Water Party on the Beaulieu River in the New Forest

William Lisle Bowles

I thought 'twas a toy of the fancy, a dream
  That leads with illusion the senses astray,
And I sighed with delight as we stole down the stream,
  While the sun, as he smiled on our sail, seemed to say,
  Rejoice in my light, ere it fade fast away!

We left the loud rocking of ocean behind,
  And stealing along the clear current serene,
The Phædria spread her white sails to the wind,
  And they who divided had many a day been,
  Gazed with added delight on the charms of the scene.

Each bosom one spirit of peace seemed to feel;
  We heard not the tossing, the stir, and the roar
  Of the ocean without; we heard only the keel,
  The keel that went whispering along the green shore,
  And the stroke, as it dipped, of the feathering oar.

Beneath the dark woods now, as winding we go,
  What sounds of rich harmony burst on the ear!
Hark, cheer'ly the loud-swelling clarionets blow;
  Now the tones gently die, now more mellow we hear
  The horns through the high forest echoing clear!

They cease; and no longer the echoes prolong
  The swell of the concert; in silence we float--
In silence! Oh, listen! 'tis woman's sweet song--
  The bends of the river reply to each note,
  And the oar is held dripping and still from the boat.

Mark the sun that descends o'er the curve of the flood!
  Seize, Wilmot, the pencil, and instant convey
To the tablet the water, the banks, and the wood,
  That their colours may live without change or decay,
  When these beautiful tints die in darkness away.

So when we are parted, and tossed on the deep,
  And no longer the light on our prospect shall gleam,
The semblance of one lovely scene we may keep,
  And remember the day, and the hour, like a dream,
  When we sighed with delight as we stole down the stream!

Beaulieu River flows through the New Forest in Hampshire. The last few miles of the river are tidal. In a rare quirk of ownership, the whole river, including the banks, stream and river bed, is the property of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. NB Beaulieu is pronounced "Bew-Lee". The River was previously known as the River Exe.

Author's own notes:

The Phaedria - Cutter belonging to Nathaniel Ogle, Esq.

The woman making the sweet song - Mrs Sheridan.

Wilmot - Mrs Wilmot, well known for her great talents in drawing, et cet.