Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




The Rhine—the Rhine—beneath me now,
    A mighty volume pours,
Its source, the distance mountain’s brow,
    Its grave the northern shores.
By nations loved, by poets sung,
    The noble stream goes by
By crumbling fane and tow’r o’erhung,
    And cliffs that charm the eye. [Page 78]
But yet, three thousand miles away,
    Some gentle streams there are,
That here, midst all this proud array,
    To me are dearer far.

I see them winding through the vales
    The Clover’s breath perfumes,
Where, fluttering in the summer gales,
    The scented Wild Rose blooms;
And where the Elms, with graceful ease,
    Their fringed branches droop;
And where tassell’d Alder trees
    To kiss their waters stoop.
While, glittering in the rosy light
    At day’s serene decline,
They murmur onwards, calm and bright,
    Those pleasant streams of mine.

I see them from the mountain gush,
    Where wave the ancient woods
O’er rock and steeps impetuous rush,
    To blend their sparkling floods.
Now wand’ring through the forest glade,
    To sylvan lakes expand;
In every form of beauty made,
    To bless the pleasant land.
And, midst the charms that greet me here
    Beside the swelling Rhine,
Their voices steal upon my ear,
    Those far-off streams of mine. [Page 79]

What though no ruins* rise above
    My Country’s pleasant streams;
Nor legends wild, of war or love,
    Invoke the Poet’s dreams.
No lawless power can there disturb
    The Peasant’s tranquil sleep;
No towers, the free-born soul to curb,
    Frown o’er each lofty steep—
Then, German, keep your Drachenfels,
    Vine-clad and foaming Rhine,
The taint of bondage on them dwells,
    Far happier streams are mine.
1838.  [Page 80]

* The remains of the old feudal castles are seen in great profusion, crowning the hills on both sides of the Rhine. [back]
A fortress, with strong garrison, commands each large city on this river. [back]
The Dragon Rock, celebrated in Byron’s Childe Harold, and which forms a noble feature of the Rhine’s sublime scenery. [back]