25 Greatest Poems About the River

Spending some time relaxing near a river is sometimes what we need after having been through difficult times in our lives. Peaceful scenery with fresh air and the birds singing and chirping in the background make the river’s natural scene wholesome.

These are twenty-five (25) greatest poems about the river. If you once were amazed by the scenic view near a river, these poems are for you.

Keep reading!

By a River

By red-ripe mouth and brown, luxurious eyes
Of her I love, by all your sweetness shed
In far, fair days, on one whose memory flies
To faithless lights, and gracious speech gainsaid,
I pray you, when yon river-path I tread,
Make with the woodlands some soft compromise,
Lest they should vex me into fruitless sighs
With visions of a woman’s gleaming head!
For every green and golden-hearted thing
That gathers beauty in that shining place,
Beloved of beams and wooed by wind and wing,
Is rife with glimpses of her marvellous face;
And in the whispers of the lips of Spring
The music of her lute-like voice I trace.

Henry Kendall

By The River.

Flow on, ye lays so loved, so fair,

On to Oblivion’s ocean flow!
May no rapt boy recall you e’er,

No maiden in her beauty’s glow!

My love alone was then your theme,

But now she scorns my passion true.
Ye were but written in the stream;

As it flows on, then, flow ye too!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

By The River.

When by the broad stream thou dost dwell,

Oft shallow is its sluggish flood;
Then, when thy fields thou tendest well,

It o’er them spreads its slime and mud.

The ships descend ere daylight wanes,

The prudent fisher upward goes;
Round reef and rock ice casts its chains,

And boys at will the pathway close.

To this attend, then, carefully,

And what thou wouldst, that execute!
Ne’er linger, ne’er o’erhasty be,

For time moves on with measured foot.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The River

I came from the sunny valleys
And sought for the open sea,
For I thought in its gray expanses
My peace would come to me.

I came at last to the ocean
And found it wild and black,
And I cried to the windless valleys,
“Be kind and take me back!”

But the thirsty tide ran inland,
And the salt waves drank of me,
And I who was fresh as the rainfall
Am bitter as the sea.

Sara Teasdale

The River

Still glides the stream, slow drops the boat
Under the rustling poplars’ shade;
Silent the swans beside us float
None speaks, none heeds ah, turn thy head.

Let those arch eyes now softly shine,
That mocking mouth grow sweetly bland:
Ah, let them rest, those eyes, on mine;
On mine let rest that lovely hand.

My pent-up tears oppress my brain,
My heart is swoln with love unsaid:
Ah, let me weep, and tell my pain,
And on thy shoulder rest my head.

Before I die, before the soul,
Which now is mine, must re-attain
Immunity from my control,
And wander round the world again:

Before this teas’d o’erlabour’d heart
For ever leaves its vain employ,
Dead to its deep habitual smart,
And dead to hopes of future joy.

Matthew Arnold

The River

And I behold once more
My old familiar haunts; here the blue river,
The same blue wonder that my infant eye
Admired, sage doubting whence the traveller came,–
Whence brought his sunny bubbles ere he washed
The fragrant flag-roots in my father’s fields,
And where thereafter in the world he went.
Look, here he is, unaltered, save that now
He hath broke his banks and flooded all the vales
With his redundant waves.
Here is the rock where, yet a simple child,
I caught with bended pin my earliest fish,
Much triumphing,–and these the fields
Over whose flowers I chased the butterfly
A blooming hunter of a fairy fine.
And hark! where overhead the ancient crows
Hold their sour conversation in the sky:–
These are the same, but I am not the same,
But wiser than I was, and wise enough
Not to regret the changes, tho’ they cost
Me many a sigh. Oh, call not Nature dumb;
These trees and stones are audible to me,
These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind,
I understand their faery syllables,
And all their sad significance. The wind,
That rustles down the well-known forest road–
It hath a sound more eloquent than speech.
The stream, the trees, the grass, the sighing wind,
All of them utter sounds of ‘monishment
And grave parental love.
They are not of our race, they seem to say,
And yet have knowledge of our moral race,
And somewhat of majestic sympathy,
Something of pity for the puny clay,
That holds and boasts the immeasurable mind.
I feel as I were welcome to these trees
After long months of weary wandering,
Acknowledged by their hospitable boughs;
They know me as their son, for side by side,
They were coeval with my ancestors,
Adorned with them my country’s primitive times,
And soon may give my dust their funeral shade.

CONCORD, June, 1827.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The River

I am a river flowing from God’s sea
Through devious ways. He mapped my course for me;
I cannot change it; mine alone the toil
To keep the waters free from grime and soil.
The winding river ends where it began;
And when my life has compassed its brief span
I must return to that mysterious source.
So let me gather daily on my course
The perfume from the blossoms as I pass,
Balm from the pines, and healing from the grass,
And carry down my current as I go
Not common stones but precious gems to show;
And tears (the holy water from sad eyes)
Back to God’s sea, from which all rivers rise
Let me convey, not blood from wounded hearts,
Nor poison which the upas tree imparts.
When over flowery vales I leap with joy,
Let me not devastate them, nor destroy,
But rather leave them fairer to the sight;
Mine be the lot to comfort and delight.
And if down awful chasms I needs must leap
Let me not murmur at my lot, but sweep
On bravely to the end without one fear,
Knowing that He who planned my ways stands near.
Love sent me forth, to Love I go again,
For Love is all, and over all. Amen.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

River And Sea

We stood by the river that swept
In its glory and grandeur away;
But never a pulse o’ me leapt,
And you wondered at me that day.

We stood by the lake as it lay
With its dimpled face turned to the light;
Was it strange I had nothing to say
To so fair and enchanting a sight?

I look on your tresses of gold –
You are fair and a thing to be loved –
Do you think I am heartless and cold
That I look and am wholly unmoved?

One answer, dear friend, I will make
To the questions your eyes ask of me:
“Talk not of the river or lake
To those who have looked on the sea”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The River and the Hill

And they shook their sweetness out in their sleep,
On the brink of that beautiful stream,
But it wandered along with a wearisome song
Like a lover that walks in a dream:
So the roses blew
When the winds went through,
In the moonlight so white and so still;
But the river it beat
All night at the feet
Of a cold and flinty hill
Of a hard and senseless hill!

I said, ‘We have often showered our loves
Upon something as dry as the dust;
And the faith that is crost, and the hearts that are lost
Oh! how can we wittingly trust?
Like the stream which flows,
And wails as it goes,
Through the moonlight so white and so still,
To beat and to beat
All night at the feet
Of a cold and flinty hill
Of a hard and senseless hill?

‘River, I stay where the sweet roses blow,
And drink of their pleasant perfumes!
Oh, why do you moan, in this wide world alone,
When so much affection here blooms?
The winds wax faint,
And the Moon like a Saint
Glides over the woodlands so white and so still!
But you beat and you beat
All night at the feet
Of that cold and flinty hill
Of that hard and senseless hill!’

Henry Kendall

River Bend

(Air: ‘Belle Mahone.’)

At River Bend, in New South Wales,
All alone among the whales,
Busting up some post and rails,
Sweet Belle Mahone.
In the blazing sun we stand,
Cabbage-tree hat, black velvet band,
Moleskins stiff with sweat and sand,
Sweet Belle Mahone.

Chorus: Sweet Belle Mahone, &c.

In the burning sand we pine,
No one asks us to have a wine,
‘Tis a jolly crooked line,
Sweet Belle Mahone.
When I am sitting on a log,
Looking like a great big frog,
Waiting for a Murray cod,
Sweet Belle Mahone.

Land of snakes and cockatoos,
Native bears and big emus,
Ugly blacks and kangaroos,
Sweet Belle Mahone.
Paddymelons by the score,
Wild bulls, you should hear them roar,
They all belong to Johnny Dore,
Sweet Belle Mahone.

Banjo Paterson (Andrew Barton)

The River Cherwell

Cherwell! how pleased along thy willowed edge
Erewhile I strayed, or when the morn began
To tinge the distant turret’s golden fan,
Or evening glimmered o’er the sighing sedge!
And now reposing on thy banks once more,
I bid the lute farewell, and that sad lay
Whose music on my melancholy way
I wooed: beneath thy willows waving hoar,
Seeking a while to rest, till the bright sun
Of joy return; as when Heaven’s radiant Bow
Beams on the night-storm’s passing wings below:
Whate’er betide, yet something have I won
Of solace, that may bear me on serene,
Till eve’s last hush shall close the silent scene.

William Lisle Bowles

River Clyde.

The Glasgow people do take pride
In their river both deep and wide,
In early times the youth and maid
Did o’er its shallow waters wade.

But city money did not grudge,
And dug it deep with the steam dredge,
And now proudly on its bosom floats
The mighty ships and great steamboats.

No wonder citizens take pride
For they themselves have made the Clyde,
Great and navigable river,
Where huge fleets will float forever.

Dunbarton’s lofty castle rock[G]
Which oft’ has stood the battle’s shock,
The river it doth boldly guard,
So industry may reap reward.

But more protection still they deem
Is yet required so down the stream
Strong batteries are erected,
So commerce may be safe protected.

Old ocean now he doth take pride
To see upon his bosom ride
The commerce of his youngest bride,
The fair and lovely charming Clyde.

James McIntyre

The River Cuts A Channel

People with money but no fortune
or stomach for the life of an albatross,
watch him soar on self-made wings,
fetch the dingy redness
of morning’s first catch with
a long necked bottle
he calls the captain

Paul Cameron Brown

The River Of Life

The more we live, more brief appear
Our life’s succeeding stages;
A day to childhood seems a year,
And years like passing ages.

The gladsome current of our youth,
Ere passion yet disorders,
Steals lingering like a river smooth
Along its grassy borders.

But as the careworn cheek grows wan,
And sorrow’s shafts fly thicker,
Ye stars, that measure life to man,
Why seem your courses quicker?

When joys have lost their bloom and breath,
And life itself is vapid,
Why, as we reach the Falls of Death
Feel we its tide more rapid?

It may be strange, yet who would change
Time’s course to slower speeding,
When one by one our friends have gone,
And left our bosoms bleeding?

Heaven gives our years of fading strength
Indemnifying fleetness;
And those of youth, a seeming length,
Proportion’d to their sweetness.

Thomas Campbell

The River Eden, Cumberland

Eden! till now thy beauty had I viewed
By glimpses only, and confess with shame
That verse of mine, whate’er its varying mood,
Repeats but once the sound of thy sweet name:
Yet fetched from Paradise that honour came,
Rightfully borne; for Nature gives thee flowers
That have no rivals among British bowers;
And thy bold rocks are worthy of their fame.
Measuring thy course, fair Stream! at length I pay
To my life’s neighbour dues of neighbourhood;
But I have traced thee on thy winding way
With pleasure sometimes by this thought restrained
For things far off we toil, while many a good
Not sought, because too near, is never gained.

William Wordsworth

The River Of Ruin

Along by the river of ruin
They dally–the thoughtless ones,
They dance and they dream
By the side of the stream,
As long as the river runs.

It seems all so pleasant and cheery–
No thought of the morrow is theirs,
And their faces are bright
With the sun of delight,
And they dream of no night-brooding cares.

The women wear garlanded tresses,
The men have rings on their hands,
And they sing in their glee,
For they think they are free–
They that know not the treacherous sands.

Ah, but this be a venturesome journey,
Forever those sands are ashift,
And a step to one side
Means a grasp of the tide,
And the current is fearful and swift.

For once in the river of ruin,
What boots it, to do or to dare,
For down we must go
In the turbulent flow,
To the desolate sea of Despair.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

The River Of Sleep

There are curious isles in the River of Sleep,
Curious isles without number.
We’ll visit them all as we leisurely creep
Down the winding stream whose current is deep,
In our beautiful barge of Slumber.

The very first isle in this wonderful stream
Quite close to the shore is lying,
And after a supper of cakes and cream
We come to the Night-Mare-Isle with a scream,
And hurry away from it crying.

And next is the Island-of-Lullaby,
And every one there rejoices.
The winds are only a perfumed sigh,
And the birds that sing in the treetops try
To imitate Mothers’ voices.

A little beyond is the Isle-of-Dreams;
Oh, that is the place to be straying.
Everything there is just as it seems;
Dolls are real and sunshine gleams,
And no one calls us from playing.

And then we come to the drollest isle,
And the funniest sounds come pouring
Down from its borderlands once in a while,
And we lean o’er our barge and listen and smile;
For that is the Isle-of-Snoring.

And the very last isle in the River of Sleep
Is the sunshiny Isle-of-Waking.
We see it first with our eyes a-peep,
And we give a yawn -then away we leap,
The barge of Slumber forsaking.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The River Path

No bird-song floated down the hill,
The tangled bank below was still;

No rustle from the birchen stem,
No ripple from the water’s hem.

The dusk of twilight round us grew,
We felt the falling of the dew;

For, from us, ere the day was done,
The wooded hills shut out the sun.

But on the river’s farther side
We saw the hill-tops glorified,

A tender glow, exceeding fair,
A dream of day without its glare.

With us the damp, the chill, the gloom
With them the sunset’s rosy bloom;

While dark, through willowy vistas seen,
The river rolled in shade between.

From out the darkness where we trod,
We gazed upon those hills of God,

Whose light seemed not of moon or sun.
We spake not, but our thought was one.

We paused, as if from that bright shore
Beckoned our dear ones gone before;

And stilled our beating hearts to hear
The voices lost to mortal ear!

Sudden our pathway turned from night;
The hills swung open to the light;

Through their green gates the sunshine showed,
A long, slant splendor downward flowed.

Down glade and glen and bank it rolled;
It bridged the shaded stream with gold;

And, borne on piers of mist, allied
The shadowy with the sunlit side!

‘So,’ prayed we, ‘when our feet draw near
The river dark, with mortal fear,

‘And the night cometh chill with dew,
O Father! let Thy light break through!

‘So let the hills of doubt divide,
So bridge with faith the sunless tide!

‘So let the eyes that fail on earth
On Thy eternal hills look forth;

‘And in Thy beckoning angels know
The dear ones whom we loved below!’

John Greenleaf Whittier

A River Pool

Sweet streamlet bason! at thy side
Weary and faint within me cried
My longing heart, In such pure deep
How sweet it were to sit and sleep;
To feel each passage from without
Close up, above me and about,
Those circling waters crystal clear,
That calm impervious atmosphere!
There on thy pearly pavement pure,
To lean, and feel myself secure,
Or through the dim-lit inter-space,
Afar at whiles upgazing trace
The dimpling bubbles dance around
Upon thy smooth exterior face;
Or idly list the dreamy sound
Of ripples lightly flung, above
That home, of peace, if not of love.

Arthur Hugh Clough

River Rhymes


We have poled our staunch canoe
Many a boiling torrent through;
Paddling where the eddies drew,
Athwart the roaring flood we flew.

Dip your paddles! make them leap,
Where the clear cold waters sweep.
Dip your paddles! steady keep,
Where breaks the rapid down the steep.


Where the wind, like censer, flings
Smoke-spray wider as it swings,
Hark! the aisle of rainbow rings
To falls that hymn the King of kings.


Lifting there our vessel tight,
Climbed we bank and rocky height,
Bore her through thick woods, where light
Fell dappling those green haunts of Night.


O’er the rush of billows hurled,
Where they tossed and leaped and curled,
Past each wave-worn boulder whirled,
How fast we sailed, no sail unfurled!


Laughs from parted lips and teeth
Hailed the quiet reach beneath,
Damascened in ferny sheath,
And girt with pine and maple wreath.


Oh, the lovely river there
Made all Nature yet more fair;
Wooded hills and azure air
Kissed, quivering, in the stream they share.


Plunged the salmon, waging feud
‘Gainst the jewelled insect-brood;
From aerial solitude
An eagle’s shadow crossed the wood.


Flapped the heron, and the grey
Halcyon talked from cedar’s spray,
Drummed the partridge far away;–
Ah! could we choose to live as they!

John Campbell

River Roses

By the Isar, in the twilight
We were wandering and singing,
By the Isar, in the evening
We climbed the huntsman’s ladder and sat swinging
In the fir-tree overlooking the marshes,
While river met with river, and the ringing
Of their pale-green glacier water filled the evening.

By the Isar, in the twilight
We found the dark wild roses
Hanging red at the river; and simmering
Frogs were singing, and over the river closes
Was savour of ice and of roses; and glimmering
Fear was abroad. We whispered: “No one knows us.
Let it be as the snake disposes
Here in this simmering marsh.”


D. H. Lawrence (David Herbert Richards)

The River Saguenay.

Few poets yet in praise of thee
Have tuned a passing lay,
Yet art thou rich in beauties stern,
Thou dark browed Saguenay!

And those grand charms that surely form
For earth her rarest crown
On thee, with strangely lavish hand,
Have all been showered down.

Thine own wild flood, so deep, so dark;
That holds the gaze enthralled
As if by some weird spell, at once
Entranced yet not appalled;

Seeking in vain to pierce those depths,
Where wave and rock have met,
Those depths which, by the hand of man,
Have ne’er been fathomed yet.

And then thy shores – thy rock bound shores,
Where giant cliffs arise,
Raising their untrod, unknown heights
Defiant to the skies,

And casting from their steep, stern brows
Shadows of deepest gloom
Athwart thy wave, till it doth seem
A passage to a tomb.

Such art thou in thy solitude,
Majestic Saguenay!
As lonely and as sternly rude
As in time past away,

When the red man in his fragile bark
Sped o’er thy glassy wave,
And found amid thy forests wild
His cradle, home and grave.

All, all is changed – reigns in his stead
Another race and name,
But, in thy lonely grandeur still,
Proud River, thou’rt the same!

Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon

River Song

Swift and silent and strong
Under the low-browed arches,
Through culverts, and under bridges,
Sweeping with long forced marches
Down to the ultimate ridges,–
The sand, and the reeds, and the midges,
And the down-dropping tassels of larches,
That border the ocean of song.

Swift and silent and deep
Through the noisome and smoke-grimed city,
Turning the wheels and the spindles,
And the great looms that have no pity,–
Weight, and pulley, and windlass,
And steel that flashes and kindles,
And hears no forest-learnt ditty,
Not even in dreams and sleep.

Blithe and merry and sweet
Over its shallows singing,–
I hear before I awaken
The Bound of the church-bells ringing,
And the sound of the leaves wind-shaken,
Complaining and sun-forsaken,
And the oriole warbling and singing,
And the swish of the wind in the wheat

Sweet and tender and true!
From meadows of blossoming clover,
Where sleepy-eyed cows are lowing,
And bobolinks twittering over,–
Ebbing and falling and flowing–
Singing and gliding and going–
The river–my silver-shod lover,
Down to the infinite blue.

Deep, and tender, and strong!
With resonant voice and hole–
To far away sunshiny places,
Haunts of the bee and the swallow,
Where the Sabbath is sweet with the praises
Of dumb things, of weeds and of daisies,–
Oh river! I hear thee–I follow
To the ocean where I too belong.

Kate Seymour Maclean

The River Wainsbeck

While slowly wanders thy sequestered stream,
WAINSBECK, the mossy-scattered rocks among,
In fancy’s ear making a plaintive song
To the dark woods above, that waving seem
To bend o’er some enchanted spot, removed
From life’s vain coil; I listen to the wind,
And think I hear meek Sorrow’s plaint, reclined
O’er the forsaken tomb of him she loved!
Fair scenes, ye lend a pleasure, long unknown,
To him who passes weary on his way;
Yet recreated here he may delay
A while to thank you; and when years have flown,
And haunts that charmed his youth he would renew,
In the world’s crowd he will remember you.

William Lisle Bowles

Rivers To The Sea

But what of her whose heart is troubled by it,
The mother who would soothe and set him free,
Fearing the song’s storm-shaken ecstasy
Oh, as the moon that has no power to quiet
The strong wind-driven sea.

Sara Teasdale

So, here is the greatest compilation of poems about the river.

Let me know which one is your favorite! 😉


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