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  4. Down Stream by Louise Imogen Guiney
Down Stream

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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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Down Stream

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