Over the River
Source of witness transcribed: The Semi-Weekly Standard (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Date of witness transcribed: 7 October 1857
Notes about this poem: "Over the River" was printed in at least 235 newspapers during the nineteenth century. It can be found using ID 7136 in this table of most widely-reprinted poems.
It was set to music and printed in hymnaries, where it was attributed to well known hymn writer Nancy A. Wakefield Priest (or, sometimes, Nancy Priest Wakefield).
- Over the river they beckon to me—
- Loved one’s who’ve crossed to the further side;
- The gleam of their snowy robes I see,
- But their voices are drowned by the rushing tide.
- There’s one with ringlets of sunny gold,
- And eyes the reflection of Heaven’s own blue;
- He crossed in the twilight, gray and cold,
- And the pale mist hid him from mortal view.
- We saw not the angels that met him there;
- The gate of the city we could not see;—
- Over the river, over the river,
My brother stands waiting to welcome me!
- Over the river the boatman pale,
- Carried another—the household pet;
- Her brown curls waved in the gentle gale—
- Darling Minnie! I see her yet!
- She crossed on her bosom her dimpled hands,
- And fearlessly entered the phantom bark;
- We watched it glide from the silver sands,
- And all our sunshine grew strangely dark.
- We know she is safe on the further side,
- Where all the ransomed and angels be;
- Over the river, the mystic river,
My childhood’s idol is waiting for me.
- For none return from those quiet shores
- Who cross with the boatman cold and pale;
- We hear the dip of the golden oars,
- And catch a gleam of the snowy sail,—
- And lo! they have passed from our yearning hearts;
- They cross the stream and are gone for aye:
- We may not sunder the vail apart
- That hides from our visions the gates of day.
- We only know that their barks no more
- May sail with us o’er life’s stormy sea;
- Yet somewhere, I know, on the unseen shore,
They watch, and beckon, and wait for me!
- And I sit and think, when the sunset’s gold
- Is flushing river and hill and shore,
- I shall one day stand by the water cold,
- And list for the sound of the boatman’s oar:
- I shall watch for a gleam of the flapping sail;
- I shall hear the boat as it gains the strand;
- I shall pass from sight with the boatman pale,
- To the better shore of the spirit land;
- I shall know the loved who have gone before,
- And joyfully sweet will the meeting be,
- When over the river, the peaceful river,
- The angel of Death shall carry me!