Poetry Friday: To a Waterfowl

I have always enjoyed poetry, but I have neglected it in recent years. I have enjoyed seeing Poetry Friday selections at Findings and Semicolon, but this is my first time to participate.

I probably first read William Cullen Bryant’s poem “To a Waterfowl” in college, but the first time it really stood out to me was when Elisabeth Elliot quoted some of these stanzas in her book The Savage My Kinsman after her husband’s death.


Whither, ‘midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?

There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,–
The desert and illimitable air,–
Lone wandering, but not lost.

Thou’rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,
And shall not soon depart.

He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.

As a young wife then I empathized with Elisabeth’s picking up and going forward in the comfort of God’s care after the loss of her husband and was comforted with the thought that, if the Lord should ever ask me to “tread alone,” He would lead me and care for me, too. Even within 28 years of marriage, there have been many days of treading alone while my husband traveled, and I have been comforted to know that I am never truly alone.

The rest of the poem, which describes Bryant’s observation and thoughts of the bird’s activity, can be found here along with some instructive links. Becky’s Book Reviews is hosting Poetry Friday today.

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: To a Waterfowl

  1. It’s true… I remember when I was about to be married and pictured marriage as the end of solitude. But that solitude remains, in different kinds of ways — there are areas and seasons of aloneness, sometimes healthy, and sometimes a challenge to grow together more.

    Thanks for this poem and reflection. So glad you’re taking part in Poetry Friday!

  2. I haven’t thought of that poem in yeas – I always loved especially the last verse. Just beautiful.

    My brother was involved with the making and promoting of the movie about Nate Saint and Jim Elliott and all the rest who were slaughtered in Ecuador – what a wonderful story of God’s redemption, though.

    Love your Show and Tell items. Did you catch last week’s where I showed all of the stitchery I USED to do??!! Maybe if I get the Lasik surgery I talked about in my last post, I’ll be able to do close work again.

  3. Hi, I thought I better get over here and tell you we do have AC in our house!! It is in the car we don’t have much of a AC!! We are nice and cool in our home!!

    I would be one big puddle of something or other if we didn’t have air!!!
    It is just so hot if when we go to the Dr.’s appointments… But it has cooled down a little!! When we go on a day trip we use Karen’s truck! It has air!
    I hope your weekend is a good one!! Love and hugs Grams

  4. One thing that’s difficult about teaching high school literature is that poems like this, that have so much meaning packed into them, are close to meaningless for high school juniors. I guess that’s why the teacher has a job – to try to make it meaningful. 🙂 But sometimes they just need more maturity and life experience for the poetry in their books to take root.

  5. even though i didn’t understand quickly the poem…………..
    After my teacher discussing it……………….
    I harshly touched to the poem……..

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