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Flow on, flow on, thou classic stream,
In quiet beauty to the sea,
While on thy brink I pause to think,
When crossing homeward o'er the lea.


Thy borders fringed with drooping flowers,
In tangled plumes of snowy white,
Hang o'er thy tide, where leaflets ride
In slow procession from the sight--


But once were seen, of tender green,
Unfolding on the forest tree;
And wild birds sang till Nature rang
And rocked the boughs with jubilee.


They all on their successive stage
Their work of life have nobly done,
Till Autumn's breath, as still as death,
Hath borne them here, and one by one


They follow on. None knoweth where
This little stream is seen to flow:
Some river deep, where vessels sweep,
May waft them where the corals grow,


To line some mermaid's mossy bed;
Or weave a sea-bird's downy nest;
Or some strange shore perchance explore,
And guide some foundering bark to rest.


And brighter grows the golden braid
Around ripe Autumn's blushing cheek;
With solemn sounds the air resounds--
Of death to man they solemn speak.


And he shall drop like these fair leaves,
Perhaps before his autumn day;
Upon Death's tide, all dark and wide,
Be borne from Life's bright scenes away.


Thus all who dwell upon the earth,
Like forest leaves shall disappear--
Like clouds that fly athwart the sky,
Take one brief gaze--lo! none are here.