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Poem by Lewis Morris


The River of Life


BRIGHT with unnumbered laughters, and swollen by a thousand tears,
Rushes along, through upland and lowland, the river of life;
Sometimes foaming and broken, and sometimes silent and slumbrous,
Sometimes down rocky glens, and sometimes through flowery plains.
Sometimes the mountains draw near, and the black depths swirl at their bases,
Sometimes the limitless meads fade on the verge of the sky,
Sometimes the forests stand round, and the great trees cast mystical shadows,
Sometimes the golden wheat waves, and girls fill their pitchers and sing.

Always the same strange flow, through changes and chances unchanging,
Alwaysin youth and in age, in calm and in tempest the same
Whether it sparkle transparent and give back the blue like a mirror,
Or sweep on turbid with flood, or black with the garbage of towns
Whether the silvery scale of the minnow flash on the pebbles,
Or whether the poisonous ooze cling like a shroud round the dead
Whether it struggle through shoals of white blooms and feathery grasses,
Or bear on its bosom the hulls of oceantost naviesthe same.

Flow on, O mystical river, flow on through desert and city;
Broken or smooth, flow onward into the Infinite sea.
Who knows what urges thee on, what dark laws and cosmical forces
Stain thee or keep thee pure, and bring thee at last to thy goal?
What is the cause of thy rest or unrest, of thy foulness or pureness?
What is the secret of life, or the painful riddle of death?
Why is it better to be than to cease, to flow on than to stagnate?
Why is the river-stream sweet, while the sea is as bitter as gall?

Surely we know not at all, but the cycle of Being is eternal,
Life is eternal as death, tears are eternal as joy.
As the stream flowed, it will flow; though 'tis sweet, yet the sea will be bitter:
Foul it with filth, yet the deltas grow green and the ocean is clear.
Always the sun and the winds will strike its broad surface and gather
Some purer drops from its depths, to float in the clouds of the sky;
Soon these shall fall once again, and replenish the full-flowing river.
Roll round then, O mystical cycle ! flow onward, ineffable stream! 



                      Lewis Morris


Lewis Morris's other poems:
  1. A Cynic's Day-Dream
  2. The Reply
  3. A Yorkshire River
  4. The Living Past
  5. On an Old Minster


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Thomas Campbell The River of Life ("The more we live, more brief appear")

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