O, blessed be the Croton!

As we noted in a previous post, the poet and social activist Lydia Maria Child recorded the unbridled joy New Yorkers felt when the Croton Aqueduct opened in 1842. The arrival of the “clean, sweet, abundant water” also inspired her to write a poem, “The New-York Boy’s Song,” which was published in 1854 in her book, Flowers for Children.

Child was "renowned in her day as a tireless crusader for truth and justice and a champion of excluded groups in American society."1 In this poem she celebrates the ways the "blessed" Croton—which "flows for man and beast, and gives its wealth out freely, to the greatest and the least,"—could cure several social ills plaguing New York City in the mid-1800s.

The New-York Boy’s Song
To Croton Water

Croton Fountain, circa 1850.  Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York.
Croton Fountain, circa 1850.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York.

O, blessed be the Croton!
It floweth every where—
It sprinkleth o’er the dusty ground,
It cooleth all the air.

It poureth by the wayside
A constant stream of joy
To every little radish girl
And chimney-sweeping boy.

Poor little ragged children,
Who sleep in wretched places,
Come out for Croton water,
To wash their dirty faces.

And if they find a big tub full,
They shout aloud with glee,
And all unite to freight a chip,
And send it out to sea.

To the ever-running hydrant
The dogs delight to go,
To bathe themselves, and wet their tongues,
In the silver water-flow,

The thirsty horse, he knoweth well
Where the Croton poureth down,
And thinks his fare is much improved
In the hot and dusty town.

And many a drunkard has forgot
To seek the fiery cup;
For every where, before his face,
Sweet water leapeth up.

Then blessings on the Croton!
It flows for man and beast,
And gives its wealth out freely
To the greatest and the least.

We city boys take great delight
To watch its bubbling play,
To make it rush up in the air,
Or whirl around in spray.

It is good sport to guide a hose
Against the window pane,
Or dash it through the dusty trees,
Like driving summer rain.

O, blessed be the Croton!
It gives us endless fun,
To make it jump and splash about,
And sparkle in the sun.

And the fountains, in their beauty,
It glads our hearts to see—
Ever springing up to heaven,
So gracefully and free.

Fast fall their sparkling diamonds,
Beneath the sun’s bright glance,
And like attendant fairies,
The brilliant rainbows dance.

White and pure their feathery foam,
Under the moon’s mild ray,
While twinkling stars look brightly down,
Upon their ceaseless play.

And all about the crowded town,
In garden, shop, or bower,
Neat little fountains scatter round
A small refreshing shower.

Perhaps some dolphin spouts it forth
To sprinkle flower or grass,
Or marble boy, with dripping urn,
Salutes you as you pass.

Then blessings on the Croton!
May it diminish never—
For its glorious beauty
Is a joy forever.

  1. From Child's biography at the Poetry Foundation website.

3 thoughts on “O, blessed be the Croton!

  1. I have relatives that lived in Crotonville, and several painting of their homestead before the second dam construction which required them to move.

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