"Over the River" by Nancy Priest Wakefield
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
- 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!