Gently Down the Stream of Time

DESCRIPTION: "Gently down the stream of time Floats our bark toward the sea." "Friends have gone, and ties are broken." A reflection on time and death: "We shall come to them at last... When the day of life is past, And our weary work is done."
AUTHOR: Words: "Major Barton" / Music: H. M. Higgins (source: (sheet music by Lyon & Healy and distributed by O. Ditson)
EARLIEST DATE: 1871 (sheet music by Lyon & Healy and distributed by O. Ditson); there was apparently another edition from 1870
KEYWORDS: nonballad death
REFERENCES (1 citation):
(not in DT, but lyrics can be found on
NOTES: This is not a traditional song, and frankly doesn't deserve to be, but some visitors will know it from the recording by Ed Trickett. I include it in the index only to note that this idea of a river of time, although said to be ancient, seems to have been relatively popular in the nineteenth century when this song was written. A Congregational hymnwriter named Thomas Raffles (1788-1863) seems to have written at least two poems on the theme, "What is life? A rapid stream" in 1838 and "Rapid flows the stream of time" in 1861 (see John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), pp. 948-949.
And then there is the dedicatory poem to Alice Liddell in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, published in 1871 (after this song was written) but almost certainly composed earlier. The last six lines of that also suggest the same theme:
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden gleam --
Life, what is it but a dream?
Last updated in version 3.7

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