Henry Abbey

(11 July 1842 - 7 June 1911 / Kingston, NY)

By Hudson's Tide


What pleasant dreams, what memories, rise,
When filled with care, or pricked in pride,
I wander down in solitude
And reach the beach by Hudson's tide!
The thick-boughed hemlocks mock my sigh;
The azure heaven is filled with smiles;
The water, lisping at my feet,
From weary thought my heart beguiles,
By Hudson's tide.

I watch a slow-wing'd water-fowl
Pursue her finny quest, and bear
The gasping silver of her prey
Far up th' untrodden heights of air.
In quiet depths I note the course
Of dreamy clouds against the sky,
And see a flock of wild-ducks float,
Like water-lilies nearer by,
On Hudson's tide.

The mullein lifts, along the bank,
Its velvet spires of yellow bloom;
And there a darting humming-bird
Gleams in the cedars' verdant gloom.
By basins of the brook that flings
Its dewy diamonds far below
Into the ripples' pigmy hands,
Sweet maiden-hair and cresses grow,
By Hudson's tide.

I wander on the pebbled beach,
And think of boyhood's careless hours
When, in my boat, I used to float
Along the bank and gather flowers;
Or catch the wind, and swiftly dash
Across the white-caps in their play,
And feel their wet resistance break
Against the prow in pearly spray,
On Hudson's tide.

And once, in those lost days, I lay
Becalmed with limp and drowsy sail,
And drifted where Esopus Isle
Mid-stream reclines along the vale;
He slowly rose, and stood erect,
His giant body all of stone,
And cast his eyes, as from the skies,
On me that drifted there alone
On Hudson's tide.

Only his feet were lost to view,
And cleft the current ebbing down;
His lofty headdress, plumed with trees,
Touched the blue zenith with its crown.
The river's self was but his bow
That lay neglected on the ground;
Like down, or fur, the soft leaves were,
That, as a blanket, wrapped him round,
On Hudson's tide.

I had not been surprised if he
Had mounted on some thunder-cloud
And rushed at Ontiora's knee,
With sudden war-whoop sharp and loud.
But he was mild, and blandly smiled,
And spoke with accents sweet and low.
His words with kindness glanced and fell,
And seemed like music or the flow
Of Hudson's tide.

'Enjoy the river and thy days,'
He said, 'nor heed what others say.
What matters either blame or praise,
If one in peace pursue his way?
The river heeds not; heed not thou:
Cut deep the channel of thy life.
Thou hast a fair exemplar there:
With what serene indifference rife
Is Hudson's tide!

How level lies its changeful floor,
Broad-sweeping to the distant sea!
What Titan grandeur marks the shore!
What beauty covers rock and tree!
What ample bays and branching streams,
What curves abrupt for glad surprise!
And how supreme the Artist is
Who paints it all for loving eyes
By Hudson's tide!'

I woke; and since, long years have passed;
By Hudson's tide my days go by:
Its varied beauty fills my heart.
Of fairer scenes what need have I?
And when my boat of life and thought
Shall quit the harbor of my breast,
And seek the silent, unknown sea,
I trust this dust in peace shall rest
By Hudson's tide.

Submitted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

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