iowa Press, 1997)

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Poet Louise Imogen Guiney 1861–1920

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

 Louise Imogen Guiney


Louise Imogen Guiney is known for her lyrical, Old English-style poems that often recall the literary conventions of seventeenth-century English poetry. Informed by her religious faith, Guiney's works reflect her concern with the Catholic tradition in literature and often emphasize moral rectitude and heroic gallantry. Today Guiney is praised for her scholarship in both her poetry and in her numerous literary and historical . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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