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The River Crossing

Updated on July 28, 2013

The days grew dark and the air grew chill

For she who lived by the mountain rill

She was burnt with age, but with keen gray glance

Stern, unbowed by both time and chance.


In the town below, the old women sighed,

“She will soon come down from the mountainside.

Today, perhaps, or perhaps tomorrow,

She will come and cross, daughter, to your sorrow.

“For you cannot ford that mountain stream

With its waters cold as December’s dream.

Its banks are steep, slick with frozen snow.”

But I told the women, “I will go.


“I will follow her to the riverside

Be it cold as death, or what may betide.”

But they shook their heads: “It’s a foolish vow,

For she will come down, and not long now.


“Will you freeze your heart on that icy day

Just to wave your hand and see her away?

Best to say farewell, though it be with woe.”

But I told the women: “I will go.”


And for six cold nights she came riding down

On a big black horse through the silent town.

At the river’s edge the horse bowed to drink

And six nights turned back from the cold, dark brink.


On the seventh night, I stood cold as stone

On the river bank watching all alone

As the horse stepped into the icy flow

To bear her to where I could not go;

But I alone in the world that night

Saw her gray hair burning angel bright

And her aged face, once pale and drawn

Blossom fresh as the rose of dawn.


She did not look back, and she made no sign

That she saw me there at the cold shoreline,

And I said no word, but watched mute and blank

As she disappeared on the far, dark bank.


And the women said, as I walked through town,

“Ah! There goes one who saw death go down.

See her eyes, with their strange wild gleam!

Yes, she went indeed to that cold dark stream.”



This poem is dedicated to all the children who have nursed a dying parent.

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    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 3 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you Cris! You're very kind.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      So touching and beautifully told Mary!

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 3 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Nell! I appreciate your visit!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I just came back to read this again, I had forgotten it was you who wrote this awesome poem! voted up and shared!

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 3 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Jackie! I appreciate your visit, no matter when it happens! :-) Thank you for your kindness!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I had a follow on this so I assume I have commented and voted and forgot to post it, so sorry, but better late than never I suppose. Haunting and very good. ^

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 3 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Meg! And nice to meet you!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Lovely poem.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Elias! It's nice to meet you and thank you for reading my poem.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you, Elias! It's nice to meet you and thank you for reading my poem.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you Rasma! You're very generous, and I appreciate the read.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Thanks for looking in, Eddy. I appreciate your support!

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you Ruby! I hope the memories it evoked were beautiful ones.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Beautiful poem and imagery!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and beautiful. So touching and heart rending. Loved this. Passing this on.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful poem mollymeadows and thanks for sharing.

      Eddy.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Blossom, every now and then I do a sad one. Now I'm good for another six months :-) Thank you for your generous words.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      It is imposssible to convey how this touched me. Memories of my mother were vividly remembered. Very beautiful..Loved your poetry. Thank you.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      It's nice to meet you, Ziyena, and thank you for reading!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      A lovely story-poem that must already becoming a legend. It is so well written and the tension built up to the sad ending.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      I appreciate your visit, Sunnie! Thanks for the read, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Vincent, thank you for reading -- I'm glad it touched you. Thank you for your support!

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Mhatter, thank you for the read, your kind words, and for being a poet and a supporter of poetry on Hubpages.

    • ziyena profile image

      ziyena 4 years ago from ... Somewhere Out There ...

      Very beautiful ... UP

    • profile image

      Sunnie 4 years ago

      Wonderful in every way.

    • profile image

      Vincent Moore 4 years ago

      I was led here to read this magnificent work from a posting Hyphenbird had left in Facebook, I am very impressed with your artistry, I was taken by the eloquence and style of your scribe. Brilliant work indeed. Thank you for sharing such a beautifully worded poem, I was moved. Tweeted, and shared with friends.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this wonderfully painted tale.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you Faith. I'm glad that it touched you, but not that it made you cry :-) Thank you for your support. You must have the gift of encouragement!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      I am in tears dearest Molly. This is brilliant beyond measure. I have no words . . . This is the most brilliant piece of work. I am blown away. You are truly a gifted writer. Yes, many of us have nursed our dying loved ones. I am so glad you are back writing and with such excellence!

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless you. In His Love Always, Faith Reaper

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      High praise, Hyph! Thank you for such encouragement. I dreamed it last night, almost just as I wrote it, and this is the interpretation that I gave my own dream. I'm glad you liked it.

    • mollymeadows profile image
      Author

      Mary Strain 4 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you for reading, Nell. It was based on a dream I had last night. I didn't want to lose it. Thank you for your kind words.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Oh, this is so lovely. It reads like a classic such as The Highwayman by Noyes. It is truly that good. Just hauntingly beautiful and well structured.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      There is only one word for this, awesome. I read it twice purely because I saw your last line, so went back to get the proper context, and then it really showed me what your poem was about, so beautiful and yet so sad too, wonderful! voted and tweeted, nell