O sunny Sangamon! thy name to me,
Soft-syllabled like some sweet melody,
Familiar is since adolescent years
As household phrases ringing in my ears;
Its measured cadence sounding to and fro
From the dim corridors of long ago.
There was a time in happy days gone by,
That rosy interval of youth, when I
The scholar ardent early learned to trace
Great tributaries to their starting place;
And thine some prairie hollow obsolete
Whose name how few remember or repeat.
Like thee, meandering, yet wafted back
From distant hearth and lonely bivouac,
From strange vicissitudes in other lands,
From half-wrought labors and unfinished plans
I come, in thy cool depths my brow to lave,
And rest a moment by thy silver wave.
But, ah! what means thy muddy, muggy hue?
I thought thee limpid as yon ether blue;
I thought an angel's wing might dip below
Thy sparkling surface and be white as snow;
And of thy current I had dared to drink
If not as one imbibing draughts of ink.
Has some rough element of horrid clay
That spoils the earth like lava beds, they say,
Come sliding down, as avalanches do,
And thy fair bosom percolated through?
Or some apothecary's compound vile
Polluted thee so many a murky mile?
Why not, proud State, beneficence insure,
Selling thy soil or giving to the poor?
For sad it is that dust of Illinois,
With coal and compost its conjoint alloy,
A morceau washed from Mississippi's mouth,
Should build up acres for our neighbors south.
River! I grieve, but not for loss of dirt -
Once stainless, just because of what thou wert.
Thus on thy banks I linger and reflect
That, surely as all waterways connect,
Forever flowing onward to the sea,
Shall the great billow thy redemption be.
And now, dear Sangamon, farewell! I wait
On that Elysian scene to meditate
When, separated from the dregs of earth,
Life's stream shall sweeter be, of better worth;
And, like the ocean with its restless tide,
By its own action cleansed and purified.