The River God File - the Redhill Academy

The River God
Things to know…
• Rivers in human history and myth have always
been seen as sacred.
• Prehistoric people used to think that rivers had
• Nowadays people throw money into wells and
fountains to make a wish
• Rivers provide water as a life source but they can
also create destruction and flood
• This poem is written as one long stanza like ‘My
Last Duchess’
Lines 1 to 5
Ideas in this poem flow into one
another like a river
Note the alliteration in
this line
I may be smelly and I may be old.
Rough in my pebbles, reedy in my pools,
But where my fish float by I bless their swimming
And I like the people to bathe in me, especially women.
But I can drown the fools
The river knows
it isn’t
attractive but
because he is a
god he has
great powers
Weir = a dam across a river
Lines 6 to 10
Who bathe too close to the weir, contrary to rules.
And they take a long time drowning
As I throw them up now and then in the spirit of clowning.
Hi yih, yippity-yap, merrily I flow,
O I may be an old foul river but I have plenty of go.
The tone is mostly comic
– this is helped by the
colloquial (informal)
language; irregular line
lines and use of rhyme
Lines 11 to 15
Once there was a lady who was too bold
She bathed in me by the tall black cliff where the water runs cold,
So I brought her down here
To be my beautiful dear.
The river god seems insecure
Oh will she stay with me will she stay
Now the poem focuses on one lady in particular
who has drowned in an accident. The river god is
keeping her body on his river-bed
Lines 16 to 20
The jokey tone
has been
abandoned so
that the tone of
the poem
becomes more
sombre and dark
This beautiful lady, or will she go away?
She lies in my beautiful deep river bed with many a weed
To hold her, and many a waving reed.
Oh who would guess what a beautiful white face lies there
Waiting for me to smooth and wash away the fear
Lines 21 to 27
She looks at me with. Hi yih, do not let her
Go. There is no one on earth who does not forget her
Now. They say I am foolish old smelly river
But they do not know of my wide original bed
Where the lady waits, with her golden sleepy head.
If she wishes to go I will not forgive her.
The god knows nothing of
fear because his not mortal
and cannot die. He will
always be lonely
The river god’s love is strong but
Things to note…
• Does the river represent death? He keeps the corpse
and has drowned in the river and will never give it up –
just as we never return from death
• Is the river symbolic of men and what they do to
women in relationships? Men subdue the personality
and individuality of women – they are attractive but
possessive and getting in a relationship for a woman
might represent the death of the woman’s freedom
• Or does the river represent some men?
• The change of tone from humorous to serious

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