Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers

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 ones 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!

Springfield Republican