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Poem by Bessie Rayner Parkes


Up the River


I DEARLY love this London, this royal northern London,
And am up in all its history, to Brutus and to Lud;
But I wish that certain Puritan simplicities were undone,
That the houses had more gable-ends, and the river less of mud.

And often, as I wander in the fine new squares, I ponder 
The reason why men like to live in long white plastered rows,
And sigh for our old streets, like those across the Channel yonder,
At Bruges or at Antwerp, such as everybody knows.

But our river still is beautiful, rejoicing in the quaintest
Old corners for a painter (till the new quays are begun).
See there the line of distant hills, and where the blue is faintest,
The brown sails of the barges lie slanting in the sun.

Here s a steamernow we re in itone is passing every minute;
There s the palace of St. Stephen, which they call a dream in stone;
But I think, beyond all question, it was in an indigestion
That the architect devised those scrolls whose language is unknown.

Now we pass the Lollards Tower, as we glide upon our journey,
And think of Wicliffes ashes scattered wide across the sea;
Pass the site of ancient Ranelagh, which (vide Fanny Burney)
Brings up the tales we read at school to Laurence and to me.

At last we get to Putney, and we rush across the river,
The gentle rural river, flowing softly through the grass;
And we walk more fast than ever, for our nerves are in a quiver,
Till we mount the hill of Wimbledon, and see the shadows pass

Athwart the budding chestnuts, and clear brown water lying,
Filled with the click of insects, among the yellowing gorse;
Here there is no human creature, and the only living feature
Of all this glorious common is that idle old white horse.

*        *        *        *        *

The sun is sinking in the west, let s leave the wood behind us,
Across the road, and up the steps, see here is Richmond Park;
Let s plunge amid the ferny glades, where only deer can find us,
It wants an hour to sunset yet, and two before it s dark.

*        *        *        *        *

There, now we re on the terrace; see, this regal Thames is winding
Among its poplared islands with a slow majestic pace;
We should see the towers of Windsor if the sun were not so blinding,
It casts a glow on all the trees, and a glory on your face.

Golden is the landscape, and the river, and the people,
The cedar-stems are molten now the sun is going down;
Let s keep the vision as it is; the clock in yonder steeple
Reminds us it is getting late, and we re miles away from town.



Bessie Rayner Parkes

Poem Theme: Rivers

Bessie Rayner Parkes's other poems:
  1. Rome
  2. Firelight
  3. The Old Chateau
  4. On a Group of Justice and Charity
  5. A Midsummer Nights Dream


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