The River St. Joe by Ben King

The St. Joe was a favorite subject of one of Michigan’s most famous, poets Benjamin Franklin King Jr. (1857-1894). You can find his final resting place in St. Joe, Michigan with part of this verse on his marker.

The River St. Joe


Ben King

Where the bumblebee sips and the clover is red,
And the zephyrs come laden with peach blow perfume,
Where the thistle-down pauses in search of the rose
And the myrtle and woodbine and wild ivy grows;
Where the catbird pipes up and it sounds most divine
Off there in the branches of some lonely pine;
Oh, give me the spot that I once used to know
By the side of the placid old River St. Joe!

How oft on its banks I have sunk in a dream,
Where the willows bent over me kissing the stream,
My boat with its nose sort of resting on shore,
While the cat-tails stood guarding a runaway oar;
It appeared like to me, that they sort of had some
Way of knowing that I would soon get overcome,
With the meadow lark singing just over the spot
I didn’t care whether I floated or not–
Just resting out there for an hour or so
On the banks of the tranquil old River St. Joe.

Where the tall grasses nod at the close of the day,
And the sycamore’s shadow is slanting away–
Where the whip-poor-will chants from a far distant limb
Just as if the whole business was all made for him.
Oh! it’s now that my thoughts, flying back on the wings
Of the rail and the die-away song that he sings,
Brings the tears to my eyes that drip off into rhyme,
And I live once again in the old summer time;
For my soul it seems caught in old time’s under-tow
And I’m floating away down the River St. Joe.