THE OLD RIVER BRIDGE.
JAMES BALL NAYLOR.
(Read at the dedication of the Malta-McConnelsville steel bridge,
July 8th, 1902. The flew steel bridge superseded the old wooden toll
bridge built in 1867.)
The old river-bridge, grown decrepit and gray
In the warfare of years, has, alas, passed away;
For Time the remorseless has triumphed at last-
And the faithful old bridge is a part of the past.
Like a warrior it stood, with its feet in the tide
And its lean arms outstretched to the bridegroom and bride
Saying: "Lovers unwitting, God's will has been done!
I've blessed ye and bound ye; ye twain are made one!"
When the elements battled, and thunderbolts fell-
Like arrows God-flung at the ramparts of hell;
When a crash of the storm sent a chill to the blood,
And the highway of man was the gateway of flood;
Then the sturdy old bridge strained its sinews of wood,
And stiffened, and quivered, and tottered-but stood!
And the message it sent o'er the turbulent tide
Was: "I've bound ye and blessed ye; no storm shall divide!
96 Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.
At night-in midwinter, when snowdrifts lay deep,
And the wind was awake and the world was asleep;
Or in summer, when hilltop and housetop and stream
Were aglint with the touch of the moon's paly beam;
Then the old wooden bridge, that no ill might betide,
Kept guard o'er the slumbering bridegroom and bride.
And the words that it murmured at daybreak's release
Were: "I've guarded and kept ye; sleep on - sleep in peace!"
Ah, the old river-bridge felt the terrors and tears
Of the twain it had joined - all their sorrows and fears !
And it, also, partook of their pastimes and joys-
Knew their frolicsome girls and their rollicksome boys!
And its rigid, impassive, old features of oak
Went aquiver with smiles, at the crack of a joke
Or the trill of a laugh and it whispered: "Ah, me!
May their lives full of pleasure and happiness be!"
But there came in the year of the century's birth -
Sent by Time the remorseless, the ruler of earth -
A panoplied knight in a harness of steel;
And the old wooden bridge felt the conqueror's heel!
Knowing well that its battles and triumphs were o'er-
That the friends it had loved would now need it no more,
It sank down to its rest, with the tremulous sigh:
"I've blessed ye and served ye; God keep ye-good bye!"