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Copyright, 1908, by
Published, November, 1908
IVERS possess so many varied attractions and have
so many claims on the attention of the student of science and history, the pleasure-seeker, the traveller, the poet and the painter, that no apology need be offered for gathering into one volume selections from the works of those who have described some of the most famous streams of the world. Lyell says: “Rivers are the irrigators of the earth's surface, adding alike to the beauty of the landscape and the fertility of the soil: they carry off impurities and every sort of waste débris ; and when of sufficient volume, they form the most available of all channels of communication with the interior of continents. They have ever been things of vitality and beauty to the poet, silent monitors to the moralist, and agents of comfort and civilization to all mankind.”
Thoreau says: “ The Mississippi, the Ganges and the Nile, those journeying atoms from the Rocky Mountains, the Himmaleh and Mountains of the Moon, have a kind of personal importance in the annals of the world—the heavens are not yet drained over their sources, but the Mountains of the Moon still send their annual tribute to the Pasha without fail, as they did to the Pharaohs, though he must collect the rest of his revenue at the point of the sword. Rivers must have been the guides which conducted the footsteps of the first travellers. They are the constant lure, when they flow by our doors, to distant enterprise and
adventure, and, by a natural impulse, the dwellers on their banks will at length accompany their currents to the lowlands of the globe, or explore at their invitation the interior of continents. They are the natural highways of all nations, not only levelling the ground and removing obstacles from the path of the traveller, quenching his thirst, and bearing him on their bosoms, but conducting him through the most interesting scenery, the most populous portions of the globe, and where the animal and vegetable kingdoms attain their greatest perfection.”
In the following pages little will be found dealing with the material blessings bestowed on mankind by the agency of rivers. The average reader is more interested in the antiquarian and legendary lore of the sources, rapids, banks and islands of a famous stream. Length of course and volume of water are matters of no importance to lovers of the picturesque, the venerable, or the romantic. Therefore the literature of the Shannon is more fascinating than that of the Amazon, and the Jordan attracts more pilgrims than the Volga. Small streams like the Wye, the Yarrow, and the Oise consequently find a place among these celebrated rivers.
E. S. New York, October, 1908.