"I Arise and go Down to the River"

by Laurence Hope

Adela Florence Nicolson

I arise and go down to the River, and currents that come from the sea,
Still fresh with the salt of the ocean, are lovely and precious to me,
The waters are silver and silent, except where the kingfisher dips,
Or the ripples wash off from my shoulder the reddening stain of thy lips.
Two things make my joy at this moment: thy gold-coloured beauty by night,
And the delicate charm of the River, all pale in the day-breaking light,
So cool are the waters' caresses. Ah, which is the lovelier,--this?
Or the fire that it kindles at midnight, beneath the soft glow of thy kiss?
Ah, Love has a mighty dominion, he forges with passionate breath
The links which stretch out to the Future, with forces of life and of death,
But great is the charm of the River, so soft is the sigh of the reeds,
They give me, long sleepless from passion, the peace that my weariness needs.
I float on the breast of my River, and startle the birds on the edge,
To land on a newly found island, a boat that is caught in the sedge,
The rays of the sun are still level, not yet has the heat of the day
Deflowered the mists of the morning, that linger in delicate grey.
What land was his dwelling whose fancy first gave unto Paradise birth?
He never had swum in my River, or else he had fixed it on earth!
Oh, grace of the palm-tree reflections, Oh, sense of the wind from the sea!
Oh, divine and serene exultation of one who is lonely and free!
Ah, delicate breezes of daybreak, so scentless, refreshing and free!
And yet--had my midnight been lonely you had been less lovely to me.
This coolness comes laden with solace, because I am hot from the fire,
As often devotion to virtue arises from sated desire.
_Gautama came forth from his Palace; he felt the night wind on his face,_
_He loathed, as he left, the embraces, the softness and scent of the place,_
_But, ah, if his night had been loveless, with no one to solace his need,_
_He never had written that sermon which men so devotedly read._
Ah, River, thy gentle persuasion! I doubt if I seek any more
The beauty that hurts me and holds me beneath the low roof on the shore.
I loved thee, ay, loved--for a season, but thou, was it love or desire,
The glow of the Sun in his glory, or only the heat of a fire?
I think not that thou wilt regret me, for thou art too joyous and fair,
So many are keen to caress thee, thy passionate midnights to share.
Thou wilt not have time to remember, before a new love-knot is tied,
The stranger who loved thee and left thee, who drifted away on the tide.
Two things I have found that are lovely, though most things are sullen and grey;
One: Peace--but what mortal has found him; and Passion--but when would he stay?
So I shall return to my River, and floating at ease on its breast,
Shall find, what Love never has given--a sense of most infinite rest.
When the years have gone by and departed, what thought shall I keep of this land?
A curl of thy waist-reaching-tresses? a flower received from thy hand?
Nay, if I can fathom the future, I fancy my relic will be
Some shell, my beloved one, the River, has stol'n from the store of the sea.

Last updated January 14, 2019