The Two Streams

Original Text: 
The Complete Poetical Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, ed. H. E. S. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1895): 99-100. PS 1955 A1 1895 Robarts Library.
2  That down its sloping sides
3Pours the swift rain-drops, blending, as they fall,
4  In rushing river-tides!
5  Yon stream, whose sources run
6  Turned by a pebble's edge,
8  Through the cleft mountain-ledge.
9  The slender rill had strayed,
10  But for the slanting stone,
11To evening's ocean, with the tangled braid
13  So from the heights of Will
14  Life's parting stream descends,
15And, as a moment turns its slender rill,
16  Each widening torrent bends, --
17  From the same cradle's side,
18  From the same mother's knee, --
19One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
20  One to the Peaceful Sea!

Notes

1] "[In his paper, My Hunt after the Captain, Dr. Holmes has a paragraph upon an alleged plagiarism in this poem. It will be found in the notes at the end of this volume.]" (pp. 99-100)

"When a little poem called The Two Streams was first printed, a writer in the New York Evening Post virtually accused the author of it of borrowing the thought from a baccalaureate sermon of President Hopkins of Williamstown, and printed a quotation from that discourse, which, as I thought, a thief or catchpoll might well consider as establishing a fair presumption that it was so borrowed. I was at the same time wholly unconscious of having met with the discourse or the sentence which the verses were most like, nor do I believe I ever had seen or heard either. Some time after this, happening to meet my eloquent cousin, Wendell Phillips, I mentioned the fact to him, and he told me that he had once used the special image said to be borrowed, in a discourse delivered at Williamstown. On relating this to my friend Mr. Buchanan Read, he informed me that he too had used the image, -- perhaps referring to his poem called The Twins. He thought Tennyson had used it also. The parting of the streams on the Alps is poetically elaborated in a passage attributed to `M. Loisne,' printed in the Boston Evening Transcript for Oct. 23, 1859. Captain, afterwards Sir Francis Head, speaks of the showers parting on the Cordilleras, one portion going to the Atlantic, one to the Pacific. I found the image running loose in my mind, without a halter. It suggested itself as an illustration of the will, and I worked the poem out by the aid of Mitchell's School Atlas. The spores of a great many ideas are floating about in the atmosphere. We no more know where the lichens which eat the names off from the gravestones borrowed the germs that gave them birth. The two match-boxes were just alike; but neither was a plagiarism. -- My Hunt after `the Captain,' pp. 45, 46." (p. 340) Back to Line

7] Athabasca: a river running north from the eastern side of the Rocky mountains. Back to Line
12] Oregon: an old name for the south-running Columbia River, the source for which is north on the other side of these mountains from the Athabaska River. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1859
Publication Notes: 
in The Professor at the Breakfast-Table (1860)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: