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In the Name of the River

February 4, 2013 | by Faber Social

Tags: Environment, Peter Murphy

Since men first emerged from the water, they have written psalms in praise of the river. Old Man River. The River of Jordan. The Rivers of Babylon. Moon River. Shenandoah … ‘Yes, the river knows,’ crooned Jim Morrison. Nick Drake softly sang of The River Man. Leonard Cohen heard the river answer. ‘I was born by the river,’ cried Sam Cooke. Springsteen’s river, a symbol of salvation from dreams that become lies – or something worse.

The Mississippi River that is the spine of Huckleberry Finn. The Ohio River that swept John and Pearl to safety in The Night of the Hunter. The Tiber, on which Romulus and Remus were set adrift, watched over by the river deity Tiberinus, who delivered them to be suckled by Lupa the wolf. The Nile that bore Moses away from the murderous Pharaoh in a basket of bulrushes coated with pitch.

Creedence’s Green River, a metaphor for the Mekong, or the fictional Nung river from Apocalypse Now. Neil Young’s Down by the River. Tim Hunter’s film River’s Edge. The bourgeois killer of Banks of the Ohio by the Blue Sky Boys. Flannery O’Connor’s parable The River from A Good Man Is Hard to Find.

The apocalyptic river in flood: John Lee Hooker’s Tupelo, Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks, Sinatra’s River Stay Way From My Door. Weary River by Roy Acuff. The River of Nine Sorrows by The Grateful Dead. Lost on the River by Hank Williams. Harlem River Quiver by Duke Ellington. The Moon Fell In The River by Count Basie. Whiskey River. Moody River. River In The Pines. Big River. Blue River. Many rivers to cross. Cry me a river. Love is a lonesome river. Somewhere down the crazyriver. You don’t pull no punches but you don’t push the river Take me to the river …

Shall we gather at the river?


— Peter Murphy is the author of Shall We Gather at the River, which is available now.