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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CALLING OF THE RIVER, by                    
First Line: Sweet and clear, sweet and clear
Last Line: And toward the town be going?
Subject(s): Rivers; Yale University


SWEET and clear, sweet and clear,
The cloister bells are ringing;
Soft and low, soft and low,
The somber monks are singing.
Still and deep, toward the sea
The sunlit stream is flowing.
What if I too should doff the cowl
And toward the town be going?

This river here that skirts the Abbey wall
And stirs those reeds beneath the poplar tree,
-- They say it sees a world of wondrous things
Before its lazy ripples reach the sea.

Beyond the yellow worlds of waving grain
It flows where castles rise and turrets frown,
Burdened with fishers' boats and barges gay,
And hearkens to the murmur of the town.

There, on a mossy bridge that spans the stream,
Bronze-bearded pikemen swagger to and fro,
And merry children watch the painted fish
That swim within the mirror flood below.

Sometimes at night when all is still and dark,
With never star to gleam from overhead,
Men curse, and struggle with their fellowmen,
And sink in silence to the river-bed.

But on the evenings when the moon shines forth
Gen'rous with mellow light, men whisper low
-- Even the river cannot hear -- to maids
With laughing eyes, and bosoms like the snow.

Sometimes a pied street-fool in red and green,
Sometimes the king with glittering retinue,
And many other sights as passing strange
The river sees, they say, -- but is it true?

What lies beyond whither the fishes swim,
Whither the rushes nod, the ripples flow,
Even the meadow lark has seen, -- and sings
-- Ah, to be eager twenty, and not know!

Sweet and clear, sweet and clear,
The cloister bells are ringing;
Soft and low, soft and low,
The somber monks are singing.
Was it the sight at eventide
Of man and maid a-wooing,
Or was the joyous robin's song
The cause of my undoing?
Still and deep, toward the sea
The sunlit stream is flowing.
What if I too should doff the cowl
And toward the town be going?





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