River Poems | Best Poems about Rivers and Streams


    Suicide’s Note Poem by Langston Hughes

    The calm,
    Cool face of the river
    Asked me for a kiss.



    On The Pulse Of Morning Poem by Maya Angelou

    A Rock, A River, A Tree
    Hosts to species long since departed,
    Mark the mastodon.
    The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
    Of their sojourn here
    On our planet floor,
    Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom
    Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
    But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
    Come, you may stand upon my
    Back and face your distant destiny,
    But seek no haven in my shadow.
    I will give you no hiding place down here.
    You, created only a little lower than
    The angels, have crouched too long in
    The bruising darkness,
    Have lain too long
    Face down in ignorance.
    Your mouths spelling words
    Armed for slaughter.
    The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
    But do not hide your face.
    Across the wall of the world,
    A river sings a beautiful song,
    Come rest here by my side.
    Each of you a bordered country,
    Delicate and strangely made proud,
    Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
    Your armed struggles for profit
    Have left collars of waste upon
    My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
    Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
    If you will study war no more.
    Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
    The Creator gave to me when I
    And the tree and stone were one.
    Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
    And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
    The river sings and sings on.
    There is a true yearning to respond to
    The singing river and the wise rock.
    So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
    The African and Native American, the Sioux,
    The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
    The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
    The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
    The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
    They hear. They all hear
    The speaking of the tree.
    Today, the first and last of every tree
    Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
    Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
    Each of you, descendant of some passed on
    Traveller, has been paid for.
    You, who gave me my first name,
    You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
    You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
    Then forced on bloody feet,
    Left me to the employment of other seekers-
    Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
    You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot…
    You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
    Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
    Praying for a dream.
    Here, root yourselves beside me.
    I am the tree planted by the river,
    Which will not be moved.
    I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
    I am yours- your passages have been paid.
    Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
    For this bright morning dawning for you.
    History, despite its wrenching pain,
    Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
    Need not be lived again.
    Lift up your eyes upon
    The day breaking for you.
    Give birth again
    To the dream.
    Women, children, men,
    Take it into the palms of your hands.
    Mold it into the shape of your most
    Private need. Sculpt it into
    The image of your most public self.
    Lift up your hearts.
    Each new hour holds new chances
    For new beginnings.
    Do not be wedded forever
    To fear, yoked eternally
    To brutishness.
    The horizon leans forward,
    Offering you space to place new steps of change.
    Here, on the pulse of this fine day
    You may have the courage
    To look up and out upon me,
    The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
    No less to Midas than the mendicant.
    No less to you now than the mastodon then.
    Here on the pulse of this new day
    You may have the grace to look up and out
    And into your sister’s eyes,
    Into your brother’s face, your country
    And say simply
    Very simply
    With hope
    Good morning.



    Fable Of The Mermaid And The Drunks Poem by Pablo Neruda

    All those men were there inside,
    when she came in totally naked.
    They had been drinking: they began to spit.
    Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
    She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
    The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
    Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
    Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
    Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
    They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
    and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
    She did not speak because she had no speech.
    Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
    her twin arms were made of white topaz.
    Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
    and suddenly she went out by that door.
    Entering the river she was cleaned,
    shining like a white stone in the rain,
    and without looking back she swam again
    swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.



    The Sun Has Burst The Sky Poem by Jenny Joseph

    The sun has burst the sky
    Because I love you
    And the river its banks.

    The sea laps the great rocks
    Because I love you
    And takes no heed of the moon dragging it away
    And saying coldly ‘Constancy is not for you’.
    The blackbird fills the air
    Because I love you
    With spring and lawns and shadows falling on lawns.

    The people walk in the street and laugh
    I love you
    And far down the river ships sound their hooters
    Crazy with joy because I love you.



    The Brook Poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson

    I come from haunts of coot and hern,
    I make a sudden sally
    And sparkle out among the fern,
    To bicker down a valley.

    By thirty hills I hurry down,
    Or slip between the ridges,
    By twenty thorpes, a little town,
    And half a hundred bridges.

    Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
    To join the brimming river,
    For men may come and men may go,
    But I go on for ever.

    I chatter over stony ways,
    In little sharps and trebles,
    I bubble into eddying bays,
    I babble on the pebbles.

    With many a curve my banks I fret
    By many a field and fallow,
    And many a fairy foreland set
    With willow-weed and mallow.

    I chatter, chatter, as I flow
    To join the brimming river,
    For men may come and men may go,
    But I go on for ever.

    I wind about, and in and out,
    With here a blossom sailing,
    And here and there a lusty trout,
    And here and there a grayling,

    And here and there a foamy flake
    Upon me, as I travel
    With many a silvery waterbreak
    Above the golden gravel,

    And draw them all along, and flow
    To join the brimming river
    For men may come and men may go,
    But I go on for ever.

    I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
    I slide by hazel covers;
    I move the sweet forget-me-nots
    That grow for happy lovers.

    I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
    Among my skimming swallows;
    I make the netted sunbeam dance
    Against my sandy shallows.

    I murmur under moon and stars
    In brambly wildernesses;
    I linger by my shingly bars;
    I loiter round my cresses;

    And out again I curve and flow
    To join the brimming river,
    For men may come and men may go,
    But I go on for ever.



    Midsummer, Tobago Poem by Derek Walcott

    Broad sun-stoned beaches.

    White heat.
    A green river.

    A bridge,
    scorched yellow palms

    from the summer-sleeping house
    drowsing through August.

    Days I have held,
    days I have lost,

    days that outgrow, like daughters,
    my harbouring arms.



    A Miracle For Breakfast Poem by Elizabeth Bishop

    At six o’clock we were waiting for coffee,
    waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb
    that was going to be served from a certain balcony
    – like kings of old, or like a miracle.
    It was still dark. One foot of the sun
    steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.

    The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
    It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
    would be very hot, seeing that the sun
    was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
    would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
    At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.

    He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
    looking over our heads toward the river.
    A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,
    consisting of one lone cup of coffee
    and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,
    his head, so to speak, in the clouds- along with the sun.

    Was the man crazy? What under the sun
    was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!
    Each man received one rather hard crumb,
    which some flicked scornfully into the river,
    and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.
    Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.

    I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.
    A beautiful villa stood in the sun
    and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.
    In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
    added by birds, who nest along the river,
    – I saw it with one eye close to the crumb-

    and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
    my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
    through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
    working the stone. Every day, in the sun,
    at breakfast time I sit on my balcony
    with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.

    We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.
    A window across the river caught the sun
    as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.



    Traveling Through The Dark Poem by William Stafford

    Traveling through the dark I found a deer
    dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
    It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
    that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

    By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
    and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
    she had stiffened already, almost cold.
    I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

    My fingers touching her side brought me the reason–
    her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
    alive, still, never to be born.
    Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

    The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
    under the hood purred the steady engine.
    I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
    around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

    I thought hard for us all–my only swerving–,
    then pushed her over the edge into the river.



    Ask Me Poem by William Stafford

    Some time when the river is ice ask me
    mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
    what I have done is my life. Others
    have come in their slow way into
    my thought, and some have tried to help
    or to hurt: ask me what difference
    their strongest love or hate has made.

    I will listen to what you say.
    You and I can turn and look
    at the silent river and wait. We know
    the current is there, hidden; and there
    are comings and goings from miles away
    that hold the stillness exactly before us.
    What the river says, that is what I say.



    The Man From Snowy River Poem by A B Banjo Paterson

    There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
    That the colt from old Regret had got away,
    And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
    So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
    All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
    Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
    For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
    And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

    There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
    The old man with his hair as white as snow;
    But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up-
    He would go wherever horse and man could go.
    And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
    No better horseman ever held the reins;
    For never horse could throw him while the saddle girths would stand,
    He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

    And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
    He was something like a racehorse undersized,
    With a touch of Timor pony – three parts thoroughbred at least –
    And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
    He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die –
    There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
    And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
    And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

    But so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
    And the old man said, “That horse will never do
    For a long and tiring gallop-lad, you’d better stop away,
    Those hills are far too rough for such as you.”
    So he waited sad and wistful – only Clancy stood his friend –
    “I think we ought to let him come,” he said;
    “I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at the end,
    For both his horse and he are mountain bred.”

    “He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
    Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
    Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
    The man that holds his own is good enough.
    And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
    Where the river runs those giant hills between;
    I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
    But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.”

    So he went – they found the horses by the big mimosa clump –
    They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
    And the old man gave his orders, “Boys, go at them from the jump,
    No use to try for fancy riding now.
    And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
    Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
    For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
    If once they gain the shelter of those hills.”

    So Clancy rode to wheel them – he was racing on the wing
    Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
    And he raced his stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring
    With stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
    Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
    But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
    And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
    And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

    Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
    Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
    And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
    From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
    And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their sway,
    Were mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
    And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid the mob good day,
    No man can hold them down the other side.”

    When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull,
    It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
    The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
    Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
    But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
    And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
    And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
    While the others stood and watched in very fear.

    He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
    He cleared the fallen timbers in his stride,
    And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat –
    It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
    Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
    Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
    And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
    At the bottom of that terrible descent.

    He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill
    And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
    Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
    As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.

    Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
    In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
    On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
    With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

    And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
    He followed like a bloodhound in their track,
    Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
    And alone and unassisted brought them back.
    But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
    He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
    But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
    For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

    And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
    Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
    Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
    At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
    And where around The Overflow the reed beds sweep and sway
    To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
    The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
    And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.