Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

Part 4 out of 4

There is a breath of fragrance on the cool shady air beside our
little stream, that seems familiar. It is the first week of
September. Can it be that the twin-flower of June, the delicate
Linnaea borealis, is blooming again? Yes, here is the threadlike
stem lifting its two frail pink bells above the bed of shining
leaves. How dear an early flower seems when it comes back again
and unfolds its beauty in a St. Martin's summer! How delicate and
suggestive is the faint, magical odour! It is like a renewal of
the dreams of youth.

"And need we ever grow old?" asked my lady Greygown, as she sat
that evening with the twin-flower on her breast, watching the stars
come out along the edge of the cliffs, and tremble on the hurrying
tide of the river. "Must we grow old as well as gray? Is the time
coming when all life will be commonplace and practical, and
governed by a dull 'of course'? Shall we not always find
adventures and romances, and a few blossoms returning, even when
the season grows late?"

"At least," I answered, "let us believe in the possibility, for to
doubt it is to destroy it. If we can only come back to nature
together every year, and consider the flowers and the birds, and
confess our faults and mistakes and our unbelief under these silent
stars, and hear the river murmuring our absolution, we shall die
young, even though we live long: we shall have a treasure of
memories which will be like the twin-flower, always a double
blossom on a single stem, and carry with us into the unseen world
something which will make it worth while to be immortal."



"There's no music like a little river's. It plays the same tune
(and that's the favourite) over and over again, and yet does not
weary of it like men fiddlers. It takes the mind out of doors; and
though we should be grateful for good houses, there is, after all,
no house like god's out-of-doors. And lastly, sir, it quiets a man
down like saying his prayers."--ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON: Prince


The moonbeams over Arno's vale in silver flood were pouring,
When first I heard the nightingale a long-lost love deploring:
So passionate, so full of pain, it sounded strange and eerie,
I longed to hear a simpler strain, the wood-notes of the veery.

The laverock sings a bonny lay, above the Scottish heather,
It sprinkles from the dome of day like light and love together;
He drops the golden notes to greet his brooding mate, his dearie;
I only know one song more sweet, the vespers of the veery.

In English gardens green and bright, and rich in fruity treasure,
I've heard the blackbird with delight repeat his merry measure;
The ballad was a lively one, the tune was loud and cheery,
And yet with every setting sun I listened for the veery.

O far away, and far away, the tawny thrush is singing,
New England woods at close of day with that clear chant are ringing;
And when my light of life is low, and heart and flesh are weary,
I fain would hear, before I go, the wood-notes of the veery.



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