Green River

Author: William Cullen Bryant  | Date: 1820


When breezes are soft and skies are fair,

I steal an hour from study and care,

And hie me away to the woodland scene,

Where wanders the stream with waters of green,

As if the bright fringe of herbs on its brink

Had given their stain to the waves they drink;

And they, whose meadows it murmurs through,

Have named the stream from its own fair hue.

Yet pure its waters- its shallows are bright

With colored pebbles and sparkles of light,

And clear the depths where its eddies play,

And dimples deepen and whirl away,

And the plane-tree’s speckled arms o’ershoot

The swifter current that mines its root,

Through whose shifting leaves, as you walk the hill,

The quivering glimmer of sun and rill

With a sudden flash on the eye is thrown,

Like the ray that streams from the diamond-stone.

Oh, loveliest there the spring days come,

With blossoms, and birds, and wild-bees’ hum;

The flowers of summer are fairest there,

And freshest the breath of the summer air;

And sweetest the golden autumn day

In silence and sunshine glides away.

Yet, fair as thou art, thou shunnest to glide,

Beautiful stream! by the village side;

But windest away from haunts of men,

To quiet valley and shaded glen;

And forest, and meadow, and slope of hill,

Around thee, are lonely, lovely, and still,

lonely- save when, by thy rippling tides,

From thicket to thicket the angler glides;

Or the simpler comes, with basket and book,

For herbs of power on thy banks to look;

Or haply, some idle dreamer, like me,

To wander, and muse, and gaze on thee,

Still- save the chirp of birds that feed

On the river cherry and seedy reed,

And thy own wild music gushing out

With mellow murmur of fairy shout,

From dawn to the blush of another day,

Like traveller singing along his way.

That fairy music I never hear,

Nor gaze on those waters so green and clear,

And mark them winding away from sight,

Darkened with shade or flashing with light,

While o’er them the vine to its thicket clings,

And the zephyr stoops to freshen his wings,

But I wish that fate had left me free

To wander these quiet haunts with thee,

Till the eating cares of earth should depart,

And the peace of the scene pass into my heart;

And I envy thy stream, as it glides along

Through its beautiful banks in a trance of song.

Though forced to drudge for the dregs of men,

And scrawl strange words with the barbarous pen,

And mingle among the jostling crowd,

Where the sons of strife are subtle and loud-

I often come to this quiet place,

To breathe the airs that ruffle thy face,

And gaze upon thee in silent dream,

For in thy lonely and lovely stream

An image of that calm life appears

That won my heart in my greener years.

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Chicago: William Cullen Bryant, Green River Original Sources, accessed June 24, 2024,

MLA: Bryant, William Cullen. Green River, Original Sources. 24 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Bryant, WC, Green River. Original Sources, retrieved 24 June 2024, from